Having developed a relatively recent sense of being “othered” in my life, I find I’m a lot more sensitive to such things. Be it in pop culture, the news media, politics, whatever, I notice and feel impacts on other diverse people I never before noticed. It has given me an empathy I once lacked ― a humanity to go with with the intellectual understanding I’ve always prided myself on.
Part of that, however, is understanding that my sense of being othered as a transgender person is not the same as being othered as a person of color, an immigrant, a poor person, or anything else. Though the meaning of the word is ostensibly the same – “to treat that culture as fundamentally different from another class of individuals, often by emphasizing its apartness” – everyone experiences it differently.
I think about this a lot when something happens to another group of people with whom I increasingly identify. In this current administration, if it’s not LGBTQ people being singled out for prejudice, it’s Muslims, or Hispanics, or – lately – Dreamers. The president having put them on notice that their security in this country now has an expiration date, I have ached for them in a way that I don’t think I was capable of before.
I am not proud of this limitation on who I used to weep for, who I felt pain for. Especially when you consider that of the 800,000 Dreamers who live in this nation, dozens of them were my students when I taught high school on the coast of Oregon. Intellectually, I always supported them, but I’m not sure I did much else. And even now, even though I know I’ve changed, I have been hesitant to speak up.
Not because I shouldn’t. But because I do not want my otherness to become arrogance. My far-too-late empathy still does not allow me to speak for anyone else other than myself. At the end of the day, I am a white, middle-class American, born and bred. Despite my transition, that has never changed. Whatever else I may fear in this country and now loathe about it, I do not wake up in the morning worried I will be arrested and thrown out of it.
So it was that I saw one of my former Dreamer students posting on Facebook. His words brought me to tears, as it did many of his former classmates and teachers, and other friends in the community. I will not claim in any way that I had a role in the words he created. What he has written he did solely on his own. I simply consider myself lucky that I’ve progressed enough in my life to be touched by the wisdom of someone who has written what I cannot.
What I can do, however, is give his words, in this space, to you, too. And so I shall...
Thank you for taking away the one and only thing that kept me from having fear in my life. Thank you for crushing my goals and the dreams I have. Thank you for lying to us when you said you wouldn’t attack us Dreamers.
Thank you for all your ignorance and lies. Thank you for your efforts to “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN” by focusing on ways to get rid of us undocumented Americans, and not even disguising the racism. Thank you for saying that we’re somehow simultaneously responsible for both high unemployment rates and for taking everyone’s jobs. Thank you for saying we are criminals and don’t deserve to have an opportunity to succeed in life because we were born somewhere else, despite this country’s rich history of growing stronger with each new wave of immigration.
Thank you for giving me this wonderful news on my birthday (on this week), Mr. Trump. Even though my family risked everything they had to come to a nation where people like you validate their racism and bigotry, you continue to stoke the flames of hate for people like us from the presidency.
I grew up here in America, where I’ve gone to school, to work, and spent my money (including paying my taxes).
I stand up every time to say the Pledge of Allegiance and national anthem before events, and do so proudly because I love this country and what it has given to me and my family.
But I have to thank you, Mr. President, for making it clear that your agenda is one of racism. Your policies are narrow-minded and short-sighted. Thank you for reaffirming that you are a bully who cares nothing about the suffering of others.
Finally, thank you, Mr. President, because you’ve managed to make sure we’re all watching you and we’re ready to do whatever it takes to hold you accountable. We Dreamers and believers in justice will #resist.