Pooped

When it comes to trans, we live in a world of party poopers.

As we try to capture our own energy, our own intensity, our own passion we share our dreams with the people around us, with our family, with the people we love.

And then they poop on our dreams.

They just can’t get excited about what we imagine.  They find lots and lots of reasons why our dreams are impractical or silly or just not possible.  They can’t see why we would want to put scarce energy into them, so they just work to burst our balloons, shoot down our hopes, and just generally be party poopers.

Sometimes, they do this because they have other priorities, are stuck in their own struggles. Many times, though, they tell us that they are pooping on us for our own good, that they are just being realistic and practical, that shattering our illusions is the kindest thing that they can do for us.

Our excitement goes out into the world and then it goes dead.  Instead of getting our energy reflected back, getting mirrored, affirmed and reinforced, we get it dulled down, absorbed, diminished, and dismissed.

The trans party is just somewhere people are uncomfortable going, so when we try and get the party going, try and build momentum, try and get loose and dance, others just poop.

Stigma always works this way.   The boundaries of proper, right, cool and valuable are taught, so when someone wants to move beyond them, they get resistance rather than encouragement.  They get no-no and pooh-pooh and then either have to go along with the group or go it alone.

When we face stigma the amount of energy to achieve escape velocity,  to get to take off is so much that we get pooped trying to achieve it.   We give up, give out, ending up suppressed and depressed, our dreams blunted.

Revolution is exhausting, living in a world where we have to try and press for change, for new, for innovative every time, a world where habit, convention and the status quo become a blanket to oppress and resist any change.

Why bother trying something new, people tell us, when what we have now is so comfortable and change will just lead to frustration, exhaustion and failure anyway?

Pooping is the art of finding reasons to say no.   Saying no to the different, the scary, the unknown is easy, and that means saying no to the tender dreams in our heart is easy too.

Is there any wonder we struggle for yes, struggle to feel our transformational energy coming back to us, reflected in encouragement and affirmation?

Is there any wonder why, when we get resistance, stigma, shaming, dismissal, and mocking the party inside of us gets wet, broken and fading?

Is there any wonder why, after a lifetime of facing party poopers we just feel totally pooped?

Translucent

There has been a flurry of trans visibility in the last year.

On “UnReal,” when the find a moving story about a closeted lesbian, the executive producer grumbles “Fine, but it is transgender that is trendy now!”

The problem with trans visibility in many ways is that it masks the truth about transpeople: mostly, we are invisible.  And we like it that way.

My sister reports that there are a few people she takes to have a trans history working at the large department store where she is a senior manager.  Does she know that they are trans?  Nope.  And she won’t bring the subject up, because to her, they are just good employees doing their job.

These are not the people who go to trans events in the area, standing up and being visible to support political causes.   They have their lives and they just can’t see how being more visible, more labelled as trans helps them in any way.  It doesn’t bring lovers or promotions or anything concrete.

Instead, being visible as trans just marks them as curiosities, as abject, as freaks, as broken. Being visible and identified as trans sets them apart lumps them in a weird group and has no real benefits.

They are able to make their way in the world in the best way that they know how, just doing the work in front of them.  Sure, intimates know their story, and others may have some suspicion, but as long as it is rude to out someone, they can just stay focused on their lives and not let their history or biology get in the way.

Support groups are mostly a quagmire of people who are still wrestling with their own trans issues, places more of sickness and struggle more than healing and affirmation, so they have learned not to bother with them.   When you have your own issues to deal with, becoming a target of those who are still thrashing about may be service, but at a cost and not at a real benefit.

For every transperson who has emerged and chosen to not be a transgender flag bearer, not wear that label, staying away from trans groups and public trans identification. there are many more who have trans feelings but choose to manage them in a less than public way.

They may have an intermittent transgender expression, weekends, church, conferences or whatever, balancing family, work and freedom.  They may only have a virtual trans life, on the internet and in their sexual fantasies.  They may eve have a denied trans life, fighting their damnedest to keep their trans nature locked away, sealed and out of sight.

This legion of those with a  trans nature who choose to remain less than visible, just doing their work, not being a “professional tranny,” an activist, a standard bearer, are the real majority of transpeople in the world.

If you are gay or lesbian, you usually need to identify as such to find a partner, need to be able to have a public identity to meet potential mates.  If you are trans, there is no such drive, no such component.  Often your very transness gets in the way of developing relationships rather than fosters it.

Nobody is only trans in the moments they choose to be visible as trans.  We are all trans through our lifetimes, no matter how much we expose that nature, how much we choose to lead and be explicit about our transness.

Ari Istar Lev talks about transgender emergence rather than transgender transition, trying to explain that while our expression may change over time, our nature doesn’t.  We were trans as kids, as teens, in these clothes or that, trans until we die.

That does not mean that we want our primary identification to be as trans.

Most of us adamantly and vehemently want to be seen as full humans first, want to be marked by our passions, our precision, our love, our accomplishments, seen as complete and nuanced, not just to be surfaced as “a transgender.”   We are people first, and trans is just one of the many, many things we are.

This is hard to explain to people who believe that transgender is something about what clothes you wear, what surgery you have, what you call yourself and so on.  Those are ways we express ourselves, yes, but they are NOT our transgender.

