Almost above all else, I want to be credible.
I decided very early that it was more important to be respected than to be liked, partly because my parents didn’t really know how to be charmed by anyone but they did know how to think.
When I first emerged, I was a guy-in-a-dress, not removing body hair, using the name my parents gave me at birth, striving for balance beyond convention, a kind of androgyny (or gynandrony, maybe, with the feminine first.)
I knew this approach was credible, without the claims of womanhood and femaleness that went unconsidered and unsubstantiated in other transpeople, especially the “Now I’m Biff! Now I’m Suzy!” Prince style crossdressers, but also the “I have always been a woman, no matter how long I lived as a man!” Benjamin style transsexuals.
Today, their attempt to find ideas & words that rationalized and defended their choices, notions that played into “one or the other” binary belief (1997), is totally comprehensible, even if moving beyond those conventions is the only way I found to tell the truth, even if it is a shimmering and multi-faceted truth which can only be expressed with quantum, Talmudic contradictions.
I honed my language for precision, pushing out sloppiness and codifying meaning in a way that most never take the time to do before pontificating on theory. That is why my words have discipline, why I can easily connect what I wrote in the late nineteen-eighties with what I share today in the mid twenty-teens.
Around 2000, though, I gave up on trying to argue theory and started to move to poetry, to a much more emotive and personal view of the world we all share. I realized that the personal narrative often conveyed much more truth than the “logic” of philosophical language, even though my style would continue to alloy the what I see as best parts of both of them. While this means my work alienates both those who are uncomfortable with deep emotion and those who are uncomfortable with deep thought, it is the only way I found to credibly make myself visible in the world.
The limitations of holding fast to what I worked so hard to know to be credible, though, is that to many people who are immersed in conventional. either/or thinking, it makes just makes my voice incredible.
What I share is just “too much information” (TMI) for them, too much distracting, off-putting and challenging noise.
The irony that my quest to be credible though precision has left me incredible in the world, that struggling for honesty has left me suspect, is not lost on me. It very much harkens back to the “lie or be called a liar” issue I faced as I emerged, where truth was seen as a lie and lies seen as the truth because they were always filtered by an either/or, one or the other mindset.
If I want to be seen as more credible in the outer world, I have to make assertions that I know to be less than credible, choosing to obscure parts of me so that they don’t create noise which makes the other parts suspect and incredible.
That communication, though, isn’t just verbal or in manner, it also goes to foundations, to the foundation of my body, the foundation of my history and the foundation of my worldview which is contained in my whole story. Ripples of my sharp mind, well, they queer the impression, making others wondering what I am trying to hide, what I “really” am.
As legions of hucksters have proven over the centuries, the most credible person isn’t the one with the best grasp of the multi-layered nuances of truth, rather it is the one who most closely matches our expectation of what credibility should look and sound like.
Symbols of status, assertions of power and affirming their longstanding beliefs are what most people use to determine credibility in another. It is a credibility based on emotional cues, not logical veracity.
In fact, they often want to dismiss anyone who challenges their worldview as incredible just to defend their own comfort, choices and rationalizations.
Jumping from my own history of credibility through precision to the assertion of credibility through emotive performance feels almost impossible to me.
One of the most foundational jobs I ever had was a year behind the camera counter. It was almost a standalone shop inside a department store, where we had a wide range of options and sold the customers individually.
In almost no time I was the top earner in the department because I saw what and how to sell, collecting spiffs left and right. When they got rid of the technical manager and brought in a sales pro, he wasn’t really happy with me because his plan was to increase numbers over years and I was selling too much, too fast.
He didn’t understand how I made sales without the flash and razzle-dazzle he used, all sharp clothes and winking close. Instead, I played the credible camera nerd, smart and geeky, looking honest even as I was always aware of the best deal for me, too.
That experience in selling was the basis for anything I did after, performing versions of the same character to close the deal.
What character do I have to perform to pitch my trans nature? And where do I get the zone and support to practice it, to learn how to reveal another kind of sincere credibility? I’m not so young and eager anymore and what I have to sell isn’t as simple as chunks of metal and glass (or maybe plastic.)
I know my own credibility. I know that credibility is based on hard won truths, on the jewels I claimed out of the sewage on my own difficult journey.
What I don’t know is how to translate that credibility into something that is credible just walking through the world, credible to people who find the complex incredible.
Almost above all else, I want to be credible. Being credible to both myself and to a world which is comforted by the imaginary walls based on faith in either/or, though, seems almost impossible.