It’s an especially important question and one that I believe many people ask themselves from time to time. I recently watched the programme entitled ‘Who are you‘ on Channel 4, where the famous award winning ‘cross dressing’ artist Grayson Perry investigates who people actually are with a view to understanding the spirit or the real person. From a series of interviews with the individuals her creates and then reveals a portrait of how he ‘sees’ them at the end.
One of the people featured in the show is a transgender FTM person called Jazz. The interview particularly with Jazz had obviously a great deal of resonance with Grayson and I was personally touched at how Jazz articulated many of my own past and present feelings and I’m sure the feelings of many other trans people. Jazz had written a poem that he read to his mum and family at his 24th birthday party, the words summed up a lot of what Jazz has been through and going through, an extract from this poem is the following
“… the shell does not accurately show what’s inside of me
I’ve been living in a cage and want to be free
I’ve cried, I’ve screamed, I’ve suffered
But I’ve grown
And you may say you are hurt and you wish that you’d known
But while you were busy living life I was right here dealing alone”
You’ll have to watch the programme to find out the rest, however the words of this poem are so true, the pain and suffering alone. It’s been said you can be in a room full of people and still feel alone, personally and it seems that it’s shared by Jazz and many other trans people the very search to understand and feel verified for who they really are is the loneliness they feel.
I reflected on this and my struggles through life I hung on to the apparent security of routine and safety in the known, all the while shaking in my own sense of self and who I was expected to be, all the while desperate to grow and simply be me, to be allowed to grow and accepted as I changed and grew. A vicious cycle of trying to hold on and keep things as they are to steady me as I felt I needed them to simply stand up as me – selfish in away but just as people need a walking frame after a break whilst they build confidence so did I in many ways.
Grayson, an extremely talented and insightful person asks the question who are you in a kind, yet driven way. The question has to be asked that way to even begin to penetrate the fabric of who we present ourselves as, who we’ve been made to be or who we are performing as. The question who are you, is the question that made me quiver so many times in the past, starting as a whisper but eventually shouting so loud you had to act on it. The ironic thing is we all know the answer really deep down, it seems the voice comes from the seed of who we are, but often we are too scared to climb out of the life we have created, invented, been given, inherited or otherwise. In many people the ‘creation’ becomes the person and that ‘person’ sticks for life on the outside, all that said some people irrespective of how thick the ‘creation’ is, when drunk they act totally out of character and do really odd things. For me that is when the ‘real’ self starts to climb out of themselves through the cracks the booze exposes. In some it can be bitter and angry, in others exhibitionist and risky, all the same the real person is showing at least a bit more.
Grayson talks at the end of the show about the individual being transitory in identity, ‘a life long individual artwork, we feel live and perform it’ it is true.
Jazz said in the poem that he felt like he was living in a cage, the brave ones are those who reach inside and pick up the actual real pieces to make the key to unlock the cage and bravely try and work with them to make a life for the real person inside. They are the true free birds able to sing if they remain brave and true to themselves … duty does not feed the spirit, only bravery to be ourselves will feed the spirit and help us fly.
The sense of resonance about this whole topic encouraged me to write a poem (its a little Cat in the Hat but hey) –
I can do what I can because I am who am I am
I am all of who I am and part who I was
I will be who I will be and some of what I am and what I was
I am part who I was, part who I am, and part who I will be
But today, tomorrow and always one thing remains
I will always be me
All this as always, is only my own whimsical musings at this moment on a topic, later they may be different, tomorrow change some more, but all the same they are simply reflections on my life and life in general as I try to steer my way along this journey of my existance.
Be brave, pick up you and live free.