Q: How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change.
I watched a TV show recently where a gay doctor tried a series of ex-gay therapies. In the end, to no one’s surprise, his sexual orientation didn’t change; he was still attracted to men.
The show made me angry, though. The goal in these therapies is not to change someone’s nature, rather it is to change their choices, to modify their behaviour. The patient, in other words, has to really want to change, and it was clear this doctor had no desire whatsoever to change his behaviour. In fact, he had a deliberate need to retain his identity and so to mock & sabotage any potential therapy that might change him.
He is out, out, out, out, seeing no need for the closet anymore. For LGBT people who, unlike him, don’t feel safe being out, life is a very different thing. While gay people may well have more freedom today, transpeople still operate in a world where being visibly trans has a very high cost in many ways. Many of us do want to keep our behaviours modified even if we know we can’t change our essence.
It is this willingness to grow, to learn, to change that is a key difference between humans. Are we in the world with openness, working to become better everyday, or are we in the world with a closed mind, defending our own comfort zone?
In other words, do we really want to change, or do we just see the process around change an unnecessary annoyance?
If we reject challenge to stay in our own conventions, if we are a tourist asking life to entertain us, rather than a traveller asking life to transform us, we are, in the opinion of many, normal.
Performance Guy was a bit frustrated with me yesterday. “How would you deal with developmentally disabled people? You are so impatient that I bet they would frustrate the shit out of you!”
I laughed. I spent a decade caring for my parents, both firmly in Aspergers, and my patience had been tested and proved.
“I know that for many people, there is no such thing as quality time,” I said. “What counts is quantity time, slow and persistent effort to make small changes over time as they struggle with the challenge of growth.”
The challenge, I said, isn’t with people who struggled with change. The problem is with the people who have a closed mind and who reject change.
The number 5 entry in What You Need To Know About My Transgender is “The most painful thing about trans is not being able to give your gifts and have them accepted.”
My experience of life is not with people who have trouble grasping what I say, my experience is with people who reject, deny, ignore and erase what I say because to accept it would require them to move out of their comfort zone.
To engage what I say would require them to shift their worldview, to let go of binaries and walls that they have built to separate scary from easy, separate good from bad, separate them from us. To see through my eyes would require them to see themselves and their choices through my eyes, to open up the requirement for growth and that is something they just don’t want to do.
It may well not be worth my while to invest in people who learn slowly, but people investing in people who reject learning and growth, whose minds go into vapour lock to maintain their own myopic view of the world, well, that makes little sense at all.
When I try to give the best I have to offer and those gifts are rejected with prejudice, well, I find that a frustrating experience. My life is about resources, trying to use what I have to get good returns. It would be good to have more to give, but I only have what I have, so investing it where it will be ignored, dismissed or even attacked seems a profound waste.
I understand why people have trouble leaving their comfort zone, why seeing the world through new eyes that might reveal new obligations is a difficult thing. In the end, though, the human journey to self — the gift of a life time is becoming who you are — demands that kind of open awareness and transformation, the kind of growth and maturity that casts out venality and embraces love and transcendence.
One of the most profound bits of advice I ever got came from Chuck Munson and it was simple. “Don’t piss into the wind,” he told me. Don’t spill your seed on the ground; husband it so it can make a difference. Or, as Robert Heinlein said in Time Enough For Love, “Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.”
“The most painful thing about trans is not being able to give your gifts and have them accepted.” I may have so much to give, but trying to give it to those who deliberately and wilfully find a need to reject those offerings can cause a lifetime of pain.
If you want to grow and change, I have much to offer. If you need to stay where you are, I am just plain stupid and annoying. I understand that.
Because, in the end, the pig has to really want to sing.