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.

Traction

“How did you ever make it up here on these?” the mechanic asked me as he threw my old tires onto the scrap pile.  “They have almost no tread left.”

I thought about Tupperware.

Outside, the wet snow continued to pile up on the roads, with a good four inches already fallen and more on the way.   I had already driven 40 miles north this morning, up to this old mill town on the upper Hudson.

The drive had indeed taken focus as the very low visibility and the slush covered interstate created conditions where things could go wrong quickly.   Instead of steering, instead of stopping, your car could easily go into a slide, skidding out of control.

Traction is a precious thing, that confidence that nothing will get in the way of you exerting your will, create trouble with the choices you make inside your own cockpit.

On the highway, I drove like people who learned to drive in the north country, holding a speed that was slow enough not to make control loss catastrophic in an instant, spinning you into a ditch, but that was fast enough to offer momentum for control, some inertia to use as you tenderly got back on track.   Too slow and you brake too much with every push on the pedal another opportunity to slide.

The most dangerous thing, though, was other people on the road, people who didn’t understand this balance.  Those of us who got it left many car lengths between us, knowing that it took time and distance to correct errors, and being too close to someone else who was losing control was possibly catastrophic for both of you.

All of this played out that morning as a guy in front spun out and the traffic had to slow.   I pushed my brakes but started to slide, getting too close to the car in front.   Luckily the passing lane was still full of wet snow, so as I swerved into it, knowing I would miss the driver in front if I could not stop, the friction slowed me down, cooled my tires, and I felt the control come back.  I returned and resumed my place in lane.

Now the mechanic was telling me that my tires were a problem.  I knew that, though, six years ago, soon after my father chose them as the cheapest offered and certainly in my first winter driving on them.   When I braked on a slippery surface, one where something got in the way of traction, they spun and slid rather than gripping.

Maybe I should have complained, should have gotten them changed before one of the final days I could get the car inspected.   I was now paying $200 for a set of used tires pulled off the car of someone who turned them in after getting new, and even that felt like a chunk, something I should have avoided.

As a trans person, as the hyper-vigilant child of my mother, I learned very early about living in a world without traction, a place where my choices had to be measured, restrained and carefully applied or things would slide into disaster as other people missed the mark, got in the way and slid around on their own fear, arrogance and ignorance.

It was nineteen years ago, at OutWrite 1998, that we talked about how losing your gender role standing in society can leave you sliding out and spattering against the expectations & assumptions of others.

In a panel on “Post Gender” with Nancy Nangeroni, Mike Hernandez, Caitlin Sullivan and Matt Bernstein Sycamore, they spoke of the challenges of moving past gender, of the point where we lose the “traction” that comes from fixed gender roles engaging with each other and end up “splattering” into a place beyond interpersonal relationships.

Yes, moving past gender isn’t a new concept invented by today’s trans youth.

While so many other drivers on that highway were absolutely assured about their ability for control, I was sure that I didn’t have that control, sure that I had to stay alert, measured and focused to stay safe.  I knew that any one of them could cause me trouble in an instant just because they got too cocky, too ignorant, too stupid.

On Long Island, Aunt Barbara has sold Tupperware for many years, becoming one of the top earners in the country.   With her huge wig and bigger performance, she entertained, drawing people to her parties and sending them home with new storage ware.

This year, though, Aunt Barbra’s sales are very down.    Her campy act is the same, but instead of being played by a Robert Suchan,  gay man in drag, she is now played by an out and proud trans woman named Jennifer Bobbi Suchan, and that seems to make all the difference.

Jennifer needed to come out, to claim her feminine heart, as told in this great article in Mel Magazine, but even though Aunt Barbara’s act stayed the same, the responses of her customers did not.   They shrank back, moved away, got uncomfortable/

Transgender queered the deal, broke the binary expectations, and in that loss of traction, it put Suchan’s well oiled business schtick into a skid.   It wasn’t what Jennifer expected, but it is the result of choices she had to make to claim the truth of her own trans heart.

The tires someone else discarded are working better for me than the cheap ones ever did.  They are the kind that come standard with the car and they have plenty of life left in them, even if another person threw them away to grab something better, something they hoped would give them more control over their car and their life.

Trying to find a gender role that gives me more traction, more purchase, more stability in my life, though, is nowhere near as simple.  That makes driving my own life still demanding, scary and exhausting.  I can’t give up my queer voice, as some would suggest that I do, but can’t stay focused out on the edges, always on the edge of a nasty skid.

