Befriending your enemy.

Did you see the news about Ellen Degeneres and G.W. Bush hanging out together?

Did you also see the hate and rage on social media in response to that news?

Did you wonder to yourself, wow. Society is made up of a lot of fickle, furious people? Folks seem to really be struggling with Love right now.

No? I did. I’m pretty amazed but not surprised about it, actually. This recent incident inspired me to write this post that I’ve been saving in my draft folder for a while, since I wasn’t really sure how or when or why to share it.

Now feels like a good time.

I mean, here you have this woman Ellen who is beloved and adored one minute and the next, she’s a social pariah. All the good she has done for people is washed away with a few angry tweets that shame and criticize her. That really tells you something about the changing nature of people and why you shouldn’t worry too much what people think of you.

But it also tells us something about why we’re sort of damned if we do and damned if we don’t. You might as well DO and do your damn best and follow your own heart because not everyone will like it or agree with you no matter what you do

But what do you think about doing what Ellen did and befriending your enemy? Practicing radical Love for someone who isn’t anything like you or has different values or belief systems? Sort of like it seems Ellen did or is doing with her political opposite? Lots of folks seems to have this opinion that she’s selling out or not being a good advocate (wow, how much more advocacy would ONE DO?! Ellen does a lot) because she’s sitting beside someone who stood against a lot of what Ellen is for, as far as political rights for LGBTQ folks are concerned.

But here she was, sitting cozy and smiling beside a “political rival”! What nerve, people are saying. That’s privilege, others say. Privilege? Seriously? I tweeted back, “privilege is defining privilege for vastly different humans.”

I knew what this gay guy meant about privilege. I’m well-versed on the activist jargon. Don’t know if you saw my most recent post about my angry activist past.

But here’s what’s interesting to me and maybe you, too. Ellen constantly tells people to be kind. It’s her who motto and MO. And here she was living that out loud in integrity by being kind to someone who others would not. I think she’s doing this for a number of reasons. What do you think?

I just know I’ve been posting about this concept of loving what feels or seems unlovable ever since this President was elected and people started freaking out.

I saw how much anger and resentment people had and no amount of #resistance was going to bring about peace and relief. How did I know that? Well, from walking in the darkness of my own anger and grief and from also practicing Buddhism for over 20 years. I know a lot about forgiveness. Have you ever tried forgiving your parents for disowning you? And your mother for overcoming her decision but never apologizing? I have.

Forgiveness is what sets us free. Acceptance is what heals us. Love is the only thing that’s real and lasting. We don’t arrive there by loving people who are easy to love. We feel that when we practice radical Love.

It’s easy to be spiteful. It’s easy to be vindictive. It’s easy to JUSTIFY this behavior when lots and lots of other people do it.

And it’s really immature, that’s what I came to see about my own reaction and behavior. It isn’t Love. It is the exact opposite.

Hating just makes more hate. It’s that simple.

A lot of my posts on social media the past several years were trying to name this over. People thought I was a sellout. They thought I “just didn’t understand”. I did understand and realized I was ahead of the curve. But maybe, just maybe, my intention and the space I held helped us all collectively.

Because here we are now. Being asked to see two adults with radically different value systems and respect their decision to be friends, despite.

It IS possible. It ISN’T popular right now among so-called progressives.

And isn’t that interesting?


It IS interesting. And hopefully an opportunity for some real change.

I know this is true because of my experience “befriending the enemy” since moving back to New Jersey two years ago. I’ve been very surprised by who voted for who in 2016 and how they lived that out in the world. Who said they believed in certain things and who, when given the opportunity, truly help when it’s needed.

It’s been certainly very popular to rant and rage for the welfare of strangers and have a collective “enemy” to blame and judge and criticize. It’s been popular to post selfies from protest marches. It’s been popular to say, “I CAN’T BELIEVE…” fill in the blank, every day.

And from where I sat, watching it every day, the people who had the hardest time believing were the ones who possessed the very power to make it better—but weren’t. They were using all their energy to be part of the problem, but not part of the solution.

Want to hear something interesting? The people who have helped me most in the past two years have been people who voted for the current President. That’s right. Trump voters have been some of the kindest and most generous people, especially when they found out my identity.

