TDOR 2020: Stories & Scars

Stories & Scars
Callan Williams
Transgender Day of Rememberance 2020

Remembering
so many transpeople
so many stories
emergence and pain
transcendence and loss
joy and struggle
becoming beyond constraint

Beneath all stories
so many stories
defensive and fantastic
timid and bold
denied and brave
rationalized and real
clinging and leaping

Beneath always beats
always beats
a heart lit by fire
of incandescent truth
of essence born
of deep knowledge
of hidden threads
of calling
of longing
of volcanic love

Then navigating
streets of society
trading off
compromising
playing games
evading shames
hiding traumas
all
compartments and surfaces
rules and roles
entitlement and comfort
demands and expectations
pleas and politics
pity and projection
dismissal and dehumanization
assumptions and assholes
tries and lies
shattering awareness

Pounded for silence
beaten for love
swaddled in armor
choking our vision
scraping for empowering reflections
of a hidden heart
yearning for intimacy
to touch the depth of us
stories of souls
true and broken
yet oozing with life
sparked within us

Our stories
our scars
boundary lines carved
upon our being
upon our bodies
upon our hearts
where the push of fear
meets the pull of love
daily threatened separation
against deep dreams
sweet internal connection to eternal eros
on a lovely, lonely journey
to our own divine humanity
gaining the humble privilege of a lifetime
to be become who we are

Past Or Future?

We know our experience of the past. We know what hurt us, know what we desired, know what we put up with, know what we feel we lost.

Imagining a future, then, becomes imagining how to rectify and recompense our past.

The future, though, is a new world.   The reality it offers comes with new requirements, new challenges and new awareness.   Our old dreams can never come true exactly as we imagined them, rather only as they can manifested by a new you in a new body with new situations and new strings.   Holding onto the past only weighs us down, chancing us missing new, unexpected and marvellous possibilities.

Transpeople who attempt to carry their old baggage, their old assumptions, expectations and habits, into a new life usually delight for a moment as their fantasies seem to come true but quickly find themselves stuck when their imagination and their reality collide.  New challenges pop up, questions that can only be answered with the willingness to be new, to let go and learn new ways of being in a new world.

One definition of insanity, it has been said, is making the same choices over and over and expecting different results.   The miracle of a new way of seeing is required, looking beyond our cherished and limiting expectations to engage what is, the possibilities of the present moment.  We need not to reveal our true self but rather to discover it, making choices, learning and choosing again to discover what is authentic beyond fantasy.

Chasing down recompense for past slights and abuses is a strategy doomed to fail because only the future can be changed, not the past.   The past can only be lived with and hopefully learned from, including lessons of forgiveness, of letting go, of serenity.   God, grant me the courage to change what I can change, the serenity to accept what I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.   The past, though, fits into only the second category.

Building a future out of better choices means moving beyond petulance and posturing.  The world doesn’t care about the way you think other people should be, about fulfilling your old expectations, it only delivers the results of your actual choices.  The world isn’t to blame for your failures and foibles, only you are, a statement of personal responsibility that many people want to deflect.

The vehemence with which many attempt to defend their dreams, their cherished fantasies of the way they believe things should be in the face of real evidence that contradicts their assertions can be terrifying.  They seek aspirational voices that tell them what they want to hear while striving to silence those who offer a frank and realistic description of their own real world experience.   Their fantasies are cherished and must be clung onto even in the face of incontrovertible truths.

If there is divergence between their desires and the world then the world must be wrong, or at least not really the way pragmatists explain it.   They fight to defend their dreams with perceived glory instead of doing the hard work of finding real, useful, considered and gracious solutions that acknowledge the views of others, even views that poke holes in our thin beliefs.

Since the future is unknown and unknowable, entering it always takes a leap.  We need to believe that we have the skills, understandings, endurance, wherewithal and support to take a risk, jump into different and thrive.   Many raise fears, suggesting prudence, but one of the few things more difficult than leaping a chasm is to try and take it in two steps.

Balancing the desires for better that fuel our willingness to leap and listening to the tales of people who have been forward, seeing the challenges, is difficult.   Every demand can seem daunting and off-putting until we have engaged it, just as every unengaged spectre seems larger and more terrifying than it does up close.

Dreams do come true, but not as if they popped out of some polished Disney ride.  Manifesting our dreams takes work and compromise, the willingness to find ways to balance visions and realities to create a future that will be better than what you used to imagine because now it is real, palpable and shareable full of surprises beyond anything you understood back then.

History is real, not just the sensational moments that stick in memory and form dramatic anecdotes but also the intricate stories of how people came together to shape new realities, engaging conflict, working through trial and error to find better solutions.   It’s easy to believe that it was always thus but the historical characters who get reduced to thumbnail images always turn out to be real, flesh and blood humans who fumbled and struggled before a few of their choices became canon.

Understanding the processes that created our past and present can help inform our quest for a better tomorrow but just holding on to the selection bias driven anecdotes that affirm our own world view, our own divisions of us versus them, our own anger, frustration and pain does not open possibilities of change and growth.   Fundamentalist views create blinders, not just keeping our eyes on the cultural truths we hold but allowing us to erase or villainize those who hold a different view of our shared world, building barriers rather than connections.

Trying to create a future that offers retribution for the experiences of our past, a future so sanitized & correct that challenge and conflict are all pushed onto others, demanding that they change to meet our long held desires is letting the past poison our possibilities.

We need a new and better future, no doubt, with more opportunity, more respect for individuals and less stratification based on stereotyping.   Holding people down because of fear or cultural tropes is bad.

That future, though, will demand that each one of us be willing to become new, finding new ways to work together and honour those around us.   We each have to take personal responsibility for letting go of past pain to find future community and connection.

If we don’t do that, well, we probably will just get the same results as before.

Feeling Responsibly

My mother was explicit: she felt bad, lonely, frustrated, misunderstood and other people were responsible for those feelings.   They were trying to torture her, hurting her deeply, so she was going to lash out at them to show them how hurt she was.

Of course it was the people closest to her that bore the brunt of her emotional distress.  We kids were deliberately making messes, pointedly not understanding what she wanted us to do, trying to make her suffer.

Her feelings were our fault and so we had the responsibility to fix them.

These beliefs were at the basis of her antipathy to her mother, who, when she died at 99 years old, was neglected by her only daughter.  “That was a nice eulogy,” she told me in the car after the funeral, “but I am still angry with her.”  Was this the way she wanted to teach us to treat her?

