Eat It

Do I eat my feelings?

Of course I do.

What are the other choices?  I have tried to share my feelings for my entire life and ended up being told that I was too intense, too overwhelming, too queer, too confusing, too challenging, too weird.

Sometimes that meant people just walking away and sometimes it meant them trying to silence me, but in any case, it left me to do something with my own feelings, to soothe and stabilize myself.

I write when I can, I sleep and I eat.  Boo.

My gender seems to be guru.   People expect me to be of service to them without having to be present for me.

Because they see me as a mirror of their own expectations & beliefs, a screen to be projected upon, they can’t imagine how they can be with me, can enter my world, can engage my feelings.

I have done work they see as mystical and beyond them, have transcended the space they inhabit, have moved beyond their understanding, so I am a wonderful resource to let them play out their own spirals and mess, to give context and mirroring, to offer a guide to better and more conscious choices.

That’s lovely.   It is a service I am proud to offer.  “In cultures where gender is rigidly binary, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.”

I am a healer.   But I am also a human, with my own emotions, my own exhaustion, my own wounds.

And so I indulge the flesh in a limited attempt to stay nourished and functional.   I eat my feelings, I sleep my pain.

The nature that I have found I cannot share is the nature I have to hoard and nurture in myself. I must value the jokes, the tender truths in my heart that others cannot afford to get, have never been willing or able to get.

In deep cold, the body shuts down the extremities to keep the core vital.

I know the extremities that I have cut off, made invisible. It hurts, but the heart & mind have the imperative to survive.

In a culture where either/or, where us/them is the norm, my meaning gets trounced on.  Even those shouting that they are non-binary usually still want to draw a line between themselves and the assimilated, creating their own hip good vs evil binary.

Anytime the world is divided into a binary, even by Dan Savage, I am destroyed.  My liminality is the essence of me, a walking bisexual who crosses sex/gender and many other imaginary boundaries between humans.

What we did for love drives the story of almost every human life.  Our struggle to get enough love becomes the driving force behind our choices.

The more we have to comply with expectations to get the love we need the more we internalize the shame projected on who we are.

For me, with my Aspergers parents, understanding and love was hard to find, even the basic tactile engagement all mammals need.

I needed to learn, therefore, how to live with scarce love, how to eke out what I got and swallow the parts of me that needed more.   “Nobody loves me,” was my understanding, partly from the limits of what was on offer and partly from an understanding that to get even what was available I had to hide my nature by ferociously controlling my choices, keeping my emotions hidden and in check.

The cost of scarcity is high, especially when it is the scarcity of emotional mirroring. It leaves us to struggle with our own shame.

Fighting for others was always powerful to me, but fighting for myself was much harder.   Not only did I not have someone who would fight with me and fight for me, I knew that my family would run from conflict, shaming me if I brought any unwanted attention.

Aesthetic denial was my only strategy, but without a cultural support network, the underlying feelings had to be eaten, and they were much better when washed down with fries and a Coke.

I eat my feelings, but that is a meal of bile and degradation.

No one, though, has shown me another choice for big, bright queers in a terrified world where people feel entitled to box up other people with a dogmatic set of labels.

To be present is a joy.

To not have others be present for me, though, is reason enough to open the refrigerator.

Power Of Flirt

I like flirting with men.   And I am good at it, focusing on them, creating a quick kind of intimacy that tingles a little bit.

I don’t have much interest in getting them naked, though.  Physical intimacy really isn’t where I live, and if I had to pick a body to rub against, well, it isn’t male bodies that turn my head, have ever turned my head.   Nothing wrong with them, they just don’t get me a bit short of breath.

I like flirting with women.   A sizzle of connection, of excitement, is a very nice thing, that exchange of seeing and being deeply seen.   It’s very good.

Hell, I’m a femme.  Flirting is what we do, creating shared moments that feel great and open the way to shared endeavours. When I talked, so many years ago now, about powershift as part of gendershift, the shift into flirting was at the core of the question.

I don’t flirt, though.

