What is a healthy level of entitlement in the world?
What is a healthy level of entitlement for me?
Am I entitled to anything?
I watch people around me and I often see what I think is an unhealthy level of entitlement. These people are so self-centred that they just push themselves into wherever they want, losing any sense of boundary or community in their own tunnel vision.
These people are entitled to what they want so they feel free to roll over anyone and anything to demand it. It is ugly and ungracious behaviour.
Too much entitlement, the kind that leads to too much blindness to the world around you, is not good.
I suspect, though, that too little entitlement is also a problem.
When you don’t stand up for your place in the world, when you cede the social space to other people, when you feel the need to shrink and hide to be appropriate in the world, well then I suspect you also have an unhealthy level of entitlement.
My history is clear. I have been taught to put others first, to step back, not to stand up for myself. In my family, you never complained, because it was always seen as more embarrassing and inappropriate to challenge anyone publicly than to just swallow something that was just not good. Since I was the target patient, I was often pounded down for my standing proud, often taken to task for my bringing any attention to the family. It was made clear to me that I am the asshole.
It’s easy for me to rationalize choosing not to enter entitlement based on my very negative response to those people who just are rude enough to ignore others to get what they believe that they deserve. They make entitlement look bad and nasty.
Entitlement, though, isn’t simply a bad thing. Just like any other human attitude, entitlement needs to be kept in balance, part of a holistic view of the world. If we only stand for ourselves we miss the point, but if we never stand up for ourselves, well, we also miss the point, fall out of balance.
What I am entitled to enough that I am empowered to stand up and fight for it?
For me, that’s not a long list. I know how to fight for others, especially my family, but fir myself, well, I don’t feel entitled to make a fuss and demand anything. Garry Marshall used to tell his young performers on the Happy Days to act like they belonged where they were. I am unsure I belong anywhere at all other than at the keyboard.
The part of me I feel least entitled to show in the world is my playful imagination, my dancing creativity, my flirty flamboyance, my swirling beauty. My feminine nature, in other words. My heart was clearly on the not entitled to express list.
Sadly, that isn’t all that is on the list. I am too smart, too fast, and too observant. I see too many connections, too many unclear thoughts, too many bits of attitude that comfort rather than clarify. I have learned that people usually don’t want to see what is clear to me, that anything obvious to me that they are dissembling about is usually hidden for a reason, not just because they haven’t glimpsed it yet.
Being a shining beacon in the world, one who people remember, who they can’t take their eyes off, also makes you a shining target in the world. Kids throw bricks at streetlights so they can feel like their acts go unobserved in the same way that people try to shut down observers who seem like they are seeing those parts of us we don’t want to face.
I have learned that people accept me treading gracefully in their world, but that I am not entitled to demand that they enter mine, not entitled to expect them to see though my eyes. That is just an unreasonable ask, too much entitlement to assert.
It’s not that I am at all ashamed of who I am, though I do know it may read that way. It’s just that I have been trained to believe that I am not entitled to put my own stuff in anyone’s face. I know that doing that makes me responsible for their reaction, if not in an abstract, theoretical way at least in a practical, public way. I become responsible for their fears. I can’t stand where I have gotten to, instead I have to think about going back to tranny basics and being the one who is gracious and measured enough to let them play out their own fears.
After all, I’ve been identified as trans for well over a half century now, with therapist visits in 3d, 5th and 7th grade, I’ve been out and going to support groups for thirty years, since the early 1980s, and have been verbally out to my parents for twenty years, since the mid 1990s when I did a keynote at Southern Comfort Conference. I have worked through lots of issues over the decades.
Such a long history in my life, but still, every time someone new sees me, they start from the beginning again, because they have to do the work in their own head, have to get over their own damn stuff. Every time someone encounters me for the first time, they drag me back into their fears, into their ignorance, into the miasma of crud.
Having to start from scratch with every new and squicked observer drags me three decades back into the mud in a heart beat. My sister thinks that being pulled back into someone elses fear may be “inconvenient.” Little does she understand the price, the burden.
Being hauled back in an instant to an attitude that plays small because I feel denied entitlement leads to behaviour is a problem if I want to make my voice heard, if I need to create a space for myself in society. I need to be able not fear appearing imperious and cut through the noise to take my rightful and appropriate place.
What is a healthy level of entitlement in the world? What is the right amount for someone with decades of mature experience, or the right amount for someone just newly out in the eyes of another person right this moment?
Am I entitled to assert who I know myself to be, or do I have to cede that I am really my reproductive biology?
Am I entitled to show my heart, or do I have to respect the opinions or ignorance of others?
Am I entitled to just act, or do I have to leave space for the fear and beliefs of others, especially the ones they hold for their children?
Am I entitled to be smart and mature, or do I have to remain isolated and abject for the comfort of others?
Am I entitled to feel safe in the world, or are others entitled to put me in my place in whatever way that they wish because I asked for it?
Am I entitled to be seen as myself, or is being tolerated as a freak the best I can ever hope for if I don’t keep my transgender nature hidden one way or another?
Or is any sense of entitlement I might have just rude and misplaced, just me setting myself up to have to walk through the world in armour?
What is a healthy level of entitlement for me?