Lead Load

One pellet of bird shot won’t kill you.   It’s just a tiny sphere of lead that will get trapped under your skin, an irritant your body will create scar tissue around, a fragment that may well work itself loose over time.

Start getting lots of that shot under your skin in quantity, though, and things change.   It begins to weigh you down, the scar tissue becomes a problem in itself, and the lead leaching into your system can even start to poison you.

Every time we say no to our nature, every time we choose to hide our trans heart in the world, we take on another bit of birdshot.

We may have the best reasons in the world for staying small, hidden and appropriate, but there is a cost to every choice.

Most of us say no to our heart for the same reason, to not put stress on the relationships we have, to keep the people we love from having to take the lead pellets that are going to be flying around us.

Internalizing the shame and stigma so that our family doesn’t have to take it seems noble and humble.   One of the most powerful reasons we internalize it and keep it silent, though, is so our family doesn’t hurl it back at us.   It’s one thing for the world to not understand, to mock and dehumanize people like us, pounding us into their comfort zone and quite another for people who we have opened our heart to to do the same thing.    We need their love just to survive in the world.

Once you get good at taking the hit, though, once you have built up a massive lead load inside of you, your soul ripped into ragged lace, your scar tissue everywhere and heavy metals changing the way you think, well, it becomes very easy to just take another hit rather than to expect someone else to take the blow.

After years of trying to save others the pain you know so well, trying to protect them from having to take the shot meant for you, it can become more unbearable to see them hurt than just to take another load of lead, just to personally internalize even more blast and poison.

When our identity becomes wrapped up in being gracious, appropriate and the protector, no matter how much our lead load costs us in everyday life, we avoid queer, avoid visible, avoid demanding, avoid emotional, avoid life.

Does another identity even exist for us beyond mature, self-deferential shit taker?   Can we be anything but the caretaker parent, absorbing the blows and denying our own nature to protect and foster others?

How can we ever explain or share the cost of the lead load we took over the decades to get here?   How do we offload the millions of tiny impacts, the fragments of shot we still have internalized deep inside of us?   How do we get the kind of care and love that we have given for so long, the love we took all those tiny, multitudinous and crippling hits for?

If we can’t get someone to understand and care about our massive internalized lead load, then why even try?   Why not just keep taking the shot until it weighs us down so much that we come to a natural ending place?

Every time we say no to our nature, every time we choose to hide our trans heart in the world, we take on another bit of birdshot.

Eventually, we become defined by the obdurate hardness required to take getting hit.    As we are taught from our earliest exposure, we don’t get to be supported and understood, we just get to choose which kind of blow we want to take, being marginalized and bashed for being too visible, or feeling marginalized and bashed for internalizing our nature and staying hidden.

The world is different for transpeople today.   No one is ever going to have my experience of being trans in the world.   They will have a different body, a different family, a different locale, be trans at another time in history.   I believe that there are many more possibilities than ever before for them, especially if they don’t yet have the kind of lead load I have taken on.

One pellet of bird shot won’t kill you.  You can process a whole bundle of it, taking the blows and moving on.

Get too much bird shot encapsulated in your flesh, though, and you start to show the effects.   You start to decide that it is just easier and kinder to take another blow than to let others have to deal with the effects, deciding that the cost of watching others have to get hit just is going to cost too much for you.

This weekend, I came upon a marked transition in my life and part of me wanted to make it a ritual by showing up and letting the chips fall where they may.  For many reasons, including a nasty upper respiratory tract infection which has kept me silent for a week, I didn’t do it, though I was able to ask one simple question that shut down the transaction for the moment, the kind of questions that my family never seemed to ask and ended up causing problems.

What benefit, though, would it have given anyone for me to claim at that point?   Sure, it might have felt good to me, but at this point, I have no connections left to share this with.   I would have ended up struggling alone, like I did with other challenges in the last few weeks.

My lead load is high, very high.  One pellet of bird shot won’t kill you, but a lifetime of the stuff can leave you toughened, scarred and less than hopeful.

And, as far as I can determine, there exists almost no help to move beyond it.