The internet access was terminated, leaving me even more off the grid.
It felt like just another freeing loss. I may have spent a lot of time coming for inputs and offering my voice, but those two pieces were profoundly disconnected. My voice was offering diminishing returns and the crap I found was just more and more distracting.
I sat for a about a week and spoke to myself, making a piece of parts, a goulash.
Growing up trans is the experience of being taught what you cannot be.
The lesson for transpeople is simple: we can’t simply be whoever we want to be. When we reach for what our heart wants, we are challenged, resisted and shamed.
Gender is enforced, we learn, at the extreme cost of our inner knowledge, at the very dear price of our tender hopes.
We leaned very early that there were wrong, wrong, wrong answers to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
We learned that although we could instantly see what we wanted in the world, pretty and potent, asking for it would end up with denial and discipline telling us what is right and how we were wrong.
We were told that our dreams are corrupt, to be discouraged and demolished. “When I was just little I asked my mother what I will be. Will I be pretty, will I be rich? Here’s what she said to me: You stupid ass, you are a boy! No pretty for you!”
No matter what our tastes or our needs are, we are only offered what is socially approved for people with bodies like us. We are held to standards and expectations that we will be like others, liking what they like and competing with them for status and affirmation. We not only are denied what we love, we are forced into what we hate, into playing a game that we know doesn’t fit us.
How does knowing so early that you can never really be who you want to be, that the choices of the “other” gender will always be close, at hand, but will always be sickness if you choose them?
What I want — what any woman wants — is to be present in a network of loving relationships.
From a very young age, I learned that while I could give love, asking for my presence to be respected and understood was to ask too much. I needed to be hidden, veiled, disguised, reduced, modulated, attenuated, suppressed, repressed, oppressed and flattened in order to even get a taste of what I wanted, of what I knew I needed.
I had to settle for serving others, renouncing my own whatever, because my whatever is what I could never be, is what could never be understood and loved, could never be a dream.
I needed to find commercial, approved dreams to substitute, panting for the machine made red shoes that would end up dancing me to the machine’s tune.
I learned how to renounce desire, how to cope with loss, how to move past ego.
I learned to trust nobody with my dreams, burying them under invasive thoughts, the armour that kept my dreams away from even me.
What I needed to do next is to replace that externalized stuffing with my own authentic, primal and crystalline desire.
But growing up trans is the experience of being taught what you cannot be. It is growing up knowing that it is unsafe and unpleasant to walk as yourself in the world, waiting for the third gotcha, cutting yourself down to fit in, or being slammed by the beliefs of others.
And so, I end up bereft.
Is there some convenient synthetic goal to catch me and drive my passion to fight for acquiring it in the world?
Apparently not. I know what I cannot be and what I can be seems slight, empty, and well, insulting.
From a very young age, I have been clear about what I cannot be. I was told an immense, unchallengable “no.”
In that context, I shaped what I am.
And I cannot imagine what I might be from here in any way that seems worth the work to even try and get there.
If you can avoid being a healer, finding something else to do, you probably should do that.
People heal in their own way and their own time.
Most of what people do around healing is to resist it, trying to hang on to their imagined life, the one they don’t have but the one that they just know would make their life perfect. That perfection will never come to pass, of course, because they are living a human life. What will delight and heal them will be a surprise. Still, giving up their imagined perfection, those images of how life “should be” is always the hardest part of opening to growth and healing.
To be a healer, you have to be the embodiment of what they fear, what they resist, what they want to destroy and make invisible in their own view. You speak the lessons of experience that they don’t want to hear; if they wanted to hear it, if they were ready to hear it, they would have heard it long ago, as the truths have always existed in the world no matter how much we want to fight them.
As a healer, you don’t just have to fight your own battles, you also have to fight in battles with those who are just starting out, struggling with basics. That engagement will help you heal, will give you practice, will move your understanding forward — to learn something well, teach it — but it very well may not give you very much satisfaction, comfort or joy.
Those who clean up the struggle are very useful, but it is not work that creates respect or advancement.
If you want respect or advancement, go be a missionary, standing in the front of rooms and preaching to the choir, telling them what they want to hear. Missionaries put on a show and get the rewards from that showmanship.
In selling your missionary services, you have to become your target client, according to this video.
Just think of a time when you made a big commitment and over time, it changed your life for the better. Own that story, tell it to other people and you can convince them that what you are offering can lead to the change that they want in their life too.
The lesson is simple: be aspirational. If they want to be like you, they will buy what you are selling, at least if you really believe that what you are selling changed your life for the better.
The theory isn’t wrong. We buy what we are committed to and when people put it all on the line, they are much more likely to follow through, to make the effort, to actually create transformation in their lives.
