“It’s not the frivolity of women that makes them so intolerable.
It’s their ghastly enthusiasm.”
— Horace Rumpole, “Rumpole Of The Bailey” (John Mortimer)
When you are a delightful gamine creature, enthusiasm is seen as a charming affectation.
When you are a big, hulking lug, though, enthusiasm is seen as a terrifying potential lack of control.
Like so many other feminine hearts, I tend to get swept away by enthusiasm.
That behaviour was one of the first things I had to snuff out to pass as a man in this culture, or even to stay safe around my parents. It was before the age of eight that I learned my exuberance just scared people, isolating me.
A friend of my sister is a black woman raising sons with big frames. She explains to them that they have to keep their emotion down, have to appear in control at all times, or else they will be seen as threatening and put themselves in danger. That’s hard for a young boy, just 11 or 12 to understand, but she knows it is a key life lesson every black man needs to be taught very early.
Enthusiasm fuels women’s connections. To be excited about some detail of another woman’s presentation is a fine feminine greeting, sharing delight and offering mutual stroking.
For me, that exuberance feels dangerous. It’s how I have been trained. Simple little bits women play with each other — a bit of mock fighting, for example — send up warnings because I can’t feel the limits, don’t have a good sense of feedback, don’t know how I am being perceived. The Third Gotcha looms (2002).
I know what it is like to me marked as a pervert, as a potential predator, know why I have to deny my heart to stay in a box that comforts others.
My æsthetic denial is very much about not getting caught up in the emotional flights that always caused problems when I was younger. The discipline of having to be be able to grab back to cerebral control in any moment keeps me from being too scary, too overwhelming, being seen as too much, but at the same time it also keeps me from really being able to follow my feminine heart.
Getting swept into impassioned drives is scary for me. On one hand, life is no fun without some sense of obsession, running hot and becoming immersed, losing your doubts in abandoned commitment, but on the other hand, that kind of moving beyond control can often lead to a painful spill.
Being overwhelming, just read as noise and intensity, well, I have not found that to be a useful position, especially around my family. It’s easy to set Aspergers people off with too much emotion, and equally easy to set off belief people with too much sharp thought.
My headaches always start from the moment when I have to be hot and cold at the same time, mixing feminine energy and masculine isolation to end up with a dog’s breakfast, neither fish nor fowl nor free. I have the power of both heart & head, but the joy of neither.
An impassioned heart and a locked down expression make for a sick mix. It is, though, a mix I have had to try and make the best possible over the decades, using self-policing that always seems to miss the mark.
Nowadays, I find myself falling into stupid obsessions over little things that, in the end, have no power to lift me up even if they work out well, which they never do. They also, though, have limited power to destroy me, leaving me crazed and crazy, broken and broke down, without any support for head or heart.
Whatever choice I make, I know there will be someone who wants me to make a different one. I should be more open and vulnerable or more disciplined and controlled or worst of all, both of those things at the same time. It’s impossible to satisfy anyone, least of all myself.
The sense that I didn’t do what I should have done, resisting that, and that I did do what I shouldn’t have done, making failed attempts, is laced through every moment of my memory. Yet I know that I made the best choices I could in the moment and that there were never any perfect choices, as compressed as I was by the cultural gender divide.
Trans expression is about Eros, about the passion in the heart which is so strong it drives us to break expectations & taboos to cross gender boundaries. That passion is so powerful that it is awesome, but also so powerful that it is terrifying, driving us wild in ways that challenge our ability to be tame, assimilated, correct and apparently appropriate.
To be queer is to be beyond the control of others, beyond their using fear and status to manipulate you into playing their little game. No one is an island, so we each had to find a way to be true to our hearts and one of the team, which demanded that we keep a tight hold on our own passion.
When observers can switch your gender in a heartbeat based on fear, belief or politics, it is your control that keeps a margin of protection. Depending on the kindness of others doesn’t feel safe, so you modulate your expression and hide your passionate heart inside.
For me, this means channelling my feminine enthusiasm away from the potent, because too much just needs to freak one or two people out to the situation so uncomfortable that it breaks my heart in a way that no one has yet shown me they can help me get past.
To be a woman is to make the choices of a woman. Those choices demand that you feel safe to follow your heart, to open your emotions to others, trusting that they will understand and resonate with your own enthusiasm.
My discharging enthusiasm neuters me for the comfort of others. The power of my own energy has to be attenuated for those who will never get the transcendence that ripples through my sparkling and beautiful multi-faceted soul.
Tiny, pointless, constrained energies separate me from the flow of exuberance that my creator put inside me. Salvation has to be filtered through convention, factored against fear, limited by the scars on my depleted intensity.
Flattened enthusiasm, stunted & twisted by the isolated darkness of growth hidden in plain sight, well, it doesn’t serve me and it doesn’t serve a world that needs more healing.
But at least it stops others from acting out against me, seeing me as responsible for their own fear and discomfort. It keeps my heart beating for another day instead of having the breath driven out of me by the frigid blast of gendered enforcement applied to my body and history.
To be impassioned is to let the force of your humanity flow.
For those of us who learned early that our humanity was just too fucking much for small minds to bear, though, flowing enthusiasm has to be staunched, dammed to hell.
Over a lifetime, that diminishment feels just ghastly.