Sometimes it amazes me how simple trans is to people who have never identified as trans.
Almost everybody, it seems, has a take on what transpeople should do to more effectively handle their trans nature in the world.
Of course, most of those ideas involve the transperson exerting more self-discipline, finding ways to create fewer waves, ways to make others feel more comfortable, ways to fit in better.
To transpeople life may be very complicated, but to those around us the answer is so often simple: we just have to get our act more together so we can make more appropriate choices.
After all, they are our feelings and we are the ones who should deal with them, people will tell us.
The oddest part about this advice is that people usually feel that they are being kind, smart and doing us a favour when offering it. They really do want to help, and they think offering us advice that is so obvious that we have overlooked it is the best way.
There is some sense to that. Decades of shame, stigma and social denial can make us a bit crazy, a bit scarred, a bit burned. We can, sometimes, be so aware of the possible downsides that we stay defended rather than reaching out to make connections.
Reaching out to make connections with people who don’t understand the grinding truth of growing up trans in this culture doesn’t really feel safe or welcoming, though.
I know that when I am with a group of women and I bring up issues around trans, I will either have to do a five hour informational training, which no one has time or attention for, or be ready to be told that I am wrong, that the answers are much simpler than I think they are.
People will pull out challenges from their own life and believe that the same solutions will work for me, not seeing the huge gap between our life experiences.
If they don’t see me as normative, the choice is worse. They will see a gap open up between me and them, either putting me up on a pedestal or putting me down as an oddity. Curiosity, Normative, Pedestal, as I have written.
There are simple solutions that most of us have never followed. We don’t resist them, though, because we don’t know what they are. It’s easy to know the best choices. It is often hard, though, to choose against the fears and feelings we have deep inside, against the habits and experiences that guide our less than good choices.
People heal when they stop resisting change and healing. People heal when they respond in the moment from their best self and not from the pain and practices that we hold as burdens. Getting over our blocks is never simple.
My own difference, my own queerness, has helped me engage the stories of other people. I don’t assume that I understand their challenges, only that I can listen to them, encourage them and reflect what I hear them sharing. My story is my story and their story is their story, so if I wish them to respect me, I need to respect them. What I don’t know has filled many, many books.
The fundamentals of human life may be universal & simple, but any given human life is essentially a complex thing, full of unique stories of pain, joy, desire and heartbreak. Engaging my own complexity allows me to respect the complexity of any other human I meet.
The beauty and power of human lives is not in their simple, generic sameness, rather it is in their nuanced and complex revelation, as individual as snowflakes and flowers. We are each the product of so many inputs, so many bits and pieces, both empowering and blocking, that simple solutions don’t apply.
And that is true even if simple, routine advice is all we think that we have to share.