It has come to my attention that after a lifetime of living defended, in my head, I don’t really know what happy is anymore.
I know what focused is, what professional is, what contemplative is, what smart is, all those things.
Happy, though, well that has never been a place I know how to go.
From my earliest moments my desires were deemed suspect and corrupt. My mother was instantly willing to yowl about how no one care about her, about how all we did was make trouble for her, about how we just wanted to hurt her.
My father’s version of happy was very quiet and serene, so for my sister and I we learned how to draw within, lock ourselves away and find an inner content. (My brother’s strategy was to find another family to attach to, which he follows to this day.)
It wasn’t really safe to bring people home, wasn’t safe to be too open or excited, wasn’t safe to be happy.
Add to that my growing understanding of my own trans heart and I had even more reasons to keep my own happiness in check, always being on guard and able to shut it down in a minute.
I knew how to do satisfying stuff, but happy with abandon? The mines were always too close, too sensitive in the world to trust that.
Today, after my taking care of others, after my years of enforced penury, I am asked the question again: What would make you happy?
And the answer is that I don’t know. I do know that having a female body would make me happy, have always known that, but would a femaled body offer happiness even at my age and state of health?
It’s very easy to assume that it would not. My habit is to assume that nothing will make me happy, that the costs will always outweigh the pleasure, so æsthetic denial of my desires is the closest I can get to solace.
Transpeople need to hear “Yes!” much, much, much more than we do.
We need mirroring and affirmation of our possibilities, not just earnest and flat-footed explanations of why we are abject, subject to being killed, required to keep ourselves appropriate, always conscious and respectful of the fears in other people, working to assimilate so we can get what society deems worthy of offering us.
Human power and human delight always come together. It is joy that motivates and drives us to new heights, not fear, resistance and the habit of safely playing small.
Personally, I need someone to affirm my own possibility of happiness. That isn’t a job I can do for myself, not after decades of being the observer voice who is always worried about too much revelation, too much exposure, too much indulgence.
My resistance to happy comes from a very smart, considered and thoughtful place. It’s easy to agree with me, to see why I have learned to stay within. Other transpeople understand the experiences I lay out as true, knowing that they face the same challenges in the world. Non-trans people have learned to take their happiness in context, not going to big, bold and queer places, so the idea of me needing to go there squicks them.
Whoever they are, they understand my keeping happiness under control, speaking for staying safe and appropriate first. Indulgence in happy, in delight, can be scary, so it must be curbed; they know that.
The notion that they could say to me “It’s okay, I have your back. Just let loose and be happy. Claim your delight, embody your bliss and own your joy” is beyond them. They don’t know how to help edit for energy, clarifying and sharpening a voice full of zest & determination in the world.
Sometimes, I feel the spark of happy. When I do, though, the sensible voice to keep that shit down is very clear to me, but the encouraging voice which coos “Go for it! That’s the only way to learn where bliss is, the only way to break out of your hole!” just isn’t there.
The more I look for that encouraging voice, the more I drive it away, I know. Being too needy for affirmation usually gets you resistance, a warning that you need to cool your jets, other people pulling away from you as they fall into their own protective armor. They don’t want or need the challenge of excitement and bliss; they have their own patterns and stability to defend.
Happy often feels like a quaint and distant idea in society today. We have learned to replace our handmade joy with the commercial substitute, learned our place, learned how to work within approved guidelines. We love the idea of clowns, even drag queen clowns, but the requirement to own our own happiness is terrifying, let alone the possibility of affirming the happiness of others where it moves beyond social convention.
Learning how to doubt has given me great wisdom and satisfaction. I understand my connection to the universe and to other humans.
It has not, however, given me great happiness. Belief in my own desires, in my own abandon, in my own indulgence escapes me.
Right now, I could use a little more happiness. The satisfaction is fine, but it is not getting me forward, opening my joy and driving my own opening to a world of delights and connections.
Happy is something was taught to keep in check long ago. As much as I affirm and encourage it in others, I find it very hard to kindle my happiness spark into embers or even flames, which keeps me cold and isolated.
I need happy. I suspect that means I need people to share that happiness with.
Instead, I have smart and suspect, writing well but without joy.
Anyone seen happy?