Since I was probably in my mid-20s, I have often found myself in a struggle of which side of the fence I belong. I was raised in a family of long-standing military men (including enlisted, a West Point grad, and an Air Force Academy grad) alongside another long line of devout Catholics. I went to Catholic grade school, was confirmed, my brother even went to a Jesuit High School. We were a picturesque all-American family.
When the world started to change, I can't quite put my finger on it, everything changed. After 28 years of marriage, my parents separated. My mom decided to give herself a change of scenery and became a flight attendant. I had left Colorado State University to redirect my path and moved back to Denver. I was going to school and working in a local sports bar. We both started making new friends.
My mother is a fabulously classy lady. Always dressed impeccably, sparkles from head to toe, and can turn every head in the room. Who wouldn't want to be her friend? And her new best friends 30,000 feet up? A gay couple. And weren't they fabulous. These two men changed my mom's world from the skies to the ground. They made her laugh, they allowed for a different kind of confidant, and they were just FUN. And in turn, they changed my life as well. Now even though this was the early 2000s, we hadn't really had much exposure to gay culture and community - we had been sheltered.
As I was serving drinks and flirting for tips, I also made a new friend. She was petite and athletic, at least ten years older than me, and just a little different from the other girls working the bar. A true life lesbian. My first encounter (that I was aware of). Does she hate men? Is she going to hit on me? Is she "butch" or "lipstick"? Can we be friends?
The first time she asked if I wanted to go out with her and some of the other girls for drinks, she asked me if I "wanted to be gay for a day". I changed my clothes five times and finally called her back asking, "what do I wear to a gay bar?". The answer is, anything you want.
Over the course of the next few years, I would be introduced to more and more people from the gay community - a sort of underground world living right under our noses at the time. Many of those men and women would become my best friends, even through today. I have planned their weddings, watched them buy their first houses, find new partners, live their lives just like anyone else. JUST LIKE ANYONE ELSE.
So now to tie in where I came from - the world that was so different from my own had let me in with open arms, but did I believe in it? Where was my moral compass pointing in reference to this "lifestyle"? You come from a Catholic, (very) conservative, military upbringing.....and then surround yourself with gay men? What's wrong with you?
What was wrong was that I had been taught to think within a very specific guideline that I had never asked questions about. Now I was in my 20s and I could see the world through my own eyes - and it changed my life.
Now, why am I upset about Bruce Jenner? As the media frenzies around an "all-American man" finally coming into his own as a woman, I see my Facebook feed also bombarded with these images:
Which the latter isn't even true - see here and here.
I am upset because:
courage [kur-ij, kuhr-]
noun 1. the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
2. Obsolete. the heart as the source of emotion.
Idioms 3. have the courage of one's convictions, to act in accordance with one's beliefs, especially in spite of criticism.
Wow. That's pretty strong.
I have unwavering support for anyone in a uniform that defends our country, rights, and freedoms. My father and grandfathers are some of the most courageous people I've ever met and I am uniquely privileged to carry their blood in my veins and I can only pray that they have passed along even an ounce of their courage on to me. They fought wars and battles and flew airplanes over enemies and thankfully have continued to live to see their grandchildren be born. They have true bravery.
But for anyone to try to tell someone else they aren't brave for the fight and the war THEY have to fight? We are ALL born with the right to our own courage and bravery.
We each have our own struggles and wars within ourselves. We have no cause or right to judge someone else's struggle. Courage comes in all forms - facing an addiction, losing weight, being a better parent, righting a wrong - ACCEPTANCE.
Today brings us information about subjects from all corners of the world. You may not personally care about Caitlyn Jenner's journey, but there is a much bigger picture here. Her courage and bravery is not self-serving. She is paving a path for men and women all over the world who may face this same struggle with identity. She is lucky enough to have a platform to share her journey with the world, and quite frankly, we are lucky enough to watch it. She is changing the face of transgendered life.
There is something bigger than all of us happening here. This story is the spark that should allow anyone to see how to believe in themselves and set themselves free from their demons and fears. It's not just about gender or fame or courage even. It's about loving yourself and standing up for what you believe in - THAT is bravery.
Every soldier that leads onto a battle field is fighting for what they believe in. Every Gay Pride Parade is a celebration of people allowing themselves to be free from judgement. Every breastfeeding mom is taking part in thousands of years of instinct and right.
So before you post that mean comment or hurtful meme, think of this - how would you feel if someone told you your fight didn't deserve to be called courageous? That courage is only reserved for warriors and your fight doesn't measure up? I don't know about you, but this woman will go head-to-head with anyone who tries to tell me MY fight isn't worth it. They all are.
Be good to each other. It's all we have.
"I am the new normal." - Caitlyn Jenner