“The eyes are the window to the soul.”
Grown up transpeople know this well. Instead of looking at someone, they have learned to look into another person, evaluating their choices, including the emotions that flicker across their eyes, to understand who they are.
When you understand that the essence of gender lies in the heart and soul of people, rather than in their crotch, looking inside is the only way to know who people are.
Trying to make and enforce any kind of rules based on the content of someone’s soul, though, isn’t something that is easily done in law or in the comments of a Facebook post. It is much easier to categorize people by their externals, by some apparently “objective” criteria, a nice finite cut across the continuum to sever a spectrum into a binary that can then be codified, contained and controlled.
If transgender expression it is about anything it is about the desire of the heart, the call of the soul, overriding the conventions and constrictions of imposed social order. We express who we know ourselves to be inside over the constraints and codicils written on to our body, moving beyond what others see as compulsory gender roles to rich and determined personal expression.
Some may say this is just the sickness of our brain, the brokenness of dysphoria emerging, but transpeople have always existed in society; sociobiologists would suggest that we add some sort of survival value to the group, because we sure don’t breed easily.
If transgender expression is the triumph of soul expression over social convention, then it is our souls which hold the value we bring, not our political force. In the same way that we are not numerous enough to have a strong breeding influence, we are not numerous enough to gather together become a bloc. Instead, we offer our value as individuals salted through the population, bringing our trans force to add just a bit of tang to the mix.
The most profound need that transpeople have, I believe, is not political action, being rolled up together as a protected class, but rather deep healing of our battered and scarred souls.
Emerging in a determinedly binary society has an enormous cost for each of us. We fight a personal and intense battle to claim ourselves beyond social pressures, without the support of peers or those around us. We have to batter through stigma & fear that wants to keep us in our place, in a nice manageable box, feeding us into being fixed in the status quo.
In coming out we are forced to decide what parts of us to cut off to fit into the networks we need to support our basic humanity. If we don’t want to be rejected by family, if we want to get a good job, if we want to have lovers, if we don’t want to be harassed in public, how do we need to hide parts of us that others find challenging and offensive, triggering their fear and judgment?
All of this takes a very high toll on our very soul. Our soul may be eternal, unable to be destroyed, but it can certainly be battered, and the frail human who carries that soul can always feel the pain, frustration, rage and erasure that comes from our own heart being hammered down to try and suit other people.
This is the reason, I suggest, that narratives of trans murder are so resonant with us (2006), not because we are being killed at statistically high rates or that our own lives are directly under threat, but because we acutely feel the soul murder that we had to go through, the destruction that we had to be complicitous with.
What do transpeople need? We need our souls healed and saved. We need our souls to be seen, touched and valued, need to be able to drop our defences, open our spirits and be gently and reverently held, respecting the beauty that lies within, the power that so scared us we tried to break our own hearts.
This is very hard magic. Until we can hold ourselves with compassion rather than with rationalization, can drop the fierce policing we do to make sure we do things “the right way,” how can we ever really open to another soul that is called to make bold individual choices we would never make for ourselves?
As long as we believe that it is what is on the outside that counts, believe that people can easily be categorized and judged, we will hold ourselves defended. We will impose those rules onto us and to everyone we meet, looking not for what divine surprise they can share with us but instead for why we can dismiss them as messy and broken, without standing or status.
The power is not having others come to the fundamental beliefs we hold about the right way to be in the world, rather the power is in being open to the beautiful and battered soul that lies within every human, their connection to the godhead which threads through us all.
The eyes may be the window to the soul, but who in this culture has the time, the energy and the openness to really look inside someone, see their soul and value who they are in this moment?
Grown up transpeople know how important this is because they know how important it is to them. They own their own mature and centred presence because they have made peace with their own soul, even the dark and scary parts where they were told their ugliness lived. They have entered their own hell (1996), collected their own jewels, and learned to move beyond the programmed fear of society, instead moving to love.
Getting transpeople together to take political action will always have limited attraction. Most of us don’t desperately need political help, rather what we need, even when we boil with activist rage, is visible affirmation and tender caring for our own incredibly tortured soul.
I know that many will reject this notion, claiming that the spiritual is crap and all they need is to affirm their own doctrine and use whatever is available to get the assholes out of their way. They are stuck in a sick world, full of idiots, and nothing good can happen until they wake up, even if that takes pounding them with a stick. It isn’t their healing and salvation that is required, it is calling out offenders and demanding that they change.
We defend our soul in any way that we can, for we need it to feed our own happiness and satisfaction. For many, that means armouring it up, creating walls of separation between us and the bad people, those who don’t get it.
Those walls, though, end up running right through our heart, trying to wall off the parts of who we are that we feel we need to reject and destroy to become right in the world.
Healing the soul is the first step to healing the world. It is the first step to becoming powerful in the culture, confident and centred in our own skin. Instead of being burdened with reactionary choices we can open ourselves to tend to others who also feel erased, hurt and betrayed by the social demands placed on them.
When we come to peace with our own soul we can come to take power in the world, finding our voice and our presence and offering the magic that those who have crossed sex/gender expectations always have.
The eyes are the window to the soul. When we can see that, see the beautiful and wounded unique individual inside ourselves and inside those we come in contact with, we will see how healing and helping the soul is always the basis of healing and helping the world.