Like all sales, though, there is a bit of a question of objectivity. The person telling the compelling anecdotes is a true believer, working hard to convince you, to get you to buy in.
They have no obligation, no responsibility to tell you about other people who made the same purchase, the same commitment and for whom the results weren’t so successful. They don’t have to disclose or even discover failures.
We want to buy into success. We want what we see other people have, want to believe that it is possible for us. And it may well be. You can’t win if you don’t play, as the lottery used to remind us.
In the end, it is always persistence that succeeds. Knock on enough doors and you will find someone to say yes. Be smart while knocking on that many doors and you will learn how to execute better and get to yes more often. The lessons are out there if only we practice enough to learn them, and we can only get that much practice in if we are not stopped or distracted in the process.
Persistence demands belief. You have to believe that success will come on the next door knock, have to keep the energy and focus up so you are ready to engage the next challenge and win it. To be persistent you have to let go of what just happened so you can full commit to what is going to happen next.
Being relentless is hard work. Pushing past failure, getting over your own emotions, not being distracted by the everyday challenges and the lowered expectations of those around is not easy. It takes a certain kind of intelligent ignorance, paying attention to the lessons and ignoring the resistance at the same time.
To do that, you have to be very clear about what your goal is, what you want.
If you want to be a healer, a change agent in the world, relentless isn’t the point.
Humans live in a finite world. Every choice for something is a choice against something. The resource is always limited and allocating it is the most important decision. You can’t be relentless on all fronts; you have to pick your priorities.
You have to choose your battles, be smart about your fights. I asked someone for their best advice for me when I was in my twenties and this was their reply: don’t piss into the wind. Choose where you put your essence so that it makes a difference and doesn’t just make a smelly mess.
Fighting is important. People don’t believe that you will fight for them unless you will fight with them. If they see you pushing them to do better, to make better choices, they will believe that you are on their side. If they see you trying to enforce petty bullshit, picking fights from selfish ego, then they will know something else about you.
Relationships are about the fighting. You should pick the partner that you want to fight with for the rest of your life. When someone loves you and cares enough to fight with you, helping you focus, making you better and stronger, that is a keeper. Passionate fighting clears the air, is kind of exciting, and making up can always be an enjoyable experience.
Fighting never works if you are only negative. You need to fight to win something, not just to cause the defeat of others. Creating allies, reinforcing and bolstering them is a vital part of the battle. Helping to make those along side of you strong, keeping the values aligned, making sure that internal fighting prepares you for better going after common cause is vital. Building a fighting team, with people who you can tag in, people who can watch your back, people who can spot and give you tips and people who can help you recover by feeling safe and cared for allows you to fight smarter and better.
Conflict is tough and expensive, but it is the only way to surface the best we can be, to get more focused and stronger.
This is a key difference between missionaries and healers: missionaries pitch belief, asking people to rely on faith and dogma, and healers pitch doubt, asking people to face themselves and do the work to get clear and get better.
Healers can’t just be dogmatic and single minded, creating separations between good and bad. You have to be smart, seeing the world the way that others see it, getting smarter and engaging in the battle for the liberation, empowerment and actualization of people you approach with love. That battle line between easy comfortable choices and better enlightened choices is where the fucking hard work gets done.
It’s easy to know you need to fight for and with your children. They depend on you and you have made a responsibility to them by their very creation. Watching them get smarter and fight for themselves over time is almost a joy.
Success almost never comes by having one big win, rather it is the small wins and smaller losses that add up to progress and achievement. Making better choices over time adds up to a better life.
Fighting will always leave you beat up, injured and battered. Wins will come if you are willing to be humbled, to learn lessons, to develop the muscles and the skills, but there will always, always be losses along the way. Spend too much time cutting the losses, protecting what you have, and you will start missing the wins. For people fighting for change exhaustion is almost guaranteed and it is very possible that the timing will be off, the costs will be too high and the fight will become futile. The only time you have to win is the last time that you try, but there is a last time for everyone.
Choosing who else to fight, how you can use your limited resources to make change, always partial and imperfect change, of course, but change, is the most important power of those who commit to transformation. The odds are high that we will never see the results of most of our fights, as people heal and grow in their own time, engaging their own change after many pebbles build up to shift the way they see the world. We plant seeds that we can’t track to blossoming, but we plant them anyway.
Everyone can use healthy engagement, a good challenging fight to help them understand and clarify their values and beliefs, to help them focus their choices. Some, though, will benefit faster and more deeply from that work. Since the work is always costly to the healer, that means you need to pick your battles.
In the end, we are what we fight for.
