Stepping Back from the Abyss

I am so very glad that I listened to my wife Mari’s advice a couple of weeks ago as I sat down to write this blog at the start of Pride Month when she said, “Just give it some time, babe, Pride Month is all of June.” Now while that may sound like very straightforward advice from one’s spouse, I need to offer up some context. You see at the very beginning of this month I had basically had it with all the complete and utter BS that was being dished out on a daily basis from Republican state legislatures, religious conservatives, outright haters, and everyone else on the lunatic fringe on the right swimming in a sea of mis- and dis-information about what it means to be a transgender person.

If I saw one more story, or one more post from some ill-informed, bigoted moron quoting the “gender ideology” of the transgender community, I thought I would absolutely lose it. I was beyond angry and just full of the proverbial “piss and vinegar.” This Jersey girl was absolutely fed up! I was enraged to the point of not being able to see straight, let alone think clearly about and comment on all of the utter nonsense being heaped upon my community.

So, I stepped back, took several deep breaths, started meditating again – and decided to shift my focus on the positives, and there are some: positive court rulings in Florida and Indiana (and literally as I was pressing the “publish” button – Arkansas!), Tennessee’s ridiculous restriction on drag were struck down, and even the U.S. Supreme Court permitted a trans student in West Virginia to continue participating in sports. Wins, to be sure, for trans and LGBTQ+ rights at a time when we really need them. When, quite frankly, I needed them. I realized I was internalizing everything from my news feeds. It had become very debilitating – psychologically and physically. It was time to slowly step away from my laptop . . . and my tablet . . . and my phone.

Pride is supposed to be a celebration of who we are – of who I am – and I was not at all feeling like the life of the party. My rage and my frustration were clouding my vision of that – as well as my embrace of hope. And that is something I have always had in abundant supply. But it caused me to pause. Were the forces that seek to eradicate my community actually succeeding in their efforts to disrupt our celebrations – my celebration and embrace of my authentic self? I feared that I was allowing the slow creep of despair to enter my thinking.

Mari was right (as most spouses are, I hasten to add . . .): I needed to step back and step away from the electronic devices and reflect for a bit. Now while I can say with total honesty that those things did actually help, what really pushed the reset button for me was the time I spent last week with my friends at TD Bank, back in my home state of New Jersey. I had the distinct honor of serving as the keynote speaker for their AMCB Pride event. Now you might be wondering what the initials stand for, and what they do tells you everything you need to know about the culture at TD: Allyship, Mentorship, Courage/Confidence, and Be Visible. I don’t think I can love that enough.

It was truly a transformative day for me as I listened to employees from across the LGBTQ+ spectrum tell their stories of bringing their authentic selves to work each and every day. And from senior executives, whose remarks made it very clear that they wholeheartedly support all that is being done to make all LGBTQ+ employees feel included and seen. I was so touched by the energy and passion that was in the room – and the commitment to evolving the already inclusive culture that has been built there.

For anyone who has yet to hear me speak, there is a story I always tell – as I did to the fine folks at TD – about a seminal moment in my journey where the realization that pursuing my authentic self was akin to taking a leap into an abyss not knowing if I would ever reach the bottom. But leap I did, and a bridge rose up to meet my fall made up of people who love and celebrate me for the real person I am. I now count the wonderful folks at TD Bank as forever a part of that bridge.

Without knowing it, the stories you shared about your own journeys and just being you’re out and proud selves were the salve my soul desperately needed to renew my spirit and strengthen my resolve to resume the struggle. You restored my faith in what Pride is all about. You were the Linus to my Charlie Brown when he so eloquently informed Charlie about “what Christmas is all about.”

Thank you so very much for that and for helping me realize that we must keep on keeping on, living our truth, being loud, being proud, and letting our freak flags fly – high and wide! Happy Pride!!!!