Uppity

In the world of creation, many works are judged by the status of their creators, being authenticated by experts as being real and valuable.

Works that do not come with status are dismissed as being pretentious, not of quality but only pretenders to being good and worthy creations.

Humans, though, are essentially creators.  We create our own lives, never from scratch but always by pastiche, grabbing bits that already exist in culture and assembling them into a collage of expression that is uniquely ours.

When what we steal, our source material, has authenticated status, we are able to assert our own realness.   By staying within the bounds of the expected and approved, we create images that we can claim are not created by us at all, but are, instead, genuine on some deep level.

When we assert our own style, though, offering a kind of creation that moves beyond the conventional, we often get dismissed as being pretentious, asserting some kind of self-inflated falsehood in the world.

Rather than being assessed on the quality of what we offer, being judged on merit, we are dismissed as being pretentious, having ideas and creations above our station.  The status quo is the yardstick and anything which challenges that can be mocked and erased.

Dismissing creation beyond the conventional, though, is dismissing the real power of humans: the power of creation.

Man has a dream, and that’s the start
He follows his dream with mind and heart
And when it becomes a reality
It’s a great new day for you and me.
— Sherman Brothers, “Big Beautiful Tomorrow” for “Disney’s Carousel of Progress”

Creation is the power of change and change is the power of survival.  Humans are not the most robust creature on the planet — water bears may be — but we are the most adaptable, even extending our reach to the moon.

We cannot create without imagination and imagination always demands pretending.   “What if we tried it this way?” we wonder, and then we do try it that way, moving beyond expectations to innovate and become new.

Unless we are willing to be uppity, ignoring conventions to explore and experiment with our own possibilities, we are stuck repeating the old tropes, asking questions that can never transcend the current way of thinking.

Unless we support those uppity, pretentious people in their attempts to create beyond the tried and true, using their intellect and passion to move beyond, we cannot say we are committed to making a better world for us and our children.

Being pretentious then, asserting our own vision over the approved visions, dismissing judging by entrenched status and instead being open to excellence and elegance, is the only way to create the new and beautiful.

I understand why so many of us want to cling to status, want to justify our behaviour by showing how it is rooted in the already approved.   For many, like academics, their own status comes not from innovation but from invoking tradition, denying creativity and claiming authority.

Does denying the power of our own creation, our own performance, our own art, though, somehow make us real, grounded and authentic?   Does working to satisfy the experts so we can be authenticated by them really mean that we will stop being challenged?

Isn’t our deepest truth contained not in how we follow the rules of authentication but rather in how we assert and test our own creation in the world, shaping them to become as true, as robust and as powerful as they can be?   Isn’t it only when we follow our dreams, letting go of the bits that are not grounded in deeper reality to make them more perfect and effective that we find the gifts we can offer to a world always being reborn?

Smarts are what got humans to the top of the food chain on this planet, not just the ability to follow the teachings of experts.  And those smarts always started with someone putting the creations of their own imagination out there, letting them be cleansed and purified by the process of separating the jewels from the slag, the fantasies from the possibilities.

Don’t dream it, be it.  Sure, someone will quote experts at you, telling you why you are a fool, but is only by hanging onto your own imagination, your own pretentiousness, that you can achieve the leap to become new and better in the world.

Fake it until you make it.   Be pretentious and work like hell to be excellent too, always learning and always developing.  Every virtuoso has to start somewhere, and none of them learn to fly by denying their own creativity, by only following the rules while striving to fit in, follow the rules and be tame.

Supporting pretense is supporting creativity.  How can any human ever really blossom until they can reveal their own special and unique creation, using their own sweat to co-create a beautiful and powerful life?

Recommended Reading: “Pretentiousness: Why It Matters” by Dan Fox

Simple History

When I hear people give an overview of their childhood in an autobiography, I am struck by how nicely they boil the tale down to transformational moments; the death of a parent, an incident at school, whatever.

These are people who want a thumbnail version of their history which supports the choices they made as an adult.  As Mary Catherine Bateson reminds us in “Composing A Life,” we usually tell stories to supply the meaning we now understand as true.

