Signs, Sounds, & Thoughts From My Experience At The Women’s March in Washington D.C.

One Man’s Story: Why I Marched With Women on Trump’s First Day
By: Dan Beckmann/Orlando Sentinel
25 January 2017 

Last week, rather excitedly, I posted, what I thought was a fairly innocuous tweet; “Heading to D.C. for the March!”  I wrote.  So, I was surprised to read the first response.  Not because it arrived so quickly, I have nearly 10,000 followers.  Rather, because it came from a friend with an ambiguous quip. “Last I checked you were a man…is there something you’re not telling me?”  She wrote.  Surely my well-educated friend could not be so confused to think a Y chromosome would be a disqualification for taking part in a Women’s March?  Nonetheless, there it was.  That comment…hanging like a piñata, just waiting for me to crack it with a great big stick.

So, to my friend who wrote, what I’m sure she thought was a comment in jest, I guess there are some things I haven’t thought to tell you.  Allow me to fill you in on a few of them.

For 15-years, as a cameraman, writer, and producer with NBC News, I sat on the front line of many struggles.  This was the first time I would be at the epicenter of something of this magnitude as a participant.  I knew why I was marching because I had the checked boxes all filled out in my head; women’s rights, minority issues, climate change, education.  All the big ones.  But it wasn’t until I was nestled amongst a sea of pink hats and humanity that I realized why I was really there.  By the way, there were quite a few disqualified Y chromosome people marching with me.

Women, and those with minority voices, have always played crucial roles in my success.  They are too often underrepresented, undermined, and undervalued.  So, from what some might call my “privileged” seat in society, I felt it was even more important for me to walk out my allegiance to them.

I marched because Donald Trump promised to serve all people.  And so far, his immediate circle of influence lacks the diversity to make that possible.  Having him hear our voices from his new home on his first day in office was a great start. Not everyone who needed to be heard could be there, so I was marching for them…and for all the people who’ve made a difference in my life.

I marched for my mom, who as a single parent took odd jobs teaching tennis lessons, tending bar, and fixing lawnmowers.  Always making less than the guy next to her who did the exact same job.  My mom never failed to take a college course and never got a failing grade.  Receiving her doctorate 35 years after taking her first class.

I marched for, and alongside, my friends Kent and Caanan.  Showing up with my support to protect their right to stay married.

I marched for my daughter Lauren, and my friend Tiffany.  Each survivors of sexual assault who now must watch a man who’s bragged about assaulting women lead our country for the next four years.

I marched for those so confused that they now believe in “alternative facts.”

I marched for my friends who lost all hope, and got suckered by a manipulative liar who placed a large bet on their fears and won bigly.

I marched as a reminder to those “who won” that they cannot ignore those who didn’t.  And I marched as a reminder to our representatives in Washington that they are bound by an oath to represent all those in their districts.

I marched to promote a global community of diverse members. The outcry of values and priorities aren’t solely “American issues” with isolated consequences.  Millions of others, on all 7 continents, took part in over 670 solidarity events. Our leader may say, “America First”, but we cannot claim to be “America Only”.

And I marched for that friend of mine, the Twitter commenter.  Apparently, there were some things I didn’t tell you.  I’m glad I told you about them now so we can put down our phones and get to the business of building a brighter future for us all.  And that’s something worth tweeting and re-tweeting about.

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A Life With “Out” Limits: Growing Up Hindu and Homosexual

