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Shaking Out the Trans
Are You Emerging or Receding?
Are You Emerging or Receding?
As I mentioned in my last post, this Saturday, I took part in a street-pastel art festival where I both did chalk art and sold my books and paintings for a worthy cause.
At the crack of dawn as Pam and I set up our booth where the organizer told us to be, a woman emerged from the gallery behind us and said, “You’re going to move because we own this spot and this is our 30 feet.”
I looked at the sidewalk and city parking lot and said, “Um, this is public right of way, and the organizers told us this is our spot.”
“That’s not how we do things down here. I don’t care what the organizers said,” she replied in her haughtiest Karen kerfufflage.
I shrugged. “If that’s how you do things down here, it explains why no one ever goes into your gallery.”
a voice inside me told me to not give that attitude root
Sour note for the day, right? The organizer came by, saying “Every year she does this!” and moved us 10 feet down. I was spoiling for a fight, but a voice inside me told me to not give that attitude root. So, Pam and I didn’t. We worked off our hineys and made and sold art.
The rest of that hot, hot day, I got to rub shoulders with cheerful, talented artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs. Personally gratifying to me, several children oo’ed and ahh’ed at my art. Many people will walk by a work of art and never note it, where others truly get it and talk with you about it, affirming your take on, and rendering of, this miracle called life.
So, are the ones who get my art the emergers? And the ones who don’t (along with bullying business owners dead-set on staking out their turf) the receders?
Receding and Emerging as Trans
We’re all the heroes of our own stories, but our stories necessarily merge with the ones of those with whom we share this planet life. I both recede and emerge, sometimes simultaneously. I did a painting tonight — the one you see pictured above. I call it “Tara Emerging.” In it, I try to catch a goddess in a liminal state. The rays shooting from her face and body would seem to say “emerging.” The dark shadow beside her says she’s receding.
Trans people constantly wrestle with recession and emergence, regardless of whether we’re closeted transitioning, or out.
I don’t think that trans experience is the be-all and end-all. But it’s the overarching story I know, and I go with it as an image, a template (not the template) of what it means to be human. Trans people constantly wrestle with recession and emergence, regardless of whether we’re closeted, transitioning, or long out of the closet.
I Get Up, I Get Down
At the dawn of the art festival, I receded a little in giving the gallery owner a bit of her own snarkiness. I emerged in the pastel sidewalk art I created in the afternoon. Later that day, I literally danced in the street to a talented guitarist’s jig-rendition of Bach’s Ode to Joy, making a silly trans spectacle of myself that those who know and love me come to expect.
I couldn’t have done that before when I lived a receded life.
Proceed to Recede
As I finished my piece and talked with an artist two squares down from me, I noticed a lady stop by my pastel, called “Loveland.” She gasped, gesticulated, and said to her companion, “Augh! Why do they have to be so in-your-face about it?”
I stepped up to her and said, “Hi! I’m Bethany, the artist. I’d love to talk with you about this piece!”
“No thank you,” she said and receded away.
we all recede and emerge
The fact is, we all recede and emerge. I’d like to think that the surly gallery owner and the lady who didn’t appreciate my pastel have their emergent moments that I haven’t been blessed to see. Yet, I and countless other trans persons know all too well what the shadow is like that engulfed us during and (if we’re blessed to emerge) after coming out.
I’d also like to think that gives me a unique perspective on everyone’s shadow and rays of light — that all of us are on the threshold of being a gleaming goddess or two.
Emerge a little today. If you catch yourself receding, whistle a jig and rise from the shadows to find a trans person or two there with you.
It’s not for me to work that out any more than it is for the detractors of trans persons to decide whether we should exist. And that goes for trans persons ourselves — for too long we didn’t allow ourselves to emerge and exist as the artworks we are.
Emerge a little today. If you catch yourself receding, whistle a jig and rise from the shadows. You’ll find a trans person or two there to take your hand and dance with you.
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To learn more about my journey, check out my memoir, How to NOT Know You’re Trans or my newly-released TransQuality: How Trans Experience Affirms the World.
As always, your respectful comments are appreciated. 🤗