I don’t flirt because I don’t trust my standing in the world.   How will my attempt at intimacy or even vulnerability be taken?   If I open up myself to someone else, will they judge me or worse, will their fear button be pushed in a way that they feel the need to shut me down, even if it involves hurting me?

Flirting is the place where I have my power, but flirting is also the place where I know the biggest potential pitfalls exist.   Danger, danger, danger.

The list of reasons why I should not flirt is long and realistic.   It would be easy for you to agree with at least some of the reasons, so logical and pragmatic are they.

Girlfriends, though, know that trying to come from your feminine power in the world is just impossible.    That’s why a few rounds of encouraging flirting are the prelude to most encounters.  “You look great! I love that scarf!”   Saying yes, mirroring the energy, affirming the beauty, well, it opens us up and keeps us warm.

Girlfriends also know how much a bad flirting experience can hurt.   You put yourself out there, show a deep part of you, and then, for whatever reason, you end up falling on your face because your partner won’t support you.  Now it’s their stuff that came up, but it’s you who hits the pavement, and that means you need someone to help you get back up, dust yourself off, reapply your lipstick and get back out with a big smile.

The power of the flirt isn’t logical or quantitative.   Rather, it exists in the spark of connection that warms and opens our heart, enabling us to see beyond our own immediate expectations.

For people who don’t want to open, don’t want to warm, nipping flirting in the bud is the obvious answer.

5) The most painful thing about trans is not being able to give your gifts and have them accepted.

Once someone decides that they don’t want whatever you are selling, that they need to keep you down to keep you at a distance, flirting becomes very unsafe.   If you offer something too tempting, an idea or a feeling or a possibility, well, they are weak and they need to be strong.

If you are not able to be receptive to the somewhat unknown, aren’t able to own your own curiosity, aren’t ready to go off in a bit of a new direction to see what you can see there, then you are not able to flirt.

Flirting is never about asserting complete control, rather it is about trusting your heart enough to enter into the dance.  The steps are negotiated, with intuition, training and wit, finding the particular rhythms that work in this moment, between these people.

We make a personal scene, maybe for a moment and maybe longer, but in that interaction, we share humanity.

That is, of course, if we are present and open to the spark.  If we hold on too tight to our own control, fearing we might look foolish, might fail, or might be knocked off our determined path, the connection never happens.

I love to flirt.   My curiosity keeps me engaged.   I want to receive what the world, and that is a world of humans, has to offer.   The divine surprise comes from seeing something anew through different eyes.   Let me hear your story, let me understand your experience, let me see through your eyes to discover what we share and gain a perspective I have missed because I didn’t yet know you.

For so many, flirting has to have an objective.   It isn’t an virtue in itself.    This a problem for people like me whose real treasure is hidden behind a less than obvious façade.   We aren’t shiny on the outside, so that makes our inner glow less obvious, which in turn means we are harder to explain to your friends.

Over the years, I learned that flirting was dangerous.   It let others judge you and they could not only find you wanting, they could find you sick, perverted and worthy of attack.

In the 1990s, much of the tabloid talk shows focused on transwomen “fooling” people, deceiving them for the purpose of seduction.   That lead, of course, to the “homosexual panic” defence, where men who attacked transwomen could claim they acted out of legitimate fear that their masculinity was being stolen by a gender offender.

What are you selling when you flirt?   What is deception and what is honesty?   That was the core of much of my early philosophical questions around transgender expression and I came down on the side of rationality, safety and explicitness.

In doing that, though, it seems to me now that approach blocked access to other truths and more than that, blocked access to the true source of my power, my big feminine heart.

By not trusting the flirt, no matter how amazing it felt in the few moments when it happened, I didn’t trust my own heart and the connections that take people heart to heart, life to life.

Who doesn’t love the warm attention of curiosity, of intention, affirmation and attraction?

Who doesn’t fear, though, the cold attention of disgust, of rejection, humiliation and separation?

The power of flirt only works when you believe that what others see is your heart and not the crap they project onto your body, your history and your struggles.

I am good at flirting, but I don’t trust doing it.

