I see the world in a different way that most other people do.
I speak about what I see in thoughtful symbolic language that takes some effort to engage. When you do engage my communication, it often challenges your assumptions, your habits and your comfortable boundaries.
What does this mean to me?
It means I have spent a long life where many other people choose to write me off as a nutcase, as being out of my gourd, coo-koo, too stupid to understand what is obvious to them and what would be best for me.
In fifth grade, Miss Hansen had the class vote on my challenge to her statement of a scientific theory. It was unanimous. I was wrong. I stuck to my facts and when references were checked, I was correct, no matter how much she tried to club me with social pressure. It should have worked on any other fifth grader, but I came from a very different homelife.
It was a homelife where my family nickname for years was “Stupid,” the target patient who would not go along to get along but instead exposed twisted thinking. It took a therapist to tell my parents to cut that shit out. My mother didn’t remember those years; to her it must have just been another imaginary story I was telling, though my sister assures me that she remembers it well.
I know how to stand up for what I see to be right.
I also know how upset and angry I get when people just seem to be writing me off, seeming to twirl their fingers next to their head to communicate with the crowd that I am cracked.
The hot shit young bagger felt the need to punch out the carrying slot in two cartons of Coke Zero cans. I asked him why he did that; did he think it needed his young strength, or that somehow I was too stupid to know they were there?
I don’t like my cartons punched. He did it with the cocky assurance of a smooth teen and when challenged, his response was simple. Instead of offering to swap them, he and the cashier looked at me like I was crazy to complain about something like that.
It really isn’t a big deal in any way other than my feelings, my preferences. I understood that . If he offered to swap them, I probably would have just declined the offer, knowing he learned something.
But instead of being gracious, they wrote me down as nutcase for even bringing it up in a way that challenged their authority to bag however they would like.
I don’t look smooth and powerful in the world. After months of hermitage, I look scruffy and disconnected, I know that. I also know, though, that appearing in the world as a transwoman also lets people write you off as a sicko, being broken and devoid of standing to challenge the comfortably normative.
For me, the experience of being visibly trans in the world, challenging the assumptions of others by my very presence dovetails into my long personal experience of being seen as a weirdo who can be humiliated, ignored, mocked and isolated.
I am used to others blaming me for however people treat me because if I wanted to fit in, be respected and have credibility, I just wouldn’t be so freaky and challenging.
The one thing I have been unable to surrender is my voice, as it carries what I value most, the work I have done to clarify and understand my own understanding and view of our shared nature, our shared world.
Others might tell me that getting others on my side, getting them to share my vision, is the challenge every human has when they want power, respect and dignity in the world. If I could just compromise, use their own views, seduce them, create an interim consensus on the way to deeper understanding I would be able to get people on my side rather than alienating them.
In this way of thinking, I just need to be more likeable and less challenging.
What is the best technique for me, taking time to build standing in relationships, getting people to like me and then revealing my queerness, or just coming out as queer right up front and letting the chips fall where they may?
This has been a choice I have wrestled with all my life. How do I package my voice?
I have come to the understanding that once my voice is out there, people are going to respond how they will, and no amount of sugar will take away the tang of my reflections of their world.
Sure, I use humour and grace to be pleasant and fun to engage, making the revelation easier to take, and I offer a great deal of encouragement and support to those I am relationship with, a great deal of attention and caretaking, but in the end, I am who I am.
Why did I come to support queer back in the 1990s? I got there because I knew, honoured and respected the nutcases in the world, those people who claimed the wildness of bold individual vision over the tameness of pleasant assimilation into constructed social groupings.
I know, though, that it is lines just like that which cause people to roll their eyes, looking at others in shared agreement that I am a nutcase whose challenges can be easily dismissed.
I feel how much being written off as a nutcase hurts me, isolates me, and saddens me. I know how much it has cost me through the decades.
Fighting for the simple engagement and respect of other people though, trying to modulate myself down into the place where I can make change one iota at a time, well, that just feels crushing.
I was recently sent an essay from a transperson about claiming beyond separation and was struck by how much it reflected what I shared in a keynote at IFGE in 1995, twenty years ago, after I had already been out for a decade. I was a nutcase then and remain a nutcase now.
And that will wear you right down.