This morning I found myself watching this video by uppercaseCHASE1 about how being your authentic self isn’t just about being trans and it got me thinking pretty hard about what living an “authentic life” really means for me. I talk about living authentically a lot. It’s a huge motivator for my transition. It’s what pushes me through the hard stuff about all of this. But, as Chase points out, authenticity is bigger than just being trans. There’s so much more to each of us than our gender and our sexuality. There are political beliefs, personal preferences in clothing, books, movies, music, chores, where we live, who we live with, how we spend money, how we do our hair, how we speak, what cell phone we carry, etc. etc. etc. The list is too huge to list it all. All of these things, plus our history and our future goals and dreams help to make us who we are.
I asked myself, was I inauthentic for all of those years leading up to transition? No. And yes. “Is it possible that I’m still being inauthentic today?” Absolutely. “Am I closer to authentic today than I was 4 years ago? I think so. What is it that makes me inauthentic? What does it mean to live an authentic life? Does it mean telling everyone every little detail about my life and my inner thoughts? God I hope not!
I think most people are inauthentic some of the time and authentic some of the time. There are certainly situations, like job interviews and first dates, where one would try to put their best foot forward and probably wouldn’t mention that they have that weird little fetish that they’re not so proud of or that they enjoy watching Sex in the City re-runs. Or maybe they would. To each their own, right? I have an employee who is so comfortable with all of her little idiosyncrasies that she lets it all fly no matter who is around. I have to remind her occasionally to reign it in around customers but, in general, I enjoy her crazy antics. I’ve been criticized for letting her be as “out there” as she naturally wants to be and people have told me they think she’s immature. I don’t agree. She’s reliable, honest, hard working, pays her bills and is a good person. She also doesn’t care what most people think of her and I respect that. I’d like to be more like her.
I think what holds me back from being more authentic is fear which my employee is immune to apparently. She’s not afraid to show all of her flaws and laugh at herself. I am. She doesn’t take herself too seriously and I definitely do. Have you ever met someone either in real life or maybe seen them on t.v. and your first impression was, “Woe, that person is STRANGE!!!!!”? Did they grow on you? In the end did you think they were pretty cool after all? I certainly have. Of course, sometimes they’re just strange and your first instinct was right on the mark. But occasionally I run across someone who is so comfortable with their self that it really didn’t matter what you or anyone else thought of them and they were just happy being their own unique self for the world to see. I saw an old guy in over-alls with a big long beard on tv once who was just so comfortable being himself that he made me think, “I want to be like him one day.” I don’t want to be an old guy with a Santa beard in over-alls selling junk to strangers who come by my farm but I do want to be that comfortable in my skin.
I think, little by little, I’m getting there. That’s what transition is about for me. Getting more comfortable in my skin. And authenticity means the same thing to me. Comfortable and genuine. No fake facade, no walls up. Filtered but free to speak my mind and be myself. The idea of filtering is one that Candace and I talk about frequently. Filters, in this context, mean, mainly, filtering what you say to other people but it can also go further and mean filtering how you act in certain situations to the point where you have filtered out all of the good stuff that makes you a unique individual and what you’re left with is a bland and boring person that nobody is interested in knowing. There’s a balancing point where a little filtering is a good thing and too much is detrimental to connecting with others. We have a friend who has problems with her filter and occasionally says some pretty rude things to strangers who tick her off. And she’s pretty easy to tick off too, I should add. On the other hand, I applaud her on occasion for speaking up when she’s being criticized or someone is rude to her. She says the kinds of things the rest of us wish we could think of to say in those situations. For instance, when she was pregnant with her first child, she was standing in a check out line at the store and the lady in front of her looked at her and told her that she was huge, commenting on her very pregnant belly. My friend, who was not in a good mood, looked at her and said, “Well at least in a few months I won’t be fat anymore unlike you.” Wow, right? Seriously, don’t mess with pregnant ladies at the grocery store who are probably chomping at the bit to get home and rest their feet.
Honestly, authenticity isn’t about being rude, unless that’s who you really are. Maybe you should work on that if that’s the case? Just a suggestion. I am probably in the minority, but I find these kinds of antics humorous and they cement my fondness for people. So maybe we should all just let it hang out more often and stop worrying about what people will think of us. Maybe they’ll think more of us for being a little crazy than if we’re always polite and nice. That’s my goal anyway. How about you?