Not Spokesperson

“You are a very articulate and thoughtful spokesperson for transgender people and
for the LGBTQ community in general.”


I was pleased to see Sharon Stuart again this week, a bigendered person whose work with Phyllis Frye on legal issues around transgender has been fundamental to much of the changes that have come in the past decade.

It was very nice that she valued my contribution at the forum we attended.   I really appreciate it when we build each other up rather than tear each other down, spreading the jam around and encouraging the best from others.

When I get called a spokesperson, though, I get uncomfortable.  A spokesperson is seen to represent the views of a group.    When someone who sees themselves as a member of that group disagrees with what the “spokesperson” says, they can get angry and heated.

To me, a spokesperson is an official position, conveying the official view of an organization.   It is a job of service, always accountable to the organization and its values.   I have done that work in the past, speaking with the corporate voice, and while I respect it, there is no corporation backing me now.

I speak for me.   I express my own experience and my own understandings.  Yes, I work hard to make sure that I am aware of and respectful to the experiences and understandings of other transpeople, shaping my words to allow considerate space for their narratives,  but I do not, do not ever, claim to speak for anyone else but me.

There was a time when I wanted to be objective and rational when communicating about trans.   I wanted to be scholarly, professional, distanced.   I wanted to work in theory, not story.

The limits of that approach quickly began to show.   At the core, transgender is about desire, about some deep need of the heart to show its truth.   Transgender is not a clinical issue that can be medicalized or codified, because dissecting it always ends up squeezing the life out of it, and transgender is in that soul, that life.

Trans 101 session that start with separating transpeople have real limits.   So do attempts to create spectrums that try to delineate ranges.   The intent may be good, creating shared language, but in my experience the effect is chilling, taking the real human needs out of the heart of transgender nature.

Transgender people need to tell our stories.   We need to learn to tell them in a broader context, using clear and precise language which keeps our own narratives in respectful relationship with transpeople who make very different choices, choices we would never make for ourselves.

Internalized transphobia keeps us apart.   I asked someone today who was the person who made them the most uncomfortable at the transgender support group they went to last night.   I knew that the person who squicked them the most was the person who was struggling with the same issues she was fighting.   What we resist in ourselves, we find really irritating in others, which tends to make us refuse to respect their choices, even their choices of rationalization and denial.

My own queerness is often either challenging or incomprehensible to transpeople who are still resisting their own queerness.   They end up eliminating, minimizing or surfacing it in their view of me, reducing my narrative to one that supports their own current worldview rather than expanding their vision to respect my story.   They cut me down to their chosen size and shape, which leaves me stung and upset.

I don’t ever claim to speak for anyone but myself.   That is more than enough of a challenge for me to do in this world.

There are people, I know, who do value what I have to say.   They hear my stories and they get clear reflections of their own struggles, experiences and views.    They feel that my words respect and value their own experience of their lives. \

These people want my expressions to be heard more widely, to be more known and understood in the world because they believe that my words will help them expand and explain their views in a bigger world.   My communication resonates with them, so they are willing to grant me the right to be, at least on a limited basis, a spokesperson for them in the world.

One of my first experiences with this was back in 1997 at a local event facilitated by the National Coalition Building Institute.   Many of the transpeople there came up to me and told me how pleased they were to have me speak about trans, and how distressed they were when other participants spoke.  I could support a range, but the other transpeople got squicked by each other.

As gratified as I am that people I respect will encourage me to speak up, lending their support and encouraging me to speak for them in the world,  I know that, in the end, they are the only ones who can fully speak for themselves.     I am not their spokesperson, nor would I want to be, because I value their strong and experienced voices too much to replace them.

This is, of course, part of my resistance to trying to identify transgender as a group identity rather than a queer, individual one.   We each have claimed the contents of our own heart over the expectations and conventions of the world, and those hearts need to sing, to speak, to dance, to draw, to shout, to write, to create their own potent expression in the world, glittering with all the pearls and jewels of a hard, brave and bold personal journey.

When I walk into spaces that are supposed to be trans affirming and trans voices are not valued and aggrandized, I find that chilling.  I do know how many transvoices are muffled or still strangulated with the experience of the closet, know that we each have been broken some by a society that thinks it is appropriate and kind to try and break the transgender spirit inside.   I also know that unless we value the voices of others, we can never really value our own voice.

I speak for myself, not the spokesperson for anyone but me.   I am glad to be seen as articulate and thoughtful, even “eloquent,” glad that others see my contributions as valuable and worth their support, but I do not speak for them.

They can each speak for themselves.   And as long as they stay to the heart, telling their own positive story rather than their rationalizations and connivances,  their negations and dismissals, I am very happy to listen and let their narrative help make my expression of my own story more clear and connected.

Political Suicide

Transgender Day Of Remembrance, (TDOR)the event Gwen Smith started in 1998 (and I helped a little bit at that time too) will  probably be marked in the area again this year.

I probably won’t hear about what is being planned, because the event is coordinated now by professional activists, mostly from a local organization that supports LGBT people of colour and by a statewide political lobbying organization that also is responsible for divvying up state government funds to groups across the state.   I was in the senate lobby when they got a sexual orientation non discrimination act that deliberately excluded protection for gender identity in 2002, promising they would come right back and cover queers.  There will still be no statewide legal protection for trans people in 2014.

These organizations have trouble dealing with individual transpeople, preferring to deal with groups and people who belong to them.   They are focused first on group identities because group identities have political clout that queer individuals never will.   Too queer and you are just going to gum up the works, just like those damn bisexuals who are too creepy to just pick a side and stick with it.

Now, the National LGBTQ Task Force (NGLTF) has decided that TDOR isn’t enough, isn’t the vehicle that serves their needs.  They are having an action on November 18, two days before the annual TDOR, on Trans Lives Matter, a part of their Stop Trans Murders campaign.

I got a pitch on a local list to create an action from a professional trans activist who used to work for the statewide group.   When I asked why they felt the need to do this around TDOR, I got reprimanded for my tone and asked who I was.   Challenging someone’s  standing to speak is the easiest way to dismiss challenges.

Is there an “epidemic of violence and murder targeting transgender people?”   Is it different from the challenges that TDOR has been addressing for the past 16 years?

I was always a challenger to the transpeople are murdered at extreme rates thesis.   I wrote No Jihad in 2006 and included a poem I wrote for TDOR 1999.

Professional activists, though, know what pushes buttons.   They know how to collect and collate power by effective marketing.   That is, after all, their job.

I remember when TBB confronted the head of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) when they addressed Southern Comfort Conference.  He came over and sat next to us, trying to smooth things over.   He was glib and convincing, even after having sold out transpeople in the past to achieve other goals.  I looked at him closely, thinking “My, that is a lovely suit he is wearing.  You know that no transpeople paid for a suit that nice.”

This weekend, I heard a pastor who leads a “More Light” church that claims to welcome LGBT people say that she has a problem with “non-passing transpeople,” especially those who will never pass, because they are too disruptive to her congregation.  I watched a professional transgender organizer from inside her denomination refuse to confront her on the transphobia of that position, the rejection of queer.

The notion that transpeople are only appropriate and useful if they assimilate well into a group identity, merging into current structures, is one hugely transphobic.   It was what kept transpeople hidden, was what doctors enforced when they demanded gender tests before supporting transition, was what so many transgroups demanded for entry.

Jamison Green said it so well.  “When you hear the word trans, open your mind to a person who walked outside of social convention and gendered expectations to claim their own unique path.”

This bold, unique walking away from group identity to be powerfully and purposefully ourselves is both awesome and political suicide.   Politics is a game of numbers, numbers of dollars and numbers of votes, so to keep your budget full, you gotta keep people in line, because having them run around like cats is not useful.

Iconoclasts and bold voices need to be silenced in favour of the public platform.   The organization has to be paramount, and if that means creating competing remembrance celebrations so they can have control over their own, so be it.

