There was a time that social services came with a catch.
To get what you needed, you had to show that you could be saved by whatever doctrine the organization which provided the services held as sacred and true.
To get a bowl of soup and a mat for the night, the prayer service was obligatory. Going through the ritual of accepting the saviour as your shepherd was part of the price, no matter what you held inside, no matter those beliefs and the people who held them had failed you in the past.
I am glad people can (apparently) start getting help and support at an earlier age now. But I wonder, how boxed in and limited is the trans-imagination liable to become, if you’re set like a potted houseplant in a “this is what we do with transkids” box so early on, never abandoned to tear out your hair and shriek on the wild plains, alone and sad and hopeful and praying. Does anyone really know what trans is yet? I don’t. So kindly shut up about it. You don’t know what you’re talking about, dear professional helpers. We all want to open and blossom, but we need deep and solidly-earthed roots, not the pious lies of trans-orthodoxy and its “just be nice” to amazing! inspiring! trans-kids (and sufficiently non-ornery adults, which I _used_ to pretend I was).
If the only way the marginalized can receive help is to mouth comforting tropes to those in the mainstream who demand assimilation for support, we will be twisted into playing along.
After all, that’s what we already did for long periods in our life. We played along, trying to hide, to kill off parts of ourselves to get the crust we needed, the dangled mat, the dream of caring and comfort. We twist ourselves into pretzels trying to be who others want us to be just to get a bit of what we need. (2006)
That attempt, though, never liberated us, never empowered us, never got us closer to health and happiness and growth, as Erin points out. Instead, it offered us machine made red shoes to fill the need for handmade, shoes that danced us to sickness.
“Just because you are like everyone else doesn’t make you normal,” Katherine Ryan says in her new Netflix special.
“It just means you are ordinary.”
Developing our special, unique relationship with creation may be hard, but canned tropes will never substitute for the hard work of finding and blossoming the power of our own heart.
Just because the missionaries say that they have an answer for us, a set of conventions that will make us nice and ordinary and in service to their church, whatever the belief system is, doesn’t mean that the our bold, native and wild hearts will be lost by appearing to follow, to join in their flock.
None of the people who wanted to do good by sharing their own belief systems, no matter how coercive their strategies were, ever considered that they were doing anything that wasn’t for the good of the others, no matter how much they didn’t understand that good at the time. The beliefs worked to give them what they needed, so clearly they will work for you, if only you finally give yourself over to them.
It is always hard to challenge people who come with good intentions, even when those intentions manifest in ways that ignore your truth and replace it with their own belief system.
Believing, though, that gleefully sharing the Kool-Aid by complying with social pressure and taking on the outward choices of the group misses the power, grace and divine surprise that comes with not only respecting but celebrating the diverse range of human expression. We are all connected by our human hearts, not by our external conformity.
When the ease and rapidity of how quickly we accept what you have to offer becomes the criteria of if we are good or not, then it is crowd mentality which is valued. Rather than holding onto core values and beliefs, we become awesome by how quickly we follow the gang wherever it leads. We become valued as sheep, sweetly flocking, not as humans, doing the hard work to take a bold, tough and committed path.
The powerful personal journey of every transperson down to the roots of their connect with creation — their deeply seated continuous common humanity — is at the heart of the power that I find in trans.
Trans is not about fashion, no matter how much stylish expression is part of the emergence. Trans is about existing beyond fashion, beyond trend, beyond convention in a zone where divine authenticity trumps social nicety.
I know why the flock wants me abject, sweet, compliant and amazing.
I also know, though, the cost which being pounded into that kind of life cost my tender and true trans heart.
Seeing that kind of simple solution done to young, tender and fragile transpeople who just want to be loved, just want an answer, well, it disquiets me. Do they really just have to sign up for the right beliefs, go through the right medical intervention, and they will become ordinary?
Can they really make a politically correct world where the flock gets to tell people how to behave, down to insisting on whatever pronoun they fancy?
That’s not my experience of the wider world.
And it certainly isn’t my experience of the trans journey of emergence to integrity and wholeness.
We need a world less demanding of binary divisions, sure, one that cares more about deep continuous common humanity and less about surface differences.
That, I believe, has always been the role of transpeople in the world, crossing boundaries and reminding everyone about connection over separation.
The flock want to offer an “answer” to trans, one that fits neatly into their belief structure, be that coerced conversion or buying into binary oppression.
The answer, though, at least in my experience, is in trusting spirit over flesh, wild over tame, stubborn meaning over trendy assimilation.
It is about claiming the power that trans has always represented in human culture, the role that sociobiologists see us playing across time and space.
Will we compartmentalize, deny and hide to try and get what we need? Sure.
But in the end we will always be who we are deep inside, whatever the flock that is.