Fighting While Trans

Trans is a losing proposition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lost Voice

Did I ever really have a personal voice?

I know that I have a service voice, the voice of the concierge.  I can take care of others, helping them develop their own voice.

I know that I had a written voice, constructed texts that have attempted to share my learnings, my experience, my feelings.

But as to a personal voice, one that expresses who I am in an effective and satisfying way, well, that feels a long away from where I ever was.

I am aware that unless I can open up and express myself in a way that touches people, that opens their hearts and minds, then I will never be able to feel connected.

I am also aware, though, that opening up and expressing myself exposes all the ways that I embody apparent contradiction through liminality that triggers the fear and dismissal of others who need to hold onto their own belief structures for their own stability.

Divine surprise may resonate deeply in me, but that doesn’t mean those who are pushed to the edge by the torrent of demands from this speeding world are at all ready to engage me.

This is a world of slick packages, of elevator speeches, of simplified messages, of style over substance.   It is a world where my depth, my decades of moving beyond convention and expectation just do not fit anywhere.

People heal & grow in their own time and their own way.  We learn to read fear & danger, learn to suppress ourselves to stay within norms, building walls to create a sense of safety.

I am smart and actualized.    That means, in the minds of others, that I have the obligation to be attentive and sensitive to their fears and limits, not asking them to engage what they cannot handle.    If I am smart enough to understand deeply, I must also be disciplined enough to police myself, understanding that I deserve whatever I get from those who my expression stimulates or challenges.

Why should I have a voice when it will not be engaged or understood by anyone from the identity politics saturated political crowd to the comfort seeking people who take solace in their own beliefs about separation?

My understanding is not embodied and divided, rather it threads through boundaries and across worlds.

Giving voice to that flow is something I have struggled to do in text, even as I knew that my words were more likely to put people off than engage them.  I have never been good with small talk and my curiosity has dried up with my resources.

Having a voice in the world that captures that flow, though, rather than just the tiny shards of it that meet the needs of others in the moment, well, that has always felt above and beyond.   Too whatever for the room.

So, over the years and years, I have fallen silent.    My voice feels decayed, worn through, corroded into dust.

“So, what do you need?” asks someone who has said they love hearing me speak, that they have my back, that they want to be there.

Even for them, though, trying to put together a message is almost impossible as I fumble, drop back and punt, attempting to speak a message and finding failure.

Why should I go through the effort of trying to communicate when the smart bet is that I will just fail again, leaving me feeling more isolated?

Communications experts tell me that to be effective I need to consider my audience as I create my message, tailoring my efforts to them.   This is something I can do well in my service, my concierge voice.

My inner monologue, though, the powerful flows inside of me, aren’t simple, portioned and appropriate.

The experience of being queer in the world is the experience of being shamed, shunned and stigmatized into silence.   We learn to only reveal ourselves in the closet because outside of that we are forced to play along or suffer the stinging consequences.

Shame and silence are old bedfellows, handmaidens in destruction.

Because of my writing, I have learned how to do the most important challenge anyone shamed into the closet can face: learning how to use and trust their voice.

Taking them to a safe backstage, using feedback and encouragement, I empower them to say what they mean in an effective way.    For voices stunted and strangled by isolation & denial, voices that learned to hide, attenuate and placate, this is an awesome challenge.   Moving beyond the fear and fantasies to show a whole, integrated and vulnerable human self is almost impossible.  Yet, only truth telling can identify and drive out the internalized demons that haunt and manipulate us.

Transvestism is about changing your clothes, transsexualism about changing your body, but transgender is about changing your mind, letting go of the old defences to reveal the essence within.

I know how long it takes to move beyond old habits, to move beyond the fear of the “third gotcha” and to just trust that your essence is visible, worthwhile and even beautiful.  Considering how hard gaining self-esteem, confidence and the grace that comes with it is for people who weren’t shamed into the closet, especially women, the magnification of that for people who were pounded over their queerness is immense.

