Past Or Future?

We know our experience of the past. We know what hurt us, know what we desired, know what we put up with, know what we feel we lost.

Imagining a future, then, becomes imagining how to rectify and recompense our past.

The future, though, is a new world.   The reality it offers comes with new requirements, new challenges and new awareness.   Our old dreams can never come true exactly as we imagined them, rather only as they can manifested by a new you in a new body with new situations and new strings.   Holding onto the past only weighs us down, chancing us missing new, unexpected and marvellous possibilities.

Transpeople who attempt to carry their old baggage, their old assumptions, expectations and habits, into a new life usually delight for a moment as their fantasies seem to come true but quickly find themselves stuck when their imagination and their reality collide.  New challenges pop up, questions that can only be answered with the willingness to be new, to let go and learn new ways of being in a new world.

One definition of insanity, it has been said, is making the same choices over and over and expecting different results.   The miracle of a new way of seeing is required, looking beyond our cherished and limiting expectations to engage what is, the possibilities of the present moment.  We need not to reveal our true self but rather to discover it, making choices, learning and choosing again to discover what is authentic beyond fantasy.

Chasing down recompense for past slights and abuses is a strategy doomed to fail because only the future can be changed, not the past.   The past can only be lived with and hopefully learned from, including lessons of forgiveness, of letting go, of serenity.   God, grant me the courage to change what I can change, the serenity to accept what I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.   The past, though, fits into only the second category.

Building a future out of better choices means moving beyond petulance and posturing.  The world doesn’t care about the way you think other people should be, about fulfilling your old expectations, it only delivers the results of your actual choices.  The world isn’t to blame for your failures and foibles, only you are, a statement of personal responsibility that many people want to deflect.

The vehemence with which many attempt to defend their dreams, their cherished fantasies of the way they believe things should be in the face of real evidence that contradicts their assertions can be terrifying.  They seek aspirational voices that tell them what they want to hear while striving to silence those who offer a frank and realistic description of their own real world experience.   Their fantasies are cherished and must be clung onto even in the face of incontrovertible truths.

If there is divergence between their desires and the world then the world must be wrong, or at least not really the way pragmatists explain it.   They fight to defend their dreams with perceived glory instead of doing the hard work of finding real, useful, considered and gracious solutions that acknowledge the views of others, even views that poke holes in our thin beliefs.

Since the future is unknown and unknowable, entering it always takes a leap.  We need to believe that we have the skills, understandings, endurance, wherewithal and support to take a risk, jump into different and thrive.   Many raise fears, suggesting prudence, but one of the few things more difficult than leaping a chasm is to try and take it in two steps.

Balancing the desires for better that fuel our willingness to leap and listening to the tales of people who have been forward, seeing the challenges, is difficult.   Every demand can seem daunting and off-putting until we have engaged it, just as every unengaged spectre seems larger and more terrifying than it does up close.

Dreams do come true, but not as if they popped out of some polished Disney ride.  Manifesting our dreams takes work and compromise, the willingness to find ways to balance visions and realities to create a future that will be better than what you used to imagine because now it is real, palpable and shareable full of surprises beyond anything you understood back then.

History is real, not just the sensational moments that stick in memory and form dramatic anecdotes but also the intricate stories of how people came together to shape new realities, engaging conflict, working through trial and error to find better solutions.   It’s easy to believe that it was always thus but the historical characters who get reduced to thumbnail images always turn out to be real, flesh and blood humans who fumbled and struggled before a few of their choices became canon.

Understanding the processes that created our past and present can help inform our quest for a better tomorrow but just holding on to the selection bias driven anecdotes that affirm our own world view, our own divisions of us versus them, our own anger, frustration and pain does not open possibilities of change and growth.   Fundamentalist views create blinders, not just keeping our eyes on the cultural truths we hold but allowing us to erase or villainize those who hold a different view of our shared world, building barriers rather than connections.

Trying to create a future that offers retribution for the experiences of our past, a future so sanitized & correct that challenge and conflict are all pushed onto others, demanding that they change to meet our long held desires is letting the past poison our possibilities.

We need a new and better future, no doubt, with more opportunity, more respect for individuals and less stratification based on stereotyping.   Holding people down because of fear or cultural tropes is bad.

That future, though, will demand that each one of us be willing to become new, finding new ways to work together and honour those around us.   We each have to take personal responsibility for letting go of past pain to find future community and connection.