Our trans is something deep inside of us, something that pulls us to what we love, even if that means crossing boundaries others see as hard and fast, transgressing convention and expectation to claim all of us.

How do we want to talk about trans?  Like it is a normal part of the human experience (1997).

The language to do that doesn’t exist yet because trans is still seen as a red flag, weird, freaky thing only done by people who deserve pity.    These people think it makes sense to try and cut trans down to size, putting nice boundaries on it, only having to deal with it when it is visible, when it becomes a curiosity.

Transgender is not the visible choices we make as we struggle to express our nature in a binary, heterosexist world.

No matter how we struggle to keep our trans nature visible, often even to ourselves, our transgender threads through our experience from the first moment when we are told that people with our biology and history are not allowed to make that choice our heart wants to the last day we share our shimmering story with someone who cares for us.

Pointing to a visible transperson is never pointing to transgender.  That person was trans from when they knew themselves to be, and is trans when they are made invisible by age and polish.

The translucent people, the ones for whom trans isn’t everything but is for whom trans is still an important, underlying bit of their lives really reveal the scope and power of transgender in the world.

You just have to look close, with respect and openness, to see that glow.

Unreasonable

In the territory of the mind, reason is the foundation.  It was my mind that became my most important survival tool, working to apply good reasoning to understand the chaos around and inside of me.

Being reasonable, with clear thoughts bounding and constraining everything else in the world became my grail.  In my twenties, I even had friends note how often I asked the question “Is that reasonable?” to confirm and validate my own choices.

Transgender, though, is an unreasonable force.  It is Eros, deep and powerful, a drive of essential desire which usually is revealed at a very young age, long before sexual attractions.   It is a force inside of us that pulls us to choices as simple as the kind of birthday cake we want — pink lemonade when I was 7 — to what we know will destroy and injure us.

It is reasonable to account for the unreasonable forces of human nature in constructing a life and a world. It is reasonable to not make demands which don’t directly matter, picking your battles and allowing discretion and choice where it doesn’t violate decorum and respect.

Wrapping transgender knowledge inside of reasonable bounds, though, does not make it reasonable.  Reasonable arguments for supporting personal freedom may support transgender expression, but the demand for apparent reason may also create a culture of rationalization, of legalistic arguments that seek to use salami slicing tricks to sway the conventions.

I spent decades and decades trying to apply reason to transgender in the world.  I got very good at it, and some of that discipline and reason carries on today in my quest to find and share understanding.

There came a point, though, when I realized that the most powerful and beautiful thing about transgender nature is its very unreason.  Trans does not come from logic, science, law or reason, but rather from the deep, potent knowledge that lies deep within every human, knowledge humans have always held in mythical stories.

Forcing humans to be forced to be reasonable is taking away much of their power, beauty and majesty.   Many of the empowerment programmes for women are specifically based on breaking out of the imposed demand to be boxed up and seen as reasonable in a corporate world, one created by men, and instead to trust their own intuitive powers.

Reasonable is always in the eye of the beholder.  Others see you as reasonable when they are swayed by your logic and facts, which usually happens when you agree with them, when you come from the same cultural bias they hold.   It wasn’t reasonable for darkies to complain about their slavery, wasn’t reasonable that the weaker sex would want the vote.

Stories of people being unreasonable and creating breakthroughs abound.  One doctor was told it wasn’t reasonable to give children with cancers huge doses of chemotherapy that would harm them, but he countered that it wasn’t reasonable to just let them die without trying what we have.  In his unreasonableness, he saved children, changing the paradigm and practice of how we treat childhood cancer today.

The reason of the other doctors turned out not to be based in rational thought but rather in long held conventional beliefs.   They measured reasonable not by reason but by their own biases and assumptions.

It took me a long time to understand that trying to satisfy other people with my own reasonableness was just an attempt to keep others comfortable, trying to use the appearance of reason as cover for my own deeper choices.  I was using reason to find explanations that I could use to convince others, rather than trying to figure out what was going on.  I was, on some level or other, just creating rationalizations for my own choices.

Accepting that my desires didn’t need justification was crucial.   I started to work on finding deep and true desire rather than just trying to rationalize my acting out, whatever it was.   Using reason to get clear, integrated and actualized was very different than attempting to be seen as reasonable in the eyes of another.

If my trans nature was accepted and engaged when I was young and supposed to be unreasonable, my worldview would be very different.  I would have been able to balance my desires and my reason in a more mature way than I was able to do while being required to deny, hide and demonize my own true and deep desires.

Appealing to reason, conveying compelling and thoughtful arguments doesn’t demand that you be reasonable, listening to the reason that others want to impose on you.  Being considerate of others views and respecting decorum doesn’t demand that you be reasonable, surrendering your challenging pint of view for their comfort.

Some, I know, dismiss transgender views with pity, projecting abjection and disease over our experience.   They choose to see us as broken rather than questioning the system that pounded us down, a system they see as real and reasonable.   We are the ones with the flaws, not their simple system that divides the world into either/or groups, binaries with clear and crisp boundaries that transpeople clearly don’t understand.

We are, in our claims, demands, assertions and expressions, unreasonable in their eyes.   We offend what they know to be reasonable and proper based on their own worldview.

