If I had to identify the saddest thing about where I am now, it is the fact that I am so bruised I am unable to be playful.
The best things that have ever happened to me happened because of my willingness and ability to be playful. Like so many transpeople, it was my wit that helped me survive, a sharpness tempered with humour that made the cuts feel loving and positive.
Satire came naturally to me, assuming a voice and speaking the absurdities that reveal truth. I would speak in tongues and open minds, all the while amusing hearts.
The problem with playful, though, is that doing it alone is particularly pointless. Working up satire alone is like taking yourself out to dinner before you masturbate; you are going to get the same action whatever you do.
I could imagine myself, for example, being playful with Halloween this year, approaching parties full of young people in the character of a sixty-something ex-athlete transwoman. Maybe in earlier years I could have killed it, but right now imagining where the funny bits are in that kind of a situation are beyond me; the very thought of it kind of freezes me up inside.
It’s what people want, I know, the kind of resilience that comes from knowing how to give and take a joke, offering a kind of ease that takes flops and twists with a grin. If transpeople can’t laugh at themselves, well, then, they will be stuck in a rut of abject sorrow and political correctness which ends up being a morass of death.
Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress.
Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.
— Maya Angelou
In the past years, the crevasse between funny sassy drag queens and serious, earnest transpeople has become bigger and bigger. In my day, we had to stick together, and yes, I have hosted drag shows, even pulling my out vinyl copy of A Christmas Gift For You to make one work.
The Drama Queens knew where to find the funny, bringing awareness in a playful and sharp way to trans events. That became more of a struggle, though, as the pressures of the real world impinged and things got harder.
Playing without a playmate, though, is just wearing and self-limiting, spiralling in on itself. The joy of making someone else laugh with novelty and wit is the only way to expand your own humor, of that I am sure.
We need, in the end, people to back our joy. Go too long without that and things just dry up and start growing mold, having spent too long in the icebox. Just too long.
Play is fragile. It keeps us childlike and growing, but as we age, our possibilities harden up and imagination becomes much harder to access. We feel the need to be professional, and that means hardening up, becoming consistent, enforcing rules rather than transcending them.
Play is communal. If the people around you aren’t playful, well, that means there isn’t much space for you to be playful.
Play is possible. If you can’t imagine a different, better or funnier world to inhabit, you can’t enter that space and play in it. Play brings alternate realities to the fore, letting us explore possibilities. Play is where we try on what we haven’t yet become, the parts of us that still exist only in our imagination.
Play is celebration. Play revels in hope, in the awareness that we can make our own realities if we just start with a dream.
To me, though, play feels lost. The bruises, well, they seem to have won.
And that’s a problem.