My name is Mycroft Masada, and I am a faith leader.
I live here in Gaithersburg with my family; this is my partner Julia’s hometown, I moved here two years ago after a lifetime in Boston. I am a transgender person of faith, and I do trans advocacy work – locally, with a small group of local leaders; and nationally, with an organization called TransFaith.
And primarily, I bring questions. Why are we here? Tonight is about Orlando, but it is also about much more – it has to be. We have to “think globally, act locally”. We have to become more in solidarity with our siblings in Orlando and nationwide, and beyond – but we also have to question ourselves, and each other.
Because we are not Orlando, not most of us. We are Gaithersburg, and neighboring towns, and Montgomery County, and Maryland. Some of us have closer connections to what happened in Orlando and since, some of us live at those intersections; many of us don’t.
We do live in one of the most diverse cities and counties in the country. We have many in our community who are Latinx, Black, otherwise people of color, Muslim, LGBTQI+. We have a statewide LGBTQ organization, based in Baltimore. We have LGBT rights laws – including trans rights laws since 2007 / 2014 (county / state). We have some LGBTQ organizing in MoCo – mostly around youth. We have some LGBTQ-welcoming faith communities. We even have a very few trans-specific things – like Maryland Trans* Unity.
But do we have a community? A local community? An intersectional community?
We have no Montgomery County or Gaithersburg LGBTQ organizations, no county or city Pride Month or other LGBTQ calendar events. This is the 18th day of Pride Month 2016, and this vigil is going to be our only Pride event! How can that be? Montgomery College used to host a Pride, and it may again – how can we support that? We shouldn’t have to go to Frederick, or Baltimore, or DC to find community – and not everyone can. We have a county Transgender Day Of Remembrance, or TDOR. But Zella Ziona and Keyonna Blakeney’s names are included – and they are black trans women in their twenties who were murdered right here in Gaithersburg in October and in Rockville in April. What does that mean? There was a community event inspired by Zella and Keyonna in Rockville in April – but it was organized by communities in DC and Baltimore.
I’m very privileged, and I’m still struggling in some ways. What is the struggle of those who are less privileged? Our community members, our neighbors, our closer connections.
There have been many loving responses to Orlando – and also many hateful and otherwise harmful ones. Too many of them from “allies” -- people who do or should know better. And there has been a lot of silence – many people have not responded at all.
How are we responding to all of this?
How are we responding to people who may say “LGBT”, and maybe even “Q”, but only talk about gay and lesbian people and other men and women? Who don’t talk about bisexual, trans and queer people, intersex and asexual people, and the rest of the infinite sex / gender / sexuality spectrum. How are we responding to racism – against Latinx people, Black people, other people of color? How are we responding to Islamophobia? To mental illness. To domestic violence. To the conversation about guns. To classism, ableism, fatphobia and so much more.
And how are we being intersectional in our responses? Seeing and sharing how these identities and oppressions intersect -- which they always do. Centering those who live at the most challenging intersections. Giving them more space to speak. Recognizing and using our own privilege.
ElieWiesel taught us that the opposite of love isn’t hate, but indifference. We have a lot of love in this country, this state, this county, this city. But we also have a lot of hate, and a great deal of indifference.
May tonight inspire us to take meaningful action towards social justice – locally, and far beyond.