Paid lobbyists don’t really want an educated and thoughtful public.   They want a compliant and controlled mass, skillfully marking down strong and contrarian voices as losers, wackos and nut jobs.    You don’t want to be like them, they tell the impressionable, so make sure you are politically correct like us, one of the people in the right, the ones who can look down and dismiss the weak-thinking crackpots.

My crackpot pedigree is strong and solid.   My queer, eremetic, theological bent mixes nicely with the stand up traditions of my father.    I’ve been talking about transgender as a personal journey since 1994 in public, though when I was in eighth grade I refused to give a counsellor an easy code to my identity, saying that my highest goal was to be myself.

If we force transpeople into identities then they can never find their own centre.  For transpeople, the freedom to be non-passing, to be not clearly identified as members of one group or the other, is the only freedom that can lead us beyond history, convention, expectation, social pressure and political demands and allow us to blossom as the unique and brilliant people that exist in our heart.

For professional activists, though, individual transcendence is not what they are out to support.  It’s not what their employers, the people who have political goals, pay them to make happen.   It’s not the way they measure the results of the power game being played by masters.

Wrangling people into compliance with what is being sold is the name of the game, best done with the appearance of real concern and sharing, but only successful when people come to the proper beliefs.   Yes, everyone, share your ideas, and then we will tell you which are right and important.  Mental moulding disguised as consensus building, using social pressure to get you conform your voice to the group, a group led by a sanctified someone who already knows the deeper agenda.

I really wanted to be a pol when I was a kid.   I did serious campaign work at high levels.  I know why my voice isn’t respected by professional hacks & flacks.   They have their job to do, and strong voices just get in the way.   I understand their techniques.  If they can’t be controlled, then they can be left on the margins while the pros gin up the centre, get the group mind moving in ways that achieve planned goals.   If I want to challenge them, then I need to have my own group, some bargaining chips, and that is not where I have been moving.

A flack loves someone with a short attention span who can be influenced by emotion. Someone with a strong personal sense of integrity and a clear vision of their own knowledge and beliefs is much more challenging to all the manipulators, one reason that transpeople who have claimed their own authenticity beyond fear are just easier to marginalize and shut down.

One argument goes that only by riding the coattails of the big, well-funded, professional lobbying organizations can transpeople get what they need in society.

In any case, after years of us being the “too queers” that could be compromised for bigger group goals, the political pros have finally come around to transgender as the cause of the week.  All they need to do to sell it to the country is to present it in a clear, compelling package that their audiences can gasp.

Trans People Matter!  Stop the epidemic of violence and murder against transpeople!”   Send your cheque today to help these abject freaks who threatened with horrible things!

But let non-passing transpeople into your church, where you might have to open to what they offer?   They better learn to fit in better and not scare the children first!

Transgender is a bold claim that the exceptional content of individual hearts matters more than simplified and imposed group identity.

Transgender says that the creativity locked inside our diverse humans is the way that we open up a new future beyond dated conventions.

Or, maybe, transgender is just another device to keep pols and lobbyists working the system for the benefit of…  well, probably not you.

Cute Denied

Cute doesn’t mean anything to an Aspie.

My mother was clear from the start: life was all about her.   We were just put in her life to stop her from being happy.   Everything was put in her life to stop her from being happy.   If we really loved her, we would make her happy.   Failure was the only option in her life, so it was the only option for those around her, too.

My father was always happy and loving. but he was also always disconnected from what other people were feeling.  His primary role was to try and make my mother happy, but that, of course, was an impossible task, because only she could own her own happiness.   When I came back to take care of them for their last decade, my goal was to help my father take care of my mother so she didn’t break him with her needs and demands.

I started having to take care of my parents and siblings from a very young age.  There was no place in my family for a childhood.

Most children, at least those who are not adultified early, get a time when they are seen as cute.    They are loved, enjoyed, and valued just for who they are, not having to worry about doing things right or managing the distress of a parent.   Getting what they need, including love, is not conditional and demanding, rather it is their birthright.

I was in a bar with TBB.   TBB was having a great time, between happy hour and heavy pours.   I was less open, less safe, less relaxed.

“The bartender knows that I belong here,” TBB said to me. “He isn’t so sure that you belong here.”

I wasn’t at all sure I belonged there, either.  The bar is a place where cute reigns, where people let their hair down and just become one of the party.   I have no idea how to do that, how to trust mt own cuteness, because from a very, very young age, cute was denied to me.

Most people can’t imagine the experience of never being allowed to own their own cuteness.   If you cannot believe that you might actually be adorable, how can you ever just let someone adore you?

My sister and I have spoken about this and identified where this deficit cost us dearly, affecting all my siblings.    Not owning our own cute cut us off from other people in a profound and disturbing way.  We could never just trust in our own attractiveness, our own native playfulness, our own cuteness.

There are many deficits that you can make up for with a conscious reconstruction of your life, thinking things through, understanding deep context.   Being denied your fundamental cute, however, is not one of those things.  Counsellors are used to helping people move beyond cute to thoughtful living, but helping people trust in and own their own cuteness isn’t something they know how to do.

I tried to help my sister by shoving my cheek in front of her face as she was leaving, demanding that she kiss it.   She would mock disgust, but she understood that I wanted her to think of herself as someone who was cute enough to kiss someone’s cheek.    I wanted her to feel safer in acting cute.

The lesson of not trusting my own cute has been reinforced in many ways over my lifetime.   I know that people have tried to explain that my performance of self didn’t fit, that I wasn’t really just a crusty curmudgeon, that I was cute on some level, but it was impossible for me to own that, especially when I kept having to go back to my parents and keep my defences in place.

Those defences, of course, were all centred around the denial of cuteness.   I learned early that being cute would get me creamed, so instead of being flirtatious and appealing, I had to be smart, cunning and even manipulative.    It’s not that I wasn’t cute, rather it was that I had learned to not trust cute, seeing it as inherently dangerous and flawed.   I was surrogate-spoused by my mother which reached a zenith with open robes in my teens, unpleasant and terrifying.

People doing “law of attraction” style programs are asking you to depend on your essential attractiveness, your essential cuteness.  For those of us who were denied cute, for whom cute seemed to be a trick, it is easy to see that approach as a steaming pile of kaka.   While any approach can be misused, there are benefits in opening up and trusting your own attraction, your own cute.

Having the cute squeezed out of you, or at least having the freedom to trust it taken away from a very young age, it becomes almost impossible to get it back, to have what most other humans take for granted.   From experience, I tell you that most people don’t understand how anyone could be completely deprived of knowing that, somewhere, they are cute.

When other people go through cute removing transitions — aging, smart, management, transgender, whatever — at least they have a reservoir to return to, some muscle memory of a time when they were cute.   If you got cute punched out of you early, that’s not as simple.

Cute doesn’t mean anything to an Aspie.  It just doesn’t exist on their radar.  Living in a world where other people value cute can be frustrating to them, so frustrating that they get angry at cute and the expectation of it.

My siblings and I not only didn’t have our cuteness valued, we learned early that it was a trap.    I’m comfortable with the fact I learned to want to be respected more than to be liked — I think that’s a good balance — but not learning that I was likeable, adorable, cute left me with a real deficit that still cripples me.

Where does a grown-up go to learn to trust their own cuteness for the first time?

Hater Transcend

A true trans anecdote:

A transwoman, a musician for over thirty five years, transitions to living as a woman in her 50s.

She gets the opportunity to play a three song set in Las Vegas.  Getting up with her guitar, she sings original works.

When she comes off stage, she sees a man waiting for her. tears in his eyes.

“When you came on stage,” he tells her, “I thought you were disgusting.   I started talking with my friends about how we were going to follow you afterwards and beat you up.

“But when you sang those songs, my heart was touched.   I felt ashamed that I had even thought of plans to destroy you.”

“Well,” said the transwoman.   “I’m sure glad I am talented.”

You choose:

1) This is a lovely story about how someone standing in authenticity and singing their truth opened the heart of a hater.

2) This is a horrible story about someone feeling entitled to project their own fears onto a visible transwoman in a dangerous and threatening way.