And that has cost me dearly.

Overlapping

All I have to do is figure out where my interests overlap with other people and I can find a new group of potential acquaintances.

That sounds so simple.  After all, communities form around shared interests, shared concerns and shared values, so why not just find a community where I can share in the focus?

“Don’t concern yourself with me,” I used to tell people.  “I’ll just sit with the other transpeople and blend in.”

Of course, there were never any other transpeople.  The group was almost always composed of women and men and me.  This puts me in a difficult place; do I try and blend in nicely, or is that just being arrogant and asking for trouble?  How much noise should I attenuate, trying to stay silent and within expectations?  What happens when someone decides who I “really” am and makes a stink?

The truth is that I couldn’t blend in if I tried.   Big body, expressive face, sharp mind, strong emotions, effective voice, well, it’s me.

In a world where most people operate at the level of symbol, I learned early that I had to operate at the level of meaning.   Instead of taking anything at face value, accepting the surface of it, I needed to look deeper and understand what is going on underneath.    Moving beyond convention, to embrace trans, has made much of the world transparent, as it is to any shaman who walks through walls others see as real.

Worse, I do this very quickly.   I am a live television kind of girl, operating in real time, so fast that it can seem incomprehensible to other people.   They often assume that I am just spouting old routines rather than responding in the moment, at least until they really watch me surf on intellectual waves for a bit.

This is my most annoying attribute, by far.  People can quickly see in my eyes that I’m not buying their polished pitch, rather I am looking deeper to understand the truths that underlie their fancy words.   Small talk is never small when it inadvertently reveals too much meaning that you intended to hide, maybe even from yourself.

When people are trying to placate me, to fob me off with a polite response, it is very clear in my eyes.   Their manipulations show brightly, even as they try to dismiss me or silence me with meaningless affirmations.

Salespeople hate this facet of me as they look for a way to get past my analysis and appeal right to my emotions.   How can they get me to do what they want, to comply with their wishes, to respond to their power, if they can’t sweet talk me at all?

Those committed to healing, though, find this x-ray vision my most compelling quality.   Seeing the divine surprise inside helps clear away the ego’s neediness and deceptive comfort to reveal deeper, more profound and more beautiful truth.   I offer my vision with wit and compassion, always connecting notions that seem separate, but even then, it is often overwhelming to those who need to maintain their own strain rather than engage something bigger.

Somehow, finding a group of queer theologians who value meaning over doctrine, who really want to engage the divine surprise, has not been easy.  I try churches, but most people who belong to a formal religious structure are looking for affirmation of their current beliefs, not to be challenged to think deeper.

Finding people who are committed to caring — I was thrown out of two different caretaker support groups because my problems were too big — or who understand the challenges of being raised by Aspergers parents, well, that hasn’t been simple either.

Most people want to dance the dance they know, to have the same conversations over and over again.   If they feel challenged or frightened, they assume someone is attacking them, not that they have just left their own walled off comfort zone.  Their discomfort is someone else’s fault, especially if that other person won’t be satisfied with canned responses that elegantly dismiss rather than engaging what is offered.

Do I hide my vision, letting people get to know and like me first, or do I just show myself right up front, letting the chips fall where they may?   Sure, a soft entry may offer some benefits, but it also takes hard work and can even create a bigger fall when others find the need to walk away even after that energy is expended.

There must be people out there who would find me intriguing, compelling and attractive, but if I don’t show myself — don’t take the time to find our overlapping interests — I will never build relationships with them.  My lifemyth, that I am too hip for the room, will trounce me again.

That story wasn’t built by accident, though.   It contains the seeds of truth.   Worse, the longer I have to be the sole guardian & protector of the Callan knowledge, the heavier that burden becomes.   There isn’t much room for play when your own playfulness and sparkle is not engaged and affirmed.

I’m pretty burned out and attenuated at this point, so my tolerance for even the slight bruising of social interaction is quite limited.   I avoid because I know that the odds are people are just going to fob me off, push me away, try and manipulate me in some way.

