Archive for the ‘Prescient observations’ Category
Last night, Bruce Jenner sat down with Diane Sawyer and discussed his lifelong struggles with gender identity and self-acceptance. He said this will be the last time he speaks as Bruce (with the subtext that this also will possibly be the last time he accepts the male pronoun), and said that inside, he’s always felt like “She” (that’s the only name he has for his female self).
Or in other words, Bruce Jenner is a transgendered individual. Inside, where it matters, Jenner is female. And apparently has known it for a long time, despite being married three times and siring six children.
What Jenner discussed most was his difficulty in accepting himself. Early on, he knew he wasn’t the same as other boys. Instead, he identified more with the girls. But he pushed that aside, became a well-known athlete, and did his best to celebrate his masculinity instead.
Because that’s who he was on the outside.
But who he was on the inside was far different. And he had to really struggle to figure himself out.
Being who you are is a powerful thing, you see. But first, you have to accept yourself for who you are before you can embrace it. Being in the public eye, as Bruce Jenner has been for decades, is likely to make that struggle for self-acceptance much more difficult. And so he intimated to Diane Sawyer.
All of this is relevant, topical, and may actually help to bring about a dialogue about sexual identity, gender issues, and how people come in all gender varieties as well as various shapes, sizes, colors and creeds.
However, what I’m already seeing online is a bit worrisome. It seems that some commentators are focused on the more salacious aspects of Bruce Jenner’s lifelong struggle — his three marriages and his six children. They again are only seeing the outward aspect of Jenner, or what he’s shown to date as his outward aspect, anyway…and are discounting the person who talked to Diane Sawyer entirely.
And that completely misses the point.
Whatever name Bruce Jenner decides to use from here on out, whatever gender he identifies with, the person inside — the soul, if you will — is exactly the same.
That’s what Jenner was trying to tell Diane Sawyer.
Now, how can you learn from Bruce Jenner’s struggles?
Somehow, some way, you need to learn to accept yourself. Warts and all, you are a unique individual, and you bring something to the table that no one else has. Your experiences matter, you matter, and you need to remember that.
We all have our differences inside, you see. We all struggle to become our authentic selves, though most don’t have to do it in the public eye like Jenner.
So if you feel like no one understands you, and no one ever will, you are not alone. Because most of us — if not every single last one of us — has thought that at least once in our lives.
Remember, the most important thing is that you understand yourself.
“But Barb,” you protest. “People aren’t even giving me a chance! They think I am something I’m not, because I look different than I am…remember Leelah Alcorn?”
Yes, I remember Leelah.
My point is that you have to accept yourself, whoever and whatever you are, and be confident in that self. It takes time to do this. (It took me until I was well into my thirties to accept all aspects of myself, for example.) But you should do your best to persevere, because if you give yourself time, you will find at least a few people who like and understand you for who you are.
Because you also will like and understand them for who they are.
Remember, we’ve all faced many of the same struggles in trying to form some idea of who we are. Though having a gender identity that does not match your outward physical self certainly complicates things, it isn’t the only reason that you can be confused.
(If it were, psychiatrists would have far less work to do. But I digress.)
So if you have someone in your life who has something different about him or her — whether it’s religion, politics, race, creed, gender identity or anything else — what I want you to do is simple:
Embrace that person’s diversity.
Don’t shun it.
Anything less is, quite frankly, uncivilized.
Recently, I read “The Grit Factor” by Bob Carney in Golf Digest. “The Grit Factor” talks about many qualities that are needed for self-improvement, including mental toughness, resilience, and a willingness to work on all parts of your game — not just the easy stuff that you already know you can do, but the toughest things, too.
After I read this, I had one of those “aha!” moments similar to when I read The Inner Game of Tennis years ago. “The Grit Factor” has many of the same precepts, to wit:
- The real struggle is inward, with yourself, rather than outward against other players.
- Your principal obstacles are self-doubt and anxiety; once you can get a handle on those, or at least are prepared to deal with them, you can concentrate better on what you’re doing.
- You must believe that everything you do, no matter how long it takes, leads toward your goals.
Mind, there’s a lot more going on with “The Grit Factor” than that, but those principles seemed to make the most sense in a writing and editing context.
Consider that writers spend a great deal of time lost in thought, working either outwardly or inwardly on our works-in-progress. Because we don’t have a way to measure how well we’re doing at any given time, it can be easy to give in to self-doubt (“Is what I’m doing worth anything?”) or anxiety (“Will releasing my next book make any difference?”). So it seems obvious that managing these things is essential…or at least acknowledging these things exist could be beneficial.
