“The practice of love offers no place of safety.”
—bell hooks, in All About Love: New Visions
Thirty years ago, the pink triangle button pinned on my jacket identified me as queer. My T-shirts said “Silence = Death” and “No on 9.” An evangelical right-wing group had gotten an initiative on the ballot proposing to amend the Oregon constitution to ban LGBTQ+ civil rights protections and to label us “abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse.”
Already deep in the fight against AIDS, our community was plunged into a dehumanizing, demeaning debate about whether we were dangerous sexual predators. The stakes were high; the intense homophobia and fear of danger were real.
One day as I pulled into a gas station where I wasn't sure I was safe being out, I found myself taking my pink triangle button off my jacket. Although nothing about how I looked didn’t signal “dyke,” after I drove away I was flooded with a sense of regret. This was NOT how I wanted to be. I believed with all my heart that persistent, obvious queer presence would save us, and I had betrayed my heart. I couldn't shake the feeling, and soon I sewed pink triangle patches onto my jackets and clothes.
Invisibility = Silence
Silence = Death
Decades later, I figured out that I’m trans non-binary. Embracing this has brought tremendous joy and energy, and has deepened my authenticity with the world.
Using they/them/their pronouns reminds me of that pink triangle patch. Every day I face the question: Do I assert? Request? Correct? Here? Now? Each time I’m able to answer “yes,” I experience a teeny sense of nudging us toward life.
Now one of our political parties is busy pushing waves of bills targeting and oppressing trans and nonbinary people, and their families, through legislatures across the country. The stakes are still high, all around. As Jewish author and activist Emma Lazarus taught us back in 1883, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.”
God of All the Names and No Name At All, help me live in gratitude for the LGBTQ+ ancestors who paved this road we walk and roll on. Stay with me when I’m feeling scared and doing brave, nudging us forward.