All I have to do is figure out where my interests overlap with other people and I can find a new group of potential acquaintances.

That process, though, well, isn’t so easy for a very queer and very sharp gal with a very fast view of actual meaning.

Evil & You

I have been thinking a lot about what I would say if they asked me to speak at First Event next weekend.

I know what the audience wants, a pep talk, a feel good speech about transgender and affirmation, which probably includes an attack on the enemies that scare the shit out of us, who feel like they threaten us back into the closet.

We are in a time of battle, confronted by people who believe that “this is their country” and they get to police it, to purge it, to cleanse it so their country can be great again, in the way they believe they remember greatness.

Nobody is saying “this is our country,” making it clear that we have complex and compounding challenges to face together, issues that can only be faced if we do the hard work of engaging change. Engaging change is ALWAYS engaging loss, always demands the willingness to surrender comfort & ease to become better, stronger, more connected and more present.

After 9/11, my take was “God Bless The World.” Al Queda brought the war to the USA and we need to be open to the pain and the rage that so much of the rest of the world carries.

The Republican response, though, the only response politicians could sell was “God Bless America.” There was evil and we had to destroy it. There was a right and wrong, so people that raised our fears must be wrong, even if that involved stereotyping.

This notion of good and evil is everywhere. I looked at a social action event today and the organizer’s Facebook image was “I Fight Evil” She is a professional activist and that’s her pitch, not the “I fight for good” but instead I fight evil. How do you create true coalition when your goal is to fight evil, including the evil you see everywhere?

At the Women’s March, Janet Mock suggested that fighting for others, even others who make choices we find suspect, choices that we would never make for ourselves, demands that we search ourselves and do the hard work.

What is that hard work, though?   I suggest it is the challenge of coming from love.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a transperson, I know something crucial, something precious.

I know what it is to lose part of your heart, part of who you are, because people see it as evil. I have experienced internalized shame, horrible self loathing and the desire to kill of part of who I am because I was told that it was other, was sick, was queer.

We learned to encase our hearts in lead because we feared the radiation from them was toxic.

The problem is that radiation was our love. It was the Eros, the love that our creator placed in our heart.

Our love, though, crossed boundaries and revealed connections. It shone of continuous common humanity.

Our love, in the end, is only toxic to separation, to darkness, to hate.

And that’s why we were shamed into hiding it, because it challenged the walls of separation that the ego finds comforting. It lets people maintain the fiction of good vs evil, of us vs them, of pure vs connected.

We are defined by the wars we hold as ours. So many of those wars have been coded as stereotypes, telling us who is the problem, who is evil, who we must hate. Difference is seen as dangerous, rather than diversity being seen as essential to a healthy human community.

So much hate.

What do we do when confronted by hate? Do we get angry, set up battle lines, identify the enemy?

If we do that, well, we just play their game. They want a war because their separation beliefs are fed by war.

I know why I freak people out as a transperson. I cross boundaries, speak for love, stand for connection.

This is the gift that transpeople have always brought to society. We speak not for battle but for transcendence.

In a time where the mob wants battle, we can be dismissed as soft, weak, unpatriotic, destructive, traitors. (Old joke: “In the war between the sexes, men see crossdressers as traitors and women see them as saboteurs. That means both sides want to kill them.”)

We have hearts broken open by our creation, neither this or that, but both or neither.

That is our calling and our gift, as I have been saying for the past decades.

I can tell you this, but I know that you can only see the world in the context of the war you are committed to fight right now, whatever that is. It is the war that forms your life-myth, and I bet, I just bet, the core of it is me versus them. You have identified an enemy, not a calling, a separation not a connection, an anger not a love.

And that is why I can’t break through to you. It’s why my words can’t make it into your tender, broken heart, the soul you have learned to defend with every bit of armour that you can find, just because you know you need that defence to walk in a world where people committed to separation are ready to attack you at any time.

Love can build a bridge. But only if we are ready to fight for crossing & connection rather than targeting evil.

Standing Beside

Colin Mochrie has come out as a trans advocate after his 26 year old child emerged as a transwoman.