While I have build my voice in text, the moment I am called on to use it as a woman is tough for me.   My confidence in content is strong, but my confidence in style is not, fearing I will be dismissed as a guy-in-a-dress.  Trusting the simple expressions is almost impossible simply because they have never been mirrored and affirmed.

Without a sense of my own beauty, and with a sense of my own challenging liminality, I hang back, hide, attenuate.  My femme nature urges me to keep people comfortable and connected so I can help them face the challenges of claiming their own power,  their own agency, their own voice.   That means, however, keeping my own feelings and needs under wraps, denying my personal voice in service of their needs.

Whatever my personal voice may have been, it now feels lost, collapsed down into internal reveries and squalls that cannot be shared, cannot be connected.

Finding a way to trust my personal voice, which demands finding a way to trust that it will connect with an audience is vital.   Where do I go to find the kind of services I render to others, a celebration and reinforcement of the power of a translucent voice?

But Why

Emerging — as anything people don’t expect from you — has a price.

There will be resistance, anger, preaching, loss and more.

That’s inevitable.

All that means, though, is that you have to be pretty damn sure about why you need transformation & emergence in the first place.

It’s not important that other people understand why you are going through the surprising and complicated changes you are entering into, though that would be nice.

It is, however, vitally important that you understand why you are breaking loose and taking a new, unexpected and risky path.

If you aren’t pretty well sure of the benefits that you hope to find, even if those are just the minimizing of playing a part that no longer fits you, that limits you, breaks your spirit and causes you pain, well, there is no way you will have the courage to consistently follow your path of growth, healing and exploration.

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.
— Maya Angelou

Your persistence can only come from going back to the touchstone knowledge that you need something more, something new, something powerful so much that you have the will to endure the crap it takes to move beyond the past and claim a new and brilliant facet of you.

If you get bogged down in the expectations of other people, there is no way you can follow your own bliss.

We make choices in life and every choice requires being willing to say “no” to something.   No matter how much you want it all, want it easy, want it comfortable, want it without paying the price or suffering the cost, you can only get it if you really want, if you try, try and try, until you succeed at last.

Being human means living a life of change.  We only have to decide if we want to be reactive, just responding to the change that goes on around us, or to be proactive, taking charge of our choices and committing to our own transformation.

It may seem so much easier to just ride the beast.   If we don’t make choices, if they only make us, then we have no responsibility for them, right?   We always have someone to blame for our sadness and failures, a big bad world that screws everyone, especially us.

Sadly, just riding the beast doesn’t make you better.   It just means you allow yourself to be the victim, living at the mercy of other people.

It’s hard to own your own possibilities.   You will never be able to achieve your perfect dreams, will always have to compromise, endure loss and failure.   There will always be a cost and never be a guarantee that you get what you mapped out on your dream board.

Owning your own life, though, is the only way to grow, to heal, to become better.

To take that power, though, you have to have some reason why doing it your way rather than just following along with their way is worth the pain, challenge and effort.   You need something to cling onto when you feel alone, tired, lonely and hurt.

But why do you have to break the rules, turn your back on what others hold dear, move away from traditions that are good and right?   Why do you have to be different, be transgressive, be queer?   Don’t they have an obligation to remind you of what you should fear, of how your fears should control you?

You might not have an answer as to why that others can understand — after all, it isn’t their heart and life on the line — but you need to have an answer that you can understand, an answer that keeps you sane and focused when you hit a bump in the road or when you feel like you drove off a cliff.

Your confidence and serenity is based on why you know, regardless of all the crap you are going to have to go though, all the fear & stigma you have to face, that exploring down this road is not only right & necessary for you,  but that you know will bring you healing, growth, resolution and bliss.

When the fear envelops you, pulling you back towards the choices you made that came from neediness in an attempt to play small and play along, you need to hold onto why you chose to turn away from those habits and instead follow your heart, letting love open and drive you.

