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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Finding hope as history repeats itself

Local activist Ruka Scarlett shares her thoughts on Pride Month

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How I wish I had better news. It’s Pride Month after all — one of many occasions throughout the year when we celebrate diversity in a world that doesn’t always embrace such a thing. I’m happier with myself than ever, living my truth has been a blessing, allowing me to thrive. Unfortunately, being happy with oneself, is a different thing from being happy with one’s situation, even further removed, being happy with the state of things. 

You see, I'm a 33-year-old woman, a transsexual female. I find myself at my Jewish temple once or twice a week. I love reading, studying and spending time with friends and family. I’m disabled and losing my vision, which is bothersome but the least of my worries, whatever that means. 

I’m a homemaker with a boyfriend who I hope someday will call me his wife, and I have children I hold dear. I’m an activist, with feminism being my usual priority. Sounds typical, maybe boringly so? From an outside perspective, it seems I’m living an average life, and oh, how I wish I was.

All around us, I see dehumanizing misinformation used to convince those driven by fear that there is a group of people out to destroy a perceived morality. This group is said to mutilate children, steal valor, prey on the vulnerable and pervert society. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious. This kind of talk is used by those who want control. They have an idea of how the world should be. Instead of ideas with solutions on how to fix our economy, reduce violence or save the environment while preserving autonomy, the focus instead is on ideas without a solution. It includes a world without women like me. This was never about kids, and if you think it is, you have likely fallen for a bit of the misinformation out there.

We live in a society where human rights are partisan issues, which is troubling as I've never subscribed to political sides. Critical thinking seems to be a virtue lost, but who am I to judge? No one is perfect, and we could use more understanding. 

Throughout the U.S and Florida, we’ve seen worrying trends: bills violating basic rights, banned books, censorship in education and media, ongoing violence, policing of women and trans bodies and oppression of expression by marginalized communities. 

Why are we seeing things like empathy demonized as a subject not worthy of inclusion in our curriculum? That’s one of many questions I have for people who support these ideals that call for my eradication. 

Gov. Ron Desantis speaks of “facts” — despite making decisions that professionals in science, psychology and academia disagree with. He claims to know what’s best for our “freedom” while he has shown to be an enemy of our Constitution. It‘s terrifying that a man of such twisted words has been able to gain the support of many far-right supporters. DeSantis has banned Jewish and Holocaust studies, but claims there is a place for Jews in his plans.

The fact I worry that writing this may incriminate me, speaks for itself. 

Lately, I’ve been fearing for my life. I was there in Tallahassee when some of our state representatives said the most vile things of us, calling people like me “demons” and “mutants.” I wish I could describe the way I felt. One thing I have learned from my rabbi, and my studies on the matter is that the Jewish people have often done their best to find joy and laughter in dark times. Like seeds destined to flourish after being buried. All we can do is have hope. 

Genocide is a strong word. Yet, here I am likely having to flee the state much like Anne Frank had to flee Germany. I think it’s relevant to say my body cannot produce the hormones I need to live on its own. I rely on hormone replacement therapy. The state’s debate to ban such treatments, knowing it would kill many, including myself, by sickness or suicide is worrying enough. So, I think genocide is an accurate term for what they’re trying to do to trans people.

Think of it like a jar of water in a freezer, everythings fine right? All’s well enough for now, we can still live with this, even if not ideal, but someday, that jar will shatter. I worry none of us will be safe if the Florida governor or anyone like him becomes president. 

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Many trans people and families have fled their homes, faced violence and have died already. I’m here worrying if simply using the ladies room will be the end of me. I’m rarely out alone; my femme-presenting non-binary friends and girlfriends often accompany me to the restroom when in public to ensure my safety. I feel lucky my looks match my identity enough as so I’m never given much trouble, which is not the reality for many. 

Eventually, I hope to write my life story, and I often pray I see society turn away from ignorance, violence and hatred. I hope my life does not mirror Anne’s. I wish I could articulate how I continue to survive and find moments of joy and laughter, but I do, even when all seems grim. I suppose that is what pride is about for some. So, if you are reading this, and you feel afraid, overwhelmed and have a number of unexplainable feelings, find the time to smile for me, and have hope. Oh, dear friend, how I wish I had better news.

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