Mochrie says his daughter came up with the name Kinley after consulting him and McGrath.

"We had a bit of a bump at the beginning where she picked a name and it didn't seem to go with her and we were all kind of pussyfooting around it. Finally, Deb said, 'That name says nothing. All it reminds me of is my best friend's dog.' And so, again, Kinley went away and thought about that for a long time and came back and said, 'You know what, I should have had you as part of this process because we're all going through this together.'"

McGrath suggested the Irish name Kinley to reflect her Irish heritage, and it stuck.

"So we now have a Kinley," says Mochrie.

In gay pride parades, the delegation that gets the biggest ovation is always PFLAG, Parents & Friends of Lesbians And Gays.     We know that people who choose to stand beside us are precious and to be celebrated.

The hardest thing about trans is doing it alone. (2002)  That’s why for the past eleven years the cut line of this blog has been “The Loneliness Of A Long Lost Tranny.”

When I am overwhelmed, I am overwhelmed by loneliness.   I learned a long time ago how to stand by others as they go through tough times, helping to affirm and focus them, offering encouragement and support, but the experience of having someone who understands stand by me, well, that’s not something in my accessible experience.

I love the fact that Kinley’s mother fought with her a bit about the name.   People who will fight with you will also fight for you, engaging in the conflict required to find common ground and strong solutions.   When someone has your back, your best interests in mind, working to understand, listening to their feedback, engaging their loving mirroring is vital to growth & healing.

“I have begun learning to trust myself,” I said to a partner decades ago.  “Now I need to learn how to trust other people.”

“Can’t you do that by yourself?” she replied.  Eventually I understood her fear; she didn’t want to catch my loneliness by entering my world.

I spent decades trying to figure out what was wrong with me, how I was broken in a way that lead me to transgender expression.   I engaged every theory about development, struggling hard to find an honest, balanced way to not be consumed by closeted trans fantasies about magic & sickness.

When I emerged, thirty years ago now, I was clear that my journey was to wholeness, integration, actualization and wisdom.   The Eros in my trans needed to be part of my life, not something I closeted and partitioned off.

This was possible for me because of the skills I had to develop as a child of my Aspergers parents.   They didn’t form a emotional, bonded network with me, so instead I had to become self-reliant.   This meant I became self-contained, with all of the benefits and costs that entails.

As masterful as my skills are, contained in my practice of aesthetic discipline, and as much as people find them both useful in a crisis and annoying in everyday life, they constrain and limit me.

Why am I bothering to write up this experience when I have written the same thing up so very many times in the past?   Why do I have any expectation that this time my poetry and precision will break through, open a heart & mind, create a connection?

I drove 150 miles, roundtrip, to a writers event, hoping to find someone who got the story.   Instead, I found an hippy audience waiting to have their stereotypes confirmed, to have their current beliefs reinforced.   This was a comfortable place for them, a gathering of peers, a congregation of the devotees.

As I watched them from a corner, my own loneliness consumed me.   Rather than meeting them where they are, assimilating and agreeing, my differences swept me up, moving me farther away and back onto the road for a lonely ride on a sunny January Sunday.

If my exposure can’t lead to being seen, understood and valued, can’t lead to mirroring, then why do it?   If no one will get the joke, why endure the flak?

The counter argument is clear: while there is no guarantee that my exposure will lead to connection, there is no doubt that my lack of exposure will not lead to connection.   Only showing myself holds any hope of being seen, understood and valued.

The armour that so many transwomen end up carrying around, be that the visible bubble of the unpassable or the internalized denial of those who can look like they went though puberty as a female is all about the potential cost of the “third gotcha.” What happens when our gender changes in someone’s eyes or when someone decides we are a horrific affront to decency in the world?  Who will stand with us, defend us, protect us, comfort us, affirm us, help heal us?

Today, the awareness of trans as authentic expression is much broader than it was when I emerged.   The limits to that awareness, though, are still profound and the negative reaction can almost be worse because many feel an more open obligation to confront and denounce transgender expression.

