One persons Courage…

You hear about it in the news, inspirational articles, and in the whispers of people discussing someone’s life. Sometimes you hear it to your face. “You are so courageous.” I have been facing my fears lately and there has been some courage yet, most of what people tell me is courage is merely a will to live. Is the Will to Live what makes us couragous? Does this invalidate courage?

When I hear about someone being courageous, brave, or something along that line the picture in my mind is a bit gender normative and sexist. It’s a brave soldier in a black and white movie with bombs exploding behind him rescuing the little woman and running away from gunfire without breaking a sweat. I am well aware this is a very skewed image that remains in my mind. I use this image to invalidate my own experience often.

How can I be courageous? I just didn’t give up. I didn’t notice it until tonight. Giving the speech about my Thirty Seconds, I was reminded it is courageous to save a life. I found myself afraid of those words. Why fear courage? I think it is the responsibility to be something more than human that the media shows us courage is. Batman is couragous. He’s a super hero. I am just a small and broken woman at the end of her endurance trying to make it through every day.

I am trying to teach myself what courage can be, beyond the black and white John Wayne dreams. I am trying to teach myself that courage is simply living. Transgendered people who have the courage to go through the change, to live in the sex that fits their minds and not their bodies are courageous because it is their will to live. They can die for being who they are.

How terrifying it must be to have to pee in public. How terrifying it must be to go clothes shopping, to go out and feel that fear… what if someone figures out who they are and in their ridiculous hatred they attack? That is courage. It is also horribly sad that we live in a world where it is not a hate crime to attack a trans individual. I didn’t know that until recently, I thought that it was a hate crime. It should be. Living without a legal saftey net, living without basic human respect, and living without the ability to be accepted by any other minority (except for some of us who actually do care) takes courage. There are trans persons who are unable to live as they wish, because it is too dangerous.

It takes courage to live at all. It takes courage for the college student to go to her late night class, because she hears all the warnings about rape. It takes courage for the woman who was date raped to speak up, risking victim blaming and slut shaming. It takes courage for the teen mother to take pride in being a mother, bucking against the stereotypes about teen mothers. It takes courage for the disabled man to go up a flight of stairs on his hands and knees to see if his able bodied friends and family are alright after hearing a gunshot. He couldn’t escape if there was a killer. That is courage.

To revile the word courage is to revile the act of living. It takes courage for our students to go to school. We live in a world where the terror of school shootings is very real, where the hate that a disabled student feels can destroy their minds and their souls. We live in a world where there is no safe haven. It takes courage to raise a child with disabilities and to love them. It takes courage to admit that you are disabled.

It takes courage to say that you do not want to see a movie because it is full of sexism. It takes courage to be a Womanist. It takes courage to be a Feminist. It takes courage to be an advocate. It takes courage to write. It takes courage to cry. It takes courage to go out, knowing discrimination is waiting for you. It takes courage to date a person who is of another color. It takes courage to love someone who is of the same sex.

In a world as full of toxic messages, it is cowardly to defame courage. To hold the power to inspire one person is enough to change the world. To inspire countless thousands? That is a gift unparalleled. Forgive me for feeling that I was unworthy of the word courage.

I have been courageous. I am courageous to write about my time as a Victim. I am courageous to have ideas and to share them. I am courageous to start a business during a Depression.

You are courageous too. I am sure you can list ways you are courageous. I would like the comments on this post to be dedicated to your courage. What have you done that is courageous today?

Today my act of courage is to start planning the wedding ceremony for two young women in love. My acts of courage in life will include officiating their wedding ceremony. I do this with pride, and to honor their love and the courage it takes to stand up and proudly say, “I am Gay, I am Pagan, and I am in Love!”

Thank you for your life. Thank you for your courage.

She Wore a White Beret

Sprite adores the French Language. I think it is beautiful but my service cat understands French. I am not sure where she picked this up, but the first two years of her life are just hers and hers alone. Today, at Walmart, we met the most fascinating woman.

When I am old enough to be Elderly I want to be just like her. She has eight cats, speaks five languages, and respected the etiquette of Service Animal interactions, at least until Sprite forced her to pet her via a well placed headbutt. She still asked permission.