How else can you be present and vulnerable enough to learn from choices that don’t work out the way you wanted them to unless you remember why you chose to become new & better in the first place?

It is vitally important that you understand why you are breaking loose and taking a new, unexpected and risky path.   The deeper and more clear you are about that understanding, the more resilient, persistent and committed you can be.

Hold onto the moments when the light strikes your possibilities, keep those moments close to you and let them help you remember why you are boldly breaking away to become new.

When someone asks you “But why?   Why are you making these perverse choices?”  come from that light.   Show them the fragments of bliss you are collecting, the shards of enlightenment and growth that have begun to come your way.

They may not get it, may not see the value in going against what they think is normal, regular and right.

But it is most important that you see that value, that you remember why you have to follow your heart everyday.

It is that why, that heart, that bliss, that love that can set you free.

Solve-ation

“Don’t get frustrated about the problems, get excited about the solutions.”

I call that Sabrina’s Law.  I don’t think Sabrina — often known as TBB on this blog — invented it, but she sure as heck took it on as her own mission statement.

When she was at the head of Southern Comfort Conference, for example, she loved it when people complained to her about this or that.

“There should be a meeting for people like me,” they would say, or “You can do the parties in a better way.”

“That’s a great idea!” Sabrina would enthuse.  “Thank you for volunteering to make that happen!”

These transpeople were used to being fobbed off, ignored or dismissed, so when Sabrina empowered them to actually roll up their sleeves and do something, even if they did it in high-heels, it was a transformative moment.

Sabrina loves solutions.  That’s one reason she can get a bit frustrated by deep analysts like me who tend to dive deeply rather than getting on with it.   Now, she has seen me offer powerful expressions and seen me create great solutions, but she does tend to prefer it when I offer resolutions over emotive description.

When we come to the table with a solution based mentality we have to let go of our victim hood, of any sense that “they” have responsibility to fix it while we just get to complain.   Solutions demand an “us” viewpoint, a commitment to working together to create imperfect, compromised but still functional better ways.

Any engineer will tell you that there is no perfect solution, only a set of trade-offs that help address the issue.   The best we can hope for is a kind of elegance, a merging of innovative thinking and simplicity that makes sense and offers a platform for further improvement.

The role of the problem solver, rather than the role of just the complainer, is always the role of the parent.   Somebody has to get food on the table, pay the bills, kiss away hurts and plan for a better future.

Sabrina knew that very early, so she always did her part, starting with her kids, including her job and even in trans spaces, even when others didn’t know how to value her quest for exciting new solutions, when they wanted compliance and submission.

Taking responsibility for creating exciting new solutions is hard especially because it demands that we challenge those who are comfortable with the way things are, those who are invested in the status quo and those who would rather bitch than jump into the mess and fix things.

To take responsibility we have to be willing to lead, not just follow, have to be willing to have our own assumptions and expectations confronted, have to be willing to fail a bit to learn what we need for success.   You can’t be excited about new and better solution without the ability to leap in, take a shot then get up and try again.   This may leave you looking silly or vulnerable, but it also leaves you with wisdom and pride, with a powerful sense of agency and empowerment.

There are a wide, wide, wide range of problems in this world, none of which come with simple, easy or rapid solutions.   It’s easy to sit eating a plate of fish tacos at the Rathskeller listing all the failures, pointing out how it seems futile to dream of Utopian solutions that will never, ever come true.   Perfection is impossible.

Better, though, is always possible.   Even a little bit better can make a big difference, to one child, one individual, one ship, one bit of the ocean, as Sabrina knows.  Change is always incremental, always evolutionary, always grounded in the creative use of the possible and not in pipe dreams of the idealized.

“Don’t get frustrated about the problems, get excited about the solutions.”

Staying focused enough to persevere even while pushing though all the resistance, details and other crap that come with change is always hard.  That’s why we have to be excited about the possibilities, making milestones of every small change and spreading the vision with enthusiasm and exuberance.