For transwomen, who almost never have the safety of a group, this is a real experience of life.


It is very challenging to be the queerest person in the room.   That’s not to say that it isn’t valuable to the group, doesn’t have some rewards, but it is challenging.

Because it is so challenging, most people work hard to avoid being the queerest person in the room. They modulate themselves, adjusting to be appropriate for the space, keeping parts of themselves hidden.

While this choice removes contention and challenge in the group, maintaining easy comfort, it also robs the group of much of the capacity that people have to offer.   It removes energy and opportunities for growth.

One thing that visible transpeople do is change the queer boundary.   When people feel the queerness in the room is about three, they will usually work hard to stay at two.   Let a very queer person into the space, a six or seven, and then people can loosen up, show their individuality.   All of a sudden they can relax and show the four that they really are.

For those who want to keep groups quiet and complacent, this is a bad thing.   They want to maintain an enclave for the compliant, not a sanctuary for the creative.

For those who want vibrant, lively, growing and healthy groups, though, they know that moving the creative and queer energy levels up is the only way to keep things fresh and throbbing.    It is the only way to release the most energy in the group, fostering innovation by always affirming the new.

Queer is messy, no doubt about that, just like any other kind of creative expression.   It requires being willing to risk failure in an iterative quest to find what will work.  Queer demands bold attempts and the ability to learn from everything.

Inside LGBT spaces, one of the fundamental challenges is always “How queer is too queer?   How queer is not queer enough?”   Some people tend towards the tame side, working to assimilate, while others tend towards the wild side, being highly individualistic.   It becomes easy for both sides to think the other is just doing it wrong.

The way liberation has happened is always the same.   The icebreakers move the boundaries, and the networkers then move in behind and shore up the gains.  The approaches are interlocking and complimentary, not separate and contradictory.

There is a cost, though, for being the queerest person in the room.

Some people may try to erase and silence you, denying not only your right to speak but also your essential humanity.    They decide that it is not proper to be that queer not proper to show that difference. so taking a way your standing, driving you away. is a holy duty.

If you are the queerest person in the room, people can often decide that you are so strong that you do not need their kindness, compassion and support.   Instead of standing by you they put you on a kind of pedestal, dehumanizing you in the process.

It is a real challenge to support and encourage creative queerness to exist in your group.  The benefits may seem more than the cost if you want to create an enclave, isolated and unchallenging.

If you want to create a sanctuary for the incredibly diverse and potent creativity that humans can bring to the table when they start exposing their gifts rather than hiding them, a place where everyone feels safe to let loose and be there best, is there any other choice than moving the goalposts by deliberately including the queer?

Welcoming Capacity

“As a pastor, I have found,” said one woman, “that if you welcome a person from a place of capacity, engaging what they have to offer, rather than from a place of need, deciding how you can solve their problems with your answers, that they tend to open up more.”


What she didn’t go on to explain was why greeting them with a question — what are you bringing to us? — is so much more difficult than greeting them with an answer.

With an answer, you are asserting your own beliefs, staying in control.

With a question, you are opening to change, being willing and even desirous of having your understanding changed, your group changed by the contributions of another.   You come from a place of openness and vulnerability, expanding your world by adding a new relationship, a new view and new gifts to it.

“What do you want?” a pastor asked me once.

“I want what everyone wants,” I replied.

“Surely everyone wants different things,” he sniffed.

“I want to be seen, accepted and valued for my special and unique contributions to the community.”

He thought for a moment, then agreed.  “Yes,” he said.  “That is what everyone wants.”

The most painful thing about trans is not to be able to give your gifts and have them accepted,” I wrote in 2002.

For me, the essence of queer, of engaging teachy preaching over preachy preaching, is the willingness to open to seeing the world in a new way and being transformed, growing, through that experience.   The preachy way is to impose your own beliefs on the world, but the teachy way is to never stop learning new ways to have your beliefs sharpened and deepened, learning to put your values into practice.

One pastor decided to tell us that she had a bad experience with a non-passing transperson who was just too needy and demanding.  Her question was about how to not have to take on the burden of broken people, even the challenge of entering their journey and helping them find the resources that they need.

I am not safe in any community that seeks to erase my own nature for the comfort of the group.   I understand the pull towards stability and the apparent peace of non-challenge, but I know that is a false and vain comfort.   I am a non-passing transperson and to ask me to work to pass for the comfort of the group is to ask me to conceal and deny part of my truth.

“I was at a service and a transperson read the lesson,” the same pastor said, “and I felt so open, safe and welcomed.   This person crossed many barriers, of class and race and status and was so embraced by the church that I knew that I would also be embraced, that I was safe there.”

The difference between coming into a place where you have to be the one to fight to open the hearts and minds of those around you and coming into a space where those hearts and minds are already open, people having done the work to be inclusive, queer and valuing of the wide possibilities of humanity is heart rendering.   If no one has been able to open them before, what chance do you have?

When we welcome someone from capacity and not need, we expand and build our world, making it a little bigger and a little stronger.   We also make it a little more messy and a little more challenging, but that is always a side effect of growth and healing.    We cannot stay neat and proper and also open to new creation and new compassion.

As a transperson,  the most difficult thing is engaging other people’s fears, as I also said in 2002.  The fear that their neat and comfortable world may be disrupted by people who have walked right through the wall that separates the genders, that they may have to recalibrate what “normal” is to them is one that is very hard for a visibly queer person to engage.    We become the problem, the target, rather than them owning their own fears.

I know I am gifted with much to offer.  I have had to do the hard work of accepting my own queer gifts, that big bold painting as I wrote in 1994.   Finding a way to return those hard won gifts is always a challenge, as Joseph Campbell reminds us.

The gift of gracious receiving
is one of the greatest gifts
we can give anyone.
— Mister Fred Rogers

The greatest gift we can give one another
is rapt attention to one another’s existence.
— Sue Atchley Ebaugh

Opening to the capacity of another person isn’t just a gift to them, it is a gift to ourselves and to our community, expanding both.

Scary Tranny

You know, I suppose there are cute transwomen in the world, but I have long known that I am not one of them.

Years ago, after a Halloween party, I did the work of guiding a fellow so he could get his van out of a parking space.   I was a vision in sliver motorcycle vinyl, all zippers and fishnets .

“Thank you!” he told me.  “I’d kiss you if you weren’t so scary!”

After meeting me, Jeffery Roberson told a friend of mine that he found me “scary bright.”  When the amazing Varla Jean Merman‘s alter ego finds you scary, well, honey, you know that you are scary.

Even the arrogant Russian pulmonologist who misdiagnosed my father in ICU two years ago remembers me, according to my sister who saw him last week.

And tonight, at a Presbyterian presentation on Transgender Identities, Alex Patchin McNeill knew that I was trouble the moment he looked into my eyes.  I eventually got some thanks for my contribution, but the pastor of my local church who was down on “non-passing transpeople,” never chose to connect with me after I made my discomfort about that judgment clear.

The most valuable commodity in the world is human attention.   We usually dole it our parsimoniously, trying to interpret other people in our context rather than wasting the attention on really hearing and reflecting the other person.

When people threaten to demand too much attention, too much engagement, too much transformation, most people learn how to shut those people down and assign their own meaning to them.

I don’t know quite why I am scary.

I’m big boned, yes, which doesn’t help with cuteness, but more than that, I suspect, I look actively present in every moment.   You can tell I am seeing you, probably more of you than you intended to show.   I’m not looking for your affirmation or friendship, I am looking for respect.

One of the issues tonight was aging, how people expect older people to be either caretakers or be abject old fools.   Few people know how to reach into a mature life with grace and empathy, instead assuming that older people should take care of them.    So many people expect transpeople to do the same thing, be obligated to be their guide to a challenging and  scary subject, either aging or transgender.

When I end up opening my mouth, though, I end up speaking like a writer, with grace and authority, clear and sharp.   Somehow, years of exploring and polishing my own thoughts tend to leave me with that skill.  Ask enough questions and you end up with a few good answers.    People who see clearly and then speak those truths are scary, just as my parents proved when I was eight and they decided my family nick name should be “Stupid” in an attempt to devalue me.

