March 31, 2018
I’ve heard in documentaries and read in several places an account of an African greeting. Sometimes it’s attributed to the Zulu, other times not. The greeting is “Sawubona” which according to Google Translate means “hello”. The articles I’ve read say that it literally translates to “I see you.” And the response that is given is “Sikhona,” translated in English to “I am here.” Which, I’ve read, literally means “Until you see me I do not exist.” I don’t speak any African languages and I can’t verify the truth to these phrases and or their purported meanings. But if you just think about it, “I see you.” To be seen. To be acknowledged to exist. We walk past people every day that we do not know so we choose to not see them. We may see their shoes, or the backs of their heads, but we actively do not “see” them. It’s the same when we drive. They are “them.” They are not Bill, or Rose, or someone that we consider a person. “They”…..”It” is just an obstacle. But you know what? There are people in those people!
When I was performing at an outdoor environmental theater I portrayed any number of characters. And each character was non-threatening, like-able, and approachable. The fact that I was in a costume also meant that I was the rock star, part of the show. It meant that this was a safe place to talk to strangers. It’s sad really that it required a specific “place” where you were “allowed” to not only engage people but where they felt safe to be engaged. Somewhere along the lines it became dangerous for us to interact with anyone we saw on a daily basis. And what is the result? Violence? Ostracism? Our inability to see someone? To see someone with an opposing point of view and still recognize them as a human. Our inability to see a homeless person as a life. Someone who is a child, father, sister…..
“I see you”
“Until you see me I do not exist.”
Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility. It didn’t mean much to me until I identified as transgender. To me it didn’t exist because I didn’t see it. Today “I see you.” I see everyone that is struggling on their journey. I see those that are achieving their goals. I see everyone who is afraid to take the first step. I see those that are taking up the cause to make this world safer for those of us afraid to take that step. And I see those that gave so much so that we can be seen.
Today I see you. Today you exist.