by Arati M. Jambotkar

Sometimes I have dreams about my future wedding day.  I hold hands with my Indian husband – an engineer maybe, or a doctor – as we circle the ceremonial fire in traditional Indian garb, flanked by gold jewelry and extravagant ornaments.  We are filled with the certainty that we will be bound together in harmony for life, and everything is perfect – just the way it’s supposed to be…
There’s only one problem: I’m not straight.  But it took me a long time to realize that it’s not a problem.
I grew up in a small town forty miles west of New Orleans, the younger of two daughters of immigrants.  My parents are the most self-sacrificing people I know.  My dad was raised in a tiny village in India with no electricity or running water, oftentimes studying by candlelight during his childhood and eating nothing but a boiled egg a day.  In contrast, I was raised in America with things that far surpassed mere necessities.  Although I felt grateful for these luxuries, along with that gratitude came an equally strong sense of guilt over being spoiled.  The combination of that gratitude and guilt sparked a self-imposed pressure to succeed and to live up to the ideals of the culture.
Being born into a family of devout Hindus, I frequently visited the local temple as a child.  I recall sitting on the hard linoleum floor amongst a throng of worshippers, surrounded by statues – idols adorned with silk and flowers and grains of rice.  I was obedient and quiet as chants were muttered in tongues I did not understand, to which I could not connect to  emotionally.  I found myself detached from my religion, from spirituality altogether.  Such was the case for many years.
I started noticing girls shortly after my sixteenth birthday.  During the summer before my junior year, I attended a club conference in Texas with a group of young women from several Louisiana parishes.  On the bus ride there, I chatted with a girl who –I kid you not – was the spitting image of Alicia Silverstone.  Sigh.  I recall sitting alone with “Miss Silverstone” at a table in Planet Hollywood in downtown Dallas two days later as she complained for three and a half hours about her boyfriend’s indiscretions.  As she spoke, all I could think about was how magnificent she was, how pleasant her voice sounded, her warm and endearing personality, the insanity of the boyfriend, and how odd it felt to be overcome with extreme nervousness.  It was the kind of anxiety that is blissful, surreal, and simultaneously shocks the core.  Basically, these were butterflies that only a crush can bring.  I never saw her again, but I’ll never forget her.
From that point until the age of eighteen, I experienced the most agonizing torment I’ve ever gone through in my life: the questioning period.  I was plagued by incessant thoughts about the true nature of my sanity – second-guessing whether my emotions were part of the reality I had always known, or whether they were part of some alternate universe where delusions were actually reality.  I chastised and berated myself constantly.  It was my own version of self-imposed electroshock therapy.  My feelings towards my inclinations and urges went beyond guilt to a dark place of shame about who I was and what I feared I would become: a second-class family member, an ostracized Hindu, a spiritual failure.  This daily self-lashing lasted two years.
When I turned eighteen, I decided to come out to my parents.  And I chose the morning of December 25 to do it.  I didn’t select it for shock value.  Christmas, although a Christian holiday, was always celebrated in our household as our favorite day of the year – a time when the familial bond that we always valued became something that was renewed and strengthened time and time again.  I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my mother, post-wrapping paper cleanup, post-dishwasher loading, and pre-trying to figure out how these words were going to somehow magically form themselves into sentences that I could verbalize.  But sometimes, anxiety prompts a person to act on impulse before the mind can object and before the body can resist.  I blurted out the three words, not even stuttering on “l.” All I remember after was the unsurprised look on my mother’s face as she said, “It’s just a phase.”  And suddenly, I felt like a kid who had woken up on Christmas morning with all the anticipation and hope in the world, only to find that the one thing she had wished for that year wasn’t under the tree.  I was that kid, and I was crushed.
From that moment on, I experienced an emotional distancing from my family that filled me with some of the greatest emptiness I have ever known.  It was like trekking through a tundra, surrounded by nomads, but blindfolded and feeling like no one else was there.  I tried to wash away that emptiness with a series of failed relationships, including the horribly violent one about which I wrote a few weeks ago.  I didn’t want to face rejection, abandonment, and judgment by the people whom I had always considered to be closest to me, by this spiritual being.
Out of desperation, I went to a temple in Houston one weekend, about fifteen years after I had last been inside of a religious establishment.  People oftentimes describe spiritual experiences as monumental, dramatic events that are blissful, surreal, and simultaneously shock the core.  Mine was ordinary, I suppose.  But in crossing that threshold, I felt a transformation, one from a lifetime of feeling displacement to just one moment of feeling balance, peace, and belonging.  That’s when I realized that this puzzle of life is only complete when the last piece of it stops struggling.  When I accept that the puzzle maker truly wants me to stop fighting the puzzle itself and just “be,” only then can I accept myself as the piece that fits.
Today I am grateful that I am that piece, that I have the capacity to enact change in this world based on who I am, based on just “being” – on just being me.  And since I’ve come to that place of self-acceptance, of self-nurturing, I have been blessed with the ability to embrace that puzzle instead of shunning it, to feel compassion for the other pieces and to love myself regardless of whether they are in acceptance of me, or even of themselves.  My family doesn’t exactly welcome my homosexuality today, but they don’t reject it either.  They love me for just being, and I love them in the same way.  I thank that spiritual someone, that threshold in Houston, for giving me the power to truly know that.
So these days, I still sometimes have dreams about my future wedding day.  I hold hands with my wife – whoever she may be – as we circle the ceremonial fire in traditional Indian garb, flanked by gold jewelry and extravagant ornaments.  We are filled with the certainty that we will be bound together in harmony for life, but everything isn’t perfect.  Instead, it’s just the way it’s supposed to be.

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