How can we be held responsible for the feelings of others if we have no way to fix or manage them?   No matter how effectively we police ourselves, trying to be kind, sensitive, responsive, unthreatening, compliant and small, the same triggers stay active, particularly for those who cannot or will not work to process, contextualize and own their own feelings.

As I emerged, I often found that those who held onto victim identities, demanding that their suffering meant that their feelings be prioritized over all others were able to keep control by playing on the sympathies and guilt of others.  I was able to see how demanding not only safety but also comfort let them chill connection, using their tender feelings to keep others under tight control.

Anyone who challenged these people were silenced by the group who demanded that those who could not own their own feelings, could not heal, be valorized.  The strong have to give way to the weak or we can’t keep our oppressed identity.

This was balanced by those who demanded a conservative approach to life, where anything different, upsetting or challenging, needed to be suppressed.  If your actions upset anyone then they upset the group, and the conflict you represented had to be purged.

My salvation has always been rational thought, the process of illuminating my own gut reactions to determine if they were helping me grow or were keeping me isolated and wretched.  How could I get over my damn self to connect with others, to heal and grow, to help those around me find some solace?

While I have been doing the hard work of self analysis and transcendence, many others around me have been stopped by their own feelings, mired in their own cultural identities, whipped by their own sense of victimization.

“People heal and grow in their own way and their own time, even you.”   This, to anyone who has vision, is the biggest challenge and the biggest heartache of being in relationships.

While those who are hurting often want to demand that others change, making a less stimulating and challenging environment, I learned early that the only person I could directly change is myself.   It was no use to posit the correct way for others to treat me because they were going to act out of their own views and visions.  I may want people to see and acknowledge my feminine heart, but demanding pronoun use doesn’t change the way they see me and blocks their clear communication of their own current understandings, however limited and limiting those perspectives are.

I was able to help my mother grow some, opening her vistas, but damn, it took massive amounts of time and work and I never got her to where I felt seen, understood and valued.   She loved me as she could, but embracing my heart, well, if she couldn’t embrace her own, she was never going to embrace mine.

Everyone has a story of loss and pain, of times when they felt hurt and diminished.   The bones of our cultural identity are true, based in fact, but the feelings we cloak those truths in are up to us.   Our work is not to try and erase truth, even the historical truths that have pained us, but to use those lessons to find a way to transcend.   Learning to lead with grace and hope, a willingness to be present and look for miracles of healing rather than being mired in unresolved feelings is extremely hard, especially when we see that pain as at the centre of an identity which bonds us with others.

Getting beyond the pain demands we take the heroes journey, facing down the dragon with “Thou Shalt” on every scale, leaving comfort to face our demons and willing to be transformed, still the same but different in vision.   I have had many people want healing but the work of letting go of hard won sickness is just too much of an ask.  They want to keep their old hurts and avoid the new scars of growth while also not feeling stuck in the past.

Its easy to want someone else to take responsibility for your feelings.   After all, you never consciously took on those feelings, so why should you have to do the hard work of consciously healing them?    It’s their damn fault; they should have to fix it!   The world needs to change, and now, so anyone who won’t put your feelings first is just a damn butthole who refuses to see the truth you carry with you everyday.

Your truths, though, as real as they are, are wrapped up in the way you carry your history, your experiences and your cultural beliefs.  Unwrapping them, I have found, is the only way to expose the even difficult truths and move on to finding stability, peace and grace.

My mother, though, wherever she is now, would probably disagree.   To her, it’s still my fault.

Oh well.

Strangled Scream

Listening to the world from my little outpost, I hear the rage of so, so many humans who desperately want to be heard, who feel negated and erased, who demand that others act by acknowledging their pain and fury.

These people hold a wide range of viewpoints, from demanding change to demanding stability, holding many different views of what the perfect and proper solution to their frustration and suffering would be.

What I don’t hear, though, are people who are willing to listen to others, those who are committed enough to find common ground, engaging in consensus and compromise based on shared respect for each and every human.

Instead of searching for solutions in a present and open way, they demand compliance, identifying enemies rather than building coalitions across human differences of need, history, perspective and caring.

Mirroring is so important to humans, yet sadly it is so much easier to bask in hatred against shared enemies than to do the hard work of creating shared allies.

It was almost fifteen years ago when I started writing this blog under the tagline “The Loneliness Of A Long-Lost Tranny.”   Since then the theme has been simple, the cries of someone who has spent a life not being heard, understood, respected or valued.   Feeling unmirrored is feeling unloved.

One of the key rules of human communication is that people won’t hear you until they believe that they have been heard, their messages reflected back in a way that validates listener comprehension.

With Aspergers parents who had limited theory of mind to understand the feelings of others and usually filled in what they heard with their own looping thoughts and feelings, I wouldn’t have been able to survive if I couldn’t listen without being heard.   My trained hypervigilence demanded I work hard to model what triggered others actions just to stay safe from being scapegoated — my family nickname was “Stupid” — erased and abused.

I had to enter their worldview even as they were unable to enter mine.  Even teachers and therapists couldn’t understand the pounding challenges at home in a day when being on the spectrum just wasn’t understood.   This was compounded by my queer, transgender nature, for which not only were there no words but the concepts of gender truth weren’t anywhere in even clinical understanding.

For me, us vs them never worked.   I never had a simple cultural identity, knowing what team I barracked for and which I was against.   In 1993 when I heard anthropologist Anne Bolin (“In Search Of Eve”) say “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.

Today, though, polarization is everywhere, a sense that there are enemies everywhere and we all have the scared right to shout them down, silence them, and erase whatever they say that we find challenging.   Our sense of attacking  microaggressions become reasons to call out, pound down and demand that others be removed from conversations.

We are also in a time of pandemic where ordinary human interactions are reduced, leaving us surrounded not by diversity but by those who are like us and those who interact only through reductive electronic media which eliminate human warmth  with stylized abstractions.

I have spent decades struggling to be heard, seen, understood and valued for my unique contributions to the group and failing in that.   Others love it when I enter their world, care for them, supporting them, but their own ability to move beyond the belief structures of their cultural identity is limited.   I am silenced, even by those who many would see as my peers because my voice exposes what they would rather keep in darkness.

When you don’t believe that your cries will be heard, for whatever reason, it is easy to keep your truth locked within where it withers without affirmation or understanding.  Humans don’t grow healthy in solitude and darkness.

Today, I hear so many strangled screams from those who feel erased, unheard and hurt.   Sadly, though, their solution is almost never to open up and make more effective communication, instead they demand that the bad people be vanquished and silenced.

