Torn Through

“You know how the trainer said no one crosses the lines he offered diagonally, like being a fast feeling performer and a slow thinking analyst at the same time?” my boss asked me.

“I heard that, yes,” I replied.

“But you do that, are both those things.” She was right.

I have always existed in those spaces between, the places where people who draw comforting walls think do not exist.   My liminality — existence in the door frame — started early when I had to be both parent and child, both girl and boy, both smart and stupid, both aware and disconnected.   Wounded healers are always sliced between, both holding pain and transcendence, loss and gratitude, needs and independence.

Shimmering to others is what I have always done, looking both mature and crazy, brilliant and lacking, happy and hurting.    Never really knowing how I appear to others, what is lost in the noise they can’t decode, and being aware that any choice I make can crack their assumptions leaves me feeling like I am always on unsteady ground, having to be ready to slip any minute.

Learning to have a thick skin was crucial to growing up in a family where emotions were erased through Aspergers style viewing even as un-managed frustration & pain was sprayed about.

That tough carapace, though, had to help me hold in feelings I had no place to process, no place to even surface, like the dreams I held every night about waking up as a girl.

Today, though, the rifts that run through my presentation in the world, with a big old body that clearly went though puberty as a male, a tough mind that built a model of the world to keep me sane, and a tender heart that never feels like it can melt as it needs to leave me cleft and unsteady.

Any space I consider entering is only going to be safe for part of who I am, or at least so I believe.   Attenuating the bits that don’t fit their expectations, assumptions and codes has always been expected of me.   Maybe, if I had support for some areas of my life I could compartmentalize a bit more, but my solitary existence is pernicious, my profound loneliness threading through every moment of my life.

I know that I can handle anything I face.   I also know that there will be a price to be paid for that handling, a cost I have to bear alone over precious time. My resiliency is diminishing with age, as are my possibilities.

As humans, we develop survival strategies that help us negotiate the challenges of the world.  My strategies are based around modelling my environment, developing structures that help me decode stories, finding connections between them to seek universal, baseline truths.   I started doing this from a very young age and have had a lifetime of understandings that give my choices structure and give me comfort & balance, if not happiness & warmth.

Not having my strategies based around human networks means I have a very different approach to life than people who go with the crowd, stay connected with friends and family, or hold onto belief structures learned early.   I have had to go through the process of deconstruction and reconstruction of my values and knowledge so I could continue to grow and become more actualized.   Being post-therapy, though, is a place few choose to go, not wanting to have to face the dragon with “Thou Shalt” on every scale, to go through the fires to burn away the false and merely convenient.

My connection to power is not in being a sweet talker, saying what others love to hear, but instead in being a straight talker, holding fast to the truth as I have struggled to know it.   While straight talking has been my key to survival, it has never been a key to making friends and influencing people.   I was caretaker to my family, yes, but the most important choices I made were helping them see a bigger picture, feeling safe in a greater understanding rather than just being sweet and giving them what they thought they wanted.

I have never wanted to be too presumptive in entering a space.   Over the past 35 years, I never told people what pronouns to use with me, knowing that their choices tell me much more about them and how they are seeing me than they do about me.   I do feel better when people see what I am communicating and respect that, but if I don’t want to be told the right way to think then I can’t tell others what they should be thinking.   I have explained this to those who want to help transpeople knowing that a beginning and fragile exploration of self can be crushed by someone who doesn’t respect the courage it takes to try to reveal truths we have been told are scary and shameful.

“In your face” was never my choice.   I needed to build bridges, leading with connection rather than ego, giving the kind of respect I want to be given rather than demanding my way.   I have seen too many newly out transpeople act like petulant teenagers, which may be understandable but does not create mature connections.   Insisting that others honour your comfort zone while you ignore theirs does not feel like it builds relationships; I don’t want to have to negotiate the fears of others, so why should they have to pander to my fears, rather than expecting me to engage my own challenges?

