You’d have to be a fool not to learn from experience. And the deal with a human life is that everyday we trade enthusiasm and exuberance for experience. That may not be the deal you want, but better than trading life energy for nothing, right?
The problem is that when you have a lot of experience, you know what to expect from most situations. And your estimation of that expectation is going to get to be pretty accurate.
Add that to the diminishing energy and health that always comes with aging and you have a potent combination. You want to husband your resources, not risk them on a flyer that’s unlikely to pay off with a good return, and you have a good idea what won’t pay off for you.
The problem, though, is that you can never be in the right place at the right time if you don’t go anywhere at all.
TBB has been seeing this challenge with her trans friends. They are slowing down and pulling in. They don’t really want to take the risk again, don’t want to have to fight.
This is a particular problem for transwomen, because just to be out in the world for us is to have to push through stigma and resistance. There are few people who just get our experience, who we don’t have to educate about translife, few whose ignorance, fears and prejudices we don’t have to negotiate.
We know most people don’t get it, and worse, we know that no matter how much energy we put in, they are unlikely to get it. For example, the idea of going to a therapist just makes me weary, because I know how much backstory I would have to convey just to get them to a point where they can understand where I am coming from.
It’s far from a simple thing for transpeople to be out in the world. How can people desire to be around people like me if they never met anyone like me, never even imagined anyone like me?
We are unconventional, and when others our age are relying more and more on convention, that is exceptionally challenging. After all, others our age are tired and experienced too, often unready or unwilling to open to new ideas, new people, new possibilities.
At the same time, we are farther and farther from the experience of young people. They may want our support in their lives, but they have their own story to build and are not going to enter ours and understand our experience in a meaningful way.
In Blown Sideways Through Life, Claudia Shear tells the story of again meeting a transperson she knew at the answering service as a sassy, sharp, stylish woman. Now, though, after a stroke, she is back living as a man, being invisible. If so many women turn invisible as they age, turning to sweatshirts and polyester pants as a uniform, why should it be a surprise that many transpeople also just surrender to comfortable invisibility? How can we even think about holding open the space to be strong, let alone bold and cutting edge?
It pains TBB to see her friends surrender to entropy just because they have less energy and more life experience. And it pains her a little, too, that she understands their stories well because she is beginning to feel the same forces in her life.
How, she has be wondering, can we help brilliant transpeople have a second act? How can we empower them, make them feel seen and valued, connected and committed, ready to open to life, take a flyer and get a surprise?
This is especially potent to TBB because her big creation, the Southern Comfort Conference, did exactly that for a wide range of transpeople almost twenty five years ago. She knows the effect of caring for each other, of empowering people to be and do more than they ever dreamed was possible. She encouraged dreams and creativity, and when people came together in that space, they invigorated and lifted each other to go back and live a fuller, more dramatic and more potent life.
What do aging transpeople need? TBB wonders. She has tried before to make a trans hometown in Trinidad Colorado, creating a place where we could come and come together, but that dream didn’t play out the way she wanted it to.
How do we transpeople transcend our experience and our aging to have a second act? And how can we support each other in doing that? How do we believe in our dreams enough to take another leap?
It’s an important question.