Too Much Comfort

I enjoy wating the Teutels and their extended family (go Rick & Vinnie!) on American Chopper.  Their high-spirited hijinx reminds me of what life might have been like if I was born a boy instead of just being born a male bodied tranny.

Last night they did their last “Fantasy Bike.”  This one was for a guy who became a parapalegic in an automobile accident, and who needed a trike he could use without balance and with only hand controls.

The Teutels went out to see him in California.  They talked about why they liked him, and the answer was simple.  He was a nice crip who didn’t make them uncomfortable.  “He’s got a good attitude and gets on with his life.  He is just like everyone else.”

He brought a big family out for the reveal.  His mom spoke to the camera, and his wife was always by his side.  You could see the depth of emotion and strain on their faces, or at least I could, because I am used to reading other women.  The reason that this guy could be so comfortable for the Teutels is because the women in his family managed the discomfort, the pain and disruption and stress that comes when there is a traumatic event. 

He didn’t need to surface the hard parts of being disabled in this society, because the women in his life were processing those emotions for him.  The Teutels were then free to see disability as just a technical challenge, and that was comfortable for them.   They didn’t have to really understand what it’s like to go thought that event and live every moment, they just had to build a trike that didn’t need legs.

I saw the same thing on a Kathy Griffin special on E!, Best Of The Worst Of The Red Carpet.  While I can laugh at Joan Rivers flying off the handle and defending her turf as much as anyone, there was one category that tipped the hat.

Too Much Information” was the category.  It featured people who said things that made the audience uncomfortable, like the state of their dress or of their life.  On a red carpet, you see, people only want nice, pretty or funny performances, not anything that is so revelatory it moves them out of their comfort zone.

This is the same as the Teutls.  They didn’t want to put themselves in the shoes of a parapalegic guy, they just wanted enough information to build him a bike.  Let him keep all the messy parts of his life hidden, and they can get along with him as just another guy.

I know that I am “Too Much Information” and that means I violate the comfort zones of other people.  I can’t just fit nicely into their expectations of the world, because I don’t fit easily into their quick separations and shorthanded lives.   I think and express ideas & feelings, which is challenging in an anti-intellectual venue.  I ask people to hear me rather than just willing to be silent and comfortable.

Of course, my view about this is a bit different.

I don’t think I am “too much information.”

I think they just want “too much comfort.”

 

Another Saturday Night

Improv comedy is the theatrical equivalent of headcheese.  There may well be a few good bits in there, but once it’s all glued together, it’s just kind of a mess.

I went to Albany Theater Sports in Saratoga.  It’s Theater Games with Scoring.  I was hoping to meet some sharp people who could help me find a theatrical edge, but not so much.

FYI, in case you are going, people who go to improv groups don’t dress for the theater. I guess I need to go peel my lashes off.

Who The Fuck Wants To Be A Tranny?

What little kid grows up wanting to be a tranny?

It’s not something we dream. We may want to be ourselves, or we may want to be a girl, or may want to be beautiful, but being a tranny? Not a dream.

After all, the only formal role for trannies in this culture is to be a clown. Now, some of us may exploit that role, appearing in dragface or in genderfuck, but even the vast majority of those performers change back into some more normative role in the morning. It may be a woman, or a gay man, or a straight man, but we tend to be clear that we are not the performance.

There is a reason that going stealth, one way or the other, as the assigned role or as the assumed role seems so good. It’s because we never really wanted to be liminal freaks in no-man’s/no-woman’s land. We wanted to be ourselves.

I fucking hate being a tranny. But, on the other hand, I know that to be stealth either way is just really not possible for me. My voice is the voice that connects and crosses, and to compartmentalize is to lose that voice, a voice I have worked way too hard to uncover.

I said to a gal who is a new lobbyist for the state GL rights lobby that I had been read out as “a guy” just moments before. She said “Well, that’s gonna happen.” Yes, it damn well is, but babe, if you don’t understand that cuts trannies every time it does, you ain’t got no position representin’ us. Here I am screaming about who I know myself to be in my clothes and choices, and bang, boom, there I am reduced right back to my birth genetalia. And whoever reads me feels like they have been smart, done a service, told the truth.

It’s not being seen as a transwoman that’s the problem, of course. It’s being held to some sort of biological reductivism, the guy-in-a-dress line.

I hate being a tranny because being a tranny feels like being a target of those who see group identity as more essential as indvidual expression.

I hate being a tranny because my differentness gets in the way of people listening to me as just another human.

I hate being a tranny because it’s almost impossible to find people who can understand the experience and perspective that being a tranny brings, people who are willing to enter my world and see through my eyes.

I hate being a tranny because of the assumptions people make about trannys, assumptions about motives and deceptions and sickness and perversion.

I hate being a tranny because there is no language I have found that can get past the weirdness, the buzz in people’s heads. They can’t mirror me because they have no sense of what it’s like to be me.

People ask why there are so few out trannies, why most of us try to find some way to keep our head down, or to at least think we are doing that.

It’s because, put simply, that because there are no good roles for grown up trannys, whatever we want to be in this life has to be beyond our transness. We didn’t sign up to be trannies, we just found that being one was the only way we could come close to getting what we need in this binary, heterosexist world where the shape of our skin is valued over the content of our character.

