Transition has changed me in ways I did not foresee

I found the church, and I knew what my mission was that night. I was to lug in a couple of cases of water, then leave. That was what I could do to support this motley group of social revolutionaries.

I had only recently found out that many of my friends from college had joined this group in other cities. They were more than a little surprised to hear my name come up amongst their circle, for they knew me in college and they knew of my background.

College was the first time I had ever opened up about the family business. We were a tight group, and I felt that I could trust them. At the time, I was running away from it...

I lived in the old South Africa. My father was a mercenary soldier who plied his trade there and in the former state of Rhodesia. I do have good memories of the experience, but I never agreed with what he was fighting for.

How could you separate the then current policy of racial apartheid from what the Nazis believed? You could not. Once you take that first step, how could you say the same concerning Native Americans / First Nations, Palestinians, undocumented immigrants...?

Or deeply closeted Queer people like I was then?

Dad always said that he was there for the pay and the adventure. He was a pirate, not a bigot. Frankly, he could not escape the life for a host of reasons, the primary one being that he could not face growing old.

I had met the Poor People's Campaign (PPC) last fall in Shelbyville, except I didn't know they were the Poor People's Campaign, nor did I know what the Poor People's Campaign was or is. I had to look all that up before I went to Memphis last April.

Who are they? Dreamers, activists, social revolutionaries, with broad support from people of all skin colours and backgrounds. That's what I saw. Some were religious, some were not. Many were veterans of the “occupy” movement. A good chunk of them were eccentric, in the good way. But they all believed in social justice, something I never really thought about until I openly transitioned.

Where did they get their start? Memphis, April 1968… Dr. King.

Those who have followed my column from the beginning understand that I come from a politically conservative background. There are parts of me even after the catastrophe that was the last presidential election that still clings to some of that, especially the economic parts. But I have found a group of people whom I like and respect here.

How do I feel about this group? Uncomfortable. Why? Because much of what they do makes me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps the most uncomfortable I have felt since living in an openly racist environment many years ago, and that's the point. I do not agree with some of their proposed solutions, but I do agree upon the need for real action. I would rather be associated with those who take a page from the late Dr. King than from the late Richard Nixon.

I would rather be uncomfortable than live in a prison of privilege. I would rather be scared as a trans woman than ever go back to my old life. It was safer then, but I was not free. And still none of us are truly free, when innocent people are suffering. None of us should ever be comfortable with what many of our current elected leaders and their supporters are saying and doing.

I guarantee you the majority of the local PPC wants to know why I'm trying to help them. They don't trust me a wit, and I really can't blame them. The answer is that I may not agree with much of their politics, but I know what the good guys look like.

If my father were here, he would laugh and welcome me to the club. I have just turned fifty, the age when he took his last assignment. I do not know everything about what he did, but he will always be my dad.

I recently had the long talk with my daughter about what the grandad she never met did for a living.

“So, I take it that you're just crazy then?” she said with a mischievous smile.

No, just a dreamer I suppose.

I take inside the three large packs of bottled water for the activists to use the next day. The majority of the people in the room will be undergoing training about non-violent tactics of resistance, the same training that was used fifty years before when the civil rights pioneers fought for social justice.

A member of the group who had never seen me stops me for a second. He looks me over, then inquires whom I was with? Was I with the church or somebody else? The local authorities had been trying to infiltrate lately...

I laughed and said that it was okay.  He didn't know me, but I liked them and I love the good fight.

I'm a mercenary.



Julie Chase is the pen name of a local trans woman. Read more of her work here!

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