I love reason.  I love decorum and grace, love respecting and engaging the views of others.   Reason saved me and it still provides me an important tool to help me understand myself, others, the world and my relationships in it.

I don’t value being seen as reasonable very much, though.  My feminine heart knows what it knows and feels what it feels, and while reason may help me examine, clarify and communicate that, the expectation of being reasonable, of not demanding more than others feel comfortable giving, often feels like a prison.  Attenuating myself to be seen as reasonable by the afraid has always had a high cost for me.

My rage, the power than makes me outraged and outrageous isn’t wrong, sick, broken or abject.   My queerness, the character that moves me beyond normative, isn’t a medical issue, something to be fixed or palliated with a sop and a pat on the head, something to be dismissed with a doctor’s signature verifying a pathology.

We all struggle between wild and tame, standing proud and fitting in, fighting for our uniqueness and assimilating nicely into the group.  Respect is vital for people to connect, both ways.

Unreasonable people need love and respect too as they work to claim themselves in the world.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world;
the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.
Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
— George Bernard Shaw

I’m often unreasonable.  And I am proud of it.

Celebrant

“Congratulations!” I told the cashier in the dollar store.

“Why are you congratulating me?” she asked.

“You just told me that you were doing pretty well,” I said.  “That’s a lot better than you could be doing!  Congratulations!”

“I’ve never had anyone congratulate me for doing pretty well before,” she replied, “but yes, it is something to be grateful for.”

We live in a culture where people like to bond either about where they see their life falling short of their dreams or about big belief systems they carry.   “Isn’t this waitress slow?” they will say, or “Namaste!  God is Great!”

We don’t tend to take time to see, value and be grateful for the little daily things that make our life a bit better.  Great weather, good service, an interesting question to ponder, some food, whatever, most people just rarely celebrate the good.

It’s really hard to drive out darkness.   It is much easier to expand brilliance, lighting up one square foot and then expanding that light to a square meter.

Find something wonderful that lasts a minute, then try to double it and make it last two minutes.  Pretty soon, you can go for longer.

Instead of focusing on eliminating failure, focus on increasing success.  Keep making better choices and pretty soon bad ones won’t take up as much room.

To change the world, we have to first believe that change for the better is possible.   We have to have real hope.  If we keep focusing on the crushing problems rather than on the small, cumulative solutions, we will see ourselves as victims rather than as empowered to make change.

“Where are the wins?” I used to ask, knowing that while cutting losses can be useful, no organization ever thrives because they only have small losses.  There have to be wins in the mix too, reasons for congratulation.  We have to have heart to get better everyday.

I’m good at being a theologian, yes, and have done the pastoral work of service to others.

I have resisted becoming a missionary, resisted going out and pounding some belief structure, evangelism embedded in entertainment to reinforce the believers again and again.

My life has been about guerrilla actions.   I never just took the spotlight, rather I stayed a bit off to the side, taking my own power by oblique moves that let me slide back into my own introvert safe space.

The first audience we are all issued, those parents and extended family who think that we are just fascinating and adorable, the ones who pay such rapt attention that we learn to amuse and entertain them, wasn’t so kind, indulgent and playful with me.

As the first born of two Aspergers parents, being smart was the only way I found to get attention.   I read from Time magazine when I was four, followed politics and more.

Becoming invisible was the only way I found to feel safe, to absorb the blame and rage of a mother who made it very, very clear that we just were sent to make her unhappy and upset.  I learned to fear and resist attention, especially from authority figures, rather than learning to value and crave it.

Having a corrupt relationship with that formative audience was expensive.  It meant that when I needed the skills to engage an audience of my peers or of others parents and teachers, I just didn’t have the skills.  And I certainly didn’t have the confidence that people would be a safe audience for my own sharing.

There are moments where I did have power over an audience, like my improvised comedy in junior high school plays, but those possibilities soon evaporated, as a shop teacher with no drama experience lead the high school performance group.  Still, I knew I was different in a way that others found weird and corrupt, knew that I lived in a family where failure and self-pity held the highest value.

Instead I found my audience as a stealthy and witty manager of a program for high schools students at MIT, taking on a role that was usually filled by ‘tute students.  Even getting my degree, finally, came because I ended up managing part of academic computing for the college.  I was not a good academic, but I was a good manager, skills I had to learn to support my parents and to save myself.

An entrepreneur who resists the spotlight, though, is a failed entrepreneur.   Taking visible responsibility is a key part of building vigorous organizations.   Instead, I stayed enmeshed with my parents, even as I worked to understand the world, worked to manage issues around my own trans nature and the needs of the trans community.

The trans community and my local community never supported growing leadership.  Instead, they fought leaders, lashing out with anger and blame, playing the old “crabs in a barrel” game.   Working to claim individual power and being stigmatized and abused in the world does not make you an engaged member in human organizational structures.

I learned how to be a theologian and even how to do pastoral work.   I watched as others did the missionary work.

What I didn’t do, what I was to hard for me to do, was to do the ritual work, the liturgical work that creates a safe, energizing and affirming place for people to come together, sharing and reinforcing values, supporting each other in the hard, hard work of making better choices everyday of their lives.

