Cri Du Coeur

That low. deep earthy growl that transitions into a high, keening sound that cuts through the darkest and loneliest of nights is not the howl of banshees.

It is the hearts cry of transpeople who feel their isolation and loneliness come up from the depths of their soul.

Inside every transgender person is a lost and hurting child, a screaming adolescent and a mournful adult.    They are the pieces of us we locked away deep inside of us while trying, trying, trying to do what other people expected of us.

Every human has emotions deep inside that get tapped when they feel hurt, ignored or abused.   For transpeople, though, those emotions tap into a hidden and vast reservoir of shame and denial.

We learned that no matter how elegantly and intensely we try to communicate our experience of having our trans heart pounded down, almost nobody understands the experience of having to make your soul invisible or be made invisible because who you are just is anathema to the world.

It takes an enormous amount of will to emerge as a transperson in the world, to show your heart even though it counters all expectations and understanding of most people.    We work hard to create a version of us that will fit in, will find community, will be accepted, but even then, that version is always only part of us, only a hint of the beautiful, nuanced, liminal depth of who we are inside.

We all know how to be nice, appropriate and considerate.  We know how to modulate and play small, know how to negotiate other people’s fears and prejudices, know how to work on keeping people comfortable.

We also all know the price of that exercise, how much it costs us to always been the photogenic object, the one who has to do almost all the work in maintaining relationships.

We fight to stay connected with the people we love, fight to be present for them and give them what they need.

What we want, though, is for them to fight to stay connected with us, to be present for us and give us what we need.

That’s not an easy task.   To stand up for us is to stand against convention and assumption.  It means that you have to evaluate all your old beliefs and find a new way to engage relationships, seeing past comfortable walls of gender.

And it means that you have to consider all the pain inside of us, our long record of being abused into silence and denial, have to be able to be there for that cri du coeur, that mournful cry of our heart when our emotions are tapped.

It may not be seem fair or reasonable to have to be aware and considerate about the cost of a trans life when all you want to do is have someone be the kid, the parent, the sibling that you always knew, but love means understanding the price others paid just to be themselves in the world.

We wail not to try and get some kind of special attention, we wail because inside we have all those hurting selves that will just corrode us to death if we swallow them.

We wail because we have no safe space to surface and release the pain we feel everyday just trying to fit into a world that wants to stigmatize, erase and humiliate us.

We wail because we are just humans told that we are worthless and depraved unless we sanitize our truth for easy consumption of those who don’t want to go where we have had to tread.

We emerge as trans to honor our heart, but we do that at a very high cost.  Our heart has been battered into shrinkage before we do, and even after we are visible, people feel they have the right to slam their politics into our lives, devaluing and dehumanizing us because we don’t follow the binary rules that they were taught constrain “reality.”

You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.
— John Morley

As we stood around the body of my mother, still in her recliner, I told the pastor not to worry about me, for I had learned to sob silently.   She had never seen that before, but for me, it was a commonplace of my life, done so many times over so many decades that I knew it cold.

For all the reasons people needed to see me as unemotional — my male body, my Aspergers parents, the women who claimed all the rights to emotion around me, the very intensity of my feelings, and on and on — I had to learn how to sob silently in the world.

Those sobs, though, were the concealed cries of a broken heart, torn apart by walls of demands and conventions driven though it.  I had learned to silence the cries of my own heart to be in a place where I could give all the love I have inside.

I am far from the only transperson who has done this feat, standing up to do what was required but paying the price of a invalidated heart.   We may act with the love, but we don’t get the permissions, the acknowledgements, the understanding and the affirmations of our hearts that people take for granted.   No Mother’s Day or tenderness for transwomen who are easier to see as men, even men in dresses.

That cry, though, the keening of shattered trans hearts, well, it is out there everywhere if you just take a moment to listen for it.

Few people do try to listen.   Even transpeople cannot easily stand hearing the cry, for it resonates in a very uncomfortable way deep inside their heart.  They usually strike out to silence the cri du coeur before they break in harmony with it, a cracking that they know they cannot afford if they want to keep a comforting face for normies.

This is not a society comfortable with emotion, and certainly not comfortable with queer emotion that transcends the enforced boundaries of gender rules.

How do we make people hear the cry of our heart, make them understand how much we hurt and how much we do to love and be loved in the world?

Getting louder and clearer rarely works, instead only pushing people away from us even more, leaving us more lonely, more isolated, and more heartbroken.

But not being able to have our emotion mirrored, acknowledge and validated, not having people respond with empathy and kindness, well, that leaves us in a dark, dark place.

That low. deep earthy growl that transitions into a high, keening sound that cuts through the darkest and loneliest of nights is not the howl of banshees.

It is the hearts cry of transpeople who feel their isolation and loneliness come up from the depths of their soul.

And it is what you hear just as they reach their breaking point.

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