Why do I do what I do?

My political deconstruction with reasons written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. almost 60 years ago.


8/23/20237 min read

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mathew Ahmann in a crowd of demonstrators at the March on Washington
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mathew Ahmann in a crowd of demonstrators at the March on Washington

To my friends that ask why I am an activist or why I am moving so fast and putting myself out there?

I don't have a lot that stuck with me from my general education classes in college if I'm honest. I graduated 28 years ago so that shouldn't surprise anyone, but I remember reading a letter that was beautiful and compelling in a civics class. At the time, not knowing who and what I was, I never thought I would be a part of a vilified and attacked minority (so...privilege, yeah.)

I would never directly relate what I am experiencing to the slavery, racism, segregation, and hate that Black people have experienced, there are however, echos of a cry for help that resonates almost 60 years later from a letter in-which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., writing from Birmingham Prison, defends the Civil Rights Movement and how he has started to perceive that his greatest enemy might not be those that directly hate, but that stand by and hope for peace in the middle rather than taking a stand.

For those of you who are my friends, and who don't live in Florida or the south where we are at ground zero for politicians' attack on LGBTQIA+ rights, Civil Rights (especially in education), and Women's Rights. For those who have asked me why? Why do I have to stand up? That ask if I am aware of the amount of hate that could be directed to me.

You will find the answers in this letter. I'm a white, transgender woman. I traded the self-destruction of suicide to live in "hated and attacked" authenticity, but with self-peace. I encounter disdain from several directions, I'm afraid of the violence, but I cannot just hope for peace from the sidelines.

I call it "the ugly" and try to stay on the positive love and light side of the debate because trading hate accomplishes nothing. I pray for those that would hear to hear and those that can take a stand with us to realize now is the time. Peace is a wonderful thing, but peace without justice isn't really peace, it's just kicking the can down the road. I do believe that most people do not truly understand what the "war on woke" means to people who are branded part of the communities that are having to fight for basic civil rights against a tidal wave of unsubstantiated lies and bigotry.

So if you have read this far, and want to understand my deconstruction from right-leaning independent white "male" to feminist, activist, terrified but fierce transgender woman...

Here is Dr. King Jr.'s full letter.


The portions that resonate with me:

"Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds."

So yes I stand for all genuinely oppressed. None of the excuses that people use to avoid or justify any of it, internally or as a group are valid.

"You may well ask: 'Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?' You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue."

So yeah, bigotry is bigotry, fascism is fascism, and hate groups are hate groups. Avoiding calling these things what they are plays into the expanding rift and temper of the moment, emboldening those that actively seek the destruction of others for whatever reason to march forward in their unified hate, virtually unhindered.

"We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal." It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country's antireligious laws."

Just because you can get away with it because you have the votes in the state government, and the seats in the Supreme Court, doesn't make it right or just, and those that cling to the concept that being a conservative isn't supporting these laws and values, where are the senators that should be "voting" their conscience?

If you don't agree with the agenda of hate, and feel you can support the party that is driving it, where are those that should be standing up against it and why isn't the voice of reason winning out? Answer: because fear and hate equal votes of the extremist, amped up, ready to fight, looking for a chance to explode on those that would attack their "way of life."

In the case of people like me, we are still estimated around 1% of the population. A U.S. population currently estimated at over 330,000,000. A population where the kids that don't receive gender-affirming care, are 60% likely to take their own life, and where adults who don't transition are 40% likely to do the same.

Sorry we are too small a population, often fighting our own internal battles simply to exist, to be any threat to the up to 35% of "evangelical" Christians in this country who seem to be leading the attack, afraid that our existence is a threat to their women, children, and the country itself.

That same religion-led party that is allowing the re-framing of slavery, the banning of books, the regulation of speech, and the state-sponsored oppression of teachers and students that don't fit their mold, cannot claim to be the party of smaller government, or the party of Lincoln anymore.

so where do you stand?

"I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the N_____'s (Black Person's) great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the N____to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the N____ passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured."

And no, I am not going to remove as a friend, those of you that disagree with me and Dr. King. I will continue to hope that you will see in my life, example, and words some truth. As I struggle against these things that would seek to "eliminate" me as a person and also the already very oppressed segments of society because of nothing but hate. I will continue to hope you will step out in support when we need you. When I need you.

Which by the way is now.