By: Deja Nicole Greenlaw*/TRT Columnist—
It’s June and officially Pride season. Yes, it’s that time of year when you spend the day marching for your right to be and the rest of the day enjoying the comfort of others who accept you for who you are. Every so often, I will hear some folks question why we need Prides anymore these days. I always tell them that we still have a long way to go and that they really don’t understand what it has been like for us existing in the world. It’s not easy being different.
Today’s social climate is indeed getting better, but there still is resistance to us being who we are. Just look around at North Carolina and several other states where there are anti-LGBT bills up for consideration. These are awful bills that restrict our rights as Americans. These are really anti-American bills, which look to deny Americans their rights. These bills use fabricated fear in the name of religious freedom and for the protections of social institutions. Simply stated, they are a means to try to control Americans. We need to rebel against this control and we need to march for our rights to be who we are. Yes, we really need the marches. Some may call them parades, but I see them as marches for equality.
If you are LGBTQ you know how awful it was growing up and how much hatred was thrown upon us and how most of us retreated into our closets with scars that last a lifetime. If you are not LGBTQ, please try to imagine what it’s like to have society overwhelmingly opposed to your right to love whom you choose and/or live as the gender you know yourself to be. You face ridicule, damnations, and are made to feel that you are wrong and evil. These are not healthy feelings but these are the feelings that you must deal with if you want to survive. As a trans person, I know that I share a lot of these feelings with my LGBQ brothers and sisters. Being trans, however, means you have another element to deal with: your gender.
Growing up as a boy I noticed a disconnection in my being. I felt that I was like the other boys; but then again I wasn’t. I also felt like one of the other girls; but then again I wasn’t. I was confused, but I decided to live as male. I figured that there will most likely be trouble if I chose to live as a female. At the time, in the late 1950s, I was attending a Catholic school, which was taught by nuns. I would think that they would have had a big problem if I told them that I was really a girl. Plus, many of my classmates would no doubt make fun of me and I most likely would have been bullied and teased if I came out at that point. I decided to stay in my closet and tolerate the scars that I had.
Living in the closet as trans I had to deal with scars such as shame, guilt, self-hatred, and the constant fear of being “found out.” I can tell you that it’s awful living like that. I tried not to think about it but it doesn’t go away. I was who I was and I knew that I had to somehow deal with it. That’s how the closet comes in. If you’ve ever been in any kind of closet you know that it feels like you are living only half of your life. It’s awful. This is why I march and enjoy the Prides. It feels so good to not be ashamed, to not feel guilty, to not hate yourself and to not be afraid.
To share those feelings with others who have also had similar experiences is such a wonderful release. Yes, I firmly believe that we still need Prides today and we still need marches for our rights as Americans and our social justice. We still have a long way to go but I will keep marching until we get those rights. At that point, I will then call it a parade: a parade of love and acceptance.
*Deja Nicole Greenlaw is a trans woman who has three grown children and is retired from 3M. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.