In my family, my Aspergers family, I learned very early that cute just didn’t cut any ice.   I was left to fend for myself from as early as I can remember.  I  fought with and for my family from an early age, and that didn’t stop until 2012 when I helped my parents die.

I am not unpleasant or nasty.  I know how to be appropriate.  I am very good at using humour to make a point.   I do, however, know how to ask just the wrong question at just the wrong time, one that shakes up convention and rationalization to cut to the core.   Pleasantries don’t interest me, transformation does.

I have spent my life being a scary tranny, making jokes to an audience too afraid to laugh.    It would be lovely to think that some people see me as cute or at least useful, as one mother did tonight as we chatted about the issues around having a queer child, but I am more used to people not getting the joke.

My power is real and is seen, I know.  It just isn’t always engaged, especially by people who feel the fear and need to stay where they are.  I will go there and not back down.   In fact, I want to go to those deep places where emotion roils, because those are the places where healing is needed.   I show the scars and the wisdom of that journey, show my willingness to engage in every moment.

I’m amazing to be in conversation with if you want to grow, annoying as hell if you need to stay where you are, as I am often reminded.   Death and rebirth served here, often far too much for even the closest friend.

I am a big person, with a big brain and a big spirit,, paying big attention, and that can often seem to be too much for people.

In the end, though, life is, as I told the therapist when I was 11, about being who you are.  I am who I am.    And that seems to be a very queer, very challenging, scary tranny.

Avoid Trans

If at all possible, you should avoid being trans in this world.   Being trans is just a real pain in the ass that creates lots of challenging problems.

I suspect that truth is obvious to most people.   Trans may be liberating and transcendent, but it is easy to understand that the downsides are not simple to negotiate.  Now, that is much less true than it was in my day, liberation having come a a long way, but trust me, it is still plenty tough.

If everybody knows that avoiding being trans is the best plan if you can at all manage it, then why are some people still publicly, actively transgender in the world?

The answer is simple.   People who are out as trans, even if they don’t want to be out as trans, can’t find a way to avoid being trans in the world.

You can pretty well bet that they did try to find a way to avoid being trans in the world, tried to avoid having to be out and visible as trans.  We have each tried on lots of different roles, working hard to fine tune them with rationalizations, defences and performance tricks that avoid having to be seen as trans in the world.

What we have found is that as many problems as being trans creates in building relationships in the world, making other people less than comfortable around us and making us feel unsafe around other people, trying to hide our transgender nature, trying to hide the true shape of our heart causes even more problems.

We learned that entering the baffling, uncertain and breathtaking terrain of transgender is, in the end, easier and better than avoiding it.   The truth is out there and skirting around it just to try and make life simpler doesn’t change that truth.

The people you see as trans in the world are trans in the world because we couldn’t seem to find a way to avoid being trans.   You can say that we should have tried harder, then, but in the end, though, that choice is not up to you.

The most wearing part about being trans is negotiating the thicket of terrors and boobytraps and internalized fears and social pitfalls that are all designed to make it easier to avoid transgender than to engage it.

Being truthful, authentic, integrated and living with integrity is actually easier, better and more fun than learning how to hide and deny your own heart.  Trying to explain that to people who would rather you just shut the fuck up about it, rather you just agree to leave the nice solid barriers they set in their life unchallenged, well, that is a real pain in the ass.

The ultimate trans surgery is pulling the stick out of your own ass.  “Ooh, that sounds painful!” remarked one gay bartender who heard me say that.  “Yeah,” I agreed, “but it’s much worse leaving it in there.”   He took my point.

While removing that stick is hard because we have to do it ourselves, the real question is how the broom stick got there in the first place.   How did we end up getting all jammed up, stiffened and constrained, twisted and uncomfortable, and then how did we learn just to accept that rod as part of our everyday experience of life?

It’s easy.   We were taught that if at all possible, you should avoid being trans in this world.   Being trans is just a real pain in the ass that creates lots of challenging problems.   Better the pain the ass that yow accept on your own than one that others end up surprising and beating you with.

There is no transperson in the world who cannot supply you with a long, accurate and tragic list about how being trans in the world is a real pain in the ass.   There is no transperson in the world who cannot show you a map of real scars they have from feeling their transgender nature exposed.

There is also no transperson in the world who cannot tell you about moments of bliss, joy and integration, where all the pieces line up and they feel the bounding freedom of letting their heart be seen in the world.   Trans is about desire, about the heart wanting what it wants, about the way our creator made us.

The challenge is, of course, how to get more of the good, wholesome bits of transgender expression while avoiding the pounding stigma that always threatens to leave us feel ashamed of who we really are.

We have learned that no matter how much we have been told to avoid being trans we can never run away from our own heart.  Our nature is within us, and is not something that we can make go away, no matter how much we try and wall it up.   We aren’t stupid.  If we could avoid being trans, we would do it, but we have tried and failed to amputate our heart and our history.

Instead, we have to learn to avoid beating ourselves up over being trans, stop listening to the bear in the closet, that internal policeman who wants to shame us into self-loathing in an attempt to keep our heart hidden and keep us playing small.

If you can avoid being trans, great.   But if you can’t, if the very attempt to avoid your own trans nature twists you into knots and blows holes in your potential, well, then stop trying to avoid being trans and boldly enter your own nature.   Your happiness is not in how you sacrifice yourself to fit in, your happiness is in how you show your beautiful heart to attract the best to you.

It should be obvious that killing your own nature to satisfy other people’s comfort, to play to the fears and unhealed parts of those around you is not the way to create a full, righteous and happy life, not the way to honour the gifts your creator gave you.

I know the costs of showing trans in the world.   They can hurt, yes.

But the costs of hating your own heart, well, in the end, they are much, much greater.

Never Done

When they outline exercise programs, they usually tell men to do high intensity with moderate repetitions, using more weight and force to build bulk in the muscle.

Women, on the other hand, are told to do moderate intensity exercises with a high number of repetitions to shape long, lean, and flexible muscle tone.

Women’s work, you see, is never done.   Men can do big bursts of heavy work and then rest, but women are expected to continuously do their work, somewhat less strenuous but much more regular, always there.

This difference is seen through all the parts of a woman’s life.   As a mommy, women are always on duty, keeping an eye or an ear out to monitor the situation, doing all the jobs that moms have to tend to, from cooking to cleaning to negotiating to reminding to training and on and on and on.

A woman’s work really is never done.   You see that when families send the kids out into the world.   Men often think that means they can rest more, hitting the couch and finding a favourite TV channel, while women think that means they can finally move beyond mommy and get back to following their own dreams.

For transwomen who worked hard to live as men, this switch to a woman’s regimen is often daunting.   They didn’t learn how to do little things all the time to build a life, instead thinking that doing a few big things and resting was the real way to success.    It becomes easy for them to just want to skip the details, dismiss work that is lower than their status — just women’s work — and just demand that the big picture is all that counts.   They see the men around them still enjoying the privilege of arrogance, doing heavy lifts then bragging about it, and they wonder why they can’t still do the same as women.

Rather than setting an ambitious objective and working towards that, women have learned to commit to the process of continuous improvement.    Small steps in a curving path allow us to take the time to do what is important in the moment, to pay attention and offer the work that is needed right now by the people in front of us.

Details are important to women, as they show with their appearance.   Being aware of details is always work, continuous aware work.

To make the choices of a woman in the world is to embrace the idea that a woman’s work, no matter how small it may seem, has value.   It requires understanding that a woman’s work, serving those she is in relationship with, serving her world and serving her own vision and knowledge is never done.

The difference between gendered behaviour is not prose.   Women can do everything that men can do and vice versa.

The difference between gendered behaviour is poetry.   Women take a different approach, follow a slightly different beat, have different priorities in their approach to tasks.