That big, forward energy is something else Sabrina is good at.   She not only sees and nurtures the possibilities around her, she encourages others in believing that they, too, can step up and make a difference.   Her excitement about better solutions sparks and drives those around her, making her a powerful force for positive change.

When you feel small and powerless it’s easy just to wave your arms and demand some kind of sweeping change.   Doing the hard, dirty scut work to create solutions that will actually work,  solutions that demand negotiation, compromise, failure and resetting doesn’t sound like fun.   Actually seeing the fruits of your labour, getting respect, achieving agency and credibility, leaving you with pride and satisfaction is worth it, though.

The kind of discipline which creates precision is the effort that can leave you excited about solutions that go beyond the expected, the conventional and the routine to make things better.

“Don’t get frustrated about the problems, get excited about the solutions.”

It’s what Sabrina does.

A Love Note

At “Rooted,” a retreat for Trans-Christians held last month in Chicago, one of the exercises was to write a “love note” to other trans/trans affiliated people.

Because trans is so often rooted in negative identity — we are not sure who or what we are, but we are very clear on what we are not — this is a very important step in opening our queer hearts.

It’s very easy to look around and see transpeople who are making choices that we resist, that we would never, ever make for ourselves, choices that make us uncomfortable, allowing us to identify what they are doing wrong from our point of view.

More than that, it is very easy to see transpeople who are so bound up in their own defences and twists that they present a difficult and unattractive face to the world.  For decades we had to endure clinical professionals who saw what they considered sickness in transpeople and blamed that on the queer nature of them rather than on the massive trauma, repression and abuse that comes from trying to manage trans in a fiercely hetero-normative world.

How can we ever learn to open our hearts to the world as long as we live in fear that we will be one of those unattractive and weird transpeople?   How can we move beyond being ruled by the shame that keeps us assertively self-policing, trying to hide the parts of is that are just too queer to be easy?

Learning to open to other transpeople, even the ones who appear too broken, too queer or too assimilated, the ones who challenge our claimed identity, is a key part of the process in learning to open to our own very human and very trans nature.   Until we can be present for others, we can never be present for ourselves.

As I look back at my experience of engaging trans, I am aware of how much of my service to others, starting with writing in the 1980s, continuing with leading in the 1990s and finally sharing the depths of my story and vision in the 2000’s comes from a place of love.

As a femme, I loved all the transpeople for their tender hearts, even the ones whose rock hard armour was designed to crush any challenges.  I know why they had to build that edifice, why silencing and manipulation seemed to be the best choice, not least because I had gone through the same pounding experiences.

My path, though, was into the spiritual.   For me, like for any mom, I knew that didn’t just involve being sweet and trying to avoid conflict, rather that fighting for people’s growth & healing in the world always required the willingness to fight with them.   They needed to learn their own strength, needed to have their own assertions tested, needed to be challenged to be their best self.

As I tested my own beliefs in the fire of our shared stories, elemental truths were revealed, that essential knowledge that Campbell tells us is always held in the power of myth.   Of course, as he also tells us, there are reasons why people resist the gifts that come from the hero’s journey of transformation, from leaving the ease of “thou shalt” normativity to claim our own individual heart.

Group identity always seems simpler than the personal, a shared sense of group exceptionalism that can underlie a comforting, routine sense of entitlement.    Trans identity, though, crosses boundaries and challenges assumptions to remind us of our continuous common humanity.   What we profoundly share isn’t on the surface, it is written deep into our shared human nature.

My writings, my actions, my choices, rooted in my own healing, which in turn is rooted in my own wounds, have always been based in love.

Even as they tore me up, coming from their own Aspergers selves, I loved my family.   I put love into the world, the best that I could, but knew all the time that love was too much for most people, just as I was too overwhelming, too intense, too visionary, too challenging, too damn everything.

