A shut mouth casts no spells.
Unless you are absurdly beautiful, it is impossible to charm and connect with other people by staying silent.
An open mouth reveals who you are.
One of the first things it reveals is how present you are. Are you aware of the people and situation around you? Are you considerate and engaged, or are you playing out your own drama? Do you listen & consider before speaking, or do you just project your own worldview, offering your knee-jerk reactions?
I know how to keep my mouth shut. I am the observer, collecting bits of the world and returning to capture it in writing, threading those artifacts into some kind of context and understanding. This is how I reveal myself, quietly, without direct conflict.
In a dangerous world, like the unstable one my mother created, there was no safety in speaking. Spells had to be cast with fixed deliberation, with the reserve and deference of a concierge, always considered and modulated. My goal was control, manipulating my expression to try and push people to get what I wanted.
My guerrilla training was clear. Unless you were quite certain you could be effective, offering something useful, you keep your mouth shut. Sharing your own feelings was just indulgent crap, and confronting others was just horrible manners that proved you weren’t worthy of being in polite company. We don’t draw attention to ourselves that way.
I listen much more than I speak. Interviewing others is second nature to me, as I proved on my TV shows. I use that skill in everyday life, for example keeping my niece awake as she drove back from the amusement park by interviewing her. She didn’t understand what I was doing — it is not done in her family — but she knew that she really, really liked being asked smart questions about herself.
As I woke up from my dreams this morning, though, a message was clear: A shut mouth casts no spells.
If I need magic — the magic of connection, of love — then I need to be able to cast my spells. A shut mouth casts no spells.
In the experience of trans women, those of us who have gone through puberty as a male but know ourselves to have womanly, feminine hearts, voice is a huge deal. We are never going to move back to tinkling sweetness. We know that our voice can out us very quickly.
The astounding thing about my coming out weekend was the fact that two judges loved my voice. Sure it was great to contribute my smarts to success, great to feel some support, but I was blown away by their comments that my voice was compelling and engaging.
My biggest failures in the world are where I choose to stay invisible by choosing not to speak. I doubt my voice, doubt my contribution, doubt my connection, doubt my acceptability. I keep myself locked away and then feel disconnected and isolated.
I’m not wrong. Speaking up does expose me, making me vulnerable, opening me to attack or shaming. It does, however expose me, making me vulnerable and allowing me to cast my spell, opening me to compassion and love.
A shut mouth casts no spells. It leaves your magic locked within, withering on the vine. Our voice contains so much of our power, from the symbols we choose to the curls of our vocal expression, conveying part of us into the hearts and minds of other people.
The purpose of stigma in the world is to shut the mouths of those who might challenge the status quo. By removing their standing to speak, calling them weak, defective or corrupt, you try to remove their power to cast spells that might change the hearts and minds of those who you plan to control.
When we surrender our voices in an attempt to play along, to keep other people comfortable, to keep our heads down, we also surrender the magic we have to charm and convince other people, swaying them by showing our sharp minds, our warm hearts and our continuous common humanity.
I know why I learned to keep my mouth shut, why I fear revealing too much, but I also know why that approach limits and hurts me. Speaking quietly and nicely in my own corner, in a neglected spot on the internet, may make me somewhat less threatening, but it also makes me invisible.
My eyes show that I am always looking and thinking. My mouth needs to put that observation in context, revealing my heart. And my view of the world makes much more sense if you see me as a woman.
A shut mouth casts no spells.
If I need magic, well, then I have to be more easy about simply opening my mouth and letting my heart out.