I know what it feels like to try to tell my truth and have people tell me that I am discomforting, disquieting, triggering, wrong, sick and evil.  Being who I am, though, a human who has always lived in the liminal spaces between, I am used to getting that treatment from all sides.

Moving beyond my own strangled screams to a position of love and listening has not been easy or simple, especially because it has been such a solitary journey. I needed to stop trying to manipulate, stop cutting others down, stop leading with my own pain because I learned that the golden rule must be key.   If I need the space to grow beyond my defences in the world then I have to offer others the opportunity to grow and transcend, always approaching them with an open heart and mind.

Answers I don’t have, no sure knowledge of fundamental truth and the way things should be.   I can’t tell anyone what perfect is, rather I can only offer my little glimpse of our bigger shared truths.

For me, doing the work has been hard, but trying to keep my own peace while watching society fracture between duelling senses of entitlement & arrogance, simple and fraudulent divisions between “right” and “wrong” is killing.   My sense of being alone and unable to have my voice heard and valued just drains me everyday.

Rage is easy, the sensations of our history & biology engorging our fear and fuelling our fury.

Transcending that rage, though, walking though walls to find the connection which offers shared solutions based in love, well, that’s hard.  To listen even when you know that you aren’t perfectly heard means moving beyond kneejerk reactions.

And in the world out there, at least as seen from the dark space in here, I become less and less hopeful that I will ever find the mirroring I need to keep going.

One On One

Women need to know that the only way to have a relationship with someone is one-on-one.    We stay safe and connected by understanding the people around us, their needs and their fears, their desires and their dreams, their triggers and their terrors.

Certainly that’s what I had to learn very early to have relationships with my parents.  They weren’t like any stereotype I saw on TV or read about in books, not like any standard held up for mommies or daddies.   The characters I saw fit nicely into expected roles, but my Aspergers parents never learned to play those roles, growing up without the theory of mind to understand how others were seeing their performances.

My mother’s disappointment, pain and rage were always just a breath away and my father’s sweet and loving cluelessness meant he couldn’t grasp what you needed in this moment.    Society didn’t offer me any formula for dealing with people like them, so I ended up switching my brain onto full analytical to try and both understand them and control my own choices in a way that kept me as safe as possible.

My father’s lack of understanding kept us moving around the country every few years while my mother’s narcissism kept us inwardly focused and isolated wherever we went.    Opening her home to others was just a path to more pain for her so there was no extended family or social groups in our lives, as much as that was tough for my father who grew up in a small farm town with a loving mother.

I had no way to explain my family to others who only understood stereotypical models.   Like most Aspergers people, learning to pass in social settings was important, so my parents looked normative to those who saw what they expected to see, vision limited to conventional assumptions.   No matter how much I tried to explain, well, what could a kid know?

My relationship with my parents always had to be one-on-one, not falling back on any set of norms, be they ethnic, racial, religious or whatever.   I wasn’t even one of the boys or one of the girls, instead just being me. My parents were clearly and profoundly unique creatures, never having understood the scripts of those around them so they never could have absorbed the social conventions of others.

Of course, this meant that they couldn’t teach their kids about social conventions either, couldn’t help them fit into group patterns.   I was always walking into walls in relationships, never getting what was expected and appropriate for the role I was supposed to play.

Not having been immersed in any comforting and defined social identities meant that I had no conventional habit patterns to let go of when I started to engage my own queerness and the queerness of others.   There was a reason I could shepherd the team taking care of a gay floormate in trauma during freshman year; I knew how to deal with people one-on-one, knew how to observe and analyze,  knew how to modulate my own choices.

It also meant that I couldn’t trust my own emotions, couldn’t make choices of performance and release, couldn’t expect to be understood without hard work, and couldn’t easily fit into social rituals and expectations.   My mind was my defence and it was always, always on guard.

My challenge was to explore who I was behind those mental defences, but finding someone who could engage that space eventually proved beyond my capabilities.   I had to learn to explore by myself, unpacking and reshaping myself alone.

The comfort of group identity, of feeling immersed in “people like us,” following the group think and expected conventions is only understandable to me by seeing how much others hold tightly to their own group patterns.   Instead my stance is more like the one attributed to Groucho, who “wouldn’t join any club that would have someone like me as a member.”

How much do patterns and expectations mean that we can’t engage with other people one-on-one, just as they are?   “The only sensible person is my tailor, for he measures me anew each time we meet,” wrote George Bernard Shaw.   To me, a queer approach to life means seeing others as individuals,  knowing that their beliefs and choices tell you about them, and that you don’t have to see their views as attacks on what you hold dear.

Attacks, though, can often be taken as validation of the need to hold more tightly onto group identity, wrapping yourself more tightly in whatever flags you value and more loudly wailing about the difference between the good us and the terrifying them.   When we hold negative identity forms, knowing more about who we are not as a group than who we are as individuals, finding links to our continuous common humanity is hard, demanding that we transcend our own projected walls.

I am very grateful that I learned to deal with others one-on-one early, even if those lessons did come at the cost of not feeling safe and protected in a welcoming group identity.   Being open to the gifts of others has allowed me to treat others like I want to be treated, seeing, understanding and valuing their unique contributions to the group.

The loneliness that comes with that stance doesn’t erase my humanity, rather it affirms it.   I can see and understand not only others but also who I am and where the deep and profound connections exist.   Shamans walk through walls others think are real, so only by moving beyond even comforting convention can we even try to transcend the limits of our own inculcated vision.

Good mothers know that understanding your children as individuals, having deep one-on-one relationships with them, even when those relationships demand you move out of your comfort zone, beyond your own expectations and desires, feel your assumptions shatter and your heart break, experiencing pain & fear but staying present, is the only way to support them in becoming intensely themselves.

Staying connected to the truths others hold, even the scary or challenging ones, is the only way to stay safe and growing.

Spiny

One of the things I added to support group meetings, along with beach balls, was applause.

When someone told a story about doing something bold and brave, I started the applause, with the room quickly joining in. It’s a quick and simple way for the group to affirm courage, both in the storyteller and in themselves.

Once a young person was said they were timid about taking a risk.  During the meeting a beach ball was near my feet so I kicked it towards them.  Silently, as other stories were spun in the room, I encouraged them to kick the ball themselves.  They resisted but I persisted giving affirming and imploring looks.

