I've been thinking about courage lately. It's one of those virtues I've held in high regard for my entire life, perhaps because I spent so much of that life without it. Also thinking about transition, and all that that means and is – a chaos of thoughts and experiences: Sitting on a gender dysphoria panel talking about my life, and one of the audience says, "The two of you have more courage than everyone else in the room put together." Walking up to one of the most awkward and obvious transwomen I've ever seen, prior to my transition, and she said, "It's not courage. I'm just doing what I have to do." Coming out to my sister, and she turned to my brother and said, "I never knew we had a limp wrist in our family." My friend Devin downplaying her own courage after someone complimented her on the way she faces life and surgery.
It's actually a common theme among transpeople, that people say we're courageous, and we reply with something like, "Nah. It's not courage. You just do what you have to do." I certainly feel like that, most of the time. You just reach a point where you're so tired of hiding who you are, of lying to everyone, of loneliness, you just don't care anymore. The truth is better than a lie, no matter how badly the truth hurts. And you rip the mask off your face, stomp it into the gutter, and go out into the world with your self laid bare.
It's not courage that enables us to strip off the mask. That's exhaustion.
But it is courage to show who you are to a world that judges you and hates you because of who you are.
It's the courage of the Muslim woman who dons her head scarf to walk down an American sidewalk.
It's the courage of the black man who walks through the doors of a Fortune 500 company to ask for a job.
It's the courage of a gay couple holding hands in public.
It's the courage to raise your head up in the face of a life that's kicked you around, and living that life – and not only living it but embracing it with your whole heart.
It's not unique, and it's not really all that special. It's everywhere you look – it hides in every human heart – yet too often it's hidden away in a life not fully lived.
When you get right down to it, though – it is very special indeed. And when you're a transwoman, every time you step into the public eye you make a statement of courage. It gets to be such a habit, you don't even notice. It's just life, normal, boring, and taken for granted.
I don't want to take it for granted. I want to cherish it, value it, hold it close and raise it high like a candle lit on top of a hill, for all the world to see. Not to show you I'm special and have something you don't have.
No, I want to hold it up so that you can see what it is, and know that you have it, too.