“Do you want to be scary bright?” the bereavement counsellor asked.
Apparently, she doesn’t remember me telling her about my eulogy for my father. I told the story of how, in fifth grade, when the teacher had the class vote against my understanding of a scientific principle, but I held my ground, turning out to be correct. I am my father’s child.
I never wanted to be one of the gang. I never had the chops to be one of the gang. Assimilation isn’t my forte, though adaptation, consideration and empathy I’m good at. There was joke I liked as a kid: “I’d like to go to an orgy, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t know what to say.” What comes naturally to me isn’t passion and herd behaviour, it’s thoughtful consideration. I don’t think like everyone else, though I can figure out how they think if I take a moment.
But do I want to be different? I have told the story of a therapist who offered me a lobotomy for the same HMO visit fee as his session. It was a joke, a way to ask me if I would trade being smart and seeing the world in my own way for being a normie. Of course, that wasn’t a trade I could make, wasn’t a trade I would want to make.
In my What You Need To Know, number four is The most difficult thing about trans is negotiating others fears. Of course, in my experience, my being queer, my being smart, my being sensitive, my being an iconoclast and everything else are all wrapped up together. I know that people often find me scary, a phobogenic object, and they blame me for their fears. Are they being transphobic, anti-intellectual, threatened or something else? Or am I just an asshole?
All I know is that I work hard to be gracious and considerate, but that when they feel uncomfortable, people have no problem demanding I be even less, no matter how much I have scaled it back already.
Reminds me of the famous “Nelson Mandela” quote:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”, Ch. 7, Section 3 (1992)
My playing small does not serve the world. But my playing big often feels too big to others.
I did the ACIM work, and I wrote an affirmation that I used as a startup quote on my phone:
Your success is a gift to the world.
This is something lost in some support groups I have experienced, where the speed of the group is tied to the most abject members. “How can you brag about your successes while they are suffering?” It’s not just our suffering we share, it is also ur success, and if there is no room for success, there is no room for healing. Success isn’t just self-aggrandizement, it is a gift to the world.
I’m not trying to be scary bright. I’m just being myself, the child of my parents, the child of my God, but, in my experience, many people find who I am too damn big. a “Too Person” — too big, too bright, too queer, too insightful, too challenging, too off-putting, too intense, too overwhelming.
But I have learned to play small.
As my father said on his deathbed, over and over, “You speak for me. You speak for your mother. When are you going to speak for you?”
I know who I am. And I know that many people have found it scary bright, just too much for them.
But if I can’t speak for myself now, when will I ever be able to?