Transgender. When I was a kid this wasn’t even a word, people said transexual when they said anything at all, and transvestite was thought to be about the same thing, and kids shouldn’t go near either of them.
I grew up religious, and sheltered, and mostly around white people (although I had a lot of adopted friends – at that time all internationally adopted PoC with white parents). My family was pretty progressive for our circle in that we had friends from other ethnic groups and other religions. We traveled to other countries and we attended cultural events from other cultures.
Eventually I went to college, and stumbled head-first into a very different world. I stopped doing some of the things from my previous life for a while, then I went back to some of them. Learning about other ways of life was important to me, but I didn’t see that as meaning I should change in any way (ah, the teen years and days of thinking we’re perfect).
And then one of my best friends turned out to be transgender.
I freaked out. According to my friend, I was way cooler about it than expected. But I did a lot of things that were, to my internal moral compass, wrong.
I talked about my friend behind their back. I shared their personal transition business. I asked intrusive and weird questions. I didn’t support them. I wasn’t a good friend to someone who had been nothing but a good friend to me.
That was the year I became an ally.
Before that, I was all for justice and equality. But the events of that year, and more importantly, my own reactions to them, turned me into the kind of person who raises her hand and corrects misinformation, who talks to human resources when a racist comment is made, who tries not to stand by and let the world be whitewashed.
There’s still a road to travel here. My hand might be raised, but I’m still squirming in my seat. I’m still learning a lot, and if I offend anyone here, or overlook something important, I’m open to hearing about it. But if you think that I read too many problematic books, or that I’m too soft on those who just don’t get it, this is where it’s coming from.
I was that girl who didn’t understand. Who hurt a friend out of ignorance not intention. This week is me doing a little bit to make it better.