By Kris Littlesun, 2008
As a young transsexual, I was in a rather unusual position. After I first went to the doctors at the age of 16 to tell him that I was transsexual and I wanted to be referred to the relevant people, I had a wait of two and a half years before I even saw anyone. Although this was very difficult at the time I am now very glad of what this un-influenced, uninterrupted time gave to me. I went into a period of deep self discovery, it was a very exciting process for me and it taught me a lot.
Not being brought up into culture’s view of masculinity, and not being influenced by the rigid gender roles expected by the gender clinic, I was able to take a step outside of the cultural norms and view them for what they really are. It gave me an opportunity to sort through and distinguish what was really me and what was me trying to be what I felt I should be, or what I was being told I should be. This was a very long process, and I’m still learning now. I felt distanced from most of the other trans men I met when I was taking those first steps. I felt like I wasn’t “trans enough”, as my efforts to take on the norms of maleness never went very well. This was mainly because part of me always knew that a lot of it was cultural bullshit.
In our capitalist culture, we are encouraged to define ourselves through identities. We find a pre-packaged identity we like and that seems to suit us and we decide that this is who we are, Or else we are given an identity based on things such as gender, sexuality, class, race, ability etc. Each pre-packed identity comes with its own expression, behaviour and, most importantly, products for consumption. Although the things that these identities are based on may be very real, the cultural package that forms around them only exists in the minds of those who believe in it. We may act out our assigned or chosen identities and believe that we are “being ourselves”, but unless we become aware of ourselves and how we are moulded by the culture we live in we won’t know who “ourselves” really is.
There is nothing wrong with taking on an identity if it suits us to do so and it makes us happy, though to do so with a sense of awareness is likely to be more rewarding. It is possible, and often necessary, to take on the language of identity in order to describe our activities or experience rather than shape and define them. This is important to highlight oppression for example, and also to communicate our own experience to people, connect with those who have similar experience and have empathy for those with different.
The deconstruction of gender that is encouraged and celebrated within the radical queer community can be a gateway for people into a deconstruction of the whole of the self. In doing this we can move away from being defined and constricted by identities and becoming whole.
Capitalism is based on a process of “divide and conquer”. As individuals we are told that we are not good enough, that we need more, that to be better than everyone else is to be happy. But on this individualistic, linear path there is no destination, just constant dissatisfaction as we will never have enough.
We are given the illusion that individualism is the key to personal power and success. The truth is kept secret, because to know this is to know our true power. This truth has been referred to as “the secret that can never be told”, not because people are not allowed to but because it is something which is experienced and cannot be communicated in language.
When we can tap into this deep well of power and energy we know that we don’t need to stand as individuals to be happy, we have the whole of existence behind and around us. We may only be one tiny speck of existence, but, as in a fractal image, each speck contains the whole.
In religions that contain structures and hierarchies of control, we must access the spiritual through a member of the clergy who can veto anything they deem inappropriate and manipulate it to meet their own ends or that of the dominant culture. Any spiritual experiences not OK’d by those in power are considered to be the work of evil forces. In this way we are denied our own power.
Many people take on a hyper-materialistic philosophy as a reaction to the hierarchy and oppression found in many dominant religions, but to do this is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Religion is just another structure in our culture that is put around spiritual experience to try and explain it and make sense of it, a structure that may or may not be useful to us, but we can’t determine the worth of the experience itself by the worth of the structures that have built up around it.
I only started really being aware of my own spirituality about 2 years ago, but in that short time I have learnt so much both about myself and the world around me. By having a spiritual context I have been able to take situations and emotions which could have sent me off the rails and made them into positive opportunities for growth. The growth and the learning never ends, and it’s a very exciting path to be on!