And ready for this one? People who claim to be liberal or progressive and maybe voted for Trump’s campaign rivals—-they have been responsible for some of the most disrespectful and unkind behavior I’ve ever experienced in my life.

I'm not kidding you. It’s been so stunning to me, actually, that it took me some time to process it. And once it became a pattern, it really affected my own political views.

I’m now seeing how many, if not most, so-called “supporters” as total fakes, phonies and performative allies. What’s a performative ally? Someone who makes a lot of noise on Facebook to look like they have the back of marginalized groups of people. Someone who wants everyone to know they are “woke” but don’t really come through on that behavior IN REAL LIFE with ACTUAL MARGINALIZED PEOPLE.

I am not going to shame people here. That’s not what this is for. I’m not even complaining, really. I’m telling you this because it shocked the hell out of me that people who voted for Trump have been the kindest and most authentic acquaintances to me. And way more people who voted for Clinton or Sanders or whoever else have been raging monsters when they came face to face with an actual marginalized person.

So I’ve learned that befriending my “enemy” is one of the smartest and best decisions I made. I was vulnerable and needed help. I needed a place to live. I needed work to start my business over or get settled and established. I needed friends who could listen as I worked through my grief and PTSD from losing my therapist so suddenly or my fear of coming back Home after being gone for so long.

These are things all people need in their lives. I needed them desperately because I was so alone in the world. I needed them because they’re harder to come by later in life and also because I face discrimination as a transgender person. I don’t let it stop me (as you can well see) but it HAPPENS. I needed resources and support and the people who provided it voted for the current administration. They would have been my enemies years ago when I was an arrogant and really annoying liberal ranting fiend.

The people who actively deprived me of support and resources spend a lot of time complaining about the administration in the name of the pain and suffering of marginalized individuals.

Go figure.

And we’re back to the people who are incredulous about Ellen’s behavior and rather than stepping back and learning from her leadership, they’re taking her down left and right. I laugh the hardest when cisgender heterosexual white women do this. Men, too. It’s almost become cool to have entitled rage about issues that don’t even affect them in their everyday lives.

I want to ask them, “have you walked Ellen’s path? Do you have any idea how she does this? Aren’t you curious and maybe humbled by her motives and behavior?"

I am. I think she’s absolutely right. Because I’ve come to the same conclusion.

Befriending my enemy now means learning to Love the liberals who are most responsible for the rage and hate and lack of kindness happening right now.

What does it mean for you?

What to say when asked why you're single.

Well, here we are.

It’s that time of year when you’re attending parties and stuff and people like to be curious (read: rude) and ask about your relationship status, assuming and asserting in their question that you’re doing something WRONG if you’re still single. Meanwhile they walk into the next room and have a co-dependent cat fight with the person they hate but can’t quit on or leave. And you’re like, “really? I’m supposed to want THAT for myself?”

Mmmm. I know you’re thinking #notallrelationships but, there’s a part of you that knows I’m right. Right? Right.

I’m sort of kidding here. Of course I know there are many people who find the loves their lives and feel really happy. But from conversations in coaching sessions and also with friends or peers, it’s been a real eye-opener for me how many relationships aren’t the wedded/partnered bliss that I once believed from what’s being portrayed. I think it’s important to unpack that and make it more real.

The questioning about relationship status happens whatever age you are but especially in middle and late adulthood, when social expectations about partnership and family are fierce. Being single during these years often has a negative stigma which is hilarious because I believe most people are more miserable than they are happily matched. Don’t let people make you think otherwise.

Is being single lonely? Sure. Sometimes.

Is being single awesome? YES! You get all the time to do all the things!

Is being single some indication of you being broken or weird or some other word because you don’t fit into a widely-regarded yet rarely-explored social norm? NOPE.

Finding a partner you truly love and respect is awesome. If you’re monogamous and that’s your thing, of course. Finding a happy partnership could, and should(?), really add benefit for your life. But being single has its merits and there’s no need to keep struggling and suffering about your status for yet another holiday season—and beyond.

