When you grow something, it’s easy to sell the prime cuts. After all, that’s what people want, the choice bits, the desirable pieces that they already know that they like.
Nothing in the world only comes with the good parts, though. It takes a whole system to create what we need and we want.
Starting relationships usually means putting your best foot forward, showing your best attributes in the most flattering light possible. Other people have habits of desire, so they look for the things they think that they want in a connection with another person.
The problem is that one can’t be in relationship with only part of a person. Every person is a whole person, with lots of parts, some amazing, some challenging and some both.
In commerce we can find a way to keep some parts hidden. That’s why men who buy “the girlfriend experience” only get a sweet, loving and sexy partner, because in return for cash, she keeps her own needs and power subdued and hidden.
My own concierge presentation is much the same. I am there to serve, to be charming and considerate, making sure that the client has a good time, getting their needs met. It is a performance, to be sure, one I have honed over the years.
We can keep these performances up only as long as our underlying needs are being met somehow. We can’t just eliminate or freeze our human needs, our emotions, history and passions forever; somehow we need to get them met.
Often, those needs are spread across multiple relationships. Binary gender often leads to the heterosexual and homosocial together, sharing romantic relationships with “the opposite sex” but having deep, long lasting friendships with people who are more like us.
Each of us needs someone, or a range of someones to love all of us.
This is a challenge in a world where people believe that the market allows them to pick and choose, getting just want they want and leaving the rest behind.
When we lived in small places and butchered whole animals, we knew that we had to use and value every part. When we fell for people we grew up with, we knew them as full, multi-faceted humans before we knew them as lovers.
Today, though, taking the best parts and throwing away the rest seems like a reasonable plan. We get that in every other area of life, why not in relationships?
As a transwoman, I know myself to be politically a bisexual. That doesn’t mean I fancy everyone — I have never been with a man — but it does mean that I need my partners to value, respect and care about all the bits of me, even where I cross gender expectations.
If they need to be comfortable with their own bisexuality, not getting freaked about loving a transwoman, then I need to be comfortable with my own bisexuality. I need to see something in partners which transcends simple binaries, connecting with their hearts and not just responding to how they fit some model of what I think I should desire.
I need people to love all of me. That doesn’t mean that just one person has to love all of me, as sweet as that sounds, but it does mean that I can’t just be liked for the easy, service parts and be stuck with handling all other tough parts by myself.
No matter how much people like the bits they already know how to find valuable, I need to have all my bits valued and cared for. I cannot sustain myself only by giving and giving; I need to receive too, need my whole self to be replenished, nourished and loved.
For people like me, who cross lines of social convention, this is hard. We don’t have a home, a family of people like us, don’t have people who share our experience of needing to cross the gender divide most people see as rigid and fixed.
For me, so different from my parents even in Aspergers, this lack of understanding and compassion was intense. I learned early that I was just too much for the world around me — too stupid, too cerebral, too emotional, too intense, too insightful, too queer, too everything.
I learned to compartmentalize off the parts that scared others, but in that process, those parts decayed, from my body to my exuberance and hope.
Like a baby who has soiled themselves, we need love most when we are most unlovable. Anyone can love a sweet-smelling, giggling baby, but a stinky, wailing one is much harder to take care of, no matter how much they really need our help.
The old plan of just asking people to love the nice parts of me, servicing them in a way that they already know they want to be cared for has left me broken and hurting.
I need people to love all of me, even if that all includes a history of being smart, sharp and reflective.
As we get older our potential partner pool shrinks, not just because people prefer fresh & shiny to shopworn, but also because our vitality has been converted to stories, baggage which carries the essence of our wisdom. We are much less moldable clay, willing to do or swallow anything to get what we have been taught to want, what we believe will save us and make us happy, and much more final creation, a solid self full of more lessons than shallow hope.
That doesn’t mean, though, that we don’t need love, don’t need to be seen, understood, respected and valued for all of who we are.
I never fit neatly in a package that met the desires of others. I spent decades trying to cut myself down to fit those packages, but it never really worked. Doing more of that seems impossible, as impossible as finding someone who gets the joke, someone who is ready to love all of me.
Aren’t we each seeking someone to love all of us? Why, then, do we think we can get away with just loving parts of others, only the juicy bits, the prime cuts that we have been taught are desirable?
Until we can love all of ourselves, we cannot tolerate others loving all of us, it is true. We have to do the work for ourselves, not dreaming of finding someone to heal us from the outside.
Loving full and messy humans though, with grace, wit and maturity, is part of the way we get to loving ourselves. I have done that work, in spades.
But all of me, well all of me, it still seems like nobody gets the shine.