When I try to find a few anecdotes to convey my childhood, though, I come up as messy and complex as my other stories.   A life full of small and difficult confrontations with Aspergers parents isn’t about what happened, dramatic moments of revelation, but is more about what didn’t happen, the tiny and very routine traumas which taught me to keep my head down.

“I always imagined that inside of me there was a cup of green liquid,” my sister recently said to me, “and my job was to stay still and defended so it never spilled.  I knew that making a mess with that stuff, letting my emotions overflow, would get me creamed, so I had to be taut all the time.

“When I was making some art, I knew that I put green paint on the canvas, a messy splash, but it took me years to understand how that creation went back to my mental understanding as a kid facing a mother who made everything about her, one who would act out with vengeance if she ever caught weakness.”

Learning to have a strong inner life was an obvious path for a smart kid like me, but it’s not the kind of story that you can just semaphore and make people understand.   The never ending sense of danger from parents who just never could be there, meeting you and helping you trust your own emotions, but who rather expected feelings to go away was intense.

My father would just assume that his path was the only one, no matter how it missed the point, while my mother assumed our emotions were there only to torment and mock her, like the emotions of so many people had all her life.

There was no one to help me understand, to navigate, and no one who could help them.   I had to do my own therapy, my own discovery, years and years and years of work that might better have been spent in creation rather than in a struggle to deconstruct and understand.

When I go to explain my history, I don’t know how to get it down to stereotypes that other people can easily consume by matching it to their experience.

I do know, however, what it feels like to be terrified to show emotion, to spill that green juice, because you know that if you do, you will get massively bashed by the person who is supposed to love and care for you.

How do I tell you the way that affects your trust and safety in the world?

Fascinated

In the church of the divine surprise, fascination is one of our key sacraments.

Fascination is the key to deep learning, the impulse that opens us to move beyond our own assumptions and beliefs, leading us towards knowledge and healing.

I am fascinated by stories, mostly the stories of growth and discovery, stories of people who were fascinated to the point of obsession, yearning to discover new ideas and new solutions that could make the world a better place.

Transcendence is rooted in fascination, in not just telling our story but in finding flickers of insight in the stories of others, the tales they tell of work and of journeys, the myths they use to store the the knowledge they have gleaned about the world that we share.

We pay attention to others, to systems, to nature, to the moment because we are fascinated by the moving shadows, knowing that they can move us beyond where we were to where we can be smarter, better, more enlightened, more actualized, more loving.

It is a treat for me to run across a fascinating person, someone whose stories hold the mix of sweaty work and sharp revelation which offer a new, different, bold and very personal way of seeing the world.   People are fascinating to me in their own individuality, the gifts they have found and polished as they stumbled on their journey, the brilliance of their own creative and dynamic energy.

I was out for the day on Tuesday.   I started with a lobby day at the state capital, a collection of activists from around the state.

The comments from supportive legislators fascinated me as they reflected the skills and determination of the committed pols they had to be to gain their seats.   Their professionalism showed.

A mother of a trans child offered up her story of motivation, from inside her own family to her connection with another mother who lost her child to suicide just this month.   She revealed her own collage of stories, bits that fascinated her, and offered them as shared motivation.

The trans leader, though, used cheerleader tricks to try and rev up the audience, offering only hack generalities about “going and getting them.”   Without the heart of a mother or the professionalism of the pols, she fell back on cliches about trans rights being human rights and slaps at those who had opposed trans rights.

The crowd, though, were just cannon fodder for the organizers, bodies to be paraded around and shown to legislators and staff in an attempt to humanize the issue.   When I saw the group of young people I would have to join, I knew that there would be no way to fascinate any of them or anyone else in this case.

If you can’t be fascinated, you also can’t be fascinating.  The limits of our fascination are the limits of our attraction.

Later that night, I went to the only trans pride event of our local pride season.  Pride is the financial hub and political key to the local lesbian and gay centre, the moment when they can use emotions to muster involvement.

