ColumnsUnapologetically Trans

My COVID-19 Birthday

‘Aunt Monica’ has more to smile about than to be upset about on her special day.

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Today is my birthday. I was supposed to be celebrating this 58th anniversary of my May 4 birth on the other end of I-45 in Dallas at the Black Trans Advocacy Conference with friends and allies from around the country.

But instead, I’m alone in my apartment blowing out candles and cutting a sheet cake from the Kroger down the street from my place. I was eagerly looking forward to attending the 2020 edition of the Black Trans Advocacy Conference, but it was forced to cancel because of this pandemic.

This year’s week-long BTAC was scheduled to start on May 5, the day after my birthday. I treat BTAC like a vacation week, and I usually like to get to Dallas the day before it starts.

But that’s not happening this year, and two other events I’m scheduled to attend may suffer the same fate. One is the joint NABJ-NAHJ Unity media convention in Washington, DC, this July, and the other is my 40th high-school reunion in October.

So while I’m bah-humbugging on this COVID-spiked birthday, I also bear in mind I’m not the only person in the Lone Star State and in America right now who has had their birthdays and other events ruined by the grossly mishandled response to the Trump Virus.

I’m already feeling sorry for the Class of 2020, who lost the rest of their senior year. They are facing having no proms, no Senior Week, no Senior Skip Day, and no commencements to celebrate their milestone achievement of graduating from high school.

It is even more painful for those 2020 high-school seniors who play spring sports like baseball, soccer, and track. They had their seasons canceled before they could even get them started.

This birthday will be memorable for the unexpected reason that it happened in the middle of a pandemic. I’ll just take my being pissed off about it into the voting booth with me this November.   

But instead of griping, let me start counting my blessings. I made it for another year on this space rock. I’m healthy, so far COVID-19 clear, and doing my part to stay that way. I have the blessing of being able to express myself in this OutSmart column, on my TransGriot blog, and on a Twitter feed with over 20,000 followers. I have the respect of my peers inside and outside of the trans community.

I have the ability to pick up the phone and call my mom when the mood hits me—or when I let 72 hours pass and she beats me to it by calling me.

And most importantly to me, I have trans kids across the nation that refer to me as their Aunt Monica, along with my two blood family nieces.

So when I do the actual hard, solid thinking about it, I have more to smile about than to be upset about on my special day. Do I miss my BTAC fam? Yes, I do. But I know the cancellation was done so we can all get to see each other in Dallas in 2021 at our new host hotel.

So while COVID-19 may have ruined this birthday, it just makes me more determined that I will have something great to celebrate when it comes back around in 365 days.

This article appears in the May 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Monica Roberts

Monica Roberts, a native Houstonian, is the founding editor of the GLAAD award-winning blog TransGriot. Her ongoing mission is to educate people on the lives of transgender people and fight for everyone’s human rights.

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