The discipline and denial it took to come from love demanded that I put my own emotions aside, using the discipline of æsthetic denial to stay focused and present.    That never meant that I didn’t have emotions, didn’t have an ocean of hurts surging inside me, only that I understood to be present for others those wounds had to inform my choices, not to shape them.   After all, my goal was always to help others move beyond what hurt me, not to lash out at them with my deep raging pain.

I opened to love, loving others and myself.   I start every day by thanking my mother in the sky for my life, always looking for those divine surprises that leave me amused, awed and grateful.

Through the decades, though, as I put my own needs on the shelf, I became more and more lonely, more and more isolated from the emotional sustenance of other people.    I would try to find connection, but it was quickly revealed to me the limits others had in entering my world, in mirroring me, in using the love languages I valued, devotion & affirmation to be present for me.

My experience is of being either too much or not enough to be easily cast in the stories of other people.   Some part of me won’t fit their expectations and I will need to be cast out, be abandoned, be removed from the conditional love that they keep for themselves.   I may fight for them, but they can’t find the substance to fight for me.

Having to write a love note to people who scare and challenge you is not easy, but I know it is the only way to manifest the love of the creator here on earth.    Loving all the parts of me, though, even the queer bits that transgress comforting and illusory walls, has always been vital, even as I was scapegoated as a phobogenic object by seemingly everyone from my parents on.

Writing these love notes, though, and being present with love for others, even those who hurt me through their own limits, well, it’s what I did.

And no matter the human cost, I was proud of doing it.

Holly & Rainbows

Holly was there for me, opening gates for me, listening from when I met her in 1993.   I have a collection of hundreds of letters I sent to her, overwhelming her, but also knowing she was safe with my heart.

Holly was so important to so many as she brought her own tender, magical Oberlin kind of presence to us, creating spaces from vision quests to sacred ceremonies where the transcendental came to the surface.   Even that tough old bird TBB felt the power of Holly’s hippy dippy transcendentalism.

Holly, her son Evan, and all the rest who loved her are in my mind and my heart tonight.

If there was anyone who was born to be a free floating angel. though, soaring on gossamer wings, it was Holly,   May her spirit be flying free, liberated from the chains that come with a fleshly life.

In 1994, I knew what I needed to hear to be affirmed in the world, and I knew that Holly was the one who would be credible saying it.   That’s why I wrote this stump speech for her, which she delivered at IFGE Atlanta Action 1995.

I still need to hear her voice and regret missing it for so many years.   So what I can do quickly is share this text.

Blessings to you Holly, like the blessings your free spirit gave to so many here.


The Rainbow Speech
Delivered by Holly Boswell to IFGE Atlanta 1995

 

I am here today to give each one of you a gift. It is a special gift, one that is incalculably valuable, but one that you cannot see.

Before I give you this gift, let me tell you a story. It’s a story we all know, a story that is now part of the shared American experience.

Every year as I grew up, they played The Wizard of Oz on television. It’s a cultural phenomenon. We had a black and white TV when I was growing up, and I remember how surprised I was to find that the land of Oz was in color! I finally got to see those sequined red pumps!

Somehow I knew that if I could just get a great pair of red pumps and a fiesty little dog, my life would be great, but it hasn’t been quite that simple.

The Wizard of Oz is a charming story, one that I want to share with my son as he grows. It’s the story of four lovable characters who each think they need to find something to make their life whole. The Scarecrow needs brains, The Lion needs courage, the Tin Man needs a heart, and Dorothy needs a place that feels safe, needs a home.

We all remember Dorothy’s song:

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There’s a land that I heard of, once, in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue.
And
the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.

I love the image of the rainbow in that classic Harold Arlen song. The rainbow is an image of the beauty inherent in diversity, of pure white light showing all of the range of wonderful color that makes it up. A full spectrum of beauty, like the spectrum of genders, colors and races that make up humanity.

Millions of tiny water droplets, each shining in the light of the universe, make up the whole we see as a rainbow. It is an wonderful sight, reminding us how many small parts can make up a beautiful whole.