Getting involvement of transpeople beyond those who are newly out, though, the young and the reborn young, is something so hard that they have given up on the task.

As I sat in a corner of a centre I was first in over twenty years ago, the lead staffer came up to me, showing interest, but nothing I could say really engaged them.   They just wanted to appear hospitable without actually being fascinated by my rich content.

I know the way this works.    I have been too challenging to be fascinating all my life, more compelling as a clown than at close range.

Luckily, one young person emerged from the crowd with her own energy and smarts.   She so achieved the ultimate trans surgery, removing the broomstick from her own butt, that she stood out like a light.

As she chatted with her friends, I saw her noticing me.   Because she was no longer trapped in her own story, out and working as a cosmetologist, she could see that I had my own energy to offer, my own feminine presence.

I let her find me, playing the classic woman’s game of being confident in the gaze of others until they are fascinated, wanting to know more.

Her story is fabulous.  She was there to help other transpeople, but the ultimate frustration of every mother, every open hearted empath was making her crazy: people heal in their own time and their own way.   As we fought to chat inside the space of other needy transpeople, I offered her my contact info.

I ducked out on her, but she ran down the street to find me in the car.   She wanted to talk about how hard it was to deal with people who are stuck, how giving and giving and giving only seems to enable them, not to empower them.

Laughing, I knew the problem.  The kids I deal with aren’t 3 or 5, they are 17 or 26 or 37 or 54.    They need tough love from a mom, not coddling.   Someone has to mirror their possibilities, hold high expectations for them, encourage them to let go of their neediness and claim their own power.

She will get there, because she is so intense and sharp, fascinated with the challenge of helping others grab onto their own essence and give birth to their own potent stories.

I wanted to get dressed and go out somewhere the next day, but I realized what I so often realize: there are few places I can go to find fascinating people and even fewer places to find people who are open and ready enough to find me fascinating.    They don’t treasure their own growth enough to understand why they treasure me which makes it hard to explain to others why I should be treasured.

I spoke to a parent at that pride night, a big, working class guy who cuts wood and was worried his trans daughter would stay as hidden as she does at home.   She didn’t, though, because she found the people at the session fascinating and they knew enough to find her fascinating, which made him happy.

“I have always been trying to understand,” he told me.  “I have been around the world and learned everyplace I went.   In the service, I was stationed in Hawaii, and there transpeople are just part of the community, well accepted.”

In that moment, he showed himself to be a traveller, someone who wants to be fascinated, open and learning from what he finds, rather than a tourist who only wants to be entertained with distracting sensation. 

So many shut down their own fascination to stay protected, defending their own beliefs.  They want routine more than surprise, avoiding the thrill of rebirth by resisting letting go of their armour.

I look for fascinating new stories that challenge what I know, opening me up and extending my understanding.   That’s why I am a theologian.

And if I knew how, I would also look for a place where people could be fascinated with what I have to offer, too.

Alternate Erotic

There is a place, somewhere in our mind, where we are sexy, potent and desirable.

While it may be difficult finding that place on a regular basis.  It exists not in any conventional sense, only in our bold, erotic dreams, fed by the images and ideas that we have taken in over the years.

What excites us?   What titillates us?  What role do we dream of playing?   What does our imaginary partner do to thrill and melt us?

Everyone has a private, potent erotic life, with reveries of attraction that fuel our own private release.

Finding a way to embody that fantasy life, connecting it with our daily, real, relationship life, is a real challenge.

Do we surrender to our urges, showing ourselves as erotic and available in the world?   Do we deny our urges, striving to appear prim and proper, keeping our sexuality boxed up so we can do other work?

Do our reveries stay hidden and dark, far away from our everyday presentation, or are we right up front with what we desire, showing the erotic us to the world?

For most people, the answer lies in creating a balance.   We want to be attractive & erotic while also being conventional & appropriate.

Gender, at its heart, is very much about desire.   Though our gender expression we show what we love, what roles we are trained for, who we know ourselves to be.

