12 July 2014
An Early Role Model
I have never thought myself as a particularly good model of anything for anybody. Maybe that explains, at least partially, some of the ambivalence I’ve often felt about teaching. I am sure that it’s a reason why I have been reluctant to take on some of the other roles people have wanted me to fulfill.
Also, I often think that if anyone sees me as a role model, he or she is likely to realize that I embody at least as much of what he or she doesn’t—or shouldn’t—want to emulate as I am an example of what he or she can be.
Why am I thinking about that now? I realize that about a dozen years have passed since I attended my first support groups for people who were trying to figure out their gender identity, exploring the possibility of making a transition or who’d made up their minds that they were indeed going to live their lives as a gender not assigned to them at birth and who wanted to find out how to go about it.
The very first group—and a later one—in which I participated were co-facilitated by a post-op trans woman who, at the time, was seen as something of a leader, if not an icon, in the community. She was attractive and had developed a fine reputation for her work as a therapist, social worker and activist. I think I wasn’t the only one who looked to hear as the sort of woman we could become.
I haven’t seen her in some time, so I don’t know how she looks. But the work she did remains important to me personally as well as to the community.
However, I would come to realize that so much of her energy was focused in being a transgender poster girl, if you will, that it stunted her emotional and spiritual growth. I sensed her anger early on; over time, I would realize that it would keep her from being anything more than an icon in a small community—a ghetto, really, because she lived and worked within the confines of a groups of people like herself who distrusted, resented and even hated anyone different from themselves.
I couldn’t help but to wonder what was the point of undergoing a gender transition if only to put one’s self in another box and to continue writhing with the same pent-up ire as people whose lives were constricted by their inability to live authentically.