The way I understand the challenge I have had since I was very, very young is finding ways to be seen and understood by others.
They have been clear that I am different, baffling, weird, freakish, strange, odd, queer, baffling, overwhelming, intense, crazy, broken, sick, too this, too that, and just plain incomprensible. And I have been clear that even when they didn’t use these labels, they didn’t understand what the hell I was saying, didn’t know how to be there for me.
I knew how to be there for them, knew how to give them what they wanted. My sister, in sending me to Kripalu, wanted me to be reminded that others could value what I have to give. That was something I understood completely, that I could understand and assist others. What I didn’t believe is that others could understand and assist me, and Kripalu pounded that home again. I can give others what they want and need, but the reverse doesn’t seem to be true, and that just scrapes me raw and fragile.
My life has been a search for words and language to express clearly and precisely my experience of the world, my needs and my desires. It has been the only assumption I can make, that if I finally find the right story, the right tone, the right symbols, people will see me, know me, love me and be there for me.
It’s good that words and ideas I have polished have found their way into the language of trans, helping others find bits of their own voice, even if they didn’t know it came from me. Decades ago someone asked me what I wanted, and I told them I wanted to be quoted by others, the way I quote people who have said valuable and brilliant things.
But no matter how I struggle to find the right language, I still go unheard and unsupported, or so it feels.
“Wasn’t I explicit enough for you?” I often ask after someone realizes that I was correct in the first place. I scrape and claw and scrabble to find the right language, to be clear and understandable, and still people don’t hear, and I am frustrated by that. Am I not explicit or detailed or clear enough for you?
The problem, I know, is that most people don’t integrate what others say until it enters their own fixed mindset.
I was flying with a collegue to a client site, and we talked on the plane about what we knew. After the meeting he told me “I can’t believe what you did in there. I know what you knew before coming into the meeting, but you had heard what they said, assimilated it, integrated it, and were asking questions based on what you learned before I even really got the information on board. That was amazing.” He later told our boss that if he was in a fight, I was the person he wanted with him.
It’s not just facts, it is also symbol and metaphor that we have to get to understand the experience of another traveler, to see though their eyes. We have to be willing to enter their world, not just assume that their world is the same as ours. For me, that gift has always come easy, the shaman sight that connects me with the emotions and sight of others, which is, in my experience, a very femme thing.
I don’t know how to see the world any other way. To me, it’s just normal, just normative. But I do know that not everyone sees the world the way I see it.
That’s why I work very, very, very hard to be explicit enough to make my point of view, my experiences and my needs clear.
But if they can only be clear when they match and mirror what others already know, what they already assume, what they already hold, well, then I can never be clear enough, never be explicit enough.
And that means I can never be heard unless others are willing to enter my world and see through my eyes, an experience so disconcerting and transformative that most reject it out of hand. I’m different, baffling, weird, freakish, strange, odd, queer, baffling, overwhelming, intense, crazy, broken, sick, too this, too that, and just plain incomprensible, remember?
I’m great to be around if you want to heal, but if you want to stay immersed enough to stay connected to the grid, I seem to be a challenge that isn’t worth engaging. Better that I understand what real reality is, rather than others seeing the world the crazy way I see it.
Am I explicit enough to make my world clear? Maybe.
Is being explicit about my experience and my understanding going to get me what I need?
It seems very, very unlikely.