Journey Story

The Courage To Be

by Dr . Robyn Henderson-Espinoza

Last week I wrote on hope, and the reason I wrote on hope was that I needed a bit of hope.

I needed to be reminded that even my body carries the story of hope.

And as we near the end of 2016 and stand in the liturgical season of Advent where we wait for the unexpected to become human, I still am in need of hope.

With hope fresh on my mind, I traveled to Orlando, Florida, with the National LGBTQ Task Force, and we visited the PULSE Orlando Nightclub where 49 LGBTQ people of color were killed. With hope pouring from my lips even as I read aloud the names of our own, I participated in a ritual of public mourning and lament.

And at that moment, I realized, that I need not only hope, but also the Courage to Be.

I remember reading The Courage to Be by Paul Tillich in college. Then, I had no experiences that demanded I have courage…except maybe the courage to go to college. But now, in 2016, as I am becoming ever more myself, every day I have experiences that demand I have courage!

Courage is not only an ethical act, but it is also a state of being.

Courage, as a human act, is important to note because it reminds us that we have the ability to act courageously. Likewise, courage as a self-affirmation of one’s being in the world is an important reality to embrace, especially when the courage to be results in living beyond the normative.

In particular, escaping the norm of a gender binary requires courage. Discovering language to describe myself was an awakening of courage. “Transgender” named an in-between space that I recognized. I had for long understood myself as a mixed-raced Latinx, or Mestizaje.

After all, my mother is an earth-hue brown Mexican woman not of this country, and each time I am next to her, I am reminded that I am of mixed-blood. My father was white.

I had to have courage to come out as being in/between Mexican and non-Mexican.  

I struggled with this because I have light-skin passing privilege, and unless I’m speaking Spanish, I am likely read as white.  And, when I discovered the language of Transgender about a decade ago, I began to wonder if this language even captured my reality?

When I began thinking about being Trans, the Denver community asked me why I wasn’t going on T (testosterone). I didn’t feel compelled to ‘transition’ to being male; I only knew that I didn’t feel or identity as being female. If anything (and I would write this out when I was asked for a bio), I was fe/male, and I relished being in/between, in the slash of fe and male. Many people told me I was not Trans, even my partner at the time, but I knew that I didn’t identify with my assigned sex and gender; I was in between it all, like my raced body.

In the years to come, I would learn a new language in the Trans community that really spoke to me. It took courage for me to join the various Trans communities and to furthermore name myself as enfleshing a Trans reality.

Becoming part of our community and living fully took the courage to be!  

Living in the / (slash) or the – (hyphen) of gender and sex means that it’s messy to speak about my gender orientation and my sex. I am neither / nor, and both / and. I am becoming and it takes courage for me to become who I am called to be.

This Advent, I am embracing the courage to be and leaning into the potential of my own queer becoming. This emerges after realizing that I have an unquenchable hope and am devoted to a queer utopia, especially in the in between spaces of my own pessimism of our current reality.

We queer nonbinary folk are not only enfleshing courage as a state of being, but we are seeking to live out courage in new ways: we are drinking tea with unlikely conversation partners and having conversations that highlight our own need for radical social change and Trans visibility… we are writing letters and unmasking the complexities of our current Trans reality…

We are naming the importance of the visibility of nonbinary Transgender folks in an age of perpetual violence. 

All of this takes courage, and in a season where I am leaning to(ward) a queer utopia, I trust that the never-receding horizon is one that meets me full of courage, and a community of folks ready to help add to the courage to be.

by Gabriel Garcia Roman
Photogravure w/ Chine-Colle and silkscreen, 15in x 18in.

Text by Ignacio:

I live in this place called the middle.  A place not yet defined, not yet understood, nor accepted.  I am everything but never nothing, cause nothing doesn’t derive from anything, and I do!!

Navigated their Rules & gender regulations.  Not allowed to look like…..

I come from pink sheets, flowered dresses, ponytails, babydolls, stuffed brash & make up, gender fluid-gender/ gender-fuck.

I am every woman and I am every man….and I am none of that.

I live in this dangerous place.

I am the person I am.  I was a girl…a woman.  All of it and moe.  Take all of me!

Homophobia * Sexism * Femmephobia * Transphobia *

In my androgyny…guarded ees stared intently trying to figure “it” out.  These days, you are a (gay) man, and when you do, I remember my survival teachings as a girl.

Ignacio G Rivera is a Two-Spirit, Black-Boricua Taíno, queer performance artist, activist, filmmaker, lecturer and sex educator who prefers the gender neutral pronoun “they.”