“You’d do great in Boystown, Chicago.”
“The ATL would be a better fit for you.”
“New York is a more accepting city for trans women.”
I’ve had a few people—a lot of them white or upper class—tell me these things in conversation since my coming out of the closet in 2020. I don’t dispute what they say and I’m sure these places would be nice to visit. It’s just that I’m a firm believer in improving the environment around me. Thinking global and acting local. I love my city.
Memphis has its problems, but I refuse to abandon it. To do so would also mean abandoning my family to the forces that would see them pushed out of their homes and our neighborhoods gentrified. My brother and I never got along even before I came out of the closet. Sometimes I think he hates me. I chose to still love him. It would be cruel to leave home when both he and my mother are in poor health.
Looking back knowing what I know now, much of my family’s issues could be linked to the environment in which we live. Since 2020, I’ve made it my mission to put pressure on the local and state government to improve conditions for the working-class people of Memphis. Once I understood my mission, I could not help but recognize the racial and classist undertones of suggesting that I find another city to live in. These same people also fail to understand that I myself am poor, disabled, and unable to simply uproot my life and leave. It is very ableist to forget about the members of the LGBTQIA2S+ who are disabled and cannot leave.
Out of fear of these fascist laws being passed in the Tennessee legislature, people forget to ask, “Who’s going to stay and fight for those that cannot even leave their homes?” If the pipeline that was almost built in South Memphis had burst, who would have helped the people left behind? When the movement to stop the pipeline began a lot more people who’ve already been researching the environmental damage done here in Memphis were given a chance to spread their information to the rest of the public. When you have the evidence laid out in front of you, you cannot help but to connect dots and see the profit motive behind a lot of the environmental poisoning happening here.
Capitalism only knows two commandments: Cut costs and maximum profits. Lead can cause people to get sick in numerous ways and to act irrational. Studies have shown that the higher the lead-blood levels are in a given area the higher the crime rate will be. We’ve known about the effects of lead since the 1940s at the very least. There’s no way that you can convince me that someone or a group of someones did not plan on making a profit from the information gained from prior research. Refusing to fix old lead city pipes to cut costs of repair all the while you’re increasing the profits of prisons by creating more irrational and violent people would be in line with the commandments of valuing capital over the lives of people.
That is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of pollution in the city of Memphis. I chose to stay here and fight against that. The average citizen in this city can barely feed their children and are overworked just to barely get by. Someone has to challenge local lawmakers who are taking advantage of the overworked citizens of Memphis.
During the time that I’ve decided to be more active in my community, I’ve met people with the same mission as me, people who’ve decided to protect Memphis and the most vulnerable within the community. These people have become my best friends and comrades in the fight to protect the Earth. At the rally to stop the pipeline I met the love of my life and light of my heart, Zoë (he/they). Zoë saved my life when no one else showed up for me and has been my emotional caretaker ever since we’ve met. The relationships that I’ve built over these last three years have been the strongest that I’ve ever formed during this reincarnation cycle.
I have not chosen to give up my birth family; they raised me and shaped me into the fighter that I am today. Yes, we may argue but I will never leave them behind. My aunt Barbara Jean Bowens passed as I was writing this. We had her homegoing celebration on the 31st of March 2023. It just so happened to be Trans Day of Visibility. At her service, her daughters, who helped raise me, showed me that they still loved and will accept me no matter what. Instead of picking between the family I was born with and the family I’ve made while fighting for my city, I see it as my family growing in size. My capacity to love has only grown, and my understanding of what family is has expanded. When I know my family is in danger, the primal Goddess within me takes over every fiber of my being. She is screaming to every bone, to every cell in my body, “Protect the offspring, protect the people, protect the land!”
I may visit other places to aid people on the same journey, but I will not abandon Memphis. If someone wants me gone then they are going to have to come and get me. But guess what. I have ten toes and two feet and I will stand on everyone of dem bitches, daring anyone to try and move me! I love this city and its people. I will always choose to be here.