An “And” Life

I am an AND in a world that is trained to expect an OR.

I am neither this OR that, I am this AND that.   I am broken AND brilliant, I am male AND woman, I am spiritual AND profane, I am funny AND profound.

In the tiniest nutshell, that is my message in the world.   The binaries we try and set up are not real, because we live in continuous common humanity.  When gender stops being a neat binary, all the walls that seem to comfort us end up being permeable.

I met with a performance coach a couple of days ago.  He is an experienced improviser, deeply entrenched in the habits of staying in the moment and really opening in conversation.

“I get it,” he told me.  “I keep trying to pigeon hole you to get a handle, and you keep telling me why that particular categorization doesn’t quite fit.

“You must really struggle when people want to put you in a box.”

Yes, that is the struggle.   And often, the biggest struggle to get out of the box is inside of us.

ShamanGal often calls me and wants to talk about the frustrations in her life.   “It’s such a struggle!” she tells me.   “This or that?  One or the other?  Right or wrong? Good or bad?  Brilliance or delusion?  Liberation or chains?   Men or women?  Love or fear?  It’s all so complicated!”

I tell her that her salvation will come in one word: And.  Sure, we are all born to suffer and die, and life is a banquet where most poor suckers are starving!     And.

My favourite Oscar Wilde epigram is about a question he was asked in Belfast.  “Mr. Wilde, I know that you are an atheist, but tell me sir: Is it the God of the Catholics or the God of the Protestants in which you don’t believe?”

The performance coach laughed.  “Right,” he said, “there is that urge to the pigeon hole, to the box, to the binary that we believe defines our world again.”

This is the basis of why people get upset with transpeople, of course.  We break the damn boxes, mock the binary, screw the system.   One or the other!  Stay where you have been assigned!  Pick a Gender!  Fit into the structures!

I needed to learn to meet people where they are because where they are is where they are.  They don’t fit neatly into any nice taxonomy, any clever boxes, rather they are unique individuals, with their own special character, their own blend of this and that.

Our power as humans most often comes from where we cross boundaries.   We may be an expert in insects for example, connecting that world to the world of humans, or we may be a great mother, connecting the world of our children to the bigger world.  Everybody meets in the middle, of course, but it is how we stretch to access another world and bring that to the table that makes us unique and valuable.

This notion that trans, as a transactional identity is about “and” is one reason I hate the most common Trans 101 lecture, where people try to make us accessible by offering categories, pigeon holes.  “There are TV, TS, Drag Queens, Butches….”  No.   There are people who need to claim trans identities to express and empower their own nature in a world of this OR that.

And, it’s a key reason why so many attempts to explain trans to non-transpeople seem to fail and diminish us.   Trying to explain trans by explaining differences, by creating separations, feels like it ignores our commonalities and erases our connection.

I am an AND in a world that is trained to expect an OR.

That is both my burden AND my blessing.  And that is good.