Too Much, Too Little

“I have to watch myself because I often put other people off by being too _________.”

What do you believe that you have to tamp down, to keep small and hide for other people not to find you off-putting?

It’s those aspects you have been told that you have to police which form much of your anxiety, fear and denial.   It’s the reason you feel the need to modulate, cut back and control your choices to follow the rules, to fit within the lines, all so people will like you.

What do I most fear showing?  Simple.

I fear being overwhelming (1998).  I know how easy it is for me to open my mouth and fill the space with challenging, intense, theological, liminal and potent words.   People can be baffled, frightened, insulted or just see me as a total jerk.

If less of me is more, then I should hold back on revealing myself, right?   My æsthetic denial and expectation of scarcity tells me that if something or someone might be useful to me, going after it is the absolutely wrong thing; instead I have to let it come to me.

This strategy leaves me alone and cold most of the time. STFU — Shut The Fuck Up! — does not lead to making lots of new connections.  It doesn’t even lead to making the most of the few connections that you do make.

I could, of course, give a complex, detailed and exhaustive explanation of how I came to this state, but I have already filled an enormous and obtuse blog with the blow-by-blow.

Just because I am aware of the torrent of thoughts, feelings and voices that course through me all the time doesn’t mean others are ready to engage or even to hear what I have to share.  That means I need to be my own editor, which also means that, like any contentious self-policing queer, I end up cutting out much of the good, relate-able and connecting stuff.

My life-myth is simple: nobody gets the joke.   They won’t see what I have to offer beyond their own limited expectations, their own tunnelled assumptions.    I may know how sharp, connected and gifted I am, but they see the lumps and bumps of the idiosyncratic & iconoclastic package, which never fit the standard conventions.

For me, attention was always something to be avoided rather than being encouraged.  To be revealed was to be unsafe, open to attack for what others projected onto me.   Unsafe was my expectation, never really one of the gals, never really one of the guys, never really one of the gang.

I learned to take power from the edges rather than from the front, using guerrilla skills to ask just the wrong question which opens up a new way of thinking.

Offering too much information can be a problem, so we can be defined by what we conceal, what we police.   Like anything, though, conscious creation is always more powerful than habitual patterns.   When we own our less than perfect bits, our deepest intentions, our choices and our shimmering contradictions we can come to expression with awareness & presence rather than fear & ignorance.

My personal denial is considered, deliberate, explicit.  I trust thoughtful content over free style, overthinking, overworking and under achieving.   I don’t trust my performance, my brilliance. my beauty (2006).

I know, though, that choice keeps my spark, my light from the world, keeps me from trusting that I can attract what I need, keeps me believing that my intensity will blow the deal.

What we police holds the flashes of our energy, our gifts.  Staying small may keep others comfortable, but it doesn’t keep us happy.

Or healthy.


Remember Too

It has come to my awareness that my first draft for TDOR 2017 seems a bit too complicated and intense.

Here is a second, simpler draft.

We don’t come together today to remember transgender murders, rather we gather to remember transgender lives.  Each name read isn’t just a chime, rather it is the remainder of a trans person who lived, loved, struggled, sweated and survived until they no longer did.

When we hear of tragic deaths, we have two choices.

We can come together to fear death, identifying victimization and loss, girding ourselves from inevitable pain and destruction.

Or we can come together to remember to value life while we have it, celebrating the messy possibilities of creation, of relationship, of love.

When you hear about a murder, do you look for someone to blame, for someplace to hide?   Or are you reminded that life is precious and must be lived to the full in order to make the most of our gifts?

Do you yell and wail or do you hug and educate?

I believe that the way we honour those we have lost is by making the most out of what we still have, of all that we can find and transform in this world.

Were people there, loving, encouraging and empowering the people who lost their lives to violence this year?   We hope so, hope they had moments of bliss that lifted them and deeply connected them to others, to something greater.

We can’t change their lost lives, though, cannot change the past.   All we can do is to allow the memory of them to inform our choices, helping shape our future.

As we remember what is lost, we are reminded of what we have to value.   We are reminded that moving beyond our own limits, our own comfort, our own habits and expectations is the only way to develop deep connections that open us to love beyond fear.

