Have you ever flipped a light switch expecting a light to turn off only to have it instantly turn back on because another person, using a second switch was also trying to turn off the light? What do you do? You flip the switch again and Voilà! the light remains ON. It is usually at this point when one person concedes and no longer attempts to flip the switch.
A little over a year ago I flipped a switch which turned on a myriad of lights. Included in these is one light which can not be turned off. It shines on a truth that I am Dana, a female, and a transgender person. Among the other lights which turned on are ones representing pretty much every aspect of how I experience life. Each light uses a specific amount of my energy to remain lit. I will discuss this energy source a little later on. Some of these lights are easy to turn off. For example; I feel the pain of a pin prick, the person at the other end of the switch circuit does also. Together we agree that we can turn off this light. There are thousands if not millions of lights that we, together, can turn off.
The dilemma comes into play when I find a light which shines on an aspect which has a unique variation and impact for a transgender person. Here is an example of such a situation.
Here is a partial listing of the lights which are on this particular circuit but have multiple switches.
Today I am resuming one preparation step for a possible GCS procedure. I am doing this while a pandemic still rages across the world. I can not begin to explain to someone who is not transgender what this statement means to me. Even another transgender person will not understand how I see this preparation step. This is because each of us have negotiated to have different lights turned off while others remain on. This changes my view.
Where does the energy to power all the lights come from? Self care, a good night’s sleep, maintaining my overall health, support from allies, etc. All of these things replenish how much energy I have to deal with everyday issues. if anything is left over it is stored in reserve for the times when a sudden surge of additional lights are turned on. The action of addressing each light expends energy. My thoughts of how I feel about each can either add or subtract energy from my reserve. Successful communication of these thoughts to others expends a great deal of energy. This energy is seen by those who witness it’s expenditure. Sometimes the energy is collected, nurtured, multiplied and returned. We call this person a true ally. Sometimes an ally returns the energy with a well intentioned gift; lights. This additional gift of lights which are usually lit and not noticed by the ally. This is because an ally can not, as much as they try, ever experience something the way a transgender person can. Allies, rest assured, we transgender people see your intentions. We accept the returned energy and quickly turn of any lights we have already determined are not needed.
Transgender people also expend energy sometimes in the wrong places. Our intentions are well meaning. Some of us try to engage with as many people as will listen to our plights. We attend rallies, push for social change, or any number of other actions. Those of us who do this are considered to be activists. This is not to be confused with being an advocate. In my mind there is a distinction between these terms. In simple terms if I advocate for something, I say it is favorable. Very little energy is expended on the advocate’s part. If I am an activist I not only say the thing is favorable, I actively take action(s) to promote it. I expend a great deal of energy doing so. One thing that has become much clearer to me is that my reserve of energy can fluctuate very rapidly due to these activist actions. I can be very well prepared for and event of even a discussion and during or after end up completely drained or even left with my reserve overflowing. I am quite sure this is the case for anyone.
To any allies who are reading this:
Please continue to learn from those you support. Do not get frustrated when your transgender friend makes a comment such as “You will never understand.” This comment can hurt, but it carries a truth.
Even a partial understanding yields better results than a lack of understanding. You may help turn off lights for a transgender person but always check to see if your friend is at the other switch.
To any transgender people reading this:
They are your allies. They are willing to learn, teach them. While you may be very eager to attempt to explain everything trans, this will take from your energy. Be sure to check your reserve level before beginning such a thing. Continue to check your energy level as you progress through it. Look for the ally at the other switch, communicate with them. Create boundaries for which lights are yours alone to turn off.