Maybe we were all surprised at the sudden re-emergence of the Madeleine McCann story. Not because she’s forgotten, but because it seemed no-one knew what else to do. Then 192 missed leads were identified, a photo of how she would look today, and then a clear statement from the Portuguese police that there was no reason to reopen the case.
The case. Madeleine is a case now.
This morning I listened to another mother whose son, then aged 15, disappeared from a railway platform on his way home from school over 30 years ago. It reminded me of another programme on missing persons a week earlier, outlining all the problems of not being able to deal with a death and grieve properly. Even the slightest, tiniest hope, causes agonies over and again, because there is no closure. How could anyone give up on a loved one just because of the passing of time? Death, even a reason or possible explanation, is better than living with the eternal possibility of restoration.
These are not files. These are not cases. These are people, and there are maybe a quarter of a million people go missing each year. 99 per cent are resolved within a year, which means every year over 2,000 remain missing, with an unsurprising bulge in the data in late-teens people, and another around mid-life. (Source: Missing Persons Bureau)
But it was the link between this kind of non-bereavement and the many stories that keep coming up among trans people (and LGB too) that struck me today. Real people who finally own up to themselves, their innnate birth identity and a lifetime of disorientation, and achieve what I describe as authentication, only to be rejected by those closest to them. Terrible stories of parents disowning children, partners disowning the other, and yes, described as bereavement in both directions.
I had a weekend of considering bereavement and missing persons.
For I too am a bereaver by losing my old male identity. Yes, I have ‘killed off’ the persona formerly presented as me. I didn’t exactly ask permission, because in the end it could not be negotiated. It wasn’t like an argument over who has the car, or whether to watch football or domestic makeovers, or whether I like a coat that you don’t. It was about my fundamental authenticity. At one level it is all about change (and therefore loss) whilst at another level there is no change at all. Inside, as so many of us always say, there is ‘me’, full of all the same capacities, emotions, intentions and aspirations – and love.
And so there is a missing person. Put me in a file, call me a case, let me be un-dead, and I shall still be pleading from inside that thin dark space: ‘I am here!’.
And who put me there really? I did. Why?
I’m in that missing persons file because it’s the only place where I am truly me, where I can clothe my inner with respectability. And as much as I call, write or strive to make contact, the only thing that is wanted back is the inauthentic outer that was taken away. Yes, some missing persons have a reason to disappear, and can find no other way out. Find me as I really am, by all means, but don’t live in expectation of the old persona’s return.
I want to be found. Not the old outer persona – if that is what is wanted, then it isn’t me you want at all. You want something that I am not, more than the someone that I am. And the someone isn’t a missing person at all.
No-one chooses to place themselves in a position of becoming bereaved either. But I have done that too. It hasn’t happened to me, it is a direct consequence of finding out the truth about myself and acting on it. My mental picture is that of a dedicated worker who has been a model employee and a real contributor, helpful and achieving all through a long career. Then HR turns up with your original, yellowed, 30-year old application form and says: ‘You never had the required degree did you? I’m afraid you aren’t qualified for this job so I’m terminating your employment. Clear your desk and go.’ Yes: I am saying that HR has a choice – policy or value, whereas you can never go back a lifetime and get the qualification you never had. Was the career performance no qualification at all?
I am not bitter. After all I have found myself, and there can’t be a much bigger goal in life than that. But I am disappointed about that qualification which would entitle me to continued partnership. And these are just words after all, that I will hear back to me and must let go.
My happy note in the midst of this was finally releasing the agony and achieving my first public concert looking more glamorous than I have ever before as a trumpet player. I can’t express how deep that ran in me, even if I can’t share it quite as I would like.
(Who remembers where that comes from? Ideal for a blog. And it comes from Threshhold of a Dream. How appropriate.)