I don’t want to be a tranny. I fucking hate being a tranny. But I don’t want to have to destroy parts of myself to fit in, either. I’ve tried that killing off, and it’s killing me.

Tranny means defense in this culture. It means walking around in armor, and without the support system that most groups have. We can’t just go to our family who share race & class, go to the women’s room to share gender, go where others like us are. Trans is an indvidual path, and often the most dangerous people to us are other trannys who see us making choices of which they do not approve, choices that scare them.

Who the fuck wants to be a Tranny? I mean, I know who wants to be themselves, I know who wants to cross assigned gender roles to be themselves, I know who wants to follow their own passions and find their bliss. These are things I understand, just as I understand that being a tranny is the only way to do that for many of my sisters and brothers.

But who the fuck wants to be a tranny?

(I expand on this theme almost nine years later in 2014 in this post: Beyond Binary.)

Tranny Quote Of The Day

I’ve been a member of Hair Club for about two years.  They dye your own hair and then glue on more hair in the front.   I have good days and bad days, but I have learned to glue back and it’s much better than a wig.

It’s especially good during sex because it’s only up front that it’s messy and icky, and even that can be hidden. The hair in the back in is your own and it feels nice!

Scary Hot

I was down at a meeting where I asked some questions.  After the session, she wanted to chat with me. 

“You are so eloquent!” she said.  “You really speak well.”

We chatted for a while.  I found out she is a woman born female from Oklahoma, who landed in this area and moved into an old church.  She sells cosmetics and wants to help.

“Great,” I said.  “Lets have lunch.”

“When?” she asked.   We agreed on Tuesday at noon, and she wrote it in her diary.   I left her with a card that had my email address and the location of this blog.   I sent her an e-mail to confirm.

Tuesday, I drove to her place.  I knocked and I called the cell phone number she gave me.  No answer.

Well, at noon there was the Laurel Masse concert I wrote about here.  I went to that instead.

I came back after the concert, more knocking, another phone call.  No answer.

Later that week as I was driving near her, I called in case she was in and available, as she had said that she encouraged drop-ins.  No answer, no call backs.

About a week later, I went to another meeting and she was there, dressed in a skirtsuit with a man’s tie.  She was very apologetic.

“This year they changed the start date on my diary from Sunday to Monday and I wrote it on the wrong day! 

“I would have called, but I deleted all your messages because I forget if the delete key is three or seven. 

“I never got the e-mail you sent, there must be something wrong with my e-mail. 

“I lost the card with your contact info on it. 

“I’m so sorry, so sorry — you deserve a big gift certificate for this.”

I smiled, didn’t complain.  If this was meant to happen, it would happen.  If not, well, so be it.

I spoke with the circle that night.  She continued to be moved by me.  “You should be on the radio!”  and “Wow, how do you know that?” when I made some measurements of where she was.

I gave her my phone number as I left.  “You won’t call,” I said.

“Oh yes, oh yes, I will!” she said she tucked the slip into the garter of her hold-up black thigh-high stocking.

It’s been a week and she hasn’t called.

She really does find me compelling, I believe that. 

But she also finds me scary.  I believe that too.  She’s smart as a whip and in her early thirties.  Right now, she has the looks and the energy to take control of any situation, to show the face she wants to the world.

But behind that face, she knows that she isn’t all that normal.  “I was at a table of sales reps, and these six women had all found their partner online.  I went to the site and filled out the compatibility profile, and it said that they didn’t have anyone who matched with me.  No one in the whole country!”

Yeah.   There is a reason you are drawn to gender events and it’s not just because you want to help the poor men.

And I’m compelling, fascinating & attractive because I am so illuminating.

It’s just that, well, you aren’t really sure you want to be seen that clearly.

eHarmony.com has commercials selling the idea that once you find your soul mate it will be great because they will see and value you for who you really are.  It’s such a compelling idea that we all want to be seen clearly and loved for the contents of our heart, not just our our actions, what we can do for others.

But once you get this far post-therapy, people often assume you can see into the dark corners of theuir heart, the ones where they themselves fear to go.  I know that someone sharp and manipulative usually has some kind of pain behind there.  Often it is the pain of the shaman, getting swept into the emotional worlds of others and feeling it very, very strongly.

She sees me, I see her, and while she wants to reach out to me, something stops her.

That’s OK.  It has to be.  If we could have one thing that would make us all happy it would be if people healed when we wanted them to, rather than on their own schedule, and that includes if we could heal on our own schedule.  But instead, we walk with pain and fear, not being able to do the perfect thing for ourselves and others, just being able to do what we can do.

People heal on their own time, and they aren’t ready until they are ready.  And even if you manipulate them into doing what you want, the healing still has to come.

It’s nice to be hot in this gal’s eyes.  It shits to be scary in this gal’s eyes.

What makes you exceptional must also inevitably also make you lonely, as Lorraine Hansbury said.

(yeah, Jeffery Roberson, Varla Jean Merman’s “other half,” called me “scary bright.”)

Not Stupid Enough

I’m sitting here in black leggings, high heel ankle boots & a black twill mini drinking beer and listening to Hedwig And The Angry Inch.

