If You Knew

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

That’s an old self-help motto, a köan for the new age types.

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

This is more the challenge that transpeople face.   Our failures come not because we want to achieve some goal but because we want reveal our gifts by taking a role in society.

If you knew you weren’t going to be sabotaged by other people’s view of what is real, by their stiff assumptions & expectations, by their refusal to look beyond physicality, who would you be?

It may well be true that there are more people supporting open expression out there than ever before.   Even the people who have the intent of doing that, though, tend to live in a binary, sexist world where the reproductive biology assigned at birth is absolutely defining.   Sure, you can be a guy-in-a-dress or a manly woman, but beyond that, well, tough.

Stereotyping is tough stuff.

“You’re the fat girl!” a crossdresser yelled at me during a photo shoot “You have to smile and be the funny one!”

The assumptions written on our physicality are daunting and oppressive.

It makes me crazy when a author of history describes a vintage portrait, reading psychological traits into the set of the eyes or the shape of the jaw line.  Are these people really saying that physiognomy and its offshoots like phrenology are good and reasonable ways to understand people even today? Do they want to support eugenics?

Is who we can possibly be in society written by the shape of our body?

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

It may well be that people with shared body types also have shared characteristics.   Acculturation is a powerful force, so when from an early age you are taught what role people like you have been assigned to play, when you get the same kind of responses from people who make the same assumptions about you, you learn fast.

Is it our biology or the shared cultural experience others apply to that biology which most shapes our choices, our life?

Even Germaine Greer seems to indicate it is socialization which is the key, arguing not that the smelly vagina shapes “real” woman but the attention and behaviours that organ attracts defines and constrains the experience of “being a woman.”    The biology shapes the experience and the experience shapes the person.

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

Who would you be if you hadn’t been taught that being that person wasn’t really for people like you, that it would be silly & stupid to even try being that person?

Who would you be if people weren’t going to try and shame you, trying to block your way to being on the outside who you know, on the inside, you can be?

Who would you be if people stopped trying to reduce you to the assumptions & expectations they have saddled onto your body?

You probably can’t even imagine who you would be.   Part of that is because the experience of being that person, making those choices would teach & temper you, helping you grow in unexpected ways.

More of that, though, is that we can’t imagine what we are denied imagining.  Instead of having realistic, balanced dreams, instead we have closeted, furtive ones, going to extremes and being cloaked in shame.

The hidden imagination of transwomen has been savaged by people like Ray Blanchard and John Money, the twists of our silenced dreams diagnosed as mental aberration.

If we can’t even dream of who we would be, how can we ever get on the road to becoming it?

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

Your family decided early who you would be.   After all, you were little copies of your parents, ready to take on the family honour and family obligations.   It is an expensive investment to raise a child, in money, time & effort, so training them well is an important part of the process.

After all, who you would be is a reflection of your parents, and you didn’t want them to be ashamed, did you?   Every kids wants to please their parents, but more than that, they don’t want to upset their parents because that can be dangerous and painful.

The rules about what your family would and would not support emerged early.  Listening to how they talked about people with the same dreams & drives you had was a revelation.   Their lack of support became clear before you ever asked for it as they worked to curb your “inappropriate behaviour” and channel you into who you should be, into who you had to be.

Being taught that you would not only not be supported in being the person you knew yourself to be but that you would also take a hit just for asking, well, that can dry up your dreams & possibilities pretty quickly.

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

In this culture, we let kids pound other kids into fitting in, shaming and blaming with an intense level of peer pressure.   They make it clear where you belong, who you are, what your status is.

School reinforces biases in a way that seems intended to burn them deeply into our consciousness, making them a lasting part of how we know our place in the world.    It may be less that way today, but the tradition continues, moulding malleable young minds with an understanding of their obligations, their limits and their role.

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

Much of what the corporate world wants are soldiers, people to carry out the corporate wars at the cost of putting their own individuality aside.   We are asked to become cogs in the machine, buying into the culture and following the rules, offering obedience and fealty to those above us in the hierarchy.

Succeeding demands becoming who the business needs, taking on the characteristics and mindset which serve our assigned role.   Smart people learn how to pattern themselves after the bosses, offering a way up, but many just are willing to do the rote work, toiling at the coal face and living in the expectations of others.

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

When someone tells us that we are special, that we should be the best we can be, it is vital to understand the limits of what they mean.   Do they really want us to take a flyer, to go beyond their imaginings, to challenge, threaten and surpass them, or do they just mean that we should be the best us that fits into their expectations of appropriateness in the world?

We many need to move past convention and comfort, but finding people who support us in boldly becoming the best we can be past social barriers, well, that is very difficult.

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

Or maybe the more important question, who are you within the limits of support that bound your choices, your dreams, your training and your world?

It’s lovely to ponder what we could be if we knew failure was prohibited and support was guaranteed, but the the simple truth is that we know what we know and lots of people spent lots of years pounding that knowledge, that fear and those limits into us.

The best we can be exists only within the bounds of what others can tolerate, permit and accept for us.   Without support, we as social animals will be left alone and lost.

How can we dream beyond the realm of the social pressures we are always under?

How can we be the person we know ourselves to be without support?

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