Same, Different

Humans are mostly the same.

That’s why we get so good at quickly picking out differences between people.

For queer people, we are very clear on where we are different from the crowd.  Those differences stand out in our mind, so we are very aware of them all the time.   We know that those differences can surface at any time and make people see us as different from them.

People, though, don’t see differences that they aren’t really looking for unless those differences are profound.   They assume sameness until they have a reason not to, like the moment that they figure out that the woman over there went through puberty with a male body.  Does that mean that she is “really a man?”

Those moments where our gender changes in someone’s eyes tend to be really memorable,  It can easily be a tripping moment.

For many queers, though, the assumption of sameness, of “normativity” is a problem.   Femme lesbians often feel like their nature is invisible because people assume that because they make feminine choices they miss the truth.   They even have the experience of people not believing them when they disclose who they are with lines like “You’re way too pretty to be a lesbian!”   Sharing a truth and having it dismissed is not easy.

When I walk in the world, I assume that my passing distance is far enough out that everyone can see where I am different.

What I don’t understand, because my history and cultural expectations lead me to it, is when they see me as the same.   When do they just see me as a woman?

My dream, of course, is that they see both.   I’m find with them knowing that I have a different history than most women, that I am trans, if they also understand that I am also the same as most women, with a heart and gender that makes woman choices.   I want to connect with other women as a woman, maybe even with men as a woman, but as a woman with a different path.

This is, of course, where people who need to believe in fundamental binaries have a problem.   They don’t value the contents of one’s character over the shape of one’s skin.   They really crave simple and reductive responses that venerate separations that they hope keep people in their place.

Many transpeople become obsessive about hiding their differences (passing) so that others can see their sameness.   That leaves us desperately self policing, having to be intensely aware of our differences at all times so we can struggle to keep them from showing at all.   That means we also don’t open up, be vulnerable and approach the world with an open heart.

“In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.”  That’s my mission statement and why my focus is on the fundamental connection of our hearts beyond the surface differences that are so easy to spot.

When I smile at someone, do they get disquieted by how different I am, or are they warmed by me?   And if they get too warmed, do they feel the need to reclaim their binary whatever by making it clear they see me as something “other?”

Trusting that I can be seen as one of the gals, even at my age, my size, my smarts and my history, that our connection and sameness can out, is a challenge for me.  It is exactly the same challenge that was put into my head so many decades ago when I was first told that I could never, ever, ever be a girl, and even trying would lead me to heartbreak and destruction.

I will never, ever not be unique, special, individual, different.

Does that mean I will never be connected, family, pretty, same?

Will I always be solitary, warrant, variant, trans, queer, or will sometime I will be just one of the women in the room, different sure, but not so different that like so many other unique women, I escape the class?

For people whose whole life has been spent in the binary, these questions never even have to be considered.   They were a girl in the playground, a girl at school, a girl at the dance, a woman at work, a woman at church, simple, easy.   They always knew which side of the groupings they were on.

For people who have crossed, though, the amount that sameness is a trap, erasing truth with the potential of being seen as lies, is always in our mind, always the haunting third gotcha.

There are moments, though, when I almost feel like my difference can recede into the background a bit and my sameness can come forward without deceit or fear, moments where I can just be one of the gals, trusting my connection.   Almost.

I know my difference.  I know that no matter how different I am, continuous common humanity keeps me connected.

My sameness, though, that kind of sameness that lets you be one of the group, isn’t something that I know.  There are lots of reasons for that, from being adultified early to being queer but they all leave me with a complex, nuanced story of difference.

But when I feel difference, other people see sameness because that’s what they tend to see.  Learning to trust that sameness seems important.