by Andrea Lena DiMaggio
Brooklyn Heights, King's County, New York, late August, 1776
Arthur clutched the pistol he had retrieved from his fallen sergeant. He trembled. Not a coward, since his mere presence in defense of the fort attested to his courage. He had opportunity to flee months ago, and even early on, when his Militia captain excused the men who needed to attend to home and family.
“Dear God? I don’t wish to argue,” the boy barely whispered.
“Can I….if there’s….” He looked around at his fallen comrades. Some… maybe most of his lads made it? The few who didn’t surrounded him like friends rejoicing at a party. He looked down at his body… the life slowly ebbing from him as surely as the spring sun melts the ice.
“I… I never did, God. But I surely would take a likin’ to heaven?” He began to weep, not over his impending end, but that his life… her life had never begun. The little girl who was beaten by her stern father. The young girl whose mother never understood? The young lady who fell in love with the boy lying now beside her? Arthur may have walked the earth, but Althea lay dying unchanged and unheard?
“I’m sorry I was such a disappointment to my Pa and Ma. I am sorry I was such a disappointment to you, dear God. Can you forgive me?” The girl within the boy wept softly even as her last life’s blood left her body…..
“Here you are. Let me help you,” the tall woman said as she lifted the frail figure to her feet.
“There’s someone who has been waiting for you,” the woman said as she held her arm out to direct the girl to a figure standing only a short distance away.
“Althea? I’m so very glad you’re here. There’s so much to see and so many dear souls to meet, but I fear I would have been completely lost, if you might pardon me. I wished only for your safety and happiness, but I am grateful that you’re here in spite of my prayers.” The young man smiled and drew the girl close.
“But Jacob? Can’t you see?” She spoke even as enlightenment was quickly replaced with wonder and joy.
“I am here, no in spite of your prayers, but because of them.”
“You… I suppose there should be no surprises in heaven, but you indeed are surprising.” Jacob looked at the young lady who had been a comrade in arms only perhaps minutes before.
“I do have only two messages to bring,” Jacob looked back at the angelic woman who nodded and smile. Althea breathed out in dread; the last time she would ever feel fear. Jacob smiled.
“The kind Lady who brought you here gave me the honor of speaking this as if from he who created you? Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
It would have been enough to merely here those words after a lifetime of shame and disappointment. To be the same as when Arthur left his mother’s womb would be almost acceptable. But even as that would have been acceptable to Arthur, it was that Althea was more than merely acceptable to God. A treasure. A priceless gem, as was Jacob and all others. But Jacob smiled almost as if he had a secret he could not contain. He drew Althea even closer and spoke.
“Althea? I love you. Welcome home.”
Transgender in 1776
At Lindley Fort? A few?
South Carolina? Scores?
The Colonies? Hundreds? Thousands?
Who can say? But even as far back as 1776 and beyond, for every Benjamin or Albert or Stephen, there also were children barely out of their ‘tweens who knew that they knew that they knew they weren’t James or Tom, but instead Lucy or Charlotte?
Not weak or soft, as so many had believed women to be but were not, these brave souls served in Ticonderoga and Long Island. Some were Rebels and some were Redcoats. Some even were Cherokee or Cree or Iroquois. Some came from France or Poland or Germany. Some fell on fertile soil or in streams and other places that once were safe.
But many more would live to help exchange one tyranny for another. Freedom from unfair taxes and tariffs and rule still led to slavery of convention and religion as James would never get to live as Antonia. Phillip would never see a day that included Cassandra. Alice would only breathe in darkened rooms and attics while Albert would tread softly out of a careful if unfairly assigned dread.
For every young lady who never got to live, be it by death of body or death of self. And those young men as well who fought in secret to protect discovery lest they be seen as weak women instead? For every longing to be real; hoped for and dreamed upon as some ‘reward’ for their sacrifice? Only to be left without hope?
We still find freedom dearly bought and unevenly distributed even today. For my sisters and brothers who labor in obscurity or walk cautiously in the light of day, I am eternally grateful. For every friend here who served or even now serves, I thank you all. May your hopes be realized and your lives be appreciated for all that you’ve done and continue to do!
July 4, 2018
Theme from the Motion Picture
Composed by John Williams
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