Now that I am older, I know that The Wizard of Oz is the story of four characters on a mythic quest. They follow the role of the hero as described by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, taking a journey and returning reborn, irrevocably changed. The changed hero is both who she always was and someone completely new. All the characters find that the quest changes something inside of them forever.

I know that many of you here today understand the meaning of a quest. You, too, are searching for something, something that will bring you inner peace and happiness.

The Wizard appears to give each character what they need: brains, courage, a heart, home. But we find out that the Wizard knows that they have had these qualities all along, and all he does is give them talismans that let them blossom, symbols that unlock their own power.

The Wizard gives a gift to them, but it is the gift of a teacher, of one who empowers other to search within themselves. When they believe and they search, they discover the power and magic that they have always held inside.

I am going to give that kind of gift to you today. It is a gift that you already have, a gift that you already hold inside.

If this was The Wizard of Oz, this is where the lights, sound and fury would come, but for now, as they said, “Pay no attention to the person behind the curtain!

I, with the all of the power of the universe, through the magic of the goddess, and in the full witness of the circle of humans, hereby grant you full and complete status as a transgendered person from this day forward.

You have the right to define your own gender role, to choose from the wide range of gender expression, in appearance, in language and in action.

You have the power to be who you are and express yourself in the way you want, using the full spectrum of choices that exist, not just selections from one culturally defined gender role.

From today on, you have full status as a transgendered person, able to select the best from the abundant palette of human appearance and behavior.

You are constrained only by your own spirit and mind, by your understanding of your responsibility as a member of the human race.

Let it be known that you are a fully fledged transgendered person, with all rights, privileges, challenges and joys that come with being transgendered.

I congratulate you on this official declaration of your status. As a transgendered person, you are able to shape and mold your own life as an artist, creating a life that you delight in and are proud of. You can create new forms and expression, and be a beacon in the world, shining your special colors for all to see.

As a transgendered person, you may be a leader in bringing a new consciousness of acceptance and diversity to the world, making the world a better place to live. You can even define the way that you want to make the world better, spanning a range that goes all the way from shouting to the crowds (though using TV might be more effective today) to raising enlightened children who will pass the message of love and acceptance on.

From today on, you are officially a transgendered person. You are able to find great beauty and peace. You can have great joy from seeing things from a perspective of change, from not being locked down. You are able to see in a way that those who only stay locked in one place, in one gender role, never will.

You will be challenged, for there is no way to satisfy all other people. Some will not understand, may mock or show fear through their anger. This happens to all people. Your life will change, and you will have to suffer some losses so that you can find the new successes. But this too is shared by all.

But you forever will have all of the most important things: the lessons you have learned from living life. And these lessons will be colored not from just one viewpoint, but from a range of ways of seeing, so that you will be able to understand even more deeply than most what makes being a human so special and wonderful.

You may choose to serve as a translator or mediator, helping people who are stuck understand other perspectives. Or you may just help others as they go through their journey.

You are whole and complete. You have the whole circle inside of you, yin and yang, black and white and all shades between. You hold the rainbow in your heart.

Congratulations! You are Transgendered!

This is my gift. For many of you, it is nothing new, just a statement of something that you know well and understand.

For others, you may be uncomfortable with this gift of transgender. This is not a gift you want to receive. Right now it looks more like a sofa size painting with just way too many colors on one canvas that Aunt Mabel might have bought at the Starving Artists show at the Holiday Inn. The gift of transgender may seem big and weird, and just like the painting, for which there is no room in the living room, there seems to be no room for being transgendered in your life. It’s a monstrosity.

I mean, after all, if people see that thing, what will they think of you?

We all understand this fear. Each and every one of this has tried to decline the gift of transgender that was given to us by our creator. We have run from it, hidden it, tried to limit it, denied it. We have worked very hard at fighting it.

