Every now and then, I will hear a story about a transperson being less than gracious and I feel embarrassed.
The last story was about a transwoman who asked for my sister’s help at the store to try on shapewear. They showed a great deal to her, asking for opinions and making her feel uncomfortable.
My sister understood the context, though, helping someone who didn’t grow up in a world of women to get the social training, someone who is a bit lost and without much support to get assistance and advice. It’s the kind of moment that she values in retail, when she gets to help someone get what they need in the world, from a brother buying a gift for a sister in assisted living to a woman who needs a dress for a wedding that will hide her prosthesis.
When I hear stories that make me squirm a little bit, of a transperson being rough and ragged in the world, I need to choose my response.
It’s easy to get angry and berate them for not keeping up appearances, for letting down the side, for making life harder for the rest of us. Deciding we know when someone is doing it wrong, choosing to castigate them to show our own quality is a simple choice.
It is, however, a choice that supports stigmatization of transpeople in the world. If “bad” transpeople should be shunned and ostracized then all people have to do to hurt us is to decide that some of our choices are bad. The choice to judge is the choice to encourage and validate the self-policing that keeps transpeople small, broken and invisible.
For me, compassion is the only choice. Just like my sister, I can understand why the person in the dressing room was a bit ragged, needy and unaware of social skills. I have seen way too many people who were a bit crushed, a bit shattered, and a bit disconnected after living a life in the closet, a life facing stigma and isolation, a lonely life without learning and support.
There, I think, but for the grace of God, go I. They aren’t doing it perfectly — nothing in human life is ever perfect — but they are doing it, are trying to find a way to integrate their trans nature into their life. Everyone grows and heals in their own time and their own way, so bless them for doing the work to get out and try.
You won’t ever hear me rag on transpeople, bad mouthing other people for doing it wrong. I may look at someone’s choices and talk about how I would have done it differently, offering my own positive understanding, but I won’t just be negative about a transperson struggling to find their place in the world.
How can we ask for blessing of our meagre choices if we are not prepared to bless the choices of others? How can we invoke the golden rule, never doing onto others what we would find to be cruel or unkind?
I have to apply this same principle of blessing to transpeople who are succeeding too. Rather than picking apart their choices to identify flaws, I need to bless their audacity and strength to get out there and do the work. My envy, pain and judgment doesn’t hurt them, rather it hurts me, keeping me blaming external forces for my own limits.
God, grant me the strength to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference. Everyone has their own gifts and each one of those gifts comes with its own cost, and the only ones I have control over are mine.
Telling other people what they should do only attempts to turn my own energy outward and negative rather than keeping it inward and positive.
This is often hard to do. I often feel the judgment when I meet transpeople, especially transpeople who value group identity more than individual expression. They have bought into the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” of their identity and try to enforce those values, priorities and choices onto others. They know what choices they would never make for themselves and when they see others making those choices, they devalue and berate them.
Staying centred and affirmative, blessing others even when they don’t understand your choices, or worse, when they attack them, is not easy. That tit-for-tat, though, is what turns us against each other, leaving us as crabs in a barrel where no one gets out unscarred.
If I want to get blessings in the world, I have to be prepared to give blessings, even to those who are rough, struggling and not so pretty. I need to approach others with the compassion and understanding that I want them to offer to me. What goes around comes around.
For me, this is at the heart of both my queer view and my spiritual view, at the core of my calling which intertwines value for the individual with individual values.
Bless the mess in the world, for I am part of it, and I know I need that blessing a great deal.