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.