I am not worthless. I have intrinsic worth, the gift of my creator, the work I have done. I have dignity and quality.
I do believe, however, that I am pretty much valueless. The society around me just doesn’t assign a very high value to what I hold as precious.
Worth is something essential, philosophical. Value is what the market will pay for it.
All the light sweet crude oil in the earth always had the same worth. It just had no value until there was a market for it, until people decided that they needed it and were willing to pay for it.
I have reached out and tried to share my work with people I hoped would appreciate it. They see, other than in any way I affirm what they already believe, very little value in what I offer, dismissing me as a crackpot.
It is my experience that the return of the gifts I found on my journey is the hardest part. If society valued those gifts, well, they would already have them.
My gifts confront the standard way of seeing. That means that when I walk into a church, rather than being seen as someone who needs human connection, I am often seen as one who challenges the status quo and chilled out rather than engaged. Even people who claim to be allies often reject queerness when it questions their habits, routine and comfort.
Even the people who want my gifts only want the bits they are interested in on their schedule. Some have found what I offer so uncomfortable that they have backed away altogether, trying to respect the boundaries.
I am not worthless. Of that I am absolutely sure.
I am, however, mostly valueless, based on my experience of sharing what I find precious, powerful and most intrinsically me.
Like any human I do always have residual value; it’s good if I cook dinner or fix a computer or clean up a room. As the first post I put on this blog ten years ago notes, people can value me as a human doing. I can do what other people already believe has value and they will appreciate that. They like it when I find good ways to say what they already believe, for example.
Value is in the eye of the beholder. We live in a market culture; the best things are the things people are willing to pay the most cash for. It’s not simply quality that counts, it is status, prestige, affirmation.
This market orientation makes it easy to believe that if we find someone valueless then they are also worthless. It allows us to judge people on how they are valued in society, identifying them as a failure if others don’t value them highly enough to keep them.
As a transperson, this demand is part of the internalized policing. I am only as valuable as others think I am, so I have to keep the ugly, noisy, challenging parts of me hidden or I will end up being marginalized. My gifts will be rejected as part of rejecting what I stand for and I will be devalued and disconnected.
“What do you want, anyway?” a pastor once asked me.
“I want what everyone else wants,” I said.
He looked at me askance, seeing the queerness of my expression and tried again. “Everyone wants different things,” he told me firmly, “so what do you want?”
“I want to be seen, understood and valued for the unique gifts I share with the group.”
A quizzical look passed over his face.
“Yes,” he said slowly. “Yes, that is what everyone wants.”
I am worthy. I am not valued.
And if the only way I can be valued is to offer what other people expect and eliminate what challenges them, well, that reminds me why some who make the journey never choose to come back with the gifts.
The struggle to become product I wrote about in 2002 is the struggle to add value, finding a way to package up what I find precious in a manner that will get me the rewards and status that come from being identified as valuable.
I am more than aware of the irony that most people will read this text as noise, as me making some obstruse, arcane and trivial distinction between worth and value. They will find this discussion valueless and will then also assume it is worthless, making a judgement about how much of their precious attention to invest in engaging my work. Theology, well, what value does it have for everyday life to discuss the difference between worth and value?
The one thing I am sure of is that nobody care what I have to say in the world. They may find me interesting or may appreciate the service I offer, but they find what I have to say just not having enough value to be worth the effort to really engage.
Cecil Graham: What is a cynic?
Lord Darlington: A man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing.
Cecil Graham: And a sentimentalist, my dear Darlington, is a man who sees an absurd value in everything and doesn’t know the market price of any single thing.
― Oscar Wilde, “Lady Windermere’s Fan”
I am not seen as valuable in the world, even if I have the worth of a human in the world. The value that I offer is not worthy of the cost of claiming it, not economically viable in the long run. What is diversity, curiosity and questioning worth if you don’t have the stuff to just keep up with trying to achieve your goals now?
“How can someone ever imagine being with someone like you if they have never even met anyone else like you?”
Valuing what you don’t understand, in fact, what you have never seen before, is a tough job. We have nothing to measure against, no mental yardstick to give us reference. Few people have grown up learning to value thought in any but clear cut contexts: Can it make me money? Can it get me tenure? How does it support my immediate goals?
I am worthy. Of that, I have no doubt.
I am also almost valueless in the market driven world around me.
You could call me a diamond in the rough, ready to offer big returns to whoever figures out how to help channel my great intrinsic worth into very effective value, but the truth is that lots of very worthwhile things never become valuable in a lifetime. Timing, well, it’s everything.
Timing is where the value lies.
As for me, I lie elsewhere.