A question and three answers

A friend writes to Merlin with a question.

What is one thing that you wish everyone understood about being trans in America?

1. My Regular Answer

I wish more people knew that being trans in America is, in some ways, like being anything else in America.

There's not one way to “be” trans. And I think that diversity is a strength and a gift.

So, when we encounter people who are incurious about trans people's actual lives, we oughtn't always dash into finessing those experiences into something everyone will find effortless to integrate into their existing priors. Do the work.

2. My Nuanced Answer

The clarity about binaries upon which western civilization operates is based on a model. It’s a very useful model, and it wouldn’t have caught on if it weren’t grounded in many patterns that were as consistently observable to any neolithic person as they are to someone living today.

So, what about all those great examples from nature—or the numerous theological administrators who enshrine all manner of immutable binaries?

Well. To me, that just suggests that these are interesting models that people usually like and generally find useful. So they use it, and they ferociously teach it, and, eventually, many dedicate their lives to some form of enforcing it.

But, that doesn't mean that the model is real.

That's what makes it a model.

3. My Real Answer

In order to talk with another person about our life, we need to find terms, analogies, or anchoring points that we can both understand.

What you often arrive at is an unsatisfying, provisional third language that neither of you natively speaks. But, you both smile broadly and agree it seems close enough for now—so let's rap! 😬👍

In this instance, I wish trans people could tell me about their life without having to dumb it down to something I can mostly understand. Rather than just getting to let their life just be its own thing.

It’s our need to “understand” that makes so much stuff seem weird, or dangerous, or irrational.

Because, ultimately, everything sounds dumb when you have to explain it to a fucking idiot.