Queer people were lost to us.   Doesn’t that remind us to remember how important it is to value the queer people who pass through our lives today, the ones who make choices we would never make for ourselves, but which open our eyes and our hearts to a kind of continuous common humanity that transcends our personal experience?

We remember the lost so we can be reminded to value the found, moving beyond the fear of death to the love of life, human expression and essence in all its diverse, challenging and beautiful forms.

We remember to remind us to open to the love that can connect us all.


Remember Fear

Draft for TDOR 2017

As we come together on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, taking the time to list those transpeople that we know were lost at the hands of another in the past year,  what do we need to most remember?

The stories of our murdered sisters and brothers remind all transpeople that our safety is not something that we can take for granted.   We live in a world where we can become targets of other people’s internalized fear and rage, where their need to purge what they find challenging to their own beliefs can end up with them targeting us, with them feeling that they are entitled to erase perversion and evil.

The one thing that all queer people share is the experience of the closet.  We learn very early that it is unsafe for us to show the nature in our hearts, that the only good we can do is to deny, suffocate and twist our desires to fit into what family, church and community expects.

Today, we remember that fear which caused us to hide, which still pushes us to stay small and deny our power, and we stand together to resist it.

By gathering in love to celebrate the lives of marginalized transpeople, by showing our solidarity and coming together with allies who also commit to remember the fear that terrorizes gender variant people around the world, we stand up for care, for compassion and for liberation.

Today we say that the stories of trans lives, the voices of those trans people some attempt to silence with fear, are vital to remember each and every day.   We honour the experience of being trans in the world, even where it differs from our personal experience, seeing through the eyes of those who have lived in fear just because their hearts crossed the lines of society’s gendered conventions.

Marginalized, pushed to the edges, they lived in fear of their own safety, striving to create a life even though they were routinely told that just showing their nature put them beyond what many could accept, what many could tolerate, what many believed was right, pure and godly.

They knew that even using a public restroom could put them at risk from some who would brand them sick and perverted, who would dehumanize them, call them deluded monsters, worthy of purging from polite society.

Yet, they lived their own love, claimed their own creation, embodied their own truth.   Some paid the ultimate price for that expression, unable or unwilling to hide themselves enough to satisfy the tormented, mirroring the diversity and transcendence of creation in a way that got them attack and destroyed.

On this day, we remember that only by creating safe space in our own heart to embrace the mirror of continuous common humanity, moving beyond the walls and separations that we believe keep us safe can we create a world where diversity can blossom and thrive.   Our comforting assumptions need to be released to see the humanity around us, rather than defended by erasure, ignorance and projection.

We come together today to move beyond our own fear of the different, our fear of those who make choices that we would never make for ourselves, choices that we can only understand by opening our hearts and seeing the world through their eyes.   We commit to remembering that our discomfort or feeling of challenge is within us and only we can reach to something higher which allows us to transcend, moving from fear to love.

As we see echoes of attack of gender variant people around us, in the media or in conversation, we remember that the seeds of fear are being planted, making the world less safe for those who have the spark of transcendence in their hearts.   We remember that only love can trump fear, only compassion can trump doctrine, only we can trump ignorance and hate.

Today, we remember those who were destroyed by fear and violence, those who are damaged every day by fear and the threat of violence, those who cannot give all their creator has put into their heart because they live in fear.

And today we remember that only we can create fertile ground for them with our love, our willingness to open our own hearts and minds to hear their stories, to move beyond our old assumptions and comforting walls to engage them with love.

We remember the lost and we commit to the living that we will remember the continuous common humanity that threads through all human hearts, remembering to open with love and kindness so we create safe spaces for diversity, expression and transcendence, spaces that can spread from our heart to the wider world.

We promise to remember to release fear and embrace love for every human, even the ones who cross gendered conventions.



Try To Remember

“I think that Transgender Day Of Remembrance (TDOR) is simply a vigil,” said the pastor who called the organizational meeting, “and not a time for speeches or anything like that.”

“Let me ask you a question,” I said.  “What are we trying to remember?   Just a list of people we never met?

“Clearly, these lost people act as symbols, but symbols of what?”

