One of the things I added to support group meetings, along with beach balls, was applause.
When someone told a story about doing something bold and brave, I started the applause, with the room quickly joining in. It’s a quick and simple way for the group to affirm courage, both in the storyteller and in themselves.
Once a young person was said they were timid about taking a risk. During the meeting a beach ball was near my feet so I kicked it towards them. Silently, as other stories were spun in the room, I encouraged them to kick the ball themselves. They resisted but I persisted giving affirming and imploring looks.
When they finally gave the ball a kick I was surprised when the group burst forth in applause. While I was quietly focused apparently people had caught on and watched and when my partner broke through the comfort of timidity, everyone was delighted and wanted to show it. Smiles all around.
My history is centred around finding my own individual way to be in the world — I had no other choice with my family, mind and heart — and supporting others in claiming, owning and celebrating their own proud, queer individuality. I tried to teach my sister to fight back, my brother how to not play to the crowd, and my parents to see themselves in context. I delighted in being part of a corporate team, bringing my unique vision to our work and challenging others to be more themselves, more present, more playful, more conscious and more master in their own choices.
For people who want to heal and grow, I offer a great deal.
For people who want to fit in, assimilate and maintain their own comfort level, though, I am a real fucking pain in the ass. I don’t just play along, I push the boundaries, don’t just stay silent but turn on the lights, don’t just accept smallness but instead celebrate brilliance.
I know that those people see me as a spiny mess, a mass of thorns and quills, sharp edges that cut through easy answers.
That’s bad enough, but even worse, I mirror and revel in their own queer uniqueness. I push them to go into their own dark spaces, facing fear and sloppy thinking to push into the feelings of isolation, pain and rage to find the jewels they have tried to hide inside their own private hell.
In learning to love my own special relationship with creation I have learned to love the special queerness of other people, how they make art in the world by being more powerfully and unabashedly themselves. “Be yourself,” Quentin Crisp told us. “Everyone else is already taken.”
We live in a society that likes to sort people into categories, relying on group identity rather than individual differences. Maybe this is because our culture is so diverse that small differences are not as visible as they would have been in very homogeneous villages, or maybe it is just an attempt to simplify a complex and nuanced world, but it means living without fitting into a nice stereotype can leave you isolated and lonely.
Who are you if you do not fit easily, neatly and quickly into the expectations of others? How can people know you without a shiny external package to draw the eye and stimulate their pre-programmed assumptions? How will you be one of the crowd if you stand out as unique?
It’s hard to get applause for revealing your own queer self, hard to feel seen, understood and valued for showing what those junior high bullies used to pick on you about. We learn to show a façade that becomes hardened enough that taking it down, evaluating what is really us and rebuilding a new presentation feels terrifying and impossible rather than liberating and empowering. We are trapped in others expectations of us for good reasons.
Transcending our history and even our biology takes trust in something deep within us, in our eternal connection to creation rather than our ephemeral connection to a role we have been cast in. Who is going to affirm our bold and brave choices, especially when those choices take us to places others still fear and resist inside themselves? Who is going to say “Yes!” as we take our own leaps, falling sometimes, but learning, growing, releasing and transforming in the process?
The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are, so a life without being applauded for the courage of revealing your heart to others but especially to yourself is a life that surrenders your gifts to your fears.
You are not wonderful because you hide your spines. You are wonderful when you own your own sharp nature, cutting through crap to bring your own special gifts to the world.