So this is the gift I wish transpeople would give to each other: Take care of each other.
Help each other grow, help each other heal, help each other find their own unique power.
When I look at the struggles of other marginalized people, it is clear to me that it is only when they started to take care of each other, rather than trying to scramble into some social game of trying to be the good woman, the good black, the good gay that they ended up lifting everyone.
The problem, of course, is that to do this well, first we have to grow, have to heal, have to find our own unique power. We need to move beyond our own damn self to embrace the wider world, but the entire premise of stigma is to keep us bound up in our own damn self.
Until we can trust that other transpeople will have our backs, not stab us in the back to try and get a bigger piece of what can seem like a tiny pie, we can never grow the influence and success of transpeople in the world.
As transpeople, we know how to live with the assumption of scarcity, the idea that we have to scrape hard for every scrap of dignity, respect and affirmation we need. We know how to run on fumes, and more than that, how to try and huff up all the fumes in the room so we won’t lose them to someone else. We learn to demand and scrape to get what we need, valuing independence over interdependence, a notion we have not learned to trust.
The idea of abundance, that as we become more potent and healthy the pie expands, making more available for all, well, that’s hard to get into the soul of a transperson used to playing a less than zero sum game.
Taking care of our peers, our allies, our community is taking care of ourselves. Investing our energy in those who can return that energy to us when we need it, paying back the energy others have invested in us, is the way we end up strengthening and multiplying the energy available to us.
The most painful thing about being trans is to offer your gifts and not have them accepted, as I wrote twelve years ago in “What You Need To Know About My Transgender.” I know that my participation in the gift exchange of life has always been lopsided. People happily take what they want from me, allow me to enter their world, but the reject any possibility of having to enter my world. Gifts that open a queer vision are just rejected, and the idea of giving me what I need seems too difficult to consider.
As much as I know that giving is the key to receiving, the experience of my life has been one of scarcity. I know that this is the experience of many transpeople, this sense of being forced off the grid for being too queer, too challenging, too scary. It feels like the choice is stark; be more visibly myself or be more on the grid.
The journey of being trans is always a trip beyond the expectations of those around us, a trip outside the communities into which we were born. We claim our own identity beyond imposed convention imposed by culture and biology. We then have to decide how much we want to assimilate — find the closet at the end of the rainbow — and how much we want to stand apart, iconoclastic and individual.
ShamanGal has had this experience. She is being valued as a woman at work, crossing cultures and supporting the corporate goals, which is great. As she becomes expected as a woman, though, her own trans nature becomes invisible, so much so that in the middle of a recent long business trip, she had to sneak out and hit a gay bar, someplace where, for a moment, she could be just another transwoman in the world.
Running from spaces where trans is nothing to spaces where trans is everything is no way to create a balanced life. As long as we transpeople perpetuate that duality by demanding political compliance that venerates wounding above all and normies perpetuate that duality by making our queer experience invisible, we will live in scarcity.
The more we support each other in growing, healing and being empowered, the more we can move from a scarcity approach to the world to a belief in the possibility of abundance, to the idea that we can expand the world open to transpeople.
By getting beyond our own damn selves and taking care of each other, we can build community by building each other up rather than trying to keep others down so we can try to get what we need.
Scarcity sucks. But moving to abundance thinking requires trust. If we can’t trust that other will support us with grace and kindness, especially others like ourselves, how do we make that shift? If our history is a tale of traps, pitfalls and stigma, where much was done to deny us not only success but also comfort, how do we learn to trust that giving more will get us more?
We need to take care of each other, enough so that we feel empowered enough to trust that abundance is available to us. As long as we don’t believe that, though, our instinct will always be to play small, hoarding not healing.
Life exists for us beyond scarcity. It’s just getting to that place which is hard.