I remember the first time I drank beer.  I was in the basement room of my family’s house with Darlene, who ended up with Alice, and it was about 1978.  We were the only ones there, and Darlene was playing at therapy.   She wanted me to face my demons, and that involved facing the way my mother surrogate-spoused me, keeping me small and close while her husband went away.  I remembered the freaky stuff when I was about 18 and she would end up with her robe open, how I never felt safe introducing friends to her, and how my father ran every morning (way from her) while I was dissuaded from feeling my body. 

My mother didn’t drink beer, and would tell the story of how she had to drink tomato juice, the only other choice, at every Alberta taproom when she met my father’s family.

I drank beer that night, and I scared Darlene.  I didn’t lose control, but I scared her.  I was angry.

I remember the last time I saw Hedwig.   It was on my birthday, and I was taken there by my sister, her then husband, and her friend who later decided that abusing me would be useful.  

I had seen Hedwig before, and I didn’t particularly want to go again.  The message was there, but the ending was the end of a drag show, and is anti-trans in ways that are only visible to trannys.  I decided that if I ever went again, I would only go to experience it as a rock musical, sounds & thoughts washing over you in a party experience.  Hearing the orginal NYC cast album, it’s clear to me that was the orginal experience, but it had to be hardened in a movie.

I wanted that pulse, pounding energy.  What I got was companions like stone, hard as rocks, with no bounceback of playful dance energy.  It was another slog, not a party, but that’s what I am used to with these people around me, just heavy lifting without visceral engagement.

It was a hard night.  And worse, it was 9/10/2001.  Like the rest of the country, I woke up to reports of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center, and then live pictures of the second human driven missle tearing up the lives of so many people.  Such rage.  Just this week, when the latest UBL tape came out, the young man who sold me my soda wanted Osama to have to walk through the streets of NYC, feeling the vengance and destruction by (presumably) being torn limb from limb.  I tried to explain the role of the big guy in a bar fight, but he just looked at me as if I was shit poured into clothing.

I feel Hedwig tonight, especially the NYC cast album, so much more intense, so much less literal.

I want to pound it out, maybe go to Women’s Night at the bar in the old American Legion Post, the one where the heroic crippled WWII vet waited until his name was carved in stone to tell them he was gay.   I want to get drunk and dance and just be intense & potent.

But I know that I have nobody safe & strong enough to both be there with me and to keep me safe, someone like TBBB (the big beautiful bitch).

I’m not stupid enough to just go do it, to trust that god protects fools and drunks.  I’m not stupid enough to let go and let fly, no matter what anyone else thinks.   I’m not stupid enough to just surrender to the humanity and damn the consequences.  I’m not stupid enough to sweat and flail and kiss whoever looks nice.

I’m just not stupid enough.  I’ve never been stupid enough.

And that’s a pity.

Carnagie Hall

A guy stops a passerby on the streets of Manhattan and asks “How do you get to Carnagie Hall?”

The passerby shakes his head and mutters, “Practice, practice, practice!”

I often ask myself, “If you could do anything in the world right now, what would it be?”

I know what I want and need.  It’s the same thing most trannys want and need, an encouraging and empowering mirror, offering constructive comments and external support from a reasonably objective eye.  Problem is, that is mostly a professional task nowadays, and are therapists or voice coaches or other pros really ready to do that work?   I haven’t found many who are.

But beyond that, what can I do for myself?  People tell me to just do it, but I know that the only way I can do the hard stuff is in some sort of context, towards some sort of bigger goal.  Working a shit job is just working a shit job, but working a shit job to pay the bills while you build a career, a business, a practice, well, that’s one piece of something bigger, something more inspiring.

I have said for years that the challenge for me is to build some kind of practice.  That means building a structure to offer services and recieve rewards for those services, building a context to be visible inside of a wider community, and building a life that serves those goals.

But what is the practice of a prophet?  I know who I am, and that’s not a lawyer or a newager, but it is a tranny-theologian.  I may have laughed when the carreer test in college said that my interests most lined up with those of ministers, but damn, they were right. 

Hello, let me help you die and be reborn past history, biology and expectation. 

Or don’t we yet have enough practice?

I Love

I love my lipstick marks on the lip of a Coke can, because it means I have been there.

I love black tights, in all their deniers and compositions. Thick and tight, to wear with short skirts, crisp & thin for business, sheer & gossamer for evening, heavy & cotton for wintry days.  

Incommunicado

If someone chatters away and nobody hears it, does it make a communication?

I learned long ago to talk to myself. 

Part of that is the “Jonathan Winters” energy I was born with, being able to speak in tongues by invoking characters.  Heck, when I saw Mr. Winters on TV when I was four or five, I knew that whatever people responded to by calling him “crayzee!” was in my heart too.   I don’t just hear the voices, I slide into the other people, and they speak through me.

But another part of it is growing up in a house, in a world, where it was never about me.  Adults never really helped me to find a way to speak myself, to feel heard & understood, supported & assisted, to sense encouragement & empowerment to be the best I could be.  Rather I knew that I was only safe with myself and my books, with my writing and my internal dialogue.  I ;earned to shape the defenses, but the heart, well, the heart was without language and without external intimacy.

And so, now, I try hard to put what I can in words.  Years of reverence for language means I can use them well, but it also means I know their limits.  Words can’t show you my heart.  At best they can be shadow puppets, which if well manipulated can give you some glimpse of the meaning concealed, IF I do it right, IF we have shared metaphors, IF you are ready to see. 

