So, I don’t know about you, but this Thanksgiving, after years of going to the uber-religious, uber-conservative Catholic relatives’ homes for Thanksgiving, I did something a little different. I prepared a big dinner for my trans daughter Lexi’s friends, and we ate at my home. My husband and I did something like this last year and we called it “Friendsgiving,” but we still went to his family Thanksgiving and endured the relatives (see Lesley Jones Thanksgiving on YouTube, with hat tip to another DK diarist, solarman55, for posting it). Sadly, my spouse passed away suddenly a few months ago, but I knew I just could not go and nod politely while various relatives said hateful things about the Dems, the “libs,” the gays, the transgender people (many of them don’t know about Lexi, for good reason), the “old and sleepy” Joe Biden. One relative, in particular, will corner his victim (usually female) and spew out repent-repent-repent and abortion-abortion-abortion without coming up for air. It's not a discussion. There is no opening to disagree or make a polite excuse to escape. It almost seems like a sickness or obsession. For reasons I don’t understand, these folks soak their heads all day in Fox News and right-wing media, and I guess you tend to become what you soak your head in all day. One of them, a devout Catholic, said that the political issues on Fox were the same as the Catholic concerns. So instead of counting their blessings on Thanksgiving, or actually asking a guest some questions or having an interesting, interactive conversation, some of these folks talk continually about what or whom their "loving faith" calls them to condemn, judge, hate, fear and exclude, rather than what or whom their religion calls them to include, love or treat with compassion.
As I noted, last year we had “Friendsgiving” for Lexi and her friends, and my spouse helped cook all the traditional Thanksgiving dishes, and we had a rather average-tasting meal with Lexi’s friends. I had told her to invite any of her friends who might not have family to celebrate Thanksgiving with. In my own head, just a small part of me was arrogantly thinking I was some sort of “Mother Teresa” figure, reaching out to the poor and excluded, or like Jesus, eating supper with the outcasts, the lepers, the prostitutes, the ones whom society treated as pariahs. The trans people. And we know how society treats trans people, especially in the present climate. My daughter, living in the State of Misery, was being hassled in male restrooms. Her own godmother had told me that "transgender people are Satanic, because Bill Donohue says so." After I told her that her godson was now a goddaughter, she roundly criticized “society for teaching this is okay,” then cried that I had not trusted her with this information before. Lexi had to come and go to work under our neighbor’s “God, Guns & Trump” flag, which waves belligerently over the most elaborate and colorful, lighted Nativity scene you’ve ever seen, at least in a normal neighborhood. Imagine “God, Guns & Trump” fluttering over the Baby Jesus, Christ, the Prince of Peace. The visual irony is disturbing.
But I digress. Last year, I was thinking WE were doing Lexi and her friends a favor, inviting them over to be included in a meal if their families were not accepting of who they were, or like my husband’s family members, angry, lecturing, annoying conservative types. Lexi’s friends brought their games and we had a blast, laughing and talking, and I had such fun that I gradually realized that, not only was it great to be around young people with fabulous smarts and humor, but that they were gifting US with their presence--not the other way around. It was our trans friends who were giving to us—giving their authentic, courage-to-be-who-they-are, “out” selves. The true meaning of Thanksgiving, or what I call Transgiving.
This year, our “Transgiving” celebration featured a full “Feast” from Bob Evans, which required only heating and plating. Not known for my cooking skills, even with the prepared meal I managed to almost set only three of the dishes on fire because, honoring my husband's attention to cooking instructions, I had earnestly placed Post-Its on all the dishes noting when they should be put in the oven. Our guests brought interesting things to the feast, hot apple cider, various alcohol drinks, ice cream, and best of all, themselves. Respecting various faith traditions—or lack of same—we did not say prayers but each went around the table to name something we were grateful for. We had a very lively meal with no “repent-repent-repent, abortion-abortion-abortion” talk, and we all played a group video game for a while that had us laughing and screaming with glee, then a few left and the remaining played card games such as “Magic” and others until the wee hours.
A good time was had by all. And I felt younger and more blessed by having spent time with Lexi and her friends, who were all brave enough to show up as who they are. It was also a relief to not have to go to another family Thanksgiving and nod politely (and disingenuously) as if I agreed with every horrible or false thing that spewed out of the mouths of the religious conservatives. These people frighten me, and who wants to live in constant fear?
When people like Lexi are free to be who they are, it gives the rest of us permission to be who we are, or at least who we want to be if we could cast off fear, even after years of conditioning to live in fear and “be polite,” be “a pleaser,” give people what they want.
My spouse died suddenly, without time to say “I love you" or “goodbye” or “thank you,” and it is time to stand up and be more authentic. He would want that. He loved simple, true things. He loved nature, the birds, the water. I took the dog for a walk tonight in the cool, crisp November air, and the moon was up. It was beautiful, bright and vivid. Clear. Like him. I am lonely for him, but the night reminded me, as he would, that the earth is still full of beauty. People are still full of beauty. He was the most authentic, loving, genuine and peaceful person I ever met. He taught me to be a better person, and now our children continue to teach their parents well.
As the poet Mary Oliver said, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”
For too long, I, and perhaps you, have learned to submit, be nice at all costs, even at the expense of your own mental and physical health, be a good little “nice girl” or a nice little "good girl" and let the men make all the decisions, let them shout you down, let them talk up and over you, fear angry men and angry religions, and act accordingly. Obey. Submit.
Lexi has since fled the State of Misery and found a fabulous new job in a Blue state. Thank you, Lexi, for giving me more courage to “come out” myself, in various ways.
To all who are giving thanks today, here’s a poem from Mary Oliver that really spoke to my heart this year:
“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”
― Mary Oliver