Day 7: Collective Reflection

TW: Some mentions of loss, suicide, and violence, specifically Rebecca Wight.

The Week of Action 2015 concluded yesterday, May 10. Co-directors Meg and Alice wrote this post jointly to discuss the event and how participating has affected us.

Many thanks to Khadija, who declined to participate in this final post but shared her thoughts during the week, and to Jazmin, Aviva, and Rebecca, who were not able to write for the blog this week like they wanted but nonetheless helped the two of us put the event together.

Until next year – we send you all our love. 🙂

How do you feel this year’s Week of Action went, both in general and for you personally?

Alice: This was the first Week of Action I took part in as the co-director of the projects. I think it went well! I had the chance to share some ideas and connect with some interesting people. It’s hard to think about but we always remember. I wasn’t able to do too much this year but I completed the challenge I set for myself. I’m looking forward to next year.

Meg: I don’t think this year’s Week of Action was as organized as it has been in years past. It’s not anyone’s fault and I’m so glad I had Alice, Khadija, Rebecca, Jazmin, and Aviva to work on it with me, even though not everyone was able to post like they’d intended. It just didn’t seem as coordinated as it has been in the past. I’m glad we gave the new format a shot and we’ll work on making it better for next year. Personally, it weighs on me every year, thinking about all the stories of those we’ve lost, especially the one that’s had such an impact on my life. But I’m always glad to have taken on the challenge. I end the event feeling a little sad, but also energized to keep fighting.

One of our slogans is “to remember the past, to change the present, and to hope for the future.” What does remembering the past mean to you in the context of this event?

Alice: I make a point to talk openly about the stories to my children and others. That’s how I remember the past. All of my children know Rebecca Wight’s name and what happened to her. I’m sure there are some people out there who think it’s strange my partner and I told them when they were so young. She and I thought it was important we all remember. I’m reminded of my little daughter, how she wanted to leave hearts “for Rebecca” in Michaux to let her know we were thinking of her. Everyone has their own ideas about what it means to remember. I don’t think anyone’s wrong.

Meg: Remembering the past is…to me a thing that’s so personal it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it means to me. I guess I’d say I remember the past by acknowledging what happened and speaking out about it – and doing what I can for those who survived and their families. I just go with what feels right. Passing on the human stories to my generation of the people who lived and loved and had real thoughts and desires and flaws – not just the stories of their brutal murders – is one thing I can do to keep their memories alive.

Do you believe you are seeing change in the present for LGBT people?

Alice: Yeah, absolutely. I can’t believe how much things have changed. Never did I ever think I’d see a day where I’d see same-sex marriage in 39 states, kids coming out in middle school, parents accepting their transgender kindergartners. It isn’t perfect. We still have a long way to go, but I’m so happy to see how far we’ve come.

Meg: Yes and no. I believe we’re seen unprecedented victories for LGBT people in the past couple of years, no doubt about that. But as I said in a presentation recently: with progress comes retaliation. I don’t think it’s accurate to say the backlash has been unprecedented, but we’ve definitely seen a backlash against LGBT people this year – in the form of bills designed to hurt our community, discrimination, and yes, violence. I’d also say certain letters of that acronym are seeing more change for the better than others. That’s a problem that needs to be addressed.

Now, the last part of the slogan: to hope for the future. When you envision a future for LGBT people, what do you see?

Alice: I see the young people, the current generation, creating the world they want, the world I want for them. They’re going to change the world. People my age talk a lot about “the me generation,” “the entitlement generation.” I think it’s complete bullshit. I wish I had half the passion, dedication, and commitment to change for GLBT people these kids do when I was their age. I see a future that’ll eventually be free of discrimination and violence because the kids who experienced discrimination and violence will see that it stops. I don’t know if I’ll be around to see the day hate crimes don’t happen any more, but I like to think it’ll happen.

Meg: I always picture my future daughter or granddaughter when I think about this. Telling her stories about that period of time where LGBT people had to fight for their basic rights. I like to imagine she listens but walks away thinking, “I can’t believe people ever had to do that; I can’t believe some of the simplest things you considered ‘major victories.’ The era you grew up in was so backwards.” I see a future where being LGBT is just so commonplace and accepted the idea we ever had to fight tooth and nail for our basic rights is hard to believe.

I remember when I was in France in 2013, my host family’s daughter, who was thirteen or fourteen at the time, seemed really blown away when I was explaining a little about the work I do and who Rebecca Wight was. She gasped and said, “Does that really happen?” and I know I said, “Yes – it’s actually not uncommon in the United States.” I envision a future where her reaction is the norm because hate crimes against LGBT people are so rare. I believe that future will come someday and I hope I’ll be around to see it.

If you could say something to any of the people who have been lost to violence or suicide, what would you say and why?

Alice: “I wish you could’ve seen what the world became.” You know, I’m fifty years old. I remember a time where I thought no one would ever love me or want to be with me because I’m a lesbian. I’m getting choked up because I remember that. I couldn’t even conceive of coming out until I was well into my 20s and I was still one of the younger ones. But now…now there’s kids in elementary and middle schools coming out and being accepted. There’s been this amazing shift in acceptance. I really wish they could’ve seen it. I think they’d be so amazed by how far we’ve come.

Meg: Wow. That’s a hard question. I guess I would want to second Alice and say “I wish you could’ve seen it” because I was one of those kids who came out at thirteen, and I don’t know that I could have done that in any other era. I remember telling that story to a couple of older lesbians and they cried. It’s just so hard to imagine a world where we don’t have the kind of acceptance we have today – I mean, the 2010s still have their problems; that’s why this event exists – but for those who died so long ago, I think I’d want to tell them how much everything has changed. Other than that I think I’d just want to say, “You are still remembered; you’re still making a difference.”

Do you have any final words of wisdom you want to say to the people who participated and those who might be reading?

Alice: Stay strong. Keep going. We’re here for you if you need us. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need to talk. Tell the people you love how much they mean to you, not because they might be gone tomorrow, but because it’s worth saying now. Love greatly, love often, and love outside the lines. Always remember the people who didn’t live to see the world you may take for granted.

Meg: I don’t know if I have any “words of wisdom” but I do hope you all have accomplished all you set out to this week. And if this time of year is difficult for you, know that we are thinking of you and sending you all our love. It’s hard to think about but we always remember, and we’re always available for anyone who needs to talk or process. I’m so grateful for all of you who make this event possible and all of you who have allowed us a place in your lives. I’ve been saying this a lot this week, but if you take away anything from this event, take away this:

We are loved, the lives we lead are important, there is much still to love in the world, and we will find ways to make living worthwhile in spite of our bad days – or bad weeks – together.

Authors: Meg and Alice

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