“Hope is never silent.” – Harvey Milk
“’I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living.” – Harvey Milk
In thinking about this entry on queerness and hope, the first person I thought of was gay icon Harvey Milk. As a queer person, I faced a ton of adversity in my life. This adversity has literally been life-threatening. While a variety of things have helped me to get through these hard times, chief among them is hope. Hope is like the air we breathe. It is ever-present and never in short supply. I believe it is intrinsic to the human soul and spirit.
I remember once when I was talking to a friend about my desire to end my life, he said to me: “Don’t you want to see how your life turns out?” I believe that this question was intimately linked to the question of hope. Hope means you want to stick around to see how things pan out in your life or in a given situation. Hope means that you hold within you the possibility of a different and better outcome.
This is especially important for queer and trans people given the systemic oppression that we face. It is easy and understandable to get down and depressed, to get hopeless about life. In addition, it is not uncommon for queer people to face loneliness and isolation. This is certainly one of the challenges I face, particularly living in a very rural environment. To be queer in this cis-centric and hetero-centric environment it is hardly surprising we face despair and despondency. So often we are made to feel like misfits, pariahs and marginalized people. Between higher rates of depression, anxiety, isolation addiction and suicidality, we are at risk of a whole host of harrowing outcomes. Our lives are on the line and we need something to help us.
Hope is one of those things that can help us. Hope is the thing that saves us from the notion that there is no possibility of change, that the situation is static and there is no use trying to change it. Hope lets us know that the ways things are now can be utterly transformed. I have hope in hope! I have hope in hope as a generative force, a life-giving phenomenon, a saving grace and a force for betterment in our lives.
Hope can be generated in a variety of ways. It can be brought forth through reading inspiring books, quotes and articles. It can brought forth through watching hopeful TV shows, movies and internet clips. It can engendered by our friends and family, who sense trouble in us and do all they can to help us turn a corner. It can enter our lives through meditating, through silent moments, through breathing mindfully, through a delicious meal, a meaningful trip or voyage or a loving relationship. There are so many ways hope can quietly enter our lives, or blatantly slap us upside the head! The trick is to listen attentively for hope’s appearance. It is will come and it will transform. As queer people, we are an oppressed people but we are also a determined and strong people. We are the epitome of perseverance. Part of what makes us so is the hope we possess within us.
“You gotta give ‘em hope” said the indomitable icon Harvey Milk. Give yourself hope. Give each other hope. We will all be the better for it.