I got out.
I don’t know how long I can stay. Canada has refused to employ me despite (because of?) my advanced degree, and if anything goes awry in my immigration process, they might yet force me back.
But I got out.
Even before things started going really wrong, I knew I had to leave. The future beckoned, far away from a family life whose continual horror I have only found more repellant with time, across a border so stark that crossing it is akin to time travel. I didn’t then have time for the generations the United States will take before it arrives at the same century Canada entered in 1966, and I have even less now. Now, I know I am transgender, lesbian, autistic, and racialized, the target of ever-increasing terror and hate, and I am not coming back.
I hear a lot about resistance. I hear a lot about how critical it is for the minority of non-bigots in bigot-filled locales to challenge our hegemons. I hear a lot about how making these awful places a little more hospitable to others like us, with our presence, tips the demographic scales just a little more in our favor, inching toward future parity. I hear a lot about how vital it is for us to spend our family visits in shouting matches that change nothing, because to do otherwise means our relatives can take turns saying horrible things to each other while we quietly wince and dream of better days. I hear a lot that sounds only a little different from exhortations toward glorious death in battle
I. Got. Out.
I will not be a martyr. I will not protest loudly at the unhearing while they gleefully make my home less and less liveable and expect me to thank them for it. I will not surround myself with those who think me less than human to try to dilute their hate. I will not live somewhere determined to suck me dry with discrimination and leave the bones for the bankers. There is no meaning, accomplishment, or good in simply being easier to kill. Suffering is not holy, and suffering is not good.
There was an airport at the other end of the pea-soup fog of hate, and I got on a plane.
Fixing the places I’m from is the work of lifetimes, not years. Razing it to the mantle and letting new earth bubble up from below might not be enough. The evil is worked into its bones, soaked into the ground, and suffused into its every cell. This place defines itself with evil, and does not know itself without it. Am I to be known as a coward, then, for refusing to spend my days in that muck, helplessly scrubbing what the seeping wound of it all constantly soils?
I have sunnier days to live.
And I hope that others can take this path. I hope that others can find the stilts and catamarans and careful lies it takes to escape the wretchedness of the places where bigots already won, and live beautifully in places that yet answer to the light. I hope that the next round of refugees, whether from horrific violence in southwest Asia or less immediately bloody bigotry closer to home, can get away.
And I hope that some of them look back instead of only forward. I hope some of them broadcast across the gulf and into the seeping evil, and give those lost within it the beacon they need to light their own way out.
Because that’s what I’m doing.
2 thoughts on “Transport to the Outer Rim”
We all have an obligation to help (as per our ability) but no one is obliged to be a martyr. Everyone has a right to make their own decisions about safety and wellbeing, and to remove themselves if they feel the threat is too great. It seems to me that those people who demand martyrdom the loudest are almost using it as a way to belittle all other efforts (“If you really cared then you’d go back and fight for what you believed in, no matter what the risk!”). When it’s coming from more conservative outlets, it almost sounds like they’re hoping you’ll get yourself killed and stop being such a nuisance.
I do kind of like to imagine Ottawa as ‘The Outer Rim,’ though. I wonder if that makes my local bar the Mos Eisley Cantina?
I’m currently reading John Lewis’s graphic novel biography ‘March,’ and one of the many good things about it is that it emphasizes that, even as all these amazing events are happening, life still had to go on. John Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders and personally got beat up several times during that action, but he wasn’t there when the Freedom Riders’ bus got attacked and burned outside of Birmingham.
He’d taken a break to go to Philadelphia to interview for a job.
It’s one of the more dramatic episodes of the Freedom Ride, and it’s literally on the cover of book 2 in the trilogy, but John Lewis wasn’t there for it. There’s several pages of drama where he hears about it on the radio and tries to get more information by phone, but this part of the story is entirely second hand, from other peoples’ perspectives…
…and nobody holds it against him! It’s totally understood that everybody’s got a right to make their way in the world, and the job interview was a great opportunity, and when he rejoins the Ride later, there’s no bitterness or recriminations. To this day John Lewis is still honoured as one of the original Freedom Riders, even though he took some time off to go to a job interview.