The lack of bandwidth in what can be done with words on a page, and beyond that, how others engage or don’t engage those words means that whatever else, my heart still feels incommunicado. 

My delights, my joys, my hopes, my fears, my hurts and my limits are all here alone with me, inside my heart, and that feels powerfully lonely.   My skin goes untouched, my eyes go unseen, the tenor of my voice goes unheard, and the movements of my body goes unsensed.  I am, in so many ways, incommuncado no matter how much I struggle and sweat to try to get myself out in words.

I have often asked the question if the point of transgender is concealing the facts of our birth sex or if it is revealing the contents of our heart.  Of course, in any perfect world, revelation is the key, but we trannys learn early that showing truths that go against the beliefs of others just makes them hear noise, so we have to learn to silence parts of us, to conceal them.  If people can’t hear over their expectations of what someone born male must be, then something has to be hidden.  Heck, I know one tranny whose entire rationale for crossdressing is that concealing manhood makes it easier to connect with women.

Something has to be silenced, or at least be muffled so that the point can be made, so that the noise can be reduced and others might just hear.  Part of us must be held incommunicado, alone, lost and lonely.

I don’t talk much to others, and they certainly don’t talk much to my heart.  They see whatever surface of me they see, and beyond that, I am invisible, as silent as that tree falling in that lonely forest.

And often that feels like my heart just doesn’t have any life at all.

 

Get A Bigger Suitcase

I was telling a story to TBB about how a crossdresser laughed at me for making a packing list before I traveled to this conference.

“That’s so silly!  Real women don’t do that!”   She then turned to JoAnn Roberts to share a laugh about this silliness.

“I make a list, too,” said JoAnn.  “My wife taught me.  How else do you remember to bring the scarf you need for the outfit or such?”

TBB thought this was funny.

“I know that!” TBB said.  “Crossdressers always just stuff everything they own into one suitcase, and if that doesn’t work, they just get a bigger suitcase!”

I laughed.   As a honcho for Southern Comfort Conference (SCC) for over a decade, TBB has seen lots of this behavior.

“It’s amazing how when you become a transsexual, all you need for trips is a little flight bag.  There are no clothes that have never left the closet and have to be hauled around and worn.  You have a wardrobe rather than just outfits.

“You know, when you stopped coming to SCC, I was peeved.  I would miss you.  How could you not need this event?  Now, though, I understand why transsexuals don’t come back.  Those people who are just expanding their suitcase have limits. but those unpacking their suitcases are beyond those limits.”

“Now that you understand, can you tell me if there was any way I could have explained that more fully to you at the time?” I asked her.

“Nope,” she replied. “I just couldn’t have understood.”

I remember when I was young and used to often say “That may well be true, but you certainly don’t expect me to accept it, do you?”

That was my code for acknowledging truths I was not yet ready to integrate into my life.  I learn by listening to others, not just by experience, and I know that if we are not ready to bring the truth into our lives, even having it stare us in the face will not change that.  I’m happy that I didn’t have to work to destroy or erase the truth, rather just leave it at arms length, but people do what they can do.

And until they can make an integrated life rather than just a compartmentalized one, what can they do but just get a bigger suitcase?

Pro

Last night I went back in history.  Just as last week I reurned to the clubhouse “on the third floor of a two story building” where local trannys have been meeting since the 1980s, I went to the club where I first came out.  

It was built as one of the last closeted gay bars, a secret haven hidden on a sidestreet with a bar downstairs and a big room upstairs with a stage and a lighting balcony.  Ah, the shows it saw in it’s time, a time that went away with the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and the forcing of gay culture into the light.   The last gay owner died of that plague, and his big barmaid just couldn’t keep the place going.  A retiree opened the place as a jazz club, but it’s been for sale the last two years.

But the local gender club has their parties there still, and I chose to go this one night.  I saw Sandy, his hair thin but still sandy, snoozing at a table, no longer really having the energy to get dressed up for a night out.  I pulled Helen over and we talked about the old days, remembering names and places, and being amazed that 2006 is the 50th anniversary of the trans community here.   I’ve only been active for the last 20 years, thank you very much.

It wasn’t the old times that got me, though.  One person, the current organizer of the local e-mail list (I started the first one around 1995), wondered if I had ever read poetry at the Unitarian church in Saratoga Springs.  I had — in 2004, I read “How Old” there on the Transgender Day Of Rememberance.  They were there, in boy clothes, and were moved by my performance, which they remembered got a standing ovation.  I suspect they knew that ovation was partly for them, too.

Another person asked if I ever used crutches.  They had remembered me from a brief encounter at the MAC counter, where I offered some encouragement & empowerment.

It’s spooky (as that old dear, Dame Edna would say) to think that even though you consider yourself pretty closeted you have touched people who you never met, and offered even a tiny bit of encouragement for them to explore & express their own heart.

I called TBB to talk about this, and she understood.  “You are an inspiring person, honey.  I mean, I saw that the first moment I spoke to you, and that’s why I was drawn to you.” 

I went to a retreat that was bad for me.  Like anyplace, the limits of the community were the edges of the organizers fears, and I was outside their comfort zone.  But one person there was open and caring.  I talked about my life.

