Here is a little secret.
Under this considered, thoughtful, theological exterior beats the intense heart of a drama queen.
Actors don’t deal with the same kind of “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” truth that theologians do. They leave that stuff to writers.
Instead, they deal in emotional truth. Does it feel right? Does it convey the deep human connection that can move people?
This isn’t the kind of truth affirmed by Aspergers parents. In the session at RPI, though, where 10 people thought I was brilliant, 20 thought I was an asshole for not respecting lesbian and gay points of view, and 70 didn’t care one one way or the other, emotional truth was part of my power.
The one poor trans man who thought I was both brilliant and an asshole, caught between his connection to feminist community and his real trans experience, found my words challenging, but the emotional truth of my presentation resonated with him.
For the two guests, Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst, my emotional truth was visible. Mr. Ernst did respond to my cerebral truth, understanding my words as weapons against closed thinking, wanting to read my writing again, but it was the emotional truth that most resonated with Ms. Drucker, For her, the concepts were clunky, but my emotional truth was loaded into my voice, a voice she felt echo across the country. She wanted, needed to hear that Drama Queen voice I have learned to silence in favour of the analytical, rational and dry.
Jeffrey Tambor brings not a literal truth to Moira in Transparent, but instead powerfully conveys an emotional truth that resonates with viewers who do not yet have the language to understand the transgender experience in a cerebral way. This is the brilliance of a great and skilled actor.
As humans, we learn to read emotion very early, as children, long before we have language for explaining. We respond to tone over text almost every time.
When another writer dismissed this idea, I turned to her and seductively cooed “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you,” then switched to a gasping, strained voice, full of distress and quaver, to sob out “I love you, I love you so much, so much I love you!” She got the point; even if we understand the content, the tone of a message goes right into our awareness, setting its own emotional reality.
The great shift in my writing between the old site, which has writing from around 1985 to 2000, and this site, started on Thanksgiving 2005, is emotional reality. I used to write very analytical pieces but realized they didn’t carry much of the truth of transgender, the truth that emerges when you expose the personal emotional experience which is below the mind. That means more messy writing, but also deeper sharing.
The emotion, though, is locked into complex texts that can be difficult for people to engage. ShamanGal, who reads this blog as homework, talks about having to set aside time and put in ear plugs before she tries to navigate one of these posts. Because she has spent to much time on the phone with me in the last two years, though, she can hear the voice locked in the text, get the humanity out of it.
This is very difficult for those who don’t know my physical voice, those who haven’t experienced the emotional, drama queen truth of it. My sister, for example, is fine with having my voice wash over her, finding it comfortable and powerful, but reading it dried on the page is impossible for her, just too much work. She knows she doesn’t extract all of what I offer, just taking what she can grasp now, but she is comfortable with re-hearing what I share, coming to it in a new way. It is much more difficult to have people re-read, even though, as ShamanGal has found out, a more developed awareness unlocks more nuanced meaning.
I am so used to not trusting that my voice will be heard that I stay silent. The fact is that, yes, much of the thoughtful, theological content of my voice will not be understood, people just not being ready to go that deep.
What I don’t trust is that even if the carefully constructed, so hard won truths, truths I have slaved over in my hermitage for two decades now, are not digested, something else will be conveyed in the world. The emotional truth of my experience, the tone and ownership, the wit and the experience, is braided deep into my expression. It is that passionate, emotional content which needs to be shared along with the strong, rigorous intellectual bits I used to unlock and give foundation to my human experience.
I am on the cusp of another emergence, one that feels terrifying and unsupported to me. I have always been a performer — a key part of caring for my parents was shaping my performance to give them context and love — but I have never believed in my own beauty, instead leaning on rationality.
My body will never be as beautiful as I want it to be, as my big bones get hit by the high costs of a life of denial and neglect, but my voice, my voice, that drama queen voice, offers some shimmering. Does it expose too much of me, far from the plummy tinkle of a polished female? Or does it reveal more of me, offering a kind of ragged emotional truth which deeply resonates with other people’s continuous common humanity?
There have been many moments where my speaking up has been affirmed, not just in conscious, deliberate considered text, but in the human mix of play, emotion, and smarts that comes from a smart and integrated life. While it is hard for me to believe, my voice carries a kind of power that helps truth become more accessible, more digestible. It reaches out to the child inside everyone, offering bits of context that they can take on when they are ready.
For someone who found their footing in tech, learning to do things the engineering way, trusting the drama queen energy is very difficult. Moving beyond the cerebral to trust the emotional truth means trusting in those parts of me that have been attacked, shamed and dismissed for being irrational.
I learned how to be reasonable, rational and sensible early in my life. It was the strategy that was demanded of me in the world, for so many reasons.
Underneath, though, I am a drama queen, playful, witty, emotive and engaging. Maybe people can respond to that in my voice.
Maybe it is time to find a way to let them hear it.