Little Ounces of Magic
1. Little by little, a little becomes a lot.
(I grew up with trucks and matchbox cars. My dad loves cars. Every single story he tells uses the touchstone of an old vehicle he once drove. He’s a fisherman. He’s an outdoorsman. He loves to camp.)
2. In 2010, there were 1.6 million homeless youth in America. Twenty percent of those were LGBTQ+. By 2012, that percentage doubled, growing to forty percent.
(I am not interested in cars. I’d prefer to take the bus. I am not outdoorsy.)
3. In 2017, Rolling Stone reported there were 350 000 transgender Americans under the age of twenty-five. One out of every five of them lacked a secure place to live. Many believe that figure is low.
(When I was sixteen, my dad took my sister on a kayak trip. I stayed home with my mom and ate KFC.)
4. There are 1.4 million transgender people in America. This accounts for nearly half a percent of the US population. The same percentage of people are homeless.
(I have always been allowed to be who I am. I barely ever feel ashamed of it. But I have, occasionally, felt ashamed.)
5. You do not become homeless because you are transgender. You do not become transgender because you are homeless. Some reasons for homelessness: isolation, lack of support, a nonexistent safety net.
(Sometimes I worry that I am not ‘manly’ enough but I have always been privileged to be accepted for my uniqueness — I am different from my father but he loves me no less.)
6. Compassion Fatigue. Children are starving. There are seventy million human beings living in slavery on the planet today. At this moment, lightning is striking one hundred times.
7. Every forty seconds someone on Earth commits suicide. Another twenty people per second attempt it. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States.
(Annie Dillard wrote that “anyone’s close world of family and friends comprises a group smaller than almost all sampling errors.”)
8. Forty-five thousand people per year take their own life. Over a million try. Every year, suicide costs the US close to seventy million dollars. One person in every twenty has attempted suicide.
(One person in your office, one person in your classroom, one person on the bus.)
9. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults report at four times this rate.
(One person at your table, one person in your car, one person in the elevator.)
10. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, forty-seven percent of Trans-women have attempted suicide. Nearly half the people in an entire demographic have tried to end their own life.
(What does it mean to be transgender? What does it mean to stop identifying people by the construct of gender? What does it do to replace the term politically correct with the word respectful?)
11. The respectful way to refer to someone whose sense of identity and gender does not correspond to their birth sex is transgender. Calling someone transgendered infers that there was an event when their identity changed, as if they haven’t, their entire life, felt the way that they feel now.
(Annie Dillard again: “Los Angeles has twenty-five thousand parking spaces. This is about one space for every person who died in 1985 in Colombia when a volcano erupted… At five to a car, almost all the Inuit in the world could park at LAX… You could not fit America’s homeless there, however, even at eighteen or nineteen to a car.” We have space for all these cars and yet we lack the room for whole groups of people.)
(In the 1960 Stanley Kubrick film Spartacus, a Roman General threatens to crucify a group of slaves unless they turn Spartacus over to him. Kirk Douglas stands up, ready to reveal himself and save his comrades. When he stands, so do the two slaves sitting next to him. They shout at the General, “I am Spartacus.” Douglas is confused, these men are not Spartacus. He is.)
12. On average, Americans live to be seventy-nine years old. Life expectancy in the US is going down for the first time in twenty years. The decline began in 2015. The last time this rate went down was in the mid-nineties at the height of the AIDS epidemic.
(A half second later another slave, then another stand up proclaiming this doomed identity. “I am Spartacus. I am Spartacus. I am Spartacus!”)
13. Almost all our leading causes of death are increasing. Cancer is the only major cause that is going down. Unintentional injury, including overdoses and car accidents, have spiked at the highest rate. Suicides are skyrocketing.
(These slaves, these Spartacuses, represent a unified front of freedom. At the end of the film, the General crucifies every one of them.)
14. Americans in their sixties are unaffected by the drop in life-expectancy. Instead, it is those in the thirty to fifty demographic who are dying more frequently. Experts indicate that inequality, nutritional differences, and lingering unemployment are the first areas that need to be addressed.
(I find it oddly encouraging that we are able to keep track of these statistics.)
15. If one is willing to do the math, it is possible to come up with an arguable statistic for anything. We suffer from compassion fatigue. A little becomes a lot.
16. According to Physicians for a National Health Program, the GOP’s American Health Care Act of 2017 would lead to twenty-two million people losing health insurance coverage. Nicknamed Trumpcare, intended to ‘repeal and replace’ Obamacare, this act would lead to 29 000 additional deaths per year.
(I am unhappy with the way my gender is depicted, limited, and how the members of my group represent themselves. There is a lack of self-awareness. Men in politics live in an echo-chamber of denial. Men in bars are frequently entitled, aggressive, and forceful. There is a lack of political correctness online. There is a lack of respect.)
17. The US senate eventually voted against the GOP’s American Health Care Act of 2017.
(Gender is a construct, a conceptual element, subjective, not based on empirical evidence.)
18. Of the seventeen richest nations in the world, the US already ranks seventeenth for life expectancy of men.
(If what you’re telling me is ‘man’ is Man, then I don’t think I want to be a man.)
19. Stalin killed seven million Ukrainians in a year. Hitler exterminated six million Jews in the Holocaust. Twenty-five million people died of the plague. Little by little…
20. In 2016, a sixth of a percent of US adults identified as transgender. In a study of 81 000 Minnesota teens, almost three percent identified as transgender or gender nonconforming.
(What if the General’s soldiers began to stand too?)
21. According to an article in National Geographic, secularism is spreading in the United States. Transgender and gender nonconforming rates are rising and religious statistics are going down.
(What if those with privilege, those working with the General that day in the desert, also took on the identity of Spartacus?)
22. On the low end of approximations, one in 137 teens currently identifies as transgender. Meanwhile, one in every thirty-four teenagers no longer subscribes to gender as a valid identifier of who they are.
(What if the Spartacuses outnumbered the non? What could the General possibly do in the face of all that unity?)
23. It is a supreme act of bravery to stand.
(It is a divine example. It is a compassionate gift to those now struggling in isolation and lack of support. Every dress; every haircut; every insistence of a corrective pronoun: these are little ounces of magic let out in the world. The spell of compassion fatigue can be broken — not by accounting and not by figures, but by stories and sorrows and straight backs; pride; high-heel shoes; a voice repeating a name; facial hair; a held hand — whatever you need to finally, proudly, express who you are — and a community that grows not only with the strictly alike but, also, the likewise.)
24. I stand with transgender and gender nonconforming people.
(I see them shining like lighthouses. And I won’t let them stand on the rocks, against the waves, alone. They deserve acknowledgment, they deserve respect. I am with them because we are them.)
25. Little by little, a little can become an entirety.