My life has not been perfect, but throughout life I have felt like and known a realized sense of myself. The transgender perspective is not one I am too familiar with, but I am human and care about others. This is not written from the vantage point of an expert. My consideration of this topic stems merely from asking the question: what does it mean to be human?
As yogis, we can pay lip service to attachment and not associating with the physical body, but I personally cannot imagine what it feels like to be born into a form that doesn’t support/enable/connect everything I understand myself to be on the inside. This is a message about compassion and serving humanity to end suffering. Agree with or support Jenner or not is not the issue. The issue is that suffering comes from attachment. It is born from desire; it metastasizes with the fear of dying or the clinging to life as we know it or an ideal to which we can never fulfill. In Caitlyn Jenner’s case, perhaps it festered merely from the fear of living on the outside when you know you are dying from the inside. In our case maybe it’s the clinging to life as we always have known it during the day, as told to us, but perhaps not the true breadth of life, including those parts of life retreating meekly in the shadows. When life as we don’t know it or cannot understand through conceptual thinking steps forward into the light, it can prove to be a shock to the system. But is that moment of shock not just a culmination of the millions of hits the soul of this individual took through the course of his, now her, life? Is that not the seed of empathy?
The focus on Jenner’s physical transformation, only partially realized in my mind, is not what is the lesson for our humanity. The lesson is: can people understand accurately and embrace people who view the world from a different vantage point and value both viewpoints in equal measure? It’s a debate between offering sympathy vs. conveying empathy. Maybe it boils down to just simply loving one another.
What broke my heart about the Jenner story was the deep sadness in his eyes in spite of his million dollar smile when he posed as a young man. What broke my heart was the absolute despair he felt when he was pressured against his will into cutting off his hair. What broke my heart is the mockery and provocation from the media. The female shell today, the male shell of yesterday, we forgot all the while this man was made fodder for the press and a batted cat toy for ratings, but inside there was a human heart, hurting beneath the facades of flesh and frame.
Not to be crass, but it takes down right balls to make a transition of this kind at this late age. There is no time to be lost when one is resolved in one’s actions and no time like the present to be transformed into the more realized version of who you are. I don’t think of this transformation in surgical terms but in figuring out what steps it takes to find love – one that feeds your soul and allows you to love yourself, and to let go of what no longer serves you.
There is the humble start of courage; and with it, an implacable invincibility.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
~ William Ernest Henley
Previously published in Five Tattva/Embodied Philosophy e-zine. http://www.fivetattvas.com