This can be confusing for normative people who can assume, for example, that if a transperson expresses herself as a woman, she does it to meet and date men.   The idea that sexual expression and gender identity are separate can be hard to understand for people who have created their own gender expression as an expression that will attract partners who interest them.

For transpeople who have felt the pressure to keep their own desire hidden away, compartmentalized into darkness, finding the balance between those deep desires and a way to manifest them in the world is a real struggle.

We disintegrate our own sexuality and presence, dreaming of stylized escapades that not only have nothing to do with our everyday life, but have little to do with any possible relationship.   There are no women who want to transform us, no big men who want to finance our being their cumslut forever, no princes and princess who step out of porn to make our dreams come true.

The reality of trans desire has to be a pragmatic one.  We have to work with what we have got in the world, never being able to transform into some perfect man or woman.   People don’t grow up imagining being in relationship with someone like us because they have never met someone like us.

In truth, this is no different than any other human.  As much as they try to fit into stereotypical roles to attract a partner, they are a unique individual, not some cookie cutter model from an old sex film.   Relationships are hard as we negotiate our dreams, our needs, our fears and our desires.

Gender expression in the world always has a component of Eros built into it.  We show our sexuality, connected to a sexualized body under our clothes, revealing that we are ready for interactions of desire. That desire may be reserved for our partners — like wearing a hijab — or may support active flirting, but gendered expressions always include desire.

For people who have matured in the light, those connections of attraction become part of the landscape, something we can understand and manage.   They know how much to reveal and how much to conceal, know how being too sexy can be a problem, how being too distant can impeded simple connections.

Braiding together an expression that connects our own internalized gender identity with the symbols of attraction in the world, an expression that supports sparks we can handle, a mature and balanced sexuality is damn hard.  We don’t have the training ground of schools where peers allow us to experiment and explore, finding our own boundaries.

When we fear that our symbols may attract people who aren’t yet ready to handle our complexities we can pull back.  Does our gendered expression promise something that we cannot deliver, and will they get furious if they believe that they were fooled and humiliated by us?

It takes a lot of work to surface our own deep desire from beneath the habits we built up, and then to see how that desire can play out in the world.   Potential partners want to know who we are in the bedroom but until we know that about ourselves, how can we possibly inform them?   How can we code both our gender and our sexual desires in a way that doesn’t stimulate the repressed desires of others in a way that triggers their fears?

Over the years, I have found an inner Eros that I find to be potent and healthy.   I have not yet found, though, and probably never will, a way to share and connect that Eros with trusting, loving and playful partners.  There is a reason why I have been abstinent for so long.

Finding a way to mature our own inner desire by moving it out of the darkness is hard, but until we can do that, we cannot walk in confidence, using gendered power to connect with other people.

Two Cents Plain

How dull and powerless do we need to appear to seem non-threatening in the world?

For many transwomen, the dream is simple: we just want to fit in as boring, normal, average women.   We don’t want attention paid to us because we are different, special or unique, rather we want to blend in, becoming unremarkable.

We create an expression of femininity that would be called plain; simple long hair, little or no makeup, bland and utilitarian clothing.  It’s all part of the spell we try to cast to keep our trans nature invisible, showing our “authenticity” by avoiding bold, sophisticated and constructed feminine markers.

Choosing what we would call a “natural” look shows a kind of realness which we believe should allow us to be neutral and not provocative.   The problem, though, is that when we feel a strong need to share our voice in a profound way, that attempt at blandness means we have to negotiate a difficult message: I am plain & average, but I need to you to see why I have a special and compelling message to share.

Rachel Pollack tells of her 1970s transitioning days in Amsterdam when her group wore jeans and t-shirts, considering themselves much more real than the flashier transwomen who could go out in gowns and heels.

For Rachel, looking back,  though, she sees that choice for plain as one of fear.   They were scared of shiny, were afraid to take the power to be seen and attractive in the world.  Without the training and affirmation that women have in managing the gaze of others in the world, the power to show themselves and be seen, they simply avoided revelation, comfortable in their own “realness.”

