Compassion, patience, time, consideration, understanding. These concessions…no concession isn’t the right word, but at the same time it is, have been asked of me over the last few months as those around me “come to terms” with my revelation regarding my gender identity. I have been talked to, talked at, talked around, ridiculed, mocked, and then asked not to take it personally because it wasn’t meant in cruelty. I’ve been told that I’m loved, but who I am can’t be accepted because it’s too hard for the other person to work through, and I’ve been flat-out ignored. I’ve been smiled at when purposefully challenged and I didn’t have the energy to fight back. I’ve been snapped at for correcting my name and pronoun, and have had my tone misunderstood. I’ve heard the panic in voices that quickly correct what they said only to not listen when I offer comfort.
And I stayed quiet. I smiled. I swallowed hurt and kept moving one foot in front of the other. I felt resentment and anger raise up on the back of my neck. I wanted to shake those around me until sense was made. I wanted to take the anxiousness and pain out on my own skin, my own body. I’ve cried, and screamed, and pounded my frustrations out on my unsuspecting steering wheel as I sped down highways leading me to home, away from home, and everywhere in between. Conversations and tactless words echo in my ears until I’m left clawing for any other sound but that of the sound of other’s self-righteousness.
Vulnerability isn’t weakness. It is a strength beyond measure. To stand there and have the world pull you apart in order to make itself feel better about doing so, and to remain steadfast throughout the journey, is terrifying. Terrifying because you will face demon after demon to do so; to stand with the truth of yourself and refuse to back down. Terrifying because it means ultimately facing down yourself. Facing down your limitations, your own understanding, your deepest fears, your deepest truths, and the latitude of your strength. You will feel the darkest aspects of the human condition rise up within you, and you will face each choice, each decision, feeling as if you must be the weakest creature to ever face such inhumane, yet all too familiarly human, experiences.
How many times I just wanted to give in. Slink my way back into the closet and “change my mind” as I’ve been told is expected of me. To say nevermind. Each misuse of a name. Each slip of pronoun and I want nothing more than to say forget it and slip back into silent, unseen pain that I’ve lived with throughout my life. To not feel the weight of everyone’s stares, waiting for me to slip up myself in order to justify their own, sometimes purposeful, inadequacies and ignorances. Yet, as I’ve said, vulnerability is strength beyond measure. At my lowest, I am at my most powerful.
When I first stated that I was not female, that I was non-binary; when I lit this path on fire to cast light in my world of darkness, I knew exactly what I was doing. I knew what I was burning. I was burning the path behind me. I destroyed bridges and threw bombs into comfortable worlds. In handing over my truth, I changed the world around me, and change is never comfortable. It’s down right nauseating when it feels instantaneous and I knew…I just knew what I was going to face. I had been through it before, on smaller scales, but the same reactions nonetheless. I prepared myself. I prepared myself not by throwing on armor, but by taking it off.
I don’t owe this world one damn courtesy. That’s the word, courtesy, not concession, although in this lexicon both do seem one and the same. Either way, I owe no one either. Although another cliché, “you get more flies with honey than vinegar”, can be thrown into this conversation, ultimately I owe nothing. I didn’t owe explanations, or patience, in educating anyone about what non-binary, what Androgyne, means. I don’t owe anyone glimpses into my history, my life, as a tool to show what my gender identity looks like in this world; in their world. I don’t owe patience, kindness, consideration, compassion or understanding. Being a good person is not a requirement of me. I owe nothing to anyone but myself. Yet…..
Yet, as I took that first deep breath after saying “I’m not a girl,” that is what I gave. I gave without being asked. I gave before it became demanded and expected. I gave before those qualities were turned into weapons against me, against my character. Before every action was weighed and measured against what others’ believe they earned from me, I made the choice to be kind. To be patient, and understanding. To show compassion as others’, once so sure-footed around me, struggled to even recognize that it was now bright in my world that was once overrun by shadows and fiercely guarded secrets.
And I didn’t care. I didn’t care about talking about who I was, or what it means to be me in this society. I didn’t care about honest screw-ups and the sheepish apologies. Before a single person could ask me for time so they could grow with me I already gave it. I gave it without any requests or conditions. A smile, a hug, a declaration of love. These were responses given without my giving an ounce of hesitation. Even when the demands started rolling in, and blatant disregard that exposed deep ignorances and almost willful human limitation that cut deep into my heart, I still responded with understanding and compassion.
I’ve been told I’ve been too kind. Too understanding. In moments where I’ve shared the hurt inflicted by those that claim to love me the most, I’ve seen others react with more rage than I can muster myself. I’ve watched others rant for me, and cry for me. Too kind, too compassionate, too understanding. It seems ironic, then, to be asked for virtues in which I’m apparently holding in over abundance. It is a tell from those who ask for them, and swear in the same breath unconditional love and support…As if they are afraid. Of what I can only speculate. Maybe that I won’t love them? That I’ll leave? That I’m already gone? That they don’t like that in being myself, I’ve thrown a mirror in their faces and they don’t like what they see?
It’s the damn overturned apple cart; as if I’m watching from a distance as all these people who love me are so concerned that the ground is littered with apples, that they don’t see I’ve already made apple pie. That who I am, the core of me, has not changed one bit. I just grew tired of shouldering everyone else’s burdens on top of my own. So I started to let everything go and by doing so learned, and earned, who I am meant to be. I just never realized how uncomfortable that made so many people who claim to love me unconditionally. How invested, unwittingly invested it seems, many people were in the image of who I am. It’s weird, and disconcerting, to realize how many people have spent time telling me who I am, or who I should be.
But I understand love. I understand blind love, and the conception of love, and I understand people. I didn’t realize I did until this last year. I think that is why it is so easy to give kindness when none is owed. To give understanding and even humor, when others would respond with hatred and anger. I understand that those who love you the most, they may be the ones who need the most time to grow. So where others call for anger and justified vitriol, I see a chance to be the calm in the storm.
Who I am, the virtues I hold, never need to be asked for, although I understand the anxious need to ask for them. I am human. In the last 18 months, I have been stripped down to the basest aspects of myself. I have cried, and screamed, and begged for oblivion. I have clawed through insanity and panic, and faced the worst aspects of myself with judgment and later compassion. Perfect I will never be, and I’ve learned the surest road to insanity is the mere concept of perfection. I understand I started this journey of mine long before anyone knew of the violence of the storms in my life.
I just want to know, at what point, did so many people come up with the sheer absurdity that they knew me better than I knew myself? That they had a right to tell me who I was, how I think, and what I will choose in the future. I really want to know, because I have no clue. It’s like I’m 5 years old again, instead of almost being 30. Can you hear me sighing, because I swear it echoes due to how much I’ve been doing it lately.
I recognize the weariness growing in my bones as months go by. The frustration eating away at my virtues. The sharpening of the bite in my words. I understand why those around me feel unease, almost full-blown distrust, and wariness. I’m in a world that begs for challenges of mind and body, as long as it is easy and quick to finish. A general statement, but a truth nonetheless. But, with all that makes up this existence, I do not owe a single person my understanding. Choosing to do so doesn’t make me a good person, or a bigger person, it simply just makes me a person who made a choice when facing this challenge.
I do not owe kindness. I do not owe love. I do not owe me to anyone or anything. I give it anyway. I give it even though it almost kills me, and I’ll do it again and again.
Because I know those who love you the most may take the longest time to change, to grow. I should know…I’m still growing.