Keeping up appearances

In what ways are trans people like disabled people?

The woman appears to hold herself rigid, and says that if she let go of control she would show tics. I have not heard of her condition before. She says that people wonder if she has Parkinson’s, and when someone encourages her to just let her body do that, she says it is painful. I don’t know if the movements themselves are physically painful, or if they are emotionally painful.

For those who can do it, holding in a tic seems to cost effort and energy, and give a sense of fear that the tic will prove uncontrolable, though that can be managed: someone might, wanting to seem dignified, control the tic but be prepared for it to come out. And, alternatively, stimming can relieve pent-up stress, but someone might want to avoid stimming, again so as not to appear different. Stimming is not a tic. It is experienced as something one might choose to do, or feel free to do in some places, less free to do in others, which relieves tension.

Dignified. Or, apparently normal. People whose limbs are twitching are seen as weird, and I do not want to seem weird.

-Please feel able to be like that here. People are welcome here exactly as they are.

And still she does not want to, and perhaps the pain is physical.

It’s a social rule, and here we can change the social rule. Elsewhere, fitting in, appearing normal, is highly prized. Well, moving through a shop or high street you don’t really want strangers paying too much attention to you, and being in a social group is different. We are here to be together, so being yourself is more highly prized.

I suppose if you were still uncomfortable with your disability, still in mourning that it had come on, still regretting the loss of complete ease in appearing normal and desperate to Keep Up Appearances because you feel others will judge you for it because you judge yourself and are not aware you are judging yourself because it’s too much to admit but are projecting-

then you might invest a lot in suppressing the tic, even in the most accepting social group. I do not see they accept me because I do not accept myself. I am still trying to pretend to be normal.

I wanted her to have the right to Appear Normal, to suppress her tic, if she wanted. It’s all very well to say Be Yourself. You are Welcome as you are here. Well, I am not disabled so that is not a difficulty for me, but it might be-

if she feared having let her control go, she could not resume it in less accepting spaces, for physical or emotional reasons

if letting go the effort might be that relief that releases all the pent-up misery of the loss, of having this new burden.

And it’s still all about how you appear. If it were completely OK to show a tic, there would be no problem. There is only a problem because there are places you can show your tic, and places you can’t.

Can’t? Well, you won’t die. There is inhibition within you, and social sanction from without, though part of the inhibition is imagining the social sanction is greater than it would be.

I mention all this because I wanted to protest what I felt was subtle social pressure to show her tic. We can be fully ourselves here, and you have to prove that to everyone by showing your tic. The non-disabled people have the option, whether to share or not, and might share something they feel a little uncomfortable about, stretching a little way outside the comfort zone, but you have to share your tic, however uncomfortable about it you are. My response was, well I am trans, and I am not going to take off my wig.

Because at least for me, the way I present is about appearing normal. I don’t dress androgynously. I don’t present male any more, so I present clearly female, which involves wearing a wig, however accepting the social spaces I enter are. And why would I want to show off my bald heid onywye? But if I could show off my bald head, then I could show off my character, without need to fit the box marked Trans Woman, and dress in a way to express my self, rather than my femininity.

RISDM 58-162

5 thoughts on “Keeping up appearances

  1. Not an expert. But your friend’s condition sounds to me like Tourette.

    My disability is arthrogryposis — congenital and I can’t hide it. In socially anxious situations I sometimes find myself accentuating the visible aspects of my condition. I don’t know where that comes from. Maybe the old Bugs Bunny cartoons where Bug’s uses the line “You wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses?”

    My utopia looks a little like yours. Where the level of social acceptance is such that we don’t have to present a face to meet the faces that we meet. Unless we choose to. I do not expect to live that long.


    • “Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door”- Everyone does it. Anxiety- I link it to social dominance rituals of other primates. Manifesting anxiety is being non-dominant. If both are dominant, they will fight. If neither is dominant, they might co-operate.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Both, Yes, l thought of Tourettes too, which comprises more than just physical tics often. My disability is Dyspraxia which comprises social as well as physical clumsiness and l do try hard to overcome it, but often don’t succeed. It involves me in many apologies and much self-criticism, but fortunately Quakers value honesty, so it is not such a problem there and my splurges during meetings are thus accepted. Kate


    • I would not want to diagnose her disability, I am writing about how I react to it rather than the thing itself. Your “splurges”- that does not sound like an accepting word to me, more a tolerating one, a gift made from kindness rather than valuing you with Love. We judge and evaluate each other constantly. There is tolerance, there is acceptance, and then there is- something more than that. Seeing the positives without seeing anything as negative, perhaps. Seeing a human being as valuable without judging any aspect of her.

      This is what happens: they see a “splurge”, they don’t like it, they judge it, then they decide that it is bearable, they accept it. That seems a lot of work to me. Better to see a human being, value the human being. The “splurge”- well, it’s not bad, it’s not good perhaps, it’s not really relevant.


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