*Inspired by the 1998 murder of Rita Hester, each November 20th TDOR raises awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, this year honoring the 47 lives taken in the U.S. and 386 taken worldwide. As I remember those precious lives, this year I also wish to honor the courageous survival of a dear friend with a profound memory. (I realize she was never “he / him” but respectfully take this liberty for the purpose of conveying this memory)
I can’t recall the specific date or even the month. I am certain it was over the phone and I believe the year was 2017. The conversation started off as it typically did, catching up on work and events, peppered with abbreviated terms and phrases known only to Gabors and other survivors with humor carved out of challenge, isolation and excess. Then some lighthearted jabs thrown in for fun and Iove, as was our custom after eighteen years of friendship.
Then it happened. Tinged with disdain, she called “him” a fat bastard, referring to her former persona – a hypermasculine, bearded bodybuilder and successful business personality.
My heart pounded. My hands began to shake. I swallowed my rage, which took me directly to tears, and summoned my courage. “Please. You can’t call him that. Not in front of me. I loved him. He saved your life. He got sober to save YOU. He fought and sacrificed and summoned courage, for you. He carried you, protected you while you gathered strength. It was not easy for him. You can’t talk about him like that – not in front of me.” My crying made it hard to get the words out. It was unlike me to lose my composure to this extent. She heard me. Every word. There was silence.
Softly spoken, I heard her words, “I’m sorry. You’re right. He saved me. He did. I will never do that again.” We cried together – a rarity for Gabors. Not knowing if I had overstepped, I apologized. She wouldn’t accept it. Instead, she thanked me and praised me for going there.
We never spoke of “him” again. But I have amazing memories. Truly.
She’s more confident, more steady. She feels at levels he could not access. She may not have his privilage but navigates well, tapping into resourses with a wisdom beyond his reach. Strong, self assured and beautiful, inside and out, she’s living as perhaps he dreamt she might. She bonds with her sisters at a depth I cannot join. She needs me less. Sadly, I know this is good.
As I tuck this memory away I am smiling, for it has come to pass that not only is she whole, complete and more at peace than ever, but to my delight, has inherited his sense of humor – a piece of him I know she will carry and protect always, to share with others – and on occasion, with me.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a transgender person in your life, celebrate THAT as you love, accept and ask how you might best support them. 🔹️