Baggage Porter

Who would you be if you didn’t have to carry the baggage that you currently schlep with you?

It’s a good coaching question.

For transpeople, though, it’s a very difficult question.

Lots of people in the world see us as baggage porters, and our job, no, our obligation is to carry their baggage.

They see transpeople in the world and things come up inside them.

They remember the pounding they took to fit into a normative gender role, the fear that they carried that people might see them as too queer,   too strange, too unlovable.

They remember the pounding around sexuality, the push to desire only those who would be acceptable to family and friends.

They remember the pounding they took around belief, the demands of the family and the church that they follow the right path and be compliant, assimilating into the crowd, cutting off their own edges to fit in.

When they see transpeople, they see people who reject that authorized gender terrorism, reject the bullying and the being bullied to be normative or else.

Transpeople reject the system that lets children pound other children over gender deviance, asking the shit to roll downhill, letting the rage at our having to squeeze ourselves into roles others accepted as attractive feed our abuse of others who haven’t yet paid that price of denying their hearts to be worthy of love and connection.

That means people often see transpeople as mocking the required sacrifices to keep nice, clear heterosexist gender rules in place.

That means people often see transpeople as scary because we break the conventions that they see as giving the world stability and meaning.

That means people often see transpeople disquieting because we bring up feelings in them that they haven’t had to engage or process, instead, stuffing them away so they could nicely fit in to the binary, fit into the group.

And when transpeople bring up that rage of mockery, that fear of the destabilizing, that discomfort at the unknown, mostly they decide that that rage, fear and discomfort must be our fault.

After all, the knee jerk response goes, those transpeople decided to break the nice rules, so they deserve whatever they get.

We wouldn’t have this stuff come up unless they were present, so our internal fear rage and discomfort must be their responsibility.

Transpeople are responsible for our internal stuff.  And they asked for whatever shit they get when they decided to break the rules.  ‘Nuff said.

In other words, whatever stigma we get is deserved, whatever cost we pay is fair and reasonable, whatever abuse we brought on ourselves.

This line of thinking means that transpeople don’t only have to carry their own baggage in the world, but that we are also identified as porters, responsible for carrying the baggage of others that comes up when they see us.  We have to carry their fears, their anger, their hurt, their discomfort that is rooted in the price a heterosexist gender system asks every person to pay to find acceptance and connection.

It doesn’t matter if it is comments on the internet, verbal slaps in the store, sermons from the pulpit, malicious gossip on the phone or political correctness in the workshop, it is still about people feeling justified in blaming us for their feelings, their limits and their pain.

One of the most fundamental spiritual teachings that arises all over the world is that no one is responsible for your pain, your thoughts, your anger, your hurt and your happiness but you.

The trick of the preachy preacher is to find an “other” to blame for the situation, to identify scapegoats who breaks the rules and blame them for all the ills and woes of society.  All we have to do is reject and abuse them based on our spiritual principles and the world will be cleansed and absolved, goodness once again will reign.

Those scapegoats can be small, like the evil democrats who are demonized on Fox News, they can be queer, like the gender deviants whose marriage will destroy traditional marriages forever, or they can be just hellacious, like the Jews who had to be killed to sanitize the world for the comfort of the Aryan people.   It’s all the same underlying train of thought.

It’s easy to see who is demonizing us, easy to reject the haters.

The hard part is when people who really do want to support us still end up acting out of unhealed places, making choices that are not actualized or enlightened, and hurting us in the process.   We bring up their stuff and they end up acting out, dumping responsibility their own fears, pain and feelings onto us in an unconscious idea that if we have been able to process, own and manage our own stuff then we should be responsible for managing their stuff too.

To get past the conventions piled on us as kids takes work and process and our allies never have as much incentive to do it as we do.  They act out from their own unhealed spaces, and while I may know that their flailing isn’t really about me, rather it is about them and their stuff, I am still the localized target of their acting out, still the one who gets slammed.

I’m still the one who gets hit with their baggage, in other words.    I’m still expected to carry not only my own stuff, but also to carry theirs.  4) The most difficult thing about trans is negotiating others fears.

I heard a lovely story about a homophobic customer who found out that the manager who sold her some clothes was a lesbian and then tried to return them as “tainted.”   When the manager of the second store, a straight gal, figured out what was going on, she just chose to play a lesbian in that moment, frustrating the customer and standing up for her co-worker.

That’s a lovely kind of “I am Spartacus” story, and I am glad to hear it, but to me it speaks of how much the cost of being a lesbian has been reduced over the decades.  Today, that straight gal manager doesn’t mind paying that price for a moment to be an ally and support someone she knows.

The price of being trans in the world, though, is still very high.  One of the key tactics that people use to challenge our transgender expression is to start to identify transpeople who they find unsavoury and scary, then ask us if we want to be like them.   We end up having to explain and justify not only our choices but also all the choices of anyone who might possibly be identified as trans, end up being asked to take the choices of others on as our burden.

This identity politics thinking, the assertion that trans expression is somehow a kind of group identity rather than an individual one, is inherently oppressive.  It makes us responsible for choices we have absolutely no control over.

What all transpeople share is the experience of being shamed and abused because their gender expression is unconventional.    That experience of shame, abuse, denial and isolation can break a person in many ways, but in twisted logic of stigma, any broken bits are seen as justifying the abuse — “See!  We were right to pound them!” — rather than as damage that can easily come from the pounding we got to try and have us do the right thing and slash our hearts down to fit in.

Is their any wonder then that so many transpeople end up trying to draw the line of where bad deviance starts just beyond their choices, choosing to join in the demonization of others more queer than they are so they can try to placate those who fear, who rage, who are uncomfortable?

They do this simply because they don’t want the damn responsibility for carrying even more baggage than their own.  They know that the basis for stigma is the justification of “you broke it, you bought it, so if we feel broke around you, then it’s your responsibility to deal with whatever price comes from that.”

All of this brings us back to the original question.

Who would you be if you didn’t have to carry the baggage that you currently schlep with you?

For me, the answer is simple.  I would be more Callan.

But the decades have taught me that no matter how I get out from under my own baggage, heterosexist convention makes others believe that my responsibility is to carry all the baggage of everyone has from being gendered, all the baggage that people have from being hurt, abused and broken by gendering.

If they do it from their own belief about what is righteous, or just from their own unhealed and painful places, they still end up acting out against me in a way that is hurtful, in a way that they would not want someone to act out towards them.  They do it, though, because of the sense that the feelings that come up when they see me are somehow my responsibility and not theirs.

I have worked unbelievably hard to heal, to get over my own baggage.

But being saddled with the baggage of the world because people believe that I am a phobogenic object and therefore worthy of scorn, derision, abuse, demonization and dehumanization, well that is baggage that can break a person.

In fact, it is baggage that is specifically designed to break a person.   It is baggage specifically designed to keep you from being who you would be if you didn’t have to schlep all the baggage you carry with you.

And it is baggage dumped on me anew everyday that I am a visible transperson in the world.

Any wonder I often feel exhausted and broken?

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One thought on “Baggage Porter”

  1. Pingback: Aloner | Callan

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