My writing is my art and it is there I push boundaries, not in social interactions.  Finding people who can take these texts as truth, entering them, has never been easy or simple.   To do that people have to not just ignore what they don’t understand, assigning their own meanings and leaving the rest, they have to actively receive all of what I say, working, as I do, to grasp my inner map, both the comfortable and the dark parts.   For those who strive to avoid their own darkness, though, this is not really possible.

Walking into spaces has always required me to get an understanding of the group dynamic, to find sly & witty ways to interject my own views while respecting & clarifying the views others bring to the table.   This has always been my service, but finding those who can offer that service to me has proven well neigh impossible.

Bringing the crags and canyons of my own heart into a space where they are seen, understood and valued, held with compassion and awe, my shimmering nature and the hard won lessons it gave me respected rather than feared or erased, escapes me.   I may be able to stay in one zone of my liminal nature for a bit, but I am the doorway and all facets need to be cared for, not just the ones others find simple, useful and supportive.

All humans cross boundaries, transcend limits, offer luminescent connections.  Most, though, in this society that craves binary shorthands don’t explore or expose that truth, working to stay in comfortable boxes as a survival strategy.

“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 the moment I heard anthropologist Anne Bolin say it.   I revel in my liminality, but finding ways that fits into social groups, well, never been easy.

My being torn through is a gift I have learned to treasure.   Having others treasure it, though, has always seemed to be asking too much beyond cultural norms.

Where do I find the community I need, the one that venerate the divine surprises offered us, those moments of sight that move us beyond comfort and into mature wisdom?

Singular

“It’s okay.   I’ll just sit with the other trannies.”

My hosts usually looked aghast when I said that, knowing that there were no other obvious transpeople in the audience.  There was no way I was just going to blend in, just going to be one of the gang.

I understand the pull of finding community, of not having to feel like you are alone in the world, having to pull off magic by yourself.    Being a solitary prophet, telling truths that have been hidden because they are challenging and unpopular, is not a calling which is easy to embrace.

The price of community, though, is often harder to understand as it is wrapped in apparent solidarity rather than obvious singularity.   As social creatures, humans are made to assimilate, to follow the crowd, to be one of the gang.   How could the Germans do what they did during WWII?   Well, every one else was doing it, so it must be okay, right?

When I enter spaces that are claimed by the LGBTQ community, I am most often struck by the lack of diversity they hold.   Only those who agree to assimilate are included, which excludes most of the transpeople I have met over my decades, in-person and virtually.

For those enmeshed in these communities, this absence is easy to discount.   After all, everyone is welcome in the safe space if they just agree to abide by the rules, surrendering their voice to the group and assimilating.   Why should the cost of playing nice be a barrier to inclusion unless you have some anti-social tendencies that shouldn’t be indulged anyway?

I have trouble imagining a space where everyone is like me, at least not a functional one, nor can I imagine myself becoming like everyone else to enter the group.   My experience, my stories and my voice cost me too very much to sacrifice for assimilation.

While many groups call for the end of corporate culture, it is specifically inside of corporations where I have found productive and valuable community.   Instead of joining together because we all are alike, in the business world we join together to achieve shared goals.

Diversity is required to create effective teams, everyone bringing a different skill set and viewpoint to the table.   Together, teams engage in the conflict of trying to find effective solutions that address all the conflicting needs, creating compromises that support innovation.   By asking each member to move beyond their comfort zone teams can find common ground, celebrating mastery & excellence and lifting up everyone together.

When I have tried to enter exclusive spaces, ones that exclude anyone who is not like us enough to be challenging, I feel erased.   It is only in spaces with shared goals that my singularity has been valued, letting me bring my unique contributions to the table.

It was 1997 when I participated in a Uniting as Allies workshop that I was the only one who stood to argue for inclusive organizations.  At that time one woman came up to me afterwards saying that she couldn’t imagine she would believe in the need to organize around shared goals rather than shared identity — identity politics — but that I had convinced her.

