Change requires change.
It’s a lovely fantasy that somehow we can only change the things we don’t like and keep everything with which we are currently comfortable.
Change doesn’t work that way, though. Change changes everything.
Sure, some things are essential and unchangeable. Madeline L’Engle said that the lovely thing about getting older is that you remain all the ages you have ever been. Upon hearing that, Kate Bornstein added that you remain all the genders you have ever been, too. Your acorn, as James Hillman calls it in The Soul’s Code remains the same, but the tree you grow from it keeps changing with your choices.
The status quo is maintained by thwarting change. That’s not simply a bad thing, as there are lots of well polished bits in society that do required functions and need to be conserved. Progress is important, of course, but only where it improves things in an effective way instead of simply offering novelty and untested solutions that bring their own hidden downsides.
This tension between conserving the status quo and breaking free of old limits is very much at the heart of growth. We need to become new, but we also need to keep connected to who and what we value.
For transgender people, the cost of the change we need in our lives is the core of our challenge. We need to change past convention and comfort, especially the comfort of others who don’t feel the same call for change that we do. They wonder why we can’t just go along and get along and often feel entitled to do whatever they can to inhibit the change we feel we need.
The struggle in every translife is to maintain connections to the people and traditions we need and we love, while moving beyond the expectations and assumptions that crush our own creative hearts. Of course, this is a very human struggle, shared by every person, though rarely in as profound a way as transpeople.
To change a relationship, both sides have to engage change. Each person grows and heals in their own time, even us, which is one of the most frustrating truths when we want or even need them to heal on our schedule. We can’t change anyone else, we can only change our own choices and hope that others we care for come along with us, or that, if they don’t we find new relationships that give us what we need.
I need change. Change, though, always comes at a price, for the simple reason that change requires change. This requirement is coded into maxims like “It takes money to make money,” acknowledging that engaging change is engaging risk, demanding investment that we believe will pay off in the future but that must be funded now.
Class structures are built upon this demand for capital investment. People who have little resource have little power to make the investment that change requires. It is extremely difficult to get out of poverty when all your money and energy are used up in the costs of daily living, leaving none to fund the possibilities of change. One golden rule is that he who has the gold makes the rules, and usually in human culture, that meant enforcing the status quo.
Defeating change to maintain the status quo is something that human societies are very good at. This is why the return of the gifts from our journey, as Joseph Campbell talks about, is so hard because if society wanted the gift, they would already have it.
How do we create change when we don’t feel that we have the wherewithal, the agency to create the change we require? How do we push out the barriers to change when we are spent and broke? How do we not just let stasis overwhelm us, losing both the power and hope we need for change?
I require change. Change requires change, though. People around me need to be willing to change, to move beyond current comfort to engage the new, the challenging and hopefully, the better. When I believe that they can’t change, I end up believing that change for me is impossible.
Holding open the space for others to change is one of the hardest things I have to do everyday, especially because I know that their change is hard for them and far from guaranteed.
Change requires change, though, and if I need change in my life, I need to believe that change is possible, not just for me, but for other people, for my community, for my world. I don’t get to pick just the change I desire, rather I have to engage the change that I get.
And engagement, over the course of my life, has been a hell of a lot of taxing work, leaving me quite spent.
What do I have left to create change? What do I have left to engage change?
I don’t really know.
But I do know that change requires change.