Fighting While Trans

Trans is a losing proposition.

Ask anyone who resists emerging as trans, who advises resistance, or even those who have emerged and they will tell you that you should not, cannot emerge without enduring loss.

You may lose family or friends,  you may lose your job or career, you may lose relationship opportunities and reproductive possibilities, you may lose safety and standing in the world.

Loss is inevitable.    That doesn’t mean that there aren’t benefits in emerging, of course, that it can’t lead to a better, more authentic and more actualized life, but the price of breaking convention and expectation, of losing those normative dreams & hopes, is always with you.

To emerge you have to fight through daily reminders of loss, always keeping your eye on the reasons why emergence is vital and critical to your life.

The only way to claim your trans expression in the world is to fight for your right to be queer, to be someone beyond shame enforced expectations and assumptions.

Facing the whole world with a fighter’s crouch, though, puts a huge barrier between you and the connection, support and love that you need, the affirmation of who you are inside that was denied while you were forced into the closet.

The styles of fighting we learned as kids don’t serve us well through gendershift.   Men and women take power in very different ways, so we need to powershift as we claim our authentic expression.

Combining the loss and the limits of experience, of training to fight in our new gender leads most people to one simple outcome.

Instead of fighting to win, we fight to avoid losing.   Instead of trying to own our own power, we try to avoid being hurt, avoid being battered, avoid being dismissed, avoid being shamed again.

This kind of defensive posture leaves us bristling, armoured, isolated, apart.   The ultimate trans surgery is….

To fight to win means that you have to believe that there winning is possible, that there is something worth winning.   Scramble long enough to avoid losing, though, and the notion that winning is even an option fades away, lost in the daily struggle for survival.

Trying to hold on to our cherished visualizations, all those imaginings of how our lives could be and should be, through the process of transgender emergence is a recipe for getting stuck in a bubble of our own making.  No thirteen year old can imagine her future life with any kind of certainty, unless it is merely following the expectations of others.  She needs to try, to experiment, to spread her wings and see where she can blossom.

Learning to both let go of your ego and grab for your dreams at the same time is a very tough balancing act.    To become new you must let go of the old, even the old hopes, and be present in possibility.

Does fighting while trans mean that we have to take on some defined political role, giving our voice to the group, does it mean that we have to impose our own will and demands, or does it mean finding new ways to be effective and responsive?

The fact is that fighting while trans usually means defending our hearts against people who want to impose their own belief structures onto our actions.   Even simple banter, the flirting and back & forth of everyday conversations feel like a minefield as we police ourselves, working to conceal our complexity and avoid losing again.

Many observers don’t see this internal tension, instead assuming that anyone bold enough to emerge as trans in the world is potent enough to do anything.   Our internal narrative is obscured by the assumption of strength rather than the understanding that we have used our strength to emerge and feel like we are always walking on the edge of risk.

Some even see our emergence as a trigger for their own fears.  They may see something in our expression that they have struggled to resist, or may see us as a threat to the belief systems they hold dear.   If they feel fear around us, though, they rarely look inward to their own tensions, instead branding us as phobogenic objects, creating the fear they feel.   They fear we can see what they are trying to hide, and often they are right.  This gives them permission to dismiss and destroy us, assigning destructive motives to our choices and using those projections to justify silencing us, no matter what pain it causes.

For people close to us, we know that to fight with them is to harm our relationships, even when those we love treat us in ways that deny and demolish the energy we need to claim our potential.  It’s easy to attack those who set out to hurt us, much harder to bear the pain inflicted by the limits and fears of those who really love us.

Fighting while trans, then, usually comes down not to taking a big swing to claim our power in the world but rather to living with a roiling internal battle between our own bold liberation and our own attempt to fit in, to connect, to stay safe.  By being trapped in the shame cycle where we fight ourselves, reminded by the scars that kept us small and hidden for so long, we end up eating our own passion rather than trusting it.

The idea that trans is a losing proposition is deeply ingrained in our knowledge, and if we ever start to forget, someone will remind us what victims transpeople are, remind us how we are oppressed as a class, remind us that many see our trans expression as lies, as sickness, as perversion, as reason enough to silence and hurt us.

As long as our fight is to avoid losing, rather than to trust that we can win, the battle will mostly go on inside.   It will be a competition of policing, striving to appear normative and harmless enough to avoid the brunt of resistance that has hurt us in the past.

We have learned to live with loss, but living with exposure, with revelation, with assurance feels very, very risky.

And until we can stand proudly in the light, fighting while trans will never be fighting to win.

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