Pride, History and Faith
by Dionne Stallworth
I turned 59 earlier this year. Wow. 59. When I was a kid, I had a premonition that I would die before my 30th birthday. Funny though, it never scared me – you know, death. I always seemed to have more of a problem with living.
When I first came out as transgender, I went for a sense of belonging – a sense of being seen for my true self. The memory of that first pride I went to has long faded from my memory. In recent years, I’ve seen people attend pride to see old friends, drink, eat good food and have a good time. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, to be sure.
Today, I am looked at as an elder in the community and I feel the weight of that responsibility – to hold the history for us to be guided by those that came before, with all the trials, successes and even colossal failures...even to great many that we’ve lost through the years.
So many of our great advocates who lead the way are no longer with us. We’ve lost quite a few over the years, too – Sylvia, Marsha and Charlene. I hardly hear any of their names anymore. I know that we need to celebrate the victories that they and countless others gave to us. To be honest, I love a good party. I really do and any chance to see good friends and family to remind them how much I love and cherish them. Then, I remember.
I remember every Day of Remembrance event I either helped put together, attended or was asked to give a talk. I remember reading Monica Roberts ‘s blog about how many more trans people are dead than last year. I remember how many people said Trump could never win the election. I remember about the latest school shooting. I remember that being Black or Brown in a place where we are not expected to be allowed in, even small numbers, can result in physical, psychological and emotional trauma after being arrested…for just being. I look around and remember how few faces like mine are seen in positions of power and influence.
I remember when I tried stand up for me and those like me I was told I was too pushy or bitchy, allowing my emotions or perceptions to be discounted as “stupid tranny shit.”
And then, it hits me. I exceeded my statistical life expectancy over 30 years ago. I remember that for the first time in my life, I have a family, a partner and a home. I remember there’s so many who are like me and are not as fortunate.
So, where is my faith? Where did all this strength even come from? Then, I remember a line from my favorite movie: “If there is a God, He would exist on every mountain. He would exist in the heart of every man.”
Or I hear a song: “I know sometimes life can make it seem that it’s harder than it truly is, but we’ll get through it. Love won’t let us fall.”
Pride reminds me that the fight goes on and victories today can be the new battlegrounds of tomorrow. My faith and my hope come from what I’ve seen and been through before.
We will all win in the end. I truly believe that.
Dionne Stallworth’s name appropriately begins with “A”–as her social justice resume boasts a bouquet of beginnings. She is one of the founding members of GenderPAC, the first transgender political action committee. She is also a founding member and original co-chair of the Transgender Health Action Coalition. In addition, Stallworth has served as an officer and board member of the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association. She has led the observance of the International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) in Philadelphia and was one of the original founders of the TransHealth Conference, under the leadership of Charlene Arcila-Moore.