When transwomen who feel a need to be in the spotlight, saying their piece, also feel a need to claim a plain and “boring” image of invisibility, their message is noisy and sabotaged.  They cannot shine in the world while also insisting that they also be seen as not shiny, cannot be compelling while also touting their banal averageness.

Gaze is wicked hard for transwomen.   We want to be glamorous, compelling and desired while also knowing that people will see us as sick, disgusting and dangerous (1997)   We want to be seen for our specialness while hiding our differences, want to reveal our intentions while hiding our biology.

We don’t have a strong network of women behind us to help us polish our appearance and balance out the host of aggressions, small and large,  that women get over appearance in a culture with plastic expectations.   We know that with our body we can never match those moulded images of feminine perfection.

More than that, we may not be working in the conventional system of desire, wanting to attract the attention of men.   If we don’t want to be the women that they expect, if we know we can’t be the women they demand, then isn’t it sensible to just duck their gaze altogether by staying plain?

Staying plain, though, is staying powerless, at least in the world of women.   It may attempt to keep us non-threatening, keep us cool and under the radar, but it doesn’t give us the attention and credibility we need to convey the truth of our trans hearts, a truth so powerful that it lead us to walk through purgatory to shift our gender.

Look at me!  Don’t look at me!  I am plain & abject, I am powerful & worth your attention!

Finding ways to shift power in the world as I shift my gender expression was the first question that I ever asked at my first gender convention, so many years ago now.

Wanting the gaze of others while also wanting to appear bland, though, seems disingenuous and confusing.   It is the strength of our shine that creates connections in the world, not some cerebral game of constructing what we assert is a raw, unprocessed and authentic realness.

I know why transwomen are scared of being shiny, scared of the judgment that always comes with gaze.  Trying to become invisible, blending into the world seems like a comfortable quest.

It’s just that if we have something powerful, true and glittering to say, we cannot do that without being powerful, true and glittering in the world.   The boring and plain can be ignored, but we can only emerge by being seen.

Even if that claiming of beauty, glamour and feminine markings is scary as hell.

Momentum

On the old TV show, I was interviewing a runner and mentioned that I rode bicycles.

He just snorted.

When I asked him why, he was clear.

“A bicycle carries its own momentum,” he told me.  “You can rest for a moment and keep on moving.   Running, on the other hand, takes focus in every moment, because when you stop moving, you stop dead and have to start again.”

He had a point, of course.  Still, living a life without momentum, without some forces to get you restarted, to keep you moving, is not a practical solution to life.

We all need to use the momentum we can find effectively.  For most people, that momentum comes from community. When we are working on a shared project, focused on a common goal, the energy of others around us restarts us when we flag, keeping us on track.

While passing the baton, sharing the impetus, using the momentum of the group is useful, it also has strong limits.   Like holding a rotating bicycle wheel, the spin of others exerts pull in a very specific direction, pulling us back into line even if we feel the need to move on our own path.

The challenge of using the momentum of the people around us to keep us moving forward, though thereby being held in their circles, versus having to restart when we flag, but being able to choose our own course, runs deeply through the primary duality of balancing our own wild freedom and our shared tame connection.

Peers reflect energy, but only the energy of the group.  Solitary movement allows personal discretion, but at the cost of having to maintain our own momentum.

For normative people, especially guys, they often see their experience of life as one seamless arc.   The momentum they have from following along with the expectations placed on them carry them along, allowing them not to have to get off the track, not to have to struggle to go inward and find their own drives.

Women are more used to seeing their lives as chapters, but they use the expectations of their friends to transfer momentum, letting others who have faced the same hills and valleys get them through the changes in their life.

For transpeople, though, we have to let go of the old momentum of our lives to claim another incarnation.   We can’t just follow the path laid out for us, we have to become new and unexpected, navigating rarely tread ground in no man’s/no woman’s land.

Our initial momentum for change comes from pent up desire, from the excitement of finally being able to follow our own Eros.   We burst out with passion, seeking the dreams we have held for so long, riding the high of emergence.  We rush to catch up with our dreams, floating on a cloud.

