At a certain point, you have to acknowledge that some of the things you fantasized about doing are just never going to happen for you in this lifetime.
You are who you are, and while you still have room to grow, going backwards, erasing the past and becoming shiny and new just isn’t going to happen for you.
It’s easy to look at points in our lives where we wish that a different choice had been available to us, where we imagine that somehow, we could have become a different person. We made the best choice we could at the time, though, even if that choice came out of fear, hurt or broken emotion, and that particular choice can never be made again.
The best we can do is to encourage young people to make better choices than we did, more considered and considerate, and to make better choices now and in the future.
Our history doesn’t limit or define us, but it does reveal us. Like the figure captured in the stone, we are exposed by the choices we have made up until now, the choices that shaped us. We have created habits that suit our character in some way, found behaviours that fit at least some part of who we know ourselves to be.
Being who you are is just being who you are, the you revealed through all your explorations of self, through your own exposure.
Being effective, powerful and connected as who you are in the world takes another set of skills. Being in relationship demands that you take a role, one that meets the needs of other people, one that is appealing and concise, one that fits into the worldview of those around us.
If you really did have it all, where would you put it? And when the challenge is putting it in the understanding of people around you, how do you convey more than they can fit into their comprehension?
Transpeople want to claim their own truth, their own reality, their own honesty. I am who I am, as the old Jerry Herman refrain demanded.
What we really mean, most often, is that I am who I claim to be in this moment. I am my current manifestation of self, the role I perform at this moment. That is what I want to enter the awareness and understanding of those around me, the impression of myself that I claim as real and true.
Are we who we claim to be or are we who we are revealed to be?
Or are we really who others perceive us to be?
Are we defined not by our assertions or by our history, but rather by the role we play in society, by the many and varied roles we play?
Certainly in the experience of those around us, we are who they see us as being, not who we wish to be or even a summary of who we were in the past. Certainly those pieces help shape how others see us, but they are not absolute truth that constrains the view of others.
It is our choices that make the most impact on others. Our choices are the way we express who we are, shaped by our history, our training, our desires and our fears. What we choose to hide and what we choose to show, all revealed by choices we make mostly out of habit, mix with the understanding of those around us to define who we are in relationship, who we are in the world.
The assertion of authenticity — “This is the real me, because I am ______!” — ends up being only one facet of how others see us in the world, and far from the most important facet.
The most important bit of how they see us is the model of the world, the belief system that they carry in their head. Who can they imagine us being? Can they get past the assumptions and stereotypes they hold about people like us — our sex, our age, our weight, our beauty, our class, and everything else — or do they end up pinning us into the pigeonholes that they already hold?
People are used to needing a simple worldview, a simple set of classifications and categories. They like the boundaries and barriers, the walls that keep challengig things separate inside their own head.
No matter how much we know who we are — and that knowledge is often shaped by who we want to be, by the limits of our own exploration and experience — it is often easier and more effective to be who others need us to be, who they expect us to be. The complexity and subtleties of who we really are just creates noise that makes us less effective in the world.
We produce ourselves to simplify our message in the intention of making our choices more potent and compelling in the world. We understand the role we are cast in so we endeavour to play that role, whatever the cost.
Revelation becomes clutter and the choice becomes, as it so often does, what parts of you need to be erased in order to fit into the expectations and assumptions of those around us. We police our own expression, denying our own vulnerable heart because we know that few people can be trusted to get the message, be trusted to tend tenderly to our most potent revelation.
The skills to play a clean and understandable role in relationship are valued in this culture. The role I was cast in, as a guru, visionary and healer, dates from very early days for me, even before I was in my teens. I know how to play that role and people love me for it, being a big rock of a coach, safe space to let it all out and get a different, more clear understanding of the situation and the possibilities.
Those skills, though, don’t erase what has been revealed to me over time. For example, I know that my defensive skills in my family were emotional understanding and manipulation, which are not really guy skills. My feminine self came out early, though not stereotypically, not being slight and seductive.
My guru role is powerfully androgynous, beyond the expectations of standardized desire. I know that I could and can clothe myself across gender boundaries and still be seen as a guru, like so many spiritual figures robed in dress and adornment.
But trying to find space in the world, inside of the understanding that others carry of the world, to show my deep and beautiful femininity, well, that is outside of the roles others carry in their head.
We are who we are revealed to be, yes, but only inside.
In the world, we are who others can see us as being, between our choices and their comforting assumptions.
And “me” is stuck somewhere between.