“I’ve read my Bible, and I know that God put his prophets though some awful tough stuff.  May your life have blessings in it too.”

I always wanted to be a pro, to be right there, on the ball, responding with smarts and grace. 

But being a prophet?  It’s a hard life.  And then people tell you they remember you, that you made an impact.

And your heart warms, and it’s still a hard life. 

More Or Less Mind

If you read this blog regularly (and I have seen the stats, so I know that you don’t), you might have determined that I am what has been called a “compulsively pensive” person.   In other words, I think a lot.  It’s just how my mind works, how it always has.

What many people wish for me is a state of mindfulness.  That’s the wonderful place where you are so focused on what you are doing that there is no room for distraction, no room for questions, only for the action of your heartbeat.

Mindfulness, of course, is also mindlessness, where your thought schema doesn’t get in the way of your heart acting and speaking on its own. 

I once told a boss that I worked best when interacting with others over new things.

“What are you talking about?” she asked.  “You make other people crazy, push their buttons, challenge, baffle and offend them.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “but it’s when I hear myself explain the point or answer their questions, I get delighted by the ay the interaction is full of revelation, words and ideas that wouldn’t have come out if I just thought it out on my own.”

That’s still true, of course.  I have learned to chew over conversations to listen to what was said and what was revealed.  It’s usually true that the advice I give others contains what I need to hear anyway. 

When I have to give a presentation, I create a strong outline, put it onto foils, and then I talk to it.  I love it, because I am always suprised by what flesh comes to fill out those bones, what I am channeled to say in response to my audience.  It’s at that time I am most mindful and most mindless, letting it come.    ]

Barry Humphries says that he could write what Dame Edna says, but never as fast as she can just say it.  That means that there have been a few times Barry has had to step in to calm things down, but it also means that there are many times that Barry has been as delighted and amused by what the old dame comes up with as the rest of us are.  It’s that moment of mindful/mindless creation when the synergy happens and it is magical.

I have been close in the last few days, just doing the work and not being self concious, but that’s not my norm.   And it’s not my norm for the same reason it is for Mr. Humphries:  I have been taught that I need to be the gatekeeper, that I need to always control the mercurial inside of me because otherwise, as my old boss noted, I’m just seen as too intense, too cutting, too sharp.

My natural state is editor, shaping what is inside of me for public consumption, and that editor is one part that doesn’t seem warm and natural, rather being wary and circumspect.  A glimpse of that is enough to set people’s detectors off, wondering what I must be hiding behind those calculations.  I may love good editing, but even a good editor always seems a bit separated from humanity.

To come more from my mindful/mindless-ness, I need to come less from my gatekeeper/editor.  You’d think that’s what coaches would want to tell me — “Don’t think, meat!” — but they are not at all sure that they trust what is in my heart, that they believe I should just let it be or just do it.  There isn’t a cute little puppy who wants love inside of me, there is a beautiful hellion who wants truth.

There are all sorts of stories of how we trannies pick names.  I started with my given name in my guy-in-a-dress period, and took a long time to come to a name.  I wanted one gender neutral, and had sounds that appealed to me.   I eventuall came down to Callan.  Many years later, I looked it up in one of the baby naming tools on the web, and it is a feminine name (that surprised some people) which apparently means “powerful in battle.”  Ah, the wisdom that we have even when we don’t know we have it.

People want for me to go below my mind, to get closer to essence and come more from the godhead inside of me.  But they also know that essence is always there in my writing, even if the editor keeps it well filtered and small.  Raging & Outrageous may seem compelling in some ways, but if not tempered by thought, they also seem indulgent and nasty.

I know what people want from me, to get past the editor who keeps me small and let the energy and desire flow again, flow from mindfulness, flow from mindlessness.

It’s just that they then often blanch when they see the dragon.

But my heart?   Well, it’s not in the editing.  It’s in the raw source.

 

 

Power Is The Point

On an episode of Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, President Bartlett is preparing for a debate.  His advisors are concerned because they can’t find a way for this smart, sharp man to not seem arrogant to many people.

Finally, they come up with a solution.  If they can’t eliminate the perception that because he is smart he is arrogant, they should use it.  Let him be arrogant and show up the other guy, rather than trying to hide it.

“We were convinced by polling that said he was going to be seen as arrogant no matter what performance he gave in the debate. And then, that morning at ten past three, my phone rings, and it’s Toby Ziegler. He says, ‘Don’t you get it? It’s a gift that they’re irreversibly convinced that he’s arrogant ’cause now he can be.’ If your guy’s seen that way, you might as well knock some bodies down with it.”

I know what I want, what appeals to me.  I want to walk in the world as a woman.  But I also know that my body will never be female, and my life experience will never just be that of a woman.  Too late for that.  

And that means I have to walk in the world as a tranny.  I can do that by keeping my head down, trying to be invisible, but that requires denying my voice.   It’s easy to blend in as a tranny if you want to be an extra, someone bland who blends into the background, but if you want to be seen, if you need to be seen, if your calling is to speak up, well, you are going to be noticed.  And being visible means that your biology and history will be visible too, on some level.

If people are irreversibly convinced that trannies are scary because they are strong enough to face down the scowl of dissaproval that keeps most people inside the expectations others have for them, well, then, isn’t that a gift we have to accept?

