Flinty Trauma

This came through on my podcast feed recently and I started to listen.

I have talked about Dr. van der Kolk and his book, “The Body Keeps The Score” before.

Now, though, scraping bottom, I realize how fundamental my experience of trauma is, how it forms the flinty bedrock of who I am.

For good and for bad, I have been shaped by my experience of trauma.  It allows me the power of being a wounded healer and it separates me from other people who live in the many layers of acculturation which overlays their own foundation of trauma.

Scratch a transperson, or at least one who shares the experience of being shamed into the closet, and you will find the lasting effects of the trauma that drove them into hiding, the trauma of having to deny and kill off a powerful part of who they are.

It is the way trauma still exists in our body that erotically calls to us and makes us run from our own scarred heart at the same time.  The accretion of defence over that trauma contains the twists and turns which hold our own deep and unmet neediness.

Talking about this experience of trauma sets us apart from the world, leaving us seen as less than amazing, but not talking about this trauma leaves us stuck in denial with something broken at the core.   No matter how much we try and hide it, when they get close enough, within passing distance, others can feel the effect of that black hole inside.

I don’t want to talk about how I have excavated down to trauma during the last years when my social layers have been washed away by scarcity and isolation because I know that discussing it doesn’t help people connect with me.   My experience is terrifying, no matter how much it lets me speak resonant truths about the experience of walking trans in this world.

Yet, I am scraped so thin at this point that nothing but the effects of trauma are on my skin.   I can serve others, yes, but getting replenished, healed and vigorous feels far beyond me.    Only someone who grasps the experience of trauma, who can hold their own pain and be with me in the process of transcendence can help, and I am very, very clear that presence is far too much to expect, even if not too much to ask.

Knowing how to tenderly hold the effects of trauma in others is a great thing to do, offering them space, safety, mirroring and affirmation, but not having anyone ready to hold those torn and jagged bits of me leaves me wasted and bereft.

Why do we break people who challenge simple boundaries, setting out to traumatize them into compliance “for their own good?”

And why, when the effects of that trauma surface do we try to tell them that they should pick themselves up by their own bootstraps and just get over it, becoming compliant in a way that meets our existing beliefs about separation and obligation?

My experience of trauma has shaped me.    That formation, though, creates a separation between me and anyone who has not done the work of engaging their own trauma, their own emotions, their own fears, their own queerness.    I shine a light which is lovely when it illuminates shared experience but is terrifying when it lights the parts we feel the need to hide to remain functional in “normal life.”    If you are ready to heal, I am amazing, but if you need to keep bits hidden, even from yourself, well, scary.

Now, though, I am at the flinty bottom of that experience of trauma, with nary a wisp of protective flesh above it.   Even small bumps and bruises don’t just impact the padding, they cleave to the heart of me, opening fractures which pour out my deepest pain.

I know this, I know this, I know.

What to do about it, though, well, that I don’t know.

Talking about it just puts people off, just makes me more repellent.

Not talking about it, though, makes me more inert.



One thought on “Flinty Trauma”

  1. For as far back as Joy Ladin can remember, her body didn’t match her soul. Gender defines us from the moment we’re born. But how is that related to the lifelong work of being at home in ourselves? We explore this question through Joy Ladin’s story of transition from male to female — in an Orthodox Jewish world. This interview is edited and produced with music and other features in the On Being episode “Joy Ladin — Transgender Amid Orthodoxy: I Am Who I Will Be.” Find more at http://onbeing.org

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