two things to tell you
Callan Williams, Copyright © 6/28/99
I want to tell you two things.
First, you will never understand the depth of pain and the fear I have experienced in growing up transgendered. You will never know how much terror I had to live with, how much isolation and loneliness I felt.
Worse, you will never understand how that expereinec of pain still clouds my life and my vision, still keeps me small. There are triggers all over which push those buttons, some as real as laws against restroom usage and the rage of those who believe my truth should be hidden from their kids, and some as shadowy as just getting a suspicious look from across the way.
I grew up in a culture and a family that wanted to terrify me into staying hidden, though both real threats and scary possibilities, all rooted in prejudice and shame.
You will never understand the depth of pain and fear I have experienced, just as I will never really understand the depth of pain and fear you experienced growing up. Unless we work to make that understanding, we will often trigger each other in negative ways, without even knowing we are doing it.
The other thing I have to tell you is this: my fear and pain mean nothing.
As hard as it is for me, I know that the challenge is not to teach you about my scars and the still open wounds of my soul, but to heal those wounds, let go of those scars and act from some higher place. It can't be my fear and pain which set the agenda, rather it must be my belief in moving beyond that hurt into a more perfect life.
As much as feel my history, as much as you feel yours, it is not our history which counts, it is our future. The past is prologue, to be learned from but not carried as an open wound, crippling us forever.
My pain and my fear are my responsibility, no one else's. As much as I want special treatment, to have the kind of caring and acceptance that I felt was impossible for me, I can't demand that from any other person. All I can ask is that they don't act out of their own pain and fears towards me.
You will never understand my pain and fear, how it haunts and torments me to this day. And as much as want to be taken care of in a perfect way, that pain and fear mean nothing, unless I act from them, in which case they are negative.
It's not our history, our pain and terrors, which define who we are, rather it is how we rise above them and do the right thing for ourselves and for others in the world.
This is not to say that its not valuable to talk about our pain and terror, if only so we can take away the disempowering challenges our children will face. Talking about our hurts and horrors is crucial to the healing process, both ours and others, who see common humanity in facing the fears and anguish of a life.
In the long run, though, it is not how we suffer, it is how we heal, transcend the suffering and do the work we do for the world and our own spritual purpose which defines us.
Our pain and fear doesn't matter, but our healing and contributions do.
It always amazes me that you can
take people who are equally bright, sharp, focused and so forth
and get such different results from them.
The only thing I have ever figured out is that
some have the ability to shed the past,
others do not.
Robert H Bohaumon, CEO, Travellers Express
What parents say
Callan Williams, Copyright © 6/28/99
What parents say:
"I find the choices you are making about gender expression/sexuality terrifying, and if I find them terrifying, they must be dangerous.
"I don't want you to be in danger, and I don't want you to put the family in danger.
"For that reason, I believe its my job to communicate my fear to you in a way that will help you understand the terrifying risks you are taking doing this.
"I am so committed to this that I, like the mother on 60-Minutes who was willing to commit her son to a life of celibacy to keep him safe, that I am willing to sacrifice your sexuality and your happiness to keep you safe. After all, I sacrificed some indulgence in my own desires, sacrificed some of my happiness to raise you and keep you safe.
"The only reason I terrify you is because I love you and want to keep you safe."
"I know you love me, but I have enough trouble negotiating my own fears, so I have no time, skill or energy to negotiate yours. I understand the risks, but I also understand the rewards in a way that will always be abstract to you. You may be willing to sacrifice my happiness for my safety, but that its a cost you don't have to pay, so its a decision you don't get to make.
"I understand the risks inherent in being visibly queer, and I have worked to find only the risks I feel safe with, not being too exposed. The imprint of the caution, the fear, you placed in me when I was growing up is clear.
"As to the risks I pose to the family, which may include loss of face, sadness over some loss of the expectations you piled on me, or even, god-forbid, loss of me in this world, well, these are risks you chose to take when you had a kid. You knew that there is no guarantee that a child will be exactly what you want them to be.
"In fact, as Garrison Keilor said, children always break their parents hearts. That's part of the cost of being a parent, the price of having your heart open and exposed to a life which is not your own.
"I don't take the risks I feel compelled to take to break your heart, rather I take them to follow my own heart -- and its always when a child follows their own heart that they break the heart of their parents.
"I know you fear for me, that your telling me about your own terrors is your attempt to keep me safe, from love, but what it does is keep me safe from love, and that's not a price I can pay. I need to let people break my heart so that I can remember I am human.
"I have my fears, you have your fears. I will work on my fears, and even help you, but in the end, you have to address your own fears.
"Safety is an illusion -- we have to dare to live."
Security is mostly a superstition.
It does not exist in nature...
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
Hellen Keller, "The Open Door" (1957)