What Would Orah Do?

A Facebook post provided the segue. It was an open question about understanding transgender people, and asked “What would Jesus do?” The question appeared under a photo of Caitlyn Jenner making her acceptance speech after receiving the Arthur Ashe courage award. The post was about wanting to know how Jesus would behave, what Jesus would do, because, apparently, the transgender world is incomprehensible. I think Jesus has already done it, but I’ll get back to that.

Enter Orah Myrtle. You may have met her; I’ve already posted about my great grandmother.  (Don’t you LOVE her name? It screams spunk. It says something, elicits feelings. It generates smiles because it is so unusual, so odd. Touche!). I never met her since she passed seven years before my birth, but I wish I had. She was one feisty woman, closer to nasty, according to dad. He wasn’t wrong; Orah’s letters provide spot-on confirmation.

Orah wrote to her youngest daughter from 1940-1952. We have those letters. Some days, Orah wrote twice, so, yes, there are a couple hundred in our collection. I’ve read every letter, of course, because it’s all we have of her (although if you oblige, you’ll see there is a bit more).

Orah is part of this discussion. Because she cannot be part of it in the true sense, because I will never know her thoughts on such issues, I am taking the next step by voicing mine. She mentioned her grandson’s future children only once, but I have learned from her omission.  Even though I had yet to be born, I matter (because she does. I may not have entered her thoughts, but essentially, because I wish I had known her, she matters). I want my children, grandchildren and beyond to know who I was and about my life, from whence they came. Oooooh, I have always wanted to use that in a sentence. It’s a good day.

Where Orah didn’t, I am paying it forward for my “greats” whom I’ll probably never meet. I want my children, grand children and theirs to know what I think regarding X, Y, and Z, and L, G, B and Ts. And, how better than to write about what moves me, what angers or brings delight? This is my gift to you. The gift of me.

Hang on! Grab the wine and Cheetos! Here we go:

I can’t completely disagree with the sentiments posted on Facebook. I don’t understand wanting to switch from my birth gender to another. I don’t get that in any way. The reason I don’t understand is because I am at peace being Karen. The thought of switching never entered my mind. I am comfortable in my own skin. I am female through and through, and I like who I am. I am happy, and very lucky.

At the same time, just because I don’t understand something, even if it makes me squirm, it is hurtful to judge. How could I possibly know about this when it’s never been my experience? I never had those awkward, uncomfortable, what-the-hell-is-going-on-with-my-body feelings. I don’t know the first thing about this. I don’t know the first thing about being gay. I am a woman, and I’ve always been drawn to men. How could I possibly know what it means to be gay or lesbian or bisexual or someone who really wants to be another gender?

I don’t have those feelings so it isn’t my place.

Read that last sentence again.

IT ISN’T MY PLACE.

What is life really all about? Is it about the right, or being in the right, to poke our noses into others’ business? Is it about fixing people, converting them into beings just like us so we won’t squirm? Is it about knowing what is best for everyone?

When did we all decide we know what is best for everyone else?

HOW CAN WE POSSIBLY KNOW?

People often bring church, God, and the bible into such matters. I can’t. I believe it complicates and confuses an already complicated situation. I used to attend church. I went for years. I stopped when I saw something that didn’t feel right in my gut: people behaving one way during the week and differently on Sunday mornings.

Don’t get me wrong here: I am not dissing church. Or God. Or prayer. Or the right to believe in church, or God, or prayer. I am not saying those who attend are bad people; on the contrary. I am relaying my observations from when I attended.

My take? People can and do act morally, ethically, and in upstanding ways, “God-like” even, without church. Church is not required in order to understand and behave in “Christian-like” ways. People can love one another, support thy neighbor, be good parents, live a loving life, without church.

People often turn to the good book, but “quoted” verses are sometimes twisted out of context to fit a particular belief(s). When someone tries, “The bible says….,” I tune them out. Immediately. Bible readers are not authority figures.

Why? How many bibles exist? How many versions? How many interpretations by such and such scholar or scholars? Where were such scholars educated? Under what influences did they translate biblical works? How do we safeguard that translated bible works are free from personal opinion? (You get my point: why so many versions).

For those who gain comfort from the bible, for those who understand and live by its tenets, I say bravo! For those who don’t, I say bravo! To each his/her own.

We err when we push our beliefs on others, when we decide others’ beliefs need or have to align with our own. Some folks believe the bible is the ultimate authority for everyone. According to whom?

The Facebook question might be better asked this way: When the world presents you with a situation you may not be comfortable with, when you squirm like you’ve never squirmed before, how will you respond? Not Jesus, you.

Whatever snags us, whatever makes us uncomfortable, these are exactly the issue(s) we need to work on or think about. It bothers us for a reason; this is why it persists. It’s been said we fear what we don’t understand. Amen to that.

I alluded above to what Jesus may have done, that something already occurred. If Jesus caused any of this, caused transgender people to become a thorn in our sides, then, OK, I can accept that. The origin doesn’t really matter.

It doesn’t really matter what Jesus would do right here and now (although she would likely openly love all her creatures, accept each and every one). Isn’t that the “God-like” way? Isn’t that the “Christian-like” way to live? To accept, love, and help others?

And, Orah? It doesn’t matter what she would do, either. This is about you. Me. Us. How will we handle our changing world? Will we learn tolerance?

You know that little voice inside. What does it say? Does your gut tell you to completely avoid helping your neighbor who happened to severely burn his hand, when he is crying for help, but you don’t help because he likes to wear dresses on Saturdays? Does this feel right? I doubt it.

Flip it around: If you severely burn your hand and the only one around is your LGBT neighbor, are you going to refuse help when they come running, no questions asked? I doubt it.

The issue is this: What are you going to do; how are you going to handle your new neighbor who appears to dress differently now and then? How will you handle it when they invite you for BBQ? Because they will.

They are here, and here to stay. Squirm or not, we’d best get used to it. We’d better try to understand and accept that maybe they didn’t choose this situation. Maybe they have suffered for years and years, afraid of retaliation or worse. Fear is an ugly monster. Let’s get beyond it.

No matter what you or I think of Caitlyn Jenner, she will be a powerful voice for the children (who may be experiencing gender identity issues). This fact sheet is an interesting read about children and gender identity. Orah

Ellen forced gay awareness years ago. Long before she hit success with her current show, whenever she got hold of a mic out popped another gay or lesbian joke or reference. Alright already! Enough! I recall thinking, “Yes, we know you are gay. We know.”

It made me not want to watch, in spite that she’s wickedly funny. Not because I don’t support her choice; rather, I SIMPLY DON’T CARE. Why on earth does she presume I care about her sexual preferences? Tell me something interesting, Ellen, like what books you like to read, how you like your coffee, whether you’ve been to Brazil. You know, the phenomenally cool stuff. (And, kudos, that the show isn’t a platform for gay issues).

********************

While it is not a choice I made, and while I don’t fully understand–and maybe it’s because I don’t understand–I accept lifestyles not of my choosing. I support same-sex marriage.

Experiences shared with me through conversations with gay/lesbian friends remind me how little I understand their pain, their journey.

Until I walk a mile in their shoes, I choose the path of support.

********************

As part of my past and present, Orah’s letters gave me the idea to pay it forward. Agree or disagree, my hope is that through my writings on topics in our world today, my children and theirs will better understand their roots, their grandma, and great grandma Karen. OK, one issue down. Slam dunk.

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