I mean, I may know that I am a tender flower torn up by a life facing stigma, facing the stick of separation, but other people don’t know that.  They just know I have the balls to follow my heart rather than stay cowed.  I would love them to know that just means I am a ballsy broad, because my power is more centered in she than he, but that’s not what’s important.  What’s important is that when I walk in harmony with the song God put in my heart, no matter how much the little clues let leak I was not born female, I am walking in my own power.

I want people to know how much I hurt from a life of being slammed, but they don’t really want to know how broken I am.  They want to respond to how I can do what they could never imagine having the strength to do, moving through and beyond gender lines.

And that’s why big hair and ecclesiastical garb suit me more than mousy.  The ground trembles where I walk, because people tremble around me, and trying to soften that up by becoming invisible just is a strategy to deny something that others of which are irreversably convinced.

It’s hard to get support for this, because it’s hard for others to support the power that scares them in others, harder still for others to support the power that scares them in themselves. 

But I do know, know in my bones, that there really isn’t any other choice for me.  I can’t not be seen as sharp, smart and transgressive. 

I can only trust the God who made me and let my power flow.

No matter how much that scares tender me. 

Transgender Calling

I went to the United Methodist for the first time since October and surprise, surprise, the lesson was on Jonah & The Whale just as it was the last time, the story of a man who rejects his calling and then gets eaten by a whale.  This time the theme was that being a disciple of Jesus Christ being the most dangerous job on earth, though the fact that the greatest danger came from others who call themselves disciples of Jesus Christ was never mentioned.

Somehow, when I see people struggle with a calling that just means they have to write something that others might not like, I get kind of wierded out.  There are some of us for whom God asks to be transcendly transgressive in the the cause of transformation.  We get to stand up and be the tranny, fer Chrissake! (or whoever’s sake you wish.)  

I learned to doubt my own heart, to deny myself, to try to be who others expected me to be because no one could tell me that I had to trust the way God made me.  They wanted me to believe that I was made wrong, that the call to trans was the call of the demon, indulgent and perverted, sick and anti-social.   I was cast beyond the pale and denial — death — was the only option offered.

How do you trust your heart, the still, small god-voice inside of you if it calls you to cross a line society wants to claim as fundamental as the line between men and women?  How do you trust your heart if you get smacked with the threat of being cast out as a freak, not getting the connection you need if you do it?

I needed to come to the point where I understood that line was not fundamental, rather it is conventional.   I needed to understand that we are all freaks, unique and exceptional in the special way God made us.

Calling is a bitch, yes.  And facing it is at the heart of living a spiritual life, living with the courage to challenge convention & the status quo when we know that the godly & righteous path is different than the easy one. 

And yes, the only thing we as trannys can do to stay centered as we express our queerness is to believe that we are following our creation, that we are following the faith even if that challenges those who claim to be faithful.

Jonah is my brother. 

Seem Less Performance

The Big Bitch was driving though Texas last night, on her way home to Trinidad, and had some time to chat.  We talked of her kids and her ex and NYC and smart trannies along the way, talked of NLP & her kinasthetic approach to life, and her dreams of taking the kids to Alaska, flying a plane, and hiking the Applachian Trail.

“You have this X-Ray vision thing, and that can scare people,” she said to me.

“It’s not really X-Ray vision,” I said.  “It’s that shaman thing where walls are thin and it’s easy to enter other people and see through their eyes.  More like being an empath.”

“Right,” she replied.  “And being seen & felt that clearly that can scare people.  I mean, I know some people it scared.  As for me, well, I get scared, but I know it will pass, so I come back. 

“But that’s not all of you.  You can be a fun, enjoyable person, until you catch the scent and show the dragon.”

“Right,” I said.  “But once you show the dragon, it’s hard for other people not to know it’s there.”

“So what are we going to do with you?” she asked.  “How do we get you back on the grid?  What do you need?  I know it’s not a therapist — you probably read them better than they read you.”

“I need a performance coach, an editor for my presence.  One to help sculpt it and give me confidence in it.   I mean, when I edit other people my goal is always to help them express what they have to say, not to turn them into some clone of myself.  But that means I have to not be scared of what they are saying, have to committ to understanding them deeply and to their intent.

“But that’s not easy to find when people just want to replicate their own healing, just want to cut off the bits that they don’t get.  That’s what bad editors always do, dumb down things rather than to polish the high level so it is more inviting & engaging.”

“A good director makes so much sense,” she replied.  “After all, what do people tell you?  ‘Be Less Intense.’  I mean, how useful is that direction to you?  You are who you are.”

TBB really wants to help, like so many loving people do.  She cautioned me on the dangers of being an emotional hermit and left me to take a snooze under that huge prairie moon of north Texas.

The people who see us and can help us shape our performance so that it seems more comforting and engaging, well, they may know what to do with a teen, but with a tranny, where there are no rules, that’s much more challenging.

And as for needing a good director, Ms. Rachelle just echoed what Lola Cola said when I said I said that I was a Drama Queen: “Aren’t we all honey?  Aren’t we all.”

I need a good director.  “Don’t we all, honey.  Don’t we all.”

 

Invoking Pretty

I had the treat of attending a noontime concert at an historic church in Troy where Laurel Masse, one of the founding members of Manhattan Transfer, sang acapella.   It was a trumphant celebration of one human voice, and beyond that, of the power of the human voice in general.

