When you meet a person, don’t trust their history or biology. People change and grow.
I know that will upset some fundamentalists out there who want to locate truth in what they see as factual and fundamental, but without the chance to grow and become new, how can humans ever really have hope?
When you meet a person. don’t trust their pronouncements and posturing. Who they want to be seen as doesn’t define them.
I know that will upset some activists who want to locate truth in their own assertions about their identity. They want to be able to define themselves at will, claiming an identity based on theory and preference.
When you meet a person, trust their choices. We are what we do when in counts, as the amazing Joann Roberts used to remind us in her sig. Our choices reveal “the content of our character,” and that content is always profoundly human, frail and divine at the same time.
TBB loved Panti’s Noble Call, a heartfelt call from Panti Bliss/Rory O’Neill after she was called out as creating hate speech for identifying people she thought were making homophobic choices. Rather than asserting a demand that others change, Panti shares her own feelings and choices, reveals her own experience of internalized homophobia, opening her heart in a particularly Irish and dramatic way.
Performers are trained to understand the power of choice, how choices reveal character. They have to know that words are often used as a screen, but it is the humanity underneath, the emotions, priorities, fears and thoughts which shape choices, that holds essential truth.
Michael and Kat understand this. As long time improvisers, they work with their company to help them understand that performance choices made from the inside out, from a centred place will always be more resonant that choices made from the outside in, from the attempt to build a surface.
For me, what this means is simple: they respond to me not out of expectation or political assertion, rather they just see and engage my choices.
For a transperson, whose experience in the world is always one of being erased by other people’s assertions of fundamental truths, this is the experience of fresh air. Their focus on choice revealing character opens the space for me to breathe, to trust my own choices rather than just always being tensed up and ready for the “third gotcha.”
Because they value my choices, those in their company who respect them also are forced to see me in a different, more open way. They have to get past their own expectations, assumptions and conventions to wonder what Michael and Kat see in me, seeing past the surface to glimpse my choices.
In my long experience, it is very rare to find people who focus on seeing choices rather than relying on their own comfortable prejudices. For my self-confidence to bloom, though, after decades of service to others, there is nothing more important than believing that at least some people can value my choices over my history or over their own politics.
We are present in the world and in the moment when we follow our bliss and trust our own hearts. If that heart, though, is going to be stepped on by the expectations of others every time we reveal it, we quickly understand that armour is required. Armour is always a shell, not a truth.
The best way to encourage others to be honest and open with you is to show that you will value their messy humanity, that because you will take them as they are, you will keep their hearts safe.
It’s only when you can say yes to other people — yes, I see your choices in this moment, yes, you are another messy human — and not no — no, you are wrong! — that we can really learn who someone else is, really build trust with them.
Michael and Kat have offered a bit of that to me. And, they tell me, I have offered a bit of that to them, seeing, affirming and building on their choices, doing the old “Yes, and. . .”
People tell you who they in every moment with their choices.
You just have to be safe enough with yourself, confident enough in your choices and potential for growth, to be present for that exposition.