The 2023 war on trans Americans means LGBTQI+ people re-live trauma from the past 35 years

The events of the last week in the Montana legislature have really been hard to watch.

Rep. Zooey Zephyr, a trans woman from Missoula, has been kicked out of the House of Representatives for using a common allegory at the end of her rebuttal regarding anti-trans legislation. In reference to the topic of trans-youth suicide, Rep. Zephyr told the anti-trans legislators that she hoped they’d see the “blood on their hands.”

The Montana Freedom Caucus, a far-right conservative group, moved to remove Rep. Zephyr from the House chamber. Once she was removed, and completing her representative duties on a bench in the public hallway, a group of women, many wives of the Republican legislators, and the mother of the Republican supermajority House Speaker, sat on the bench so that Rep. Zephyr would have to stand at a coffee counter with her laptop, to remain close to the House chamber in order to complete her work with colleagues.

These events have been especially hard to watch for those of us who have been treated like Zooey.

When I was 19, I realized I was gay. It was 1988. I had attended Evangelical churches as a youth. I realized that many people would think I was an abomination. A mistake. A phase. A sin. A birth defect. A perversion.

I knew that many people would not treat me the same way they’d treat me, if I had a boyfriend. Yet I was who I was. I couldn’t change that.

I knew that the only way people would start to believe that I was a person, not the abomination, or the perversion, or the sin, was if they got to know me, first. And know I had a heart. And a mind. And a sense of humor. Then I could introduce them to my then-partner. But only then.

Many people were surprised to find out I was gay back then. Most were polite, and many were kind. Yet being out and gay 35 years ago was a lonely venture. Gay bars were hidden 10 miles out of the Billings city limits. Don’t ask don’t tell was the later law of the land. The goal was to blend in. However. I knew that if I didn’t come forward with who I was, I’d be a liar to everyone I met.

And I realized that if I said nothing, the gay people who came behind me would then suffer for my silence.

I knew some people were homophobic. Yet I had no idea how cruel people could be, just because I wasn’t like them. It was a passive-aggressive kind of cruel, where you’re frozen out with 10 pairs of eyes on you, all too scared to say what they mean, so they let their actions speak for them.

I knew intellectually people could be unkind, but until you’re on the other end of someone looking at you like you’re not even the same genus they are, it’s very hard to explain.

I hope no one ever has to feel that way.

Most people are good and kind. Until they’re not.

“The good ol’ days” weren’t good, for those of us who weren’t like everyone else. I’ve had beer thrown on me, I’ve been spit on, I’ve had people screaming in my face names that would catch the devil’s eardrums on fire, I’ve been surrounded by males in a public place who made rape threats to “straighten me out”, I’ve been fired from a job specifically for being gay, I’ve been fired off a church music staff, I’ve been told I couldn’t wear clothing with the company logo of my employer out in public, I’ve been told by record execs to stay in the closet (I didn’t), and the list goes on.

And every time something vile like that would happen, you’d think I’d collapse into myself, or hate those folks doing it. But I didn’t. It spurred a resolve in me, and I just knew their bizarre behavior didn’t have to do with me.

Then all I could see was their blinding fear.

They’d be screaming, or spitting, or tossing beer, or whatever, and they’d look like a lost child scared in a mall, eyes wide, mouth gaping, spitting as they shouted—pure panic. And I’d think to myself as PBR dripped down my chin and off my hair, how weird, that this 6’ 2” guy is so terrified of a 5’ 4” girl.

How absolutely dumbfounding.

That’s how it feels in that moment. You’re not scared for your life. You’re not angry. You’re gobsmacked by the ridiculousness of it, of the incomprehensible reaction they’re having to simply you being alive on the planet.

The hurt feelings come later, when you’re by yourself, and the shock wears off; that’s when the gravity of the unkindness hits you.

I had plenty of sassy moments putting folks in their place. Yet the most impactful moments were when I didn’t. When I just looked at them, as my hair dripped with beer, until they shouted themselves out. I’d reach for a napkin and calmly dry myself off, and then say, in an equally calm voice, “Dude. Seriously. If you were gonna throw a beer on me, you could have at least made it a decent one.”

And then it would hit them—how utterly inane they behaved. I wasn’t destroyed over it. And they’re out a beer.

Watching Zooey in the House chamber hold her dignity—I get what that feels like. They can toss you out, fire you, scream at you, cover you in beer—but they can’t take your dignity.