I didn’t take the spotlight.  Instead, I did that work as I had learned to do, as a guerrilla,   making and hurling bombs of enlightenment and caring.  Facing the kind of institutional and reactionary resistance that comes from people resisting change, instead of creating a cadre, organizing a movement, coming together with others and shaping a church, I did my work in stealth, sharing the best that I could offer.

I was good at the work I did.

I was good at caring for my parents by staying in their shadows, even driving from the back seat.  By playing small, I learned to not threaten or scare them, instead keeping them feeling cared for.

I was good at sharing ideas and structures that could help those who wanted healing, even as I stayed hidden from those who wanted to resist and silence their own inner voices by acting out against those kinds of voices in the world.

I suspect, though, I was also good at building organizations, at managing change.  At least those who heard me engage their own struggles to do so found me a source of insight and inspiration.

I stayed in the shadows, though, never taking that leadership role, instead sidelining myself as an individual contributor.

There is an clerical name for those who stand up to lead a ritual or a rite, those who take the spotlight to open spaces where people come together in respect and grace to open themselves to a connection with the divine.

That name is “celebrant.”   They lead a shared celebration, by a few or by a multitude, that brings people together outside of self focus, instead participating in a moment that reminds them of their connection to the past and the future, their connection to other people and to all living things.

Celebration wasn’t something I did in the spotlight.  Instead, I celebrated small, human moments, for example, by congratulating the cashier at a dollar store on having a good day, offering a moment of sly humour and gratitude.

As I have looked for shared celebrations that I can sign up for, I found people celebrating things that I didn’t value.  They often celebrated group identity over individual possibility, celebrated separation over connection.   Leaders were preachy preachers, comforting the believers with the differences between good us and bad them instead of teachy preachers, asking us to go deep and engage the divine surprise growing by opening, by revelation, by empathy and vulnerability.

I haven’t been able to find a celebration that I find affirming and energizing to me.

And I haven’t tried to stand in the light and create that space, asking others to join me in that gathering.

Instead, I got more and more hermetic, depleted resources keeping me off the grid, a place where most of them could never be replaced or renewed.

To have the celebrant we want and need, it occurs to me, we first have to be the celebrant, ready and willing to come together in celebration of what we value.

As a transwoman, there are lots of reasons to want to stay invisible.  We know we don’t have the training and confidence in our womanhood that people raised as women do.   We know how easily we can be slammed and how hard it can be to recover from those hits as they shake us to the depths of our experience.  Our struggle against resistance is hard and wearing, depleting our confidence and vitality.

The reasons for transpeople to be very visible, to stand up and lead, to be change agents in the world are even more compelling, but they are not written into our fears and our experience.   We get very little affirmation or support in modelling and encouraging change when we challenge the neat lines and boxes that others believe give them safety and comfort.

We are not used to giving each other support, in coming together to celebrate the power and the possibility that is in our gifts.  We don’t get the values of respect and diversity reinforced in our lives.   We feel the threats more than we feel the potency of connection and shared caring.

Too often we celebrate the trivial, the sensational, the destructive and the separating.   These are the kind of celebrations that serve marketers and politicians who know how to use emotional pulls to manipulate us.   The values are hidden under easy entertainment, going unquestioned in scary ways.   They don’t ask us to step up and be better, rather they ask us to surrender to popular biases and expectations.

Standing up, calling out and working to gather those who need to celebrate values that we consciously want to share, values around the power of the divine surprise to open our hearts, challenge our minds and transform our perceptions, is a good thing.

Standing as celebrant is the first thing that feels affirming and delightful to me.  It also seems, however, beyond my resources.

I know how to celebrate the small things that make our life better, the choices we make to be more present and more open, to heal and grow through engagement and gratitude.

Standing up to lead others in that celebration, creating spaces and rites that allow us to share that power, well, that is more problematic for me.

Celebration, though — always a key part of trans expression through time and around the world — feels important to me, important to follow.   You just have to get the values and the energy right.

Callings

I was watching “The Blues Brothers” and a show on Westminster Abbey, where English royalty is crowned.

The connection between the moment, hidden from viewers, where the incoming monarch is anointed with oil from the holy land, and the moment where Elwood is touched by a beam of light through a stained glass window, struck me.  They are both moments of transfiguration, where the human and the divine meet, creating a synthesis of both.

While I don’t believe that Queen Elizabeth II ever announced that she is on a mission from God, or that Elwood ever wore a crown, they both had work to do for the good of others.

In the last weeks of my parents lives my mother saw a blurb in the local shopper for a session of grief workshops at a local church.  This was at a new church where two of her former pastors were assigned.  My sister went to the session and in doing so, brought the pastors back into my parents realm.  My father died soon after, but for the month that my mother lived, they were superb, visiting and hosting my father’s funeral.

The deacon, a former hospice chaplain herself, was brilliant with my mother.  She was even available the afternoon my mother died, holding a service as our family circled round her body, still in the recliner.

“Maybe you want the reverend to come,” she had offered.  For whatever reason she thought we might need him, either rank or her gender, I assured her that she would be great.

“You have been an exemplary representative of the church to our family,” I told her.

“I’m just doing the work of the lord,” she averred.

“The lord needs humans who are willing to hear the call and offer their own corporeal presence, their own kindness and care in the world,” I said.  “Thank you for being the one who did the work so well.”

