If you want to be potent in the world, the first thing you have to believe is that you deserve to be here.
Looking around and feeling like an imposter, well, that leaves you at a critical disadvantage.
The first step in being powerful is knowing that you have the power inside of you, trusting that all you have to is to bring it out, to polish and to hone it.
Opening to your own power, though, demands a leap.
You first have to move beyond the comfortable circle of slackers, those who complain about everyone else having power, those who find common bond in their oppression.
When you do, that, though, you won’t immediately be seen as powerful. Instead, you have to reveal your power by taking personal responsibility for getting things done, letting your accomplishments light your way into the company of those who are already getting things done.
The space between leaving the crowd and having acknowledged power is always difficult and awkward. It is the gap that demands you run on your own internal resources & faith to power the learning, the resilience and the persistence it takes to inhabit a new level.
Having responsibility without authority is always hard, but it is only by succeeding at taking responsibility that we become authoritative, able to lead others towards responsible goals.
There have been times when I believed that I deserved to be here. I knew how to be a caregiver to my family, how to fight with and for them. I knew how to be a guru, leading a team to technical understanding and effectiveness.
I know how to write clearly about the experiences I have had in the world, offering context and insight. I can help others find new ways to think about their experiences that can help them become stronger, but only if they are ready to do the work.
What I don’t believe I deserve, though, is to walk in the world as a woman.
Ironically, this comes from my great respect for the challenges that come with being born female.
Fom my first outing, I chose not to take a woman’s name out of feminist belief while around me followers of Virginia Prince created a second self because they were, they claimed, “femiphiles,” men who loved women so much that they wanted to “femulate” them. These femulatrix wanted to female themselves for an evening and lay claim to a womanhood out of nothing but entitlement and male privilege.
I knew I didn’t want to be one of them, wearing a female mask over a macho daily expression, rejecting queerness in an attempt to remain seen as a straight man.
I also knew that I didn’t want to be a transsexual, claiming that I had truly been a woman all along. Living with a 6′ 3″ woman born female, her life experience informed my understanding of the challenges of being raised as a girl in this culture.
Passing was impossible with my frame, but even if it had been, the cost of living a lie felt reprehensible to me for many reasons. I couldn’t imagine keeping my guard up and trying to pretend I had a normative experience of growing up female.
Instead, I thought hard about issues of truth & deception, coming out with a deep understanding of being transgender in this culture. I stood to reject both the Prince and Benjamin models (1995), striving to find something more.
Today, though, social views on trans have shifted. Do our enemies attack us because they see our gains, or do our enemies attacks create gains by forcing people of good will to make a choice to stand up and be supportive? From corporations boycotting states that discriminate to inclusion in the military, transpeople have much more public freedom than ever before.
It is possible to be both trans and effective as a woman in the world, believing that you have allies who support you in expressing your nature. This is great.
However that does not mean that most are ready or even able to understand what the experience of crossing conventional walls between men and women have cost us.
Instead, their normative expectations about separation kick in, leaving assumptions that our outlook and experience must reflect the binaries they believe to be true around the differences between males and females, men and women. In order to be one, we must have never been the other, for if we were, the best we can be is eccentric iconoclasts.
Understanding of trans is a mile wide and an inch deep as people look not to see how trans offers connective glimpses beyond binaries, but rather to simply integrate a simplistic understanding of trans into existing models. As transpeople, we are allowed to fit in as assimilated transsexuals or to stand out as clever gender queer drags, but we are not allowed to share our gifts in a way that might challenge comforting assumptions.
For me, with decades of this kind of deep exploration building a sharp view of the world, the challenge I now face is difficult.
Today it seems possible to assert myself in the world as a woman of trans history, without much of the armour that my sisters had to don in the past. This is why even famous people are coming out; the pioneers did much of the hard work, as evidenced by the arrows they took from both sides.
To do this, though, I have to make that leap, the leap to deserving to be seen as a woman. How much does this require not being seen for the transperson I am, as evidenced by a long, robust and deep history?
My scars are not the scars of a woman born female, just as my body is not female either. It is scars, though, that offer credibility, revealing the risks we took to claim the power we own in the world.
Simple woman basics, like flirting and feuding are not in my skill set since I am without the training that comes inside womanspace. I was never “somebody’s girl,” rather I was a front line trans theologian, doing the work to explore and shore up the intellectual underpinnings of trans presence.
To emerge, though, as a woman, deserving woman respect in the world, takes a certain kind of reductive belief, the power to make a simple claim about yourself, to embody that claim and assert the demand that claim be respected.
That feels like a challenge, though it is a challenge that many, many, many transwomen have claimed and owned. They have changed the way society sees trans by claiming their own essential womanhood.
I know that it is possible to be a woman with a trans history and be respected, honoured and even loved in the world, even as I also know that there are still challenges in that position, challenges that come where we cut across binary expectations.
Can it really be that simple for me, simple enough to believe I deserve what I spent so many years exploring the nuances around?
Or is too big just too big?
Erin chose to read & record this post. After the jump: