There is something happening at this moment.
We all know it, whether we are glued to our cable news network of choice or making a conscious effort to tune out the noise. Whether we live in a red state or a blue, whether we stand with the accusers or the accused, whether we wear our politics on our sleeve or bow out of heated conversations. No matter where we position ourselves on the spectrum of knowingness, we can’t escape the fact that we are living in an age of reckoning.
Gone are the days of not paying attention. All around us, the institutions we took for granted are being shaken. Between the dam that has broken to reveal the rampant sexual harassment in our society, or the realization that our American democracy is, in fact, a delicate universe that requires a careful equilibrium in order to function, this moment is forcing us to take a good look around, and a long look in the mirror.
"No matter where we position ourselves on the spectrum of knowingness, we can’t escape the fact that we are living in an age of reckoning."
What do we believe in? Whom do we believe? Are my facts “facts,” while yours are “alternative facts”? Lines are being drawn all around us, and this moment is compelling us to pick sides. It’s not often you have the awareness of history happening all around you, and yet here we are.
Those of us who work in the LGBTQ community have been taken aback by the hateful transparency of actions taken by the Trump-Pence administration, from rolling back guidance supporting transgender students in schools to barring qualified transgender Americans from serving in the military. There is no evidence that either of these actions would make our country safer; in fact, quite the opposite. All that was accomplished was to make life harder for people just trying to serve their country or get through the school day.
But rather than allow this setback to deter us, we reminded ourselves of the ancient proverb: “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.” To borrow a Trump term, we doubled down on our commitment to equality, and our conviction that making the world a safer place for transgender youth —who can be among the most vulnerable of all — makes the world safer for every child. And we nurtured our belief that when asked to take sides in this fight, more people would stand with us than against us.
That’s exactly what happened in the small village of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, back in December 2015. When an out-of-state anti-LGBTQ hate group threatened legal action against a school attempting to make a 6-year-old transgender student feel accepted and loved, the community could have turned away. Instead, it leaned in.
"And we nurtured our belief that when asked to take sides in this fight, more people would stand with us than against us."
A caring parent organized a library reading of the book I co-wrote with Jazz Jennings: I Am Jazz. The book — by and about a transgender youngster — is the one the school had planned to read before the haters descended. Thirty or so people were expected; 600 showed up. And when I finished reading the book aloud, every one of them applauded. It is a moment that took my breath away and fortified me for what lay ahead.
We are not powerless in this moment. Far from it. Inspired by the residents of Mount Horeb and organized by the Human Rights Campaign, thousands of people will convene across our nation on December 7, in schools and libraries, churches and living rooms, to again read I Am Jazz in an inspiring show of solidarity with our transgender youth, and a public repudiation of hate.
The actions we take today will shape the narratives of history books in the future. We are Mount Horeb. We are seeds. And one day soon, when this reckoning has passed, we will break through the soil and the sun will shine on us again.