October 1, 2008


Last week, Isis went home on America's Next Top Model. So disappointing, whether you're part of the transgender community or just like rooting for the underdog.

The judges said they thought she was withdrawing more and more as the competition went on, afraid of standing out. Can't blame her, with some of the recent challenges requiring her to show more than she might be comfortable with, and certain people in the house feeling that she didn't belong there. When Isis reflected on how she felt she had a stronger backbone, I found myself thinking, what if I was in her shoes? As in, living in a house full of people who knew my secret, and were not required to accept me on the basis of being family or close friends. How could I cope with living each day knowing nine or ten other people might be constantly judging me? The fact that Isis volunteered to do it is pretty brave.

As I've said before, I can't relate fully to the challenges of people like Isis. What I can identify with is having a physical secret that, if known, would not just call into question my attractiveness, but my gender--my "correctness" as a human being. It's not "right" for a woman to have a beard, not normal.

Of course, people might not think those thoughts exactly. They might just think "Ew" and move to the other side of the street. They might phase me out. They might tell their friends and have a good laugh. And how bad would that be, really? To let the close-minded people think their close-minded thoughts? It would weed out the undesirably acquaintances pretty efficiently.

In theory.

In practice, who wants people to think negatively about them? Everybody--everybody--wants to be accepted.

So Isis left the competition because she was reverting into a shell, shying away from the brazen attitude that could have brought her closer to success. There could be a lesson there for all of us who are ashamed of ourselves for our so-called imperfections. If Isis had continued on and reached her goal, becoming a top model, what would people have thought of her then? There would still be some who would wrinkle their nose at what she used to be, but in the eyes of society as a whole her perceived imperfections might be eclipsed by her fame. Famous people can get away with anything and still be liked and accepted by some.

But what about the rest of us? What if the greatest success we could wish for would be a home, a car, a job you don't hate, a loving husband, maybe children, dogs, a hobby you're good at? That's hardly the bringer of imperfection-eclipsing fame.

So, guard the secret and cope in silence? Or be open and deal with others' censure? Probably depends on if you're happier as a private person, or a public one. And on a great deal of courage, too.

Either way, though, you do not want your challenges to stop you from doing what you love to do.

No comments: