What do you picture when you hear the phrase "gang member?" How about the phrase "founding member of a gang?" How about hearing someone explain to you, in person, standing not five feet away, that they have indeed taken the lives of human beings in the commission of crimes? And yes it was left open as to the exact number. I got the feeling that possibly not even he knew the exact count.
So? How about it? Thoughts on who this human being is? A pleasant one? One that makes you think, hey you know what, this is the perfect person to come out to and explain that yeah, I am transgender.
Whatcha think? Sound like a good idea? Does that sound like someone that you would picture as being tolerant? What about warm and touching? Well, without much fanfare, I will let you know that was exactly the conversation I had a while back. I'm not so sure of when exactly it was, except it wasn't super recent. Maybe a few months ago. Maybe.
I do know that back in February I did mention to you that I have been having some odd conversations as of late. This particular one came about through the fact that I want people to know someone who is transgender. I read somewhere that something like 80% of the American population does not personally know someone who is transgender. That is a crime. Those of us who are transgender seriously need to stop hiding. It is easy to discriminate against a group of people that you personally have no connection to. I want the people in my life to have a connection to the transgender world. It is a small but vital thing those of us who are transgender can do to help out the entire world. We need to put a face to this whole transgender thing. We need cisgender people to feel some sort of personal connection to a word.
Moving on..... So yeah, this guy I chose to speak to that day was pretty high on the list of people I assumed I would never speak to about transgender issues, let alone my own personal ones! Eeek! And the things I had heard about him certainly did not help me to feel comfortable about him either. How about when one of my supervisors told me that we had one of the top three founding gang members working for us? Yeah! Not the first person you would chose to have the whole TG talk with right?
Funny, as because in reality, yes he is all of those things, a gang member, an original founding member of the top gang in our area, a murderer, and a felon. Yet he is also, a husband, a father, a son, a brother, an artist, a hard worker, and one hell of a nice human being. But if you can't get past the lack of formal education, the time he has spent in prison, the actions he has taken, the obvious gang tattoos covering most of his body, you'd never get the opportunity to learn who this human being is.
Isn't it more than a bit ironic that is what most of us who are transgender are actually looking for? For people to see who were are on the inside and stop judging us by our outside shells? Hmmm..... Yeah.
Of course I had the conversation with him. We see each other almost every day at work. Not for long, but for long enough for us to have a few moments to converse. One day, kind of out of the blue in my recollection, I told him that I am transgender and that I am taking estrogen.
He had super thoughtful comments. One of them was explaining to me how he had a friend in prison who transitioned while in prison. I was floored by that and asked how in the world a person gets those types of meds in prison. He explained that you can get almost anything you want while in prison if you are able to pay for it. I explained that I thought it was sad that this TG human had to exist as a female in a male prison. Damn.
He also shocked me when he confided that one of his cousins is transgender. It turns out that he is super sad because his cousin disappeared for a long time and nobody knew why. Eventually he got a hold of his cousin and that was when his cousin explained that he was transgender and was transitioning. He told his cousin that he better come by and begin reconnecting with everybody. The cousin came over, and everybody was super supportive of her. Did I explain, besides the whole gang member thing, that we are talking about one of those huge, extended, Hispanic, Catholic families? Well yeah, there's that as well!
It was again just one incident in what is becoming a vast number of them that made me shake my head at myself for ever being so foolish to think that I can't be honest with my fellow human beings. One of the huge things for me was another conversation with this gentleman where he explained how freaked out he was about people finding out about him, his past, and who he once was -- I swear I thought he was going to explain he was transgender!! If you know transgender humans, that is like our narrative!
Or so I thought. Apparently, it is not a transgender narrative, it is a human narrative. We as humans are typically so in need of human contact, and so fearful of being shunned by the herd, that we are terrified to tell anybody who we really are. It's a sad existence. I know not everybody suffers this way, but a vast number of us do for sure! And this coworker of mine, he has apparently been terrified of people finding out that he was a gang member, and had been to prison. He was afraid that if anybody knew the truth they wouldn't want to have anything to do with him.
Regardless of his past, of who he used to be, he is trying to be someone different. He has made a vow to his wife, that with his first two kids he spent too much time in prison and missed much of their lives. So when she had two more children about ten years back, he said he was done, and would never go back to prison again. And he did it the right way. He cleaned up his act. He was able to barely find employment, but he did it, and he has kept his word. Eventually a judge ordered his record be expunged and he was eventually able to find decent employment, which is how he and I eventually were able to have this seemingly odd meet up and conversation.
In reality that conversation was exactly the one that needed to be had for we were two people who were both suffering in the exact same way. It was such a mind blowing moment for me to realize that two humans who have had such vastly different paths in life were able to share the exact same insecurities.
Shocking. Seriously. Shocking. Well, for me at least.
It was yet another incident that is slowly but completely changing my opinion of just who exactly my fellow human beings are.
Only then can you love each other!
Oh and by the way - the art pictured at the top of the post was a gift to my wife and I from the gentleman I had this conversation with.