She had heard her calling and done the work.  It was a gift to my mother and to my family, a sign of some kind of harmony in the universe for which I will always be grateful.

There is very little doubt that in another time and another place, my nature would have been spotted and my transcendent nature put into harness.  Joining an order, being trained as a shaman, whatever the role was in that culture.   I was spotted in this culture too, of course, being cooed over in my fifth grade confirmation class, giving homilies in eighth grade, finding out in vocational tests at college that my interests matched those of clergy and so on, but in my time, queer and devout were deemed to be a horrible contradiction.

My first goal in college was to find some way to merge elementary education and television, both of which I had worked in in high school.  Today, I see Mister Fred Rogers as someone who did that masterfully and who we all understand to have been a minister tending to his flock, now spread far and wide.

I have long understood myself to be a theologian, searching for the connecting threads between stories, and I have always had a number of people to which I provided pastoral support.  My biggest gap is that of a celebrant, never seeming to get to the point where I could create resonant ritual.   I have always seen my trans expression as vestments, as an expression of my work to promote connection based on continuous common humanity.

The Church Of Divine Surprise” has been my little imagining for years, getting people to come together to honour and celebrate the sparks of magic which change the way we see the world, opening up our hearts and changing our perception from fear to love. The idea of gathering together to let the smarts and the energy flow in playful ways, laughing with exuberant delight at the diversity and commonality of the human spirit feels both wonderful and impossible.

Asking other people to vet, affirm and support your calling is a kind of hopeless thing.   Calling is something inside and you cannot expect people to get it.

“Mom, I’m going to get together a gang, wander around doing magic, then threaten the authorities so much that they execute me, and in doing that, I’ll save millions of souls!”

“Oh Jesus,” I imagine Mary saying, “why won;t you just join your stepfather’s business as a carpenter?  Why cause me this agita?”

It is a crackpot thing to claim a calling, especially a calling that doesn’t fit neatly into some already structured order.

While good crackpot can attract people, theoretical crackpot is just scary.   Ask any transperson who called to ask if a store accepts transpeople; the answer was almost always no, just to protect against crackpots.  Walk into the same store, though, terrified but ready to put on a brave smile, and the answer will usually be yes, as they see you as a real, human person.

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.
— Jesus Christ (Gnostic Gospel Of Thomas, Saying 70)

What got you here will get you out of here.
— Joe Garagiola

Your calling — your mission from God, your transmogrification to one who stands in service, divinely connected —  is just taking the gifts you have been given and using them in a selfless way.

What got me here is the only thing that can get me out of here.  That demands trusting it, following the calling.

Goulash

The internet access was terminated, leaving me even more off the grid.

It felt like just another freeing loss.   I may have spent a lot of time coming for inputs and offering my voice, but those two pieces were profoundly disconnected.   My voice was offering diminishing returns and the crap I found was just more and more distracting.

I sat for a about a week and spoke to myself, making a piece of parts, a goulash.

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Growing up trans is the experience of being taught what you cannot be.

The lesson for transpeople is simple: we can’t simply be whoever we want to be.  When we reach for what our heart wants, we are challenged, resisted and shamed.

Gender is enforced, we learn, at the extreme cost of our inner knowledge, at the very dear price of our tender hopes.

We leaned very early that there were wrong, wrong, wrong answers to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

We learned that although we could instantly see what we wanted in the world, pretty and potent, asking for it would end up with denial and discipline telling us what is right and how we were wrong.

We were told that our dreams are corrupt, to be discouraged and demolished.  “When I was just little I asked my mother what I will be.  Will I be pretty, will I be rich?  Here’s what she said to me: You stupid ass, you are a boy!  No pretty for you!

No matter what our tastes or our needs are, we are only offered what is socially approved for people with bodies like us.  We are held to standards and expectations that we will be like others, liking what they like and competing with them for status and affirmation. We not only are denied what we love, we are forced into what we hate, into playing a game that we know doesn’t fit us.

How does knowing so early that you can never really be who you want to be, that the choices of the “other” gender will always be close, at hand, but will always be sickness if you choose them?

What I want — what any woman wants — is to be present in a network of loving relationships.

From a very young age, I learned that while I could give love, asking for my presence to be respected and understood was to ask too much.  I needed to be hidden, veiled, disguised, reduced, modulated, attenuated, suppressed, repressed, oppressed and flattened in order to even get a taste of what I wanted, of what I knew I needed.

I had to settle for serving others, renouncing my own whatever, because my whatever is what I could never be, is what could never be understood and loved, could never be a dream.

I needed to find commercial, approved dreams to substitute, panting for the machine made red shoes that would end up dancing me to the machine’s tune.

I learned how to renounce desire, how to cope with loss, how to move past ego.

I learned to trust nobody with my dreams, burying them under invasive thoughts, the armour that kept my dreams away from even me.

What I needed to do next is to replace that externalized stuffing with my own authentic, primal and crystalline desire.

But growing up trans is the experience of being taught what you cannot be.  It is growing up knowing that it is unsafe and unpleasant to walk as yourself in the world, waiting for the third gotcha, cutting yourself down to fit in, or being slammed by the beliefs of others.

And so, I end up bereft.

Is there some convenient synthetic goal to catch me and drive my passion to fight for acquiring it in the world?

