It is hard to be an ally to transpeople.
We are pretty battered. We walk in the world with big armour and behind that, we have scars and sores that keep us very tender and hurting.
We are pretty wiggly. Our stories snake through genders, leaving us with gaps and twists in our experience where bits can fall out or pop up without warning.
We are never simple or uncomplicated. No human is, really, but our experience makes it hard to be politically correct, all on one side or the other.
We are always trans. Our biology and history are written into our bodies and our lives, leaving us to negotiate our own path through the world, a changeling who has transformed before and needs to continue finding new ways to be.
Transpeople will always have some bit that challenges the identity of the kindest and compassionate person. Until you accept your own queerness, learning to affirm and support the choices of others that you would never, ever make for yourself, even choices that squick you a bit, it’s really hard to get behind trans.
You can’t support a transperson because they are exactly like you, one of your crowd. You have to support them because they are just another human, different and individual, worthy of your support with gifts to give that you probably could never imagine.
Even transpeople find it very hard to be a good ally to other transpeople. We struggle to unwire our own shame buttons, finding the balance between being authentic and being nice, between being unique and being assimilated, between being wild and being tame, and that means it is easy to see in other transpeople reflections that we have not yet come to peace with in ourselves.
We can easily see where the choices they are making feel wrong, can find it mighty hard to stand up for their ragged humanity. Other people, we know, make judgments and expect us to support them. They demand compliance of us, so why shouldn’t we demand it of transpeople? Is it unreasonable to ask them to fit in a box just like everyone else has to?
When I see young people who choose to die because they have no hope of ever being transgender, attractive, successful and loved, it makes me very sad. I know how every transperson has tried to kill off at least part of themselves to fit in, the part that they have been shamed and abused about.
The one thing all queers share is the experience of being shamed into the closet, of feeling the need to hide, deny or kill off part of their own nature to be acceptable to others. That experience is written in our scars.
We need to be better allies, better friends, better family to transpeople in this world. Being affirming and assuring past fear and convention, past political correctness, past our own traditions and habits not only makes transpeople safer and more welcomed into community, it also makes us better people, more open to diversity and connection.
There isn’t anyone who can’t use another ally in the world. As long as we feel that we have to make choices, that supporting one group means that we have to reject or resist another group, that we need to stand for the “right way” to do things, there will always be people we feel we have to dismiss, minimize or turn our back towards.
Trans is often not dignified. It’s not simple, clean, easy, pretty or even gracious. We sweat and struggle, moulting skins, trying new, falling down, making mistakes, screwing up, falling on our face and, if we are really smart, lucky and resilient, getting up to try again, making a new choice.
Trans, though, should always come with dignity. An honest attempt to become more healed, more whole and more authentic, no matter how silly, sloppy or scared we are, needs to be respected with the dignity that it deserves.
Someone who sees me as abject, who sees me as a curiosity or who puts me on a pedestal, separate from other people is not my ally. Someone who works to strip away my dignity, make me feel afraid and broken because they believe that I will grovel to do whatever they want is not my ally.
My ally is someone who gives me dignity and respect, even when I am a sloppy, struggling mess. It’s someone who knows that everyone needs love the most when they are at their least lovable. It’s someone who isn’t going to look for the sweetest, the simplest or the deadest transperson to stand up for.
It isn’t easy to grant the simple dignity of being human to other people, especially if you are still driven by an inner shame that you are not good enough, that you have to do right or be considered “less than.”
Giving dignity to other people means you actually have to engage them, actually have to open your heart and your mind to them without pulling out all the judgment stored inside of you. That is, I know, a very hard ask. Maybe it was easier when we lived side by side in tribes or villages or neighbourhoods, but whatever, it was the right way to support diversity, to support other people.
How do we stay centred in an understanding of our own fundamental human dignity? How do we use that understanding to be an ally for others who haven’t yet come to acknowledge and own the notion that their fundamental dignity is affirmed by affirming choices and is blocked by drama, acting out and rejection?
No one is alone. Humans are social animals, deeply connected by the one human nature we all share. Our creation stories remind us of our connection, of our interdependence, of not doing onto others what would be hateful to us .
Feeling alone, though, feeling like you have to be what other people expect in order to be treated with dignity, that you have to modulate, hide or kill of part of you to be treated with dignity, well, that just sucks. And every person who has been shamed into the closet has those feelings threaded inside of them.
It makes me so sad when I hear of someone who feels so abused that they give up on finding dignity and respect in the world. Those people need allies. not just people who want to help them out of their misguided ways, but people who affirm and aggrandize their essential, beautiful humanity.
It’s not easy to be an ally to transpeople. It’s not easy to stand up against a judgmental world of separation for others unless you have had to go through the struggle to learn to stand up for yourself. Nobody is perfect, but everybody is human.
For all those struggling people out there, I do hope that there is someone who will treat them with dignity so they can begin to believe that others do see them as worthy, so they can begin to believe that their fundamental human dignity can never be taken from them, so they can hold their head high rather than feel the need to die, especially so young.
We aren’t always going to be dignified, but somewhere, we are always going to have fundamental human dignity.
That affirmation is what we need from our allies to get to trans with dignity.