I’ve struggled for months to write this speech. MONTHS. I think it’s due to the fact that I *love* having the answers and I *love* being right. I love having answers and I love being right because for all of my existence I have been told all day every day that I am WRONG. My body is wrong, my mind is wrong, my memories are wrong, my story is wrong, who I love is wrong, how I want to live is wrong, and my simple existence is wrong.
So What does liberation look like?
It looks like women owning their bodies and their sexuality.
It looks like transwomen dating without fear of being murdered.
It looks like non-binary and gender expansive folks living their truth and adding so much beauty and depth to what it means to be human.
It looks like children fully enjoying their entire childhood, not subjected to sexualization.
It looks like girls free from worry that if their bra strap slips down, or if they start their period at school, or if they are grabbed at school, their access to education is not interrupted.
But that’s not liberation! That’s just being free from oppression. I long so desperately for simple freedom from oppression that I cannot fathom what liberation could be like.
I can’t imagine how liberating it would be to not have been coached at 5 years old to keep my knees together when wearing a dress. I can’t imagine the liberation of not having to wear extra an extra layer of clothing JUST IN CASE that clothing moved or I fell down or decided to jump on the swings or the seesaw.
I can’t imagine the liberation of not living in a world where I was not taught at 10 years old to walk in the middle of the aisle in parking lots just in case someone was lurking under or between the cars to grab my ankles, kidnap, rape, and murder me. Of living in a world where all my siblings were taught to check the backseat before entering the car, just in case someone had broken in.
I want to imagine what middle school would have been like if my breasts and crotch had not been grabbed by multiple boys every day I went to school. What would middle school have been like if I didn’t get grounded for defending myself by kicking those boys in the crotch? That day 2 boys dragged me around the playground by my ankles with my legs spread wide and them telling other boys they could have their turn, what would have happened if my older brother hadn’t been outside to help me? Freedom from those truths does not equal liberation.
I can’t imagine the liberation that could come from my non-binary siblings able to explore their truth and enjoy their childhood without restrictive gender roles placed upon them based on what their genitals looked like. What liberation could come from my transgender sisters of color not being murdered at astronomical rates? How can we even dream of liberation when 40% of transgender people attempt to end their life? When 1 in 4 people assigned female at birth are sexually assaulted, most in the very beginning of their lives? What can liberation look like for them?
I may not know what liberation looks like but I sure know what oppression we need to be freed from. I know we must change our own behavior, our own expectations. Everyone standing here today, everyone listening must take these uncomfortable steps.
We must no longer remain silent while our transgender and LGB people and women are victims of horrific violence and tragedy. We must speak out loudly and unabashedly for our community. All of us - every human being - deserves dignity, respect, and the ability to live as our true selves. As long as we continue to live in fear and sadness, cautiously processing our feelings after stories of assault, harassment, and murder reach our doorsteps, or happen under our own roofs we will have to accept we are not doing enough. We must remember Ally Steinfeld. We share a responsibility, as women, as queer folks, as leaders, to speak out – loudly and definitively – for those who may not have a voice, or those who fear the consequences if they do. Women and transgender people live their daily lives in fear, afraid for their safety in public places as well as safe spaces. Until all of us are safe and protected, we have important work to accomplish together. As women, as the LGBTQ+ community,, we have joined our voices, strengths, and missions to condemn these acts of hatred and violence. We stand here today because so many of our beloveds cannot– whether out of fear, threat of violence, or all the hateful and ugly thoughts we see and hear shared every single day. We stand here to say this is unacceptable. We stand here to say this is not what the Queen City, Missouri, or the United States should be. We stand here because we can be better. We can be unified!
-We stand here to demand an end to violence against women, and yes trans women are women.
-We expect change, compassion, and understanding.
-We demand law enforcement across the state and country provide better training for their officers on how recognize and minimize their implicit biases.
-We demand law enforcement across the state and country provide better training for their officers on how to treat our transgender family.
-We charge each of you listening today to call out hate speech when hear it.
-We charge each of you in attendance to be brave and call out offensive jokes, comments, and slurs.
-Especially when the person saying them is someone you love and respect, we need you to be brave because our lives depend on it.
-We expect you as allies to spread the word “we don’t say those things here.”
-We do not accept hate.
-We remember Ally Steinfeld’s strength, and hopefulness.
I’ve struggled for months to write this speech because I don’t have any answers. I don’t know much. But what I do know is trans is beautiful, black lives matter, and me, too.