Fight Club

The first rule of fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club.

If you do talk, the rubes won’t understand.   They will try and make it about them and their assumptions, expectations and fears.

Worse, they may feel the need to intervene in ways that devalue the purpose of fight club.

The first rule of fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club.

There are other things with the same first rule.   The first rule of suicide, for example, is that you don’t talk about suicide.   If you do, people’s own issues will come up and you end up having to deal with their stuff rather than yours.  Agitating the rubes just isn’t useful.   Anyone who easily talks about suicide is just trying to dramatize their own feelings, not really considering checking out.

In many ways, trans has the same first rule.

We learn very early that talking about trans just gets us silenced, humiliated and shamed.    Instead of respect and engagement, we get people’s stuff coming up, get crude and nasty interventions.

I recently saw a British TV presenter introduce a transwoman who is also a plumber.   The host was trying to take some fear away from a closeted crossdresser she was trying to help.

The transwoman transitioned on the job.  When asked what she wears to work, she was clear; boots and overalls.   That’s just what any plumber wears.

“My customers don’t really care about my gender,” she said.  “They only care that I do a good job at a fair price.  I do that.”

For the customers, the plumber’s gender challenges are just terrifically uninteresting.  They care about the work, leaving the rest under the surface.

It’s a a case of don’t ask, don’t tell.  Just stay silent and let them think or not think what they will and you can just get the work done.  That’s one reason some transpeople say that you should just get a certificate in some area and rest on that, doing that work.

Once the subject comes up, though, well then there is the possibility for a big mess.

The first rule of trans is that you don’t talk about trans.   Call it passing, call it blending in, call it stealth but whatever you call it, if you don’t make a big deal (BFD) about your gender, odds are no one else around you will be rude enough to make a BFD about it either.

There is one problem with, this, though.   Trans is a BFD in our lives.   There is no way we would have stayed closeted, resisted it, fought it for so long if it wasn’t a big deal for us.

Compartmentalization has always been a way society deals with challenging identities.  “Well, I don’t care what they do in the bedroom as long as the children never have to be exposed to something that makes me queasy!”

I was in a group recently where I recognized one of the members as a trans man I had met at a screening of “Southern Comfort,” one of the best trans films ever, and now available for free viewing online.

The topic of the group was not unusual for a group of mostly women: why can’t guys be different and better?   Now, I can explain the pressures that men are under to conform to gender norms, but explaining why I can do so effectively, well, it gets complicated.

The first rule of trans is that you don’t talk about trans. “Don’t let them see you but one way!” I was warned by other transwomen.

Too much information is a great way to screw up perfectly good relationships, giving people a reason to keep their distance.

Too little information, though, is a great way to take the power, comfort and affirmation out of relationships, leaving you policing yourself and never feeling like you are safe being all of yourself.

Transguy knew this, which is why he was glad to have me there.  He knew that someone in the room knew about his history and wasn’t gonna freak, even if what we said to the group was completely coded, truth without the demand of embracing truth.

Opening cans of worms has very limited utility, you find out very early.  The first rule of trans is that you don’t talk about trans.

It would be lovely if there was some safe space to speak the deep truths, to be seen, affirmed and supported, so at least inside the trans compartment there was a warm and comforting life.

It doesn’t work that way, of course; trans is a bloody individual journey where you learn that even talking about trans with other people who call themselves trans is usually a dangerous and not very useful exercise.   They don’t understand, make it about them, and even try to intervene in ways that devalue what you hold sacred.

The first rule of fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club.   The first rule of trans is that you don’t talk about trans, instead just taking the bruises and holding the pain deep inside.

Hard to build relationships that way, though.