When they finally gave the ball a kick I was surprised when the group burst forth in applause.   While I was quietly focused apparently people had caught on and watched and when my partner broke through the comfort of timidity, everyone was delighted and wanted to show it.  Smiles all around.

My history is centred around finding my own individual way to be in the world — I had no other choice with my family, mind and heart — and supporting others in claiming, owning and celebrating their own proud, queer individuality.   I tried to teach my sister to fight back, my brother how to not play to the crowd, and my parents to see themselves in context.  I delighted in being part of a corporate team, bringing my unique vision to our work and challenging others to be more themselves, more present, more playful, more conscious and more master in their own choices.

For people who want to heal and grow, I offer a great deal.

For people who want to fit in, assimilate and maintain their own comfort level, though, I am a real fucking pain in the ass.   I don’t just play along, I push the boundaries, don’t just stay silent but turn on the lights, don’t just accept smallness but instead celebrate brilliance.

I know that those people see me as a spiny mess, a mass of thorns and quills, sharp edges that cut through easy answers.

That’s bad enough, but even worse, I mirror and revel in their own queer uniqueness.  I push them to go into their own dark spaces, facing fear and sloppy thinking to push into the feelings of isolation, pain and rage to find the jewels they have tried to hide inside their own private hell.

In learning to love my own special relationship with creation I have learned to love the special queerness of other people, how they make art in the world by being more powerfully and unabashedly themselves.   “Be yourself,” Quentin Crisp told us. “Everyone else is already taken.”

We live in a society that likes to sort people into categories, relying on group identity rather than individual differences.   Maybe this is because our culture is so diverse that small differences are not as visible as they would have been in very homogeneous villages, or maybe it is just an attempt to simplify a complex and nuanced world, but it means living without fitting into a nice stereotype can leave you isolated and lonely.

Who are you if you do not fit easily, neatly and quickly into the expectations of others?   How can people know you without a shiny external package to draw the eye and stimulate their pre-programmed assumptions?  How will you be one of the crowd if you stand out as unique?

It’s hard to get applause for revealing your own queer self, hard to feel seen, understood and valued for showing what those junior high bullies used to pick on you about.  We learn to show a façade that becomes hardened enough that taking it down, evaluating what is really us and rebuilding a new presentation feels terrifying and impossible rather than liberating and empowering.   We are trapped in others expectations of us for good reasons.

Transcending our history and even our biology takes trust in something deep within us, in our eternal connection to creation rather than our ephemeral connection to a role we have been cast in.   Who is going to affirm our bold and brave choices, especially when those choices take us to places others still fear and resist inside themselves?   Who is going to say “Yes!” as we take our own leaps, falling sometimes, but learning, growing, releasing and transforming in the process?

The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are, so a life without being applauded for the courage of revealing your heart to others but especially to yourself is a life that surrenders your gifts to your fears.

You are not wonderful because you hide your spines.   You are wonderful when you own your own sharp nature, cutting through crap to bring your own special gifts to the world.

 

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.   What part of me will trigger unwanted detonations because I have failed to effectively conceal it?

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.  Since my Asperger’s parents had no emotional strategies to share, I based my strategies 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 now have a lifetime of understandings that give my choices structure,  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.   As someone who believes deeply in teamwork 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?  Where does all of me, including the precious liminal tears that define me, fit?

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.

Price Of Prophecy

All you need to do to be a prophet is to listen more to the still, small voice of your creator, leading from the voice that transcends nice, compliant normalcy.

This doesn’t necessarily make you a good prophet, as the voice you hear might be twisted, dark, ego laden, full of pain & vengeance and rather satanic.  It is up to you to get clear on if the voice is coming from the dark side or the light side, working to get right with some higher understanding.   Joseph Campbell reminds us that most human myths contain the same shared knowledge, awareness resisted because of the cost of claiming demanding truth over isolating comfort.

Still, when you drop out of social norms, resisting the pressure to play along, standing for something deeper and more powerful, you have to pay the price of a prophet in the world.

That price, of course, is loneliness.  You can’t both be a happy member of the crowd, just following the group and stand proud for some inner truth at the same time.

Being a prophet requires you to lead, somehow, finding people who will stand with you, valuing the unique voice that you offer.

This is when prophecy can go bad, when you decide to tell the people what they want to hear, offering a message of separation, of fear, of us versus them, of insiders and outsiders, of rationalized entitlement of believers and attack of challengers.    It is always much easier to energize the ego than to demand personal enlightenment, ask for individual responsibility, engage challenge and act from embracing love.

Still, even when you lead and are valued for leading, you still speak against the status quo, still open yourself up to personal attacks, and still come from a place of unique experience and knowledge.   These are the truths of a prophet, the facts of following that still, small voice within.

Trans emergence is always a very individual journey, a path beyond gendered expectations and towards expressing a personal truth that comes from deep within.   Even when we just dream of moving from one box to another, just going that route across the divide takes us across no-man’s/no-woman’s land, a place where we have only our internal compass to guide us.

No trans kid goes to bed at night dreaming of being a prophet.   We dream of being seen, being beautiful, being strong, being loved.  It’s when we realize that we have to be a prophet, listening to that voice inside and walking on our own journey away from expectations to what we understand to be integration and wholeness that we begin to resist the calling, usually the beginning of getting very, very good at resisting and temporizing.

I have been listening to the voices of prophets recently.

David Blight’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Frederick Douglass, Prophet Of Freedom,” gives deep insight into the cost of being a prophet in the world, fighting resistance even from people who claim to support what you are fighting for.

Caitlyn Jenner made global headlines for being alone when she crossed the bridge out of “I’m a Celebrity! Get Me Out Of Here!” Even people who don’t understand the experience of being trans in the world saw the loneliness of someone whose family needs to stay stuck in profitable routines rather than be there for someone who was there for them.

And ShamanGal has been dealing with the family of a school friend who hung himself.   As one of the only people from that old crowd to take the journey into self-knowledge and self-expression, she can understand why this veteran carried his wounds silently rather than doing the work of breaking out of family routine to explore his personal hell. She has been there, doing a eulogy and personal support for those who have stayed stuck, having to process her own feelings of isolation and invisibility even while serving others as best she can.

The price of prophecy is high.  Gaining a clear vision of the world as we go through our own hell  — the only way out of hell is through — means that our sight is forever changed, annealed in the fire that burns away rationalization. Once your eyes have been opened, though, the thought of going back to insistent ignorance seems not only impossible but very painful.

“We are a full service medical organization,” a therapist said to me many years ago.  “I can check off a box on this form to get you a lobotomy.  Is that what you really want?”

