So much of the 1990s were consumed with me thinking about lying and truth in the cause of transgender.
I’ll admit, some of the outcome was useful. That’s the thing about my particular brand of introspective therapy. It takes for bloody ever, it’s draining and excruciatingly slow, with me following my path of slow thinking and fast performance, but it leaves a useful residue of considered thought in writing.
But that struggle has been on hold for a decade of vitality and health, so much of which is gone now, as I did my duty towards my parents.
Now, when I come back to the struggle, I find that the big block for me was the issue of pretense.
Back when I was about 25, in the 1970s, and I was doing a daily TV show, I had a relationship with a dancer. It was intense and potent, and very lesbian; her next lover, and they are still together, I think, was a butch woman.
She pushed me to catharsis one night, the night I realized how much I was surrogate spoused by my mother. I recently saw Jo Frost on episode 4 of Family S.O.S. help a teenage boy who was being erased by his father and having his mother transfer the demands that her husband wasn’t satisfying onto him. I felt for that kid, just like the scapegoated boy Phil McGraw helped on Oprah because I knew that experience.
My parents didn’t believe much in dreams, in possibilities, in fake it ’till you make it. They were balloon bursters, my mother deliberately, with her failure cycle, and my father causally with his enabling and aspergers.
Performances had to be very flat and non-challenging around them. I somehow wonder how I got the ability to improv and get buckets of laughs in my 8th grade musical and my 9th grade play, but I lost that live performance drive soon after that until I had to stand in the front of a seminar room. My TV shows were compelling, but earnest, that magnetism I had scaring me down to dull. Lost to duty, again.
And that was all wrapped in my fear of pretense.
I didn’t want to be caught pretending to be someone I am not.
The problem is, though, that I still don’t really know who I am, or at least know who I can be. Maybe my dreams really do mean I can write amazing stories, maybe I really can be seen as beautiful.
To have to be who others think you are is such a horrible waste of potential.
But if you can’t imagine more, can’t try on a character that doesn’t exactly fit and see if you can grow into that, where is the possibility of magic?
You are who you pretend to be, so be very careful who you pretend to be, says Vonnegut. Wouldn’t it be great if we encouraged each other to pretend big and beautiful, rather than smashing each others dreams?
Do we really have a duty to fit into the boxes that others have created for us? Is truth being required to squeeze into the shape of who our parents and teachers and peers tell us we are?
Everyone around us has their own agenda, their own fears. They try to shape and control the world around them to get what they want, what doesn’t scare them. Is our duty to do what they expect, to do what calms their fears?
Ask TBB about how the fears of her peers came out when she announced her transition, how they told her she would fail, but how her knowledge that happiness was possible even if passing wasn’t kept her afloat and growing.
I need a new life. And that life has to be untethered from past duty. That duty will always be part of my life, of course, but it can’t define my future.
Moving past my fear of pretension, my habit of letting humility and clarity force me to play small, seems vital to moving beyond what I had to be to what I can be.
After all, every gal is entitled to her share of drama and glamour, right? A bit of performance and pretense, beyond the mundane? Maybe there is even still time for me. Maybe.
Possibility only exists in places where room is left for dreams, in places where all the imagination isn’t squeezed out in service of fear and the status quo.
Possibility only exists when we don’t completely sacrifice ourselves to duty. When we serve our own dreams, we have more to give to others. Your success is a gift to the world.
Is transformation beyond history and biology possible?
If it is possible, it can only be because we dream beyond expectations and make those dreams a reality in this world.
If it isn’t possible, then why I am still hanging around?
Is every gal is entitled to her share of drama and glamour?