I have a number of transgender friends, and allies, and they deserve mention - celebration! - as well.
After some investigation and discussion with several of them, I have decided to respect anonymity, and not mention names or anybody else in a revealing way, nor use pictures. Gabriel was unique and in unique circumstances in giving his permission to use his name and image - others are not nearly so fortunate, as they have relatives, living circumstances and situations in their lives where breaking their anonymity could cost them relationships, jobs, who knows - perhaps their lives.
So with caution for them and deep respect on my part, here are my thoughts on my heroes.
I have friends who have gone before me on this journey...
who have begun their transition and paid for it not just with their life savings monetarily but with the the loss of family and loss of jobs.
They have faced police harassment of the ugliest kind in situations where they were totally innocent and merely doing their jobs.
They have sat by the bedsides of relatives and cared for them and been by their side when they passed away, but received no resolution, no re-connectedness with them.
They suffer trying to maintain an outer facade while around relatives who love them dearly, struggling to stay closeted because they know that their relatives' love is not unconditional, that it would turn to misunderstanding, division, rejection if the "truth" came out.
They have written intimately and openly on our email list of the challenges and changes they face, of the pains and agony and triumphs and joys of their lives as transgenders, giving the details of their lives to aid others in understanding and hope. And others on the list - all part of the GBLT community and allies who all support each other and make this list home!
...and our email moderator, who created and maintains that email list, our gathering place around a fireside of hope and love and support, and who daily, gently creates space where all who come will be respected and heard.
...my priests at my church and many of my fellow church members who have accepted me as I am - gay identified, and transgendered - without question and with total unconditional love and support!
One friend in particular..."Lucas" who has become one of my dearest friends, wrestles with being bi gendered...s/he experiences life in a duality...sometimes feeling masculine, as a man, sometimes feeling feminine and a woman. That is no easy road...the courage s/he shows on a day to day basis leaves me constantly in awe. Lucas undertakes a great deal of activism as a part of a GLBT organization committed to change and hope, and participates in the "National Day of Silence". I see the strain Lucas faces when dealing and remaining closeted with insensitive relatives who will NOT accept him/her as s/he is, but I also see a greater strain and inner balancing act and sometimes exhaustion as s/he wrestles daily with being on the inside of this situation, constantly colliding with a culture that demands that s/he be one or the other and damns him/her for being different. Lucas, your unfailing sense of humor, courage, and strength have been an inspiration for me, and given me strength when struggling to find my own peculiar place and balance in this world. I couldn't do it with out you there ahead of me holding the light!
And what about allies....Gabriel's parents who champion their son...
Lucas' parents who did an amazing turn around to become passionate GLBT supporters, loving their child as she/he is...
My friend MisBehavin' who is one of the most outspoken "straight" allies I have ever known, going head to toe with prejudice and injustice no matter the situation or the cost...
My beloved Star Child who has been my friend forever and accepted me as I am no matter where I am in my journey, always.
My honest Skeptic, who listens so carefully, and defends me and loves me as I am...
Lee who is utterly and totally with out a bone of prejudice in her body, who cannot even comprehend why someone would hate or reject another for being who and what they are....
....my two priestesses who gallantly love me, period, despite anything I throw at them!
You ALL - each and every one of you - astound me daily with your love, and your courage and your example.
...and perhaps my best ally of all...my wife and dearest friend, Dreamweaver. You didn't sign up for this journey. You thought you were getting a nice lesbian relationship, all the crazy questions of identity settled in your life, safe harbor at last. And instead you got me....transgender, FTM and all the complexity and questioning and the 24/7 presence of "the elephant on the coffee table" ...and you face daily that if my scenario and needs ever change and I transition, it puts you back into a relationship with a man, back into a "straight" identity as the world perceives it. You face the fact that the changes that could bring might be more than just skin deep, and the question of will I still be the same person that you married. It has rocked your world from end to end....
and you have risen gloriously to the challenge, meeting it head on. You have committed your self to walking with me by my side whatever the future may hold. You have expanded your world and your views on gender both personally and professionally, to the utter limit, and have taken the knowledge and wisdom you have found and used it to help others in the therapy room. You daily amaze me with your courage, your love and your honesty. I do not know where my life would be without you, this day, I only know it would be a far poorer one,without the riches you have brought my heart and soul in our life together!
All of you out there....you are my heroes. The daily courage it takes for you all to do what you do are my banner, my trumpet call, my example that I need to always continue to strive to be true my myself and to my friends.
And I love you all!