His joke touched a truth.   I  have paid much too much for my hard earned awareness to simply lose it now.

This is why any seemingly simple solution where I surrender my individual voice to a group identity, no matter how nice or plush that membership may seem, is just impossible for me, no matter how lonely, isolated, or hermetic I feel in the moment.

To be a prophet is to try and return the gift of enlightenment to a world that doesn’t want upset or change.   The challenge of being both tame, a well integrated member of the community, and wild, with a unique and vibrant voice, is a massive challenge that costs many prophets just altogether too much blood & spirit.

I remember a fellow at a yoga retreat I was forced into telling me that I seemed like a prophet and from what he read,  god puts prophets through hard times.   Now, I know, though, that god is a constant comfort to prophets, but society knows how to put them through hard times.

All you need to do to be a prophet is to listen more to the still, small voice of your creator, leading from the voice that transcends nice, compliant normalcy.

The price of leading with profound, deep, different and challenging truth, though, always comes with a very high cost.

Thank creator, then, that there have always been some willing to do it, to serve a wider world by sharing a hard won vision,

Burnt Smell

There are moments when I can still smell possibility.  Moments like meeting a cool artist at MAC, or moments when I go to an event I helped run last year and see how far people I encouraged have come.

Those moments, though, come with reminders.   I am no longer 28, and even the pastor I worked most closely with last year announced that he forgot who hooked him up with the song he sang. (It was me, just in case you missed the point.)

Every whiff of possibility nowadays always comes with the aroma of burning, of time passed and chances crisped.

Peter Morgan, who writes “The Crown,” explains why season three recast the queen with an older actress by noting that however perfectly you age a younger actor they will never have the inner experience of being battered by time, of feeling the aches in their body and the disconnection from youth.  He needed that truth for his show to work well.

Even at sessions dedicated to creating intergenerational connections within the LGBT population, I have been completely shut down, my truth erased by young people who can’t imagine.  Only the straight, mature woman sitting next to me saw what was happening.

How do I communicate my experience to people who not only haven’t been through it but are also so immersed in the position they need to be in at this stage of their lives that they can’t hear beyond their present experience?

The world has changed for people like me, yes, but the age cohort I am embedded within have not changed as much as the world in general.   Most people haven’t had to do the kind of work I have done, the blossoming and opening, the expansion of understanding and communication.

Every day I get farther and farther away from a place of safety, comfort and understanding.   My possibilities contract and the truth I reflect becomes more and more uncomfortable for people who are trying to stay young and connected.

I know how to be the grown-up, to bite the bullet and do the right thing.   I do this often.

What I don’t know is how to find the connection and understanding which lets me relax and play, feeling like all of me is seen and valued.

For me, this isn’t a new experience.   Growing up with two Asperger’s parents means that I felt unseen and unvalued from a very early age, needing to be able to take care of my family because of their lack of theory of mind.

The fact that I have built up the skills, though, well, it doesn’t mean that the work gets easier.   As I age, alone, my recovery time gets longer, my view darker, my isolation deeper.

I know that my work counts, no matter how much it remains invisible to most.  But I also know that only more work has any chance of breaking me out of this cycle, getting visible in a way that brings rewards and connection, and more work demands more of me than I seem to be able to muster these days.

The wisdom I carry is deep and profound, but when it can only be absorbed in small bites by others, the parcelling itself becomes more effort than it is worth.   I may have spent a lifetime getting a clear vision, a good model of better, but if it takes others a lifetime to grasp and value it, well, I am forever out of synchronization.

Possibilities exist, but the power to grasp them shrinks.   My experience of working with others until I reach their tension point, the place where they have to pull back, to resist what I have to share, to cling to a sense of control, is an experience of having people act out against me, not because I am wrong but because they fear, deeply fear, that I just might be right.   They act out of fear rather than love and I am the one who takes the hit, knowing that they are doing the best they can do, but leaving me needing an ice pack and some aspirin, trying to recover from the blow alone.

None of this is new, of course.   It is laced through my writing over many years.   But the burnt smell feels like it is getting stronger as I seem to have more challenges and less resources to handle them.

I love the idea of new possibilities.  I hate the truth that new failures will be required even try and claim them, with no guarantee that any one will deliver better.

Giving up, though, is giving up.

Choices, choices.

Permission For Authenticity

Who do we need to ask for the permission to reveal what we have been taught to hide?

Hiding the parts of us that don’t fit neatly into the expectations and assumptions of others is hiding we need to do “for our own good,” or at least that’s what we are told from a very early age.

Everyone around us feels entitled to tell us what we are doing wrong, how we are standing out, how we are embarrassing them, how we are making life difficult for ourselves by not simply hiding the parts of us that don’t seem to fit in.

Parents, teachers and especially other children know the rules and want to call us out when we break them, even when we transgress by simply trying to tell the truth about the contents of our own heart.

We may know who we are, but when we face that dragon Joseph Campbell spoke about, the dragon with “Thou Shalt” written on every scale, it becomes easy to lose our own authentic voice.   Those around us who fear that dragon find it easy to demand that we don’t bring unwanted attention to the family; find it right to shame us into playing along to conceal anything that might bring disorder.

Trying to fit in demands we silence the different inside of us, demands we hide our uniqueness, demands we bury what is exceptional about us deep in some locked compartment.   We have to kill off a bit of ourselves to avoid being wrong, have to poison our heart “for our own good.”   We learn to commit ourselves to an experience of suppression, resisting our nature rather than trusting it.

What we have hidden, though, is never gone.   It is always written deep inside our creation, always burning in our soul.   No matter how we try and find commercial substitutes for the red shoes that dance in our own precious  Eros,  our heart still holds who we are.

The gift of a lifetime is becoming who you are, Joseph Campbell tells us, is blooming into ourselves.  As Anaïs Nin wrote:

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.

Living never wore one out so much as the effort not to live.

Life is truly known only to those who suffer, lose, endure adversity and stumble from defeat to defeat.

Perfection is static, and I am in full progress."
-- Anaïs Nin

Someday, if we are bold, courageous and truthful, we know that we have to blossom. We have to reveal what we tried to hide; have to pull it out into the open where we can sort it out, disposing of the dross and claiming the gold that was always inside us.

Whose permission, though, do we have to get to break open?   Who will support us when instead of hiding all our big, intense, scary and truthful bits, the bits we were told to secrete “for our own good,” we instead start to unpack and explore them, bringing them into the light?

