At “Rooted,” a retreat for Trans-Christians held last month in Chicago, one of the exercises was to write a “love note” to other trans/trans affiliated people.
Because trans is so often rooted in negative identity — we are not sure who or what we are, but we are very clear on what we are not — this is a very important step in opening our queer hearts.
It’s very easy to look around and see transpeople who are making choices that we resist, that we would never, ever make for ourselves, choices that make us uncomfortable, allowing us to identify what they are doing wrong from our point of view.
More than that, it is very easy to see transpeople who are so bound up in their own defences and twists that they present a difficult and unattractive face to the world. For decades we had to endure clinical professionals who saw what they considered sickness in transpeople and blamed that on the queer nature of them rather than on the massive trauma, repression and abuse that comes from trying to manage trans in a fiercely hetero-normative world.
How can we ever learn to open our hearts to the world as long as we live in fear that we will be one of those unattractive and weird transpeople? How can we move beyond being ruled by the shame that keeps us assertively self-policing, trying to hide the parts of is that are just too queer to be easy?
Learning to open to other transpeople, even the ones who appear too broken, too queer or too assimilated, the ones who challenge our claimed identity, is a key part of the process in learning to open to our own very human and very trans nature. Until we can be present for others, we can never be present for ourselves.
As I look back at my experience of engaging trans, I am aware of how much of my service to others, starting with writing in the 1980s, continuing with leading in the 1990s and finally sharing the depths of my story and vision in the 2000’s comes from a place of love.
As a femme, I loved all the transpeople for their tender hearts, even the ones whose rock hard armour was designed to crush any challenges. I know why they had to build that edifice, why silencing and manipulation seemed to be the best choice, not least because I had gone through the same pounding experiences.
My path, though, was into the spiritual. For me, like for any mom, I knew that didn’t just involve being sweet and trying to avoid conflict, rather that fighting for people’s growth & healing in the world always required the willingness to fight with them. They needed to learn their own strength, needed to have their own assertions tested, needed to be challenged to be their best self.
As I tested my own beliefs in the fire of our shared stories, elemental truths were revealed, that essential knowledge that Campbell tells us is always held in the power of myth. Of course, as he also tells us, there are reasons why people resist the gifts that come from the hero’s journey of transformation, from leaving the ease of “thou shalt” normativity to claim our own individual heart.
Group identity always seems simpler than the personal, a shared sense of group exceptionalism that can underlie a comforting, routine sense of entitlement. Trans identity, though, crosses boundaries and challenges assumptions to remind us of our continuous common humanity. What we profoundly share isn’t on the surface, it is written deep into our shared human nature.
My writings, my actions, my choices, rooted in my own healing, which in turn is rooted in my own wounds, have always been based in love.
Even as they tore me up, coming from their own Aspergers selves, I loved my family. I put love into the world, the best that I could, but knew all the time that love was too much for most people, just as I was too overwhelming, too intense, too visionary, too challenging, too damn everything.
The discipline and denial it took to come from love demanded that I put my own emotions aside, using the discipline of æsthetic denial to stay focused and present. That never meant that I didn’t have emotions, didn’t have an ocean of hurts surging inside me, only that I understood to be present for others those wounds had to inform my choices, not to shape them. After all, my goal was always to help others move beyond what hurt me, not to lash out at them with my deep raging pain.
I opened to love, loving others and myself. I start every day by thanking my mother in the sky for my life, always looking for those divine surprises that leave me amused, awed and grateful.
Through the decades, though, as I put my own needs on the shelf, I became more and more lonely, more and more isolated from the emotional sustenance of other people. I would try to find connection, but it was quickly revealed to me the limits others had in entering my world, in mirroring me, in using the love languages I valued, devotion & affirmation to be present for me.
My experience is of being either too much or not enough to be easily cast in the stories of other people. Some part of me won’t fit their expectations and I will need to be cast out, be abandoned, be removed from the conditional love that they keep for themselves. I may fight for them, but they can’t find the substance to fight for me.
Having to write a love note to people who scare and challenge you is not easy, but I know it is the only way to manifest the love of the creator here on earth. Loving all the parts of me, though, even the queer bits that transgress comforting and illusory walls, has always been vital, even as I was scapegoated as a phobogenic object by seemingly everyone from my parents on.
Writing these love notes, though, and being present with love for others, even those who hurt me through their own limits, well, it’s what I did.
And no matter the human cost, I was proud of doing it.