I’m not much of a fan of “trigger warnings,” the notice that something in the following text may trigger an emotional response.
I see them as a precursor to political correctness, to the idea that certain topics or views must never be expressed because they might cause distress to some people. To me, this lets the self described victims set the agenda, constraining discussion to what they find within their comfort zone.
Recently a transwoman was turned away from a church run soup kitchen because they believed she would be disruptive. The staff offered to feed her if she wore the clothes that they considered Biblicaly correct for her, but otherwise they felt she could trigger others by making them uncomfortable.
The notion that I don’t have any right to express what might trigger others, that I have to hide behind screens of consent, as YouTube tried when they marked much LGBTQ content as requiring adult access, well, that’s been something that has hurt me all my life. I learned to stridently self-police so as not to upset the kids, not to challenge the beliefs of others, not to be attacked because I triggered the unprocessed rage and fear in someone else.
When others deliberately try to push our buttons, though, triggering us by reopening old wounds, well, that’s a very bad, mean and nasty thing. So much of what passes for argument in this narcissistic, me-first time are ad-hominem attacks, attempts to control people by manipulating them into brokenness.
As someone who grew up trans in an Aspergers family, I had to learn early how to not react to attacks, instead taking the moment between stimulus and response to come up with a considered and effective response. Staying cool on the surface let me practice Akido, allowing others own energy to throw them off balance rather than having me take the blow.
That doesn’t mean, tough, that the slams didn’t hurt me, leaving deep and profound wounds on my heart & body, only that I could come from head and stay tough.
Over the decades, I have learned to create my own content warnings. Even if I can hold my own in the fight, understanding the cost for participating and measuring against my current reserves becomes very important.
Now, with my batteries so depleted and my resources so thin, I often avoid rather than engage in situations where I know I can get triggered, bloodied and need time to heal.
For example, there is a trans health and law conference tomorrow, around two hours drive from here.
If I was able to go there as a professional, listening to and engaging people, ready to absorb their challenges and re-contextualize them, then I would have much to give.
On the other hand, if I show up as a bruised and battered transwoman who has been desperately isolated for a long time, the odds are that I will just leave worse than I came. There will be words from others that hit deeply, creating an emotional response that I have no means to tend or heal.
An infomercial selling a simplified computer for seniors includes an expert who gladly points out that social isolation isn’t just bad for pensioners, it’s bad for anyone. I wish someone had figured that out when I was around one or two years old; learning to manage social isolation like a hermit was the only way I could stay stable.
I go to events hoping to meet someone who gets me. My most powerful dream is sitting in conversation with someone and looking at the clock, surprised at how quickly the hours have flown by.
What I tend to get, though, are moments when my previous experiences come up, someone offering a thoughtless & graceless assertion that just erases what I have been saying and leaves me, one more time, cut to the quick, old wounds savaged again by old and painful ignorance.
There isn’t a transperson alive who hasn’t felt the need to swallow their own massive pain, eating their own nature to keep the environment sweet and comfortable for those who feel entitled to hold onto their cherished and blinkered view of what is right & normal.
To live by the golden rule, I know that if I can’t abide being silenced for the sake of not triggering others, keeping them in their comfort zone, then I can’t demand that they be silent for me, their free speech constrained by what triggers me and opens my old wounds.
That leaves me responsible for my own feelings, for managing and respecting them. My history, my fears, my blindness, my neediness can never be the bounds for what is acceptable in the world.
With that personal responsibility, though, I need to know when I just can’t engage those who aren’t sensitive, aware and respectful. I have to respect my own triggers. If I can’t stand the heat, I need to stay out of the kitchen.
And that’s why I will end up alone in this basement again tomorrow.