One cannot emerge as transgender and still be “nice.”   We have to break the rules about simple separations, separating male from female, normative from aberrant, appropriate from weird, good from bad and so on.   The boxes that were built to enforce the rules have to be broken.   The dragon with “Thou Shalt” on every scale needs to be slain, all in the quest of going deep and finding authenticity, claiming our own authentic voice, discovering our own authentic gifts and trusting our own authentic truth,

No matter how much we try and run from box to box, struggling to remain concealed in polite social constructions, if we ever had simply fit nicely into any of them we would have relaxed into them long ago.    To blossom is to open, to emerge is to move beyond.

But whose permission can we get to break the rules, to move beyond niceness, to transgress being appropriate, to shatter the expectations & assumptions of others, to transcend the fears of we have internalized, to claim our own authenticity even in the face of those who feel entitled to silence us “for our own good.”

Emergence is messy, just like growth and healing are always messy.   We cannot both shatter the walls that constrain us and clean up that shattered mess at the same time, cannot both breakthrough and stay politely constrained simultaneously.    Our truth will always challenge others, even as we struggle to find what of it is fundamental and what of it is residual pain, working to move beyond the loss and rationalization that comes of working to deny our creation for so long.

To stay afraid of what lies within us, always moderating and attenuating every expression because it might be seen as too inappropriate, too big, too intense or too queer is to stay mired in fear rather than exploring our own authentic self.   For those of us who were pounded into silence, who were shamed into an attempt at invisibility, who were told we had to learn to deny & hide “for our own good,”  that modulation feels like a continuation of the death we learned to play at every day.

The permission to emerge, the permission to break out and to break through isn’t permission that we can find from anyone in polite society.   There is no right way to explore your own gifts or to claim your own authenticity.   Each one of us has to find that balance for ourselves.

The permission to be who we are in our hearts comes not from social rules or identity politics, but from the spark of creation that we have always carried deep inside of us.   We co-create our life, but only when we move beyond “Thou shalt” to discover who we really are, sharing that deep understanding by acting from a place of authenticity in the world, even when that authenticity isn’t nice or polite.

Moving beyond the fear of not fitting in, the fear of not being able to hide, the fear of shining in the world with an authentic truth is not easy or simple.   It is a place of loneliness, a path that demands balance between assimilation and standing proud.

There will always be those who feel entitled to try and silence authenticity that they find scary or ugly or inappropriate.  Rather than affirming diverse truth, they will work to enforce the beliefs that comfort them.

Yet some people will always choose to shine, to claim and show their authentic truth.   It is these people we need to remember and support as they search for a truth that moves them beyond separations to enlighten the bright connections that touch us all beyond the limiting boxes of niceness.

(Written in mind of Transgender Day Of Remembrance 2019, #TDOR201

Simple Comfort

As the manager of a MAC cosmetics counter, Sarah understands trans in a simple and powerful way.

Trans is a need to be comfortable in your own skin by showing who you are on the inside on the outside.

Simple, yes.   And also very complicated, because to do that, we have to negotiate all the myriad things that cause us discomfort.

This means that discussing trans turns into a discussion of what causes us discomfort and the tools we have to build to negotiate a society where group identities, belief systems, imposed stereotypes and binary “us vs them” assumptions shape and limit the ways others can be seen.

I know that my life and my work has focused on using my mind to address the systems and limits which say that trans discomfort is good, right and proper, along with understanding and exposing the strategies that transpeople use to justify and rationalize their own trans expression while still attempting to cling onto normalcy.

But Sarah, well, she looked into my eyes — “those eyes!” —  saw who I was and she wanted to help me feel more comfortable and powerful facing the world, just like she would with any other woman who came to her counter.

It felt simple, affirming and amazing.  Thank you, Sara.

This doesn’t always happen.   I’ve had MAC artists who I could see try and figure out if I was a drag queen or a crossdresser, needing a label to guide them.   I’ve even had those who told me I educated them, even if I wasn’t ready to hear that.

The moment of simple comfort of being seen and accepted beyond boundaries is so rare for transpeople that it can often seem impossible.   Even in LGBTQI spaces, having to claim our identity within expectations is usually demanded and when we challenge identity assumptions we are erased and diminished.

Trans, at least at heart, is not a considered choice.   It reflects an inner knowledge, a core truth,  the powerful Eros of our heart.   Our trans nature just is, at least until we hit society and then puberty and then the rest of the demands of a culture in love with either/or.

Trans expression, though, is always a very considered choice, squeezed out into shapes that feel socially mandated: drag, sissy, crossdresser, transsexual and so on.   Pick a box and squeeze yourself to fit in it, often demanding to be seen in the way we think we should be seen.  Explicate yourself!

My life has been much more a consideration of trans than an expression of it.   Claiming how I identify was more important than just being who I am.  Rational descriptions of my current position, assertions that justified my choices are more important than the choices themselves.  I had to be on guard for any challenge that took away my standing, had to weave between identities that others claimed ownership of, had to respect the beliefs of those around me as they judged not my choices but rather whatever motivations behind those choices they assigned to me.

I was expected to base my comfort not on how I showed my nature but rather on how well I could explain my choices, not on my essence but rather on the conceptual structures I built around that essence, not on who I am but rather on how well I could make others comfortable with my choices.  Finding comfortable armour was much more valued than that ultimate trans surgery, pulling the stick out of your own ass.

Based on their own internalized system of what is right and correct, others first assigned me a box and then kept me there, adding details as they needed to.   Guy-In-A-Dress?   Check!  After all, what else could I be?  My every choice was seen as a political act.

Sara, though, looked into my eyes and knew what I was: just another woman wanting to look better and feel better about herself.   The truth was right there for her to see.

It’s easy for others to respond to my armour and what they need to believe is behind it.   It is often difficult for them to respond to the girl who has been trapped behind this trans-defence, stuck in a male body and the expectations dumped on it for a long, lonely life.   I know why I carry the armour, know why I have spent years trying to reduce it, working to show what is inside me, but I also know that whatever I do, I am going to be subject to the internalized assumptions of my audience.

Many transpeople get angry and lash out at other transpeople who seem to be setting up expectations and rationalizations that we find onerous, heavy to carry as they create noise in what we are trying to express.  For me, it is important to stay compassionate to all expressions, knowing that underneath whatever justifications they wear, every transperson is just trying to tell some deep and profound truth about their life.  (I will admit that when their stance is to deny that essential truth — “I’m just doing it for the show” or “Just having fun” or “Not really queer!” or “I fixed my birth defect, so I’m cured!” or such– I do find that posture very irritating.)

