Empowering Transgender Lights to Shine

I have longed, for a very long time, for a space on the planet where my identity - my one-and-only, true-to-my-heart, exactly-who-I-am identity - is free to exist authentically. The history of America and the political disaster known as Kansas tell me the day is coming, but the wait is still substantial. Changes are many. At least as obvious as the positive changes, are the countless examples of spineless monsters who conjure up fears and destroy the lives of people who happen to be transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC).
    That said, there is a growing and undeniable force across America that is coming to an ever-greater understanding that this is not a discussion about transgender rights. This is a discussion about human rights for TGNC human beings.
    What America is still failing to see, is that this is also a discussion about the right for all people to have a space in which they are able to shine their light. What the world has failed to understand, is that lights not allowed to shine are like birds not allowed to fly; dreams that are forced to die; love that never sees the light of day.
    I longed for a very long time for a place to be. But what I needed was more than a place to be. What I needed was a place to belong. A place to grow my heart; fuel my spirit; heal my soul; shine my light.
    The cost to humanity, from denying humanity to any of the world’s inhabitants, is far greater than the horrors endured by those who are oppressed and marginalized. The cost to humanity includes the millennia-long removal from the universe, of the collective light of every soul whose light never had a chance to shine.
    And then we wonder why humanity never seems to be able to crawl out of the darkness.
    When we deny a TGNC teenager the right to live in their true identity, we deny that person’s future. We deny their hopes and dreams. We deny all the light they might have shined on the world. It affects more than their future. It affects the future of the world.
    Whatever brilliance that child might have gifted to humanity has been denied not only to that child. It has been denied to everyone they might have helped, to everyone who will ever love them, and ironically, to everyone who stands in the way of authenticity.
    A recently released study by the Williams Institute says, “An estimated 0.6% of adults, about 1.4 million, identify as transgender in the United States.” It’s not about extinguishing a single light. It’s about fully or partially extinguishing 1.4 million adult lights, as well as the just-beginning-to-shine lights of countless TGNC youth.
    Just to put that in perspective, the population of San Antonio, Texas is about 1.4 million. That’s like saying, “No one from San Antonio is allowed to add light to the universe. Sorry, your light is not needed here. We’re good. We have all the light we need.”
    Maybe we should be empowering transgender lights to shine. Maybe we should be empowering the lights of all marginalized and oppressed people to shine. Maybe we would discover an entirely different world.
    So, in the meantime, as society considers the place and purpose of 1.4 million Americans, there is no place for anyone’s disapproval of authenticity. There is no purpose in the destruction of 1.4 million lights.
    And just in case you want to tell me what it says in the Bible about this, turn to Matthew 5:14-16.
    “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your [Creator] in heaven.”
    Shine on, transgender lights. Shine on. l

StephanieMott-7Stephanie Mott is a transgender woman from Topeka. She is the executive director of the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project, and a commissioner on the City of Topeka Human Relations Commission. Reach her at [email protected]

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