Sensation Or Success?

Amy Bloom, in Normal: Transsexual CEOs, Crossdressing Cops, and Hermaphrodites with Attitude, lays out her case against crossdressers.  She finds them immersed in the erotic in a way that makes her queasy when they are about in open society.   That Eros may be fine in private, but in the wider world, it seems a bit off to Ms. Bloom.

One myth I always refer transwomen to is The Red Shoes: On Torment and the Recovery of Soul Life,  told by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.   Ms. Estes talks about the costs of substituting the commercial and stimulating for the authentic and profound, using the story of the girls whose quest to replace the handmade shoes she adored with purchases ended up losing her her soul.

This is a big challenge for every transperson.    We are denied the call of our heart, denied our soul life, and that leaves us in torment.   We then, often, try to replace that empty space with the erotic, filling our lives with the commercial style of Eros.

This diversion into Eros often makes us feel and look twisted, as Ms. Bloom and Ms. Pinkola-Estes point out.   Stigma thrives on that twisting, because it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.   “Transpeople are stigmatized because they are sick,” the wisdom tells us, but the very fact of being stigmatized denies us a handmade life and ends up twisting our soul away from the authentic to the commercial.

“Oh, I only do it for the show,”  “It’s just a hobby,” “I want to be a fuck sissy she-male,” and many other trans tropes are based on this denial of the essential and clinging to the commercial.

For transpeople, holding onto rationalizations is like holding onto chunks of wreckage in a dark sea of normalcy.   Since they seem to be the only thing that keeps us afloat, we don’t find it easy to let go of them.

In the end, this comes down to a basic choice for transpeople: are we engaging in trans expression for the success, the striving for authenticity, or for the sensation, the engaging in the erotic?

Like any binary, this choice is false on some level.   Every woman, for example, feels passionate about her expression at times, even if her sexy choices are authentic expressions of her own nature.   Those are great shoes, oh yes!

But it is the choice that lands transpeople in the sickness.  Ray Blanchard’s AutoGynePhila concept was based on the idea of trans impulses being a fetish behaviour based on an idealized femaling of the body.  Blanchard always looked for the erotic component in trans expression to dismiss some people’s expression as less than authentic or real.

I call a model based on sensation the tourist model.   To me, it mirrors the goal of someone spending a week in Orlando.  They may want to be thrilled and enervated by novelty and diversion at the Disney parks, but they want to return home essentially unchanged, the same person as when they left.

I call a model based on success the traveller model.  To me, it mirrors the goal of someone spending a month in India.  They want to experience something out of their comfort zone, wish to see the shared world in a new way, and return home with new insights and experiences that transform the everyday experience of their own life.

When I see someone trying to move from a model of trans as sensation to one of trans as successful transformation, I often see struggle.  The ego wants to resist engagement in the new that might demand change, because resisting that engagement through venerating sensation has been the strategy that has kept them stable and in denial for so many years.

Change is fucking hard, especially change beyond the normative and conventional.   Can we really let out rationalizations go and leap?

For transpeople, holding onto rationalizations is like holding onto chunks of wreckage in a dark sea of normalcy.   Since they seem to be the only thing that keeps us afloat, we don’t find it easy to let go of them.

This is true even if we know those rationalizations keep us ego driven, fear based, mired in sensation and denying success.

Ah, stigma.

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