Transwomen know that one of the obligations they have in the world is to make part of themselves invisible, to get it out of the way so that they can more easily be seen as women.
In a world where gender is seen as a matter of the body, poles vs holes, many people assume that the most important and most difficult thing we need to hide is the shape of a body that went through puberty as a male.
We try facial feminization, breast implants, hair transplants, and of course, genital reconstruction surgery to female our bodies.
This can’t change our sex, though. Our new parts will never work like factory, we will never have reproductive power. Our chromosomes won’t change. And bones don’t lie. They will show our bodies history forever.
I can tell you from my perspective [as a photographer], what makes a woman a woman has zero to do with facial hair or jawline or proficiency with makeup. The essence is never external, which is why I urge my clients to forgo professional hair and makeup before a session. The feminine simply cannot be painted on or curled and cut. I learned a valuable lesson from you, my friend, and that is that our gender isn’t proclaimed by the doctor who delivers us. It’s more essential even than that. It’s the soul. It’s what shows up when we stop pretending. That’s the definition of authenticity.
— Don Hajicek
If it isn’t making the sex of our body invisible which allows the transgender nature, the feminine heart to show through, what do we have to make invisible?
How do we get to the point where we can stand exposed, vulnerable and spiritually naked in the world so that people can see our feminine heart?
What I feel the need to make invisible is the profound experience of living as a transperson in the world. The scars and lessons that come from being a woman with a transgender history, the armour and the sensitivity that mark my spirit gets in the way of my heart being seen by people who think in terms of one or the other.
Choosing the lobotomy option was never real for me. I know that my mind is a gift, that my memory allows me to see patterns, make connections, and offer something special to the world. Some people suggest that having beginners mind is the choice to forget what you know, but I believe that the beginners mind is just contained in the willingness to be wrong, to see a better way, to try something different. Beginners mind is about approaching the world with openness and flexibility, ready to learn, not about becoming a blank slate.
My search for a place to put my experience, for someone who can see, understand and hold onto my experience so I can stop holding on to it so tightly and visibly, has defined my life. I don’t need to share the joke with everyone I meet as I pass through life, but I do need to share it with someone who holds it with respect and tenderness. If no one has my back, how can I just relax and be upfront in the world?
Finding a way to keep my rawness away from my skin so that I can open my yoni to the world has always been and continues to be my challenge.
The goal, as I have said in the past, is not to erase or eliminate my history and my emotions, but to keep hold of them and yet not be controlled by those past experiences. My stories are real and precious, but that valid truth must not be allowed to destroy the possibilities of my future. if it happens, that destruction may as well be terminal.
Simply speaking your story out loud is never enough, for it is in sharing that humanity connects. To be a human with no place to share your story is to be a human whose meaning is erased. To be a human with your meaning erased is to be a human with a shattered heart.
I am proud of my attempt to stay alive and visible for so long in the face of enveloping silence.
I have struggled to keep my own conversation with the world going on, even in the face of an audience who needs the conversation to be about them and to exist only on their terms.
I have proven that I can enter their world, offer them accurate, effective and useful mirroring, that I can be present for them.
I have kept working to communicate my own truth in clear and gracious ways, even as I end up receiving only silence and myopia from a self-involved world.
If I could just make my own knowledge and feelings more invisible, being willing to play the games of others, then they would see me as useful, a human doing that can serve them. (The first post on this blog, “Stretching Thanks” from Thanksgiving 2005, is on that theme.)
The only thing I can change is my own attitudes and choices. If I cannot change those, am too bound up in my experience to not let it control me, then the only change which can save me is cutting the bonds.
When people choose to leave this world, the story is told by those left behind. They always have some kind of anger that the departed didn’t try one more thing, the one that the survivor is sure would have saved them, always have anger that the departed was rude and insensitive to not put the feelings of the survivor on the top of the priority list. The departure is unfathomable, tragic and misguided, because if it wasn’t, the survivor would have to question their own role, their own culpability, their own choices.
It was a beautiful, crisp, sunny early summer day today. I stayed in this basement because a tree, a stream, a lake or a mountain would be beautiful but costly and still not get me the visibility, affirmation and release that I need. Nature may remind me of the awesome creation of God, another thing to be thankful for, along with waking up, my meals and my breath, but being outside alone doesn’t provide the mirroring my heart so desperately needs.
The challenge of what we make invisible is clear, but the pain of what we have never really been able to make visible, never been able to have accurately mirrored.
All we have to do, we are told, is learn to make the right parts of us invisible, to modulate and attenuate them, and we will find the reward we need to transcend loneliness.
It is the disappearing act of a lifetime.