Keep digging and digging and digging until you find the core, the bedrock, the solid heart of what you think and believe, the nugget at the centre that informs all of your identity.
Somewhere under my concierge caretaking, under my love of business, under my theology, under my Jonathan Winters shamanic shape shifting, under my history, under my transgender nature lies a stone I hold on to that defines me in the most profound way.
Under it all, shaping my expression, is the deepest bit that defines my identity.
I am an outsider.
I grew up in a family of outsiders.
My mother always had trouble making new friends, her Aspergers limiting how she could empathize with others, giving her stories with no point, and doubts about everything. Her mother taught her one key lesson, as I said in my grandmother’s eulogy; this is a tough world and you need to expect failure. My mother never believed she could win, never believed her family could win, and always believed that the world and her family had failed in their duty to make her happy.
My father was a farm boy from northern Alberta, speaking Ukrainian until he got to school. His mother called in a doctor, during the depression when money was very scarce, because she worried about him spending time in his own world. The doctor used a pocket watch to check his hearing and declared him healthy, but his own world was where he spent his life. It was a world full of love and hope, and we were privileged to be inside of it, but when I had to try and explain the other world to him, explain why the experts weren’t engaging his engineering papers, well, that was always a slam.
These were my models for how to be in the world. A woman full of anger at a world that didn’t cater to her, and a man who loved but was unable to take yes for an answer, unable to hear and see the thoughts and emotions of others.
I was told early that these weren’t good models for me.
At 17 I was encouraged to get out of the sadness of my mother’s house — the “worst place to spend the holidays” my older friend said — so I could break the failure cycle and get that thriving was possible for me.
At 28, a friend told me that trying to play the farm boy just didn’t suit me, that it was too limiting.
But I was adultified early, and I knew my parents needed me. They died when I was 58, having spent a decade of my life taking care of them full time, the last eighteen months being about death.
I was a lonely kid in a loner family, lost to my parents who couldn’t connect with or understand my world.
I was an outsider. I am an outsider. That definition is written bold across my heart, a thousand, a million times over. When it comes to the slug on this blog, “the loneliness of a long lost tranny,” well, lost and lonely are much deeper than transgender.
I see the world as an outsider. I can figure out what other people are thinking or trying to express, sure, but it takes work and brainpower. I learned to survive my parents through brainpower and seclusion, and those habits are wired deep into my consciousness. I see the gaps, the twists in thinking. I have controlled my own desires and impulses.
I operate in the world as an outsider. I have not learned to depend on the kindness of strangers. I have learned to be wary of others, to distrust them. I have learned to isolate and hide, even in plain sight.
I”m not one of them, not one of us, not one of anything but me. It doesn’t matter how much I want that feeling, the amount I don’t trust that feeling is always stronger and sharper.
When I was taking courses at McGill in Montreal, one gal said “You are Canadian, aren’t you? I noticed that when ever you talk about Americans or about Canadians, you always refer to ‘them.'” My liminality, the state of being in the doorway, always an outsider was visible to her.
Missing out on building trust as a child is like missing out on building language; the brain and heart are never prepared and open in the same way again.
Who am I if I am not a wary outsider, living in the liminal space outside of expectation and assumption?
Who am I if I am not my parent’s child, holding a powerful iconoclastic outsider legacy?
Who am I if I am not an eccentric crackpot boldly claiming my own unique individuality, marching to my own drum?
Who am I if I am not a trans shape shifting shaman, emerging from the shadows and disappearing back into them again?
Who am I if I am ensnared by dreams of becoming assimilated by sacrificing my outsider status?
I have been an outsider taking care of outsiders for a my entire life.
And that really leaves an imprint on someone, you know?