People want transgender expression to be simple, which is why the newly emerged are so easy to grasp.   We old hands, though, with rich and complex stories full of lessons learned in the liminal space between the borders, well, we tend to challenge everyone.

(In Neil Patrick Harris’s foreword to Willam Belli’s “Suck Less” he credits William for teaching him how to be a woman to play Hedwig on Broadway. Problem is that in the book, William never, ever, identifies as a woman, only as a drag queen.  Does NPH believe they are the same thing, just “not man”?)

What would it have been like to have people who stood by me, as a child, as a human, as an emerging transperson?  Would I have been able to avoid being consumed in a world of my own profound loneliness?  Would I have been able to believe that showing myself would bring connection & rewards?

It’s a only a hypothetical exercise.   I am who I am, formed by a lifetime of experience & practice.  I have exposed myself an immense amount, writing for my life.

I am extraordinarily happy for Kinley who has a loving family to stand beside of her as she emerges into a new form, people who will feed her dinner, answer her calls and tell her when her butt looks wrong in that outfit.   Thank you to Ms. McGrath and Mr. Mochrie for standing up in support of people like me.

And I am happy to have stood beside so many people over the years, being there for them.   It is a gift to me as they claim their own brilliance & gorgeousness in the world beyond fear and old habits.

As for me, though, well, the loneliness seems to consume me.  A history of attenuation and denial has not left me confident and powerful.

It seems, though, that I have mentioned that before.

How Hard

No one can possibly know how hard something is to do until they have mastered it or something similar for themselves.

This is why masters are effective in the role of teacher.   They have made the mistakes, done the work, understand what is required to help another find their own mastery.

Today, though, placing value in that power of mastery can be seen as oppressive, insulting and retrograde.

Why shouldn’t anybody get to judge whatever they see, based on their knowledge and vision?   Isn’t the opinion of a fresh set of eyes, or better still, of a gaggle of fresh eyes, more relevant and useful than the hoary old view of a master?   Doesn’t the beginner’s mind hold the real quantifying revelation?

Great artists affirm the creative impulse in others.

Mediocre artists, though, tend to sniff in judgment.   Instead of identifying a spark of originality in a work, highlighting it and bringing it to the fore, they tend to apply the rules they use in creating their own work and only identifying were the other work — the competing work — falls short.

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.
Small people always do that,
but the really great make you feel that you, too,
can become great.
— Mark Twain

Rather than believing that creation is creation, that every stroke of brilliance reveals something strong and opens a space for itself, students usually believe that creation is recreation, just an attempt to capture a tiny slice of a limited and diminishing pie.

If you aspire, the right way can seem to be in the product, but if you have mastered, you know the right way is in the process.    Own that, get that vision, hone those skills, and the products will be authentic, unique and of high quality.

Trying to find affirmation and help from those who haven’t yet done the work of claiming their mastery is usually a futile and frustrating failure.   Instead of having someone encourage your spark, you get people who tell you how you are doing it wrong because you aren’t doing it the right way, which is always their way.

It is only when we have have found our own mastery, comfortable & centred in our own way, that we can delight in seeing others make choices we would never make for ourselves but that are brilliant, innovative and authentic for them.

If we don’t own our own uniqueness, we fear, constrain and live in irritation.   Projecting that tension onto others allows us to put ourselves up by putting others down, keeping our own level inside the barrel of crabs by making sure that no one can get beyond our own limits.

Facing our own call for mastery, though, is always daunting.   When a master sees possibilities in you, their expectations of you rise.   Those high expectations are a compliment, yes, but they are also a challenge. How can you get beyond the ease of being one of the crowd to polish & reveal your own exceptional nature?   How can you take the leaps into empowerment, knowing that engaging failure is the only way to claim success?

When that call seems too daunting, many try to find a shortcut.    They imagine that people who have already claimed their mastery know some kind of trick, some easy way to invoke what we desire.   If we just find the right person, their healing should be able to heal us too if we just cling onto them tight enough, just cloak ourselves in their magic, right?

