You can’t be what you can’t see.
— Marian Wright Edelman
How can any transperson, growing up with mirrors tuned to limit their gendered possibilities to that which make others comfortable, ever see the possibilities that lie just beyond their vision?
How can we move past the socially imposed blinkers into what seems like secret knowledge, hidden by the cultural walls we see between the genders?
The biggest challenge I have is to help people see beyond the current limits of their vision, past the boundaries and expectations of conventional gender. If they can see it, they can be it, but seeing it demands opening your eyes to a wide range of challenging visions.
We are trained to see the scary stuff, the stuff that should keep us in line, treading the straight and very narrow. This is what people around us accept as normative, as the way that things are, so we learn to accept it too.
People can’t speak of what they do not yet see in themselves. We cut the stories we tell about ourselves down to the language and concepts we have at hand, working hard to stay within the bounds of the known world, that which is already in the sight of those around us.
Moving beyond the current limits of your imagination requires feeding it with what was uncommon to you in the past. It demands swinging the pendulum wide to find a new centre, one not bounded by what you are supposed to know.
To see beyond we have to let go of those barriers to sight, allowing us to see through walls. The best way to do this is to learn to see through the eyes of other people who have very different experiences and assumptions to the ones that we grew up with.
The challenge isn’t finding new ways to be, the challenge is, as always, dropping the blocks you hold to that vision. Unlearning what you know always has to come before opening your mind to what you do not yet know. If you don’t do that, your beliefs of what is normal get in the way of seeing what is real.
It easy to tenaciously hold on to what you believe is the right way to see the world even in the face of evidence that the world is much, much more diverse and beautiful than we ever imagined it to be, that it holds possibilities far beyond our current sight and limits of understanding.
Before we can hold knowledge we have to build mental structures to hold it. The discipline of understanding is in the way we categorize it. Unless we are able to have access to what we know, we can never cross check it, never see the patterns that emerge or the contradictions we hold. Tearing down and rebuilding the bookshelves in our mind is the first step to moving beyond the limits of what we see, of what we know.
For me, the key to seeing beyond the imposed boundaries of gender was learning to see through the eyes of other people who were raised in another culture. The more I engaged the narratives of women, the more I was able to see the possibilities and the limits, the delights and the pressures that exist inside the world of women.
Using the stories of women to see as they do, I was able to see past the boundaries of my own silo of acculturation, beyond my own frustration and rage. It turns out that women already had solutions for the challenges of my heart, from dealing with emotional blowups to negotiating with men without being one to finding pleasure without erections.
As children we are open to the stories of those around us as we look to get a bigger picture of the world, of our place in it, and of the possibilities that are open to us. Wide eyed and curious we take everything in, often working to imitate what we see around us in the process of play.
As teenagers we try on many different ways of being, assuming poses and attitudes to see what works for us, what fits us. We look to other people and borrow their observations, their choices and their words to find though synthesis a personal way of expression.
When we grow up, though, we often think that we have become fixed, locked into who we are, only seeing the world through our own filters, biases and expectations. We don’t see any need or use to see outside our own constructions, falling inward and losing sight of what could be if we opened our eyes, our minds and our hearts.
To see better, we must learn to practise seeing, becoming still and open to the world. Seeing beyond our expectations, letting others visions inform and guide us, lets us move beyond our own blocks.
For many, the simple expedient of throwing away what does not fit neatly in with what they already know means that they will never expand the limits of their vision.
If you overlook the bit of information that will cause you to question everything, cause you to open your eyes and see the world in a whole new light, you will remain blind and ignorant to the need for change.
When we try and impose our own expectations over the wide world, choosing to take the past
Opening your eyes isn’t as easy as it sounds. The limits of our understanding are the limits of our perception. The limits of our perception are the limits of our expectations. Unless we expect the unexpected and open to wider visions we will never really open our eyes.
Every humans has their own view of the world we share. Until we open to those visions, there is no way to expand our own sight, our own understandings, and our own imaginings of what we can be.