I could talk about what I found problematic with what went on in the Faculty Senate meeting, about how I felt the vote was rushed, that I felt that the Faculty Senate wasn’t educated enough (and they admitted it, too). I could criticize all of the shady deals that went on, like the subtle change to the nondiscrimination clause that added the word “unlawful” such that it no longer tolerated just “discrimination” but “unlawful” discrimination (which brings up the question of what counts as “lawful” discrimination). But honestly, that’s a conversation that I’m too emotionally exhausted to engage in right now.
We lost. The Faculty Senate passed a resolution, and ROTC is going to return to Stanford. The meeting was streamed live in Cubberley. I was present in that auditorium when the Faculty Senate voted and the resolution passed. People cheered, and in the front, someone popped open a bottle of champagne in celebration.
I remember heading over to the Law School immediately afterward. I watched as the Faculty Senate members filed out. Several of my activist friends were already there, holding up signs and chanting and condemning them for their vote. I was too tired, too numb to shout. I didn’t have the strength to lift a sign. I stood to the side with my transgender friends. We didn’t have to say anything. We all felt the same way. We cried.
I knew the vote was expected, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. Hearing all these transphobic things from both faculty and students these past several weeks have left me feeling afraid and unsafe at my own school. My trans friends and I have spent a lot more time off campus this quarter because of it. I’ve struggled to keep up with work. I can’t sleep. I’m tired.
From this experience, I learned about the world of trans activism. It’s fighting and losing a lot and feeling down and then getting up and fighting again. It’s an uphill battle the whole way. You’re going to lose. A lot. People will say awful things and laugh and pour themselves a glass of champagne in celebration of your loss, as you stand to the side, comforting a crying friend, while you’re close to tears yourself. You’re going to wonder if it’s worth it to keep fighting, and deep down a voice says it is but right now, you’re plagued with a heartache that you feel will never go away. But then after a week or two of moping about, you have to pack up and start up the next fight. Because that’s the only thing you can do.
You’re going to get angry. You’re going to doubt yourself. You’re going to cry. You’re going to feel betrayed by institutions and people you once trusted. You’re going to shout till you lose your voice. You’re going to write till you’re sick of it. You will feel like nobody’s listening to you. But you keep fighting, thinking maybe the next fight might be that victory. You don’t know. But fighting and losing is better than not fighting at all — because despite your loss, people hear about you. And visibility is key for a population that has remained invisible for so long. And it’s that hope that keeps you going.
You’re going to feel broken more than you want to, but when you pick up the pieces, you manage to see some good things that come out of all these awful situations. The ROTC debate thrust transgender issues to the forefront not only at Stanford but also across the nation — something I could not even imagine two years ago when I was first coming out. Many people learned for the first time the meaning of the word “transgender.” And though I felt the movements against ROTC here on campus were problematic, a community banded together and fought for me, which I appreciate, because despite its problems, it would have been much worse if people didn’t care and nothing happened at all. I gained a lot of friends and unexpected allies. I will look back on this moment, and though I will regard it as a dark time in my life, I met a lot of great people, people who I will treasure and never take for granted.
I heard that an average transgender activist lasts about four years before he or she burns out. It makes a lot of sense. Losing a lot is bound to get you tired. Who knows, that might be me. I just know that I’m in it for as long as I’m in it, and if I get tired and cynical, someone younger and fresh faced is going to take up the cause for me until they get tired too. It seems like an endless fight, but I have hope that with each successive generation of activists, we’re going to move a bit closer to victory. As long as I can take it, I’m going to keep fighting.
Despite the ROTC vote, Stanford has improved significantly since I came out as transgender my sophomore year. But there’s still a lot to be done. The activism surrounding the ROTC debate has caused a lot of momentum for the trans rights movement, and I feel like it’ll only go up from here. But then again, one of my flaws is my relentless optimism. We’ll see.
Email Cristopher Bautista at email@example.com