Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ahmed. Je suis Eric. Je suis Mike. Je suis law enforcement. Je suis moi. Je te suis. Nous sommes une. I am me. I am you. We are one.
Wait! Hold on! How can I be Eric and Mike, and law enforcement? I have to pick a side – at least, that’s what a lot of people tell me.
I participated in a march against police brutality and racism. To many people, this makes me anti-police. But I am not anti-police. I am anti-racism. I am anti-violence. I have great respect, appreciation, and admiration for law enforcement. I have great disdain for racial inequality. These two viewpoints are not mutually exclusive.
It’s like when they tell me I can’t be transgender AND Christian – and they do tell me that – they being those who see me as a lesser human being because of their personal take on what it means to be Christian and what it means to be transgender. I can be transgender and Christian. And I can be pro-police and anti-racism.
I had the great fortune of attending a presentation on the book, The New Jim Crow. I listened to a black man in the audience describe how he felt it was necessary to teach his sons that they could not go out walking after dark, because walking while black at night is far-too-often construed to be a criminal activity.
How can this not be an undeniable and unavoidable statement that there is something wrong with the way things are, right now, in America. Whether or not there is reason for this man to feel that way – and there is more than enough reason – just the fact that he feels that way should tell us that there is something horribly wrong.
I see the repeated stories about young, unarmed, black men who are killed by police. I have seen the civil unrest that sometimes accompanies these events. I hear the questions about why would people react that way. But then the conversation stops.
If we don’t know why someone would react that way, perhaps we might think about taking the time and making the effort to actually find out the answer to the question. Not from a how we see it from an outsider position. Not from a what is wrong with them position. The question that needs an answer is, What is so horribly wrong with our society that there is a need for civil unrest?
On the other hand, in my own community, three police officers have been murdered in the line of duty in the last two years. These men are heroes. They gave their lives in the act of keeping us safe. Their lives are constantly on the line and they do this willingly, almost always out of love for their community and their fellow human beings.
When a black man finds it necessary to tell his sons that they cannot go out walking after dark, I should have a problem with that. I should have a problem that motivates me into action. Because if he lives in a world where this happens, so do I. I live in the same world. And that is not acceptable to me.
When a member of law enforcement loses their life protecting my community, I should have a problem that, that motivates me into action. When another unarmed, young, black man loses his life, I should have a problem with that, that motivates me into action as well.
If I live in a world where people tell me I cannot be Christian because I am transgender, so do you. We all live in the same world. And that cannot be acceptable either.
Because I live in a world where multiple young, black men are dying. Because I live in a world where good, peaceful people who are Muslims are being judged for the actions of extremists. Because I live in a world where free speech is threatened with violence. Because I live in a world where law enforcement officers are gunned down in the act of keeping the peace. Because a transgender teenager finds it necessary to step in front of a moving truck.
I must strive to move beyond my fears and experience life with open eyes, an open heart, and an open mind. I am limited by my unwillingness to embrace the people who have intimate knowledge of the parts of me I have yet to discover; I have yet to embrace. My soul is set free by my unwillingness to be defined, or to define others, by such limitations.
I am all genders. I cover the spectrum of orientations. I am every belief system and every ethnicity. Every race, every class, and every ability. However, I will never experience these truths as long as I am limited by an infinite need to place people in boxes, and choose sides. These truths are at my fingertips, but I am unable to hold out my hand if I am clenching my fist.
I need to ask the questions. I need to make it my mission to seek out the true answers. Then, and only then, will we have a place to begin to make things different. Because . . . Je suis moi. Je te suis. Nous sommes une.
Stephanie Mott is a transsexual woman from Topeka, Kansas and a nationally known speaker on transgender issues. In addition, Stephanie is the executive director of Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project and a commissioner on the City of Topeka Human Relations Commission. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org