My history and my knowledge is written on my own skin.
When transpeople try to explain their experience of struggling to claim themselves in the world to others we often find it impossible. Those who hear our tales try to map it to their own experience, their own understanding, but they come up being at a remove.
Why can’t we just make different, more assimilated choices? Why do we have to break the expectations, be so damn queer? Wouldn’t life be better if we were just nicer, simpler, and more conventional, putting the needs & concerns of others before our own?
They don’t feel the urgency, the pressure, the pain, the needs, the intensity for one simple reason. It’s not their skin in the game, it’s ours.
Trying to turn down, to attenuate the sense of our own skin is not as simple as it is for others to just ignore our feelings, our experience, our knowledge. The only way out of hell is through, not just building walls & compartments to lock away the inconvenient & challenging bits of us, putting on a nice face.
Coming out requires coming out. If you are not striving to integrate yourself, you are disintegrating.
When we are shamed and stigmatized into the closet, the prescription is simple: the world needs less of you. You are too much, too challenging, too queer and if you reveal that in the world you deserve whatever you get.
I have learned that the obverse is true. The only way to blossom is to share more of you, to give more of the gifts you have inside, no matter how much that triggers the fear & discomfort of others, no matter how much that triggers the fear & shame inside of you.
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
― Gospel of Thomas
Instead of being more like them, you need to be more like you. Being yourself is the gift of a lifetime, as Joseph Campbell reminds us.
Finding people who will support you in facing your fears and being big, bold, beautiful and queer in the world is rarely easy. Other people work on their own issues, the places where they have skin in the game, but that often means that they still have places where they resist, areas they don’t see the need to enter, places that they would rather leave in darkness.
Playing small to satisfy others is rarely the path to embrace your own authentic, queer voice. Until they can express what they fear, what makes them uncomfortable, they can’t be there for you. People who won’t fight with you can never fight for you. Valuing the unique gifts of others is hard, but it is the only way you can learn to value the unique gifts that you possess.
Until you are comfortable in your own skin, you can’t be comfortable with other people shedding and growing into their own new and bigger skins.
My history and my knowledge is written on my own skin. That means that I am my own person, without a convenient identity group to fall in with, without a tribe who I can trust to welcome, understand and value me.
None of this is new, of course. Anyone who read my work, who actually engaged it in an attempt to understand, will have seen these themes come up again and again.
“You don’t have to be too queer for the room, you know. You just have to be better assimilated, more deferential, using more filters to attenuate your intensity.”
The first time I heard that was from my mother, telling me that I kept getting sent to new schools as Aspergers lost my father his job, but I was too stupid to learn to play along.
Yet, I knew the truth when I was four and found my favourite poem:
Christopher Robin goes
Hoppity, hoppity, hop.
Whenever I tell him
Politely to stop it, he
Says he can’t possibly stop.
If he stopped hopping,
He couldn’t go anywhere,
Poor little Christopher
Couldn’t go anywhere…
That’s why he always goes
— Alan Alexander Milne