One thing Miz Ruby wants me to engage is the idea that I make other people feel like failures.
She suggests that my parents feel like failures because I didn’t build a life with money and family. My sister feels like a failure because she can’t get though to me on her terms. My partners feel like failures because they can’t drag me to their idea of normalcy.
Miz Ruby suggests that people who have tried to help me, and believe they have failed, see their own failure reflected whenever they look at me, and that makes it hard for them to really look at me.
Clearly, this has elements of truth. My sister gave my parents a book titled “When Our Grown Children Dissapoint Us” a book I felt should have been titled “When We Feel Dissapointed By Our Grown Children,” since the dissapointment is the parents feeling. Yet the authors know that people need to externalize feelings, and as long as the kids don’t meet our critera, it’s best to assign it as the kid’s fault.
Am I really a shining beacon of failure, an everlasting and intense flame of failure that no one can bear to look at for very long? And if I am, who is at fault: my parents and friends for not “launching” me properly, society for not providing space & support for people like me, or am I at fault for not doing what was required to simply be normative?
I feel badly that people see me and see failure, not just my failure but their own failure in helping me. It feels bad when people feel that failure and disengage, or worse, turn it back on me. I know that I am often blamed for my unwillingness to be helped into the light.
The drill is clear. If someone shows responsibility, we can give them compassion, but if someone seems to ask for compassion, we demand responsibility. Where is my responsibility for the failure others see in my lives, my own obligation and toughness to fit in, serve the machine, be one of the crowd, do my duty?
But who is responsible? I rarely blame others. It’s my responsibility to get it together, whatever that means. Maybe I didn’t compartmentalize enough, maybe I didn’t suck it up enough, maybe I didn’t deny enough. Heck, maybe I didn’t break free enough, trusting my nature over my family instructions.
I may know that I tried to do follow the rules, but I also know that my trying was never counted as enough. I always felt asked to do more, to come closer to the middle, to be less threatening, less challenging and less iconoclastic.
When people look at me and see failure, does that say more about my reality or their feelings? Is their disquite more about me or more about them? Am I responsible to not be challenging to others, reflecting the limits of their own sacrifices, the shallowness of their own success, the cost of their own alliegiance to the system?
I know that when others see me they see failure. That has been made very clear to me. And more than that, when they see me not striving to be a success on their terms, they see me as mocking what they did to be a success in other’s eyes.
But it is true that one of the questions I have been asking for over a decade is “What does a grown-up tranny look like?” Where is the space and the empowerment to both open my nature, bring out my best stuff and also be a good, on-the-grid member of society?
We each have our own responsibility to make our own life, but few have to carve out a unique space against stigma & marginalization. That’s not easy.
I know whose fault things are. It is always my fault. That has been made clear to me, time and time and time and time again. But this is always made clear to the stigmatized and marginalized. They fail, and that must illuminate some weakness in them, must prove that the assumptions — the prejudices — we have about them are true.
All this can be dismissed as rationalization, twisted thoughts off the beam, just a sign that I don’t get how to suck it up and be a good citizen. I am sure some will take it that way.
But when people look at me and see failure, does that help me in any way to find success?
I used to have scary dreams of Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Alva Edison walking through the house in the night. I remember what Edison said when asked about his lack of success with a lasting light bulb — “I have not failed. I have merely found a thousand ways that will not work.”
I know this to be true: If the context I live in is dealing with the stigma of being a failure in the eyes of others, rather than finding ways to expand my own unique successes, I will never be anything but a failure.
Do I need to more deeply engage how others see me as failure? Do I need to stop talking about my own pain & challenges so I am not reflecting the failure we all have to face in a society where success is defined as effectively serving the machine? Does the failure others see in me do anything but affirm the value of following the rules at whatever cost?
I’d love to find someplace where I can create success on terms that satisfy my community and myself.
But it feels to me like that ship has sailed.
I am sure that Miz Ruby, in bringing up the topic of how parents can see their own failures in the lives of their children, just wanted to encourage me to find success. Yet reminding me how people can easily see their own failures reflected wherever they look, reminds me of how hard it is to find people who can see the seeds of success beyond the normative rules.
I suspect that especially includes those who were reminded of those rules and their failure to achieve them though their lives. My mother failed my grandmother, and I failed my mother, and the gift of failure is handed down from generation to generation, and the one with the most blame is always the one at the end of the whip.