Worthy of Love: New Book is Here!
“We have one job: to love and support our children.” —Karen, From The Freedom to Be
Before I embark on the subject of love and discuss my new book, The Freedom to Be: Stories from Transgender Youth, Adults, and Their Families, I want to say a few words about fear. Not the fears that serve to protect and preserve life, but rather, the incessant internal, mental chatter—along with the external throng of critical voices—that tell us we are not enough. These fears might surface as: Fear of rejection. Fear of change. Fear of criticism. Fear of failure. Fear of being misunderstood. Fear of judgment. Fear of being who we really are. Fear of non-acceptance from others. And fear of the unknown.
In addition to fears regarding our own worth, we may harbor fears of people who are different from us and imagined fears of dangers that don’t actually exist, except in our cultural bias and personal prejudices.
All that fear can be a great stumbling block to love: self-love and unconditional love toward others.
As I began interviewing transgender individuals and their families about ways our communities could be more supportive, massive ocean waves of fear threatened to end this project before it even began. My fear was that I would face hostility from fundamentalist Christian conservatives and also perhaps criticism from transgender individuals if I got something wrong or because I am not transgender myself. So, why take on an extensive writing project that might prove to be a source of controversy and conflict? (Just to be clear, I am extremely conflict adverse; I have witnessed the harm people’s anger can cause).
With heart thumping panic that sometimes kept me up at night, I reminded myself to be still and to go within, through meditation and prayer, and ask for guidance.
“Creativity takes courage,” according to painter Henri Matisse. If we don’t ever take risks, we don’t grow and evolve, and we don’t realize our full potential to be a positive force for good on this planet. We also don’t learn anything new by staying safely within our comfort zones. A number of things happened that influenced my final decision to proceed (some of which involve other people’s privacy and cannot be shared); but ultimately, it boiled down to this: If this book helps one person or saves one life, then it is worth my time and my efforts.
How apropos that a project that sparked my intense internal fears brought me to people who confront real fears on a daily basis, not by choice but by their very existence. As Sa’hara Miller says in The Freedom to Be, “I see a lot of my black trans sisters getting killed. It takes a lot of courage to walk out of your house and become this person you always wanted to be. … Even if you are doing hormones, even if you have a female feminization, it takes a lot of courage because you always get the stares, and you always get the looks … for someone like myself standing at 6 foot 3 inches, trying to blend into today’s community.”
These incredibly brave, intelligent, and talented individuals are living their best lives—authentically and with a commitment to helping their community—while also serving as role models for countless people on how to be true to ourselves. I will never know what it is to be transgender because I am not transgender. But I can do the work to try to understand and to develop empathy for lives different from my own, by listening with an open heart and with a willingness to learn.
Love is always stronger than our fears. It will guide our path in the right direction, for us. It will also remind us of our responsibilities toward others with whom we share this planet.
When we embrace love over our fears, we learn how to be present for people. We take the time to ask what is needed. We take the time to listen. We take the time to set aside assumptions. We take the time to appreciate each person’s unique gifts. We take the time to care.
Love of one another: Such a simple concept in theory. Such an extraordinary leap of faith in practice. There is no more powerful lesson than learning how to gently lean into love.
I encourage everyone to read the stories in The Freedom to Be and discover what life lessons these stories hold for parents, teachers, medical professionals, school administrators, employers, religious leaders, and civic representatives. Are we doing enough to convey to the individuals in our lives, who happen to be transgender, nonbinary, and/or gender non-conforming:
You are worthy. You matter. You are loved.
Let’s take that affirming message into our schools, into our healthcare system, into our government, into our businesses, into our neighborhoods, and, most importantly, into our families.
Let’s share a love so courageous and so unbounded that it ensures each beautiful human the right to be free.
Peace, Love, & Solidarity,
Diana J. Ensign