Yet my efforts there left me feeling very alone. “Watch the token tranny dance the hoochie-koo!”   I was aware that my position left me singular, without a coterie of others around me, and that loneliness was hard to endure, even if I had done the work I knew that I was called to do, telling truths and valuing broader connection.

It’s not like there weren’t other transpeople there, but they had not yet owned their own grace.   “Thank you for representing us well,” a few of them said individually, “not like the others.”   A cost.

It’s hard to find people who value the energy of diversity in identity bound spaces.   As the identity spaces are policed for compliance rather than effectiveness, those who hold broader connections are pushed out while those who follow the rules, loudly singing the hymns are encouraged to police themselves and others more strongly.    When people don’t have successful experiences in diverse corporate cultures they don’t understand the power that difference can bring to a team though creative conflict.

“So, what do you want?” a pastor once asked me, eyeing my trans expression quizzically.

“I want what everyone wants,” I replied.

“And what is that?” he asked, unconvinced by my assertion.

“I want to be seen, understood and valued for my unique contribution to the group.”

He thought for a moment.

“Yes,” he agreed, “that is what everyone wants.”

Sadly, in groups where people are valued by how compliant they are to group tenets, unique contributions are rarely valued.

Asking people to stand up alone and offer what makes them different and special, the experiences, truths, skills and mastery of a lifetime, is asking them to take enter the spotlight and take personal responsibility for who they are.

Is there any wonder that so many of us instead try to become invisible, blending in and staying behind the defences of group identity?   And any wonder why we try to silence and devalue people who might reflect our differences, attempting to win favour with the group by policing challenges?   After all, if they aren’t one of us, they must be one of them, right?

The comfort of being one of the crowd — one of the children of Aspergers parents, one of the empaths, one of the queers, one of the theologians, even just one of the girls (or one of the boys) — was denied to me.   When I was twelve and that therapist tried to diagnose my transgender drives by asking who I wanted to be, I knew even at that time there was only one answer: I want to be myself.

For me, knowing we are all deeply connected meant that my singular difference was always surface deep.   Trying to explain this to others who desperately wanted to believe that we should all be the same on the surface and different inside, assimilating so we could blend in nicely, has always been nearly impossible.

You are a singular creation, just like everyone else.  I know that comes with a price, but if you really take the time to compare it to the price of following the gang, isn’t it really worthwhile to try in this one life we know that we are given?

 

 

Discomfort Zones

As to how the “Safe Space” open mic evening went, I wasn’t asked if I wanted to present when I walked in; no open sign-up sheet.   Just before the presentations started I asked for their e-mail address to the “Ornery” piece.   About a hour and a half later, the MC looks at the list on Google Drive and says “Our last presenter is Cali?” at which point the organizing committee ran up and says “That’s wrong!   That’s a mistake!”  Apparently, in the interim my piece had been read and found inappropriate, so I was purged.

The winner of the $25 Stewart’s gift card was a young woman of colour who broke down a bit reading a poem about how the experience of her enslaved South Carolina ancestors exists powerfully in her bones and her blood.   Here I am, suggesting we transcend history and biology to find new, but that is wrong.

“Comfort Zone” was the theme of the night, with lots of “trigger warnings” intended to create “safe space.”   Talking about a time when we knew we had to break beyond our comfort zone to confront how the comfort zone of a binary society had erased us, well, that notion seemed to make people just too damn uncomfortable.   Identity Politics has triumphed.

I come from a time when we knew we had to “fight for our right to be queer” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qkh_dp5LIjQ (September 1994) – but today, the notion of engaging what challenges and frightens us rather than just swaddling ourselves in comforting, isolating doctrine and dogma which separates and creates more polarization seems to be an idea too far out of step.

Oh well.

Ornery

There was one requirement for being an out transperson when I first emerged in the 1980s.

