Did I ever really have a personal voice?
I know that I have a service voice, the voice of the concierge. I can take care of others, helping them develop their own voice.
I know that I had a written voice, constructed texts that have attempted to share my learnings, my experience, my feelings.
But as to a personal voice, one that expresses who I am in an effective and satisfying way, well, that feels a long away from where I ever was.
I am aware that unless I can open up and express myself in a way that touches people, that opens their hearts and minds, then I will never be able to feel connected.
I am also aware, though, that opening up and expressing myself exposes all the ways that I embody apparent contradiction through liminality that triggers the fear and dismissal of others who need to hold onto their own belief structures for their own stability.
Divine surprise may resonate deeply in me, but that doesn’t mean those who are pushed to the edge by the torrent of demands from this speeding world are at all ready to engage me.
This is a world of slick packages, of elevator speeches, of simplified messages, of style over substance. It is a world where my depth, my decades of moving beyond convention and expectation just do not fit anywhere.
People heal & grow in their own time and their own way. We learn to read fear & danger, learn to suppress ourselves to stay within norms, building walls to create a sense of safety.
I am smart and actualized. That means, in the minds of others, that I have the obligation to be attentive and sensitive to their fears and limits, not asking them to engage what they cannot handle. If I am smart enough to understand deeply, I must also be disciplined enough to police myself, understanding that I deserve whatever I get from those who my expression stimulates or challenges.
Why should I have a voice when it will not be engaged or understood by anyone from the identity politics saturated political crowd to the comfort seeking people who take solace in their own beliefs about separation?
My understanding is not embodied and divided, rather it threads through boundaries and across worlds.
Giving voice to that flow is something I have struggled to do in text, even as I knew that my words were more likely to put people off than engage them. I have never been good with small talk and my curiosity has dried up with my resources.
Having a voice in the world that captures that flow, though, rather than just the tiny shards of it that meet the needs of others in the moment, well, that has always felt above and beyond. Too whatever for the room.
So, over the years and years, I have fallen silent. My voice feels decayed, worn through, corroded into dust.
“So, what do you need?” asks someone who has said they love hearing me speak, that they have my back, that they want to be there.
Even for them, though, trying to put together a message is almost impossible as I fumble, drop back and punt, attempting to speak a message and finding failure.
Why should I go through the effort of trying to communicate when the smart bet is that I will just fail again, leaving me feeling more isolated?
Communications experts tell me that to be effective I need to consider my audience as I create my message, tailoring my efforts to them. This is something I can do well in my service, my concierge voice.
My inner monologue, though, the powerful flows inside of me, aren’t simple, portioned and appropriate.
The experience of being queer in the world is the experience of being shamed, shunned and stigmatized into silence. We learn to only reveal ourselves in the closet because outside of that we are forced to play along or suffer the stinging consequences.
Shame and silence are old bedfellows, handmaidens in destruction.
Because of my writing, I have learned how to do the most important challenge anyone shamed into the closet can face: learning how to use and trust their voice.
Taking them to a safe backstage, using feedback and encouragement, I empower them to say what they mean in an effective way. For voices stunted and strangled by isolation & denial, voices that learned to hide, attenuate and placate, this is an awesome challenge. Moving beyond the fear and fantasies to show a whole, integrated and vulnerable human self is almost impossible. Yet, only truth telling can identify and drive out the internalized demons that haunt and manipulate us.
Transvestism is about changing your clothes, transsexualism about changing your body, but transgender is about changing your mind, letting go of the old defences to reveal the essence within.
I know how long it takes to move beyond old habits, to move beyond the fear of the “third gotcha” and to just trust that your essence is visible, worthwhile and even beautiful. Considering how hard gaining self-esteem, confidence and the grace that comes with it is for people who weren’t shamed into the closet, especially women, the magnification of that for people who were pounded over their queerness is immense.
While I have build my voice in text, the moment I am called on to use it as a woman is tough for me. My confidence in content is strong, but my confidence in style is not, fearing I will be dismissed as a guy-in-a-dress. Trusting the simple expressions is almost impossible simply because they have never been mirrored and affirmed.
Without a sense of my own beauty, and with a sense of my own challenging liminality, I hang back, hide, attenuate. My femme nature urges me to keep people comfortable and connected so I can help them face the challenges of claiming their own power, their own agency, their own voice. That means, however, keeping my own feelings and needs under wraps, denying my personal voice in service of their needs.
Whatever my personal voice may have been, it now feels lost, collapsed down into internal reveries and squalls that cannot be shared, cannot be connected.
Finding a way to trust my personal voice, which demands finding a way to trust that it will connect with an audience is vital. Where do I go to find the kind of services I render to others, a celebration and reinforcement of the power of a translucent voice?