Unlike what people may try to insinuate, being single may indicate you have one of three things:

1) taste- you don’t settle. It’s just not how you’re built. You have standards and you stick to them and don’t really feel inclined to deviate. Rigorously high standards? What IS too high, really? People don’t come with return receipts without some fallout so…you peruse the merchandise more carefully before choosing.

2) self-confidence- sure, being single can be weird sometimes when you’re hanging around a bunch of people who partnered up from fear of being alone (OFTEN) or because they actually love the person they’re with (RARE) but only if you think about it from the lens of lack. BE CONFIDENT and you will soon see things for how they really are. Hint: listen carefully when couples interact with each other. It reveals a lot.

3) patience- I mean, what’s the rush? Finding someone to be with just so you can fit in or feel “normal”? So you can spend your best years playing games or struggling in power dynamics that leave you exhausted? What if you waited until you’re more mature and got yourself figured out well and then find someone who has also done that work. EUREKA! Sounds like heaven to me. People used to get hitched so young because they had livestock to care for and needed bodies to tend the critters. These people also died by the age of 40. We aren’t there anymore. We can do things differently. Take your time.

***NOW. If you are single from fear of commitment or because you seem to have some behaviors that limit your emotional availability or…something else a coach or therapist can help you with, I suggest you look into getting some support. It IS worth exploring why you’re single if you feel fear or discomfort about your status.***

After being single for so many years (I’ve lost count now), someone asked me the other day if I wanted to be partnered again. It was interesting to be asked that and I wondered if it’s because it’s SUCH a cultural expectation even if you, like I, feel pretty content with your single-hood. While I grieved the person or the loss of my past relationships, I never really had baggage around being a single person. I see people strugging around it probably because they’re concerned with what people think of them. I do worry about this, for other reasons, but not because I feel insecure about being single. Being selectively single for this many years has allowed me time and space to witness other peoples’ relationships and reflect on my own over the years. All this introspection helps me be really clear and intentional about who I’d like to be and what I’d really want in my next relationship. And that’s exactly what I told the person who asked me.

I hope this is helpful if you’ve been feeling badly about being single or unsure what to say when asked about it. You may find even more peace if you consider how much the culture is obsessed with partnering up even when it doesn’t serve people or make them satisfied. And it’s amusing how people project their expectations onto you. People may even feel envious or, in some cases, even threatened by someone being single, often because they are unsatisfied in whatever arrangement they have and desperately crave the freedom that comes with single-hood. When they ask you, remember this, and you might inspire them with your empowered answer!!

If people come at you with their weirdness about your life choices, you can use one of these cleverly-crafted replies below. If you want to quote me, GO FOR IT. Share the love. ;)

Just do whatever you need to do to feel good about your status as a single person and take action to change it, only if you WANT to.

If people ask why you're still single, you can reply:

1) because I'm not insecure and don't need to fit into societal expectations

2) because I'm waiting to find an emotionally mature partner and haven't met that person yet

3) because I'm working on my own personal development until I feel confident and mature enough to make a good partner

4) I feel confident I will find the right person when the time is right, and I don't need to force anything

5) I'm content living by myself and enjoy my solitude

6) I'd rather invest in myself and my friends and not chase people around just to look "normal" 

7) I don't feel incomplete without a partner, so I can be patient to find the right one

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Being a Dude. In the Dude's Room.

Yep. I'm using them full-time now. This picture of me is from July 2012, when I had to search high and low for gender-neutral bathroom because neither men's or women's rooms felt safe. Can we talk about why restaurants or other places have single-person bathrooms and still have to label them with a man shape or a lady in a skirt shape?

Back when I was a kid playing baseball with myself (true story), never once did I think I'd be doing this as an adult. And to be honest, I didn't think I'd ever have the courage to do it when I realized this past year that I would have to someday soon. It terrified the crap out of me. No pun intended.

How did I know it was time?

I knew it was time when I tried to use the ladies room a few times in a row a few months ago and everyone looked at me like I had 4 heads. It was really interesting to experience that, because I didn't think I looked all that different from months or a few years earlier, and people in my life were still using female pronouns (some still are). And I have been using ladies rooms for my whole life, and suddenly I'm being seen as an intruder? Weird! It's hard to know what I look like to a stranger. I still see the same person in the mirror, I don't think I look different at all. Just older and a little tired and pale because it's winter and I'm busy.