This was still a time when normative was seen as normal and those who violated expectations were easily written down as dangerous perverts, a time when gay rights were just being to be asserted as we began to face the horror of AIDS by coming out of a closet world to demand attention, funding and compassion.

In this area, there was a group, started by a married couple in the late 1950s, which held silent events that allowed transvestites — that was the term of the time — to get together.   Second Saturdays were the meeting time, at a bar tucked between empty business offices offering a deserted side street to climb out race up and enter the light and warmth.

Everyone who came into that venue shared one thing, the one attribute we needed to dress against convention and open the door to bigger dreams.

Each and every one of us there was ornery.

We had to be tough enough, disconnected enough to follow the deep desires of our heart, desires most of us had known since early childhood, to break every damn rule to show our nature on the outside by walking in the world.   We had tried exploring in secret and we knew there were many who still did that, but there, we were the ones with the gumption, the orneriness to break through, break out and enter a wider world.

Sure, our first steps were just into a bigger closet, but even that was huge.   For the first time we were around others who also had also struggled with hiding their own nature, who had tried to act like others expected while our hearts cried out for something bigger, for a life of being seen, understood and valued for who we really are from the inside.

Each of us had come to our own self knowledge and expression in a powerfully unique way.  We didn’t come out to find others like us to have sexual relationships, didn’t have any rules about how we should be, about what choices would make us attractive to others.

We weren’t there to partner.   We were there to personally claim, to reveal, to revel, to release.

Some of us would go on to work at shifting gender, striving to assimilate and disappear across that no-man’s/no-woman’s land, while others just needed to let off steam, going back to playing our assigned role as husband, father, man until we had another future moment to play.

On that day, I had a somewhat different goal.   I wanted to find balance and integration in my life, to get to somewhere where I could express all of me with much less of the trans curse of having to always conceal this or that as I tried to squeeze into a very binary system of gender.

My exploration was simple: I had to take my own ornery self and interact with all these other ornery people gathered, working to find what connected us and where we were different.    I soon found that the key to our differences was in how we built survival structures that allowed us to protect our tender trans spirits while also being effective in the wider world.

That safe space we shared was safe not because it was conflict free but because with respect for the ornery nature each one of us had to have to stand up, we could explore the challenges, choices, trade-offs, the pain and the loss we had to handle to be trans in a world where an either/or gender system erased the truth we had always held in our hearts.

After all, no matter how tender our souls were, we knew one thing: to survive, we had to be ornery.  Our choice was between ornery and abject; in that space we had chosen ornery.

Today, when trans representations are in the media, when professors want to tell us the right way to be trans, when many want to demand specific treatment,  it is easy to forget something I knew the moment I walked into that bar on that Saturday night thirty-five year ago: The space for trans emergence was broken open by the fierce, by the iconoclasts, by the driven, by the individuals who were ornery enough to claim their truth in a world that was hell-bent on erasing them.

I watch trans gatherings and see many young and newly emerged transpeople who have learned the rules of identity politics, but I rarely see what I saw in that bar on that long ago Saturday night: a hugely diverse gathering of ornery transpeople asserting their powerful and beautiful individuality.

For me, the most powerful safe space I ever entered was the space that didn’t just tolerate my bristly nature but a space that respected and revered the ornery strength I had to nurture to move beyond family, peer, social and institutional pressures to keep my battered heart alive and beating.   Every transperson there understood that struggle, understood that in the same way we didn’t want to be told the right and the wrong way to be ourselves, in the way we had to give others the space to express their truth, or at least their current state of understanding about it.

That struggle left many of us raw, hurting, angry and even sometimes a bit controlling & vindictive, but it also left each one of us gasping for the breath of freedom, for the warmth of understanding and for the light of possibilities.

Over the past decades I have written many, many words about the challenges that I and those I cared about faced, but if there is one word that gets to the point of  what I learned to value it is this: Ornery.

