Family, friends should not be banned or have to leave home to be who they are

March 15, 2023 12:05 pm

Adrian Jawort, who performs as Anastasia Steele, participates in an all ages drag show as part of Montana Pride Org’s Former Felon’s Ball in Helena on Feb. 18, 2023. (Photo by Nicole Girten/Daily Montanan)

My brother, Dalton Anderson,  who lived most of his early childhood in Glendive and now lives in Missoula subscribes to the Glendive Ranger Review.

Today, when I phoned him from Victoria, British Columbia, Dalton read aloud the commentary by Rev. Stephen Underwood that gives Biblical references that support this Christian minister’s understanding of drag performances.

I was surprised that the Glendive Ranger Review published this commentary because I’m certain that many readers will not be happy to read a minister’s public expression of support for individuals who courageously reveal their transgender identities. I want to commend you for printing this commentary.

My dad, Rev. Laurence E. Anderson, was the minister of Glendive’s Congregational Church from January, 1947 to June, 1954.  He would have enjoyed reading Rev. Underwood’s description of donning his ministerial robe: “I’ve never done drag — unless you count the floor-length robe and colorful stole I wear every Sunday when I preach.”  This description illustrates that Rev. Underwood has a sense of humor – that he knows that his robe is symbolic of a role that he “plays” at the pulpit.  And that beneath the robe is a human being like every other human being who is simply trying to find their way through the many challenges that life presents to us all.  Those who “do” drag are also “playing” – hoping to lighten up the burdens that so many carry, especially those whose souls do not conform to the roles that are expected of us all to “perform” – whether these roles bring us joy and contentment or not.

Recently I spoke to a young man who is struggling with his identity and he was telling me why it is that so many young people leave the comfort of their home communities to navigate the many challenges of city life.  These are his words:  “Why do so many people want to live in big cities?  There is so much there to experience and see, you can be anyone you want to be. The large population makes people virtually anonymous. Cities are also more progressive and accepting than most rural areas, so for certain people, it’s a safe haven to fit in and escape violence and/or persecution and prejudice.”

This made me feel sad.   Why should anyone feel forced to leave their familiar home communities where they have love and support in order to feel confident to become themselves?  And yet that is the sorry state that we’re living in both the U.S. and in Canada.  Families are fragmented because it is  such a challenge for us to accept what we don’t understand about those who are different than us – the “others.”

Recently, I read the brilliant writing of Elizabeth Strout where one of her many insightful characters says, “We can’t expect from others what they don’t have to give.”  This has helped me to let go of my expectations of some of my family members and I think we’ll get along better with this wisdom.  I further ask myself:  How can I develop the courage to accept what I don’t understand about others? I don’t think this is too much to expect of myself.

In closing, Miss Romses was my first-grade teacher in Washington Elementary School, which is now a middle school, I’ve learned.

Miss Romses opened the world to me because she taught me to read, and print simple stories about my experiences and my feelings about them.  I remember even now almost 75 years later, my three sentence story about a robin’s egg that had fallen out of its nest, and how sad I felt to see the remains of the baby robin.  Miss Romses was an inspiration for me to teach my younger siblings at home at home to read, to help friends with homework over the years, and then to become a teacher.  I still love Miss Romses and I truly believe that she was a woman who would approve of the question that I have asked myself.

Anderson, who holds a doctorate of education, lives in Victoria, British Columbia.

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