Those approaches are not contradictory, the are complimentary, polished by thousands of years of human civilization.   Women are the mommies, men are the daddies, and together, with the help of other gender roles, we build a vital community.

Woman’s work is never done.     And women’s work always creates a more detailed, more caring and more beautiful world.

Terrain Of Desire

We have lousy strippers in this area, according to the owner of a new adult boutique who sells to them.   They have little professionalism or ambition.  They are the dregs of strippers.

We have lousy strippers in the area because we have a lousy audience for strippers in the area.   Girls find it hard to make a good living because there aren’t enough patrons, and there are certainly not enough generous patrons, willing to trade cash for attention.

Good strippers end up leaving the area, going where the market values them.  It’s the American ethos of voting with your feet. in this case, those feet are wedged into 5″ heels.

There are so many examples of lack of heat in the area.  People are not encouraging of others.   That means that few step up to take leadership positions.   We drive away the professional or ambitious in all fields, not just adult entertainment.

Sex workers and trans people have at least one thing in common.   We both work with Eros, with desire.

The trans experience is all about desire, a burning desire to move out of our assigned, compulsory gender role to one that more authentically represents and satisfies the content of our heart.

Managing that desire in the context of a full and productive human life is always a challenge.  We can deny it, compartmentalize it, medicalize it, or find other ways to handle it.

The hardest and best way to deal with that desire, of course, is to dive into it, exploring it, swinging the pendulum wide and letting it come back to the centre.   Unless we work to integrate the desire into a balanced and healthy life, it will always be able to throw us off balance, always be a block to the kind of intimacy we need and we crave.

Sex workers have to do the same kind of work.  They need to own their own desire so they can assist others in exploring Eros.   They are professionals of desire, understanding both its excesses and its role in a full and passionate life.

Living with curiosity and reverence for all of human energy, the most sophisticated sex workers are shamans who unlock possibilities and lead others on a journey of self-discovery beyond conventional boundaries. Gender expectations are always played with by sex workers, exaggerating or erasing them to dive deep into the psyche.

The connection between transpeople and sex workers runs deep.   Lots of transpeople make a crust by doing sex work, from phone sex to walking the streets.  Even those of us who don’t choose to do sex work still find moments when we are asked to help probe and explore the erotic details of others, as TBB was revealed as a Goddess of Eros at a  chop house in Charleston earlier this year.

My experience is that women in sex work, especially Dominatrices, have done the kind of work that lets them understand the work I have done.   They have also had to explore their own energy, had to get past being squicked by human desire, had to find a way to be open & receptive while also being centred & strong.

Every dominatrix has to be, at least on some level, a switch.  She needs to be able to accept intense feelings, pleasure & pain, and she needs to know how to invoke them.  This is the feminine way to take control, understanding the experience of those who put their trust in you, using your empathy and compassion to push them beyond what they now see as their limits.   That’s just what mothers do, too.

Domina need to know how to walk into other people’s worlds and shake them up in elegant ways.  This traipsing through others minds is one reason that transpeople are so interesting to them; there is always something new to learn and appreciate when you see the world through very different, very queer eyes.   Tell me stories, yes, then show me how you respond under stress so I can see your real mettle.   Domina know that the brain is always the biggest sex organ.

The reason your Potential Partner Pool (PPP) gets smaller is because it gets deeper.   Instead of being shallow and easy, you become deep and challenging.   That’s why people who, for whatever reason, have faced their own challenges often find each other, feeling the safety of being exposed around someone who has already done their own work, unwiring the buttons, dismantling the fears and getting down to the foundational bedrock of continuous common humanity.   Clearing Eros of twists allows us to and even requires deeper, scarier and more potent intimacy.

For people who need to enter and own their own Eros, often because they have wounds that they need to heal, we become visible in our power, beacons who draw erotic interest from those whose Eros is still walled off.  Often that means we are targets of the acting out of repressed fears, but sometimes that means we connect with others who also have had to go there.

The terrain of desire is a powerful place.

Well, not so powerful in this area.   We have lousy strippers because we have a lousy audience that avoids the heat of Eros.  Oh well.


If writing isn’t about reverence, reverently turning the evanescent and ephemeral into our version of the eternal, then what is it about?
— Anne LaMott, Bird By Bird

The notion that art is fundamentally about reverence, being tuned in to an awesome world, gratefully receiving what is around us and being transformed it, seems to be essentially feminine.  Maybe masculine reverence is different, dutifully following a strict set of rules, but Mommy’s approach the world in a more nurturing way.

We take the experience of life in with joy and reverently convert that into art, struggling to convey the details which capture moments of awe.

The human story always brings out my reverence.  When people are open and kind enough to share their stories with me, I always value them.     I know that other artists revere other things — nature, movement, images, etc. — but for me, it is the tales which inform our lives, our theology.

We don’t live in a very reverent world anymore.  Irreverence is much easier and less demanding, as it allows us to mock and reject the potent around us, removing the power to demand attention and change.

Audiences are always better pleased with a smart retort,
some joke or epigram,
than with any amount of reasoning.
— Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Answers let us be comfortable in our own world.   Questions demand we be open, respectful and reverent to a world that is much bigger than one human’s perception.

To be reverent is to always live in a world that is not totally knowable, a place where we still can be surprised, informed and humbled by that which we have not yet deeply encountered.   You cannot be truly reverent with a closed mind and heart, believing that you already know all you need to know, that any challenges are just noisy distractions.

Reverence is shown in fascination.   To be fascinated requires the willingness to follow your own curiosity, chasing the curious and learning something new.   I am constantly fascinated by other people, wanting to drink them in and having learned how to do so quickly and in detail.  It would be nice if other people were also fascinated by me.

Reverence is shown in gratitude.  To be grateful for the people and events that open you up and help you grow, for the miracles that change your perception of the world is an act of reverence for gifts that you never expected, process that you embrace.

Reverence is at the heart of respect, not just respect for what we already know we like and value, but respect for the broad, queer diversity of the world.

I can’t imagine making art without being based in reverence.  I can’t imagine living life without being based in reverence.

The gifts of a lifetime train and shape us, but so so more gracefully if we approach them with reverence.

Coming From Cold

Warm up.

It’s the first step to so many things, from exercise to performance.   A cold engine runs rough, can’t start purring until it warms up.   Brett Butler said the best advice she ever had about auditioning was to come on like you had just been killing for twenty minute, hot and loose.   TBB and I performed our best after singing showtunes in the 23 story stair shafts of the Portland Hilton.

Women have their own special warm-up game.  A few rounds of “‘Gorgeous!’ ‘No You’re Gorgeous!'” can always heat us up.  Find something to compliment, get it returned, sharing jam to loosen the trepidation, open the flow.

My experience of my life, though, has been very, very cold.   From the Aspergers approach of my parents to my very damaged feet, which always feel frozen, I know cold.

I always start frigid, so cold that I am afraid that, like a wiener dipped in liquid nitrogen, I will crack into shards at the slightest hit.

There are many reasons for this, including training, venue, isolation and attitude.   My heat was cast as sickness from my earliest days, usually by people defending their own coldness.   They need to stay cold, compartmentalized, isolated, frost-stabilized.

I live in a deep freeze, cutting back and scrimping, without reflected enthusiasm or joy.   Exuberance is to be distrusted as a canard, indulgent, immodest and cheap.

Thought is a cold process, chilling down the heat of emotion so it can be explored and managed, and thought was my salvation from a challenging less than childhood.  I learned how to freeze dry emotions and turn them into symbols for dissection and storage, desiccated specimen feelings pressed between blotters and stored in huge mental racks.

Any heat I had was in service, the zest of giving my parents one more good day.  My own life went on ice to do that for a decade.   After they passed, I was placed into a twenty-two month hibernation, enduring on the edge of scarcity.

To warm up, I try and rub ideas together in my brain.  This does produce sparks, but rarely of the warming variety, instead chilling me down farther.   I look for help warming up, but so many helpers seem to think that their job is to offer more contextualizing thought, cooling things down for examination and reorientation.