Well, if you think that you’re the only writer on the face of the Earth who sometimes struggles with anxiety or self-doubt, it’s easy for that self-doubt or anxiety to stay inside you. Internalized, it sabotages your creative process at a deep level, and it can be hard to get away from that.
What I’ve found that works for me is to admit that yes, I’m anxious about certain things. (For example, right now I’m worried about how long it’s taking me to go over my final edit and come up with a revised first chapter for my second book, A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE.) But so long as I’m making any progress, even if it’s very slow and I can’t necessarily always see it, I have to count that as a win.
Providing I can admit that I’m nervous, I’m able to do a great deal more than when I try to shut it off and just refuse to talk about it. And that’s something I learned way back when I first read The Inner Game of Tennis.
Mind, that doesn’t mean “everything is awesome” (hat tip to The Lego Movie) when it comes to writing. There is a need for honest criticism. Without that, you can’t improve. (“The Grit Factor” discusses how just giving people ego-gratification all the time doesn’t help, though the author puts it a completely different way.) But you don’t need to beat yourself up while you’re working your heart out to improve, either.
If you take away one thing from today’s post, please remember this: As I’ve said before, writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. Be resilient, be persistent, don’t give up, and keep working on your weakest areas.
That’s the best way to win, as a writer or at life.
Only rarely do I find it necessary to talk about a previously unknown individual’s suicide, but the death of Leelah Alcorn (born Joshua Ryan Alcorn), 17, has touched me deeply.
Leelah, you see, was transgendered. Apparently her parents, especially her mother, did not like this. At all.
And that is upsetting, for more than one reason. Parents should love their children as they are, not as they want them to be –whether someone is heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered, that person deserves to be loved by his/her parents. Period.
Unfortunately, Leelah Alcorn did not feel that love. And because of that, she committed suicide.
Why has her death touched me? Partly because of her suicide note on Tumblr, which I’ll get to in a bit. Partly because she was a human being who obviously felt she’d be better off dead. And partly because one of my novels, the forthcoming CHANGING FACES, discusses transgenderism in an unusual way, so I’ve at least considered the issue before.
Here’s some of Leelah’s own words in her suicide note, published posthumously (her words were as she wrote them, but I did bold one section for emphasis on my own):
When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.
My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help.
When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep.
Ultimately, Leelah Alcorn believed that she would never be happy in this world. Because she couldn’t start transitioning, because she was continually called “Josh” or “Joshua” when she already knew she was Leelah inside, because her parents believed that “good Christian values” meant that she should be happy as God (monotheistic, male) made her — as a male, not as a female — Leelah Alcorn took her own life.
This young woman knew in her heart that she was female, just as I’ve always known my entire life that I, too, am female. The only difference between me and Leelah is that I was born female. I never had to fight to become who I was in that regard (fight in other ways, yes, as we all do to become ourselves). And I never had to worry about saving enough money to start the transitioning process, or any of the other things Leelah was obviously worried about in her suicide note.
This is a heartbreaking story, one of the most heartbreaking I’ve ever read. Leelah clearly believed nothing she would ever do was right in her parents’ eyes, and she clearly believed that not being able to transition until age 18 or later (after she’d saved up enough money) would make it impossible for her to find love.
What bothers me most here is that she obviously didn’t know some of the stories I do from pop culture. The role model here that strikes me the most is Chaz (born Chastity) Bono, because he came out to his parents as lesbian early on, but only came out as transgendered (and male) much later. So why didn’t Leelah know the entirety of Chaz’s story? (My guess is that Leelah only had seen Chaz’s “It Gets Better” commercial and maybe one of his dances with pro dancer Lacey Schwimmer on Dancing with the Stars and that’s about it. But it’s only a guess.) Why didn’t Leelah know about Christine Jorgenson, born George? Why didn’t Leelah know about transsexual tennis star and ophthalmologist Renee Richards?
All of them — all — transitioned to their proper sex later than age 18. And all did so successfully. All found at least a few lovers and friends who accepted them. And all of them, eventually, found their faith — whether it was in themselves or in God/dess is immaterial.
Leelah Alcorn did not have to die. She did not have to feel like a failure to her parents. She did not have to believe she’d be “Satan’s Wifey” (the original name of her blog on Tumblr, though apparently later she changed it to Lazer Princess) by dying and declaring exactly who and what she was.
She did not have to feel unloved, unwanted, bereft of hope and friends.
