Broken & Disgusting

“Transpeople are sick people,” the experts said, “psychologically unstable and capable of depraved and anti-social behaviour.

“Doesn’t that show that we were right in pathologizing them, marking them as sick and doing our best to channel them into normative roles?”

Which comes first for transpeople, the breaking or the being broken?

Were transpeople twisted because that’s who we were, or was it because the pressure and constraints society put us under were specifically intended to break our trans spirit, forcing it into the dark recesses of our soul and demanding we twist ourselves into pretzels to appear normative?

I presume you know my answer to this question.   Break us, show we are broken and then use that to justify breaking us.   It’s a nasty, nasty loop.

When we emerge as transgender, one of the first big challenges we get is people pointing to transgender people who they find distasteful, off-putting or ugly and asking us if we really want to be like them.    This demand to support and justify even the skankiest of transgender behaviour, coming when we have just started to understand our own choices feels oppressive and unfair, which of course, it is.

The way stigma works is to focus on the extremes, finding some expression to denigrate and decry, and then to try and link all other expression to that.   This is why gay people often find it tough to only see images of extreme drag queens or fetish followers used to illustrate any story that purports to be about people like them.

Add to that writers who use transgender as some kind of symbol for their own purposes, not caring about the real lives and challenges of being trans in the world but instead using trans characters only as their personal sock puppets and we see ugly images everywhere.

When faced with this kind of deliberately marginalizing imagery, the simplest solution is to use negative identity definition.

Instead of telling people who we are, something hard to figure out, especially in the rank darkness of the closet, we tell people who we are not.

“I’m not a bad tranny like them!” we cry (2005), trying to play the captive’s game of supporting our oppressors prejudices and justifying dehumanizing others who are less attractive than we believe ourselves to be.

This can become very strange.  “Sure, I like gerbils stuffed in my butt, but he likes guinea pigs in his and that’s just sick!”    Somehow, the line between what is normative and what is perverse always runs just on the far side of own choices.

“How queer is too queer?   How queer is not queer enough?”   These are fundamental identity questions for creating groupings around LGBT.   It becomes awfully easy to point out how others are doing it wrong, which creates problems for everyone in the real “community.”

To support someone who is making choices that we would never, ever make for ourselves takes real maturity.   Those choices may even squick us, make us want to turn away, but as long as they are consensual, supporting the right to make them is the only way to protect our own queer expression.

I am very aware that every time I am with a group of transpeople, some of them are deciding that I am a bad example of trans, expressing trans in a way that they find wrong & distasteful.    They can easily tell me how I am putting a bad image of transgender into the world, which makes life much harder for real transpeople like them.

This kind of judgment plays into those who want to create fear around transgender expression, self-defined moral champions who want to keep confused and deluded men away from innocent children.

When we come from a world where mirrors of people like us were deliberately broken and bent, is there any wonder why we not only have trouble mirroring others but we have a very limited and self-involved view of our own choices?    We end up living in closed rationalizations rather than growing in the sunshine of trust and true community.

Getting to where we can see other transpeople as abject and victims is the start of opening to community, but only being compassionate about how they were broken by the social pressures piled on them as they tried to explore their own trans hearts does not empower or liberate them or us.

Learning to see the real spark in other trans hearts, the power behind even their unhealed places, allows us to reflect on the true grace of transgender, even the transgender spirit in our own heart.    Compassion and pride in others leads us to compassion and pride in ourselves.

This is hard stuff.   If you believe that you are somehow broken inside, so perverted and corrupt that you cannot trust your own feelings and only denial, assimilation and compliance will do, you can easily become obsessed with surface appearances over deeper healing.   In that case, only effectively concealing your nature will do, not exposing, trusting and polishing it.

Which comes first for transpeople, the breaking or the being broken?

What comes hardest is the healing.   The ultimate trans surgery may be pulling the stick out of our own ass, but when you believe that stick is the only thing keeping you appropriate, connected and safe in the world, pulling it out seems terrifying.  We planted that stick deep and strong and secret for very, very good reasons.

Everyone heals in their own time and in their own way, which may be the single most frustrating thing about being in relationship with humans, even about being in relationship with our own soul.

But heal we do, if we just do the work of moving beyond assumptions & expectations to claim what is in our own heart.  The scars that remain hold their own beauty and power, tell the stories of living a human life, somewhere between flesh and spirit.

It’s easy to see how humans can be broken, easy to assign that brokenness to something sick inside of them, easy to call them monsters because of that.

Seeing how humans still shine even when broken, how the spirit survives, endures and even radiates through wounds, well, that is the vision of the wounded healer.

We are broken, we are ugly, we are transcendent, we are beautiful and brilliant.

The way you see us tests your own healing, your own growth, your own spirit.   Do you come from the fear that keeps us small and compliant, tame and assimilated, or do you come from the love that embiggens us, opening to the wild, passionate and queer in each heart?

You get to choose.