I haven’t been avoiding you intentionally. In all honesty, I realize I’ve just been mentally paralyzed since the election. I’ve rested my fingers on the keyboard many times, only to stare at the screen. Even away from my computer I’ve had trouble concentrating. My gut has ached with knots of dread and despair. I’ve had to hold back tears on the train and in the checkout line at the grocery store. Even now as I type these words, my eyes are beginning to brim.
I’ve needed to grieve in my own way and on my own time. Today I’m ready to pivot my thinking in a way that will move me up from the feelings that hover at the bottom end the emotional scale.
I want to bounce back. I want to look for and find the good, renew my purpose and move forward. I want to reinvigorate my typically positive approach to life. Recently I began a mental list of the interactions, situations and articles that have lifted me up, restored my hope for the future and strengthened my faith in humanity since that shocking day in November. So here, dear diary, are the numbered steps on my ladder of resilience. I never want to forget them.
- When I met my friend Ruth for dinner after the election, she gave me an oversized book she’d picked up, called The Shared Heart: Portraits and Stories Celebrating Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Young People, by Adam Mastoon. I wondered why the title didn’t include the T at the end of LGB, but noticed on the subway ride home that the book had been published in 1997, when use of the term transgender was still a rarity. Then I began reading the stories of teen after resilient teen that had grown up feeling alienated, alone and fearful of rejection. They were just the reminder I needed that kids challenged simply for being who they are, or loving who they love, can lead empowered lives regardless of the decade. The next morning I emailed Ruth an apology for being such a dinner downer and thanked her for the book that helped me see progress ahead no matter what.
- In mid-November I flew to L.A. for a long-planned It Gets Better Project strategic planning retreat with the other board members and dedicated staff. In a daylong session to perfect the programs, advocacy, and organizational framework that serve LGBTQ youth around the globe, several anecdotes emerged that spoke to the relevance and importance of improving the lives of young people who face adversity on a daily basis, just for being who they are. One that will always stick with me is an email that came from a teenage girl saying the It Gets Better video collection often “gets me through the night.” The power of digital storytelling to connect a marginalized community uplifts me everyday.
- Late on Thanksgiving night, I pulled into a driveway full of cars at my longtime friend Katie’s, where I was staying while in the Midwest. I’d planned to put on my pajamas and crawl into bed, but joining her family party was like a salve for the soul. I met an aunt of Katie’s step-daughter for the first time. After asking about my book, Aunt Laurie told me she’s a therapist in Pennsylvania’s Amish country. She talked of the family rejection, community intolerance and bullying at school her LGBTQ youth clients have to suffer. She started to tell me about two transgender teens recently hospitalized after suicide attempts, but we were interrupted. Right then, in a moment of clarity and with a desire to hug that woman, I realized I don’t have time to be depressed; there’s too much work to be done helping LGBTQ kids develop hope, confidence and resilience of their own.
- One of the greatest sources of inspirations for my bounce-back resolve comes from President Obama’s words to his daughters about the outcome of the election. They were shared with David Remnik in a lengthy interview in The New Yorker. The following lines are from an excerpt in what Gabriella Paiella reported as a “pep talk” in New York Magazine:
“…your job as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding. And you should anticipate that at any given moment there’s going to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn’t stop … You don’t get into a fetal position about it. You don’t start worrying about apocalypse. You say, O.K., where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward.” ~President Barack Obama
I will remember, dear diary, as I believe we all must, that this is a country where everyone has the right to be treated equally, with respect and dignity, and where everyone belongs. I will draw on not only my resilience, but also my courage and my heart to be a hopeful up-lifter for others in defense of rights both given and gained. I will fight for love over hate. I will refuse to back down. And I will do my best to reserve tears for joyful victories.
Love, Julie xo