The room kind of choked.   All these people wanted to be good, liberal allies of transpeople, catching the trend, but in their minds, trans was just what they assumed it to be, not something challenging, risky and potent.

It’s just that power that TDOR was created to express.

From the first, TDOR was a political event.    What it means — what we are trying to remember — is at the heart of the question, a question shaped by your own worldview.

For many, TDOR is just another reminder of racism, as many of the victims are women of colour.   It becomes swept into conventional identity politics based social justice rhetoric.

For me, though, TDOR is aan event for consciousness raising about the erasure and destruction of trans visibility.   It is about the forces used to kill off trans nature in society.

That requires that we face the connection between all transpeople, the shaming and the abuse that tries to crush us.

For transpeople who have spent countless energy in trying to justify why they are not bad trannies, why they are the exception that doesn’t deserve the shunning, shame and slams that other, too-queer trannies get, this can be very hard to do.

I had a transwoman murdered a few blocks down the street from where I lived.   Trying to bring together community to call for justice, let alone to remember her life was an enormously difficult challenge.

Many questioned why a man was in her apartment after the bars closed.  It turned out that he followed her home to rob her, seeing her as vulnerable, but the very suggestion that she may have been sexual marked her as complicit in the view of many.

Many couldn’t imagine trading their hard crafted mask of invisibility to be out to stand up and stand by her.

Trans is such an individual journey that they couldn’t see themselves as family with this woman, couldn’t imagine why they should take her questionable choices onto themselves.   After all, they protected themselves by playing safe; shouldn’t she have done the same?

Race, class, economics, sexuality and much more form barriers to our own consciousness of connection.  Even when we do try to reach beyond those boundaries we often find others who create their own blocks to solidarity, looking to blame others or use the shame of constructed political correctness to enforce their own identity politics.

TDOR has always been a political event, asking us to stand up in solidarity for those transpeople who have been physically erased, no matter what the reason or how different they are from us.

For the nice people in that room last night, it was a simple matter of humanity.   The people on this list could be refugees or political prisoners or lost miners.   Just humans who died and we should list off their names, take a moment to remember them and then move on.

For me, though, context is all.   How do we legitimately remember the challenges transpeople face without engaging their narratives?   How can we create a space for them in our mind unless we are open to their continuing struggle?   What is the purpose of claiming remembrance without doing the work of actually understanding the context of their lives?

This was, though, much more than people wanted to handle in the meeting, than what they wanted to include in their nice vigil.   The service was enough; actually remembering, which meant actually opening, knowing and engaging was beyond the scope.

I left the room feeling unheard and erased, with no one wanting to engage what I offered.

And that’s what I’ll remember.

Terrifying Transgender

Transgender, if you do it right, is terrifying.

Transvestism isn’t, be it crossdressing or drag. If all you do is change clothes for a bit of fun, retaining your assigned gender,  staying fixed in heteronormativity.

Transsexualism isn’t.   If you have a birth defect and your attempt is to hide it, fix it, blend in as the real sex you always really were, well, that supports heteronormativity.

I lived through decades of transsexuals and crossdressers fighting hard to separate themselves from transgender identification.  They didn’t want to be colonized and co-opted by those transgender people who sought to appropriate their deep cultural truth.

They knew that transgender is terrifying and they had no desire to be terrifying.   They just wanted to go along to get along.

Today, many try to take the terror out of transgender by removing its threat of challenging comforting divisions.   Their model of trans is a kind of neutering, a removal from oppressive gender constructs rather than a true crossing of them.   By specifying pronouns and staying away from the power of assimilation, they treat transgender as a kind of personal expression that floats above gendered norms rather than challenging them.   In this case, trans is the embodiment of “none of the above.”

Transgender, though, if you do it right is terrifying.

Doing it right means revealing the artificiality and limits of gendered assumptions by cutting across them.  It is when we powerfully show that we are “all of the above” that people begin to get queasy, feeling the challenge of liminality to their comforting social divisions.

Transgender opens up the power of connection, demanding we face the mixed, mired and beautiful part of us that links us to continuous common humanity.