How do people become so assured about their own traction in the world?  I suppose it’s easy for them if they always stay in the lanes, always do the standards, always follow the rules.   It is us liminal people, on the margins, economically, socially and otherwise, who have to give them wide berth, knowing that if they ever slip out of control, they will look for someone to blame rather than taking responsibility for their own choices.

A life on the verge of “splattering” is a life consumed with diligence, focus and tension.

People who never doubt their own traction, well, that’s not something they even want to understand.    Better just to skip the show and buy food storage ware on line.   Simpler, cleaner.

Splatter.

Shut The Fuck Up

You are brilliant.   You know that.   You can take anyone's story, beliefs and narrative and express them wonderfully, helping them get their message across, letting them be heard.   Creating resonant statements that draw people together, that create an audience is a wonderful gift.

The problem is, though, that you don't want to do that.   Instead, what you do is let your own voice, your own ideas, your own concerns and your own vision come through.    After creating wonderful summaries of where people are, carried in moving & effective language, you end up explaining where the crocks are in that position, why it doesn't work for you, and why it has major flaws.

This happens in all your work.   It's why you can't write decent fiction, because you can't let flawed characters just speak for themselves.   Instead, you have to explain and illuminate the twists in their thinking, show how they are being reactive and shallow.   Everything you put out there gets mucked up because you feel the need to put your own voice on it, need to offer your own experience, your own point of view.

If you could just speak for the audience, just say what they need and want you to say, rather than polluting the message with your own selfish crap, people would see the value in what you offer.  This alone would increase your standing, make you friends, get you supporters, create a base for doing more.

Instead, though, you turn those people off by not shutting up, not putting your own experience and feelings aside to let them feel revealed, understood and appreciated.    Throwing a turd into the works may make you feel better out of some kind of crackpot honesty, but it doesn't give other people any reason to promote what you offer, sharing it and valuing it.

From your earliest days, rather than just giving the people what they want and what they need, you insisted on giving them what you think they should have, a piece of your mind.    How has that been working for you?    Have you gotten people to listen, to understand, to embrace that mind?   Or has your dump just increased the noise, created pollution and left you crapped out?

If you could just shut your own trap you have the skills, the brilliance to deliver what others want and need.   You could become part of their team, working to get their voices heard, being part of a shared goal.    

Can you see that it is your own obsessive need to make yourself visible in the world, to interject your twisted history into everything you do that makes you unpalatable and valueless to those who are trying to do their own hard work?

The world isn't about you.   The work you do can't be about you, not if you want it to represent something bigger, something that others can get behind.   Your iconoclastic crap isn't the solution, rather it is the problem.   The group holds meaning, not the individual.    There is power in unity, not in standing alone.  Rewards come to those of service, not to the outliers who just make noise by being naysayers.

Everyone has a story.   Most of us, though, are able to put that aside to become one of the team, working together for shared reward.   We don't piss into the stream we need to drink from, don't challenge & threaten the people we need to care for and reward us. We go along to get along, contributing our gifts to something larger than us rather than just pissing and moaning from the sidelines.

By this point it your life it should be obvious to you that no one is going to engage your own self-centred, whining views.   Your differences don't matter to us; we have more important work to do, shared work, collective work, valuable work.   Individualists don't contribute to that community effectiveness, so they get left behind, all alone on the side of the road.

You have the skills, the gifts to be a really valuable member of the team.   You can say what we need said, be who we need you to be, offer what we want and need.   

Instead, you are just too stupid to understand that, too stupid to let go of your own queer voice even though you have been shown time and time again that it just creates noise that nobody wants to hear.   Squeaking and squawking just makes people want to ignore you, to silence you, to erase you.

This isn't what you want to hear, I know.  You want to believe that at sometime, someplace, if you blather long enough, someone will hear you, engage you, see you, mirror you.   You want us to come to you, to be there for you.

I am suggesting that there may be a reason this hasn't happened yet, not even after all these decades of trying to get your voice out there, trying to be heard.  Maybe you have been chasing an impossible goal for too long, being too stubborn to see the reality right in front of you.

You have the incredible capacity to speak for us, to say what we need to hear said in the world.  You can be our missionary, our token, our figurehead.  Your creator gave you that awesome power.

Instead, though, you have pissed it all away by imposing your own views, your own voice into every facet of what you do.   Rather than letting us speak for ourselves, you decide that you get to comment, get to judge, get to have an opinion, cry out an opposing viewpoint to what the world knows to be true in this moment.

If, and I say this with love, you could just shut the fuck up about your own little problems, just put them away in a different compartment, you really could offer something that we would value.   You could speak for us, say what we want said, gain our thanks.   

Is our shared voice not true and real, grounded in a broader, communal and real experience?   Isn't the voice of the crowd the most real voice of all?

