Wednesday, December 21, 2016

2016 People Of The Year: Part 1 - Bayley & Sgt. Hawkins

2016 was a horrible year for many different people for many different reasons. We had to say goodbye to some of our most important cultural icons, while this has been difficult it is nowhere near as tragic as the children who are being killed in Aleppo. They are not getting tributes and magazine covers and it just continues. Unfortunately, the suffering of children is not limited to Syria.

There have been personal challenges in my life, though nothing to the degree of a great tragedy. The blessings in my life continue to persevere though sometimes it has been hard to keep them in perspective.

I am mostly through the mourning process of the election, but like the loss of a loved one, the dull ache exists. This man has done nothing to bring me hope and comfort and his actions continue to alienate those who did not support him and his own supporters who believed his lies.

There is hope.

We can’t look to that office anymore for that hope, but it’s there. While so much in the past year was dark, there were many examples of people doing what they could in small and big ways to fight the negativity, fight the cynicism and fight the hate. To wrap up the year, I’m going to write about these people.  These are people and their organizations who in different ways made the world a better place. They got me through the tough times this year and I will continue to look to them to bring us the hope we need to get through the hard times on the horizon.  I listed them as a top 10, the ranking isn't all that important, but it makes it more fun.  

10. Bayley 
The happiest moment I had this year experiencing any kind of entertainment was Bayley’s surprise appearance at WWE’s Battleground PPV in July (yup, we’re talking about professional wrestling here).

I was kind of like this:

(I don’t have the clip of her entrance, but her official Raw debut captures the similar feeling)

Let me back up for a second. One of the only facets of my life I have not written about on this blog is my love of professional wrestling.  The main reasons I got hooked back in after not actively watching professional wrestling for the past five years was Bayley. WWE’s has a show called NXT which is kind of like their minor league. For the past couple years there’s been a group of women on this who who have revolutionized the industry.

When I first started watching wrestling in the early 2000s the woman who wrestled were mostly there for eye-candy. Some of them were as skilled wrestlers as the male wrestlers, but most were not. Woman’s matches were the time that you would get up and get a snack.

These women in NXT changes that. They were called the “Four Horsewomen,” a throwback to one of professional wrestling's greatest staples. Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Sasha Bank and Bayley made NXT a must watch program with specials that rivaled in excitement to WWE’s PPVs. Each one of these women got called up to the main roster except for Bayley.  So when she showed up at Battleground teasing her eventually call-up to main roster. It felt amazing.

Bayley like the other “Horsewomen,” were as good if not better than many of the other male competitors. They broke new ground throughout 2016 and continued to break down stereotypes around woman wrestlers and woman wrestling. While I respect and enjoy watching the other women, there’s something special about Bayley.

Bayley is kind, optimistic and works hard. She doesn’t give up, and she cares about her fans. She redefines what it means to be a woman in the wrestling industry. Bayley’s proved that you can have a sideways ponytail, dress like a 5th grader, enjoy hugging fans and still kick butt.

I was so overwhelmed with happiness when she entered at Battleground because it validated Bayley’s kindness and hard work. It also validated the goodness in all of us, and was a reminder that if you believe there ain’t no stopping us . . .

It's everything that is in this video and so much more.

9. Sgt. Jessica Hawkins
There have always been boogeymen in our society even before America was a country. These are people who threaten our woman and children who therefore must be controlled, converted, prosecuted and discriminated against.

First it was the Native Americans, then African American Men. Other racial minorities got a turn too. Then there were the homosexuals.  Now that reasonable people in our society have established that homosexuality does not equal pedophilia, the worst amongst have moved on and are now discriminating against people who are transgender.

Sgt. Jessica Hawkins is one of those people.

I heard this news story on NPR on the way to school. I was so effected by what I heard, I pulled over and started taking notes on my phone about what I was hearing.

This story includes Sgt. Hawkins struggle to accept her own need to identify as a woman, losing her wife in the process. While she struggled in many aspects of her life, the one place she found support was with her fellow police officers. She faces harassment from people that she meets walking the street as a police officer, but she believes that this has helped her better serve as an officer. Her experiences have given her more empathy and now she heads a LGBT Liaison Unit to address issues in the LGBT community.

Sgt. Hawkins' fellow police officers looked past prejudice and stereotypes and embraced her identity with pride and support. I don’t think they care what bathroom she uses, so why should we?

When the insecure, and the power-hungry bigots go after the boogeymen; they shine a light on them. Brave people like Sgt. Hawkins come out of the shadows and share their stories in response. People protest, the courts rule against discrimination and we grow as a country, more accepting of plurality and more compassionate for those others would have us fear. It’s a painful cycle, but we always come out the other end with more love in our hearts.

If Sgt. Hawkins is brave enough to walk down the street with her long hair in uniform, then the rest of us can find that courage to be proud of the things that we like about ourselves that don’t fit societies’ expectations.

Sometimes the most heroic thing you can do is to be yourself, fully and openly.   Sgt. Hawkins is doing this every day, she has made her struggle mean something and through her courage, she is making the world a better place by being herself

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