What does hope mean (and not mean) to us?

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In our collective psyche, hope is often revered as a beacon of optimism in an uncertain world, a lifeline we’re encouraged to grasp, even in the darkest times. From a tender age, we’re taught to “be hopeful,” “never give up hope,” and that “there is always room for hope.” Society nudges us always to unearth this jewel called hope amidst the most intimidating adversities, painting it as the silver lining in every dark cloud.

As a therapist, I have held space for hundreds of transgender, nonbinary, and gender-diverse individuals. Their stories spun from the threads of their unique experiences, have painted for me a vibrant, multi-hued tapestry of human resilience and resistance. Amidst their narratives, I’ve discovered that hope takes on a different, deeper texture. It’s less about the promise of a brighter tomorrow and more about recognizing the intrinsic value of our journey today, regardless of its outcome.

“Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.” — Vaclav Havel

But how does one cling to hope when facing the relentless winds of oppression? Hope might seem unaffordable when one’s existence is contested, invalidated, and legislated against. Yet, in this crucible of struggle, the nature of hope morphs from a passive aspiration into a form of active resistance—a commitment to existing, to resist, to persist in a world that might prefer otherwise.

And still hear whispers echoing, “It doesn’t get better. For many of us, it’s getting worse.” It’s a chilling sentiment, challenging our conventional understanding of hope. It’s an invitation not to discard hope but to revisit its meaning—to unearth its deeper, often overlooked essence.

The playwright and statesman Vaclav Havel once observed that hope is not a blind conviction that things will turn out well but an “orientation of the heart”—an assurance that our struggles, journeys, and efforts carry an inherent meaning, independent of their outcomes. This is the hope that becomes a lifeline amidst adversity—the hope that carries us forward, not with the promise of a brighter future but with the affirmation of our struggles today.

It’s a sentiment mirrored beautifully in Maya Angelou’s words, “You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefulness, But still, like air, I’ll rise.” It’s not the promise of a better day but a firm commitment to rise above adversities and persist in a world that insists otherwise.

Nelson Mandela’s words resonate here, too: “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” This reflects the transformative potential of hope—a hope not pinned to a better tomorrow but anchored in the resilience of our spirit today.

In the face of unending struggles and uncertainties, hope is the quiet, unwavering affirmation of our existence, resilience, and resistance. It doesn’t deny our pain nor paint an illusion of a painless future. Instead, it stands as a testament to our strength and capacity to find meaning in our journey, however rocky or winding. It reminds us that we are more than our struggles, more than our pain, more than our circumstances. In that realization, in that affirmation, lies the true power of hope.

Disclaimer: This blog shares general information only, not professional advice or recommendations. Consult healthcare providers for personal guidance. Decisions based on content are the reader's responsibility. Thank you.

Clayre runs a group practice of three queer and trans therapists, including youth therapist Audrey Wolfe, RCC, LGBT therapist Camber Giberson, RCC, CCC, and gender-affirming therapist Clayre Sessoms, RP, RCT, RCC, CCC, ATR-P. Work with us: book a session.