Every time you speak for yourself and not for us, you place another brick in the wall that separates you off from the love and rewards of the mainstream.  You shoot yourself in the foot, create your own pain and alienation.

You can go on trying to get your singular voice heard, of course, but one definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

You have a unique, personal and powerful voice. 

Why you use it to speak for yourself and not for the greater community, though, well, that's something only you can understand.

Beyond Identity Politics

Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, knows that the LGBT movement has to change tack to address the new challenges offered by trans & queer people to established identity blocks.

To discuss this, he got together Mara Keisling of NCTE, Carmen Vasquez of NYS Department of Health and Kate Kendall of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

It’s worth reading,  if just for quotes like this from Vasquez

Part of the problem we have, and some- thing I think we are moving away from, is that ours has been an identity-based politics forever, not a politics framed by human rights. When things center on identity and people feel that their identity is somehow being trampled on or taken away, they get defensive. That needs to change.

Keisling offers

It’s easy to fall victim to a kind of transition anxiety—“transition” in the sense that society is changing. There is a new America emerging, and we’ve all been hesitant to say that because we’re afraid to face this transition anxiety. There are people who wouldn’t have been welcome in the world before who we want to make room for now. And that makes some people uncomfortable. Just when you think you’ve found your place in society, society changes again. And we’re seeing this now within the trans movement, and the trans communities (plural) where what it means to be trans is shifting constantly.

I’m happy to see her talk about “trans communities (plural),” which I started talking about in the late 1990s.   My phrase was “the interlocking communities around trans” because many of us active are in multiple communities.

At that time, though, this kind of precise understanding was erased as many projected onto other transpeople their own presumed ideas, needs and characteristics.   We wanted identity politics to work for us, one bloc, even though the call to trans is clearly very queer and very individual.

The problem with this discussion is that it quickly falls back into the language of oppression, of us versus them, that always underlies identity politics.

Moving to human rights demands empowering individual humans rather than identifying shared group oppressions.

Kendell finishes the discussion with a troubling note

One question we always ask at NCLR is: who is being left behind? The second question is: what kind of country do we want to live in? Neither is particularly driven by identity. Although the first one is connected to identity to some degree, because in a nation that still has white supremacy at its core—and racism obviously still entrenched everywhere, and transphobia and homophobia—I think there is still a place for understanding that there will be individuals whose very identity makes them more of a target for oppression.

Does this acknowledge that in many, many cases, the people doing the “oppression” are people who identify as “oppressed” and target these individuals because they are seen more as “oppressors” than as allies, neighbours and humans?

After all, this is the question that started the discussion: How do we make room in LGBT organizations for people who cannot fit neatly into our identity politics based systems?

Individual empowerment, though — the kind I spoke about in a short acceptance speech in 1997 — demands moving beyond simple us versus them paradigms.  Instead, it demands individual empowerment, personal responsibility both for claiming our own success and for being a powerful ally to others who need a hand in claiming their own power in the world.

This move is directly challenging to both individuals and to those who claim institutional power by creating divides between groups, using us vs. them as a political club, claiming that a simple fight to end class based oppressions will make life easier and nicer for their constituents.

Keisling’s point, though, that there are many trans communities, is at the heart of the challenge offered.   No one is separate, isolated, cleanly in this or that box.

And no solution to shared challenges will ever occur without the willingness, no the imperative to reach beyond our own cultural boundaries, our own comforting walls, and work with others who are not like us, those who would never make some of the choices we made.  Separatism may be effective rabble rousing, but it does not create a politics of healing, growth and maturity.

Humans interlock in profound and powerful ways that identity politics just discounts and denies.  You cannot both continue a politics of us versus them and make the transition to embracing people as individuals who have lived real & liminal lives, crossing boundaries others want to see as solid to claim their unique version of continuous common humanity.

I am not surprised that the people at SAGE are focusing on this issue.   Instead of dealing with fresh, young people who are ready to assume a new identity, they serve mature queer people who have a life of twists, of stories and of transcendence behind them.   These are not clients who can easily twist themselves down to fit in a neat rhetorical box anymore, nor at our age, are we willing to do that kind of denial just to try and join the gang.

We are who we are, elders, beyond and cranky, and that’s one reason we often don’t participate in the kind of LGBT organizations that are dominated by young idealogues who try to impose a doctrinal vision of the way the world should be, focusing not on complex connections but rather on easy separations.

Mr. Adams is right.  New models are required.

I just don’t think the participants in the conversation are ready yet to do the hard work of letting go of the old structures of identity politics which support their current organizations.