Be ornery.  Claim yourself.   Respect ornery.  Help others trust the will to leap.   Ornery isn’t something to be erased, ornery is something to be valued.

Without my ornery nature, and the ornery nature of many transpeople who came before and after me, I never would have found the safe space which allowed me to come to understanding, actualization, integration and peace within myself.

Oh, yes. Ornery.

Good Fight

I know how to fight with others.

I fight fair —  always listening close, acknowledging good points, being willing to change my stance — and I fight fun, with kindness, wit and grace.    Instead of trying to silence or erase, just pointing out what I see as error and demanding beliefs like mine, I offer new ways of seeing the issue, making connections that offer a different and more compassionate perspective.

This fighting may not be appreciated by many who don’t want to be challenged, but for those with a commitment to a journey of mastery, moving beyond twisted thoughts to integration, clarity and actualization, a good fight helps with growth and healing.

Every kid knows that those who won’t fight with you won’t fight for you, won’t help you face the myriad of fights that occur in every human life.   It has long been the role of the coach, the shaman, the parent to help others build the skills to fight for themselves and what they value.

I always learn from fighting with others, as I have to make my own beliefs and understandings clear to them which makes them clear to me.   I know that the good fight is a gift to them, to the universe, and to myself.

What I don’t have in my life is people who know how to fight with me.   I crave someone who can make me say “Aha! That’s smart!  I never thought of that!” or “Yes, I can see where I am stuck because you suggested a different view that offers a way out!”  This kind of wit to get the jokes, affirm my truths and still offer leadership & hope escapes me.

Like so much of my life, starting with when I would hide in my room as a kid, this lack leaves me playing with myself.   The solitary, hermetic life started early for me.   As anyone who has travelled this path will tell you, going back into a society of that tends to knee-jerk, reactionary patterns, tightly holding onto old beliefs and settling for mediocrity is never easy or painless.   I just know that at some point I will hit an old button, triggering a memory of buried upset and take the blame for exposing those suppressed feelings, though acting out or separation.

The solitary life requires you to take care of yourself, often locking you into a cycle of diminishing resources.   You consume rather than being fed, nurse rather than healing.  Fresh and fun become limited and lossy.  There is a reason so many women look for good partners who can engage in a good fight.

I understand why others have issues with me.   I have been doing the work for so long that I carry a history of knowledge, hard won awareness and deep understanding.   This is a challenge to move beyond.   Most people know the patterns they were handed and little more, never having had to become a concept-former, seeing beyond to asserting their own clear, examined beliefs.

Trying to find the expectations you were promised by asserting your unconsidered entitlements is comforting.   Who doesn’t want an easy life where every fight is taken care of by inherited group beliefs?   Someone who never found those beliefs, instead having to question everything by themselves, doubting even the most common assertions, well, they are just a squeaky wheel who needs to be ignored, right?

The journey to individuality is a journey through queerness, a demand to face differences and engage them.   It requires going through our own hell to burn away the false and to accept the emerging truth.

Enjoying fights that repeat rituals, us versus them moments that vent frustration while affirming old assertions keeps old comforting patterns alive.   Being open to fights that offer new challenges and demand we move beyond to change our beliefs destroys old patterns, instead opening our eyes, mind and heart to new and unfamiliar possibilities.

Those who value my fighting with them are those who value new awareness.   They know how to laugh at surprising connections, know how to grow from different visions, know how to be affirmed in parts of themselves they have kept hidden.   Seeing the conventional exposed to reveal something deeper keeps them growing, learning, healing.

It is that growing, learning, healing that I miss in my own life.  I can tell stuck, and I can also understand that no conventional remedy will work; I have touched the ways I am extraordinary and need the wherewithal to make extraordinary leaps.

Discovering people who will engage in a good fight with you is a gift, even (or maybe especially) if it challenges your thinking, your beliefs and your choices.   That kind of energetic and engaged presence can be like air for those struggling to breathe more deeply and fully.

