Translebrities and Inspirations
Ever since Caitlyn Jenner came out as a transwoman in her interview with Diane Sawyer on ABC, the discourse around and about transgender people and issues has become more prevalent and widespread. What it means to be transgender was, for many viewers, transformed during the course of the interview. As I overheard at a hair salon, “My husband sat down to watch the interview with me thinking it was a hoax to get more money and viewership. By the end of the interview he was tearing up, filled with compassion for Caitlyn and impressed with her bravery.” The rapidly growing support of the transgender community was evident during the transgender march at Portland Pride this past weekend. I heard one person exclaim, “There must be a thousand people here!”
At the march I spotted Aydian Dowling, the chiseled transman currently in first place (by about 50,000 votes!) for Men’s Health Magazine’s ultimate man search. I look up to Aydian’s health oriented and pride filled approach to his transgender identity. His social media presence is characterized by gratitude and positivity. He serves as a role model not only because of his approach to health, but also because of his attitude towards life. I met him, and after stuttering and blushing my way through an introduction, we took a picture (I will probably frame it) and I think I told him he was awesome.
Over the years, I have had various celebrity and/or celebrity-like individuals that infused me with various flavors of inspiration. As a kid and aspiring little league catcher, I looked up to Jason Varitek; trying with every practice to play just like him. In middle school it was Adam Neiman, a virtuoso classical pianist with whom I had the great fortune of participating in a master class with. Each time I practiced octaves I thought of his strong, long hands and strove to command the keys as he did. Bill Evans, the late jazz pianist who recorded (now classics) such as Someday my Prince will Come, Spartacus Love Theme, and Bemsha Swing in the first solo album in which the musician layered lines over themselves, “Conversations with Myself” served as my link into the world of jazz. I never met most (if not any, save Mr. Neiman) of my inspirations, yet they still had the power to hold me another hour at the piano or an extra inning of practice behind the plate.
My untouchable mentors allowed me to conceptualize where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. Aydian Dowling serves much the same purpose, but with an added emphasis, compared to the others I’ve looked up to, on character growth (versus skill growth). Meeting Aydian made me realize the importance of inspiration, whether you are looking for it or a cause for it. Find inspirations and let them know what they mean to you. Recognize your own power to inspire others (wield it responsibly). Chances are you already have.