As social workers, organizers and healers, the nature of confidentiality and disclosure implies that we are not supposed to be seen. However, as hedge witches and community workers know, sometimes those lines blur. Part of the work I do lies in the want to meet my community’s needs. And in order for that to happen, I have to be seen. Today is Transgender Visibility Day, and I am going to talk about the most invisible part of myself in my daily life and work. This is in hopes to connect with you from a part of myself and my community, that I believe, desperately needs a voice. It is also because I can no longer watch the narrative that is forming around gender. I think the mainstream culture has a lot to learn from us.
May this be a letter. Let this be a letter to the invisible parts inside all of us. What makes you feel seen? What makes you feel like you can fill up the entire seat you sit in? May this be a letter. To every single version of conversations on gender involving gender-neutral pronouns and transgender identity.
As gender queer, gender-variant, androgynous people, we are invisible. When we state our identity, we are met with the faces of decipher. We gently watch the wrinkles morph and change as they try and figure us out. We are invisible because you look to the bookends of gender. Immediately clinging to the sides of what is familiar before the discussion of who we are can even form. We are invisible because we talk about grammar before we even begin to talk about ourselves.
You never ask who we are, so you never know.
Being androgynous is not a questioning. It is a solid feeling of knowing yourself. The cisgender and transgender communities define us as “not-like” something, but we are, in fact, something. We are breaking confounds by our nature and rallying the troupes of bravery in our hearts to be that something. We are invisible because the conversation relates back to how we are, in relation to you. I am not your gateway from one sexuality to another. If you see us as stepping stones, you do not see us.
And trust me, when I say, our bodies show the remarks. When you treat the conversation of who we are like a hassle, we hide ourselves. We are invisible because we learn how to disappear.
How does invisibility effect the body? Our shoulders cave in. Our heads point down towards the ground. We stand in corners. We live in the sidelines and after thoughts. We are in the parentheses of gender conversations. Included but never solely about. We are not a public dialogue, because our gender does not match each other. My identity is not like every genderqueer person I have met. In fact, it is here where the damage lies. I am not like others, but that does not make me alone.
Think of a moment where someone told you something about your gender you didn’t agree with? Think what it felt like to defend that about yourself? Think about a lifetime of defense.
That’s why we don’t look you in the eye. Wearing knives on our belts and swords around our hearts. We protect against you and then we protect against each other. Never connecting and so we prove the world correct. We are alone and we are invisible, right?
As an herbalist, I look to the plant profile of Creosote Bush. It’s flower essence is specific for the ancient sense of being forever alone. Self isolation is an epidemic in the genderqueer community. This reality we tell ourselves; we are alone because we are too different for others to understand, is bare witness by this yellow desert flower. Creosote takes the skin cells and heals them while the damage is happening. It promotes the sense of lightness emerging so that you can manifest into the reality of connectedness.
(photo credit to Deon Reynolds)
But, for every time I sigh and you know what I mean, the breath is seen.
For every moment you ask me first how I would like to be referred to, we create a new feedback loop for the gender oppressed. Please note: This is only how I like to be referred to, and not who I am.
For every moment two androgynous people walk down the street and you do not assume their genders, in your mind, we make waves. For every restaurant interaction that does not end in “Thanks ladies”, we leave our braced selves at the table.
We are the air bubbles coming up from the bottom of the conversations on gender. Today on Transgender Visibility Day, I am not interested in what people think I should show them.
As a healer, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to hold space for my clients. I want you to feel like whoever you are, you can be that, in my presence. I want the whole of your self to be visible, and the health concern you came in for a small part of how you feel seen. This interaction also means that I have to learn to not hide myself. This isn’t to say that being a practitioner is about me. It’s not. But, I believe that the more genderqueer people that see each other, the more we see ourselves. And the more the transgender community asks us to join conversations without assuming that we water down your struggles, the more we become something other than air bubbles. We become part of the waves that crash down on the confines of oppression.
I have had this idea swirling around for years now. Unable to bow my head to the suggestions that people make on the subject. It’s time to connect the dots on how we take up space and how it takes hold of our health.
Let this be a letter to my genderqueer comrades.
Take herbs that ground you. Put the hatred you have for yourself on a shelf. Bottle it. Label it. You can revisit it in a moment. But for now, take in 5% of your body being your body. And treat it well. Drink your tea with friends. Hear them laugh at your jokes. Fall asleep with your pinky wrapped around someone else’s pinky. Remember that you are not a sum of how others see you. You even hold hands different. Each special moment makes us more alive. That’s a treasure not a curse.
Change the narrative. There is a lot the world can learn from the spaces between. There is a lot the world can learn from settling into the variance.
What can the world learn from the gender variant community?
1. At any point in your life, you can re-invent yourself.
2. At any point in your life, you can become more of the self you want to be.
3. At any point you can show the world a different side of yourself then you normally share.
4. By transcending the options we are taught to have, we will find a more true version of ourselves. At any point we can live outside the confines of conformity.
5. How to embody change in the wake of a stagnant culture.
6. When you realize something about yourself that is different, and you are brave enough to tell the world, it makes the world an easier place for everyone to be their unique selves.
This is terrible bitter work.
Hey progressive and radical folks, we need your help. This work isn’t a hassle, it’s necessary to transform what is already happening in the right direction. Let it be intentional. Let it rise out of your chests like a song.
Grab your yarrow, feel safe within your boundaries. Stick your mugwort under your pillow and dream big. Take the mint in your yard and stare at it’s hairs under a microscope. We are all bristly and refreshing. Drink your nettles, your hawthorn, your motherwort and imbibe this notion:
Everything in this world has a sharp thorn and a nutritive vein. The only thing that will stop the sting is to be yourself so fiercely it bends to the touch of your tongue.
It’s time to make ourselves visible. So that the rest of our lives aren’t spent thinking we aren’t enough.
Don’t tell yourself the lies you have been told. That is the pressure that causes us to be at the bottom of the ocean floor, getting only bubbles to the top. We could be feasting on the oxygen above. You too. You are not the exception. The whole of yourself is still a self.
For every person who has said that “they/them” is not correct grammar. Pick a different battle. Join your friend as they fight to be seen. That is what that act means to us. You could be that friend. It is a careful moment, don’t meet us with disgust, distaste or fear. Meet us in the work. Don’t help us settle.
When genderqueer folks come into my office, we don’t talk about being genderqueer. I mean, we can if it’s needed. But instead, we talk about their health. We talk about their bodies as whole bodies. I ask them what language they use to refer to body systems and parts. Not assuming is a radical health care act. What we don’t have to talk about, is a radical act too. Because the visibility is not in the avoidance of a topic. It is in the, “I don’t know you, so I will ask” conversation. The back and forth.
We could be having so many conversations with each other. Don’t ask how to not get caught in your belief in the binary. That’s not being a good friend. That is being afraid of what you do not know. Get to know us. Because when we are seen, we are beautiful. And then, we can take better care of ourselves and each other. Like a community being written.