In the same way that Buddhists have told me that the only way to peace is through detachment, most tell me to cool off more and consider my choices.   For a person whose life has been deep frozen into a state of entropy, suggesting more chilling is just a kind of malpractice.

For a long time I have said that I need the heat of “yes,” need the reflection of the positive, need someone who not only gets my jokes but also laughs at them.

I know how to be cold, stiff, self-conscious and modulated.  I know.

What I don’t know is how to be hot, loose, free and relaxed.

Even when  I do warm a bit, there is always another freeze coming, another run at emotional hypothermia designed to cool off life and create more stasis, more incapacitation.   The frostbite has even become permanent in bits of me, starting with the feet.

My challenge is not to turn off my brain, removing the sharp clarity.   My challenge is to meld that cool with the heat of action that keeps the heart warm, open, resilient and playful.

I am coming from a very, very cold place.

I go back to a very, very cold place that sucks away heat very quickly.

No matter how much I store heat, insulating it by wrapping it in symbol to preserve meaning, the power of heat isn’t just in its meaning, it mostly in the excitement of vibrating atoms that challenge entropy.

Going in cold doesn’t give much leverage for success.

Finding people to share heat with, though, has proven to be difficult.

Talking To Myself

Writing a transgender story without an omniscient narrator seems almost impossible, simply because it is the inner life of transpeople that make us different from the rest of the world.

From the earliest days, we are taught to internalize rather than externalize our transgender nature.   The common experience of all queer people is being shamed into silence, feeling pressed into the closet.

All transpeople have this inner monologue going on to some degree or other.

TBB has said that she was almost happy once and it scared her.   She hears all the strained pronouns and feels all the judgments, even if she is very good at sloughing them off, leaving them behind and getting on with her amazing life.

For those of us with low latent inhibition, the ones who carry the experience, we don’t so quickly let go of the feelings.   We hook onto them and replay them, having them pop back up at almost any time.

We get very good at talking about our challenges, but rarely do we do that out loud.   Inside my head, I talk to myself, holding a running chatter full of doubt and encouragement and analysis.  At least, with my early discovery of my “Jonathan Winters” energy, at least those inner discussions are never dull or boring.

No one who has ever read this blog should be surprised about this.   For the last nine years, this has been a supreme example of talking me to myself, letting my own experience echo in the loneliness.

The weight of these unspoken conversations is a burden.   I may know how to enter the conversations in other people’s heads — ShamanGal uses my talents very freely — but in my experience, few people can enter mine.  I quickly become too intense, too enduring, too noisy or just plain too hard.  My conversations seem relentless and focused on tough issues that most know that they have to avoid to move on, issues that they believe I need to let go to move on.

The vast majority of my conversations are analytical, scanning and assessing my environment. Mostly, I see how I exist in a liminal space between the poles, neither this nor that.   I do look for places where I think I can offer something, can get a smile or at least an “ah.  . .”     Over the decades I have become very good at taking care of myself, able to keep going, but there are limits.

The problem even with colourful and vivid internal conversations is that my partner tends to see the world pretty much the same way I do.   I don’t get surprises, encouragement and affirmations that exist outside of my own experience.

I search for allies, for people who can reflect me, defend me and encourage me in new choices.    That’s not an easy ask, I have found, because it involves entering my world, speaking in that rich, dense and sharp conversation that I already have inside my head.

I end up talking to myself, just like I learned to do when I was a toddler without parents who could effectively engage me, who were struggling in their own worlds.    It’s not that I don’t know how to talk with other people, as I prove that again all the time, it is that they struggle to talk with me, or more often, that they don’t bother trying at all to go beyond their own expectations and comfort level.

If no one else can talk to me about what I struggle with, then I am stuck talking to myself.

And that isn’t getting me very far.

Your Business

You are your business.

Especially if you are the sole proprietor of a small business, the one thing that makes your business different and better is you.   You have the responsibility for setting priories, for insuring integrity, for quality and for service.

There is no way to promote your own business without promoting yourself.   As objective and modest as you want to be, it is your skin in the game, your personality on the line, your choices that are being judged.

It is also your fears that are being played out, your focus that is being tested, your energy that is being consumed.   You are the one who stands ready to win big or lose big, the one who has to be able to learn lessons and change course to face challenges and address crises.

There are reasons people like franchising, where for a price you leverage the skills and expertise of a large company to support your efforts.   Franchising is a canned way to do the smart thing, finding people with experience and smarts that you do not yet have and taking on-board their own hard-won lessons.   That doesn’t mean letting them push you around or make choices for you, because in the end, it is your business, done your way, that you stand or fall on.

It often amazes me that so many transgender people take their most powerful lessons, the vivid experience that makes them unique, and work so diligently to make that difference as invisible as possible in the world.

We live in a market where one job for life is a thing of the past.   Instead, we each have to understand ourselves as our own business, an independent contractor with skills to offer.

The more unique we are the less interchangeable we are.   We can sell our lowest skill set, or we can deliver the highest value we have to give.  The only way to offer our best is to deliberately set out to market that knowledge, skill and professionalism in the world, to be our own business.

You are your business.   You own your own possibilities and have the ultimate responsibility for making sure those skills are polished, seen, valued and developed in the world.

For people who have been taught to play small, who have internal lists of all the ways that they will be attacked and vulnerable if they expose themselves in the world, well, this is a terrifying thought.  You’d probably rather the world become more fair, allowing you to get what you need and want without having to put yourself out there and take the risk of failure.

You may know why you believe that you need to stay hidden and defended to be safe in the world.   Staying safe in the world, though, will not assist you in being successful in the world, however.

If you like it or not, you are your business.   Your choices shape your effectiveness and rewards in the market.

Why not show them the best you’ve got, offer them the superlative you?

If you really want the rewards, even the reward of being able to change the world so it reflects more of your best thinking, do you really have any other choice?


Transpeople, the ones who emerge anyway, mostly live a disagreeable life.

This doesn’t mean that we are not pleasant or don’t have a pleasant life.   Instead, it means on the Agreeableness scale of the Five Factor Model we fall towards the disagreeable end.   Instead of going along with the crowd, we are willing and able to disagree with conventional thought, to stand up for our own knowledge and beliefs.

I proved how disagreeable I was trained to be when I stood up to Miss Hansen, my fifth grade teacher.   I challenged one of her scientific explanations, so instead of checking, she had the class vote on if I was right or she was.  I lost, of course, 24-1, but even after she brought in the biggest gun she had against a 10 year old, I still wouldn’t back down.  I was right.

In his book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, Malcolm Gladwell talks about how being different can be an advantage in the market.   He tells of people who have gone against convention in powerful ways, taking heat for doing what others declared unthinkable, and succeeded in astonishing and lasting ways.   Their disagreeableness saved lives and changed the world.

I have said before that I am double queer; a transwoman who loves women.  I also seem to be double disagreeable; a transwoman who disagreed with the founding myths she was issued (the Benjamin & Prince models at first, and then Second Wave Feminism Oppression theory) and struck out to find her own.

The power to stand for what is right, and then to keep standing up for that even as people challenge, threaten or resist us, that  is the power of being disagreeable,

Some men see things as they are and ask why.
Others dream things that never were and ask why not.
—  George Bernard Shaw

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world;
the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.
Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
— George Bernard Shaw

Without the power to be disagreeable, where would bold change ever come from?

Precise Respect

To a communicator, words are the tools we use to convey what is inside us to other people.   Words are symbols that allow us to construct portable versions of our ideas, our feelings,  our experiences, our belief, our knowledge, our wisdom and share those with the wider world.

“You write well because you think well,” a expressive writing teacher told me in college.  Writing and thinking are absolutely connected; even if you are writing abstract poetry about emotion, you need to use your brain to achieve that process.

Like any craftsperson, our product is better, stronger, neater, more elegant and more graceful when we do our work with attention and precision.  Our work shows the quality of our process and reveals our respect for technique, for tradition, for the materials and for the observer.

