The relationship between love and safety is a profound one, and one that came to me rather late in life.
I was a gregarious child that had a natural affinity for easily expressing love, affection, and openness. Perhaps that is true for most children. I can only speak of my own personal experience. I loved laughing, cuddling, talking, touching. I was a feminine male-child, and those were my most prevalent attributes. I was, as I was called frequently, a sissy. I lived way to the left of gender expectation, and it was troubling to my family, my authority figures, and to most people around me. The tribe in which I lived knew there job well and performed it with generationally practiced precision: they needed to beat me into submission and make me into the man the system demanded I be.
I was unintentionally stubborn. Something within me clung to the natural expression that was my authentic self. My tender heart was soft and open. My language was gentle, kind, and delivered in a high and melodious octave. My open heart connected easily to the hearts of others. Empathy was easy for me. I could embrace others pain and felt it was my purpose to listen, to feel, to allow, to compassion. I held a space of safety for people even at a young age. It felt safe for me to love. It felt right and true.
Eventually the tribal intolerance began to teach me that it wasn’t always safe to love. That love had conditions. That my natural expression was unacceptable; it was deemed by most to be unnatural. The family said it was so. My peers and teachers said that it was so. My church said that it was so. I was told that God said that it was so. That was the ultimate wound.
And so began my toughening up. So began my withholding. While my heart longed to love it did so behind the barriers of pretense and defense. It was no longer safe to love. Love meant rejection. Love meant abandonment. Love meant you have to hide in order to remain or even survive. I shut down and covered up. I lowered my voice and tried to add swagger to my steps. I joined the ranks of the deadened ones. I was veiled and inauthentic but on the surface I was safe.
It took a long time and a lot of tears to recover that soft and gentle self. The work isn’t done, but today I am largely free. Today I am open and I am safe in here. I do not and will not conform. I will not become less than my natural loving expression in order to belong to a club I never wanted to join. My safety now is in my own free expression of love. People can judge me, criticize me, demean me, and take away my earthly rights but they can never again force me to shroud what is natural and authentic to whom I am. Internal safety is what matters most, and loving expression is why I am here.
My voice is back to where it belongs, and I am very frequently called mam on the phone. I sometimes calmly correct them. Most often I simply smile. I am back to easily laughing, cuddling, talking, and touching. Oh, I still wince from time to time. It is a good reminder to open up and to celebrate my return to me.
So if I am a sissy I am content to be one. It is a small price for being safe in love.