Transgender is about what is inside a person.
Transgender is not about dressing up or about changing your body, rather transgender is about the forces, the desire, the knowledge, the need that makes you do that.
Transgender expression is about showing who you know yourself to be on the inside in the outside world. It is about the attempt to reveal inner meaning with external symbols.
The most important thing any ally to a transperson should know is that when they show you their expression they are trying to show you their heart.
Hearts, as you probably know, are delicate things. There is a reason we learn not to wear our heart on our sleeve, learn to build a wall around it, learn to keep it closed up and hidden away.
That’s the approach we take. We share the experience of the closet, walling our heart away with willpower to try and satisfy the expectations placed on our reproductive biology. For many of us that experience continues even as we change our manner of dress and our body, working to wall off our history and our birth biology so people see our assertions and not our tender heart.
What is inside of us, though, the scars from that experience of being shamed, stigmatized, marginalized, pathologized, dehumanized, and traumatized in an effort to teach us how to fit into gendered expectations doesn’t go away.
I am aware, on some conscious level that my trans doesn’t really matter much to other people. They just write me off as a guy in a dress and move on, holding me at a distance and letting me participate in a public, non-gendered way.
My trans, though, matters a great deal to me. It is written all though my insides, threaded through the way I see the world.
Trans isn’t about liking to dress a certain way, or needing to have your body modified. Trans is about who you are on the inside, about what you bring to every experience, every moment of your life.
Who you are on the inside, though, well, it doesn’t matter at all in most places. All they care about is what you can do for them, what part you can play in the movie that they are making.
Sometimes that’s a shared movie, a team getting something done, pulling together.
Mostly, though, it’s just a mess of individual movies, people doing their darnedest to make the story that they want to happen in their lives. They carry the draft in their heads, a list of goals and expectations, and they know how the scene is going to go before they even start playing it.
People don’t get up in the morning wanting to be changed by something they experience today. They want what they think they want. Change needs to be managed, resisted, limited. Knowing what they want is the point, not being surprised.
Inner lives, well, only those on the margins really care much about them. That’s why women often start the spiritual questing once they get past 40 or so; that’s when they feel marginalized. Up until then, being the whole package is enough, living the attempt to build the life they always dreamed of.
For transpeople, though, just being the package feels odd and always a bit scary. We know that third gotcha moment when someone opens the package and gets all sniffy can happen at anytime. We keep our defences up, play small, try to stay under the radar, avoiding the mine traps we have learned are all around.
Most of the time our transness just doesn’t matter, either because people don’t know or because they just write us off as eccentric or abject.
But sometimes, yes, sometimes, it does matter, and when it does, it matters a lot.
Whatever I look like on the outside — and, being trans, I am never sure what people think they are seeing because I don’t get good feedback — my inner narrative is always going, always keeping me at the ready. It keeps me from taking risks.
In my case, when you add that to my highly sensitive nature, my socialization by parents with Aspergers, my big mind which is full of connections, well, things get tricky. What is on the inside seethes, even when I am in a room full of people who only really care about what is on the outside, what I can do for them, people who don’t understand the challenges of living a rich and hidden inner life.
For most people, what they see is what they get. Since they are only looking for components to fit into their own narrative, that’s all they need. Sure, some are looking for signs of the devil walking in the world or have some interest in trans porn, in which case trans meets their negative expectations, but most people, well, they just don’t care what’s inside.
I am what is inside of me. I have spent my life trying to find, understand and clarify what is inside of me. I am spirit living a human life, not human living a spiritual life. I am not my biology, my history or my packaging.
That’s too much information for most people. They see what they see, assume what they assume, expect what they expect, even if the shimmering quality of that vision and the painful lack of feedback from others means I never really know what that is.
It would be an interesting experience for me to go into a space and not have to be concerned with my inner experience. That means not worrying about the third gotcha, not getting bogged down in overthinking, not playing small or safe, feeling confidence that my expression will be accepted, trusting the flirt and the scrape, and not feeling a need to include meta information for protection, comfort and my own inner tension.
I don’t know how to just be participant, though, without getting bogged down in observer. I have always imagined having a trusted and up to speed wing person who can do the observer for me, but that has never, ever come to pass.
Transgender is about what is inside a person. I know that more than most.
Much of social interaction, though, is about what is outside a person, about the perceptions and projections that others put on us. They not only don’t care about the inside, they wouldn’t engage it even if you offered it too them. They just don’t have the experience and archetypes to interpret their own inner life, let alone the complex, queer lives of others.
They want people who appear comfortable in their own skin, whatever is going on inside. Easy and attractive presence is what counts to them.
Being content without knowing the contents isn’t something that is easy for me. I am what is inside of me, and that is always on the bubble.