The Ask a Trans Woman activist and columnist on the shared truths that have helped her writing and life evolution
By: Lorelei Erisis*/TRT Columnist—
I often ask myself the question, “Why should anyone listen to my advice?” I don’t mean this as self-deprecation or to indicate a lack of confidence. I just think it’s an important question for any public figure to consider, especially writers and politicians.
If you’re a regular reader of this column, or you follow me on social media, have watched me on stage, or just listened to me in person over a glass of whiskey or several, you will know I have a lot of stories. I’ve had a life that could be easily described as adventurous.
In many ways, my life is seriously atypical, I know I’m a bit of an outlier. Stuff happens to me that most people will probably never experience. I like to tell people that being trans is pretty much the only thing about me that is normal. Everything else is very odd! If there’s some strange thing that’s going to happen, it will usually happen either to me, or while I’m around.
Still, in many other ways, I am not so different from you. That’s how I’m able to write a column like this. And it’s the basis for my activism. I try to find the ways I can connect with people. I look for shared experiences, commonalities.
The style of improv I studied is at its heart about trying to find basic human truths. I look for those moments that the audience can recognize and identify with. More often than not, it’s those basic connections, more than anything else, that actually make people laugh, or otherwise moves them emotionally. It’s the recognition of shared truth that makes improv, and activism really work.
The way I usually answer the question I began this column with is to think about those shared truths.
I’ve had a lot of experiences in a wide array of things. I also read a hell of a lot—I always have—on just gender theory or sexuality. I read about politics and media and science and history, literature, old and new, classic and silly. I’m fascinated by how things work. I love the stories of individual people and the larger societies they live in. And I’m always looking for the connections.
Additionally, I read a wide sampling of news from multiple perspectives. I try really hard to not limit the voices I listen to simply to viewpoints I share and agree with. I like to be challenged. I think it helps enormously, when I am faced with people or ideologies that I disagree with, to try to get at the “why” of their arguments. I want to understand, to empathize because I believe that helps me to find those shared things with which we can move forward together. These are the little “ins” that will allow me to make my own argument more persuasive, stronger.
I truly love to be proven wrong by a really good argument. I believe that flexibility is important. Only when I am prepared to say, “I don’t know,” or, “Clearly I was mistaken. Let me reconsider,” only then can I trust myself to be flexible enough to keep learning and growing. Only then can I trust my own expertise enough to share it with others.
And even when I do, you will notice that I try to avoid words like, “all” and “every” in favour of words like “many” and “some.” I don’t like absolutes and I do not presume to tell any other person how they should live their own lives or what choices will be best for them. I only offer my own, well-informed point of view, share the wisdom gained from my own experiences and study. I give you my own stories, and the stories that have been shared with me. Then, I’ll wrap it all up in my own carefully thought out conclusions and considered analysis.
Hopefully you will find in my advice and analysis, some of that recognition I was talking about earlier—some shred of shared human truth.
Perhaps you will find my guidance useful, my stories resonant. Ideally, you will be able to benefit from my experience, find the results of my own studies helpfully illuminating.
Ultimately, what I want is for you to think for yourself. And I mean really think. Pay attention to the world around you and how you are being constantly influenced.
And then make the choices that are best for you and the world we all share, based upon your own informed and carefully thought-out conclusions.
Let my words be a map to show the directions you might go, the roads you might follow. Perhaps we can go down those roads together. I certainly hope so.
If no one else has told you this, know that I trust you and I love you. I believe in you.
You have my promise I will always give you the best advice I can. I’ll keep reading and thinking and having adventures. And when I have something worth saying, you can bet I won’t hesitate to share it with you.
And maybe we will find some of those truths together.
*Lorelei Erisis is an actor, activist, adventurer and pageant queen. Send your questions about trans issues, gender and sexuality to her at: [email protected].