If we don’t do that, well, we probably will just get the same results as before.

Feeling Responsibly

My mother was explicit: she felt bad, lonely, frustrated, misunderstood and other people were responsible for those feelings.   They were trying to torture her, hurting her deeply, so she was going to lash out at them to show them how hurt she was.

Of course it was the people closest to her that bore the brunt of her emotional distress.  We kids were deliberately making messes, pointedly not understanding what she wanted us to do, trying to make her suffer.

Her feelings were our fault and so we had the responsibility to fix them.

These beliefs were at the basis of her antipathy to her mother, who, when she died at 99 years old, was neglected by her only daughter.  “That was a nice eulogy,” she told me in the car after the funeral, “but I am still angry with her.”  Was this the way she wanted to teach us to treat her?

How can we be held responsible for the feelings of others if we have no way to fix or manage them?   No matter how effectively we police ourselves, trying to be kind, sensitive, responsive, unthreatening, compliant and small, the same triggers stay active, particularly for those who cannot or will not work to process, contextualize and own their own feelings.

As I emerged, I often found that those who held onto victim identities, demanding that their suffering meant that their feelings be prioritized over all others were able to keep control by playing on the sympathies and guilt of others.  I was able to see how demanding not only safety but also comfort let them chill connection, using their tender feelings to keep others under tight control.

Anyone who challenged these people were silenced by the group who demanded that those who could not own their own feelings, could not heal, be valorized.  The strong have to give way to the weak or we can’t keep our oppressed identity.

This was balanced by those who demanded a conservative approach to life, where anything different, upsetting or challenging, needed to be suppressed.  If your actions upset anyone then they upset the group, and the conflict you represented had to be purged.

My salvation has always been rational thought, the process of illuminating my own gut reactions to determine if they were helping me grow or were keeping me isolated and wretched.  How could I get over my damn self to connect with others, to heal and grow, to help those around me find some solace?

While I have been doing the hard work of self analysis and transcendence, many others around me have been stopped by their own feelings, mired in their own cultural identities, whipped by their own sense of victimization.

“People heal and grow in their own way and their own time, even you.”   This, to anyone who has vision, is the biggest challenge and the biggest heartache of being in relationships.

While those who are hurting often want to demand that others change, making a less stimulating and challenging environment, I learned early that the only person I could directly change is myself.   It was no use to posit the correct way for others to treat me because they were going to act out of their own views and visions.  I may want people to see and acknowledge my feminine heart, but demanding pronoun use doesn’t change the way they see me and blocks their clear communication of their own current understandings, however limited and limiting those perspectives are.

I was able to help my mother grow some, opening her vistas, but damn, it took massive amounts of time and work and I never got her to where I felt seen, understood and valued.   She loved me as she could, but embracing my heart, well, if she couldn’t embrace her own, she was never going to embrace mine.

Everyone has a story of loss and pain, of times when they felt hurt and diminished.   The bones of our cultural identity are true, based in fact, but the feelings we cloak those truths in are up to us.   Our work is not to try and erase truth, even the historical truths that have pained us, but to use those lessons to find a way to transcend.   Learning to lead with grace and hope, a willingness to be present and look for miracles of healing rather than being mired in unresolved feelings is extremely hard, especially when we see that pain as at the centre of an identity which bonds us with others.

Getting beyond the pain demands we take the heroes journey, facing down the dragon with “Thou Shalt” on every scale, leaving comfort to face our demons and willing to be transformed, still the same but different in vision.   I have had many people want healing but the work of letting go of hard won sickness is just too much of an ask.  They want to keep their old hurts and avoid the new scars of growth while also not feeling stuck in the past.

Its easy to want someone else to take responsibility for your feelings.   After all, you never consciously took on those feelings, so why should you have to do the hard work of consciously healing them?    It’s their damn fault; they should have to fix it!   The world needs to change, and now, so anyone who won’t put your feelings first is just a damn butthole who refuses to see the truth you carry with you everyday.

Your truths, though, as real as they are, are wrapped up in the way you carry your history, your experiences and your cultural beliefs.  Unwrapping them, I have found, is the only way to expose the even difficult truths and move on to finding stability, peace and grace.

My mother, though, wherever she is now, would probably disagree.   To her, it’s still my fault.

Oh well.

Strangled Scream

Listening to the world from my little outpost, I hear the rage of so, so many humans who desperately want to be heard, who feel negated and erased, who demand that others act by acknowledging their pain and fury.