Any transperson who has experienced the “third gotcha,” seeing their gender shift in someone else’s eyes knows the power and the fear contained in this truth.

It is why, on Halloween, no matter what costume we try to wear, we end up just being the “scary tranny” if we do it well enough.

Looking at the current sexual harassment scandals though a transgender lens leaves us seeing them as abuses of power, which always run deeper than gendered behaviours.  Sure, men may abuse power in a different way than women do, but that demand for obedience at the threat of destruction runs through the stripe of humanity.

This view isn’t comforting to those who are used to an us versus them mentality, a separation between victim and oppressor, between hunted and prey, between masculine and feminine, between good and evil.

In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.

I knew that was my mission statement, my transgender mission statement when I first heard anthropologist Anne Bolin say it almost 25 years ago and it remains my touchstone today.

And its when that humanity beyond convention is exposed that transgender becomes terrifying, at least to those who crave constructed walls for comfort against the fear of what lies within them.

Transgender, if you do it right, is terrifying.

It’s why I love it, because moving beyond fear to seeing with love is a key to becoming aware.   It’s why I hate it, because being a solitary, abused, phobogenic object (2006) is lonely and tough.

But I can’t imagine living with any other stance.

Halloween marks the time when our ancestors believed the veil between this realm and others was at its thinnest.  It is the moment when shadows dance, scary and potent, revealing connection.

May yours be energetic, divine and transcendent.

Easy To Slag

I have been thrashing about with the concept of “learned helplessness,” the notion that with enough repetition of negative results we learn to avoid even trying to break out of the box that we find ourselves in.

How do you break your own deep conditioned responses?   Clearly, the best way is to try something new and get better results, outcomes that reward, support and encourage different choices.

That, though, is not so easy to do on your own.   Your mind is already conditioned to see the expected outcomes and to minimize possible flashes of better.   When you believe that no one gets you it is easy to look almost anywhere and have that assumption confirmed.

I want to be able to leave the basement and come back with something more than short-dated 99¢ clearance bratwurst, but being able to find the stimulation, affirmation and mirroring I need is far from simple.

Why can’t I just take the risk, just put myself out there with grace, resilience and persistence to build a new audience that values what I have to share in a way that brings me what I need?

Reading an article in the NY Times Magazine about the attacks on Amy Cuddy let me realize what holds me back.

I am enormously easy to slag off.  Since, after a lifetime of experience, I know how simple it is to portray me as weird, disconnected, out-of-touch, twisted, sick, over complicated and so many other negative things, I expect to be attacked in passive-aggressive ways that do not engage what I say but rather just slight my queer, thoughtful style.

“Well, I don’t understand it, so how can it be important?   I mean, if he can’t say it in simple words that everyone gets, then how real can it be?”

The message is simple: go along to get along.   Challenge is not what we need.   Help us attack shared enemies rather than asking us to question our own choices and maybe then we can find some common ground.  We are all in agreement; why do you have to try and cause trouble?

Trans is a very individual journey.   It is a quest to claim our own special heart rather than trying to become one of the crowd.   This, though, is a tough idea to own for people who long dreamed of becoming one of the crowd, strong, beautiful and well accepted.   Who The Fuck Wants To Be A Tranny? (2006)

The voltage that courses through the grid that walls me off is the power of getting slagged off, dismissed and mocked for my attempt to communicate.   That thread started early in my history with two Aspergers parents, continued through public school where I learned to stand on the sidelines as an idiosyncratic iconoclast and got magnified in LGBT spaces where the correctness of identity politics is valued as a comfort blanket.   Add to that the hew and cry against queer perversion and I have good reason to be trained to avoid rather than engage, to reside inside my own learned helplessness.

I know how easy I am to slag off, to characterize as a stupid freak not worthy of engagement.

And that, I note, keeps me silent and in this basement.

Fighting While Trans

Trans is a losing proposition.

Ask anyone who resists emerging as trans, who advises resistance, or even those who have emerged and they will tell you that you should not, cannot emerge without enduring loss.

You may lose family or friends,  you may lose your job or career, you may lose relationship opportunities and reproductive possibilities, you may lose safety and standing in the world.

