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Transmissions: Gift giving that matters

by Gwendolyn Ann Smith

Illustration: Christine Smith
Illustration: Christine Smith  

In the earliest days of what would eventually become my transition, within weeks of my first coming out to the person who would become my spouse of 29 years and counting, I was handed a gift box.

In it was a small item of jewelry, presented both to show her love for me, but also to acknowledge my gender.

I don't wear it often — to be honest, I would fear losing something that precious to me — but it remains one of the best gifts I have ever been given. It was a simple but very powerful gesture that helped show that I was cared for, no matter how I chose to express my gender.

We have, at long last, reached the holiday season. It's that final month or two of the year when the right tells us that the left is somehow going to ban Christmas while Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" magically manifests itself in every speaker across the nation.

For many of us who may be trans or nonbinary, too, this can be a difficult time of year, when we remember being disinvited from long-cherished family get-togethers as a result of our transitions or whatnot. It can be a painful reminder that, within some families, unconditional love doesn't exist.

I want to speak to those in my audience who may have friends who identify as some form of trans. I want you to take a moment and think of them, the things you love about them, the days you wish you could help lighten their spirits, and make them feel just a little better. As this is the season of gifts given as a token of friendship and camaraderie, now is the time to reach out and show others that you appreciate them.

Much like my own partner did for me, maybe some form of adornment may be in order. Consider their taste, and find something that might enhance their look and elevate their feelings. Provide something that says that you find them a valuable and wonderful part of your life, because much of the world likes to tell us otherwise 365 days a year.

Remember, too, that this need not be jewelry. That's not going to be right for everyone. Again, consider the style of your friend, and seek to accent it — not change it. I can assure you that there's no end of people who would like to do that, whether we wish it or not.

Likewise, you can do what you can to aid in one's environment. Provide items of use to your friends, or things they could use to make their world a little bit better. Again, for some this might be something worn, but it could be something for the place they lay their head at night or what have you. Share a little something that will make a hard life just a bit easier this holiday season — and points for flair: consider a gift that will not only be useful or practical, but will also add a touch of beauty or style.

Oh, and let's not forget that there are countless people on sites like Etsy who may be able to provide something at least a bit unique and special, and who may, themselves, be a struggling trans artisan. You can elate those you care about while elevating an artist in need.

With that in mind, I also note that I am a big fan of music of practically any genre. If you know your friend's taste, consider something along similar lines. I'd say the same about books, and add that in both cases, there are any number of really excellent trans musicians and authors who would be worth considering.

I don't feel like naming too many specifics here, though I will note that I recently finished reading S. Bear Bergman's "Special Topics in Being a Human" and would recommend it to darned near anyone.

Rather than just my recommendations, however, I would suggest that asking to know more about your friend's musical or literary tastes might be, itself, a gift. Your time and attention has value, too.

Let's talk about that a bit more, though. Yes, this is harder in the times of COVID-19, where going out somewhere public can be all that more extra of a production, but consider ways you can make yourself available to your trans friends during the holiday season. Arrange some time to hang out, spend some time virtually, do what you can to provide a little of your time, which may be one of the more precious gifts you can provide.

As I alluded to before, many trans and nonbinary people may not have a family to go home to for the holidays. For a lot of us, the holidays are just a particularly lonely day as one's few friends themselves become scarce, participating in the rituals of the season that many trans folks have been locked out of.

It is a harsh reality that for many of us, a warm meal, a friendly smile, and even being asked just how we are can be more valuable than the stereotypical sedan wrapped in a comically oversized bow. Even the smallest gestures may mean the world to us — all the more given the rest of the world may have turned against us.

For myself, that small pendant I received one year was worth more than I could ever imagine, and not because of any price tag.

It showed it was I that had worth in this world, and that matters.

Gwen Smith just wants to know she helped others this holiday season. You'll find her at www.gwensmith.com

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