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Heroes and heartbreaks in Fairmont WV

We need our heroes most when we are too tired to save ourselves. We manage most of the time. We fight our battles, and we carry our crosses. But sometimes, we are outnumbered, or we fought too long. We don’t have the strength to continue, and that’s when our heroes fly in to rescue.

On September 12th the LGBTQ family lost one of our heroes, Edie Windsor. Her Supreme Court Case started the legal ball rolling toward what would become the federal legalization of same-sex marriage. She was a loud hero, on the cover of newspapers and magazines. But she didn’t start out that way. “Ms. Windsor kept her sexuality secret from her employer and work colleagues and was terrified of exposure when she patronized lesbian hangouts,” noted the NYT. She grew up in a world that rejected her because of who she loved. It took her 80 years, and a bravery elevated by love to finally stand up and speak out. I would love to say Edie left a world that no longer demonized her. That 88 years and a court battle were enough. But I can’t.

Last night I watched as a small town in West Virginia tried to pass a simple ordinance to revive a human rights commission. The intent according to the local news was for the commission to serve in an educational capacity, informing groups of equal-rights laws. But in a world where transgender people continue to be vilified, the entire meeting turned into a trans-panic session over bathrooms. The majority of the community members who spoke at the meeting felt that the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity opened a “pandora’s box” where predators can use the transgender label to attack people in the bathrooms.

One of the council members commented about the large turn out for the meeting. These mostly heterosexual, white, cisgendered people talked about transgender (or supposedly transgender) people using the bathroom for three hours. Can you imagine a group of us LGBTQ people getting together to discuss hetero, cisgendered peoples bathroom usage for three hours? It was a sad, ignorant crowd. My heart hurt listening to the comments. From a councilwoman quoting Matthew 25:40, which translates to how you treat the lowest among you is what you will be judged against when you fly on up to heaven, to saying she’d picket trans people using the bathroom. All in nearly one breath. There were community members nearly in tears at the idea that trans people might be in the restroom with their children. It reminded of the misinformation spread during the Salem witch trials. The accusations were unfounded in fact. The overwhelming fear fueling the hate. The crowd in a fever. As a trans person, I would’ve been terrified to be in that room.

But I sat 345 miles away from that crowd while my friend sat mere feet from them. She showed up many hours before the meeting to make sure she was heard, to urge the council to vote yes on the ordinance. She was the face and the voice that I needed in that room. In a room full of mostly straight, cisgendered people speculating about how trans people would behave in a bathroom, she was our hero. She was among a smaller crowd of people who supported the ordinance. Each one of those voices was life for me. It gave me a reason to believe that maybe one day there will be a place for me.

We need you – we need cisgendered, white, heterosexual people speaking up for us. Because we are outnumbered, and we are tired. Middle America is against us and we need help. We need more Stephanie Carters to show up at these council meeting and respond to these ignorant messages of hate. We need our loud heroes but we need the quiet ones more.

Thankfully, the ordinance passed.

P.S. I need you. I’m exhausted. I keep writing but I feel like so many of you still don’t get it. I need you to be mad with me. I need you to be frustrated. I need you to be fuckin’ pissed and outraged. Please.

Video from the meeting

2 Comments

  1. Daryl Cobranchi

    I just found this post. terrific summary! I am in Parkersburg, just down the road from Fairmont. We had our own run-ins with the “Christians” who would demonize trans folks. The conservative church people used horrible names to describe the LGBTQ community: secual predators, perverts, rapists, etc. It was terrible. And the worst part is that OUR City Council caved in and gave them what they wanted. They voted DOWN our nondiscrimination ordinance. Parkersburg is the only city in West Virginia to vote down an NDO. It is a shameful label to hold.

    I applaud Fairmont for moving forward towards fairness. Maybe someday Parkersburg will join the 21st century.

    • Leo Caldwell

      Yes, Daryl! I happy you read it. It’s insane how they demonize the LGBT community and it’s bullshit.

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