“Why can’t you just be yourself?”
Two flamboyant and stylish gay comedians were asked that question in the break room of a timber mill while doing a documentary. The fellow asking looked at them and thought about what he knew as normal — really, what he knew as normative, the expected behaviour of his peers — and wondered way gay people have to be so brash, so in-your-face, so bloody queer. After all, everyone he knew could fit into his world, so why couldn’t they?
His question, though, revealed his underlying assumption: if you are being too different, it is because you are trying too hard. So just cut that shit out and be yourself.
The response, of course, was that these two guys were just being themselves, well on the range of what is normal for humans in the world, even if out of the range of what is normative and expected for this little town.
“Why can’t you just let off and be yourself?” is a question based on a wprld view that enforces norms to create comfort zones, places where you know what the rules are and following them is the right, the polite, the appropriate thing to do.
It assumes that people who are out of bounds are deliberately trying to break the rules, to create a stink.
Worst, it suggests that rule breakers deserve what they get for their transgressions, that their deliberate violations of “just being themselves” is the cause of problems. If they continue to flaunt convention, well, then they are just asking to be put back in their place.
After all, how unreasonable is it to ask that someone just cuts out the queerness and instead is just themselves?
I have known who I am for decades.
I am, with my long memory, my view of connection beyond walls of convention, my performance skills which start with speaking in Jonathan Winter tongues, a freakin’ guru. In other times and places, I would be chosen for that duty, learning the skills of a shaman, the responsibilities of a trans priestess.
When William Dragoin presented his paper on “The Gynemimetic Shaman” in Van Nuys so long ago now, my friends and I looked at each other, our nature being read out. We came by who we were naturally, he suggested, our unique skills serving community for much of human history.
Just being myself is what I have been trying to do. I follow the crib notes from Joseph Campbell who saw the path to a heroes journey in belief stories from across the world. And what I find, what I continue to find is that deep down I am just some kind of damn shamanic guru.
I have tried to fit in, to be useful. Seeing twists and connections, though, well, it isn’t what everybody wants. It takes standing to be valued for this kind of sight.
Being yourself doesn’t mean being normative and fitting into the comfortable, limited expectations of the population.
Actually being yourself in the face of social pressure is hard. Just ask Joseph Campbell.
I know who I am. I just have no real path of what to do about it.