CW: dysphoria, transphobia, esp. in healthcare
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the power of self-definition, and being part of a community that accepts as fact that you are who you say you are just because you’ve said it. I am lucky enough to have that, to have spaces in my life where I know the individuals I’m spending my time with accept me without judgment, about my identity or otherwise.
I forget sometimes that there are places where I still have to leave the best things about me outside the door –better not be too queer in here, too man there, too woman there, too Black anywhere. To be loveworthy–not deep-and-abiding-loveworthy but “here’s your meds, have a good day” loveworthy, I’ve affected demeanors that make me cringe, I’ve explained things about me nobody should have to explain.
That’s (one small reason) why complaints about pride events and affirming politics are garbage. Don’t try to understand the release when you don’t understand the pressure.
I’ve attempted to make this piece somewhat informative, I’ve tried to tone down the combativeness slightly, but it is meant to confront something important and I don’t want to shy away from the emotions tied to this issue.
We hold so much power over each other’s sense of loveworthiness, and when the social structure is already saying to someone “nah, you don’t quite belong” and then you go an heap more troubles on them…it’s not good. Let’s do the opposite of that.
One way to do so is simply this:
One thing I’d like to say about this blog as I’m working on expanding it is that we (I’m on the hunt for collaborators–more on this on FB!) are often going to be referencing beliefs, practices, etc. that are not widely known/popular in , and we reserve the right to choose whether to define our terms for you or not (expecting that if not, you will take the time to research on your own). That is, we are here to speak as our full selves about things that are fundamental to who we are, not provide 101s on our identities.
When we are sharing our truths as people who also experience marginalization socially/economically/legally/etc., especially in otherwise positive spaces, we are often met with a particularly irksome brand of further marginalization: We are expected to cheerfully, constantly, and freely educate others as the price of our admission and as the key to their enlightenment–while not one of them make a single move toward educating themselves and/or admitting they can’t possibly understand some things. In this place, that expectation does not fly.
Let me illustrate why this is so important. One of the frustrating #transhealthfail situations I encounter regularly is essentially this interaction:
- Healthcare Provider: Oh wow so how long have you been a transgender
- Me: Well, [shortest possible story], but actually I need help with XYZ.
- Healthcare Provider: Oh of course, you poor thing, XYZ must be so much worse with teh trans*
- Me: . . . Can we talk about XYZ, though pls
Not an exaggeration. It’s…the problem is, I expect to be shown respect as an individual with a specific need for care, and instead I am, depending on the provider, either a Fascinating Living Textbook or a Fount of Everlasting Awkwardness (true in my personal life, but this isn’t about that so hush), as they stumble over half-apology half-explanations like “we just, you know, there’s no form for this, so…”
And, whatever, I do get it. I do realize I am not your typical patient. But I also do expect you to HANDLE THAT. For one thing, it sets off a giant shitstorm of dysphoria for me when you specifically can’t get pronouns right as soon as you start to describe my body, even though you had them right when talking about me a few minutes before. And yeah, dysphoria does do what it sounds like–it does feel terrible–and there’s just no excuse for carelessly dishing it out. Not as an individual in society at large, and especially not as a healthcare provider, in any field/form of medicine.
I’m not proud to say that I even as recently as this year I have avoided seeking care for this reason, at a time when I really really needed it. I always encourage other folks to go, but I can’t pretend it’s easy, nor that I always do it when I should. I just know encouragement sometimes makes a big difference, so I try. People who don’t experience this: when we go in for a health problem that is already weighing on us, and the entire experience is a steady IV-drip reminding us of just how little space there is for us in the world–I mean literally none if we’re intersex or non-binary and happen to need a restroom, even in the hospital, just–in people’s systems, in their schemas, in their stories about the world, no space anywhere, none—it’s exhausting. To me, Lennox is the title and gender’s just one chapter, to them it’s all GENDERWHA?? and I’m having to fight for a footnote in my own damned story.
A story that is supposed to be about XYZ health issue the whole time.
While I am experiencing XYZ health issue.
