In Memoriam

We recently lost a mighty warrior. It might seem incongruent to use the words “love” and “warrior” in the same sentence, but anybody who ever met Stephanie Mott, even for the briefest of moments, knows that she was, indeed, a warrior for equality and social justice, and her single weapon was love.

Stephanie passed away unexpectedly at the age of 61 on March 4, 2019.

I met Stephanie when she came to speak in my “Intro to LGBTQ Studies” class in 2009. That was the first time the course had ever been taught at WSU, and the teacher did a superb job of curating important reading material, sharing relevant media, and connecting us with people (thank you, Dr. Ramona Liera-Schwichtenberg). As a social science major, my interest and my work necessarily included people.

Stephanie came into our classroom the same way she came into every room–with a smile. She shared with us a bit about her life, and how much it changed for the better once she was able to transition into the body that finally matched the person she’d always been. She described it as having to wear a costume for the first 40 years of her life; as not being seen for who she really was.

When you don’t feel seen for who you are, it’s difficult to make meaningful connections to the people around you. It’s often a lonely feeling, that seeming invisibility.

Historically, known members of the LGBTQ community have been persecuted, tortured, and killed. Those things are still happening in many countries around the world. In the US, trans women, especially trans women of color, are at increased risk of being murdered. To date, only 15 states have banned so-called conversion therapy.

As a human being, a mental health clinician, and a Christian, Stephanie knew it was important to do something to effect change and improve the world for people who identify as LGBTQ, as well as for members of other socially and politically marginalized groups.

But she didn’t just do one thing. She founded, directed, or participated in numerous organizations, both statewide and local, including the Kansas Statewide Transgender Education Project (K-STEP), which provides education and training to educators and community members across the state, and hosts an annual conference; Equality Kansas, which fights for legislative and political parity; the Capitol City Equality Center in Topeka; Beacon Youth Group; National Organization for Women; Topeka Human Relations Commission; Topeka Police Department Citizens Advisory Council; and Black Lives Matter.

I cannot begin to fathom how in the world she managed to do as much as she did. It is going to take all of us to continue the work of that sweet spirit.

It seems overwhelming, but one person doesn’t have to do it all. Each of us can do one thing. Each of us can teach someone else how to do that one thing, so that The Work will continue, even when we’re no longer able to do it ourselves.

Your One Thing doesn’t have to have anything to do with any of the things in the list of Stephanie’s Things. Find something that would make a positive difference in your corner of the world, and do it. The only thing I ask is, that like Stephanie, you do it with Love.

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