Some days I look back on the January 1 version of me. I was getting ready for bed and checking into Facebook to see what other information I needed to put in my brain about my social networks before my head hit the pillow. As I've stated before, Tyler Merritt threw out the #ThisIsCrazyLove2016 and by the next day several people were taking the challenge to write words of love and affirmation to someone on social media every day for an entire year.
Now as I find myself midway through the third month of this experience I see myself viewing the world in a different way. Experiences I have during the day, things I here on the radio or television, and even things I read on social media make me balance everything positive and negative with the notion of sharing love and affirmation with someone publicly each day. For a WHOLE YEAR!
This morning, while driving to work, I heard a story on NPR local about students and restrooms and schools. At that moment I knew what today's post would be.
I've been thinking for just over two weeks now about writing a #ThisIsCrazyLove2016 for someone named Justin.
Let me back up a bit. My friend Michael Higgins and I decided last year that we wanted to do a podcast about the LGBT+ community. As two straight men, we were interested in hearing the stories of people in the community to better understand their world views and their world.
Side note: At this point we have tabled the podcast and are reevaluating how to do it as it only captures a part of what we feel is important for us to learn. We're working on a new podcast where we will talk to anyone who is "different from us" and learn from there experiences and find the similarities. We're two straight, white, Christian men who want to learn from people who aren't.
I'm giving #ThisIsCrazyLove2016 to Justin today because he is the person that Michael spoke with when he called GLSEN of Middle Tennessee back in 2015. Justin didn't know us from Adam (or Steve) and yet invited us to come to their meeting and interview some of their board members and a few of the students who they have helped through their respective journeys in life.
I was humbled that they would trust us to come in and record people's stories to put out on the interwebs for any and all to hear. Let's be real, they didn't know if we would've spun things a different way or done something other than what we did. They trusted us.
And we tried our best to do our due diligence presenting their stories with grace and honor.
This morning I heard the story about the struggle for trans students to use a restroom in their schools and it reminded me of an experience I had that night at GLSEN.
Now, you need to know, before that evening at GLSEN I didn't know much of anything about the trans community. Sadly all I had to go off of was a guy named Chaz and a woman named Caitlyn. I didn't and don't understand either of those two celebrities but I was willing to acknowledge that my lack of understanding doesn't warrant dismissal.
Michael and I began the interviews that night with openness and naïveté.
We sat for about an hour talking with several students. Some were transgender. They told us happy stories and sad ones. They had us on the edges of our seats as they shared the horrors they face. All the time, with bravery and poise, letting us know what we were saying incorrectly and how the assumptions made behind our words could make a person feel or devalue their existence.
It was the best education I've had in decades. Two men, old enough to be their fathers, were being taught by these students.
After the interviews and the several bottles of water I excused myself to the restroom.
As I stood at the sink washing my hands one of the students came in to use the urinal . This young lady was assigned the gender of male at birth and she was using the urinal.
I thought my head was going to explode as I considered that this person (yes, a PERSON) was doing something that all the female role models in her life had never done.
Think about scenes in movies where a female character is carrying on a conversation from the stall or bathroom and they are shown in a seated position. Elaine Benes saying, "Can you spare a square? Just one square?!?"
Think about the times this student had seen mom sit down when needing to relieve herself. Think about all the "normal" goings on that she knew to be just that... Normal. Then think about her doing the exact opposite. Think about all that going on in the mind of a teenager who, like anyone else, has enough to concern themselves with during the day to day of awkward youth.
For those out there ready to get their cis-gender boxers or panties in a bunch please take a second to think about the hurt and shame and frustration and pain that comes with knowing one thing inside and seeing a completely different set of things in the outside.
I cannot speak for every person wanting to use a restroom on this planet. Thankfully I am not the spokesperson for the trans community. Nor should I be. I only know what it is like to a man assigned the gender of male at birth who knows in his innermost being that the doctors got it right.
I can't even speak for the people I have met who are transgender. I can tell you their stories as they were related to me but you'd be getting them second person.
I can tell you what a sixty-something year old transgender woman told me at PFLAG last year. She said, "I actually do have an agenda when I go into a ladies restroom. It's to evacuate my bladder."
Today's #thisiscrazylove2016 goes to Justin and the entire group at GLSEN Middle TN and the students who find safety, solace and community there. It goes to their trust of us and their friendship.
I am better each day because people in that community allow me to be ignorant in my questions and are willing to gently guide me to a better understanding.