On a recent BBC TV drama, a transwoman is told by her wife that if they “really loved their sons” they wouldn’t be so selfish as to continue emerging. The character cuts their long hair and goes back to man gender cues. Their encouraging boss then finds them in her office, wearing her scarf and lipstick. Soon, the sons show up and tell the transwoman that they just want them to be happy, as long as they stay the father, prompting hugs all around.
According to this tale, trans is so simple that putting a scarf around your neck and applying lip stick allows you to be true to yourself. It’s about the clothes, not about tricky gender markers like being a parent rather than having to be a dad while also being a woman. Guy in a dress is fine.
In my life, people have wanted me to be simple. I, in turn, have struggled mightily to cut back the noise, to create clear and engaging language to explain my needs, my desires and my view of our shared world.
Simplification, though — and as Ries & Trout remind us, “marketing is essentially the art of oversimplification” — has turned out to be a futile exercise for me.
My trans heart learned early that there was no refuge, no sanctuary for me beyond my own inner world. If I was hurt, battered and broken, my only choice was to retreat into myself to try and effect healing.
Exposing my injured spirit to others would just prompt them to tell me to cut back, compartmentalize, grow a thicker skin, fit in better. If my struggles were simpler, they told me, I would have less pain.
Expecting them to enter my inner world was stupid and dangerous, so I had to learn to better and more effectively enter their world, their consciousness, their awareness.
I did that work, doing my own inner therapy to heal as best as I could, entering their world, playing their game, being present for them.
Today, though, that seems barely enough. I know that there are still a few people who want to give me gifts, but my complicated view makes that difficult for them because I see things, strings and crocks, that are just not in their vision.
Over the past thirty years or so, I have come to understand transpeople by the defence strategies they use. By the unique shape of their armour I can see the beating heart underneath.
We stay within our armour because we know that if we get injured deeply, cut to the quick, we will have to retreat within ourselves to do the healing. There is no peer group, no support network, no safe space where we can get naked and be bound up with love and care.
In my romantic fantasy, a bedroom is where we can take off our armour with a partner who is there to care for us, two people revealing for healing, exploring for passion, affirming for possibility. I know that doesn’t happen easily, but it is still why I tear up at people committing to each other, signing up to know, to share, to heal and grow as partners.
The reality of relationships is often much less than this, needy people playing games with demands and projection, which is why I stopped trying to ask others to be present for me if they didn’t have the will and the passion. Æsthetic denial has a price, but less than the cost of having your heart broken over and over again because of projecting your own romantic illusions, dreaming of the “special relationship” which will finally save you.
When I hear a transwoman express her fear over ruining the Christmas prime rib, wasting $40, I know how close to the bone her life has become since she decided that emerging with her trans truth was worth more than comfort & ease. Her scars are visible to me, even with her long-term partner, and they touch my heart. She has had to become a warrior just to survive. While others may not see the price of that — after all, she brought it on herself — I know too well the struggle to keep carving out a place for us and others like us in a political world that would rather simplify us to comforting invisibility.
I know that others want to be present for me, just in a way that simply fits into their own priorities.
Complicated, though, is what I know myself to be. I have had to learn to love my own complications, my own folds & crenellations, my own facets & twists, my own shimmering & iridescence.
That complication is the gift my creator gave to me, the liminality which allows me to be both and neither simultaneously, crossing worlds to live in beautiful questions.
While others may see that nature as a cluster of sharp shards too spiky for ease, I see it as truth.
No scarf and lipstick is going to make my life come together. Either/Or is beyond me.
And that is why I am alone at Christmas, my voice silenced to just an internal chatter.
May the complicated parts of you be the gift you embrace this holiday season.