For the last decade, and especially the last eighteen months, my obligation has been simple: just do what needs to be done to make sure my parents were safe and comfortable.
The way I did that was simple. I just ate all the damage I took. Whatever emotion or stress or intensity had to be handled, I just did it, whatever the cost.
That was just an extension of my history, starting when I was a kid. I was the “stupid” one, the queer one out, and I was very clear that the expectation was for me to consume my own difference and be compliant. It was just the right thing to do to abuse me into compliance, to try and prune me back to be more normative, “for my own good,” of course.
To come out of a burning commitment to love and duty and into having to recover myself is to come into engagement with my own damage.
The choice I seem to have is to either rise above that damage once again, or to be destroyed by that damage.
I know, on some theoretical level, that is a false duality. Every human is damaged and every human rises above.
But I will tell you that split feels very, very real to me.
The choice between denying myself to serve others, keeping quiet to keep the comfort of others and of speaking the intensity, passion and intelligence of my own soul, possibly serving a higher purpose by singing the song my creator taught me feels like the difference between night and day, a huge duality, one or the other. But I know on some deep level that binaries aren’t really true, that it’s never one or the other, it is always all.
The central lesson of my journey is to remind people of our continuous common humanity, of the love that ties us together. But the central lesson of the world is about walls, about us vs them, about fear that separates, and when I scare people, even a little bit, with my “extreme” behaviour, well that often lets them build walls to separate themselves from me.
Forgive them, for they know not what they do. Their knee-jerk destruction is not about me, it’s about them. I know the right thing to do.
But I am human, and years of abuse, knowing or unknowing, nasty or well intentioned, has left damage. I may understand why people act out against me when I trigger their fear of the “extreme” but that doesn’t mean I haven’t ended up getting battered, being damaged.
You can suggest that if I had been in less denial, been more visibly out by transitioning earlier, living as a woman, that some pressure would have been relieved. But that’s only a hypothetical notion. It means my parents wouldn’t have gotten the care they did. And many women who transitioned have also found challenges to stay defended in the world. Nevertheless, while I wouldn’t ever tell anyone to do what I did, it is done. Done.
I need to move on. And that means finding a way to live somewhere between my damage and my strength, somewhere between my loss and my possibilities. I can’t just keep denying myself, because I don’t have the strength of will to keep that up. I can’t just surrender to my damage, because that will deny me the potential of life.
I know that my damage, my scars, are part of my character. It shapes me, for good or for bad. Like everything else, it is both a curse and a blessing, a weight and a gift that I need to learn to use. Grant me the strength to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.
Am I too damaged? Can I handle more damage? Is there a strategy that allows me to share my damage and also to move beyond it?
Damn if I know, at least tonight.