When you first come out as a transgendered person, you spend your first year in absolute euphoria. Then reality sets in, and you have to make a life and deal with the stigma.
— Joan Roughgarden, New York Times, 2004

That burst of momentum can only carry us so far.  While it is important to use it well, the amount of work we have to do to jump tracks, to let go of the assumptions, expectations and beliefs we have carried and become new is huge and difficult.   We don’t have the kind of support that lesbians and gays get from coming out, the connection with new networks of lovers, because trans is a journey to ourselves and not to a shared group identity.

So many transwomen end up losing momentum in the world because they are unable to find a new peer group that supports them unless they are willing to significantly compromise their trans dreams, learning to fit back into the expectations of others.    That often means we have to agree to be seen as an eccentric guy in a dress as people judge us on visible biology and presumed history rather than on our choices.

The value of momentum in the world is enormous.   Hopping into a stream of other people, even a mainstream of other people, carries us along to knowledge, transformation and affirmation we could never find if we stayed inside of our own comfort zone, choosing not to interact with the drives of others.

The cost of momentum in the world can also be enormous.  To be out in the fray of other people we have to be ready to engage the conflict they bring to us, facing their beliefs, assumptions and self-interest at all times.   This can be enormously pounding on our own energy, allowing the terror of the third gotcha to be always present.

To be out and in the stream means we have to face the stigma that shamed and pounded our nature into the closet in the first place.  Yet, to not have momentum, a drive to move forward, we can easily get lost in our own sadness, loneliness and isolation.   We suppress our own energy, staying hidden and never getting the benefits out there.

Finding other people who can be your bicycle, keeping your momentum going when you hit a rough patch, seems to be the most important part of letting your energy flow in the world.   Trying to find others who support openness, vulnerability and growth, though, can be very tough, as most people are firmly implanted in their own habits, assumptions and self-interest.   They resist change and the engagement of loss that change requires.

How fast do you have to go to run away from your own feelings? How many people do you need around you to stay distracted from your own heart?   Knowing the answers that people can hear is different than believing those oversimplifications.    Too often, momentum can take over our lives, consuming our own better knowledge, demanding that we resist engaging loss transformation and change.

As we get older, our exuberance and resilience recedes so we need to treasure momentum.   The problems thrown onto me when the parents I took care of for a decade died stopped me dead in my tracks for over two years.  While I searched for a network to help me regain and retrain my own momentum, I found only resistance, fear and a demand for attenuation.

Finding the balance between needing the momentum that others can bring and trusting the choices of your own heart is very hard.   It is easy to get lost in the motion of others, very easy to get stuck in our own habits and comforts.

I love to see people who use momentum to drive change, to move their lives forward.   The momentum of the inner life is crucial to me, which is why I seem so prolific a writer, so much so that people often assume I can’t have meaningful content.

Having momentum in the outer world is a powerful force, but not when it comes at the cost of having to only play a shallow game, living in the assumptions and expectations of others.

Finding peers to support my own momentum without having to put too much of me into containers feels important after the deliberate momentum chopping that trans expression brings in the world.

That challenge of getting on the surfboard again to find a path that both is very much mine and leverages the energy of others is very hard.

In the end, though, it does seem like we all need a bicycle, something to carry us through the tough times when our own momentum flags.

Living Liminal

It was 1995 and we were doing one of the first presentations on trans for the local lesbian and gay centre.

My co-presenters, Ari Istar Lev and Moonhawk River Stone, insisted that we each introduce ourselves.   I resisted.  I wanted the content of what I was offering to be engaged, not some assertion of standing to speak.

At the local trans group, where I facilitated, content was key.   Everyone who walked through the door got to share as an individual.  There was no hierarchy, no officials who could bellow out the truth, overriding others.

Say something insightful, smart & powerful and you should be heard, say something shallow, dismissive and oppressive and you should be challenged, no matter how long you have been in the room or what titles you have claimed.

