Last week I was listening to the radio, trying to make sense of all the craziness in our world. As a country, we are starting to see that our gay and trans brothers and sisters deserve the same rights, privileges, love, jobs, happiness as straight and non-trans people do. In a time of transition, alongside the exhilaration of change and the joy of creating more inclusive communities, there is fear and violence like the historic tragedy and loss of life that occurred just over a week ago in a gay nightclub in Florida.
Amidst the talking heads arguing about whether we should or shouldn’t attribute the violence to Islamic Fundamentalism, I was relieved to hear the clear, calm, powerful voice of Shakina Nayfack who was on tour in North Carolina sharing her story as a trans woman through the medium of musical theater set to rock music.
Shakina intentionally chose to share her story in North Carolina. It is the latest battleground to stake out political rights and protections for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender. A small group of fearful legislators are trying to stop change though the discriminatory legislation, HB2. Since this legislation was passed, many businesses and performers have chosen to cancel their engagements with North Carolina to protest the legislation. I get this, even though the North Carolina I know is made up of independent, courageous, civically minded people who are committed to building a better state and who only fight harder in the face of bigotry. Shakina wisely stated that she would not deny art to people who had been so badly treated by their government. She would not disengage with a people who are in critical need for artistic expression.
I purchased tickets right away and brought friends along with me. We live in an important time and I wanted to pull up a chair and show my support. (I’m not going to tell future generations who ask what it was like during Part II of the Civil Rights Movement that I’m not really sure because I was watching Netflix and ordering sandals on Ebay.)
So I went to the show, not really sure what to expect, and I was blown away. Never in my life have I seen so much passion and raw truth poured out onto a stage from such a powerful voice booming through powerful lyrics. I couldn’t help but think that she has God-given gifts to share this story. I cried three times. It was also hilarious.
Shakina didn’t hold back. Why should she? She shared the depths of her sorrow, moments of intense joy, and the uncensored details of her physical transformation. She shared how she was able to understand what she was born with and what she was called to change and share. This heroine survived a mostly ignorant world, fought to find joy and be who she is and then courageously shared her story – in the heart of the battleground for trans rights.
I can’t tell you how inspiring her show was. In a radical way, she was showing us what is possible. She has embraced what is in her heart and what she is called to do and she is standing up and doing it with no assurances about how it will be received. And she is joyful. Her show offers a peek at what our lives would be like if we were just allowed to be who we are, if we found the courage to do this and if it was met by a loving, supportive world (in this case, The Pinhook in Durham, NC). The excitement and energy in this idea is bottomless.
Writing to you from the battleground, Reid.