Apparently not.  I know what I cannot be and what I can be seems slight, empty, and well, insulting.

From a very young age, I have been clear about what I cannot be.  I was told an immense, unchallengable “no.”

In that context, I shaped what I am.

And I cannot imagine what I might be from here in any way that seems worth the work to even try and get there.

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If you can avoid being a healer, finding something else to do, you probably should do that.

People heal in their own way and their own time.

Most of what people do around healing is to resist it, trying to hang on to their imagined life, the one they don’t have but the one that they just know would make their life perfect.  That perfection will never come to pass, of course, because they are living a human life.  What will delight and heal them will be a surprise.  Still, giving up their imagined perfection, those images of how life “should be” is always the hardest part of opening to growth and healing.

To be a healer, you have to be the embodiment of what they fear, what they resist, what they want to destroy and make invisible in their own view.  You speak the lessons of experience that they don’t want to hear; if they wanted to hear it, if they were ready to hear it, they would have heard it long ago, as the truths have always existed in the world no matter how much we want to fight them.

As a healer, you don’t just have to fight your own battles, you also have to fight in battles with those who are just starting out, struggling with basics.  That engagement will help you heal, will give you practice, will move your understanding forward — to learn something well, teach it — but it very well may not give you very much satisfaction, comfort or joy.

Those who clean up the struggle are very useful, but it is not work that creates respect or advancement.

If you want respect or advancement, go be a missionary, standing in the front of rooms and preaching to the choir, telling them what they want to hear.   Missionaries put on a show and get the rewards from that showmanship.

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In selling your missionary services, you have to become your target client, according to this video.

Just think of a time when you made a big commitment and over time, it changed your life for the better.   Own that story,  tell it to other people and you can convince them that what you are offering can lead to the change that they want in their life too.

The lesson is simple: be aspirational.  If they want to be like you, they will buy what you are selling, at least if you really believe that what you are selling changed your life for the better.

The theory isn’t wrong.   We buy what we are committed to and when people put it all on the line, they are much more likely to follow through, to make the effort, to actually create transformation in their lives.

Like all sales, though, there is a bit of a question of objectivity.   The person telling the compelling anecdotes is a true believer, working hard to convince you, to get you to buy in.

They have no obligation, no responsibility to tell you about other people who made the same purchase, the same commitment and for whom the results weren’t so successful.    They don’t have to disclose or even discover failures.

We want to buy into success.   We want what we see other people have, want to believe that it is possible for us.  And it may well be.  You can’t win if you don’t play, as the lottery used to remind us.

In the end, it is always persistence that succeeds.  Knock on enough doors and you will find someone to say yes.   Be smart while knocking on that many doors and you will learn how to execute better and get to yes more often.  The lessons are out there if only we practice enough to learn them, and we can only get that much practice in if we are not stopped or distracted in the process.

Persistence demands belief.   You have to believe that success will come on the next door knock, have to keep the energy and focus up so you are ready to engage the next challenge and win it.  To be persistent you have to let go of what just happened so you can full commit to what is going to happen next.

Being relentless is hard work.  Pushing past failure, getting over your own emotions, not being distracted by the everyday challenges and the lowered expectations of those around is not easy.  It takes a certain kind of intelligent ignorance, paying attention to the lessons and ignoring the resistance at the same time.

To do that, you have to be very clear about what your goal is, what you want.

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If you want to be a healer, a change agent in the world, relentless isn’t the point.

Humans live in a finite world.   Every choice for something is a choice against something.  The resource is always limited and allocating it is the most important decision.   You can’t be relentless on all fronts; you have to pick your priorities.

You have to choose your battles, be smart about your fights.  I asked someone for their best advice for me when I was in my twenties and this was their reply: don’t piss into the wind.  Choose where you put your essence so that it makes a difference and doesn’t just make a smelly mess.

Fighting is important.  People don’t believe that you will fight for them unless you will fight with them.  If they see you pushing them to do better, to make better choices, they will believe that you are on their side.  If they see you trying to enforce petty bullshit, picking fights from selfish ego, then they will know something else about you.

Relationships are about the fighting.  You should pick the partner that you want to fight with for the rest of your life.  When someone loves you and cares enough to fight with you, helping you focus, making you better and stronger, that is a keeper.  Passionate fighting clears the air, is kind of exciting, and making up can always be an enjoyable experience.

Fighting never works if you are only negative.  You need to fight to win something, not just to cause the defeat of others.  Creating allies, reinforcing and bolstering them is a vital part of the battle.  Helping to make those along side of you strong, keeping the values aligned, making sure that internal fighting prepares you for better going after common cause is vital.  Building a fighting team, with people who you can tag in, people who can watch your back, people who can spot and give you tips and people who can help you recover by feeling safe and cared for allows you to fight smarter and better.

Conflict is tough and expensive, but it is the only way to surface the best we can be, to get more focused and stronger.

This is a key difference between missionaries and healers: missionaries pitch belief, asking people to rely on faith and dogma, and healers pitch doubt, asking people to face themselves and do the work to get clear and get better.