Loss is inevitable.    That doesn’t mean that there aren’t benefits in emerging, of course, that it can’t lead to a better, more authentic and more actualized life, but the price of breaking convention and expectation, of losing those normative dreams & hopes, is always with you.

To emerge you have to fight through daily reminders of loss, always keeping your eye on the reasons why emergence is vital and critical to your life.

The only way to claim your trans expression in the world is to fight for your right to be queer, to be someone beyond shame enforced expectations and assumptions.

Facing the whole world with a fighter’s crouch, though, puts a huge barrier between you and the connection, support and love that you need, the affirmation of who you are inside that was denied while you were forced into the closet.

The styles of fighting we learned as kids don’t serve us well through gendershift.   Men and women take power in very different ways, so we need to powershift as we claim our authentic expression.

Combining the loss and the limits of experience, of training to fight in our new gender leads most people to one simple outcome.

Instead of fighting to win, we fight to avoid losing.   Instead of trying to own our own power, we try to avoid being hurt, avoid being battered, avoid being dismissed, avoid being shamed again.

This kind of defensive posture leaves us bristling, armoured, isolated, apart.   The ultimate trans surgery is….

To fight to win means that you have to believe that there winning is possible, that there is something worth winning.   Scramble long enough to avoid losing, though, and the notion that winning is even an option fades away, lost in the daily struggle for survival.

Trying to hold on to our cherished visualizations, all those imaginings of how our lives could be and should be, through the process of transgender emergence is a recipe for getting stuck in a bubble of our own making.  No thirteen year old can imagine her future life with any kind of certainty, unless it is merely following the expectations of others.  She needs to try, to experiment, to spread her wings and see where she can blossom.

Learning to both let go of your ego and grab for your dreams at the same time is a very tough balancing act.    To become new you must let go of the old, even the old hopes, and be present in possibility.

Does fighting while trans mean that we have to take on some defined political role, giving our voice to the group, does it mean that we have to impose our own will and demands, or does it mean finding new ways to be effective and responsive?

The fact is that fighting while trans usually means defending our hearts against people who want to impose their own belief structures onto our actions.   Even simple banter, the flirting and back & forth of everyday conversations feel like a minefield as we police ourselves, working to conceal our complexity and avoid losing again.

Many observers don’t see this internal tension, instead assuming that anyone bold enough to emerge as trans in the world is potent enough to do anything.   Our internal narrative is obscured by the assumption of strength rather than the understanding that we have used our strength to emerge and feel like we are always walking on the edge of risk.

Some even see our emergence as a trigger for their own fears.  They may see something in our expression that they have struggled to resist, or may see us as a threat to the belief systems they hold dear.   If they feel fear around us, though, they rarely look inward to their own tensions, instead branding us as phobogenic objects, creating the fear they feel.   They fear we can see what they are trying to hide, and often they are right.  This gives them permission to dismiss and destroy us, assigning destructive motives to our choices and using those projections to justify silencing us, no matter what pain it causes.

For people close to us, we know that to fight with them is to harm our relationships, even when those we love treat us in ways that deny and demolish the energy we need to claim our potential.  It’s easy to attack those who set out to hurt us, much harder to bear the pain inflicted by the limits and fears of those who really love us.

Fighting while trans, then, usually comes down not to taking a big swing to claim our power in the world but rather to living with a roiling internal battle between our own bold liberation and our own attempt to fit in, to connect, to stay safe.  By being trapped in the shame cycle where we fight ourselves, reminded by the scars that kept us small and hidden for so long, we end up eating our own passion rather than trusting it.

The idea that trans is a losing proposition is deeply ingrained in our knowledge, and if we ever start to forget, someone will remind us what victims transpeople are, remind us how we are oppressed as a class, remind us that many see our trans expression as lies, as sickness, as perversion, as reason enough to silence and hurt us.

As long as our fight is to avoid losing, rather than to trust that we can win, the battle will mostly go on inside.   It will be a competition of policing, striving to appear normative and harmless enough to avoid the brunt of resistance that has hurt us in the past.

We have learned to live with loss, but living with exposure, with revelation, with assurance feels very, very risky.

And until we can stand proudly in the light, fighting while trans will never be fighting to win.