Tuesday 30 June 2015

Speaking our own truth.

Something we're seemingly all very good at – or very bad at – is believing (and insisting) that what is true for us singular must be true for us plural; specifically, that our understanding of ourselves, of our own sex and gender is widely, even universally, applicable.

But... “if there's one thing I've learned (...), it's this: You can't speak for anyone else on these matters. You can't tell people who they are, what they are, why they are. One, because it's rude. Two, because most of the time you'll be wrong. This is a common mistake. Having reached an understanding (usually hard won) of who we are as individuals, and being so convinced of its correctness for ourselves, we assume that it must be correct for everyone else. It isn't.”

I'm quoting myself there, by the way, from part of a casual comment to a much earlier post (in as much as anything I write here is ever casual). Of all my many words in this blog, those are the ones I keep returning to. When we figure out who we are, define our identities and relate our truths, there's often an urgency to say what we're not, and that because we've rejected a particular narrative for ourselves, that narrative is thus fallacious and bad.

All of which usually boils down to: “You're doing gender wrong.” “You're doing your gender wrong.”

Okay, I'm not exempt from that, as I admitted in the continuation: “I feel that myself all the time writing this blog. I'm so sure I'm right, I can hardly fathom why people aren't queueing up to agree with me.”

All the same, I try not to disregard other people's understandings of themselves or to erase their identities: “Fortunately I have just enough self-control to write "some of us" rather than "all of us". In that way I can talk in general terms while leaving it for each individual reader to decide whether or not what I'm saying applies to them.”

And as I explained in another comment, to an even earlier post: “[W]hen I say we in this blog, I don't mean we all exactly. My inclusive we only includes you (the individual reader) if you say it does. I'm not trying to dismiss anyone's personal experience or self-knowledge, only to present a different view of the whole thing which they can take on board, or not.”

Indeed, I've learned far more from people who concentrate on expressing their own truth – their own unflinching, unapologetic, insightful truth – than from mean-spirited denial or "criticism" of other people's.

It's as Patrick Califia once wrote: “The best we can do is speak our own truth, make it safe for others to speak theirs, and respect our differences.”
If our truths, our narratives, align or intersect, then fine. If not, well, so they don't; that's fine too. We each have our own ways of responding to the extremely personal issues of sex and gender. And these are not mutually exclusive. Nor are they more or less valid for being more or less common.

The last time I used that Califia quote here, Kyle Jones (from Butchtastic) responded: “Not too many years ago, the subject area of gender seemed pretty simple, but now I know how complex the intersection between gender identity, sexual identity, physical presentation and preferences can be for each individual. Thank you for doing your part in continuing the conversation and speaking your truth.”

I feel the same way. So thank you to everyone else who continues the conversation and speaks their truth. As long as we remember that our truth is not necessarily true for anyone else.