There is no shortcut, though.   That’s what mastery teaches us: the only way out of hell is through.   We have to process for ourselves, have to find our own voice and our own practice, have to let the work transform us, making choices that pare away the false, pretentious and wishful to reveal the essential, the created, the shaped.

People find me valuable because I value and affirm the hard work they are doing in the world.    They find me a pain-in-the-ass because I challenge their assertions and believe they can show more if they are willing to walk past their own comfort zone, beyond their own illusions, neediness and fear to act from love.

For transpeople who have taken possession of their own emergence, this is very common. Having to had to make space for the queer and exceptional parts of who we are, we know how to see authenticity, know how to support vulnerability, know how to affirm choices that come from love over fear.

These transpeople, though, know themselves as individuals.  Group identity, assimilation and the oppositional doctrine that comes from identifying the simplified bits that we reject rather than the complex humanity that we embrace, is not fertile ground for diversity.   In those situations, symbol often trumps meaning, with a demand for surface conformity overwhelming deep communication of what connects us.

There are two LG/B/T events coming up within driving distance in the next few weeks.

“If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem,” the quote attributed to Eldridge Cleaver, seems to be the theme at TheTaskForce‘s Creating Change Conference in Philadelphia.   The scheduled workshops are full of language about class, race, privilege and oppression and strangely devoid of empowering individuals and communities to build coalition beyond doctrine & political correctness.

In reading it, I am reminded of a local organizing meeting that drew almost no participants.   When I tried to talk with one of the leaders about the failure to engage and bring out community members, she just wanted to talk about how they should be here, how they were wrong and misguided not to attend.

It was all their fault that they didn’t respond to the doctrine she was putting out.   She had no responsibility for meeting them where they are, for making them feel like the hard parts of their lives would be seen, valued and supported.

The other, TCNE’s First Event is seems geared for the closeted and the novices around transgender, which, face it, is the same thing.  Only with emergence can we grow beyond our dark, hothouse dreams, the wishes to not have to do the hard work of peeling back our own comfort and facing our own obligations.

Elderly Transgender Women Share Their Raw, Emotional Stories in Shatterbox Anthology’s: The Convention

For transpeople, conventions have always been closets, places where we show up before we go back into hiding, getting our fix of meeting with others who know how hard it is to hide.

Creating Change is the same.   Activists come together to tell each other that they are right and the world is wrong, that their doctrine will save the world if they just keep true to the faith.

I am very aware that I have already lost most readers who found this text.   To them it feels like noise, complex, convoluted and with no meaning that they can discern.

For me, though, the message is clear and cutting.

I know how hard it is to emerge as an individual, to face the discomfort & fear and then to push through it.  I know how to support people who are engaged in doing that hard work, with care, encouragement and challenge.

I don’t know, though, where to get mirroring, understanding, compassion and support over doing the hard work that I face.  Where can I go that people understand and respond from love, encouraging diversity, rather than fear that demands playing along, staying small enough to remain in the current comfort zone?

Gatherings of the faithful, I know, are meant to support the faith, reinforce the church, renew the beliefs.

Where are the gatherings of the seekers, those trying to connect and bridge beyond division?

No one can possibly know how hard something is to do until they have mastered it or something similar for themselves.

Where are the masters who can see and understand the work I have had to do, who can know how hard it has been?   Where are the masters who stand to help, to clarify, focus and empower the next steps, which are always harder, always beyond our own exhaustion?

Who understands how hard the work has been, what it has cost, and helps me understand why I can’t, just can’t, stop now?

Bloggone It

A blog may be the worst format ever created for telling stories.

Blogs, and all their descendants, like micro-blogging, image-blogging and social-blogging (e.g. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) are structured in reverse chronological order.   The most recent entries are at the top with older ones pushed down and down, made almost invisible through the accretions over time.

This is certainly easy to program and it is a great format for status updates, where mostly we want to know what is going on right now, the most current information.

The format, though, doesn’t have any way to require that readers understand the context of what is being offered, what has come before.   It assumes that every entry is self contained, containing all that you need to know to understand it, so if you don’t understand it, well, the entry is just noise.