I know that I am supposed to be a grown up and deal with the world in a grown up manner, having a thick skin and striving to be “appropriate” in all my choices rather than pushing people’s buttons and challenging their comforting beliefs in separation and motives.   I can do that, but only at the cost of wrapping my essence in so much damn tip-toeing around that I lose touch with any power or beauty.

There are moments, though, such rare moments, when someone like Sara looks into my eyes and sees through my history and biology to the tender essence within.

Trans is a need to be comfortable in your own skin by showing who you are on the inside on the outside.

Simple, yes.   And also very complicated, because to do that, we have to negotiate all the myriad things that cause us discomfort.  We end up bound in armour.

But not, thankfully, to some precious people like Sarah.

Thanks.

Terrifying Energy

When I was a kid — and still, today — I abstained from recreational chemicals.

After all, if I was so buzzy just with the spirit my mother in the sky gave me, what would I be like on drugs?

At a very, very young age, I understood that my big challenge was keeping myself enervated, attenuated, suppressed, under control.   Those around me, especially my Asperger’s parents, but including teachers and other kids, found me intense, overwhelming and scary even when I was stoically exerting all the self control I could muster, so how would they find me if I just let loose, let fly?

I am smart and queer, with a kind of x-ray vision that just tends to push buttons, as I was taught early by my dialed back father and narcissistic mother.   Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if those around me engaged and encouraged my stories, but that is as unknowable as who I would be like if I actually had the drive and equipment to be cocky.

What I learned to fear was losing control.   I needed other people, needed to stay connected to them, needed my tender feminine heart to nurture whatever links I could find, so I learned to play small.  I spent years learning manipulation, trying to make others like me, but that path was corrupt, a dead end, and I had to learn to let it go.

I know who my losing control hurts.  It hurts me.

Even today when I start to feel my heart and mind spin, keeping me awake, on edge, excited and maybe a bit hopeful, I know that when I hit a barrier, feel a crash, I am going to have to take care of myself, all by myself.  I am going to have to reach deep down and salve my own splintered soul, bind up my own wounds, attempt to stroke my own broken heart.

As a wounded healer, I know how to be there for others, even how to encourage them to play big, to go for it, but finding the support and mirroring I need has always escaped me.   People tell me to cut back, to be less visceral, to not bounce, to stay within their comfort zone, to be more normative, and that call has always cut me much more than it has soothed or even empowered me.

To be terrified of your own inner energy, of the power that can both cut through knots and slice you away from social love, well, that is quite a daily burden.   To again risk using your gifts is to risk again being destroyed by the social reaction to them.

The number of nights when it has just been me and my mother in the sky, nursing to my own soul in hermetic discipline is innumerable and ultimately draining.  I am worn down.   My low levels of latent inhibition, my inability to slough off what most would rather not remember, my powerful memory means that many, many, many moments of transcendent pain are etched deeply in my soul.

I, like most humans, need mirroring that affirms my gifts and helps me use them effectively.  The most painful thing is not to be able to give your gifts and have them accepted.  Encouragement to risk again, feedback on more effective ways to share and understanding solace when you miss the mark is life-giving, what I work hard to share with those I love and who are committed to change & growth.   Our body keeps the score and the older you get, the more that score mounts.

My stoicism is part of me, a honed discipline I am proud of.   The fear that drove me into that choice so early, though, is also part of me, and it profoundly aches every time I think about my own very deep, very unfilled needs.

Very early, I was taught to be terrified of who I am.   I learned that showing it could easily get me creamed, and that others would see any attack on me as my fault, because I triggered the emotions of others.    I was to blame, stupid me who always, always deserved whatever crap I got.   Target patient, scapegoat, just too everything.

I am no longer terrified of who I am.   Rather, I am terrified of having to heal another wound, of having to pull off my concierge face and patch up my own broken heart again as it is pierced by my shattered dreams.   I am terrified of being alone and lost in my own pain with only my thoughts, my discipline and faith in nature to pull me through.

Like anyone who has learned to self-police, I over control my choices, dialing back too much, staying small and safe while avoiding risk.   We need each other to give us broader vision, to see what is possible and help create.   That’s one reason why women need girlfriends, especially those of us who never had the kind of peers who could help us blossom beyond hard lessons.   The hardest thing about trans is doing it alone.

It is my own heart, my own mind, my own soul, my own divine energy that terrifies me now.   I have been though my own hells, but the hell of other people, well, that still lurks.

Somehow, I have to believe that there is a kind of imperious performance that can this old body can play which can ground me in connection rather than just leaving me in the old, painful internal spinning.   There have to be wins available to me beyond a scarred history of loss, if only I can modulate my own energy in a way that lets me find them.

I am terrified of my own energy.   Yet, as the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas reminds us,“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

Another new choice, another attempt?

Is there really any other option?

Lone Voice

We join a group by assimilating, by showing that we share the goals, characteristics, values and history that bring the members together.

I listen like a girl, listen like a woman, listen like a mother.  Listening is the essential receptivity of femininity, even more than the sexual receptivity that is so often seen as basic.   Whoever we are, we spend much more time communicating than we do copulating.

The problem is that I don’t speak like a girl, like a woman, like a mother.   My content is feminine, laced with reflection and consideration, but my style is quite determined, authoritative and sly.

That style comes out of figuring out what works for me with this body, this history and this energy.   Being cute, for example, never worked for me, nor did looking for kindness.   The heavy expectations of manhood were dumped on my broad shoulders and I was never, ever allowed to forget that.

When I was a kid, I craved the feminine, being sent to therapists in 3d, 5th and 8th grade.   I tried to compartmentalize, but as in my 30s, I started exploring androgyny, the beginning of a journey that lead me to my current understanding and expression, which is unique, individual, assimilated and queer.   I found ways to own my own power which meant not surrendering my voice to any group, not staying small, at least in my vision and knowledge.

This lead me to “The Loneliness Of A Long-Lost Tranny,”  which has been the tagline of this blog since I started it fourteen years and over a million words ago.

It’s not that I want to be lonely & lost, it is the problem of finding community.

I am told is what part of me I need to suppress to fit in to any group.  My reduction is not based on clinical depression, rather it has always been based on demands & expectations of suppression, having to hide, to deny, to kill off the parts of me that do not easily fit in society.

Moving beyond suppression demands finding a group that allows me to assimilate as me, as all the parts of me, yin and yang.

