I sat at a table in a crowded diner this morning, jammed in at a too small table, my big body twisted and under strain. Around me were some freethinkers who came together on this Sunday to share breakfast, to talk and be in community.
And at that table in that busy restaurant, the gentleman next to me asked me, with grace and curiosity “You identify as trans? Do you mind telling me what trans is?”
I could answer him earnestly, exposing my heart, showing myself to this man I had just met, or I could pass off the question, making the point of my journey here this morning moot.
It had been a hard day before. My sister asked me to write a defence for her committee, she had asked me to write a pitch letter to get sponsors for their upcoming show, with no source material at all, and those had taken many go arounds. She had asked me to fix her computer so she could use it now, and more than that, she had sobbed on the phone to me about how difficult it was to cope with the stresses of her life and the fragility of her body. I felt for her, as I have been taking care of her in the face of our family since I can remember.
I skipped the dyke dance — the LGBT Spring Fling — to work on the computer, a tricky job with both Windows 8.1 to be installed, an OS I never touched before, and restoring her Windows 7 system that she knew and understood. It was a battle of updates and restarts, wearing and challenging.
In the midst of that, I got a call from ShamanGal, who felt like her life just wasn’t satisfying enough. I had to channel Mr. Cool, the detached persona who got her through high school, for whom nothing was ever good enough to help her find a laugh, to help her trust that it was the details of joy that made a life, not the commitment to separating from her feminine heart that she used to get through 20 years of living as a guy.
“It’s not the frivolity of women that makes them so intolerable. It’s their ghastly enthusiasm,” John Mortimer’s creation Horace Rumpole said, but the same forces that work to deny transpeople a connection to their heart also forbids us to surrender to our own enthusiasm, our own spirit, our own life force, our own “possession by a god.”
It was after 1 AM when everything went south, with updates failing and being rolled back. It was such a struggle to understand, to figure it out, but it was busted, failed, blown, a night of myself surrendered for failure.
When I woke up after a few hours sleep, I had to get dressed to go, had to gun the gauntlet of the cul-de-sac, had to squeeze myself into that tiny space.
And now, tired and shattered, I had to be social, open, vulnerable if I wanted to get any value out of all the effort and energy I had expended to be here.
Across the table was a woman who worked as a pastor, and as she told stories about her life, with social justice work, family, and husband, I started to see a life that I would have loved, one where she could just follow her calling and build a whole life because she didn’t have to swim through the sewage transpeople have to face everyday.
I had spoken to a transwoman I knew when she was a transkid, now mature and centred. While she does not live in her head, like me, she does have a great and aware heart. She spoke to me with compassion, understanding how unfair this society is to transpeople with the burdens they put on us. Even when we end up as sex workers, we end up being caretakers, serving others needs to just try to get the scraps we need to live.
No one at this table of freethinkers understood this scarcity of affirmation, love and possibility in a visceral and deep manner. Still, they asked me to share and I tried, right there in that noisy place full of normies who could just barely get the joke.
I heard myself be wise and witty, come up with good and resonant statements from my cramped and squeezed little chair, getting shards of my story out.
What it felt like, though, was what my life has often felt like. Without deep understanding or respect, without empathy or space, without time and attention, I was asked to throw my jewels into the sewage of life, tiny sparkling bits of me that others may or may not find useful, but that none of them understand how to value.
They cannot understand the price paid in abandonment and pain, in struggle and denial, in challenge and in battle that I paid for those jewels, how much they cost me in life energy and loss. To them, they are just bits flecked out at a restaurant table, not the insanely hard won treasures of a lifetime of being slammed to stop me from challenging comfort and convention.
They were kind to ask their third grade questions, and I answered as well as I could, with sparkle and with wit, but it was my blood and treasure they asked of me, wanting me to easily expose the very scars of my existence, the very tendrils of my heart for chatty table talk.
My jewels have always been thrown into the sewage, for that is where the world has wanted to throw my heart, at the cost of a life that has been denied into the very margins of the gutter as I was asked to live it in-authentically and without the joy of genuine enthusiasm.
I know others want to be nice, but I also know that scars on top of scars make it hard to feel warmth. And somehow, trying to squeeze out my tender, battered and tattered heart in little pieces that satisfy curiosity without the space for compassion and understanding is hard.
If I never share the jewels of my heart, I can never offer my greatest gift, never have my essence seen and affirmed.
But just tossing them into the sewage and hoping someone will tenderly see them as precious, will value the price I paid for them, well, that feels like another chance to be long lost and lonely.