Maybe, the best way to know any given transperson is to know where they are stuck.
It’s what we can’t seem to get away from of that defines us.
There are many reasons why we can’t move forward.
One important reason is because we love other people and want to stay connected to them, even if they can’t move forward with us. Family is vital.
We may need to hold onto things we value, like our skills, our learning, our history and our stories. Those are valuable things we earned at a cost, things that shaped us and marked us.
But a huge amount of where we get stuck is around the fear that whatever we let go of, the things we need and love, we will never be able to replace. We don’t leap because there doesn’t seem to be anyplace to land on the other side that will be fulfilling and nourishing for us.
The world tells transpeople that there is no future in their trans expression, that they will always be stuck to their history and biology so any leap, any letting go is just a sheer drop into the void.
Every transperson has experienced that moment where our gender changed in someone else’s eyes, when our own truth was ripped away and replaced with the fears, assumptions and expectations of another. This is the moment of the third gotcha, and it doesn’t matter what direction it comes in, it’s always a blow.
A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.
By this definition, we live in a world of gender fanatics, where gender is always the subject, identifying people quickly into one category or another, evaluating them against gendered stereotypes and standards, and where changing their mind about the importance of gender separation just isn’t something that can or even should be done.
Heterosexist, binary conventions form the basis of gender policing, and stigma is the tool to enforce those conventions, empowering people to judge others gender performance and discriminate on how it strikes us,
Every transperson knows the structures of that stigma and knows that they are just a step or two away from having it come down onto them. We have each learned to modulate ourselves, to edit ourselves in ways that work to avoid being clobbered by stigma.
These expectations and the enforcement of them leave us stuck, knowing that we can’t simply go forward or even go back because we are living in a minefield of people who feel the stress of the gendered expectations placed onto them pulling at their own hearts. They have sacrificed to follow the gender rules, so why shouldn’t we be expected to do the same?
Humans learn early how to avoid discomfort, how to minimize risk, because they feel the shame of being called a failure, the shame of being devalued and abused for their own non-conformity with the expectations of others.
We learn gender appropriateness in the cruellest way possible, being shamed by other adolescents for our differences. We are taught to follow the gang, to fit in, or to pay the price in abuse and isolation.
We are stuck with the gendered expectations of those around us, told to obey or we will deserve whatever crap we get, won’t be entitled to whatever others choose to deny us.
There are almost no models of what a mature, graceful transperson looks like today and when I was growing up there were absolutely no models. How can we imagine being centred and potent in the world if that is so unimaginable that it is invisible?
Transpeople get stuck in their process of growth, change and transformation. We get stuck because we are tied to our past in ways that we are told will break if we move too far away and we are denied a future by those who demand their binary model of opposites constrained by bits of biology always be enforced.
We look to others to support change but mostly we get back conventional thinking, people who don’t see the need to encourage hearts to flourish beyond expectations of walls that seem to offer comfortable separations.
Every transperson I know is stuck, for noble reasons of love and commitment, for practical reasons of gender enforcement, for fearful reasons of learned shame, of for some other reason. We all face a world that has embraced binary gender and gets uncomfortable with people who can’t easily be pinned as one or the other.
Blocking queer expression to maintain the status quo — “to protect the children” — is standard and reasonable enforcement of standards in this culture.
Supporting queer expression lets others claim you are responsible for it, responsible for whatever extreme behaviour they choose to blame your liberality for, which is just another reason to block our own expression. Having to take on not just your own expression but also the expression of others beyond your control can really be a block.
Getting stuck starts early for transpeople, from the moment we learn that choices we want to make will get a negative reaction from those around us. We become forced to make hard choices, training ourselves to deny and hide our own desires to avoid stigma and abuse.
That process of compartmentalization and closeting becomes a spiral. We are blocked from exploring our nature so we lose touch with our heart, which blocks us even more. We spend precious time and resources making sure we have blocked off the parts of us that we are taught are too different, too challenging, too queer.
We are stuck when the way forward is blocked, so the longer we block ourselves, the more stuck we become. Just fighting to move forward when you are stuck has a high cost, using up resources at a frenetic rate. Like quicksand, the more you try and become unstuck, the more stuck you get.
Where we are stuck, what stops us from moving forward, defines much of our life.
In a society where gender is rigidly bi-polar, moving to express the content of our hearts rather than just complying with the assignment laid onto us by dint of our genitals means we face all the social pressure that can be brought to bear to keep us stuck. We are trained to internalize that pressure, and if we ever slip, we know that other people feel free to mine our environment to keep us scared and compliant to heterosexist gender conventions.
I look back and see how clear I was on these challenges 15 years ago.
But I also see how I am stuck, see how other transpeople I know are stuck.
And I know that being stuck defines us.