We are lost when the fight goes out of us, when any fight no longer seems worth the effort.
My work has been to say “yes” to transformation.
I have done all I can do to affirm the possibilities of other people, helping them accept what is and encouraging them to change what they can, to boldly let go of fear and embrace love, to become more open and vulnerable, to be more of who they are.
That has meant working like Shaw’s tailor, always taking new measure, seeing change and trends. I have never been able to fix my worldview, falling on to belief.
I know how hard it is to say “yes” to moving past the lessons burned into us as we struggled to know what we know and feel what we feel.
I know that everyone needs others to say “yes” to their dreams, to hold their possibilities tenderly, helping them find those shiny imaginings that fed their soul before the everyday world worked to crush them out and replace them with the fears and desires of our parents, our teachers, our peers and of those marketers who wanted to tell us what we needed to be a liked and popular member of this culture.
The fight inside of us is always between doing the hard thing which makes us stand out, unique and authentic, and doing the easy thing, which is supposed to let us fit in as one of the gang, easy and simple. Healers encourage us to fight for the best we can be, to trust what the creator put in our heart. That fight is internal, the struggle between wild and tame, the challenge to face the quests to become who we always were but be forever changed, to kill the dragon with “thou shalt” on every scale. We resist because we want to be popular rather than be respected, want to just play along.
Queer people in a room reset the boundaries. When the queerest person in the room is only a 4, others can only feel safe revealing themselves as a 3. When the queerest person is an 8, though, it becomes much safer to truth, to reveal the parts of you you are scared might be a 4 or even a 5. It is a gift to the group to be bold and out and queer, but it is a gift with lots of cost, because people who don’t want to engage their own queerness will isolate you, removing standing. It is lonely.
It is very hard to find people to say “yes” to choices that they would never make for themselves, to encourage audacity and boldness which they are trying to constrain in their own life. They are much more likely to offer their own solutions, playing the victim card or compartmentalizing for example. It is how they face the challenges in their life, so it should be good enough for you.
My work has been to say “yes” to transformation. I know how hard it was to face down the huge “no” I was pounded with, know that other people need to be encouraged. Unless we make the big choices, unless we stick with it, unless we feel seen and valued, having hope that change for the better is possible for us, our big, potent dreams will never be manifest in the world.
Getting that engagement and encouragement for myself in the world, though, has proven to be very difficult, even as I fight to be myself and move the boundaries for all everyday.
I am, as I have been trying to say for years now, empty and decayed inside and out. I haven’t had my feet out of fleece socks in over four years, nice shoes lost to me.
My head keeps me upright, but my heart is bankrupt, my reserves depleted. I cannot remember the last time I felt mirrored, affirmed and valued for anything other than my service to other people.
If I am just living for other people, I am not living.
I imagine trying to find a place in some kind of community, some kind of enterprise, some kind of society, and all I can see is how I can do the work that other people need me to do. I see being a beast of burden, not really a human. I enter the worlds of other people but they do not come close to mine.
Worse, I imagine being blamed for that result. If they are good and I am disconnected, then I must be doing something wrong, right? My fault, says the one who was scapegoated as the target patient from their earliest days.
I have no support structures, and while I have tried to find or build them in the last two and a half years, I have failed. My bunker mentality just strengthens, evidence for reasons to exit seeming to dry up and blow away. Unsafe.
My choices, I have been told, have always been about other people, about disappointing and frustrating them. They see me through their fears and expectations and that is a very narrow, very cold place to try and live. I am sure that whatever choice I make people will find it rude, selfish and inconsiderate, making it about the people around me and not about my own challenges, because people always have done that to me.
How can anyone be expected to not find me too intense, too verbose and too overwhelming? How do they have the time, the energy and the skills to parse out meaning from the volumes I offer, enough to hold a model of me in their head and their heart?
If I can’t expect others, then what can I expect? If I am winching at the core, alone and isolated there, how do I move past it?
It is clearly worth every earthly thing that I have to go and get what I need. While I can imagine many places to try and find such, I can’t say that my experience predicts any success in the process. I know what the chatter is around trans and that chatter is very far from where I am now.
It should be easier than this, I know. If it is not easier for me, then it is mu fault, making it too complicated, resisting the simplicity of humanity.
To be without a friend in the world is a challenging place. I know that I can be a friend and a very good one. Having one, on the other hand, has always proven to be a challenge.
“It’s never too late” is a great aphorism.
As a transperson, though, the first thing you were taught is simple: it was too late the moment you were born.
Do the best you can do with what you have. Make lemonade. Accept what you cannot change and have the courage to change what you can.
Sometimes the change that is needed and is possible can be obvious.