Friday, June 08, 2007

Burnout

When Betty & I are on tour, we get pulled aside by an awful lot of trans people, & often their partners, just to provide a shoulder or an ear or even just a kind word or show of solidarity, as it were. & As lucky and privileged as we feel to be able to be that kind of support for so many people, the personal toll can be pretty high because - as anyone who has ever worked with trans people a lot would know - there is a LOT of pain out there. There's also a lot of crap behavior of one kind of another, and it can get very frustrating for both of us to have a partner come ask us for advice on what she might do better and then, when we hear her story, what we want to do is sit her trans person down for a good talking to. Of course we wouldn't and don't do that - but often we'd like to. I don't think it's a surprise to anyone who is trans to hear that a lot of people who are just discovering or exploring or figuring out their transness can tend to be um, a little narcissistic. Likewise for the newly out or currently transitioning.

We're not big enough idiots to think that anyone would actually take any of our advice, so often we just tell stories about things that have worked for us, or stories of others we've met that seem relevant in one way or another. But it can be exhausting, when you just want to say "slow down!" to the trans person, or "you probably need to go" to a partner.

The problem is, not saying those things can sometimes leave you feeling bitter & frustrated & angry & - powerless. So what do you do? For those of you who've been around the block much longer than us, what have you done? Stepped down? Taken a break? Shut up shop fo a while & stopped to smell the daisies?

1 comment:

Melanie said...

"When I was a child, I spake as a child" and then I grew up and learned that speaking one's mind can hurt the raw, fragile, sunburned adult psyche. Of course, not speaking wisdom to those in need of it will only compound their pain in the long run. So do you tick them off now only to have them cry it out more, later?

What has worked for me in the past is to find a way to frame your advice as a suggestive seed as opposed to a log fall (though there are many occasions where a good reality-check is definitely needed). If you serve up a heaping plate of wisdom to a person who has already gorged on false hope or that youthful wonder of new horizons uncharted, then it probably will go straight to the mind's wastebasket. If, however, you slip just a kernel of your suggestion in under the mashed potatoes and gravy, it will sit there and grow while the rest of the fodder digests, eventually filling the spaces left until its truth blossoms forth.

Too much metaphor? Sorry.

Anyway, it takes a while to work, but half the time they'll think they came up with the idea themselves which will make them feel better about following it. Learned this trick from my mom who had to get through to my dad, the man with the world's thickest skull. YMMV