Sloppy work is a sign of disrespect.  It reveals we don’t value what we offer enough to make it good.   Our laziness, sloppiness, and mess is the sign of someone who chooses not to value craftsmanship.

For me, there is no way to create good writing without respecting language.   I know I need to be precise in my use symbols, working hard to make sure the meaning of the words I use stays considered and consistent.

Not everyone writes or thinks with such explicit precision, though.  They just grab whatever word is easy, just construct sentences, paragraphs and essays with no consideration of precision or integrity.

To them, they are just expressing what they think and feel, pouring out what is inside of them, so to hold them to any standard of language use is just intellectually oppressive, the coercion of those who want to silence them.   They get to dump their own brain contents and it is the listener’s fault if they don’t understand.

While people certainly have the right to their own sloppy expression, the real challenge is their own sloppy reception.

Good communicators are always good receivers of communication.  You cannot write well without reading well, cannot speak well without listening well, cannot create art without also engaging art.

The process of improving communication always, always, always depends on feedback, sending and receiving in a loop that closes difference by increasing precision.

Communication is always the art of collage.   We can’t make up everything new inside of us, for if we did that, people would have little idea what we mean.  Instead, we consume communications, process them, and store up chunks we find useful and compelling.   We then assemble our own communications out of these chunks, putting symbols and structures together in a way that best communicates what we want to share.

One of the most precious things that anyone can share with me is their story.  I have spent my thirty years exploring transgender eagerly listening to the stories of others, whoever they are.  I listen to partners and FTMs and crossdressers and transsexuals and transpeople & allies of every label they chose for themselves.

I listen with respect.  For me, that means working hard to understand what they mean by what they share, working to comprehend and embrace their own struggle, thinking and challenges.  Their stories are about them and not about me, so I have to accept them where they are, not where I am.

Through that process, I see how we are like ice cream, both fundamentally the same,  made out of the same stuff, and essentially different with our own special flavour mix, each both an essentially unique individual and also fundamentally just another human being.    This is the foundation of my queer vision.

I struggled to find that ice cream metaphor, but once I did, I integrated the symbols of why being fundamentally the same and essentially different makes sense.   I started to use that language consistently in my work, holding on to that hard won definition.  ‘

When I see sloppy language use, I see sloppy thinking.   I used to see people railing about the oppressiveness of gender so I would ask people to define “gender.”   Did people mean gender identity, gender expression,   or something else?

Usually, people would just flail around with that answer.  They hadn’t taken the time to understand what gender is, just taken up the rallying cry that it was oppressing them and therefore had to go.    Are there any benefits to gender, I would ask?   What purpose does it serve?   Why has it been around so long, in every human culture we know? Why do the majority or people gender themselves so willingly and happily?   Maybe the problem was some facets of gender, but how could we know that unless we first understand what gender is?  (FYI, it is compulsory, binary gender, especially as used in coercive marketing of products that I have a problem with.)

One of the biggest challenges in the transworld is that we do not yet have shared and collective language that is broad and embracing.  So many transpeople have negative identities — they can tell you what they are not, but do not have language to tell you what they are — that finding common language to coalesce our political and social actions around is very hard.

Instead of working to come together by struggling to find language that serves all of us to reveal how we are connected and different, we end up working to shout down people who use language that pushes our buttons, that we find politically incorrect.   This is the behaviour of crabs in a barrel, pulling each other down and not letting anyone get out unscathed.

I work very hard not to use my language not to point out where other people are wrong but instead to express what I think is right.   I have heard and respected the stories of a wide range of transpeople and let those stories shape my understanding.    I don’t need to shout them down, I need to speak from my own vision with deep thought grounded in precision and consistency.

Because I avidly consume language, especially language about trans narratives, I know that not everyone respects their own story, our shared challenges, and the power of language enough to care about striving for good, high quality, precise craftsmanship.   Their language is easy, comfortable and sloppy and that is the way that it is going to stay.

I knew a crosdresser identified person who would speak of me in their language.  It was hard for me to hear this, as it showed no respect for my story, for what I worked for and shared.   I wrote a narrative about someone like them in my inclusive language and shared it with them.   They loved it, loved how it really told their story in a powerful and graceful way.   They did not, however, see how my language could reflect their life but their language couldn’t reflect mine.   They just kept on using their language to describe what we shared and soon after, that relationship ended.

My choice of symbols and structures is not casual and random.   I respect my own path and the work we have done to come together too much to not show that respect with precision and caring.  My words carve the boundaries of my life and by setting those boundaries,  respect both myself and those I communicate with.

There is no way to be more present in the world without becoming a better communicator, with a better understanding of what you value & want to share and better techniques to do that sharing.

There is no way to be a better communicator without respecting symbols more so you can use them in a more precise and more effective way.   We respect story, both our story and the stories other people trust with us, when we respect the language they use to convey their own experience, understanding and meaning.

I love the tales of humanity and that means Iove the language we shape to tell them. I share my own tales with precision to both respect them and respect the precious time and effort my listeners put in to engage them, working to make it easy and fun to do the hard work of entering someone elses world and seeing through their eyes.

Striving for precision is the way I show respect, for myself, for my listeners and for the power & beauty of human language itself.

Market Gate

If there is a place you go to show yourself, to test yourself, to stand up for yourself, that place is the market.

The market is where we face other humans in the essential test of power: getting other people to do what we want them to do.

My Aspergers parents did not have a strong relationship with the market.

My mother saw the market as a child sees it, a place to wander through and grab whatever caught her eye, usually because it seemed low priced.  She loved cheap and shiny, not looking for “just the right thing,” but instead doing routine travels.

To my father, the market was a dull necessity he had to use to get the parts to create his designs, always made with only a limited and internal vision.    He could never imagine actually engaging vendors to get expert advice or find a better way, because experts are idiots.

This means I grew up separate from the market, never encouraged to participate in it, never affirmed in the value of what I had to offer.   They were the sellers and we were the buyers, distant and abstract.    The best we could do is cut our expenses, never to reap the rewards.

My essentially flawed relationship with the world is very much my flawed relationship with the market.   Whatever they wanted, it wasn’t what I have, and going into the market only means I am at the mercy of sharks who have no mercy.

Like so many things in my life, I understand the market conceptually, but viscerally, I don’t trust it.    From my earliest days my understanding of life was in the meta; I wanted to get the concepts but not to be drawn into the whirl.

This power of meta is clearly my strongest gift, the ability to very quickly see, understand, and explain.

Other people tell me that this power of meta is valued in the market, helping other people see the bigger picture, working to make context explicit so it can be re contextualized.   They see what I have as something very strong and very valuable in the market.

For so many reasons, though, I resist the market.   I had to release my own desire to get clear, I learned that showing too much of myself was dangerous, and more than that, my basic home training was to isolate myself from the market.

After so many decades of staying out of the market, instead only prowling around the edges for scraps that I could weave into what I needed, I am challenged to actually enter the market, to take the risks of the market and, with smarts and hard work, reap its rewards.

And I very, very, very strongly resist that call.

The market does not reward observers.  It only rewards participants who push past failures and find success.

The market does not reward people who fight it.  It only rewards people who make it work for themselves.

It is not possible to get the assurance one needs to enter the market from other people who are also resisting entering the market.

We live in a culture where most of us are taught to be consumers, not owners, trained to be clients of the market rather than active participants in it.   Those with capital like that training; they need buyers, not competitors.    This is the ultimate cost of suburbia, removing us from natural and vibrant community markets and leaving us consumers, trying to stuff the loss of connection with products.

Not entering the market, not taking ownership of the value of our lives, leaves us economically disadvantaged, no matter how well off we are.   We cannot make the most of what we have, cannot change the world in ways we believe would make it better.

I know why I resist entering the market.   There are many reasons I have been scared off.

I also know why that resistance not only does not serve me.  I know why it that resistance costs me very dearly.

That resistance also costs my community the power of my contribution, denies my world the benefits of my very hard won gifts.

Resisting entering the market, stopping at the gate and just peering in, is resisting entering the arena where humans have always come together to make life better by sharing what we have to offer.

