Many if not most people in the world have been to an ocean beach at some point in their lives. And two of the things associated with beaches are waves and tides. Waves occur because of the movement of water over the various surface features of the ocean floor as it rises upward towards the beach. Each individual wave builds as it flows toward shore and piles up over the water ahead of it and are generally driven by the winds and ocean currents pushing the water towards the shore. . Tides on the other hand are powered by gravitational pull form the moon and sun and involve a general rising of the sea level as the pull gets stronger and stronger. Over the course of time the water level which might once have seemed only knee deep will rise to engulf the beach up to its high-water mark. Beachgoers who do not pay attention to where they setup their “camp” may find themselves underwater as the inexorable tide rolls in!
In combination the waves and tides can be beautiful and calming with the sounds of the waves breaking being one of the most peaceful sounds of nature. However, at other times, the waves can be overpowering, rising to great heights before crashing back down –crushing anything in their path. Similarly, at certain times and certain conditions, undertows and rip tides can ensnare the unwary swimmer pulling her out to sea or underwater never to be found again.
Sometimes I see the transgender journey as being similar to the above description of the interaction of waves and tides. The waves could represent the various steps on the journey-self-awareness, exploration, venturing out into the world, telling family or friends, etc.) Each of these steps builds on the previous steps and occasionally a mishap will occur- an inadvertent discovery by a family member or friend, being clocked by a stranger or even being attacked verbally or physical for being who we are!
These are the towering waves that try to crush us under tons of water. It causes us to tumble head over heels out of control and can make it seemingly impossible to return to our feet. Sadly there are those who NEVER do, drowning in the depths of despair and depression, they either give up and let themselves slip into the endless depths or they are beaten by others and left to drown. But others are rescued by those who understand and accept the down trodden, lifeguards who risk their own lives and health by trying to help those in trouble. Sometimes they too succumb to the powerful forces that try to tear down things they don’t understand; but more often they are able to HELP the drowning victim return to their journey.
The tides represent the ebb and flow in our journey to acceptance and peace. Just as the tide ebbs and flows, each time moving a LITTLE further onto the shore, so too does our journey lead us in fits and starts toward the ultimate goal of being accepted for who we are and want the world to see-(whether that is full transition or the freedom to dress HOW you want WHEN you want)-without fear of judgment or reprisal.
Don’t Let Setbacks Drown You
There will be many inevitable setbacks where the tide (just as the waves did earlier) may try to pull the unwary swimmer out to sea or under the water’s surface. If the swimmer recognizes the danger they need to realize that you cannot fight it yourself by tackling it head on. You have to swim across the tide until you find yourself on firm footing again. At that point, you can return to your journey toward the shore.
Each step again builds on the previous one and eventually with unrelenting effort and persistence, you can reach the shore and enjoy the fruits of that distant shore for which you have made the long and difficult journey. And again there are lifeguards (friends and counselors) to help you make the journey safely!
Don’t try and make this journey on your own for it can be a long and lonely path , but there is strength in numbers and in community and in being humble enough to admit that you cannot do EVERYTHING on your own. Even the strongest swimmer needs to rest sometime and those are the times when a friend or counselor can help you tread water while you recharge your batteries. Then you can resume your movement toward your goal.
Eventually you’ll reach the water line where the high tide will deposit you. The journey that seemed to take so long may seem to have been only a few moments as you look back at it but by challenging you and letting you see that you can overcome obstacles to reach your goals, you will be prepared for whatever life’s storms may bring knowing you can withstand anything and that you always have lifeguards to help you as well.