Valueless

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.

5) The most painful thing about trans is not being able to give your gifts and have them accepted. (2002)

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.

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2 thoughts on “Valueless”

  1. I agree with everything you said, however, if your goal were to be a strong voice in the trans community I believe you would be one of the top voices. Your words would be very valuable. Instead, your goal is to write for you. That is fine, but your only customer becomes, well you. If your writing is of no value to you than you are wasting your time.

    I believe if you made the effort to separate your diary from your philosophical writing, and published the latter, both your diary and philosophical writing would become more valuable. For me, as it stands right now, I see great worth in you and your writing, and believe if they were marketed better, would be valuable.

  2. Thank you, thank you for engaging my content. It is a gift.

    I do understand the argument that the personal and the political should be separate. My writing from the mid 1980s until the early 2000 and the beginning of this blog in 2005 represented that approach. Keep the conceptual and the emotional separate, allow people to just engage the thoughts without having to do the emotional work.

    This is the classic approach, the way that I was taught growing up, following the engineering and scientific method, nice and clean compartments of understanding.

    For me, though, it is my personal, emotional journey that informs my thoughtful, intellectual process. The reason I can explain the trans experience so well is because I feel it on my skin, because it reaches deep into the emotional heart of me.

    The breakthroughs around queer acceptance will never come though thoughtful, considered, rational steps. They come when our feelings and our thoughts start to connect, working in harmony, supporting each other.

    This is a very, very femme notion, I know, away from the conventions of “writing for others.” I’m not sure what that means; I assume it means making my work accessible to those who are only concerned about themselves.

    The interlocking communities around transgender are not a place of power. They are places where struggling individuals are trying to find new ways to take power in the world, just like I spoke about the first time we met in 1993. Some struggle to gain traction inside the political system, some to find ways to assimilate, but few are struggling to look at the deep and basic questions around the best way to be trans in the world, around what embracing individual gender expression should or could look like.

    The notion that I can package the smarts of what I have in a way that serves others, is compelling, yes, but it is far from as simple as removing my “diary” from my “philosophical” writing. My work is of a piece, as integrated as I myself seek to be. And the blog is where I share my ongoing, immediate work.

    While I can imagine collecting and summarizing my work, removing the most indulgent parts of it, I have no idea of where that line would be. I don’t see my work as others see it, don’t understand what would be effective to give other people the tools to change their mindset, their understanding and their life by engaging their own emotions without having to be crushed by the added weight of my feelings.

    Like so many women, sanitizing my work to make it purely “philosophical” would take the life blood from it. I spent almost twenty years doing it that way, creating cogent one page essays that stayed in the cerebral, and I eventually found the work lifeless and not effective anyway.

    Maybe it would be great if a trans life wasn’t so messy, if I could somehow put my emotions away and do the logical, sensible, controlled and disciplined things that would help others without the mess of me all over the work. Maybe nice, commercial packaging would make all the difference.

    I just don’t see where that line of demarcation is, where I can be accessible and easy to digest while still being effective and true. I don’t have that editor inside of me, and editors outside of me are more interested in more clearly commercial properties, material that isn’t as challenging.

    Thank you again for engaging my work. I understand why you believe that making my work more accessible, less emotive and personal, should have the advantage of having more people finding value in it. You suggest separating it into compartments to make it more digestible.

    I always like it when I am able to directly respond to what other people write. In those answers, I don’t try to serve myself, rather I work to find common ground, creating connection and understanding between us. Sadly, though, I have not found that even when I am totally focused on the concerns of others that they find my point of view valuable; instead, I am still challenging to their beliefs.

    Playing smaller, maybe by putting my “personal” issues away, has never really turned out to be an effective play for me. When I share my visions, I am still there, still big, still me.

    Thank you for wanting to help me find a strategy to show my value to a wider group, be it the communities around transgender or some other audience. It is a great goal.

    Philosophy, though, with or without the emotions purged, is always going to be a hard sell.

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