Not unless you let them.

I never did. Neither did Zooey.

Other LGBTQI+ people have lost their lives in similar situations. It wasn’t a beer being thrown in their faces. It was a lead pipe. And they never woke up. Our trans community is the most brutalized of all.

And why? Why? Because people can’t control their fear, their rage, their religious hatred, their need to snap because the world is changing faster than their perceived control over all of it.

So yes. All of this in Helena is hard to watch. It’s hard to know that what I’ve chosen to forge through, for the purpose of creating a smoother social path for those coming behind me—has amounted to a trans person being chased off a public bench in 2023, after she was tossed out of the House of Representatives in my home state.

No doubt, retribution for a country that has chosen to codify and protect marriage between ALL legal consenting adults. Yet in all of the headway we’ve made as an LGBTQI+ community to simply be seen as people first—then to have all that headway turned into the most demented kind of sideshow in Helena—

That breaks my heart.

But you know what WON’T break?

Representative Zephyr.

I didn’t break, millions of others like me didn’t break, and she won’t break, either.

She’ll do what we all did—quietly throw her shoulder into the pad, and keep leaning forward. With dignity. With resolve. With millions upon millions upon millions of us at her back, leaning with her.

Because we are turning tides. We are changing minds. We are elevating laws. I stood on the shoulders of giants, who were gunned down at Stonewall and burned alive in gay bar raids of the 60’s and 70’s, and my shoulders are strong, to hold up those who continue onward.

I choose kindness, everyday. Not because I’m blind to the ugliness of the world. But because I know what it is to be on the other side of judgement, unkindness, rage, horror, anger, bitterness, fear, marginalization, bullying—I know what it is to feel singled-out. I sadly understood that that was the world I was living in.

However, I never accepted that that would be the world I would leave behind.

Not as long as this gal is on this side of the grass.

Not as long as we can blind them with love. And bludgeon them with dignity. And embarrass them with kindness.

Not as long as the good people of the world stand firm, the heartbeat of a new way forward, this evolving world quaking beneath the feet of old fear.

So yes. This Helena debacle is hard to watch for me. Because even though my life has been a rich and deep blessing full of the most kind, most giving, most loving and accepting people alive—none of us get out of this life without a few wounds.

And yes. I know Representative Zephyr will prevail. Not simply for herself, but for the 11,000 Missoulians she represents. Because those of us who are called to stand up for who we are—and there are millions of us out there—have the vision for what that means.

God made us gritty. God made us strong.

God made us.

God. Made. Us.

Please enjoy this song written and performed by my best bestie (and fellow Pope Jane alumni) Kristen Coyner, recorded in our acoustic duo project together, called “Backseat Bordello”. The song is called “Rise Up”, about the LGBTQI+ community. It’s track #6 on our 2010 release, “End Times Diner”.

View the video of this song we put together for the Trevor Project, an organization assisting suicidal LGBTQI youth.

About danielleegnew

Named "Psychic of the Year" by UFO's and Supernatural Magazine, Danielle Egnew is an internationally-known Psychic, Medium and Angelic Channel whose work has been featured on national TV (NBC, ABC, TNT, USA) as well as in the Washington Post and Huffington Post. She has provided content consultant services for the CW's hit series "Supernatural" and the blockbuster film "Man of Steel". Danielle is also an author, teacher, and TV / radio host in the field of metaphysics. She anchors her private practice in the Big Sky Country of Montana, residing with her wife and their daughter.
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3 Responses to The 2023 war on trans Americans means LGBTQI+ people re-live trauma from the past 35 years

  1. Anne Giuliano says:

    Your words and actions have power. Thank you for all you have done over the years. I don’t think I would be able to have the poise or grace to not react. I have been privileged to grow up cis and white – the easiest path through life. I am in awe of you and Representative Zephyr. You go girls! I got your back if you should ever need help.


  2. Ricardo says:

    Danielle. It’s nice to see you are still standing strong. Fighting for what you believe in.

  3. Kim says:

    Thank you for sharing your personal story, Danielle, as heart-tearing as it is. I hope the spotlight on the cruel way Zooey is being treated helps some people break thru their fear of “different” and find their compassion. She is incredibly courageous, and so are you. And because of that courage, there are so many more people who are accepting and loving towards those they used to fear. We ARE evolving, and it WILL get better. It MUST. But, I sure do wish we were further along by now. Thanks for all you do, and for reminding us to Lead with Love.

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