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Creating Caring Communities: Come Meet Your Neighbors!

Photo by Diana Ensign

At the end of the day, every struggle is in fact interconnected . . .. I just want to encourage everyone to meet their neighbors and look into the struggles that are happening in their areas.” —Cambria York, From The Freedom to Be 

“The people who thrive are the ones who are accepted in the workplace, in their homes, in their places of worship, and in their educational environments.” —Philip. B. (father), From The Freedom to Be 

In February’s blog post, I mentioned fears that may surface as we pursue creative dreams or embark on risky adventures. I want to focus this month on ways to work through our fears so that we move forward, individually and collectively.

Being open to the unknown can feel scary. Putting ourselves in unfamiliar situations may also cause us to feel nervous. But on the other side of such discomfort and fear are often illuminating learning opportunities.

In our society, we are taught to have correct answers. Not knowing might result in failing a class or not getting hired for a job. To be sure, we want a high degree of expertise and competence in the people we go to for assistance.

Yet, learning also means being willing to admit that we don’t have all the answers. It means acquiring a willingness to discover areas where we are not competent. It means exploring the unknown.

With my current book, The Freedom to Be, I did not anticipate learning much in the way of something new because I have transgender friends I’ve known for close to twenty years. Well, I was wrong! But here’s the thing: When we are open to it, we are always learning. I don’t think we can evolve as a species without that constant expansion of our understanding.

For instance, language alone is changing at a brisk speed. Words that were not well known when I was growing up are now in common usage. Do you know what it means to be pansexual, nonbinary, transgender, or genderqueer? Do you have friends in the LGBT community? What about the LGBTQIA community? Did you know March 31 is International Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV)?

If you are like me, someone who grew up well before the widespread use of laptop computers, cell phones, and Netflix, some of these terms may not have existed and may still be somewhat unfamiliar. One of the parents in The Freedom to Be pointed out that the great thing about having children who are transgender or nonbinary is the learning that takes place. Younger people continually challenge older generations to expand their minds.

If we remember that language always evolves, and the human species likewise must evolve in order to adapt and survive, then we can view such learning opportunities with curiosity, and maybe even excitement, rather than fear. Even experts and highly trained professionals in their fields of study take courses or attend seminars to stay abreast of current advances. Not knowing everything allows space for updated, more accurate information. In Buddhism, a beginner’s mind is a constructive trait. It means we are open to new ways of being.

So, how do we create more caring communities, right in our own backyards?

One way is to listen: Listen to young people. Listen to people who are different from us. Listen to the experiences of people who have historical knowledge. Listen to people of a different race or ethnic heritage. Listen to people from disadvantaged economic backgrounds. Listen with a willingness to learn.

I want to offer one event, in Indiana, where we can listen to people who will shed some light on how the larger community can support transgender, nonbinary, and/or gender nonconforming individuals and their families. It may seem like a small thing, but showing up, listening, and learning can help guide us toward skillful actions. Collective actions are how we implement positive change.

Event details: Book Launch & Panel Discussion
March 21, Saturday, 2PM (EST)
Tube Factory Artspace, 1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis
(You can also read these stories in The Freedom to Be.)

As one father of a transgender child explained, “I will tell you our story with the notion that people need to understand that this is nothing to be freaked out about. … There’s no need to feel threatened or worried about it; it’s just letting people be who they are.”

We have so much we can learn from one another.

Let’s begin, together.


Peace & Love, 

Diana Ensign

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Diana Ensign’s Books

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Faith, Hope, Action

A Moment of Calm

Heart Guide

The Freedom to Be

Traveling Spirit