(This post originally posted to my blog at alt.com)
Oct 2, 2007 5:15 pm
It's been a while since I posted here and I have a very good excuse: my computer is going insane. It won't talk to my DSL modem anymore and resists all efforts to update/reinstall the necessary software. Alas, it will soon be time to give the poor thing a decent burial; an ecologically acceptable one, of course.
So I hope y'all will forgive me for my silence. It was not intentional and I'm doing okay, other than still struggling to find gainful employment. A word to the wise, dear readers: don't let too much time go by between jobs or you will get the Vulcan eyebrow from a job recruiter or interviewer. Just a thought.
But that's not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about SMYRC!
SMYRC is an acronym for Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center. It's an arm of Cascadia Health Services here in Portland. We counsel and help young (13-23) people whose sexual orientation is not the usual bipolarity found in the straight culture.
I first encountered these wonderful people when I attended and participated in the World's Longest Drag Queen Chorus Line here in Portland on July 22nd of this year. To say that I was impressed with the courtesy, grace, poise and general classiness of these children and advisors would be to make a grevious understatement. In one word: WOW.
First: Google the chorus line thing. I'm the tall blonde in black, about dead center behind our leader; Jinkx Dubois. Although it was horribly hot and muggy, I had a terrific time and I think you will enjoy the clips on YouTube. Or you can just google SMYRC and you'll see a number of these clips and also some of the kids we deal with. They are all, without exception, wonderful individuals and I'm proud to be a volunteer there.
I was so impressed with these children that I said to myself: "Gee, I wish I'd had something like this when I was growing up, then maybe my childhood and adolescence wouldn't have been such a nightmare." And then I said: "Great Goddess, Michelle, why don't you get involved?"
And that, dear readers, was all it took.
I emailed Zan Gibbs, our coordinator, and offered my services. After playing electronic tag for a few weeks and filling out some forms (background check and personal data, etc.), I attended a weekend of training that had to be the best and most eye-opening experience of my life. It felt like coming home to a home I'd never had but had always wanted; a place where I could be myself, really and truly, without judgement or bigotry. A loving home that accepted me for who I am and wanted me to be ME; Michelle.
It's a place where I'm needed. And, sisters and brothers, that feels so grand and wonderful, I can't begin to describe it.
We help and counsel kids that have been marginalized because of their sexual and gender identity: Gay, lesbian, trans, queer; you name it, there's a place for them there at this cool, funky warehouse-like space in Southeast Portland. Over sixty percent of the kids we serve are homeless; street kids that have been thrown out of their homes because of who and what they are. Many of them have mild to severe emotional problems and few, if any, have the requisite social and technical skills to survive in this viciously capitalistic and competitive world. I hesitate to use the word 'handicapped' because it has some unpleasant connotations but it's true, at least in some definitions of that word. It's through no fault of their own. These children did not ask to be born this way and it certainly isn't a 'lifestyle choice', as the Republicans so sneeringly put it. They didn't choose: the choice was made for them, forced on them and they're suffering because of it.
My decision to help them may very well be the best choice I've ever made, with the possible exception of my decision to transition.
Attendez moi, everybody! How many of you donate to good causes like United Way or Salvation Army? How many of you write a check or input your credit card number into a PayPal account for a small donation to a cause you feel is worthy? Half? Maybe two thirds? Good for you!
BUT IS IT ENOUGH?
Ask yourself that. Is it enough? How much is enough?
I can answer that: it's never enough.
Money toward a cause or a foundation or a movement is always a good thing, especially if it helps the future of our species. The list of good causes is endless and I won't bore you or waste space here enumerating them. But there is one thing we tend to overlook when we donate and that's manpower.
Money is good. It buys supplies like food and necessities for those who need it and pays the salaries of those professionals who have dedicated their lives and careers to those who can't help themselves. But we sometimes forget the fact that there are never enough pros doing this kind of work and there are never enough hands to do the grubwork, the dirty, time-consuming stuff that NEEDS to be done. I'm sure most, if not all of you, have great admiration for those professionals and volunteers who make it their business and their obsession to get down in the trenches and do what has to be done to make this world a better place than how we found it.
But have you ever asked yourself if YOU could do that?
It doesn't take much, really. A little time, a little organization and a little honesty. And maybe a teeny, tiny bit of vision. Look up from your own life for a moment. Look around. Do you like what you see? Do you like the way things are right now?
(That was a rhetorical question. Of course not.)
Ask yourself this: is Money all that is needed to make this a better world, for ourselves and our children; for every thing that lives on this good, green Earth?
(Another rhetorical question. No, Money doesn't solve ALL the problems. It never will.)
I'm not a cheerleader nor am I a rabble-rouser. I'm really not. I'm just a T-girl going through her own problems and struggling to deal with my own life. I'd like to think that winning the lottery or having a rich relative leave me a huge inheritance would solve all my problems. But I also like to think I'm smart enough to realize it won't. When I began my transition, I made some promises to myself and, if for no other reason than to be true to myself, I intend to keep them. One of those promises was to help my sister (and brother!) trans-people whenever, however I could.
And now it's time to do just that.
You can do it too, y'know. Wherever you live, unless it's out in the middle of nowhere, miles from civilization; you too can make a difference. And even if you do live out in Bumfuck, Egypt (meaning no disrespect to any Egyptians who may be reading this! ), you can still take one day, just one day, out of your schedule and DO SOMETHING.
It doesn't matter what it is. Help out at a nursing home. Serve a Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless at a shelter. Get a little training like I did and help out somewhere, somehow, some way.
PAY IT FORWARD.
It's a simple philosophy and it's amazing how many of us pay lip service to that and don't do an effin' thing. We drop a fistfull of change in the Salvation Army bucket and then we forget about it, don't we? I've done that myself. We donate to a cause and then we say; "Ah, I've done my part."
Well, yes and no.
The work requires helping hands, dear readers. Muscle power. Participation not limited to $$$.
And a little time. Time is in short supply, these days, isn't it?
You bet. We're running out of time, losing it like the sand in the hourglass and ain't nobody gonna turn that sucker over again for us all.
We have to do it ourselves.
The government isn't going to help us. Yeah-yeah, we pay taxes for social services and sometimes our subsidies actually do some good. Corporations certainly won't help, although some of them DO actually make a difference, like Bill and Melinda Gates's foundation. But the bottom line is that Money may make the world go 'round but that doesn't mean diddly to a homeless kid shivering under a bridge.
I've been told that I really need to curb my tendency to preach. Ya think? Sometimes a little preaching is required. Just ask the Rev. Jackson. And if you don't like him, well, neither do I, especially, but ya gotta admit his heart's in the right place.
I'm willing to bet it is. I'm willing to bet that ALL of you out there who read this are good, kind, thoughtful people who believe that EVERYONE deserves a chance, a fair shake, an honest shot at a better existence. I'm willing to bet that you ALL believe in equality, fair dealing, freedom and the intrinsic good nature of the human species. Yes, we can be a pack of killer apes and thugs (Hey, Blackwater! How many innocent Iraquis did you slaughter today?), but I also believe that we good folk outnumber the bad guys by a considerable margin.
The marchers in the Chicago Riots of 1968 said: "They got the guns, but we got the numbers. And may God give us the blood to keep going."
That works for me. Does it work for you?
Pay it forward, people. And may the Goddess bless all of you.
Michelle Diane Rose
October 2nd, 2007