 

And I just have to say, I’m grateful to be working. I’m grateful at 50 to be getting the best parts of my life. And that’s great, but in my heart, I’m so sad. I lost my sister Alexis. And trans people are still being persecuted. And I’m in mourning every day of my life, Alexis, and I will be the rest of my life for you, until we change the world so that trans people are not persecuted. And give them jobs. They’re human beings. Let’s give them jobs. Let’s get rid of this bias that we have everywhere. Thank you

Patricia Arquette, Emmy Acceptance Speech, September 21, 2019.

 

The price of a lifetime of suppression is very, very high.

Today, there is much focus on trans-kids, young people who claim their gender in new ways.   Yet every transperson was a trans-kid at some time, and the vast majority of us were not embraced, not acknowledged, not facilitated in finding our unique heart and individual power, but instead were required to fit into moulds that eased community expectations rather than let us find ways to be seen, understood and valued for our unique contributions to the group.

Learning what we need to hide to fit in rather than what we must reveal to own an authentic queer voice is life destroying.    And having people around us who need us to stay small and simple, just as we need connection, is so lonely that it is soul destroying.    They may need the beasts of burdens they have come to expect in their assumptions about us, but we need liberation beyond, affirmation of essence, transformation emergence and trust.

Having to be both far enough ahead to be healed and far enough behind to not be challenging, the one who negotiates and quells the fears of others even as they cling to the small talk, small thoughts and small terrors of normativity is too much to ask of any individual.

We join a group by assimilating, by showing that we share the goals, characteristics, values and history that bring the members together.  The smaller those expectations are, though, the smaller we have to appear to be to pass through the screening.

People who found that being constrained by the demands put on them based on their genitals just were too confining, people who have the experience of moving beyond and are able to share the experience of that journey, well, we have trouble playing small enough to just fit in at the local senior centre.

The price of suppression, playing small to fit in, is crushing,   And the price of claiming, facing down the dragon with “Thou Shalt” on every scale to claim the gift of a lifetime, who we truly are, is desperately isolating.

Trying to do both at the same time, to stay connected as a woman and stay free as an individual is just totally exhausting, without any place to feel safe, to land, to be fed and cared for.

I listen.   I speak.   I am deemed “too much.”

And all I have left is my lone voice.

Bloody Magic

Magic, from the outside, looks magical.  Bam!  Poof!  Alacazam!  Transformation happens, amazement ensues, and everybody is happy!

Is there any wonder why people who never really wanted to be a tranny in the first place (2006) dream of that kind of magic happening in their lives?  They want the magical transformations that they imagined, and dammed be anyone who challenges that dream, who bursts that balloon, seeming to steal their dreams.

Real magicians, though, from stage illusionists to shamans, know that magic is always damn hard work.  Someone has to fold themselves up tiny in the box, or go on the dream quest, or be there when people time and time again come for healing.   Lots of time, effort, blood, sweat and tears go into mastering magic, into making it look effortless and elegant.

Magical thinkers, though, get very upset when reality intrudes on their need to believe.   They cling to fundamental tenets, thrashing to silence anyone who tries to reveal the hard, human truths behind the mysteries that they crave.   They can’t speak from experience, sharing their truths, they can only speak from desire, desperately trying to wall off their dreams from the scary pull of cold reality.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda, is compelling stuff.  It’s easy to think that the pressures which affect you are just wrong and the world needs to change to satisfy your imagined perfection, avoiding any discomfort you sense.   The way things should be is easy to imagine, and if only everyone else would just do it correctly, the way you say, everything could be great, with no reason to look back and have to face our less than perfect choices.   After all, if you and your peers all agree, how can you ever be wrong?

No matter how magical anyone else looks to you, change is hard, taking time and work.  We live in a tangible world where every choice has a cost and nothing comes for free.   To go one way means not going another, at least for now, facing the discomfort and prices that need to be paid.   If you understand it or not, the world works the way it does for a reason, usually for considerations that are only revealed with time and effort.    As nice as you think it might be if the world were simpler, if others seemed to think more like you, they have reasons for their choices, often good reasons.

Magic may not come from taking a short cut in the world but instead from understanding it so well that you can polish your skills to create change, but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t magic.    The power of transformation is magical, even if it comes from discipline, precision, learning and commitment.

Many want to know the secrets to the magic, but magicians have learned not to give out the secrets.  Some think that silence is a kind of elitism, but anyone who has struggled to learn any kind of magic knows that the only way to be able to make magic is to own your own magic.   There is no simple secret to magic and when muggles learn that, they are often upset or angry.   Even when they are told the truths behind creation they don’t understand the path to the power, instead wanting to have their magical thinking validated and affirmed.

This is one reason why so many transpeople who have claimed their own magical emergence just go silent and fade back into the woodwork, not wanting to be attacked by fundamentalists as demons or by wishers as dream destroyers.   People don’t really want to see the hard work that goes on behind the curtain, instead preferring just to hold magic as something outside of the truth of sweaty, bloody, struggling humanity.

I always loved magic, but I never fell into believing that there were magical solutions to human challenges that created change without work or manifested transformation without discipline, loss and suffering.   “Grant me the courage to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

People heal and grow in their own time and their own way.   For people like my Aspergers parents, change was always slow and difficult because they just didn’t have the theory of mind to get out of their own way and learn from those around them.   Their patterns were solid and fixed and if the world didn’t understand, well, that was the world’s fault.

I needed magic, though, needed it badly.  I had to gain a clearer view, see the patterns, understand the emotions and work the process if I wanted to get comfortable in my own too queer, too smart, too visceral skin.

From my earliest days, I was the target patient in the family, the scapegoat everyone called “Stupid,” identifying issues and trying to find a better way.   This lead me to the role of wounded healer, the kind of magician who finds miracles, new ways of seeing, inside of struggle.

In my breeches role as concierge, magic was part of the mandate, understanding what those I loved needed before they did and making sure I offered it up to them.   Like any shaman, I crossed boundaries they saw as solid, entering their world to offer bits of comfort and wisdom that could support their growth and healing, no matter how slow they went and how much patience that meant I had to magically muster up.

I don’t talk about bloody magic to bash the magical dreams of others.   I talk about bloody magic because that is the gift that other wise humans have passed to me, bits of stories from their path that helped me find and own my own path to whatever magic I could scrape up in this finite world.

Before and after may always seem like magic, but all magicians know that it is the between where the work and mastery come in.   That process can only be entered, though, if you let go of magical thinking, wishing for easy & instant, and engage the real work of bloody magic.