• in a state of bleak and dismal emptiness
  • lacking the people, plants, animals, etc., that make people feel welcome in a place
  • very sad and lonely
  • having the feeling of being abandoned by friends or by hope; forlorn.
  • sad beyond comforting; incapable of being consoled
  • to make (someone) feel very sad and lonely for a long time
  • to damage (a place) in such a way that it is no longer suitable for people to live in
  • barren or laid waste; devastated
  • to make wretched
  • providing no shelter or sustenance

To walk beyond social convention is to walk into desolation.

It is a very freeing experience, but it is that because it is a very lonely experience.   When you get beyond the expectations and pressures that other people impose on you, you can hear yourself think, can open to your own feelings.   Alone is a kind of freedom at a kind of cost.

When you feel trapped and tormented by the presumptions placed on you, you need to be able to escape to touch your own desire, to feel your own heart beat.

A little desolation is always a good thing.   It is good to be forced to be with yourself, important to know who you are beyond the roles you play in society.

Too much desolation, though, can be a very, very hard thing, says someone writing under the banner “the loneliness of a long lost tranny” since 2005.  We are social animals and we need each other, need someone to serve, someone to love, someone to see our own reflection in.

“Why should I try to explain to my counsellor the desolation I experience as a transwoman when I know that she won’t understand it?” someone said to me last night.  “It’s just not worth the effort.”    Comprehending people who felt the need to leave the system of desire, pressure and rewards is usually impossible for those who have learned to accept it as their natural environment.    They cannot imagine what it is like to be beyond convention.

Je suis désolé.   A simple statement made in a language that most people just won’t understand.

In a land of desolation, you learn to scale back your expectations.   You let go of expectations and learn to survive on scarce resources.   Your body and mind learn to live on less, to not dream of richness but to scrape by on what is at hand.   You adapt to the terrain, living with less.

How much desolation can one person tolerate?   Clearly, we each have our own limits, and some of us go farther and deeper in than others.   There are gifts to be had in the wilderness, treasures found where you stumble, rewards from the spirit quest.  You are completely transformed and yet the same person you have always been after you push yourself beyond the limits of convention.

Too far away, though, and the return becomes very precarious.  You have changed too much, holding too much difference to pack it away and return to a society that doesn’t want what you found, for if it did, it would already have it.

For those of us who felt the need to go off the grid, to enter the desolation, the thought of reentering social convention can be terrifying, which is incomprehensible to people who have stayed in the spin.   We left, though, because we felt pushed, knowing that the costs of keeping up appearances was just too much, because the conventional prejudices and assumed walls ended up running through our heart.

We didn’t enter the desolation lightly, often keeping up a façade of normativity even as our hearts felt the separation.  Those defences we built to keep our soul away from the battering and cuts of social demands were strong and desperate, even if we ended up still scarred, growing twisted and tropic in the darkness.  Humans, well, we need light, space and nourishment to grow healthy, not closets.

To return from the desolation, we need to again engage all those things that pushed is out in the first place.  To do that after deliberately losing the callouses and habits that form a buffer for everyday people in society often seems like an impossible task.  How do we again build the reactions and defences that social pressures take for granted?   Can we really be transformed enough so that we see things and people see us anew?

There is a reason that desolate is such a powerful idea to people, that the noton of being in a bleak and dismal emptiness without the people that make us feel welcome and sustain us is so strong.  We don’t want to feel abandoned by friends or by hope, to be beyond comforting; incapable of being consoled.

There is a reason why transpeople walk away from society, even at the cost of being barren or laid waste; devastated.    We have to go out into that desolation.

Some of us, though, never find the way back.

We are desolated.