Healers can’t just be dogmatic and single minded, creating separations between good and bad.   You have to be smart, seeing the world the way that others see it, getting smarter and engaging in the battle for the liberation, empowerment and actualization of people you approach with love.   That battle line between easy comfortable choices and better enlightened choices is where the fucking hard work gets done.

It’s easy to know you need to fight for and with your children.  They depend on you and you have made a responsibility to them by their very creation.  Watching them get smarter and fight for themselves over time is almost a joy.

Success almost never comes by having one big win, rather it is the small wins and smaller losses that add up to progress and achievement.  Making better choices over time adds up to a better life.

Fighting will always leave you beat up, injured and battered.  Wins will come if you are willing to be humbled, to learn lessons, to develop the muscles and the skills, but there will always, always be losses along the way.  Spend too much time cutting the losses, protecting what you have, and you will start missing the wins. For people fighting for change exhaustion is almost guaranteed and it is very possible that the timing will be off, the costs will be too high and the fight will become futile.  The only time you have to win is the last time that you try, but there is a last time for everyone.

Choosing who else to fight, how you can use your limited resources to make change, always partial and imperfect change, of course, but change, is the most important power of those who commit to transformation.  The odds are high that we will never see the results of most of our fights, as people heal and grow in their own time, engaging their own change after many pebbles build up to shift the way they see the world.  We plant seeds that we can’t track to blossoming, but we plant them anyway.

Everyone can use healthy engagement, a good challenging fight to help them understand and clarify their values and beliefs, to help them focus their choices.  Some, though, will benefit faster and more deeply from that work.   Since the work is always costly to the healer, that means you need to pick your battles.

In the end, we are what we fight for.

We are lost when the fight goes out of us, when any fight no longer seems worth the effort.

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My work has been to say “yes” to transformation.

I have done all I can do to affirm the possibilities of other people, helping them accept what is and encouraging them to change what they can, to boldly let go of fear and embrace love, to become more open and vulnerable, to be more of who they are.

That has meant working like Shaw’s tailor, always taking new measure, seeing change and trends.  I have never been able to fix my worldview, falling on to belief.

I know how hard it is to say “yes” to moving past the lessons burned into us as we struggled to know what we know and feel what we feel.

I know that everyone needs others to say “yes” to their dreams, to hold their possibilities tenderly, helping them find those shiny imaginings that fed their soul before the everyday world worked to crush them out and replace them with the fears and desires of our parents, our teachers, our peers and of those marketers who wanted to tell us what we needed to be a liked and popular member of this culture.

The fight inside of us is always between doing the hard thing which makes us stand out, unique and authentic, and doing the easy thing, which is supposed to let us fit in as one of the gang, easy and simple.  Healers encourage us to fight for the best we can be, to trust what the creator put in our heart.   That fight is internal, the struggle between wild and tame, the challenge to face the quests to become who we always were but be forever changed, to kill the dragon with “thou shalt” on every scale.  We resist because we want to be popular rather than be respected, want to just play along.

Queer people in a room reset the boundaries.  When the queerest person in the room is only a 4, others can only feel safe revealing themselves as a 3.   When the queerest person is an 8, though, it becomes much safer to truth, to reveal the parts of you you are scared might be a 4 or even a 5.   It is a gift to the group to be bold and out and queer, but it is a gift with lots of cost, because people who don’t want to engage their own queerness will isolate you, removing standing.  It is lonely.

It is very hard to find people to say “yes” to choices that they would never make for themselves, to encourage audacity and boldness which they are trying to constrain in their own life.  They are much more likely to offer their own solutions, playing the victim card or compartmentalizing for example.  It is how they face the challenges in their life, so it should be good enough for you.

My work has been to say “yes” to transformation.  I know how hard it was to face down the huge “no” I was pounded with, know that other people need to be encouraged. Unless we make the big choices, unless we stick with it, unless we feel seen and valued, having hope that change for the better is possible for us, our big, potent dreams will never be manifest in the world.

Getting that engagement and encouragement for myself in the world, though, has proven to be very difficult, even as I fight to be myself and move the boundaries for all everyday.

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I am, as I have been trying to say for years now, empty and decayed inside and out.  I haven’t had my feet out of fleece socks in over four years, nice shoes lost to me.

My head keeps me upright, but my heart is bankrupt, my reserves depleted.  I cannot remember the last time I felt mirrored, affirmed and valued for anything other than my service to other people.

If I am just living for other people, I am not living.

I imagine trying to find a place in some kind of community, some kind of enterprise, some kind of society, and all I can see is how I can do the work that other people need me to do.   I see being a beast of burden, not really a human.  I enter the worlds of other people but they do not come close to mine.

Worse, I imagine being blamed for that result.   If they are good and I am disconnected, then I must be doing something wrong, right?   My fault, says the one who was scapegoated as the target patient from their earliest days.

I have no support structures, and while I have tried to find or build them in the last two and a half years, I have failed.  My bunker mentality just strengthens, evidence for reasons to exit seeming to dry up and blow away. Unsafe.

My choices, I have been told, have always been about other people, about disappointing and frustrating them.  They see me through their fears and expectations and that is a very narrow, very cold place to try and live.   I am sure that whatever choice I make people will find it rude, selfish and inconsiderate, making it about the people around me and not about my own challenges, because people always have done that to me.

