To Lose, To Win

The vast majority of the airmen who were shot down over Europe in World War II were assisted by working class people and peasants.

These were people who had two things in common.  They knew the struggle to stay alive on their own skin, knew the dance between life and death, between loss and love up close, and they weren’t so invested in the status quo that they were worried about losing status, standing and comfort, knowing what was vitally important enough to risk loss over.

The way to make people complicit with the system is to give them a part in in, as Milo Minderbinder knew when he gave each man a share of his rapacious commercial empire in “Catch 22.”

Being worried about what they have to lose seems to make it harder for people to do what they know to be the right thing.  Instead, they do the easy thing, the safe thing, the comfortable thing.

Who can blame them?   Isn’t going along to get along the way that they got their standing in the first place?  Didn’t they just work hard to play the game, striving to become part of the system, the classes with some standing?

As long as they believe that moving up is a possibility for them, then why not work to protect the system that they believe can give them what they desire, ease, status and comfort?

The hardest part of rebirth is always the letting go.   Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.

Standing up for what is right always takes risk.   Risk is hard to engage if you are desperately trying to not break any of the unwritten rules.

Working to avoiding loss is never the same thing as working to win.

When winning really counts we are willing to put what we have on the line, let go of the wish for standing and comfort, move beyond our wishes and really do the hard, bloody work.

When people trivialize the cost of emerging as trans in the world it is easy to write the motivations down as indulgence, whim or an attempt to manipulate.  Transpeople are just making easy claims, they say, demanding the world accept their own ego.

Talking to transpeople, though, it quickly becomes apparent that no one emerges as trans just for some kind of fun.   If you don’t have some deep need to break gender barriers and threaten your own standing, you wouldn’t do it.

Where this gets messy is not in the heart-crashing emergence, but in the way that we try to defend our own standing in other areas, using rationalizations to try and avoid losing everything.

Sure, we are out as trans, we say, but we are really normal, normative, typical, conservative and compliant in so many other areas.  We are still straight men, or at least some kind of non-queer lesbian, still followers of the church, still Republican, still conservative, still clinging to every wisp of standing other than our assumption of manhood.

We cling to the cars, the sex, the opinions and attitudes that we believed help us fit in, not willing to risk the price of standing up for queers in the world, those who have abandoned decorum, social climbing, and assimilation.

When we lose our gender safety, too often we cling desperately to other bits of status, trying to avoid engaging loss by not letting go of our tenuous hold to convention.

The worst thing about this determined clenching, the attempt to hold the stick up our ass tighter, is that it stops us from swinging the pendulum wide, from really letting go, flowing free and finding a new, potent and beautiful center.

As long as we try to retain standing, clinging to old status, others can dismiss our trans expression as just a fascia, some kind of façade.

The only way to win is to lose.   Letting go is the only way to claim the new, just like death is always required for rebirth.   Until we can release our defences and claims, we cannot embrace our new, potent beauty.

The world wants to co-opt us, to get us to play along and fit in, dreaming of what rewards we might claim if we just don’t break the rules, just don’t lose.

Breakthrough success, though, goes to the winners, those who are willing to lose in order to win.

One of the situations in which
everybody seems to fear loneliness is death.–
In tones drenched with pity, people say of someone,
“He died alone.”
I have never understood this point of view.
Who wants to have to die and be polite at the same time?
— Quentin Crisp

Creative people, if they are any good at all,
are always a pain in the ass.
Nobody with a strong vision for a better future
is solely polite and comfortable.
— Callan Williams

Creativity always starts with moving beyond being polite, with claiming ourselves as if our lives depend on it.

The willingness to lose is the foundation of the ability to really, really win.