Empathy: Our Hope In The Fight Against Intolerance

The Technicolor parades inspiring hope throughout this nation have come to an end, and so, too, has 2016's LGBT Pride Month, dedicated in celebration of my community. The undressing of the kaleidoscopic vestments, decoratively proclaiming a place of equality, signals the return of our flamboyantly-challenged normative society. But, as we shift our attention from collective to individualistic aspirations, delayed at the expense of this June's festivities, you may sense a void in your heart formerly filled by gaiety. But, before worrying of going a year until we'll again rally under our rainbow, remember, it's but a matter of time before this intolerance-infused society, by either execution, segregation, or legislation, calls us to arms. This LGBT community, radiant in our unorthodoxy, accompanied by the numerous voices of support, will not be united by fear of what's to come, but by a collective vow to live an authentic life despite the consequences.

Beleaguered by hatred, our personal struggles tie us to the shared experience of our marginalized minority, which, largely due to the non-LGBT masses who joined our cause, had only recently witnessed great progress. Evidence of this is obvious in the actions our Ally-in-Chief, President Barack Obama, took to correct the systemic disenfranchisement of me and my fellow transgender Americans. But, even with the love offered by our ally brothers and sisters, nearly all LGBT persons can quickly recall how someone we cherished failed, because of their prejudice, to offer support.

Haunted by heartbreaking memories, recalling my rejection, generally provoked by an accidental trigger, promises to inspire tears for the loss of my father, a sister and brother-in-law, my aunts and uncles, and more cousins and friends than I wish to count. Refusing to live a lie, these relationships, some more than 20+ years in the making, were extinguished by unrequited love. Recognizing the LGBT community's endemic suffering, at the hand of apathy, and struggling in my understanding of this frequently imposed cruelty, I hungered to comprehend this societal shortcoming. Scrutinizing each icily turned back and callously offered cold-shoulder, revealed a universally absent integral value: empathy.

As a Pollyanna escaping despair by unearthing even the faintest of silver linings, I've yet to recall a cherished memory of my Father. A relationship tenuous since I can remember, the son he always wanted was nothing like the one he had, a disappointment he'd readily make known. I suspect most families have that overly critical relative who's fond of the backhanded compliment, but that tolerably offensive sentiment pales in comparison to my Father's audacious cruelty. Apt to inflict the most damage, he'd take aim at my typically low teenage self-esteem, express his disgust with my appearance, and condemn me for inflicting the embarrassment of having a fag for a son. Illogical as it seems, my child self, yearning to eventually become a boy worthy of his paternal love, suffered his onslaught and did all I could in my quest to please. I participated in several team sports offered by my school, expressed enthusiasm in firearms and the hunting of innocent animals, and feigned interest in my Father's other hypermasculine hobbies. Occasionally, I'd win his short-lived praise, however, my transition abruptly ended our wholesome family activities. A few Christmases back, after allowing him several years to digest, I reached out hoping the holiday spirit might inspire rebirth. Although capable of considerably more offensive language, my Father's last and most tormenting statement sealed our fate:

"I have very good memories of my time with my son that I will always cherish but that part of my life is over. It wouldn't be good with us today. I would never want to hurt you but I don't want to hurt anymore myself so good bye and have a good life."

The emphatic nature of my steadfast loved ones seems to originate from their mindfully guided efforts of improvement coupled with their willpower to persevere in the face of challenging obstacles along their path to self-actualization. Those I hold dear have been through the wringer by way of unemployment-inspired destitution, a taxing divorce (or two), the unexpected death of a child or spouse, an unmanageable addiction, a prolonged persecution for immutable characteristics, a life-altering disability, a sudden and serious illness, and similar crushing adversities eliciting a paradigmatic shift.

For those of you who long for a life based on truth and devoted to your unequivocal purpose, but remain paralyzed by fear of your loved ones abandoning you for that individuality, know that you are not alone in your plight. In the continued spirit of LGBT Pride, end your focus on rejection and the isolation you've imagined in a loss-filled life, and, instead, recognize that, although your story's nuances stand unique, its message of oppression is common to countless once tormented LGBT persons. Our diverse group, with members once facing similar leaps of faith, is waiting to welcome the authentic you with an unending offering of love, compassion, and kindness. Take pride in tackling your nearly insurmountable hardships, as they enlighten your appreciation of the beautiful complexities of this human condition.

Follow Chloe Hollett, J.D. on Twitter: ChloeHollett