When we tell stories, though, we measure the current understanding of our audience and adapt the content to hit their level.  We don’t tell the story to our very best friend in the same way we would to a stranger, don’t tell it to our peers in the way we would to a six year old.

Instead, we make people earn the stories by learning the stories, giving them more detail & delight as they gain context, a matrix to understand all the rhythms, nuances and forces at play beyond the simple actions.

We humans are symbol creating animals because we have learned to treasure meaning.  Our big brains let us carry maps in our heads, not just maps of physical journeys but also maps of emotional ones, a deep sense of the terrain we have covered as we explored and matured.    We can see the change of seasons, understand some of what lies beneath and even can create a good model of what will happen next depending on the choices we make.

Reverse chronological formats, though, eliminate the journey to focus on today’s postcard.    They offer a quick snapshot of a moment in time, without any requirement to know how we got to here.

That makes them perfect for rewriting history,   Whatever I said yesterday is just flushed away in the river of posts and now I stand here.

When we make choices that have consequences, those are always made in context, with the best information & tools we have at the time, no matter how flawed & limited they may be.  The process creates a record, demands a context, is part of a complicated story.

The blast I offer today, though, in my reverse chronological structure, doesn’t need to respect any of that.   It just needs to be pithy, fun and hitting.   It can avoid truth for the more emotionally satisfying “truthiness,” just one more bit of dung to be hurled and then lost in the sea of such.

The newspaper is the first draft of history, and the cable news network is the first draft of the newspaper, but what does that mean when nobody is around to create the next drafts, the ones that offer context & connection, bringing it all together?

I have over eleven years of blog behind me and with that effort, almost no one who understands my story with any depth.

Once I was found by my then brother-in-law finishing a story to an empty room.  My mother and brother had left in the middle of my story, not engaged, but this time I decided that I needed to finish it just for my satisfaction, even if no one was listening.

The experience of having no one listening was fundamental to me.   It was the way things were with my Aspergers parents from as early as I can remember.  I was emotionally distressed when my parents wanted to change some furniture built when my paternal grandfather came to stay in a way I had no words for.   Somewhere deep, though, I knew that when I was five, Metro listened to me, heard my stories, loved me in an active & embracing way.

Telling stories to an empty room, well, that is what his blog has been about ever since I wrote that first post after a Thanksgiving where my sister was thanked for being who she is, such a lovely person, and I was thanked for everything I did to take care of my parents.

I needed to tell that story, no matter if no one heard it.   In those days, no one read blogs, a trend that has only continued to grow as more content got pushed out and attention spans got shorter and shorter.

So much effort put into telling stories in a format that is really, really bad for building a bridge of understanding, a corpus of knowledge.

Where else, though, could I have said what I needed to say for myself?   Every venue is bounded by the limits of the audience.

My sister works in visual arts, where you can quickly walk through a public gallery and quickly understand the pieces in your own context.  Going to an open reading, though, demands you sit through others offering their own written work, whatever the quality or content.  The experience can be, as I am sure you know, excruciating.   Sure, you know you love something when you even love it when it is done without polish, naive or indulgent, but there is only so much bad storytelling that one can stand.

People happen upon this blog, pick a bit of what they are interested in and move on.   They don’t have the time, energy, focus or interest to get context.   We live in a fast world and the limits imposed on us are real.   No matter how much I try to link material or the WordPress engine offers related posts, fast counts.

I don’t live in the text of this blog, though.   I exist, as I first quoted here in 2006 on the one year anniversary, in the shadows my words cast.   I am liminal, living in context & subtext, not in the text itself.   That is just the scaffolding I erect, a reference that only makes sense if you remember what I posted on December 29 of last year.

I don’t need to fool people, to shape & reduce the noise into something they already understand.  I need to smart, to be seen in the forms of the noise.   What they see as noise, too much and too complicated, is where I exist.

A blog may be the worst format ever created for telling stories.  Reverse chronology blips just don’t have much capacity to carry deep meaning.

Like democracy, though, I’m just not aware of anything better.