Both TBB and ShamanGal have expressed to me that my post “Jewels In The Sewage” really resonated with them.
I have to admit to being a bit surprised, because when I wrote it I was just attempting to express my feelings in the best way I knew how before crawling under the comforter again. Yet, it reflected their memories of trying to express their personal transgender experience in the world and having that sharing of their hard won and precious jewels go unvalued and dismissed, into the ears of listeners and then out the other ear again.
“My sister-in-law told my brother that he shouldn’t bother reading the trans narrative I had annotated,” ShamanGal told me. “She said that she already knew other transpeople, so she already knew everything she needed to know about trans, and that was enough for her family to know, at least according to her.
“My mother was upset by this. She knew that my sister-in-law couldn’t possibly know the real experience, the depth, the challenge, the struggle that she had seen me go through as my mother.
“So many people think they know what trans ‘really’ is so they can ignore my sharing and just replace it with their own assumptions and beliefs. This isn’t just normative people, either, it’s often other transpeople who don’t want their trans doctrine challenged, so they just cast the jewels we offered into the sewage to be flushed away.”
My piece was triggered by my experience with a group of self identified freethinkers. Freethinking is the opposite of stuck thinking, of holding on to the conventional, comforting, doctrinaire and wrong just to avoid the need to open your mind to the possibility that you can learn from other people.
Much of the conversation at that restaurant table was about the frustration of connecting with family members with whom there was much shared love and caring, but very little shared intellectual understanding. “I have to keep my ideas in a private group on Facebook,” one man said, “because if my father reads them, he would blow his top, arguing that I have gone crazy.”
These people were willing, in their own way, to open themselves to the ideas I offered, but what they were unable to do is open themselves to the feelings I brought, to open to the emotional and personal experience of experiencing the world as a transperson. To me, with a profoundly feminine heart, that felt like rejection too, because I have learned that the isolated and intellectual approach I learned to take to sustain some kind of masculine position in the world avoided the real power of empathy, vulnerability and connection.
My story is devoid of meaning without the experience of heart, and devoid of understanding without the experience of intellectual exploration. Is this another way that I ask people to go beyond comforting binaries to engage and understand continuous common humanity? I fear that it may just be.
One of the most exhausting and draining things about my trans experience is the continual attempt to share my experience in the world and then to feel heard, valued and supported for that sharing. I want to give my gifts and have them embraced.
My response to this decade’s long search to find words that open connection to others is primarily emotional. The actual process is intellectual, the attempt to construct language that conveys my experience and feelings, but the limited success of that process is physical exhaustion and emotional drain.
ShamanGal is missing the daily work routines that had to stop while she recovers from hip surgery, no matter how limiting she found them when she had to do them everyday. There is flow and momentum in being part of a team, sharing confidences & concerns with others in a small, day by day way, being called on to solve problems, and being valued for what we contribute. This makes a big difference to self-esteem, allowing the motion of the shared effort to give us a base to extend ourselves, rather than always having to start over, climbing a new hill with every new challenge.
The blend of thinking and feeling is key to any human endeavour, especially a shared one. Heads or hearts is not the answer, never the answer, rather the answer is always heads and hearts.
My long and heartbreaking attempt to share my experience of the world, to feel heard, valued and supported for that sharing has been one of the most exhausting and draining things in my life. I may want to give my gifts and have them embraced, but for me, and for TBB and ShamanGal too, it often feels like the jewels we bring from our costly journeys just end up in the sewage, not valued or honoured.
Just taking an idea from us, or offering a bit of sympathy while holding on to comforting separations, like the false division between head and heart, leaves us without the ground or the breath, without the energy or the support to participate as complete people who are both essentially trans and fundamentally human.
We have fought like banshees to own our wholeness, to integrate who we are. To then have to see ourselves chopped up to fit other people’s expectations of walls leaves us sad, with a sadness is very wearing and awfully taxing, taking away energy that could be used to reach out and try again and again and again and again and again.
Picking the parts of us that you can engage and throwing away the rest is just tossing so much of the pure and hard won us into the sewage.
We share ourselves, offering our very essence. When you reject that which might challenge your ideas or our empathy, you tell us again, as we have been told since we were very small that we are wrong, broken, mistaken about our hearts, and not worthy of acceptance.
That is not only rude and shortsighted, it also hurts us.
And just being more rational about why others get to reject us will never get us over that hump in our hearts.