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I am in a relationship with joy,
and with despair.
On this day, I want to feel only joy.
This Day is the day my mother would have been 99.
I take joy in her life.
I take joy in all she taught me.
And today is also the day we
celebrate three years of being out in the world. I take so much joy in becoming me, fully.
But in this joy, I despair,
I am sad that I can not share my joy
with Mom. I want to lean over and say, softly, I am a faith leader Mom.
I want to yell this truth, my call fulfilled after decades of denial forced on me – I preach. I reach out to others who have been harmed.
Mom had a heart of love. She had a heart of justice quietly performed. I hold in my heart a yearning for one more day, to sit beside her
One more day eating cookies with coffee in the morning.
One more day reaching out and holding her hand, feeling her grip as she takes mine and gives a loving shake.
I took her name into mine in hopes I could honor her –
Henrietta in the short form, Etta. Vica V Etta Steel.
Call me as you will. Vica. Etta. Henrietta. I adore all.
I take so much joy that I have been able, over these three years, to push past the so many ways I learned to hide myself in the mask of the man.
I learn to move my body, with the help of Arielle and Kathy and Dance Life,
past the stiffness of the midwestern maleness
(stiffness I donned for my safety)
I learn my voice with help first from my friend Kirstii and now with help from Kassy.
I hear so many who are allies.
And I have every bit of the love
of my wife
Love with my wife.
On this day,
three years ago,
she is the one who said that we need to come out now.
That the time is now.
She is the one who gave us a name – I am a woman, and we are in love. And I took her name as mine, Steel. A name she chose in her own radical claim to independence from family that did not hold for her the love she deserved.
And I can never give enough love to my dear friend, Sara, my principal at the time I began to learn my words, who embraced me without doubt.
I have so many friends now, fully welcoming
I cannot name all, though I yearn to.
I despair that so many trans youth face the same hate, the same erasure I grew up with. I don’t have the words to say how these actions in Texas and Florida, bringing the weight of governments into the chorus screaming their hate and their rabid desire to exclude,
I can only say, I am destroyed.
And though that is bad enough,
I know that worse still is the choice of far too many to embrace
In this day of attacks against our youth, renewed, the voice that should be loudest, my “progressive” school district #mmsdschools chooses silence. Again. Persistently chooses silence. Our “liberal” city, Madison, chooses silence. Again. Persistent silence.
But I am defiant in my joy.
I am defiant because I know so much love.
I am defiant because of the radical welcome I feel.
And in this space, I feel welcome. And in this space, I want to name those who do more.
Some of those, who do more. I cannot say all here even here.
My friends, Judy and Eric, repeatedly share my voice into their feeds,
amplifying my message.
My Love Breck specifically took a video I made speaking struggle
Sharing that truth into our seminary space.
My Delight Matthew Who brought call for
prayer for our trans youth into his worship leadership (Plus he routinely amplifies the voice of the ELCA African Descent Ministries).
My Marvel DaMisha (Misha!) routinely uplifts
Queer voice into our shared spaces.
My professor Jan is a resource in our seminary,
openly allied and seeking.
Another professor, Nate, purposefully brought in prayer
trans-youth along with all who persevere defiantly against
oppressive war in Ukraine.
My Heart Margit, in her own pain,
still takes time to lift up care for her transgender friend.
Did I miss you and your care? It’s possible. I know so many.
But I also know so many friends who choose, repeatedly,
How do you work, defiantly, against silence? Do you share the voices of transgender people, echoing our voices so we might, finally, be heard? Do you share the voice of your friend, here? Do you reach out and listen to the voices of other transgender women, like Imara Jones and the voices she raises through her podcast, Translash. How do you ally? Who do you listen to. Who do you hear?
Do you uplift?
Or do you choose