“Remember: You are brilliant and gorgeous.”
For decades now, this has been my affirmation to my sister. She started a new job this week and even joked about tattooing B&G on her wrist, so she would be reminded every time she sees it.
Like many humans, she understands the objective logic of my invocation, knowing that she is as good or better than most other people, but the emotional embrace of it still comes hard.
The voices of lack, of failure, of disapproval & disappointment are much easier to hear than the truth of the capacity to be exceptional, the truth of our own brilliance and beauty.
I started reminding her that she was brilliant & gorgeous because I knew firsthand that she grew up in a home where her good stories were stolen and everything else was marked as a disappointment, a heinous failure to make her mother happy. Rather than being praised for her shining and encouraged to stretch, she was bathed in her mother’s failure complex, a never ending loop of self-pity that turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Expecting pain and failure gives a great excuse not to try and not trying guarantees the comfort of having you expectations be rewarded, allowing your soft bed of assured indolence to harden into cement that traps your soul.
It was obvious to me that anyone who came out of that home needed all the encouragement and reminders about transcendence that they could get. That lesson, shall we say, was written deep and painfully onto my own battered soul.
Giving is receiving, as any parent needs to know and as I was taught early. Giving my sister the affirmation that she was brilliant & gorgeous and that the world would see that too if she only had the courage to show it to them, well, that was the best I could do to make sure that message existed in the world.
Like most messages we put out, the best thing that can happen is to have that truth reflected in the world, mirrored and amplified through the shared energy of a family or community.
My personal experience, though, has never been to feel excitement & affirmation about my contributions, very, very rarely having them valued and returned with building enthusiasm.
Instead, I find that I am obligated to teach the same lessons over and over to an audience who has an almost infinite capacity to resist the hard work of accountability and responsibility, instead looking for comforting short cuts and repeatedly going back to their unconsidered beliefs, the cherished assumptions that they hold onto as firmly as a security blanket.
The surety of entitlement is deeply embedded in this culture and those who challenge us are easily dismissed as crackpots. Why should we be accountable for anything but what we believe to be true in the moment, held responsible for where our path crosses others in a way that they don’t like? Isn’t that just their problem?
I learned early to confront shallow thinking that did not respect and consider the needs, feelings and requirements of others. This quickly became the theme of my life, not going along but standing up, trying to be seen, heard, understood and valued.
Taking my fight for granted was easy for other people. After all, I was standing up for myself, illuminating deep thought, asking smart questions. How could I need anything that they had to give? They had their own struggles, so it was easier to only go to me when they needed something I had to give and to just stay away when they didn’t want to be challenged.
All the reasons why people find me a bit challenging are very obvious, not only to me but also to the people who are in relationship with me.
The ways that I am brilliant, gorgeous, charming and attractive, though, don’t tend to get reinforced. It is clear that I am my own person, that my approach to people isn’t to make them comfortable, telling them what they want to hear, reinforcing what they already believe.
Sometimes, though, I am reminded that on some level I am fascinating, compelling, dynamic and engaging. My approach is entertaining, using humour and surprise to offer a different view, all wrapped in a sure and even seductive voice.
Those reminders, though, are easy to lose in the midst of others who resist entering my world, seeing through my eyes. They easily believe my stories of being a bristly outcast, understanding the cost of having to attenuate and play a role that fits into the expectations of others.
The notion that a path forward lies not in fitting in but in standing out, in being big, bold and brilliant in a way that can engage and delight people, well, that’s not something that fits into their own worldview. They are very circumscribed by the boundaries of their imagination which not only defines their choices but also defines the fear which limits their vision.
Few people are ready to affirm in others what scares them in themselves. Transpeople know this vividly, having lived within the boundaries set by the fears of others.
I know how to affirm that others are brilliant & gorgeous, but finding that same mirroring for my own cutting & queer self has always been very, very difficult. Is the simple humanity, the bold & tender heart behind my sharp brain visible, compelling, lovable?
Leading with my brain offered me a survival strategy, enlightenment that kept a bitter world in context. Protecting my tender heart from the assaults that were supposed to train and constrain someone with a body like mine to service, well, I needed all the shell I could get.
Now, though, my challenge is to let that heart shine, brilliant and gorgeous in a world that still wants to read my history and biology as “real” and my self awareness as just noise that can be dismissed & erased. Trying to get that heart affirmed has always been a challenge for me, and it doesn’t become easier the older I get, the more ancient I am seen.
You are brilliant & gorgeous. Let it shine so people can see it and be attracted to you, wanting to engage you by entering your world a bit.
Am I just too damn queer for the room?
Or does that spark exist inside of me, also?