And for those who dismiss this as a typical teen suicide story and believe she would’ve grown out of it — well, you’re probably right, but how does that change anything?
A young woman is dead today at least in part because her parents apparently would not accept her for who she was. Her friends were not strong enough to accept her, either. And she, herself, was ultimately not strong enough to stand up to years of unrelenting criticism from her parents, so-called friends, and idiotic “therapists.”
Somehow, as Leelah Alcorn herself said, we must do better than this. No more LGBT youth should be treated this way. Ever.
Lest we have even more heartbreaking stories like this.
Folks, it’s no secret that I am a fan of Southern country/rock singer Craig Wayne Boyd. His time on NBC’s The Voice was in some ways magical, especially considering his eleven-year odyssey in the music business. And that he made it all the way to the end, and then actually won The Voice, was just that much more special.
What I found in Craig Wayne Boyd’s story were a number of things. Persistence. Faith, not only in a higher power, but in himself and his talent. And the drive to succeed against all odds.
Consider, please, that Mr. Boyd has said in several televised interviews that he considered quitting music altogether not too long before he auditioned for The Voice. And he knocked around Nashville and the touring circuits for eleven long years, singing his heart out, with talent and drive and dedication — but all of that garnered him very little.
Or so it seemed at the time.
Because in retrospect, what Mr. Boyd was learning all that time was to have faith in himself and his talent. He was also learning to perform, and the limits of what he could do and what he could — and couldn’t — control.
This is something we all need to learn. Because like Craig Wayne Boyd, we cannot control what other people do. We can’t control who will take notice of us, who will show up at our gigs, who will buy our books and/or recordings, or who will care about what we’re doing.
All we can control is what we do and how we do it. That’s all.
And that’s why being persistent is so very, very important. You don’t know when the next audition you do will result in a major breakthrough (as was the case for Craig Wayne Boyd). You don’t know when someone will read what you’re writing and decide it’s wonderful and tell all his friends, because you don’t know when your big break will come.
The only thing you do know is this: Once you stop trying, you have absolutely no chance of doing whatever it is you want to do.
That’s why I’ve said over and over again that you cannot and should not give up. Because you don’t know what’s around the corner…for all you know, it might just be your big break.
Folks, I am glad Craig Wayne Boyd has lasted another week on NBC’s “The Voice.” I’d told myself if he made it through, I’d write about him again…but this time, try to explain just what I see in Mr. Boyd, and why I think him continuing on is a positive example for everyone — not just other singers or musicians, but everyone.
First, I believe someone who has talent should be encouraged. Mr. Boyd has talent — loads of it. He has a huge, yet smooth baritone voice, and he only rarely goes off-pitch (and then, seemingly, only for a microsecond; just long enough to let us all know he’s human, then he’s back on again). He is a consummate musician who does everything right.
Second, Mr. Boyd’s success to date on “The Voice” shows that sometimes, you just need the right opportunity.
Third, and by far the most important, is that Mr. Boyd is persistent. He refuses to give up on himself and his talent. And because of that, he’s finally getting his time to shine.
You see, persistence matters. Without it, Mr. Boyd wouldn’t finally have been able to grasp this opportunity — the right opportunity for him — and he wouldn’t be on the cusp of major stardom.
I think we all could learn a lot from Mr. Boyd’s career to date. He’s had ups and downs. He’s been an opening act, he’s toured the country (see this article for more details), he’s been little-known, and he probably wondered what he had to do to get a break.
Now, he finally has one.
As Blake Shelton, his coach, said last night during “The Voice” results (my best paraphrase, as I don’t have a transcript in front of me), “I don’t know how Craig isn’t already a star, how he was overlooked.”
I don’t, either. But I’m glad he hung in there and seized his opportunity when it finally arrived.
Because he deserves it.
Let that be a lesson to everyone in the value of persistence, along with the stalwart refusal to give up on yourself. (As far as I’m concerned, Mr. Boyd is right up there with Vinny Rottino in that regard…fortunately, music is unlike baseball, and Mr. Boyd should be able to have a long career.)
Edited to add:
I’m not the only one who feels Mr. Boyd should never have had to go on “The Voice” and should already be a major star (as I said in my prior blog on this subject).
Take a gander at Lyndsey Parker’s column over at Yahoo Music:
…Craig is untouchable in this competition. He’s a pro. He’s a golden god. He should have landed a record deal years ago, and it’s almost downright embarrassing that he had to go on The Voice in the first place.