This sometimes became a problem in the organization.   People marginalized my voice when they didn’t get it was me speaking, for example, because they wanted to silence views which questioned their own assertions.

For me, valuing individual voices over claimed status was at the heart of celebrating queer.   You are what you offer and your credentials don’t mean squat if your content is weak and coercive.

My co-presenters, though, came from academia.   They knew that in their world, standing counts, so they wanted to be able to offer a biographical statement that outlined their authority to speak.  They wanted their credentials on the table, wanted to make clear that they had credibility.   I understood that.

Ari and Hawk did their introductions at the session and then I did mine.

I walked to the door and stood in the frame.

“When I stand here, am I inside the room?” I asked.  “Am I outside the room?   Maybe I am both inside and outside of the room at the same time.   Or maybe I am neither inside or outside the room at all, but instead standing in some other space.

“I am in what is called a liminal space, betwixt and between, both and neither.  This liminal space has been recognized for centuries as a place of connection and a place of separation, a place that forms a portal between this world and the under world.

“The liminal is a bridge between places that many people want to see as distinct, divided, and dual.

“The liminal is the place where I live.  It is the place where I find my own truth and power, feeling both powerfully connected and very isolated.   Many people want me to be on one side or the other, want me to declare, but my truth is in the question and not the answer, in the space between.

“‘In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.’  I heard anthropologist Anne Bolin say that and I knew instantly it was my mission statement, honouring the liminal.

“I’m Callan, and I live in the doorway.”

My fellow presenters were surprised.  “You worked on that!” Ari said to the group.   If I had to do an intro, I would do the best one I can.

Connection was always my focus.   In 1997 I accepted a “Building Bridges” award for the local trans group and spoke about connection.   A city alderman, both gay and black, came up to me after and acknowledged the truth in what I had to say.

For me, liminality is power, grace and transcendence.

For most of the interlocking communities around transgender, though, including the gay and lesbian identified and the women’s studies types, liminality has been something to be purged.   Their goal has been to express authority in the world, to try and gain standing by asserting authenticity in their self-descriptions.

Instead of changing the game so we value each by their content, what they offer, instead they have worked to gain standing that fixes them in the world, believing that becoming staid and stuck they will have the authority to make people agree with whatever they say.

If we live in the question then we can be questioned, but if we live in authority, we believe, firm and fixed, then no one can challenge us.   Let us list off our credentials, show the symbols of our status, and we can win any battle with our own assertions of status and hype, not our own engagement.

To me, a world without thoughtful challenge is a world without life.  A place where we just assert our own beliefs, hard and fixed, diminishing and demeaning people who we don’t believe have the standing to challenge us, is a world of bullies.

An open mind and an open heart allow us to be present in the world, always growing, transformed by our interactions with others.   Our vulnerability is the key to our growth, allowing us to heal, grow and delight in revelations of shimmering truth.   Living in the path of non-duality isn’t easy, but it creates possibilities that fixed habits will never see.

My life has been powerfully liminal.   When I took a name, I took a gender neutral name rather than one that coded some kind of fixed and assumed femininity.   That alone shows a difference from transpeople assigned as male at birth who try to claim standing rather than liminality.

While others I fight with gain the benefits of my mastery of the liminal, offering them engaged reflections and deep insights, my choice of the liminal is still baffling to them.    They can’t find a way to explain or defend my liminal position to those around them who value only fixed and binary positions, those who want a sharp answer rather than an unfolding question.

For me, I knew early that being liminal would be the challenge of my life.  When I first emerged as trans, a decade before that presentation, I showed up searching for balance and actualization, trying to claim integration of the feminine rather than creating another box.  I used my birth name and wore a dress, gender play.  It was only exploration and growth, living in the liminal, that got me to where I am now.

Explaining the liminal, though, to those who assume the fixed and binary, has always been difficult.  In my experience, though, claiming liminality is the only way to claim the real power of living between the divine and the practical, between spirit and flesh.

I am not a human living a spiritual life, I am spirit living a human life.  And if that’s not a liminal experience, I don’t know what is.