“Authenticity,” TBB says. “That’s the key. People can tell when you are authentic.”
Can they? Over 40% of Americans think that Olive Garden is a “quality source of authentic ethnic food.” No Italians were polled.
I recently responded to a post on Natalie’s blog about coming out. For her, the breakthrough was being full-time, almost two years now. For me, though, I said, the breakthrough was when I forced myself to stop lying. And the first person who I had to tell the truth to, was, of course, myself. That was really, really hard after years of both deliberate and cultural blindness, much of it simply the result of not having shared language to express what I needed to express. I think that over the years I have done a tiny, tiny bit to offer that language so that transpeople today are less silenced, and for that I am humbled.
It’s my sense that people have limits in understanding authenticity, the limits of the conventions they hold, but they sure as hell can smell discomfort and deceit. They have a sense when something or someone is hinkey, is trying to create a false impression.
Olive Garden doesn’t try to lie about what they are, they are an Italian-American joint, inspired by Italy, sure, but constructed purely for American palates and American expectations. Is that authentic, ethnic? Sure, if the ethnic people you know are third or fourth generation Italian-Americans whose mom used Ragu on the pasta.
The truth? You can’t handle the truth. Or at least, the odds are, you don’t really want to handle the truth, especially where the truth challenges your beliefs. You have enough challenges in your world that you really don’t want or need the challenge of other people’s truth shoved in your face. Truth is complex, messy, contradictory, ambiguous, difficult. Those blind men all knew the truth of the elephant, but that didn’t mean they agreed.
But lies? Those you don’t want.
One of my oldest statements is “Transgender feels like the choice between lying about your soul and carrying that burden or telling the truth about who you are and being told that your body says you are a liar. Tell the truth and be called a liar, lie and be accepted as true.”
The world often puts us in situations where people want us to lie to them or be stigmatized, but if that lie is discovered, we are blamed for it. It’s like “straight men” who date transwomen getting angry at their partner if she is read, because it reveals something about them they want to keep silent. Lie to me, baby, lie to me. Tell me what I want to hear to keep my own illusions fed, and know that you are to blame if my illusions ever crack.
Ms. Rachelle has said that she felt an obligation to be judicious with her feelings after transition, especially to her family. She knew that if she showed any ambivalence or disappointment or struggle, they would push against the choices she knew she had to make. The whole truth would just show cracks they would pick at, and that she couldn’t have.
I’m looking at an event this weekend that is designed to be taxing, and I have to figure out what truths I tell there. I know I won’t lie, but will offering complex and queer truths mean I get more connection or does it mean I generate more noise and struggle?
Authenticity, I guess is the key. The question is if I can fake that enough to come across as truthful.
Do I have the footwork anymore?