Ms. Masse told the story of taking chello lessons, drawn first by the sound of the intrument and next by the good looks of her chello teacher.  She would do her part to get to hear him play a reward, often one of Bach’s works for unaccompanied cello.  She sang one of those works today.

But when she changed chello teachers, the next one was not nearly as motivating (read: handsome).   As she hauled her cello home, in its big wood case, she realized that being a cellist would involve a lot of schelpping.   Now, as a singer, all she has to haul are songbooks, and her makeup, of course.

Ms. Masse isn’t as young as when I first saw her opening a bill for Delaney & Bonnie & Friends at Harvard Stadium in 1970, but then again, neither am I.  But Ms Masse still knows how to invoke pretty, with a bit of makeup or by leaving the stage with a smile and double curtsey that would have also looked pretty on a seven year old girl who had just done well.

Invoking pretty is something she learned to do early, and it still looks wonderful on her today.  For me, though, that’s not a skill I ever learned, and I often wonder if I can ever learn it.    A handful have told me that I have found it, but trusting the spell, trusting that making pretty can make magic, well, not so easy.

Beauty is potent.  Even my beauty, wherever the hell it is.

I need to remember that.

Other Shoes

Once, a long time ago, a friend felt caught between me and another person.   They wished that we two could find common ground.

“OK, I’ll make you a deal,” I said.  “I’ll write a piece from their point of view, so they can know that I understand where I am coming from, so they can feel heard and understood.  Then they can write a piece from my point of view, and I can have the same understanding.”

“That won’t work!” my friend replied.

“Why?  Don’t you think I can write from their point of view?” I asked

“Of course you can do it!  But they can’t write in your voice!”

Until the people who speak publically for transgender can speak in the voice of others, honoring diversity rather than just spouting their own beliefs, we will never really have community builders. 

I was at the first conference on Sex & Gender at Van Nuys and Sandra Cole came up to me in a panic. “One of my presenters isn’t here yet.  Can you be a transvestite for an hour?”

She knew I could.  I can speak in their voices, so much so that it’s one of the things that Steve on Trans-Theory remembered about me, that channeling that seemed magical to him.  It’s my belief that until you can speak for someone in a way that they find affirming there is no way you actually can understand where they are coming from.  There is a reason that high school debaters are asked to be able to argue either the negative or the affirmative at the drop of a hat, because that is the training that allows them to get smarter.

This isn’t the American position, though.  Respectful debate seems like some wimpy intellectual exercise, not the basis of building community. 

When someone, say the partner of a crossdresser, claims to be building community, but they can’t really enter the point of view of others, community building is then closed to diversity.  The walls are built and the agenda is set, and those who come from a fairly different place have to just walk away.

In the old days, one of my roles on the trans-theory list used to be essays that took all the points of view and found the commonalities between them.  I stopped doing that because I came to understand that these would stop conversation without changing minds.  People wanted to posture and preen, and the hard work of integrating many points of view and common ground is just not worth it.

The transgender community has always had the problem that the most vocal among us are transitioning people, who are visible anyway and need to speak and act out to find their own new equilibrium.  These aren’t mature people who want to find common ground, these are adolescents who want to trie on big positions and defend their own choices.  And the ones who stay out and vocal, well, they usually aren’t out because they want to be connective leaders, but rather because they want to keep announcing their own views.

I have learned who I am by entering the minds and hearts of others and seeing though their eyes for a bit.  Those visions have changed me and shaped me. 

This isn’t easy to explain to those who assume that if I dissagree with them I must not understand them.  I have understood, and I have understood other points of view and come to a different conclusion.   Sometimes I can show them I understand, but often, understanding where I am is too great a leap, as it was for the person with whom my friend wanted me to have a rapprochment.

Harville Hendrix says that no one will listen to what we have to say until they feel that they have been heard by us.  We have to mirror, validate and demonstrate empathy before communication comes two ways.

I have spent my life listening to many voices, which has given me the challenge of seeing though many eyes.  And I know that is the only way to grow.

But how are we growing people who are ready to face the challenge of really respecting diversity rather than just defending if we don’t teach them how to speak for others than just themselves?

And while I know that as we get older we have to do more listening & empowering than speaking,  how come I seem to always have had to listen to so many people who don’t yet seem ready to listen to me?

Lost In The Closet

Between my (nonexistant) budget and my bones, it’s hard to find shoes.  And when I went to look for my favourite boots, the ones I wore on Halloween, the heel of one was still covered in dirt from where I stopped the car to pee, and the other was missing.  Gone, invisible, vanished.

I liked those boots, which replaced a pair whose heel cap cracked on Day Of Rememberance 2004, when I dropped my purse in the rain.  And I wanted them on my first night out since then, almost two and a half months ago.

I could feel the sweat as I frantically searched the bins for that left boot.  It’s the sweat that always comes, the frantic rush to get things right while getting centered enough to go out and face the world.  I felt it.   But I stopped, wore the other boots.

That boot is lost.  It’s lost in the closet.  Maybe for other people the closet is a little enclosed room, but it’s not that for me.  I think I lost the boot when I changed in the car under the power lines, swabbing my face with baby oil and opening the back door to throw my clothes in a bin.  To me, the closet isn’t a place, rather it’s long path back through my history where things had to be hidden, where panic gave way to darkness.

