I went to the women’s march on Washington. I gathered with thousands and thousands of women, men, children, and dogs to say, “we are here. We are not going away. We deserve to be seen and heard. Listen to us. See us”. It didn’t seem to make a difference to #45 or any of his cronies. The only notice he gave that we were there was that he had more people attend his inauguration. Whatevs.
One of the chants was “show me what democracy looks like! THIS is what democracy looks like”. And we were joined in spirit and energy to demonstrate and advocate for democracy. We wanted to be heard that democracy was a reflection of the voices of all people. So far, our voices have not been heard by 45 but others are listening.
I reflect on that day and the politics that have transpired since the election. It doesn’t seem that our voices are being heard. It feels more like a dictatorship. It feels awful. I am continuing to do my part to advocate for justice and visibility and equality: postcards, faxes, emails, petitions, and phone calls. It feels good to do something actively to combat the injustices that are happening. It feels good to speak my concerns through these media but is there anything else I can do? Is there something right in my community that I can be doing? I believe there is more that each of us can do to show what democracy looks like; I believe that we can treat each other with kindness, respect, and truly see each other.
Let me break it down even further. We can model democracy in our everyday dealings. How did you feel when you saw #blacklivesmatter? Did you respond with #alllivesmatter? Are you a person that feels that by bringing notice to one demographic, it lessens your concern and care for other demographics? By saying #blacklivesmatter, it is acknowledging that blacks and people of color are treated differently when approached by people in authority or by the general public. #blacklivesmatters acknowledges the disparity and highlights the actions that need to happen. If we make the statement that #alllivesmatter or “I don’t see color”, we negate and minimize our colorful and wonderful differences. We “whitewash” all people and make us all homogenous. We devalue our cultural and ethnic differences.
Differences are not bad. They bring flavor to our world through foods and language and fashion. Differences bring in new perspectives and new ways to look at the world that can enhance our experience and our empathy. When we acknowledge differences in our cultures and upbringings and experiences, we recognize the value in diversity. We recognize that there are many ways to solve problems, cook foods, and handle situations. We acknowledge that our way is not the only way and there is always room to grow and improve. By recognizing differences, we show that we value and appreciate people, just the way they are, not the way we want them to be. We SEE them.
This same premise applies to women, men, and transfolks. We are all valuable. We all are unique. I have breasts, vagina, and have given birth 8 times. I homeschooled my children while they were growing up. I have unique needs and concerns. When I homeschooled my children, I went to gatherings and support groups for families with a lot of children. I also went to support groups for homeschooling moms. Other moms had less children. Other moms sent their kids to school. Is there anything wrong with these differences? NO! They are just different. One choice is not better than the other in these instances, they are just different and both valuable and present different needs and concerns.
Likewise, I am a woman born woman. I was born with a vagina. I am a woman. A transwoman may or may not have a vagina. Is one better or more valuable than the other? NO! It is just different and unique. Neither one is more worthy of respect, equal treatment under the law, or more valuable. They are both unique. Both present with privilege, pain, struggles, and triumphs. Neither is more deserving of better treatment and equality and consideration. Both deserve recognition of their uniqueness and their special needs and concerns. Both are valuable. Both deserve to be recognized, honored, and cherished. Both present with special needs. Both deserve to have their space and their needs embraced and treated well. But just like saying #alllivesmatters negates the intention and the recognition of the special needs of the #blacklivesmatter movement, by not recognizing the need and desire to gather among likeminded and bodied individuals, you are negating an experience that is not your own.