Learning to fight myself, and through that process, learning to fight others with kindness and grace has been a key survival strategy in my own life.   Though those fights I was able to find my own voice, able to learn how to observe those around me in a sharp way, able to learn compassion while standing up for myself.

Fighting alone, though, is lonely and limiting.   I understand that, which is why I continue to fight with and for others.

Finding those who will fight with and for me, though, well, my parents sure couldn’t do it and I have overwhelmed many others over a lifetime.

I need a good, kind, enervating, encouraging fight.   Bless me.

Identity Fail

Can you understand, categorize and define me by looking at people with whom I share one attribute?

People identified as male at birth who choose to wear women’s clothing; aren’t they all alike?   Know one and you know them all?

It’s amazing how many who would hate to be pigeonholed because they share an attribute — the sex identified at their birth, for example — seem to lump others together in a way they would reject, would call “sexist.”

Having spent 35 years as an out transperson, I have seen how negative identity definition — “I am not like them!  They are doing it all wrong!  They don’t understand!” — has kept us spinning and blaming.   It becomes very hard to know who you are if you have to keep asserting who you aren’t.

I wrote about this twenty years ago in “The “Guy-In-A-Dress” Line. It’s at the heart of transgender — and why people reject the whole transgender idea.”  Is transformation possible, I pondered, or is the best anyone identified at birth can be “a guy-in-a-dress?”

Since then, my work has been largely ignored in trans circles because I talk about individual responsibility, about owning our queer, about having to enter our own discomfort to find integration and healing.   Others feel the need to ignore or reject me because what I say doesn’t fit their view, is politically incorrect, too intellectual, too emotional, too challenging so therefore must be wrong.

It is easy for me to look at transpeople and see where they need healing, need to move beyond their own blocks and gain a wider, more whole picture.   Sissies, drags, crossdressers, transsexuals almost always have deliberate blindspots, parts they cannot see or engage without threatening their standing and comfort, so they resist.

Being forced to somehow “prove” I am not like them, that somehow they got their choices “wrong” while mine are “right” is a reactionary exercise in identity politics.   “Calling out” others who are struggling to own their own nature, a nature stigmatized, marginalized and oppressed by a binary-loving culture — “Are they this or are they that? — doesn’t allow space for exploration, growth and healing.

I have been resisting the polarizing, binary pressures of identity politics for over 25 years now.   My call to accept others as individuals, not simply as group members, has always been disquieting to those who want to feel sanctified by identifying an enemy, some group that is the problem and needs to change in the way we demand.

“I have met the enemy and he is us,” as Walt Kelly’s Pogo said so long ago.

The only person we can change in this world is ourself.  That’s not easy to hear when the people around you find it so easy to find people to blame.   After all, if you don’t go along with them, then they may start blaming you, exerting social pressure to either bring you around to their beliefs or cast you out.

I hate being lumped in with others who I know are very different than me just because of a happenstance of birth an a choice or two.   That processes me erases who I am, denies the work I have done, makes my truth invisible, all to satisfy those who defend binaries.

“Well, if you do this, you must be that, and any claim to being different is just a dammed lie.”   There is nothing I can do to change that binary assessment as it reduces me to a stereotype in a way that most people would hate to be reduced.

The moment I you stop seeing me as an individual is the moment you stop acknowledging your own individuality, the ways that you transcend the expectations you know were lumped onto you.   Tar others with a big brush and you are just asking to be tarred in the same way.

Learning not to be triggered by such reductionist shots is not easy.   We know we are being attacked, that our life is being made harder every time someone reduces people like us to just an object of mockery.   It is easy to understand the separation response of “It’s them who are bad, not me!” comes so quickly, why this kind of identity diminishment creates in-fighting and defensive behaviours that stop us from moving beyond to see connections, boldly facing our own shared humanity.

Can you understand, categorize and define me by looking at people with whom I share one attribute?   Am I nothing but a common member of a group you created by finding and asserting some either/or binary?

