When my housemate stumbled into the kitchen Sunday morning, ashen and wide-eyed at the news, I expressed to her that this senseless killing was consistently a part of my world already.
Every day, I am observing more clearly that I am exclusion, hatred, and alienation. I walk into the classroom and see Others who are unlike me, incomprehensible, and unapproachable. I feel disconnection and I perpetuate disconnection. And it's only 9am.
I was at first surprised after straight family or friends, with a single exception, chose not to reach out to me. At most an acquaintance would ask me "How are you?" with a bit more emphasis than usual, and perhaps show hesitation as they received a peaceful and joyful answer.
Exclusion is part of this world and knowing it is the first step on the path to freedom from it.
When I was beginning transition nine years ago, a Berkeley Free Clinic trainer explained to volunteers that, should someone draw a firearm in the clinic, "we take him down." As a martial artist, I agree, and I was relieved to learn that this is the official US recommendation for a group of people trapped with an active shooter. In reality, though, exclusion from those around us obstructs this unified protective response. This natural response.
If a mother sees her children's lives threatened, she moves without hesitation to "take down" that threat, even if it costs her her own life. The Teaching on Unconditional Kindness instructs us to love the whole world as if it were our only child. How can I become so connected to those around me, so reverent for life, that I can trust any group I'm with to be right behind me in "taking them down?"
I am taking steps every day. Summer classes started this week, and I was troubled to hear no one reference the violence. Today, just before starting math class, the professor commented on last night's basketball game, drawing the most lively response yet from most of the students. I felt miserably excluded, and during the break, with compassion, let her know how alienating it felt only to hear sports news referenced in such a week. She responded with tears in her eyes that she gets so emotionally affected by violence that she can't mix it with teaching. I felt authentic connection, a worst-case fear of homophobia extinguished, and still, sadness and silence. It was a baby step.
I invite you to set foot on this path to inclusion by connecting with others genuinely and without expectation of anything in return. May you receive the whole world, this precious child.
May we all be safe and protected from inner and outer harm.