It’s time to pack myself away again.
My parents come back tomorrow, and I need to be back in boxes, back ready to make them comfortable.
This weekend wasn’t exactly a festival of freedom. My sister’s friend passed after a long illness, and I had to attend the wake & funeral, make a potluck dish and help polish my sister’s eulogy. I looked for something energetic, but even after dressing powerfully, I skipped the Saratoga-UU coffeehouse & the option to show the tranny flag at Schenectady-UU. Skipped the Capital Pride Singers concert (I hate choral music), skipped the drag show at Phoenix (the joint where the guy escorted me with well,)
But some was good. Skian gets some of what I am saying, though he is busy and has his own schedule.
This morning, though, there was an 8:00 AM phone call from my brother’s cell. He wanted to talk to parents and got me, but he needed to settle down a bit, so we chatted. A foster child they have had for two years is moving to an adoptive family this week. It’s the right choice, but it’s hard to let go of someone to whom you have given so much, and he needed to talk.
The discussion was about family, about helping kids find their center and their power. We spoke of the daughter who is now a freshman at RPI, how she is finding her center, how the son in high school is mastering AutoCAD and computers, how the oldest girl is taking her place as a caretaker, in early childhood education and with her boyfriend’s family. We spoke of the child who is leaving, and another older foster child who is now in residential care and is having real trouble finding his center and his power.
My brother got the connection, that it was when the young child began to trust his center that his life began to came together and how the older child has no center, nothing he wants enough, nothing he has enough faith in getting to sacrifice instant comfort & gratification for risk & hard work. In his three children’s lives, my brother sees how that center, that desire, that belief provides the motivation for struggle and, in turn, for success.
After the call, I thought about the words I had said, wondered what it meant to me.
And, of course, I realized that, as usual, the advice I give is the advice I need to hear. My center is broken, because I can’t believe in it if I also have to be ashamed of it.
I watched the documentary “Fish Can’t Fly” on Wednesday at Schenectady UU (which is when they asked me to come and fly the flag.) There were two parts that touched me. One was the narratives of feeling the urge to end your life, though I don’t think many others, including the mother of the woman who did kill herself, got it.
The other part was a comment from a second-generation Pentecostal minister who spoke about how his father embraced his queerness. “Before you were born, God knew your name, knew who you are,” his father said.
That makes me cry. I believe that God knows who I am, that she made me this way, that I am perfect in her eyes. But I also know that shit look from the woman in the mini-mart may well have been because she sees me as a big fat freak, a guy masquerading in a dress.
I know I can’t get affirmation from everyone. I know that there will always be resistance, and I know that I never know what people are really thinking. I know that with time and persistence on my part, some people will get beyond their initial fear, shown through dismissal & disgust, and begin to see the grace in me, the truth that “in cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.”
But I know that even though I keep the scraps of affirmation I get around, tucked away in the bag of old writings, to sew them together into a coat I can be proud to wear seems impossible. It’s so easy to be shredded and dismissed, so hard to find people who are actually able to affirm what I put out, affirm what they fear. Even Sabrina fears.
“All the lonely trannies, where do they all belong?” This rephrasing of “Eleanor Rigby” often plays in my mind when I walk out there, wondering where an affirmative home for us is. I know that the simple retort is that if I think such is needed, why don’t I make it? After all, Sabrina is making a home in Trinidad for neo-transsexuals.
Me, though, well my pillar is cracked. That core of possibility and desire that lifts people to slog though and do the hard work, well, the only way I have found to put it away in a plastic bin under the back porch is to smash it into little pieces that can be dumped into a bucket.
My brother knows that kids without such a column, strong and supported, appreciated and affirmed, well those are kids without a center and kids with problems. He knows that the most important thing he can do for his kids is to embrace their possibilities and help them learn to make their own pillar stronger and taller, prominent and potent, so that it can give them the brace they need to build a life around.
My God may have known me before I was born, but it was soon after that the world wanted to convince me that knowledge was wrong and sick, depraved and misbegotten, broken and bastardized. I learned to live under bucket, and when people needed me to stand strong, they meant stand strong in a nice little way.
But today, I pack myself away again. And finding the ability to quickly assemble my pillar from the rubble, stand strong for an event, and then hide it away again, well, that seems too much. The one thing there is no middle ground on is that identity at your core — you can’t be simultaneously proud and ashamed of it, and sequentially building it & destroying it, well, that’s just a syphian task, designed to destroy people. Designed to destroy me, to be specific.
I took my time and I looked for my support. People liked some theology, I could walk through a business expo without being boooed, be out there and OK. But as for feeling like I was being seen, being supported, being connected, well, the limits are the limits. I work hard to bolster the pillars of others, but mine, well, too many years of crushing it has left it crushed.
Before I was born, she knew my name, and she knew me to be her child. After that is when it got difficult. That’s when I needed to cry and feel safe with someone who knew my name, or who at least knew God well enough to trust me, well. . .
It’s a lonely life. And my pillar is in a plastic tub under the porch.