Imagine you live in a small town full of people who are all the same – they all have a lot in common, except you… you’re different. But you don’t have the ability to be different. You need your job, you need the acceptance and support of those in your town, so you can’t afford to be different. You hear about groups in bigger cities nearby that are full of diversity, full of people who could see you for who you really are, and accept you. But you can’t afford to live in the city. You can’t even afford to drive there on occasion to visit these groups. You feel isolated. Alone in your identity. Misunderstood.
Or how about you already live in these cities. You struggle to make ends meat. You can’t afford to miss a day of work to go to these meetings or these events. You have no way of making it work for you. No way of going to meet with these new people. Maybe you even have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to get by. You have no free time. The only free time you have you spend cooking or cleaning or sleeping because you’re so exhausted you can’t even take time for yourself to do anything else. You are completely surrounded by a multitude of people day in and day out, but you still feel like nobody really sees you, not the real you.
Now add onto that having children. You’re seen as one thing to the general public – a parent (more so for women than men). That is the entirety of your identity in other people’s eyes. And why shouldn’t it be? You’ve given them no knowledge of your interests or hobbies or goals. Why, you don’t have time for any of that anyway. You don’t have time to be anybody other than a mom or a dad who is working their ass off to take care of their children. That’s all that matters about you, because that’s all you have time to worry about.
Perhaps you feel like you don’t fit into your body, like you were born in the wrong skin. But unlike others who are in more fortunate situations, you aren’t able to get together enough money or time to go in and even ask a doctor or therapist about taking hormones or getting surgery, or even just to see what your options are. You don’t have the ability to sit down and worry about your identity. Even if you feel incredibly mixed up. People make comments about you, stating who they think you are. And you don’t have the luxury to correct anybody because every interaction could make or break your ability to put a roof over your head, or put food on your table, or clothes on your back.
Speaking of clothes, you don’t even get to decide what clothes you wear. You get hand-me downs, or the cheapest things you can find. Maybe you haven’t been able to buy new clothes for a long time. Maybe your clothes don’t say anything about you, because they don’t represent you at all. But at least they keep you warm (at least most of the time). You don’t get to really choose how you dress. You can’t afford to buy new clothes, or get your hair done, or purchase the more expensive toiletries that are better for the environment. You don’t even have the choice to be an environmentalist, not really, because you can’t afford to choose which things you buy. You buy the things that you can, because you need something.
You have no individuality within the things you own, the things you do, the way in which you live. None of that is you. If you were to choose you wouldn’t choose any of this. You appreciate the fact that you aren’t out there completely homeless and starving (if you’re lucky enough to be), but deep down you wish you could make the transformation into your true self. You wish you could wear your clothes and your hair how you like them, the way they best make you feel confident and comfortable. You wish you could eat the things you want. Go to the places you want. Be around the kinds of people you want. Live the life you want. But you can’t. You can’t just go out and make a big statement about who you are and what you’re all about…because you just don’t have the money, or the time. You’re stuck. And lost. Everything seems hopeless. But at least you’re still alive.
…At least you’re still going
For anyone in a situation similar to anything mentioned above – I am with you in solidarity. To those of you who don’t know these hardships, please acknowledge your privilege and give respect to those who have had to fight through struggles far greater than your own. And don’t forget, no matter who you are, to appreciate what you DO have. If you have the ability to make a full transition, alter the way you look or act or exist in the world, feel very thankful for your ability to do so. If all you can do is exist, if that’s it and nothing else, be thankful too. And see your strength in your ability to continue existing through everything. I see you. You are strong. You are beautiful.