Imagining A Future (And A Past)

In a culture that believes in predictable, linear lives, steeped in expectations that  someone’s past and future can easily be determined by looking at them in this moment, the sinuous path of queer lives, loaded with curves & surprises, full of  passings & rebirths can be hard to fathom, even when when we know that we are on that shape of road.

One of the most challenging things to do for transpeople is to help them imagine who they could be once they decide to shed their armour and emerge more fully in the wider world.

There are very few models for what a grown-up transperson looks like.   Many of us just dream of our trans nature being invisible, even if only to us, inside our mental force field.  Often, though, the people who are visible as trans offer models that trigger something in us, something that we don’t want to see when we look in the mirror, something we have resisted seeing for so long.

The very thought of getting naked, dropping the defences that we have so carefully built up over the years to become something new, is terrifying to us.   Doing that alone, without affirming, useful and trustworthy mirroring is even more difficult, leaving us skittish, avoidant, knowing only what we want to run from rather than what we need to run towards.

Our dreams are fantasies, untested in any real world sense.   Often we mature in what I used to call “crossdresser years;” only growing in the time we spend out in the world, living a series of moments that take ages to build into a bigger, more lucid picture.   Getting stuck at any point, due to lack of interactions, becomes very easy and eventually self-fulfilling as we fall into a defensive comfort zone.

Crossdressers who told me they wore a size 10 made me ask if that was their skirt size.   “What size top?” often got the answer of 16 or 18.   Proportion meant nothing to them, only the smallest bit they could squeeze into.

One popular crossdressing blogger — “Femulators need more makeup than females to look female” —  went to their fiftieth high school reunion.  They were amazed at how old the women looked; “they haven’t aged well.”  Yeah, those women are all 68 real years old, not the 38 (or so) crossdresser years old woman this person sees themselves as.

In their writings, the whole cultural world of women, the social pressures, the concerns of mothers and the connectedness of allies is not even touched upon.   Rather, being a woman is about looking like a woman, emulating a female.

Gender as pick & mix, as choosing the parts that attract us while rejecting the obligations which challenge us, seems simple.  We know what we don’t want, know what scares us, know what seems hard, know what we feels so far beyond our comfort zone that we have to avoid it.

Avoidance may be a way to remain fixed, connected to who we were taught we were, but is also a way to remain stuck, stagnant and in pain, to grow weak, twisted and failing.

Rolling Stone offers a fascinating article,  All American Despair, about the suicides of middle aged men who have grown beyond their assigned role and can’t seem to find a way to create a third act. Their pain is palpable, their isolation heart breaking.   The tales of loss feel very real, very engaging to me.

As transpeople, we don’t have a past that grounds us in the varied experiences of growing up while being seen as the gender in our heart.   That means any future we can imagine has to make up for that loss or fall short.

If we cannot imagine a supportive, affirming past, how can we ever possibly imagine a fulfilling,  nourishing future?

Can simply enacting the fantasies trapped inside of us make up for enduring the price of walking in the world as trans?

The older we get, the farther away the possibilities of our dreams seem.   Youth live on the present because they dream of the future, but as we grow, our bodies become much less vigorous and pliable, our history becomes much more weight to bear, and our dreams become dry, brittle and increasingly distant.   We become more crust than possibility, more fixed than malleable.

Lives lived out of time, our stages of development forced out of sync with our peers, with the social structures to support emergence, are lives twisted into bogus shapes, forcing us to take on what we are not yet ready for while we have to deny the moments in our soul.  Being adultified early, losing the playful exploration of our own possibilities and instead being expected to discover new while also being mature and responsible, has an enormous cost.

Being bound up by scar tissue is only surmountable with outside help to support us while we peel away our honest encasement to reveal the new, the fresh, the tender, the stuff of possibility.   Too often, though, the patterns which scarified us are just repeated as others respond in socially programmed ways to try and keep us in our places, keep us from exposing layers that they find more comfortable to keep hidden.

If we cannot imagine a supportive, affirming past, how can we ever possibly imagine a fulfilling,  nourishing future?

Only seeing the reflections of our possibilities in the eyes of another can help us let go of vain dreams so we can shape a robust and beautiful future.  Seeing how we have dried up, though, how so much has passed us by as we lived behind expectations and callouses, doesn’t offer much hope for rebirth, for rebreath.

Where is the future of my imagining?

Past, I fear.

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