Why I Write – D. Gilson

Why I Write – D. Gilson


Ars Poetica

Tuesday and I’m texting to ask:
Do you remember the movie Rushmore?
(1998, Wes Anderson, Dir.) and no,
you don’t and no, it’s been a busy
morning so we’ll have to talk later. Thursday
and later, like Christ, hasn’t come,
so I’m writing you this poem because the thing
I wanted to ask was, Do you remember
what Max finds in that library book
in Rushmore? When one man, for whatever
reason, has the opportunity to lead
an extraordinary life, he has no right
to keep it to himself. That’s Grade A bullshit,
maybe, but how can I tell someone even
though you don’t, I think you are extraordinary?
You know, extraordinary like a library book,
like the one on my desk from the Gelman Library
that hasn’t been checked out since 1978.
Can you imagine? What is the book about?
It doesn’t matter. (Shakespeare and agnostic
comedy) But it seems astonishing, does it not,
that I am the only person to check out
this book in almost forty years! And
here is a list of the things I could do
instead of write a poem for you:

  1. Learn to knit, finally.
  2. Write my dissertation.
  3. Call my mother.
  4. Send a messenger pigeon.
  5. Clean the bathroom.

That’s not exactly fair. Nine out of ten
poems I write, probably more, are not for you.
So I’m thinking of number four, the pigeon,
an idea I got from Rushmore,
which you don’t remember, and which
I would tell you about if you’d pick up
the phone, or maybe it’s better to write
you this poem (thesis: our lives
are extraordinary, even though you
haven’t thought that for three months). Yes,
here is a poem about a movie
which, the one out of ten, I wrote for you.

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2015


Tonight, I attended my first Transgender Day of Remembrance event in Charleston.  The service was sorrowfully beautiful.

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read the speech made by my friend, Chase Glenn, during the service:

Thank you, thank you, thank you.  Thank you for being here tonight.  For showing up.  For taking time to pause and remember those trans men and women we have lost this year. 

If you’re here tonight, you probably already know that this year has been the deadliest on record for our transgender community.  More trans folks were killed in the first 6 months of this year than were killed in all of 2014.  Violence against the trans and gender non-conforming community is at epidemic levels.  21 transgender people were reported to have been murdered this year in the U.S. alone.  For trans women of color, the situation is particularly dire.  1 in 8 trans women of color will be murdered.  1 in 8.

Where is the public outcry?  Where is the mainstream media?  Why is this not on the front page of every paper and the leading story on every news channel? 

In a time when fear-mongering politics run amuck…. Where countless hours and facebook posts and tweets are given to spewing fear…. Fear of people who are different than us, fear of having our guns taken away, fear of others coming here from other countries…. 

Yet who is concerned for those transgender people who fear for their lives every day– when simply leaving their homes?  Who is using their voices, their influence, their social media platforms and relationships to stand up for trans people?  Some of you are in this room tonight.

Now is the time.  Now is the time to stand up.

Many of us in the transgender community carried the baton for marriage equality for years.  We put thousands of hours into the fight and we celebrated alongside our gay, lesbian and bisexual community when they were given the right to marry those they love.  And now is time for those same LGB brothers and sisters to pick up that baton and fight the fight for our trans community.  For the very lives of trans men and women.

We will continue to fight for ourselves.  We will continue to stand up for our own rights, but it is imperative that our cisgender friends and family stand up on our behalf.

You may be wondering what someone like you can do:

  • Educate yourself and begin to educate those around you.
  • Fight for safe spaces for transgender people.  Support the addition of gender neutral restrooms in all public places.  Including schools where our trans students are struggling every day.
  • When transphobic jokes are made—often times by unassuming people who consider themselves liberal and progressive—stand up for trans people.  Help them understand why these jokes are not okay.
  • Fight to ensure that gender identity is ALWAYS included in non-discrimination legislation.  
  • Get to know a transgender person.  Listen to their story.  Don’t automatically try to normalize their experience—saying things like….  I know exactly how you feel.  Because you don’t.  While everyone has their struggles and anxieties and fears, the experience of a trans person is unique and their fears of violence, abuse, homelessness, being fired from their jobs and rejected by their families is fueled by real life experiences.  
  • And finally….  Show up.  Like you did here tonight.  

Remember those whose lives have been cut short.  Say her name.  Say his name.  Say their names.

May their memories be a blessing.  May their memories be a call to action.  And may they rest in peace and rest in power.