Birth doesn't necessarily grant us personhood. Our daily interactions constantly validate us as people. There is a great quote from Judith Butler that explains this complicated relationship between the self and the other. She says,
Lets face it. We're undone by each other. And if we're not, we're missing something. If this seems so clearly the case with grief, it is only because it was already the case with desire. One does not always stay intact. It may be that one wants to, or does, but it may also be that despite one's best efforts, one is undone, in the face of the other, by the touch, by the scent, by the feel, by the prospect of the touch, by the memory of the feel. And so when we speak about my sexuality and my gender, as we do (and we must) we mean something complicated by it. Neither of these is precisely a possession, but both are to be understood as modes of being dispossessed, ways of being for another or, indeed, by virtue of another.
And how lovely it can be to be dispossessed by another, if they are tender and fair, and how amazing to repossess yourself.
These intricate webs of connections pulling and pushing us into a new day. But as a trans person, a person outside the socially acceptable modes of expression I find myself often trapped in these webs of connections. The webs of you aren't, you can't, you won't, invalidating my lived experiences.
Ever since I can remember someone has been telling me I'm not who I think I am. Recently, I've been told I'm not a daddy despite the sleepless nights, the cuddles, the poopy butts, the laughter, the soothed tears. Despite the child that lives in my home calling me just that.
For me and for most trans people, our personhood is often invalidated by a simple phrase 'You aren't a man.' Our relationships are ignored with 'You can't be a husband.' Our loved deny with 'You won't be my son.' These tragedies of the tongue can undo someone's personhood. If I'm not his daddy, if I can't be her husband, if I won't be their son, then what have I experienced? What were these attachments? What was this perception of my experience in this role as his daddy, her husband and their son?
When we invalidate someone's lived experience we eliminate their personhood. We eliminate them. I feel often eliminated. A ghost. The roles I've lived seem like fiction. Frankly, it scares me to embrace any role too tightly because with a few words I can feel it slip from me. But most days, I know that I have to validate this experience for myself. I am his daddy, I am her husband and I am a son.
I leave you with this, when you hear you aren't, you can't and you won't, remember that is someone trying to invalidate your experience and I say you are, you can and you will.
Read more of Leo's work at leocaldwell.com