What do you want to be if you grow up?
To answer that question, you have to a vision of what the possibilities are. You have to have seen something that draws your heart, a role that looks delightful and satisfying, something you might love so much that you will do the hard, hard work to achieve it.
While reality will always transcend our imagination, without dreams of some kind we won’t have the impetus to go and do the work. As General Eisenhower said, “Plans are useless, but planning is invaluable.” No plan ever survived its firs encounter with the enemy, but the act of engaging logistical, tactical and strategic options gives us the power to make better choices when reality intervenes in our dreams.
We read history to inform our choices. We collect cultural possibilities to shape our own dreams, our own visions, our own hopes.
For transpeople, though, the possibilities we see are mostly broken, mocked, or stigmatized. Transpeople who have found success have learned to keep their head down, trying to get people to focus on their work and not on their transgender history.
When we see other transpeople in the world, we often see negative images, examples of who we don’t want to have to be in the world. Rather than dreams, images of other transpeople seem a bit like nightmares. On one hand, we admire those transpeople for being out and taking the blows, but we don’t really see ourselves as wanting to be like them, wanting to have to suffer the hits they took.
Some of this is internalized transphobia. We dream of being normative, of fitting in, of being not just “successful for a tranny,” but instead of just being successful and happy for anyone. We want to see possibilities for ourselves in the wider world and not just inside our own ghetto.
When we try and express those dreams, though, it is hard to get them shared, reflected back from those around us. Instead of seeing possibility in our own bold claiming of our own queerness, they hold fear for what the world has always done to misfits and deviants. They cling to a kind of thirdhand fear that even if they can see a glimmer of good in us, others will never see beyond biology and history to our shimmering, human hearts.
Our dreams are the fuel of audacious risk, the energy sustains us through the everyday slights and struggles to master a new kind of embodiment.
You only really love someone
when you love their dreams,
love the possibilities inherent in them.
— Callan Williams
Loneliness does not come from having no people about one,
but from being unable to communicate
the things that seem important to oneself,
or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible
— C. G. Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, “Retrospect”
How can we work towards becoming the best us we can be if we have no dreams, no images to provide shining examples towards which to shoot? Those imaginings will never hold the reality we can create, but they must feed our own endurance and energy.
Don’t part with your illusions.
When they are gone you may still exist
but you have ceased to live.
— Mark Twain
Who do you want to be if you grow up? What is the dream that gives you hope and encouragement in your darkest, loneliest night when others seem to chill your life, diminish your possibilities and return only fear & resistance?
What do you think might just be possible for someone like you to achieve in the world?