Some have even tried to deny our essential transgendered selves while changing our physical sex. Changing sex may be the best choice for you, putting your body more in harmony with your internal gender. But even if you choose this change, you will always be transgendered, understanding the world from more than one viewpoint. You will never be simply a woman or a man, but one who has the transcendant joy of seeing the range of human experience. This makes you powerful, and while that can be frightening to some others, it will attract people who are ready to share on your level.

In many cultures, the God-given gift of transgender has been a highly valued one. Transgendered people have existed in all cultures and at all times, and their role has often been seen as one who represented the circle of humanity in one. This is often seen as a direct link to the divine.

The real gift is in accepting and working with our transgendered identity, not in running from it. We need to accept to move on, to find our bliss.

Surrender Dorothy! Surrender and accept this gift, this gift that you can give yourself. By accepting your status as transgendered, you can find the kind of freedom and joy that others have found.

We have taken that painting from Aunt Mabel. And lo and behold, we have found that it is actually quite beautiful, full of rich texture and vibrant depth. And when we are brave enough to show it to others, they also find it exquisite and marvel at our taste and our sophistication.

Some wicked witches will call it ugly, that’s true. They are not yet ready to see the beauty. Often though, a bucket of clean water, which symbolizes our own life force, can make them melt away.

What is truly amazing is how letting our true transgendered nature shine seems to bring new people into our lives, people we share powerful connections with, and who bring their own beauty and light into our lives.

My transgender has been like that. When I have shown it, it has brought beauty and peace into my life. Like any other person on earth, I have had to keep things in balance, finding a way to meet both my needs and the needs of the people that I love, but it has been more than worth it.

Congratulations! You are officially a transgendered person! As America sang, “Oz never did give nothin’ to the tin man that he didn’t, didn’t already have.” Take this gift like the tin heart, not as anything new, but as permission to trust your own heart, which you have always had, but which you may not have trusted.

You have the right to choose, the right to create yourself from all the best that humanity has to offer. You can be as beautiful, as strong, as bright, as sensitive, as spiritual, as whole as you choose to be, for you are transgendered!

You have the brains, you have the courage, you have the heart, and you also have the rainbow of humanity in your heart. You have the right and the spirit to shine in beauty and love.

You are whole and complete. You have the whole circle inside of you, yin and yang, black and white and all shades between. You hold the rainbow in your heart, and, when you let it, it shines beautifully from you.

Each of us makes up a little part of the rainbow of humanity, one brightly shining spot. By having each point of the rainbow shine, each of us shine, we create the beauty of the rainbow here on earth.

And if you shine, you can make a change in the world, helping to let others find their way to shine, helping to put the world in balance. Remember that it is millions of tiny water droplets shining in the light that combine to make a rainbow. We can all shine, and together we will make a beautiful spectrum of light.

If we all make just a little change in the world, maybe we won’t need a special pair of magic red pumps to find our spiritual home. We can build some place special right here on earth, where happy little blue birds, and all of the rest of us, can fly, to a magic place. A magic place that’s not just somewhere over the rainbow, but that is here today, shining brightly in the spirits of all of you.

You are transgendered. When someone asks you if you are a good witch or a bad witch, say proudly that you are a very good witch. Go forth and shine your rainbow light in the world! Bless the world with your presence as you have been blessed with your transgender!

Together, we make up the rainbow, bright and colorful. You are a beautiful sight, and I am proud to be one of you. Together, we will change the world!

and for the less sweet. . .

Backstage Meta

Having the zest to really commit to a performance — from a turn on-stage to chairing a business meeting to just being a mommy — depends a great deal on how safe, understood, affirmed, mirrored and protected you feel when you are backstage.

A place where you are out of the spotlight, the pressure off, hanging with people who understand you as you and not just as you role is an important part of being balanced and healthy in the world.

For example, women go to the powder room together to get backstage, out of the gaze, into a place where they can share feedback, do their private duties, adjust their costume, and basically just get a breath in a not-quite public space.

Men retire to clubs or man-caves for similar reasons, executives have their own refuges, and on and on.

