Monday, May 23, 2016


United States National Institute of Health

We are all unique.
Although that sounds trite, this is the truth we tell our children and  each other.

And it is true.

But it is also true....that some folks are a bit more unique than others, face challenges not faced by most, learn lessons that remain unlearned by many, and have much to teach us all about living.

A  new law in North Carolina has highlighted challenges and prejudices faced by transgender people, bringing them to the front pages of our newspapers,  to the nightly news on our television screens, and directly into our dinner conversations.

This law, which is a solution looking for an imagined problem,  discriminates against, and in some ways criminalizes, an entire segment of our society, but also provides opportunities for discussions in which we all may learn, increase our compassion and understanding, and become more truly ourselves.

I have had several frustrating conversations lately in which people  have made definitive statements and  bold  proclamations regarding transgender people, the new law... and bathrooms, all without the undergirding of facts-- no biological, medical, or other scientific information.

In so-called religious arguments, there has been no solid biblical, doctrinal, or canonical basis.

In  purported safety and security assertions, there has been no statistical, historical,  or incidental evidence.

In no case was there a specific or personal experiential basis.

In each of these conversations, perhaps out of fear or  benign ignorance, or more sadly, hatred or malice, people simply expressed as their own, the unexamined opinions of someone  else.

In each of these conversations, there was no willingness to critically analyze or explore their own position or other possible views.

This reminds me of similar conversations in the past when folks denounced Harry Potter books or The Satanic Verses,  but hadn't read the books--  or when people were picketing The Last Temptation of Christ, but hadn't seen the movie.

How do you have a conversation in this empty context? How do you have a conversation where there is no information of any kind to examine?
It is impossible.

As so often happens, books show up when you didn't know that you were looking for them.

On the heels of these several discussions, I encountered Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart, a perfect book to enter into these recent frustrating conversations.

This book offers a fictional, yet realistic slice of two lives lived in the bodies of people struggling to become who they really are.

In Gephart's thoughtful portrait of Lily, we enter the mind, the heart, and  the everyday struggles of a transgender girl as she seeks to become herself, honestly and openly.

We also enter the challenges of Dunkin, as he struggles with Bipolar Disorder.

 I believe that understanding comes when we are able to look into the eyes and faces of  another, when we can walk with them through their lives, when we can listen with open ears and hearts to their desires, hopes, and fears. Books and movies along with personal encounters and interactions, allow us to do this.

In a recent blog post, Benedictine Sister, Joan Chittister, reflects on the movie,The Danish Girl which also deals with a transgender journey:

A universal call to authenticity for some, it is, at the same time, a call for universal love from those who companion us through any of life’s moments of disjunction and despair. 
 It is everybody’s story at one level. And its ending is meant as a life lesson for us all. The fact is that until we become what we are meant to be, none of us can ever be truly happy.

How do we become who we are?  How do allow and support others  to become who they are?
How do we answer this universal call to authenticity and compassion?

We all find ourselves unique in many ways.

And as you search for additional books  that will provide opportunities for honest  conversations about differences  and our struggles to be who we are, these few may be a place to begin:

Cerebral Palsy
Facial Differences
Eccentric Creativity and Intelligence

Asberger Syndrome

Hearing Differences

These books and many others which are available help us begin to answer these questions:

What does it feel like to be different?
How do I respond to those who are different?
How do I respond to others who mistreat those who are different?

How do I become me?
How do I support you as you become you? 

Today's  Deeper Writing Possibilities 

Because of a new law passed in North Carolina, transgender issues are in the news.

Read several related news articles and respond in poetry.

Or you may choose to read and write about an issue in the news that is important to you.

Rattle, one of my favorite poetry journals,  has a feature entitled  Poets Respond.

You may want to submit your poem  for publication.