Like a ship lost at sea

I still don’t know what I am, but I know what I’m not.

Art by Sofia Angelini and Ella Walters-Adams

Our personal political beliefs are often a function of social disposition. The friendships you form and the cliques you find lead you to a certain outlook, as you exchange ideas and share experiences — what you think, and ultimately believe, is tied to who you interact with.

Of course, this is really just about myself. I’m presuming that what is true for me must be true as a general rule. All of my beliefs seemed grounded in something, but in retrospect so much has been misguided. I’m only eighteen, going on nineteen — I’ve thought too much, found too much of it wrong. Was I really thinking? Who did I listen to, who didn’t I listen to? Why was someone as anxious as I was so emboldened to speak in support of people and ideas that have become increasingly distant from me?

Here’s a story you haven’t heard before. I grew up in a conservative environment — as a kid, I said awful, bigoted things to some of the few friends I had, and physically hurt them too. Now, I define myself in opposition to that environment. I still don’t know what I am, but I know what I’m not. I’ve presumed to know too much, and there’s a world of noise which distracts from being kind to all. 

I joined the Liberal Democrats, a small right-libertarian party, at sixteen. I left to join the Liberals shortly after. They accepted me after I sent them my blog, despite a general rule that one must wait a while after leaving another party to join the Liberal Party. Honi accepted me after I sent a few articles from the same blog and hid many others. Funny that.

I’ve written to many politicians over the years. Some of them were, and continue to be, disgraceful, and some of the views I expressed were too. Mark Latham wrote back to me the first time I emailed him; I got his secretary when I wrote a while later, cautioning him against his transphobic views. Conscience develops slowly, it seems.

I can only explain where I am today by explaining the people I know. Friends who are kind, receptive, so amazing — and politically progressive. In this way of thinking, there is self-betterment, something elusive within the reflexive dismissiveness of change endemic to conservatism. If it weren’t for them, where would I be? There is hope and joy, deserting the past to live as a rolling stone, defining yourself as you realise you wish to be defined as you go along. Who has opened your eyes, or freed your conscience? 

I was fortunate enough to cover the Trans Day of Visibility rally for Honi in heavy rain, worried my laptop in my drenched tote bag would short-circuit. Thousands of people turned up because they care about the right — whether for their own or others’ sakes — for everyone to be comfortable in their own skin, to be happy and safe. I thought of myself and the people I know for whom this right is personal. I thought of the family troubles I’ve had recently, for having a conviction for trans acceptance and liberation, for a world where people can be authentic, something that remains a radical and repulsive concept in the minds of all too many.

I have always been lost and I am still lost. I have no coherent ideological system but I know I want to do what’s right. My beliefs seem to have changed faster than the weather, but for all my shifting opinions, there are things — cultural in nature — I remain stubborn on. I have a lingering sense of support, even pride, for a system I’ve been told is responsible for our plights, but like many am frustrated by it. Moreover, I won’t ever figure out what I think on my own, because I can’t figure out who I am on my own.

To your probable relief, I’m not with the Liberals anymore. I rejected the idea of loyalty to a faceless machine and I see there was never any point to it. They serve their own interests. 
All kinds of self-development follow from being truthful to ourselves. Listen to the fictional John Lennon in “Yesterday”, and “tell the truth to everyone whenever you can.” Seek out people who fascinate, interest or comfort you, and remember we’re all part of one another. In time you and I might figure it out, or realise it’s okay to feel just a little like a ship lost at sea.