A public persona is useful but it is also limiting.    Sports stars may want to provide a role model for kids, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need time to sweat, time to curse, time to release and just time to be an human.

For me, this backstage time has always had to be alone.

As a kid, facing Aspergers parents, there was no safety or encouragement at home.  I had to enter my own world, using my own thoughts, fed by the shards of information I gathered from reading and watching TV, to be out of the danger zone.    I didn’t have peers, didn’t know how to explain my homelife, didn’t know how to get into the place the kids around me were.

As a transperson, facing a world of gendered expectations, there was no safety or encouragement in the world.  I was never just one of the guys and certainly never one of the girls.

I was an individualistic iconoclast, an aberration, a freak standing on my own rather than one of the gang, one of the team, one of the cast.   That left me without any backstage space where I could be protected and polished.

My favourite work experience was being part of a team of very bright people in the early days of writing commercial software for PCs.   (I actually worked on a DOS 1.25 Columbia PC that had a hard drive without directories in the file system.)    At least I could be one of the nerds, even one of the top nerds, bringing smarts, vision and communication to breaking new ground.

Today, nerds and genderqueers are not uncommon, but that wasn’t the case back then.  I was alone.

Becoming a goddamn guru wasn’t my dream, but it seemed to be my only choice, moving beyond fitting in to a kind of heightened awareness.    I learned how to perform guru, becoming a concierge who helped people move through doors, seeing beyond their conventions.

There isn’t, though, a little guru’s room where we all go and let the human behind the persona hang out.    Asking people to help me to become a safer, better and more energized guru just left them baffled.   They wanted to show me what made them better, more denial, discipline & detachment, while what I needed was more humanity, more release, trust and childlike playfulness. (2006)

Having only the vacuum of a backstage, a place alone, left me to write and write and write, all very creative but not very nourishing.   Instead of getting the kind of engagement I needed when sharing, I got a kind of mastery of expression, so detailed, so thoughtful, emotional and intense that it has formed a further barrier to getting the kind of mirroring and affirmation that I have always needed.

Experience in the meta has made my performance as concierge, as door handler and guru much more effective, allowing me to enter the worldviews of others to offer new perspective and encouragement, but it hasn’t made that performance more satisfying and bountiful to me.   The costs are clear, the rewards just dried in the hope of gaining them in another life.

To become product, creating an accessible face that others can value, I have to be more engaging of the spotlight.   For me, that doesn’t involve mastering more performance skills, rather it requires more backstage capacity, finding spaces where I can be seen, safe and supported after I do my gig and perform my role.

This is always difficult for transpeople.    The backstage bits that most people take for granted, like being one of the girls or the boys, is something that takes work for us to police inside ourselves, modulating our performance, always tensed and ready for the terrifying “third gotcha.”

While I may know how to help others move past this fear,  that knowledge stays conceptual until I have the practice, the rehearsal, the safety that comes from knowing you have others backstage who will be there for you, working together to create the best outcome, watching each other’s back.

For me, even support groups are work, a time for modulating my performance rather than letting down my guard and having my instincts & skills recognized and affirmed.   Often, I even have to help train the clinical professionals.

I end up being more the parent, the facilitator, the guru than being another human with their own problems, because I have addressed the standard issues I carry, leaving the tough and difficult to solve challenges, the terrors that can easily freak others out.    I do know why most start to read my most recent post and quickly move on.

Denying the safety and empowerment of backstage support has always been an effective way of enforcing stigma.   We were taught to fear being identified with those who look perverted, sick or marginalized, so rather than helping with what we share we focus on how we are different, how we are not like them.   Our identity becomes based around what we are not, what we deny and reject, rather than who we are in our shimmering, complex and nuanced beautiful humanity.

Too much of what should get processed backstage in my life comes to the top, blocking my performance and limiting my potential.   After long decades of having to take care of myself, living in scarcity and fear, I know that.

Finding a safe backstage to handle my ragged humanity, though, is something I have been unable to achieve.