My mother needed help getting into the house, stepping over small, windbreak fences in the driveway, so I patiently stood by her, held her hand, and in the view of my father, helped her get her leg over the obstructions.
My sister needed a cell phone configured after dropping her last one out of a pocket into the the toilet, so after she dropped one I told her to buy off, I configured it for a few hours, then I drove to her house on Sunday evening, stopping at two grocery stores tying to find something quick to make for dinner. She sat on the couch as I found an adapter for the SIM, struggled to configure the APN to support MMS and then started playing shows I copied onto her computer and made her a cheese omelette.
I did both these things in the past 12 hours, but the first happened only in my dreams.
In Todd Rose’s “The End of Average: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness,” one of the most powerful books I have ever read in relation to the trans experience in the world, he talks about the mistaken assumptions which underlie the avergarian view of the world.
People are all jagged in their skills; the assumption that being excellent in one area makes you excellent across the board is provably untrue. There is no normative pathway to mastery; instead there are many ways to achievement, each effective for a different, jagged set of skills.
And measuring attributes without taking context into account will always miss someone’s real strengths and weaknesses. We are not just strong or weak, for example, we are strong in some contexts, weak in other contexts.
As I got up from the vivid dream of helping my mother, which followed the vivid experience of playing the brother role to help my sister — a role that ShamanGal noted I was also playing in 1988 — a song came to me.
“Kiss today goodbye, the sweetness and the sorrow. Wish me luck, the same to you, but I can’t regret what I did for love.”
I’m a femme. I can’t regret what I did for love. And that means, in the context of my family, I played a role that I polished to a T. In that role, my own T was put to the back burner; I was who they expected me to be.
I twisted myself into pretzels to give and to get love, just like we all do (2006). I never imagined being able to have my own family, being the mom, so I did what I could in context, because context is so powerful to human behaviours.
Alone, I am a thoughtful hermit. In love, I am who my beloved need me to be.
That’s an archetype that is hard for most people to grasp, because their averagarian thinking assumes some kind of false consistency beyond the jagged, unique and context driven reality of real humans.
You know, just like I have been trying to explain since I was seven or so, the thinking I was called “stupid” for holding.
The context of denial is the context of denial. As long as we ask transkids to deny part of who they know themselves to be, we continue to deny them their own strength, their own possibilities, deny them the power of their own love.
I don’t love the idea of grunting through and being seen as a guy in the world, even a guy in a dress. I tend to avoid what I don’t love enough to commit to.
I did love taking care of people who needed me, even if that meant denying the call of my own heart. I was forced into a choice by society: pick what you love most and have the rest shredded.
You may love others enough to do the very hard work of leaving your comfort behind, but that doesn’t mean they will love you enough to leave their comfort behind.
If the context the world gives you is that showing what you love in a vibrant, exuberant, joyous way will just get you dismissed, marginalized and shat on, then you need to find ways to love in covert, isolated and constrained ways, even if that concealment, separation and denial ends up destroying important parts of you.
In trying to claim my love in a new way, the price of what I did for love keeps coming back, offering constraints, leaving damage and pulling me back into the form I took in a way that keeps me small and hidden.
If there was one thing that could pull me into committing to a future, it would be the probability of love.
This time, though, just giving my love to others isn’t enough. I need to believe that, somehow, they will return my love, not just for what I do for them but for who I am, even the queer, overwhelming, intense and awesome parts of me.
It is that test that keeps me isolated, doing my theological work and taking care of myself. If I show myself to you, if I am present, is there any possibility that you will see me, value me, love me? Or will I have to bend myself into a pretzel just to get a whiff of what I need from you?
I know how to deny myself, to serve others, to deliver what people want to try and get a bit of love. I just know that I don’t have the wherewithal to keep up that game; better to blink out.
I don’t know how to be a fascinating, glitter subject of fascination, a person other people will do the work to get close to and admire. That’s not in my experience, and that means it doesn’t appear to be in my future, either. A cold view, indeed.
What I did for love cost me dearly, though, with the chilling constraints on transpeople in the world I grew up in, I seemed to be the best choice I could make at the time. It still costs me as I get pulled back, playing the role I played for love.
I can’t forget, can’t regret what I did for love in the context I was forced to live in.
But what love can do to warm me in the future, well, that’s not something I can see, either.