Is it my job to try and prove to you that I am not whatever you assert me to be by creating some other line in the sand, some constructed division that separates the real from the fake, the good from the bad?    The number of transsexual women who had genital surgery just to “prove” they were really “female” is huge, but many of them found that their “blood sacrifice” meant nothing; they were still lumped in with whoever their enemies wanted to tar.

I am an individual.   I cross boundaries, transcend assumptions, connect that which many want to see as unconnectable.  It’s the same job trans shamans have been doing across history and across cultures, reminding us of our continuous common humanity.

I am, also, an exhausted individual, tired of the expectations imposed on me, of the demands others make to maintain comforting binaries, of the way people reject my gifts because to accept them would demand they open their eyes, minds and hearts to their own individual responsibility in the world.

Being stigmatized is painful, as women who fought for equal rights know.

Stigmatizing others, though, often just seems “common sense” to maintain comforting separations.

It’s just something that I, as one who needs to support the possibility of growth, healing and transformation in the world, know is plain selfish, small minded and wrong.

Gift Of A Lifetime

I thank God for the gifts she gave me.

I curse her — with wit — over the situations I was in where I needed to use them, to develop them, to master them.

Everyone has healing gifts, unique skills to offer the community, filling needs and creating better.

Only those who have had to face their own wounds, though, have really had to engage and own those gifts.    Wounded Healers.

The basic premises of being a good human have never been secret.    Joseph Campbell could look at myths, the stories of creation & growth, across time and cultures to find the threads that run across the human experience, the truths that connect us.

Getting beyond our ego, though, moving beyond comforting & illusory walls of separation, past the conventions of fitting in, of chasing what we are told should make us happy, well, that has always been hard.   It takes a willingness to trust your own truth, standing for yourself to slay the scary dragon with “Thou Shalt” on very scale.

My Aspergers parents didn’t know their own feelings, so they often acted out without an understanding of themselves and others.   I was the squeaky wheel, trying to help get the family right, so I was also the target of their frustration and anger.

I had to understand early my parents motives in attack or neglect, knowing that they loved and needed me even when they made me crazy or hurt me.   They could only do what they could do and I had to do the rest.

That’s one place my gift of being present for others comes from.

From a very young age I knew that my inner knowledge of myself as feminine, whatever this beefy body telegraphed was queer to others.   As much as I scraped for understanding, context and support, it didn’t exist.

I had to dive deep into rules around sex and gender, understanding taboos and why they existed, and searching for solutions that could be used to liberate from tight gender boundaries.  There were no effective off-the-shelf solutions.

That’s one place my gift of theology, of being able to understand and evaluate the stories we use to function in the world comes from.

There are times that I wish my gifts were cuter, less demanding of both me and others.   Yet, I know that these are the gifts I needed to survive and that no matter how much the leave me porcupine spikey, they are gifts that others have found value in.    The spines I leave stick and that irritation often leads to deeper healing.

For example, I may have been cut out of this years Transgender Day Of Remembrance event as being too old, too loud and too un-PC, but in attending I saw voices I brought out last year develop, heard my words read back to me and a song I found finish the event.   I was present, even if people were trying to cut me out.

The challenges I faced in my life were hard.   The solutions I had to find went deep to challenge everything.   That means the gifts I own aren’t pretty pebbles but instead big boulders to be used as tools for big jobs.   I challenge, I fight, I illuminate, I hurt.   It is, well, a gift.

I thank God for the gifts she gave me even as I rue the struggles that demanded I own them.   Yet trying to reject the challenges that demand your own gifts, resisting calling to the point of self-destruction, isn’t that the big drama in every human life?   We want it both ways, both tamely comfortable & pretty and wildly strong & unique.

And today, I find a bit of warmth in the idea that somehow, the gifts I worked so hard to own may have just given some help to somebody sometime.

Blessings on owning your own gifts.