What do we expect from knowing ourselves as people? As we grow older, often not wiser, we expect this self knowledge to become something. To become more than when we were younger. Sinatra talked of doing things his way, an inscrutable desire to shape the world to his will. Is this what it means to get older, especially when the world is not you shaped. Or, if you are queer, trans, or fall outside of the arbitrary understanding of normal, does knowing your own self become a matter of shaping your own pocket of reality to your own form.
Being queer, growing older as a queer person, is as much defined by what the world tells you that shape should look like as it is about experiencing it. There is no guide to being queer, no school teaching you how to love or dress or desire as a queer person, let alone someone who is trans or gender queer. The world, all versions of the world, wants you to conform to a shape that is both alien and ill fitting. It wants you to become something other than who you are.
Your way, the shape of you, is threads hanging in the vast tapestry of life. People, places, books, movies, snatched glimpses, conversations in forums. To become something more than simply the self they wish to shape you is an act of rejection, or an act of embracing. Or, quite possible, an act of shedding your former self and walking down to the river of life on your own terms to bathe in its waters. It is not about a forced march into a future ill defined, rather, it is about stepping out of line and seeing your map of the world with your own compass.
Getting old, growing old, is a privilege that seems cloudy and shaded with all the greys the world throws at you. Queerness, at least the queerness I have experienced, adds colour and vibrance. Texture that is chunks of paint slathered over the canvas, formed into patterns requiring steps back to appreciate. My shape, the outline I leave on the world, is less about me and more about this vibrancy I leave behind. Being trans is more than pink, blue, and white — it is teal, orange, ochre, rouge, magenta, fuchia, corn blue… a multiplicity, a riot. It is pushing all the colours the world has to offer to the furthest corners I can reach. I am lucky, I have survived. Some do not. My riches, the riches of a queer life led, are counted in those I impact, not just in how I survive or what my bank account looks like.
This is why I believe it is vital to talk about thriving, not just simply existing. The shape of us, queer, trans, allies, all, should be measured in the quality of life, not just the bare bones that could be thrown at us. To thrive, to feel joy, to know that your shape is perfect for you, is so much more than basic rights or being tolerated. When they say that they respect us or see us as walking lifestyles they reject the beauty and truth within all queer folk, that which is based on an egalitarian equity of shape. No one and no place has the right to impose a version of truth, and no queer or trans person should be treated as other.
Am I wiser for living into middle age? Do I see the world in paler hues than my younger self? Naturally I seek to mentor and help, it is just a part of who I am. Yet, this does not make me right or better. Simply surviving thus far does not make me a better person. The one thing I have learned is that things are much more complex and intricate than my younger self ever saw. My biggest piece of advice to my younger self would be patience and see the intricacies before rushing into things. This has been my biggest lesson in life, to just hold off for a moment and allow things to fall into place, rather than charging forward. My princess errantry was smart once upon a time, but the shape of me now likely tilts are grails far more abstract and requiring far more patience to grasp hold of.
None of this is to say that the shape of you will in any way be the shape of me. Each of us have our own journeys of discovery to undertake, our own queer and/or trans selves to map out. Being kind and gentle to yourself along the way is a valuable truth, for the only person you really are competing against is you. Age does grant you a degree of peace about that, though if you are a smidge like me there is always something to be better at, one more windmill to tilt after. My queerness is as rooted within me as this base desire, yet it took a long time for those roots to take a firm hold. Your roots may well be watered and quenched, they may be tenuous and uncertain. Or you may be a vast forest of queer adventures waiting to happen.
Our queer selves, our trans selves, are far more than anything society can fit us into. Getting old, growing older, becoming the shapes we desire to become or the shapes we accidently morph into, this is part of the joy of life. Only you know what shape that will become and what your desires are. No-one else has the right, or responsibility, to chart out your way. Frank also sang about his kind of town, and for me that is the vast hinterland beyond the cis city on the hill. My shape, my queer shape, is still morphing and progressing, and my way, well I just hope I remain compassionate and less jaded. Your shape is your own, and take pride in being who you are as a person.