I, along with countless other folks, watched the Bruce Jenner interview last week.
Conversations about it are going on everywhere.
Coffee shops. Sports bars.
Part of what is spurring the fascination of the conversation is, of course, the complexity of the transgender experience. People trying to put themselves in Bruce Jenner’s shoes. Even if just for a moment. Men and women who have admired his physical and mental prowess. Now hearing about pieces of his real life. Wondering what it would have been like to have known “he” felt like a “she” since childhood.
This all-American, strappingly-handsome sports “hero” would have felt more natural, more like herself, as a woman.
We are segregated from the beginning by our gender. Blue versus pink. “Boys in this line, girls in this one.” We watch our parents. How they dress. What they do. We learn how to be a woman or a man from them. Or our older siblings. Then our friends.
What must that be like for someone who had the feelings Bruce Jenner had? And then cannot talk about them? Innately sensing that they would not be understood. Accepted.
In fact, quite the opposite.
I am wondering if there is another factor that could be important.
Why we find this conversation so intriguing.
A woman in therapy said something to me the other day that has been said countless times.
“If people knew this about me, they would laugh at me. They would think I am ridiculous.”
From a guy… something similar.
“I didn’t think I could ever say these things. I’ve never told anyone. I was afraid it wouldn’t make sense.”
Both these people, in their lives outside of therapy? You would never know they were dealing with anything.
The first was a mother of three. Very active with her kids and their activities. Attractive. Married with a part-time job.
Yet burdened with severe anxiety. She finally has come to therapy because she is losing the battle. Her life, although no one can really tell (except her husband), is getting smaller and smaller.
“I am afraid of everything.” Afraid to fly. Afraid to drive on the expressway. Terrified something will happen to her children. As they grow older, she is becoming more and more afraid of letting them make their own choices. Go into others’ homes.
The second. A successful professional who had suffered a tremendous personal loss years before. A spouse’s suicide.
Who had never talked about his own grief. In all its phases. His life had been chaotic because he had not realized the consequences of not doing so. Several unhappy relationships. But again… “Lots of people marry and divorce several times these days.” Or that is they way he had justified it…
We can see in Bruce Jenner’s struggle – our struggle. With our own secrets.
And a fear of exposing our vulnerability.
Perhaps our secrets, our layers are not as dramatic or psychologically intense as those of transgenders. I do not want to discount what must be an horrifically confusing way to emerge as a human being.
We can admire his courage. For telling his story. For leading the way toward greater empathy for transgenders. For risking the admonishment, ridicule and hatred he may incur.
I will hope that he is also paving the way for more to realize that telling your story, peeling back a layer or two, can be a gratifying and healing experience.
Jenner said, “My story was the real story,” as he was somewhat ironically and humorously referring to the whole Kardashian television hullabaloo.
[tweetthis]Whatever drama is going on in your life, your own back story is what is really important.[/tweetthis]
Your secret story.
Whatever you go to bed remembering. What you have nightmares about. When you finally get a minute to yourself, what jumps into your mind. What you need a drink to try to forget.
You can feel better.
But you have to tell that story. To someone who knows how to help.
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