One evening late in June, on the spur of the moment, I decided to join the Trans March, which, like much else, can be found a block from where I live. I consulted the FAQ first, which said that anyone can participate, that friends and supporters are welcome. I remember how touching it was to see a ragtag bunch of about 150 people go by just two or three years ago (or 10 or 20, but I think it was just two or three), and was impressed at how large the group was this year. It filled two lanes of Dolores St. for maybe four blocks.
I appreciated that, if nothing else, BMWs were prevented from driving up and down the street for 30 minutes or so, and of course it’s always fun to walk where normally only cars are permitted. It was also nice to be with so many people who don’t look exactly like everyone else. We passed a number of condo developments for the wealthy—it’s impossible to go anywhere these days without doing that—but with very few people on their balconies or looking out their windows. I did see three men on a balcony who appeared to be straight; possibly they were smirking, or not. But if they were, that’s OK. Here, unmistakably and in the flesh, were a whole bunch of transgender people and their supporters (some naked). I thought about the trans woman beaten so badly her face was basically removed, sorry she couldn’t be with us, or anywhere, ever again.
At times, various chants sprang up, one of which included the line “F*ck the cops.” While I have no doubt many transgender (and gay) people have been beaten and abused by police officers, all the ones in sight that evening were there to protect the marchers, so that seemed rather ungracious. I’m sure the officers don’t care that much—they hear it all the time, and they are probably collecting overtime, but it also can’t feel great to hear yourself spoken of that way, so when I broke away from the march, near Market and Powell, I thanked the nearest couple of officers for keeping the marchers safe. One responded with a pleasant smile and a few words; the other ignored me.
On a sunny late afternoon weekend walk, I got to thinking about the Dalai Lama, who has famously said his religion is kindness. I have read he tries to treat everyone he encounters as if that person is an old friend of his. I have also read he gets up very early to meditate, possibly for hours, bolstering his intention to be kind that day. He must do some form of metta, or lovingkindness, practice.
I pondered what it would be like to feel that everyone I saw was my old friend. What if I felt toward each person as the Dalai Lama would? Is there anything really stopping me (other than not doing two hours of metta practice every morning)? I tried on the idea of piggybacking on the Dalai Lama’s two hours of metta practice each morning, whose benefits I am sure he would be happy to share. What if all that metta practice gives him the ability to be kind to every single person he meets, and also me?
But then, just as I was channeling the Dalai Lama, feeling kindly toward everyone I saw, someone did something irritating, I forget what. At that moment, feeling kindly would have meant applying will power to push away what I actually felt, which doesn’t seem wise, so then I turned my attention to my physical experience, dropping any words to describe what had happened or what should have happened, just asking myself, “What does this feel like?”, and after noticing that for a few seconds, “What name would I give this feeling?”
The latter question frequently has a surprising answer: I think I’m angry, but quite often discover the feeling is actually sorrow, or sometimes fear. It’s also surprising how quickly the experience is over and forgotten when approached this way. So I think we’re closing in on a method here: be kind when possible, and when not, notice what’s happening.