Showing myself, testing myself, standing up for myself can only take place in the market.   The market is also the only place where I can get what I need.

Exchanging our gifts, even the challenging ones, to get what we need is at the heart of the market.   No one can escape that requirement.   Even me.

Marketing Possibilities

Democracy and the free market go hand in hand.  If people vote for what products they want, it is hard to stop them wanting to vote for what government they want.

“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
— Winston Churchill

It is easy to think that you know better than the people, in their selection of government or their selection of products.   People’s choices can, at least in the short term, be manipulated by those who will manipulate and deceive to get what they want.

The success rate of planned economies and imposed governments, though, has always  been much less than free markets and democracy.   The results have been downright terrifying.

Whatever your reason for slagging the power of individual choice, of resisting the market, even if that reason is some spiritual belief that you have the right ideas to clean up the mess that the market or the democracy is in, you are wrong.

Slagging the market, disdaining the choices of those less smart, less spiritual, or even less worthy than you is always a fascist position.  The market will never be totally holy or perfect, but then again, neither will you.  At least the market uses the combined smarts of all of us, the wisdom of crowds.

To participate in the market, we have to be clear that what we have isn’t just nice, it is also currency.   We trade what we have to others for what we want, whether that is getting out of our poor village or bringing education back to that village to help raise up the people we love.   For women, this has often been beauty and other gendered skills, the ability to satisfy a man and deliver more than what he wants, needs and expects.

The market has to benefit everyone to work.   When we partner with others to get what we need or want, there has to be some benefit to them in doing the work.   That’s why, for example, publishing art is so much different than just creating art, because publishing means there is a whole chain of people who work to help us and who need to be valued and recompensed for their time and effort on our behalf.

It’s a lovely notion to believe that good and virtuous ideas will succeed on their own merit, that they will draw their own success, but there are just too damn many good ideas, most of them untested and flawed.   The market knows how to decide which ideas have value by the simple test of finding which ones people are willing to give up their hard earned currency for.

This means that in the end, a mediocre idea well executed will beat a wonderful idea with poor execution.   The market rewards ideas that work, not theories that are more pure, and working in the world always involves compromise.  It may be true that a good idea will always surface in the end, but miss the timing or the execution and you may well get no benefit from that surfacing, not even credit.

The only way we can return the gift of our journey, deliver the help and transformation to the wider world, is to participate in the market.   We need to be able to market ourselves, our ideas, our services and our products in the world to show they have value and offer them to those who need them and don’t yet know it.

The market is where we fight to trade what we have for what we want.  It is where we fight to establish the value of our gifts and let that value grow.    It is where we fight to sharpen our offerings, shaping ourselves anew based on the demands and lessons of desire and need.

There are, of course, limits to the market, as I wrote in 1995.  Capital can be coercive, no doubt.

That does not stop the market from being the best system of offering value, opportunity and possibility that humans have been able to create throughout all of time.

To avoid the market is not spiritual or divine, rather it is to avoid the power of choice between options that is at the basis of vetting and conveying the best parts of human endeavour.    We take what we have and make our bets, learning from the outcomes how to make better bets the next time.

By participating in the market we are able to keep the circle of giving going, passing the fruits of our labour from hand to hand, being inclusive of more and more people, and growing wealth by sharing it between us.   Many countries have found that microlending to women is a great way to build community structure and take care of families in need.

Cutting people off from the market, as slavery does, for example, is a simple way to economical disempower them, leaving them subservient and impoverished.   One of the key challenges I have found as a transperson has been a traditional resistance to accept the gifts of transgender, facing a kind of embargo that denies the power of those gifts.   That is changing, of course, but it is still a struggle.

The process of marketing, of thinking through the needs of others and the best way to satisfy those needs, is an important discipline. It is a big part of how we perform service in the world, offering and spreading so much of the gifts we have been given, receiving and being changed by the gifts we give.

The market is where we fight to offer what we have and in return get what we need and desire.  That fight is part of the process lets us make more conscious and effective choices.

Sure, not everything valuable in life can be bought and sold, so not having a balance to the market, controls on control and a safety net for everyone is a problem, but in the end an open market is the worst form of setting value and getting what we need, except for all those other forms we have tried from time to time.

None of us alone are smarter than the market.    Participating in the market makes us smarter, sharing what we have in a way that can benefit all.

That’s just, in the end, so very human.

One Role

I was casting about for support structures again, and I happened on acting classes in the area.

I believe in performance.    I believe that increased performance requires performance.   I believe we get to communicate who we are and what we have to offer in the world by sharpening our performance, making it more focused, authentic, compelling and accessible.   I believe that too many people don’t consider their performance in the world and by doing that, they give into their own myopia, neediness and rationalizations.

I don’t need to learn how to shift roles, though, how to improv a quick sketch character, how to take the words of an author and the vision of a director and embody a marionette they imagined.   That’s not my challenge.

I have just one role that I have to hone and master, one character that I have to own.

I need to have a public version of me.

The private version of me is smart, sharp and well drawn.   I’ve created and mastered lots of material.

The public version, well, that’s still a freaking mess.

I recently saw some of Callan Rush‘s educational marketing on how to Wealth Through Workshops.   Her point is clear: genius is nothing, is unheard, unless you can attract people to it.    Unless you can identify and satisfy a need, solve a problem and hone your performance to expand your base and your resources, you are just a lone voice in the wilderness.

Of course, most of her clients aren’t visionaries, people doing their own thinking.   Most are missionaries, who take the classic lessons they have found and speak them, again and again in their own voice.   These people want to be evangelists not theologians.

Ms. Rush teaches you how to do the marketing work that is required in an age where cable shopping channel presenters are the master orators of our time.

I know how to pitch.   I just got an e-mail asking for an interview on our success at Startup Weekend to promote the upcoming event.   That was my product, and my part of the pitch had the judges cooing out loud.

I don’t know how to pitch myself, though.   I use a team to hone pitches, and there is no Callan team, none at all.  It’s just me.

From years of challenge, I know that I do not see myself clearly.

Sure, I have the old performance down, taking my sister through a cinematic experience yesterday as I shared my story walking through a busy mall.   (Walking and talking is very useful when talking about difficult matters because you don’t end up sitting in a pool of your own pain.)

It’s almost impossible for someone presenting as trans to see themselves clearly because  the “white noise” (as Ms. Rush calls it) in other people’s head becomes overwhelming.   Even they don’t know what they are feeling as they experience you, which creates a very slippery and unstable audience experience.   That’s why Janet Mock does third grade and Southern Comfort The Musical took all the real humanity out of my dear friend Lola.

You end up playing not one role but a different role to every observer, filtered through their own expectations, prejudices and fears.   That makes life a very exhausting minefield, where you are always tensed for the “third gotcha.”

The one role I need to master is Public Callan, that version of myself who is focused, authentic, compelling and accessible.

I fail at that role for a simple reason: Private Callan is still well and truly inside me, wounded, unsure, terrified.

When they made Double Trouble with Jean and Liz, the Sagal twins, they understood this problem.   When playing the twin most like themselves — the outgoing one or the introverted one — the girls would become self concious and wooden.   The solution was to switch the casting so the girls played against type, disconnecting their character’s choices from their inner personality.    This freed them up to take the bounces, knowing that the audience was not laughing at them but rather at their role.

What I ask for, over and over again, is for people to say yes to me.   I don’t mind if they say no to some things, but it is vital those nos are offset with affirmations, acknowledgements, yeses.    For people who are not conscious of their own personal performance, this is very hard to give.

There is just one role I need to master to get on with my life: Public Callan.   I am aware that many people think that should be an obvious and easy choice, but I assure you that for me, it is not.   It is a real and profound marketing challenge.

How are we supported past pain and fear to create a persona that can stand up on stage, be visible and authentic, compelling and safe, strong and resilient to serve the cause of getting new messages out into the world and building networks that deliver what people need?

How do find courage to create that public role — that product — that lets us return the gift of a lifetime?