My mother asked my sister if I shaved off the beard.
She couldn’t ask me. It’s not something she knows how to talk about with me, nor I with her.
In the exercise for the Life Coach workshop, I knew that I had to make sure I didn’t overwhelm my exercise partner with “too much information,” as the kids say. She didn’t then ask about any details, and, of course, I will never know if that’s because she was trying to be gracious, because she didn’t think to ask, or because she just didn’t want to know, either because of simple disinterest or cloaked disgust.
The quote from a Brit who employs a transitioning transwoman often comes to mind. “I know that her gender issues must be terribly important to her, but to me they are terrifically uninteresting. I hire her for other reasons.”
My experience teaches me to shut my mouth about my own gender crossing and related issues. Beyond the normal social graces, it doesn’t feel proper to talk about issues that might make others uncomfortable, and it doesn’t feel safe to speak about those things.
The problem is that silence leaves me isolated and separate in my own experience, which can’t be shared, which can’t be seen as shared, unless it is surfaced.
I know the classic “liberal” response to gays: “Well, I don’t care what they do in the privacy of their bedroom, as long as I — and my children — don’t have to hear about it.” Of course, this asks those who deviate from the norm to take responsibility for the comfort of others by making their diversity invisible in the world. It demands self-policing of the boundaries of propriety, and that always means those under the gun will mostly err on the side of self-denial.
But I also know that the demand for silence has a cost, especially when enforced by threat, making people feel unsafe to speak. When ideas and lives are marginalized, they are also moved beyond the pale, where there is no social balance or control. The Oprah was stunned by the lesson she took from Hurricane Katrina, the lesson that there is povery in the US, poverty that is easy to find if you just look. What an asshole! After spending a mint building a life not looking, a beautiful and elegant and isolated life, how can she be surprised that poverty still exists? Shouldn’t she be more surprised by the dint of her own determined ignorance, where she ignored the marginalized until their lives became horribly visible in a national catastrophe, and she chose to be shocked, shocked?
I know how to shut my mouth. I know why that is a polite and tasteful choice.
But I also know that until I I have the ability to speak and be heard, I am lost, my loneliness insured.
Blieving that people just don’t want to hear it, that they won’t understand, that I am “too hip for the room” and my words will just sound queer, well, that doesn’t affirm and empower me.