These people hold a wide range of viewpoints, from demanding change to demanding stability, holding many different views of what the perfect and proper solution to their frustration and suffering would be.

What I don’t hear, though, are people who are willing to listen to others, those who are committed enough to find common ground, engaging in consensus and compromise based on shared respect for each and every human.

Instead of searching for solutions in a present and open way, they demand compliance, identifying enemies rather than building coalitions across human differences of need, history, perspective and caring.

Mirroring is so important to humans, yet sadly it is so much easier to bask in hatred against shared enemies than to do the hard work of creating shared allies.

It was almost fifteen years ago when I started writing this blog under the tagline “The Loneliness Of A Long-Lost Tranny.”   Since then the theme has been simple, the cries of someone who has spent a life not being heard, understood, respected or valued.   Feeling unmirrored is feeling unloved.

One of the key rules of human communication is that people won’t hear you until they believe that they have been heard, their messages reflected back in a way that validates listener comprehension.

With Aspergers parents who had limited theory of mind to understand the feelings of others and usually filled in what they heard with their own looping thoughts and feelings, I wouldn’t have been able to survive if I couldn’t listen without being heard.   My trained hypervigilence demanded I work hard to model what triggered others actions just to stay safe from being scapegoated — my family nickname was “Stupid” — erased and abused.

I had to enter their worldview even as they were unable to enter mine.  Even teachers and therapists couldn’t understand the pounding challenges at home in a day when being on the spectrum just wasn’t understood.   This was compounded by my queer, transgender nature, for which not only were there no words but the concepts of gender truth weren’t anywhere in even clinical understanding.

For me, us vs them never worked.   I never had a simple cultural identity, knowing what team I barracked for and which I was against.   In 1993 when I heard anthropologist Anne Bolin (“In Search Of Eve”) say “In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity,” I knew that was my mission statement.

Today, though, polarization is everywhere, a sense that there are enemies everywhere and we all have the scared right to shout them down, silence them, and erase whatever they say that we find challenging.   Our sense of attacking  microaggressions become reasons to call out, pound down and demand that others be removed from conversations.

We are also in a time of pandemic where ordinary human interactions are reduced, leaving us surrounded not by diversity but by those who are like us and those who interact only through reductive electronic media which eliminate human warmth  with stylized abstractions.

I have spent decades struggling to be heard, seen, understood and valued for my unique contributions to the group and failing in that.   Others love it when I enter their world, care for them, supporting them, but their own ability to move beyond the belief structures of their cultural identity is limited.   I am silenced, even by those who many would see as my peers because my voice exposes what they would rather keep in darkness.

When you don’t believe that your cries will be heard, for whatever reason, it is easy to keep your truth locked within where it withers without affirmation or understanding.  Humans don’t grow healthy in solitude and darkness.

Today, I hear so many strangled screams from those who feel erased, unheard and hurt.   Sadly, though, their solution is almost never to open up and make more effective communication, instead they demand that the bad people be vanquished and silenced.

I know what it feels like to try to tell my truth and have people tell me that I am discomforting, disquieting, triggering, wrong, sick and evil.  Being who I am, though, a human who has always lived in the liminal spaces between, I am used to getting that treatment from all sides.

Moving beyond my own strangled screams to a position of love and listening has not been easy or simple, especially because it has been such a solitary journey. I needed to stop trying to manipulate, stop cutting others down, stop leading with my own pain because I learned that the golden rule must be key.   If I need the space to grow beyond my defences in the world then I have to offer others the opportunity to grow and transcend, always approaching them with an open heart and mind.

Answers I don’t have, no sure knowledge of fundamental truth and the way things should be.   I can’t tell anyone what perfect is, rather I can only offer my little glimpse of our bigger shared truths.

For me, doing the work has been hard, but trying to keep my own peace while watching society fracture between duelling senses of entitlement & arrogance, simple and fraudulent divisions between “right” and “wrong” is killing.   My sense of being alone and unable to have my voice heard and valued just drains me everyday.

Rage is easy, the sensations of our history & biology engorging our fear and fuelling our fury.

Transcending that rage, though, walking though walls to find the connection which offers shared solutions based in love, well, that’s hard.  To listen even when you know that you aren’t perfectly heard means moving beyond kneejerk reactions.

And in the world out there, at least as seen from the dark space in here, I become less and less hopeful that I will ever find the mirroring I need to keep going.