Trauma Barometer

There are certain sayings in life that I think get misused far too often to be even remotely real after a while. It’s things like, “what doesn’t kill you ,makes you stronger” or “the climb to the top is full of hurdles.” At the crux of it, the speaker is saying all of this pain and struggle will aid you to that elusive point of victory one day. I believe surviving painful experiences can make someone “more tougher”, “more stronger” in the future sure but I also think that depending on the experience and the amount of challenges one has been through prior ,it’s not always a sure thing. In fact, I believe experiences add up. I believe hurt and pain adds up. I believe we are born from a place of deficits and often inherent internalize the pain and hurt of our bloodline before us.

Black folks, we love to deliver these types of sayings to one another. We eagerly await to tell each other to “put it in God’s hands” and “He doesn’t give you more than you can handle”. I imagine this is a residual of slavery, when our people had to be so fucking tough to the point of brute just to survive. There was no time or relief for tears and comfort. We had no choice but to keep on keeping on. It persists to the descendants today. You go to the shittiest hood in America and you find the most apparent hope and optimism in the world. People with the most challenges, people who will never make it and who will incur more pain and baggage before they take their last breath will be the first to speak on how much one’s trauma barometer can take.

For us transwomen, I imagine we are gluttons for pain. I imagine that when most of us become who we know ourselves to be ,that we knowingly wait and expect the trauma. In fact, not being able to be one’s self has to be one of the ultimate acts of trauma. So we begin our transitions from places of trauma and as the years grow so do our experiences. The first time you’re attacked. When someone spooks you in front of a crowd. Being denied housing. Being rejected by family, friends and lovers. Being forced to hustle by any means cause you can’t find a job. Called man over and over again. The trauma of hating yourself for not being able to be “normal”. The knowledge that for the rest of your life if you are to own your identity, you will always be fighting the world. And I write from a place of deficit because I don’t know en masse how other transwomen feel. I will say much like mainstream Black folks and because my few interactions with transwomen have been mostly Black, it makes sense that as a people we embrace a facade of “do it all, handle it all”. I have never been on the Pier and seen a group of transwomen crying but I’m sure each and every one of them have a story that will break your heart. As do most people. Living is suffering. It isn’t life, if it doesn’t include pain. But it’s not an equal opportunity dispenser and some people get more than their fair share of pain.

I write all this to say I hope society ,well actually Black people and Trans people and Black transpeople begin to name and call out our pain. Begin to make our cultural outputs reflect the hurt and the severity of extended excessive trauma. Our identities are rooted in pain, that pain that we have used to survive, the anger and the rage that has fueled our push forwards. Mainstream society does not , will not and cannot give two fucks about the trauma of our people. They , in fact, decide when things are painful , when things are traumatic and worthy of a conversation. And it’s only when they themselves are victims of something. I want to see shows about Black people with Depression, I want to read about the transwoman who is struggling to keep her head up. I need music from Black artists and Black queer artists that makes me want to cry. Because the reality is we’re all hurting, we always have and we always will until we properly name all that afflicts us. And I think that’s some bad assed shit, living with pain or overcoming that pain and calling it out regardless of censure and gaslights.

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