I’ve been reading and re-reading the published letter from Kate Bornstein to Chelsea Manning, and trying too select a portion to excerpt. I’ve picked one, finally, but this reading project has brought me to a new awareness of the letter. Isn’t this the letter that every coming out Queer person wishes they had received? And in a way- since it is public ally published, I can’t find any reason why each and every little girl, boy, gender neutral or gender ambiguous person inside every one of us can’t read this letter and feel loved, mentored, and supported.

Every trans* person in the world has had a hardship in transitioning from one gender to another. Every single one of us, Chelsea, has cried about our transitions and strove passionately against all odds to finally express ourselves as who we’ve always felt ourselves to be. But you have been dealt a particularly rough hand. And you’re still going to be better off than some trans people in the world. There are hundreds if not thousands of genders and sexualities being owned and expressed in the world today by some very brave people in some very scary places. You’ll soon find a way to express your gender as best you can in the mono-gendered world of Leavenworth Federal Prison.

And I don’t just mean every LGBTQ person, but every Straight Ally too. This letter is such a perfect and beautiful and hard example of loving. I’d call it parenting, but to do so, robs it of some power, for parenting comes only from our parents. And in a way, even with great parenting, we are still off on or own. Mentoring is an awkward word as well lacking a sense of love, commitment and connection, but until I find a better word, it may have to do.

We are each born with only two parents and some of us may experience a few more, but all of us are capable of connecting and being connected to this much bigger and stronger family of choice.

My own trans* mom—and by extension, your great trans* aunt—was Doris Fish, San Francisco’s premiere drag queen in the 1980’s. The plague took her, hon. Please, please, please take every precaution to keep yourself safe from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Use safer sex guidelines, whenever you can. I hope you find someone inside those walls who will comfort you. Until you find someone like that in your life, please remember that alone doesn’t equal lonely.

I encourage everyone to read, re-read, and then re-read again this letter. See what is in it for you and recognize that Chelsea Manning isn’t just some other person, out there unconnected to you, but a real, complex, and valued person whom you are connect to in very real ways, if you let yourself.


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