Madness

If we do not tenaciously cling to the cerebral and rational, or, at least cling to the rationalization, are we giving in to madness?

Madness was the ultimate threat used against so many queers for so long, the idea that somehow, our desire revealed our brokenness.

It is the idea behind all the repairitive therapy zealots who tried to convince families that their child could be fixed, made un-queer just by forcing them into “normal and healthy” patterns.

The essence of most of most of this therapy was the enforcement of gender stereotyping, ostensibly to strengthen the weak identification with the same sex parent.   Learning how to dress properly, sit right, speak correctly and so on was intended to arouse the natural instincts associated with their sex, bringing them back into heteronormative balance.

This never worked, of course.   Some learned to play a normative role in society, passing as the assigned gender, but their heart was still their heart and they had to fight or compartmentalize it ever day.

For transpeople, this kind of enforced therapy happened almost every day of our lives.   We wanted to fit in, wanted to be accepted, so many of us immersed ourselves in gendered training, often to the point of joining the military or other stereotypical endeavours.

Often this also included a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, working so hard to identify with the people in authority that we joined in or even lead when they mocked, humiliated or generally tormented those identified as gender variant.   If we were tough enough to kill off our queerness, shouldn’t they be forced to do the same thing?

Growing up terrified that we have the seeds of madness inside of us and if we let them show we will be subject to the not too tender mercies of the medical profession is a wearing challenge.  Having to trust the medical system with trying to treat what they see as madness in a time where cost-effectiveness and the easy solutions of medications are the approved routes for “helping” just adds to the fear.

If we do not tenaciously cling to the cerebral and rational, or, at least cling to the rationalization, are we giving in to madness?

This challenge, how much to resist the dark places inside of us and how much to enter them is a key challenge for everyone who is trying to claim their nature beyond social conventions.

It is easy to think that we claim health by rejecting sickness, by not going to the places where darkness may lie.   If we avoid what we have been told is hell, is wrong, evil and sick, don’t we claim heaven?

It turns out that the only way out of hell is through.   We have to go to hell to claim our own power and grace. (1996)  (I was stunned when 17 years later a crossdresser acquaintance asked if they could read that piece at an open mic.  Awareness does grow.)

A touch of madness may be divine, but what happens when people see you as too insane to be engaged seriously?  The assessment of madness marginalizes people, letting the mainstream reject anything they have to offer because it is tainted, because accepting it would be approving of madness, because it may carry the seeds of madness within it, seeds we have to deny and isolate.

The song of the prophet is always laced with symbols and metaphors, a chant where the resonance of the truths contained are more important than the literal adherence to the facts.    While prophets may assert that their stories are factual in an attempt to gain credibility, the real meaning of their tales is in the experiences they share.

Sharing visions is the way humans have always communicated beyond the mundane, beyond recitations and reports of literalness.  The way that we create a new view of our shared world is by seeing it through the eyes of others, even others with a strong viewpoint and a very different set of cultural and personal references.

It is only when viewed in its own context that madness becomes sense, revealing the wisdom and brilliance stored in it.   This brightness is only in fragments, but that is true for every human sharing.  We need to be able to extract the jewels from the matrix which holds them, no matter how wild or banal that container is.

If everyone saw the world in the same way, using the same language, innovation would be impossible.   Wildness supports new viewpoints, radical viewpoints, subtle viewpoints, nuanced viewpoints, brave viewpoints, different viewpoints that contain value.

My father was a crackpot engineer.   He had a distinctive view of problems and a distinctive approach to team work, rooted in the Aspergers way that he experienced the world.   That means he not only had patent awards for creating bold new innovations the company valued, but he also had people calling him a psychopath, someone too mad to understand when he should quit because the people in charge had already written him off.

Having to work to understand him, to help get his message out, meant that I had to enter what some would call his madness.   That skill, learned very early, is the basis of my compassionate, empathic understanding in entering the worlds of other people.  By owning my own madness, going through my own hells, the places others find dark aren’t so scary to me.

We are taught to be terrified of our own madness, taught that our deviance and difference are scary and shameful.

For many of us, that means never going to the places where emotion might overwhelm us, tenaciously clinging to the cerebral and rational so that others will not be able to dismiss, marginalize and harm us by painting us as lost in madness.

We have seen the price of being dismissed as mad, the struggle to find anyone who can understand and help rather than just wanting to pound us back into unchallenging normies.

To be both mad and effective in the world takes an enormous amount of smarts.   Balancing fierce and creative visions with pleasant compliance is a very difficult effort.

The mind is a fragile thing.  Some find real benefit from the attention of mental health professionals and the tools they can offer, including medications, to regain their balance and hope in the world.

Being able to live with a bit of madness, though, entering our own visions with compassion, allows us to see beyond the strictures of compliant, conventional and approved thought.  It opens us to what others share from beyond the expected, the jewels contained in their idiosyncratic raving attempt to communicate what they see that we cannot.

My connection to the universe does not lie in my intelligence, rather my intelligence allows me to negotiate the line between wild and tame, offering creative and prophetic visions with maturity, understanding and some level of appropriateness.

Fearing madness does not keep us sane.  Only owning our own darkness can do that, no matter how scary that may seem.

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One thought on “Madness”

  1. “Dearly beloved, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Turn, and go ye therefore by change of heart, to broader mind.”

    In the Wild(er)ness, we Eat Wild locusts and honey.

    “But Wisdom is justified of all her children.” (St. Luke vii, 35)

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