Once they have tried to shoot you to stop you from emerging as trans, trying to force you to bite the bullet, and then they have tried to poison you, spreading poison everywhere around you, to try and knock you down, once they have tried and you have survived, you end up being rather abnormal.
Normal people could never come out as trans because normies still have the buttons wired into them that keep them small, afraid, and working to please others.
You have to be exceptional to stand up to the stigma, abuse and shaming that is intended to keep your own queerness hidden in the closet, keep other people comfortable and unchallenged. Walking through walls that they really want to see as real, separating them from what they fear is an exceptional act.
For TBB, the power to stand up for herself against that fusillade of challenges, against the toxic cloud blown her direction was just what she had to do to survive. She had to be forceful enough not to be stopped by this social pressure.
That forcefulness, though, has a cost. Other people see her strength and resistance as intimidating. They don’t know how to get her to just play along, play nice, don’t know how to hit her back, because when they do that, she just feels the need to stronger.
Finding the line between standing up for what we know is right and getting along as a member of a team or a family is always a challenge. No one can have everything their way and compromise is always required. TBB has learned how to do this, which gives her a kind of balance that makes her valuable in her job, holding up standards while also empowering individual creativity.
I know the cost of being seen as intimidating. It is one of the key reasons that my sister chose not to involve me in decisions that deeply affected my life, fearing that I would challenge her too much. I have learned to be compliant, to modulate myself so as not to appear intimidating, but the flip side of that is not standing up for my own life.
Neither TBB or I are small boned people. We have big brains, big hearts and big lungs, which all lead to big voices. We have had to learn how to stand our ground, her as an extroverted kid growing up around New York City, me as a theologian growing up in a family which didn’t know how to understand or respect feelings.
Like every other transperson, we are both acutely aware of what we have lost in our lives, aware of the cost that being different, being attacked and being queer has made on our life. You can’t have to bite the bullet, to be faced with poison and come out unchanged and unscarred. The losses leave us sensitive and tender.
The idea that somehow, because we have learned to be forceful that we are less than human, less than emotional, less than needy, is one of the most difficult we have had to face. We may be porcupines, with our own kind of bristles, not easily controlled or defeated, by when people overused shame on us, trying to break our very nature, we had little other choice.
When you grow up in a world where sweet doesn’t get you what you need, you learn how to be something else. After all, someone has to be the big, bold bitch.
To be unconnected from everyday fears is to be intimidating to those who don’t feel safe unless they can control other people in a way that leaves them defended.
To engage conflict rather than avoid it is to be intimidating to those who are not ready, willing or able to take deep responsibility for their own choices.
To speak the truth even when it isn’t pretty, pleasant or nice is to be intimidating to those who would rather stay behind illusory walls of separation and artifice.
To claim the power of your own heart in a world that wants people to just play along is intimidating to those who just want to let convention substitute for healing.
Moving beyond fear, engaging conflict, finding truth and claiming your own heart, though, are required steps to achieve your own authenticity in the world.
To be an iconoclastic individual in the world will always be intimidating, but the process of becoming visible as trans guarantees that you burn away the small & conventional to be exceptional or that you be stopped and crushed by the attacks that try and keep you small and normative.
It is possible to be trans and gracious, but it is not possible to be trans and unscathed, nor to be trans and not intimidating to someone or other. Being trans and vulnerable, trans and open-hearted, often makes us more intimidating to others, more subject to be separated and dehumanized. People who don’t fold easily, who can’t be manipulated, are often scary.
To be visibly transgender in the world is to be exceptional. To be exceptional in the world is to be forceful. To be forceful in the world is to be intimidating.
And all of this comes because we want to show our own, tender and very human transgender heart. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, makes us a wounded healer.
And apparently, it also makes us a bit intimidating.