And it hurts.
Yet–I do have access to healthcare, and since for the most part what I encounter is at least not a matter of being blocked from getting services, I should count myself lucky(?). I mean, I do, in the sense that a blessing is a blessing, but also, mainly, I want to see a healthcare system in which being trans* or in any way gender non-conforming does not so utterly diminish the quality of care you receive. I don’t want to be one of the lucky ones just because it’s the “nicer” kind of #fail I encounter–I want the #fails to stop. I want accountability.
Because when I know you have access to information about my identity from a wide array of sources, and yet you wait for happenstance to introduce you to me to ask all this unrelated nonsense–even though knowing these things ought to be part of your job, especially–and then, you proceed to act as if you’ve “always wanted to know more”—Liar. There are honest mistakes and there is negligence, and I think you know which is which. The only reason I return your smile as your words cut into me is that 1. eh, you’re still another human being, and I happen to like human beings, 2. to be honest I’ve largely become numb to this kind of pain from strangers, at least in the moment, and, mainly, 3. I feel like I have to, if I want to get care. That is not a great position to be in.
That is what marginalization is–that is the torture of it. Being forced to beg and plead for what you know you outright deserve, having to feel that queasiness when we bow our heads and say yes ma’am, I really am just a woman, I guess, yes sir, it’s best you stay very “no homo” with me, yes, this is all fine– when we sell ourselves out just to get by, just to stay safe, just screaming inside, it all hurts.
It takes something from you, every time you ask to be treated as a human on par with any other, because the asking itself gets under your skin, leaving little bits of doubt behind like a mosquito leaving saliva, a reminder that just a little more of your lifeblood is gone. The itch the guilt for giving it away, the anger for being required to.
The point is this: real concern shows itself through genuine action, and it’s really easy to tell the difference.
One heals, though it may hurt, while the other only ever hurts. And this is just as true of self-love as any other connection.
So it’s no wonder when we talk about honesty we have such strong feelings on it, usually. It’s no wonder that we usually agree to be honest with each other when we take on a new relationship, whether business or personal. We know how much it can hurt to find find lies when we expect truth, and, much, much more so, to be the one who lied.
And perhaps that’s also some of the reason Eleggua gets a bad rap sometimes, that he is not, as they said of Aslan, “tame.” His allegiance is to truth, he cannot abide lying, he will test us to see just how honest we are. And it can be scary to face those things we’ve covered with comforting lies like “it’s probably nothing” and “I would never do something like that” and so on. But that is where Eshu is a comfort–that he knows all of the roads, every dimension and inch of the universe as it is, and still calls us to truth.
We can handle it, the path that is for us, simply because it is for us. It may not be safe, but it is secure. It gets better the more we practice it, asking the tough questions, because when we take care of ourselves in this way, checking in with ourselves, unafraid–when we are truthful with ourselves, we show the genuine concern for well-being that is essential to love.
I tried for a long time to love myself without admitting certain things, or on condition that these things eventually change–I never had much success. But the more I push myself to answer honestly the questions like “what am I about, really? where is my time going? what do I want that I don’t have, and why am I not satisfied?” the truer I am to myself. And the truer I am to myself, the more I love myself. And the more I love myself, the more open I am to loving others and being loved, whatever challenges come my way.
This itadogun, Esu Odara is being honored. The previous one was related to one of his other caminos. One of the tasks for that time was not lying–seemed easy, almost automatic, to me. At first. But it’s where action and our moral self-image collide that we find that excruciating authenticity by which we grow stronger. Because that shit will humble you real fast, and you will be looking yourself in the mirror real hard. You will hurt, but you will be so proud, too, the more integrity you find you have. It will be impossible to tell you that you ain’t loveworthy. Impossible. Just rest your mind on that for a second.
Maferefun Esu Odara.
Let’s be fiercely honest with ourselves and others we love. Let’s give to those who need it, whatever we have to give. Let’s admit our ignorance and pursue greater understanding. Let’s dance together at sundown.
Enjoy the rest of your Sunday. ❤