“Real freedom is being free to be who we really are” says Épicène quoting Don Miguel Ruiz. But who are you? And are you free to be that person in public?
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
The transgender association Épicène has chosen to highlight a quote from the Mexican author, Don Miguel Ruiz, who says (my translation), “Real freedom is being free to be who we really are.” Of course, such aphorisms can be discredited cheaply enough by taking them to the extreme. But to do so would be to miss the point. Épicène have no doubt chosen this sentence because it reflects their goal in wanting to be recognised and accepted in society as the gender they are convinced they are and tacitly reflects the joy of being free to openly be that person.
But who are we? There are many, many convenient labels that people can use to define who they are: girl, boy, transgender, gay, straight, tall, short, slim, fat, intelligent, dim, plumber, teacher, policeman, politician,… the list is endless. Labels are shortcuts that might be reassuring for many, but just as easily limiting if not imprisoning for others. And when it comes to expressing who we really are, a combination of labels often falls woefully short.
Lost in ambiguity
So who are you? Are you sure you know? I certainly don’t. Nor does my character Peter in the Boy & Girl Saga, although he’s struggling to understand. Okay, he dresses and passes himself off as a girl, living amongst a group of girls as one of them. He’s helped in this by being of that ambiguous age when he can be seen as either boy or girl. But he has no wish to ‘become’ a girl, even if such a transformation were possible in the 60s when his story is unfolding. It’s girls’ clothes and the desire to feel ‘girlish’ that holds sway over him along with an admiration for the strength and wisdom displayed by some girls. As he explained to his girlfriend, Kate, he might want to appear to be a girl, but in no way does he want to relinquish the one thing that, above all, singles him out as a boy. It is probably symptomatic that, for all his flower-print dresses and long hair, he choses not to give up his male birth name.
The freedom that Ruiz talks of in his aphorism necessarily implies openly being who you are, of being able to ‘come out’ without fear of ridicule or violence. At home, Peter could only dress in secret. The violence of his mother, sister and others on learning he borrowed his sister’s clothes was life-threatening. Only later, surrounded by a community of girls that accepted him as he was, was he able to live his life to the full, although still needing to ward off the many outsiders who condemned his ‘transgression’.
Living with a deep-seated doubt
Peter is a pretty self-confident person but, despite that, there is still a deep-seated doubt. You might call it a painful rent in his feeling of being. How can he feel justified or validated in being who he is, especially in relation to others, when he not only doesn’t fit accepted categories, but he doesn’t fully understand who he is? In a less confident person, shyness and uncertainty would probably have driven him to take refuge at the fringes of society. It is the support of Kate, the love of his life, and being accepted into a community of girls that make what would otherwise be a serious shortcoming not only liveable but a challenge to be explored.