How can anyone be expected to not find me too intense, too verbose and too overwhelming?   How do they have the time, the energy and the skills to parse out meaning from the volumes I offer, enough to hold a model of me in their head and their heart?

If I can’t expect others, then what can I expect?   If I am winching at the core, alone and isolated there, how do I move past it?

It is clearly worth every earthly thing that I have to go and get what I need.   While I can imagine many places to try and find such, I can’t say that my experience predicts any success in the process.   I know what the chatter is around trans and that chatter is very far from where I am now.

It should be easier than this, I know.  If it is not easier for me, then it is mu fault, making it too complicated, resisting the simplicity of humanity.

To be without a friend in the world is a challenging place.  I know that I can be a friend and a very good one.  Having one, on the other hand, has always proven to be a challenge.

“It’s never too late” is a great aphorism.

As a transperson, though, the first thing you were taught is simple: it was too late the moment you were born.

Do the best you can do with what you have.  Make lemonade.  Accept what you cannot change and have the courage to change what you can.

Sometimes the change that is needed and is possible can be obvious.

Relationship Defined

“If male-to-female transgenders are called “transwomen,” should male-to-female transgender fathers be called “transmothers” ?”
— Father’s Day post on a crossdressers blog

Absolutely not.  You may change your identification in the world, but you can’t easily change your child’s identification of you, or change your responsibility to them.

Once a father, always a father, at least in the eyes of a child.   They need fathers, need someone to be there for them, someone who they can rely on.

You want to go gender neutral and call them a trans parent, well, maybe.  But fathers are defined by kids who see us, not by our own claims and assertions.

To be a father is a sacred responsibility.  You carry role that from the moment you start that relationship with a child.

The ABC Family reality show “Becoming Us” centres around the teenage son of a transwoman who is just emerging.   He is dating a girl whose father also identifies as trans, but who still lives mostly as a man.

Ben is clear: while his transitioning parent may not want to accept the label “father,” preferring to be called “mother” or at least the gender neutral “parent,” she is his father.   The very fact of denying the facts of fatherhood upsets Ben a great deal, causing him real loss and distress at a time where he is working to embrace his own manhood.

I understand this firsthand.

“It’s easier to call them Diane and Holly,” I said to Evan, “but I know that they are your mother and father.”   I could see him relax in that moment, a transperson understanding the facts as he understood them and not trying to rationalize or finesse.

In a binary world, it’s easy to want to believe that if you are not one thing then you are the other.  The ideas that if we renounce manhood, we become woman, and everything about us changes to that model is seductive and compelling, allowing the idea of clean and perfect transitions.

The old Benjamin transmodel used to kowtow to that binary expectation.   We were expected to rewrite our history to be more gender normative, turning boyfriends into girlfriends, wives into husbands and so on.

While we could concoct a new history, the people in relationship with us had no such obligation.   They would remain our ex-wives, our sons, our parents, and so on.

We are unable to rewrite the memories and facts of anyone else’s life, even if we try to erase, manipulate and rewrite our own.    The relationships we had are the relationships we had, the choices we made are the choices we made, and the consequences and responsibilities our actions created are the consequences and responsibilities we have.

The mother of Katherine Hawkins was clear.  “My daughter emerged as trans and purged herself of all her inner ambiguities…  and dumped them all right onto us!”   Our emergence demands that people either disconnect from us or engage our ambiguities.   For children, this is an enormous burden to dump onto them.

Emerging as trans in the world does not move us from man to woman.  It moves us more fluidly and fully into the world of trans, of between, of both and none.  We have always been unfixed in the world, most of us knowing that very early, but we knew how to hide behind the expectations written on our bodies

We dream of becoming fixed, but that is not our lot.   We come out, holding on to whatever bit we can, but we still know that we can become unstuck in any moment when someone writes their own assumptions and expectations over our hard-won gender.

Our past is our past, no matter how far we have come from our old habits, traditions and choices.  Our body is our body, always stuck between the sexes no matter how much we intervene.

We have a trans past, a trans body and a trans life.    Our relationships cross gender and time.   We ask our lovers to engage all of us so they have to move past heterosexist binary to find their own embracing sexuality

We ask those we are in relationship to stay with us, but relationships are never one sided.   It always takes two to tango, and we have our own part to play, especially with those we have brought into the world and who are struggling to create their own full, mature and complete lives.

We have labels of preference, assertions of identity that we feel keeps our past in the shadows and throws light onto our present choices.   We make our claims and strive to grow into them.

None of that actually erases our past or our responsibility, though.  If we value the relationships we are in, want to keep the connections that we have created, we need to stand up and do the work.

I have seen transwomen try to blame families and I have challenged them, in print (1997) and face to face, encouraging them to reach out rather than just sit at the bar feeling sorry for themselves.

Our relationships with other people don’t change just because we want them to.  Everyday we will always be trans, in relationships, in our minds, in the eyes of others, somewhere, no matter how much we want to be fixed and normative.

We have interesting lives, we transpeople.  And we remind the people with conventional lives of our continuous common humanity.

We have gifts we can give to those we love, but only if we do the work to stay in relationship with them, respecting them as we want them to respect us.

(Oh, and I would not easily call a transperson a “transgender” any more than I would easily call a gay person a “homosexual.”   We are not our diagnosis.)