Virginia Prince tried to read me out once, tellling me my history by spinning out The Prince Pattern of CDs.  She was wrong about me, of course — no femme name and no purging, none of the characteristic dumping it all.  I don’t lose much, and when I let something go, and I have, I do it with consideration, not the idea that throwing it away will free me from it’s pull.

But now, well, now, I think about what I have lost in that closet.  I once spoke to someone who was doing oral histories of trannies, but he eventually told me he didn’t want to do one with me.  “You have told your story too much.  I don’t think I could get anything new from you.”  Yeah.  My innocence and openness lost in the process of building a story that could sustain me though the stigma and challenge of being a visible tranny.

We all have those challenges, though.  It’s what we need to be a tranny, some story that keeps us from feeling the separation of all we have lost in the closet, all of the humanity we have had to leave there over the years.  My childhood, my passion, my dreams, all in there with my lost boot.

And I miss them.

When Truthfulness Is Not Accuracy

“Tell me a potent, powerful story that moves me, and tell me it’s all true.  And if I find out that the facts are not accurate, then I can call you a liar.”

Is the memoir format a journalistic one?  Should we hold it to the penchant for accuracy we have, or should we evaluate truthfulness?  After all, it’s so much easier to dismiss something because it’s innacurate rather than because it’s false, and dismissal is the way we do things.  “Well, he just made this up to [Insert Motivation Here: Sell Books, Self-Aggrandize, Get On Oprah, Whatever], so it can be dismissed in toto.”

Apparently, Mr Frey wanted to sell “A Million Little Pieces” as a novel, but his publisher knew that people want “true stories” more than the other kind (“false stories?) so it came out as a memoir. 

It’s not all perfectly accurate.  OK, sure.  Which of us, when writing about the experience of our lives, can be perfectly accurate about them?  While reporters may want to hold us to their standards, the experience of our lives is not the experience of us reporting on our lives.

I remember when one of my staff told a client that we were working on video compression techniques.  I was furious.  It was perfectly accurate, that statement — in the company, we did have people working on compression.  But it was also untruthful, because those people had no connection with anyone working on the product he was selling.  Accurate and untruthful because of the connections (or disconnections) that lay concealed.

The truth of our lives rarely lies in the facts of those lives.  Rather, it lies in how those facts connect, in the story that ties those facts together and drives us forward, the synapse chain that informs and activates our choices.

If we demand that the stories we are told be true then we are asking people to lie to us about accuracy, because truthfulness is not always accuracy.  It now appears that Bill Clinton really believed he didn’t have sex with that woman, that his experience of that encounter was that it was separate from “real sex.” While that understanding was factually inaccurate, it was probably true to President Clinton, and was the story we wanted to hear.

Don’t try to stuff me in a matrix or insist that accuracy means truth.  To a tranny, who has had to break free of some facts to claim a greater truth, the notion that accuracy is the only truth is just oppressive. 

“Lie about who you know yourself to be, or we will call you a liar about your biology and history.”   It’s a shitty, shitty choice.

Being a tranny involves too much heavy lifting that wears you down, too much building of sheilds and shells to get though the stigma.  And that lifing comes mostly because this culture venerates “reality” over truth, and thinks accuracy is the way to truth, that any innacuracy can erase truth.

But truth, well, it is a shimmering thing, shot though with perception, contradiction & ambiguity, and when we can catch a enough of it in symbols to reveal its shifting shadows beneath, what more can be asked?

I guess The Smoking Gun would know. 

 

 

My Mother Kisses Me

The weather today was incredible, sunny and warm, almost 50 degrees in mid January. As I sit looking out the sliding glass door, framed in the wood my father never got around to finishing, my mother shines high in the sky.  It’s two days until she shows herself full again, on the date of Orthodox New Year, but in this crystal clear winter twilight, she is great and beautiful even at four in the afternoon.

Last night she let me see one of my neighbours, a possom rooting for food, funny and graceful at the same time.  I threw some chicken skin out for him, and could watch him find it in the glow of a feild we both shared.

Along with the beauty, like a covey of grouse taking off beside me, there was frustration today.  A woman stopped ahead of me, and the driver behind her didn’t brake too gently, so following her, I knocked over a quart of Coke into the mats of the car.  I was frustrated and jangled, hands sticky with goo, so much that I dropped the new half-gallon mug, cracking it.  Gone now, I picked it up and hurled it down on the concrete, where it shattered and I felt tight with repression.  I’m definately feeling better, but my ribs still feel stabs of pain when I cough, and my throat sometimes catches full of phlegm, denying me breath for a moment.

The Travel Channel offered a glimpse of five guys who rafted down the Yukon, and in the simplicity of their journey, I took comfort.  It was a different cycle they obeyed, the cycle of nature and not of machines and that was calming.

I looked up past the tall tree still standing in the ravine out back, one of the few that survived the bulldozers which turned this land above the river into a subdivision.  It streches skyward, limbless, like a crooked finger, until it explodes in a crown of branches.  We wonder how much longer it will last, but tonight it danced with my mother the moon as she slid across the eastern sky into her path for this evening.

She smiles at me there, and I know what she is saying.  This four month shag, beard and brushes, need to come off. . .