After years of walking in and out of restrooms with short hair and dressed in all-male clothing, now I was getting the signal that I looked like a guy and they were confused why I was in there. Ok. Good. That was my goal--to be gendered male. So now it was time to try heading into the men's room.

What was so scary? And what helped me overcome it?

Well, quite honestly, if I didn't pass for male and look like I belonged in there, I could get beaten up.It happens to people, every day. And take the reality that I can't use a urinal. I don't have that equipment and I haven't purchased the equipment that is available to pretend that I do have it. Yep, they make those. And yes, people use them. I just haven't gotten one, yet. Here's something currently on the market for women, http://www.go-girl.com/ in case you're ever caught in traffic or on a hike and need to pee. No more jealous envy of men standing up against trees while pee runs down during your squat! You can get this online or in some stores, actually. 

Some trans*guys use them, too.

Back to the bathroom, and me.

If I don't use a urinal, it means using a stall. Guys use stalls for #2. Before I realized this (duh) I was afraid I'd be found out and roughed up or worse because my feet were pointing the wrong way under the stall door. Turns out, men don't give a shit what you're doing in a stall. I know because I asked my guy friends and they confirmed this. This and no talking. This is men's room etiquette, so I'm told. I won't say ALL men don't give a shit about who comes in the restroom because I do know people who have had some not so good experiences using men's bathrooms--and not just trans* men.

A few months ago, I consulted with my best friend about bathroom use and my fears. He's a bio guy (born biologically male) and he said, "funny. I have sort of a traumatic story about bathrooms, too." I listened and I realized, man, I am really focused on my own stuff way too much. Everyone is afraid. Everyone has stories. The more I put myself out there, sharing from love and honesty, the more people open up to me and tell me things I never would have known--or guessed--just by looking. It's a good lesson for me. When I'm scared and focused on my own experience, sometimes I forget that other people have fear, too. Not everyone shares their fears because who wants to look bad? I'll talk about this in another blog post.

I'll admit I have to employ a little strategy to my bathroom use, depending on where I am. And it can be a little nerve-wracking. The nerve-wracking tells me I'm on the edge of my growth, maturity and courage. I chose to come out as trans* and live my life authentically in a society that isn't warm, welcoming and accepting. Given that it's 2013 and people of all different identities everywhere are still struggling for equal rights, I have to take the challenges in stride. I wish things were different but I'm not alone. I have a support system. There are people working for change and we are making progress. In the meantime, I can be a victim about it or I can work with it. Or work to change it. Those are my options.

So, I try to use the bathroom when I think it will be less crowded, like at a musical event or movie. I go during the middle, not during a break or right before or after. If there are two bathrooms, I use the one that less people are likely to be using. I went to a REALLY long weekend event several weeks ago and simply gave myself permission to get up during the middle of the presentations to go whenever I needed to, which is pretty often because I drink a lot of water. Less people were in there so it was a good strategy. ;)

I also just mind my own business. Yes, I get a rush of adrenaline every time I go into a bathroom and hear someone else come in. But I remember that they have no idea what I'm doing in there. And they are probably thinking about the million other things they have going on in their lives. And not about me.

This took me a while to realize. And it took me using bathrooms and being completely terrified to get to this point. Sitting around wondering or complaining about it wasn't helping me. I've realized that my fear was greater than the actual thing. I also know some folks who don't pass as their chosen gender can experience some tough stuff when they try to use the bathroom. That was why I used the restroom that felt safest for me until I was being gendered male in public more. When strangers started calling me sir or dude in public, I figured it was time to try the bathroom thing.

And it's turned out to be ok. So far. When I go in, keep my head down, act like I belong in there, pee and get out of there, I don't have any issues. Like many things in my life, it is what I make of it.

If I have an experience that is different from this, I will write about it. And learn from it. And send blessings to people who are doing their best, and having scary experiences and sharing their stories so we can make progress.

In the meantime, here is one simple thing I'm doing. Maybe you can jump on board and do it, too:

when a public place has restrooms that just have the word RESTROOM printed on the door, I thank them. If they have gendered restrooms that could easily just say RESTROOM, I kindly suggest it.