Being exhausted, a bit mentally foggy and heading into Walmart usually leads to calamity. Last time I felt this bad and did my shopping I was nearly assaulted for existing, because I get more bull headed in this mode. I am less forgiving, because it takes time to forgive, to ignore the slights, and to not let myself punch annoying people. I still manage, but I am ten times less likely to be patient and calmly explain why they cannot pet my cat, why they cannot touch me, and the fact that I am an intelligent human being.

A cart with a single bag of cat food blocked my path, and I said, “Excuse me.” She turned around, and I saw that this woman had the sweetest face. Her eyes were bright, gleaming with intelligence and years of experience, she held her back straight and smiled. Her smile grew as she saw Sprite. Moving her cart she commented to me, “What a lovely cat.”

I managed as always to not mumble, “I know. She lives with me.” Instead I smiled and said, “Thank you.” Then went to grab a few cans of cat food. She continued, “Is she a service animal?” I paused and said, “Yes.” She turned to another stranger and said, “See, you did hear a cat and i was right.” I felt a bit of guilt then, for I had been less welcoming, though I was trying to just do my shopping and go home. The man huffed, “Cats ain’t ever gonna be service animals.” His jarringly bad grammar made me wince and I said, “According to the law, any animal that can be trained and is not a threat to public safety, while meeting other specific requirements can be a service animal.”

He stalked away, a third stranger laughing, “Wow, Where can I read more.” My frustration was gone. I was shocked, first by the fact that this woman had stopped a stranger from complaining, stating the truth that my animal was likely a service cat, and that they should just leave well enough alone. Then by a request for information. I shared the sheet I have with me at all times explaining the law, and he wrote down a few of the website addresses I have in the first post, about how to Self Advocate.

I had already dealt with a manager who was also accepting of her. Entering the store, I had run into not one but two employees who chose to discriminate. Despite my state of mind and limited ability, everything was going well because I was being treated like a person.

We began to converse then, this beautiful woman and I. She said something I did not understand and Sprite perked, “Oh, forgive me I forgot to speak English.” I apologized for not knowing French, and she laughed. “That is a first. I am used to Americans, especially women, insisting I speak their language. I hear so often how horrible the French are, how we are rude, for expecting people in France to speak French.” I replied, “Well, we expect people to speak English here, and many discriminate on language alone in this country.” She chuckled again, her laugh is so smooth that it was like wrapping my ears in silk. “Very true. You are very open minded, you must not have gone to College.”

This confused me a moment and I blurted out, “Well, I dropped out when I broke my back.” She clucked her tongue, “You should make a better story out of that, you went adventuring and merely have gone to the college of Life.” We traded stories, then, she asked me how I trained my cat. I told her the truth, the same way I used to train my dogs. I rewarded her for good behavior, I punished her for the bad by not petting her and saying no. “She is very rare, her eyes are showing more intelligence than I have ever seen in such a small creature.” She paused then asked, “Do you have provisions for her, should you die?”

Refreshing, to be asked that. Most people run away from the conversation of death. As I wrote about before, I am supposedly going to die before September. I refuse of course, but Death is always looming over me, shadowing me on. “Yes, I have a series of plans, all numbered and written out incase one should fail.” She was relieved, her expressive body revealing that. “Good, so few think beyond their lives. You are rare too.” I shook my head, “No, I merely have lived.” I gave her my phone number, after we discussed a myriad of other things. I wanted to stay in that moment forever, but an alarm went off and I had to go. We will stay in contact.

She was so striking, not out of a physical beauty alone but also because of her genuine and open nature. She showed me an aspect of life I desire, and although my brain is still clouded over and my body demands rest it stood out, sparkling before me. She wore a white beret, a cream sweater, and tan pants. She glowed like a snowflake. Her blue eyes were a bit cloudy with age, but her mind was so sharp and she was open to sharing so much. I suddenly want to go to France.

She also took the time to converse with Sprite, treating her as an equal, and feeling joy as Sprite obviously understood her. They chattered at one another, and Sprite leaned up just before we left placing a kiss on her lips. After we parted ways Sprite made sure I did not feel neglected, though I felt the same warmth and love she seemed to. She rubbed all over me, purring and delighting in our shopping trip.

I even let myself have a treat, I bought a butterfly hair clip. No more lamenting my choice of a hair brush or nothing, I am going to have some panache, and a dose of style when I give my speech tomorrow.

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