I don’t want to be told how resilient I am. I am resilient, but I don’t want to live a life where it’s required of me.
Resilience is the process of overcoming adversity and the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
Life can be difficult for trans people. Yet we’ve overcome all of it because we have to. But wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to live lives of resilience? What if life was soft and comfortable and easy?
Recently, I was part of a meeting at work preparing for an upcoming conference. They were discussing holding a workshop about mental health with the theme of resilience. Something in my body tightened up upon hearing that. I don’t know what it was, but I didn’t like the idea of having another mental health session about fostering resilience. When I hear that, I think, “Why should life be so hard that we need to foster resilience?” Instead, I’d like to ask, “How can we make life easier so that we don’t have to teach people how to be tough?”
People think of the trans community as a resilient community, which is true, but it’s not the compliment you think it is. When someone says, “You’re so resilient,” what I hear is, “You’ve lived a hard life. You can handle anything I throw at you and you won’t break. You’ll bounce right back because you’re so tough.”
I’ve been through tough times. I have resilience. I can bring up those old resilience-building skills that are now ingrained in me should the need arise. When life gets tough for me, I have tools in my mental health toolbox that I can reach into and utilize. It’s there for me when I need it.
But I don’t want to need it. When we are chronically stressed, and under-resourced, and underpaid, and overworked, and worried about life’s everyday necessities, we constantly need to tap into our resilience to survive — making it one day more, one minute more — until things get better. To live that way, constantly being resilient, isn’t healthy. I’m not saying that resilience doesn’t have a place in our lives, because it does. It comes in handy, but it’s no way to live, and I don’t think it’s necessarily something we should be fostering at professional conferences. The audience for these conferences is health and human services professionals — the individuals who could be assisting trans individuals to navigate various social services programs. Should we really be teaching these professionals how to help their clients foster resilience? Shouldn’t we be striving for something better?
Do you know that sometimes people who have been through so much hardship do not know what it’s like to not be resilient? They are so used to striving and struggling and working and waiting, that the idea of living a comfortable life is beyond their realm of possibility. We’re spending time teaching people how to help members of communities who’ve gone through, or will go through, hard times how to be more resilient, when we should be changing the system so that they don’t have to live lives of resilience. Instead, we can imagine and then create lives of comfort, peace, and ease, and start to live those lives without guilt.
No matter what, there will always be hard times some of the time. People will die, economies will shift, relationships will end. We can foster resilience for these types of adversity. But let’s not pretend that trans people aren’t already resilient. Because we are. Just get the obstacles out of our way so we can move on.
Atticus Ranck (he/him/his pronouns) works in the Education and Training Program of the AIDS Institute for the New York State Department of Health. Atticus identifies as a trans man and he is married to a trans woman. Together, they are raising two puppies and a cat and happily live in rural upstate NY. Previously, he was the Director of Transgender Services at SunServe in Wilton Manors.