As a powerfemme, it was never my favorite metaphor for the transgender experience, but thanks to Karen Armstrong’s “Fields Of Blood,” I understand the challenge in a new way.
Humans are a meaning seeking creature, looking for some kind of myth that makes sense of the challenges of life, especially of the circle of life and death. Birth and death come in the seasons, in the way we nourish ourselves, in the way we mature. We are constantly dying and being reborn, engaging loss to find new possibilities and we need meaning to keep that process in context, to see a longer view of daily hardships.
Transpeople fight for meaning everyday. We fight the cultural system of gender that tries to reduce us to servants of our biology, instead claiming meaning beyond gendered assumptions and expectations.
In some way, every human fights the stereotyping of gender. Trying to create an imitation of something with no original, we all face the challenge of being tame enough to fit in, to be one of the group, meeting the expectations, while also being wild enough to stand out, to be boldly ourselves, authentic beyond convention.
The tension of that challenge is in every person. Some of us delight in seeing others who boldly claim individuality, wanting those possibilities for ourself, while other feel rage towards others who seem to mock standards and norms, taking out the price we paid to fit in against others who appear to flaunt our sacrifice to be good and proper.
When that internal tension of gendering is exposed in the world, it often brings up strong feelings in other people. They may see us as a courageous hero of freedom or they may see us as a heinous enemy out to destroy what they hold as sacred.
In either case, though, they see us as a warrior, engaged in a fight that runs deep in the world. They project their own meaning onto our personal battles, deciding that our choices mean what they think they mean and then either affirming that assigned meaning or working to destroy that meaning as false and evil.
People have always had ambivalent feelings about warriors. Not everyone can transcend the frailty of human emotion to do battle; most of us have feet of clay. How do warriors engage the pain and loss of battle? How do they find the power and strength to keep on fighting?
Those who do fight are both awesome and frightening, two sides of the same sword, the weapon we know can defend us, fighting for us, and can crush us, fighting against what we believe and destroying our world.
What do other people see you, as a transperson, battling in the world?
Do they see you as battling your own pain, fighting against the way your feel broken because your body doesn’t fit the expectations of your dreams?
Do they see you as battling for your own desires, indulging your own fantasies in the world?
Do they see you as battling towards authenticity, trying to become whole and integrated inside your own skin?
What you are willing to fight for shapes your life, much, much more than what you just go along with. You know what you believe you are fighting for, just like you also know what you are fighting against, what scares you and defines what you resist, though you may try and keep that resistance in the darkness.
What people see you as fighting for, though, defines your relationships. And people see you as fighting for or against something they value, something they believe, something they fear.
I never saw myself as a warrior. I don’t hold any rigid doctrine. I approach the world with humility and deference, working hard to not take more than I give. I listen much more than I talk, really wanting to hear the stories other people share.
I suspect, though, that people see me in a war to reveal meaning. Rather than just accepting things at face value, I use questions to delve to a deeper meaning. By assuming that choices and symbols reveal meaning, I seek to understand.
Of course, this is the quest of a theologian, to find meaning in the stories we tell, to pull out the potent and the sacred from the mundane. Many people who call themselves theologians are really missionaries, seeking to create apologia that bolster and defend the faith they already hold rather than looking deeply at questions of connection and meaning, but that is not my approach at all.
My war for meaning is both why I am compelling and why I am terrifying. For those who seek beneath, looking for the surprising that clears blocks and fosters healing, I offer tools. For those who seek to press their current beliefs in the world, trying to mold the world to their desires, I offer challenge.
It may well be difficult to read my words and not feel the power of the warrior. My battle to understand and reveal meaning is explicit, intense, and dogged. I am driven and relentless, even as my quest takes me far away from the comforts of human connection.
Showing my warrior side makes me both awesome and terrifying, a healer desperately fighting for better and a wounded veteran laced with scars. I faced what others fear and that is both laudable and scary, reason for others to hold me at a distance out of respect or disgust.
What is your quest, the one that you value so much you are willing to fight for it? How do you try and open your world beyond barriers?
What is your fear, the one that scares you so much that you are willing to fight against it? How do you try and purge your world?
Every human is a warrior on some level, battling for some thing, battling against something. Every humans craves fitting in and needs to stand up, stand out at the same time.
What do you end up fighting, for or against?