How do you carry the weight of gender and sexuality?
“How much does your bike weigh?” When I tell them it weighs 65kg, the next comment is usually: “That cycling business is too much like hard work for me.”
I generally respond with: “It’s actually really wonderful. You travel slowly enough to actually see the country and you get to eat whatever you like without fear of gaining weight.”
I wonder whether the people I say this to realise the power of our words. Yes, cycle touring makes me raise a sweat, get sore muscles and brave all kinds of weather as I journey across the landscape. But that’s only a small part of the experience. The vast majority of the time I am happily experiencing the world at a pace slow enough to see the kites catch mice in the grain fields.
These conversations turn my mind to the different ways we experience gender and sexuality. In particular, the weight of the baggage we carry around these aspects of our lives and the words we use to describe them. Diversity of gender or sexuality be experienced differently depending on the words we use to tell ours stories. It can be a burden of blood, sweat and tears. Or it can be a journey of love, colour and self-actualisation.
I turn my mind to the people I know for whom gender or sexuality is a burden. I empathise with the anger, frustration and hurt they express in their daily existence.
For some it seems to create a paralysis that pervades their world. An inability to “cope” with all-consuming thoughts about gender and sexuality create a cycle of unemployment, hopelessness and (for some) substance abuse. When they tell me their stories, the focus is on the blood, sweat and tears.
As I pedal my 65kg bicycle through the Mallee Country, I think back to a time when that was my story. A time when I felt so overwhelmed by depression, fear and frustration that all my stories were about hardship, sadness and pain. I could describe in grotesque detail the way it felt to experience discrimination or rejection.
Until one day I realised I’d become a bore.
I thought about the adventure books and blogs I had begun to read. The authors I liked were those who shared their joys with the odd dash of honesty about the challenges they faced. The ones I quickly discarded were those who whined and complained about the hardships they were experiencing in places I could only dream of seeing. And it dawned on me that it was not the journey or location that determined the colour of the story. Rather, it was the words used to describe it.
So I am conducting an experiment on myself. Before I tell any stories of pain, I try to tell one story of joy. Usually, before the story of joy is over, the story of pain has vanished into a distant memory. Not only about my cycling journey, but also about the baggage I carry as a transman.