Study Says: Third Gotcha!

When asked about the trans experience, I have often told the story about a top golf pro who takes on a game for a million dollars, where the only handicap is “three gotchas.”   He doesn’t know what that means, but how bad could it be?

On the first tee, just as he swings his opponent reaches between his legs, squeezes hard and yells “Gotcha!” into his ear.  He muffs the drive.

On the second green, just as he swings, his opponent does the same thing.  The putt goes wide.

When he gets into the clubhouse, he has lost by six strokes.

“How could you do that?” a friend asks.  “After all, he could only screw up one more swing.”

“It’s not that easy,” said the pro.  “Did you ever play sixteen holes waiting for the third gotcha?”

Now a researcher has done a study that says just the expectation of rejection, the cost of self-policing has profound effects on trans lives.

Brian Rood: Expectation of rejection makes people who are transgender feel anxious, isolated, depressed

We found overwhelmingly that transgender participants reported that they felt rejection could happen anywhere. As a cisgender person, this reality felt sobering and sad. A transgender person believes, “Anywhere I go I’m worried that something bad could happen to me.” For a cisgender person, that’s not usually the case. Our trans participants said that they felt they could be anywhere and they would be worried about rejection or safety.

The most frequent coping response to expecting rejection was avoidance.  If participants think they might be targeted for their gender identity, their response was often to avoid the situation altogether or escape. That makes for a pretty limited life.
These narratives of fear, anxiety, hypervigilance and constant worry that we collected from our trans participants seem to be parallel to someone who’s had a traumatic history.

The interview is worth a read, or you can find the paper on-line.

At least according to this study, “third gotcha” is real and costly.

Not Even Considered

When you are in the box, it’s not just that other options are out of your reach, it’s that they are out of your vision, not even on your radar.

Blinders are the way you survive.   It doesn’t matter if they come from ignorance, incidental or studied, or if they come from denial, from it being too painful to even engage what you know you can never have, all that matters is that you don’t even get to consider making those choices.

Women are those who make the choices of women.   Most women are assigned as female at birth and placed on the woman track, full of scrutiny and cute and service.  That track bounds their options, sets them in a channel.

The more queer you are the more you know how that channel limits you, how you need to emerge from it and claim something past the conventional.

It is much harder, though, to know what the options are that will fit you, will leverage who you are inside, will let your heart blossom in the world.

The limits of our vision are the limits of our possibilities, no matter how those limits are created.   Imposed barriers, cultural ignorance or wilful blindness, they all leave options that are not even considered.

As I get older, those options that stayed out of sight and only in the back of my mind, beyond my grasp so beyond my sight sometimes come back to haunt me. They are the ghosts of unconsidered dreams, killed without even a hearing, who now dance in the shadows, the pain of their loss held back for so many decades.

Everybody lives in partial light, the bounds of our choices circumscribed by the bounds of our circumstances.   For some of us, though, the darkness hides broken dreams, shards still cutting into our heart.

Time passed is time lost, fogged away in blindness and resistance.   We may have been told that our denial was not only appropriate but that it was also righteous, properly serving our family, our community and our God, but when the haze lifts to reveal the debris of the dreams we couldn’t even allow ourselves to know that we had, loss becomes palpable while the promised social respect feels like so much vapour.

So much emptiness which might have been full of rich possibilities, all bound up in choices that were not even considered.