Your Friends

One of the most used ways to understand someone is to look at their friends. We tell a lot about each other by the choices we make, and understanding your choices in friends (and their choices about you) is one of the quickest ways to understand.

As women, we understand more about women than about men. When we see what kind of woman a man connects with we understand more about that man. We need to see what kind of woman the candidate married to know more about who he is and what the influences are in his life.
OurPalVal used to go out to bars with her guy friends to help them meet women. When other women saw the guys interacting with a vibrant, attractive woman, they saw a more attractive side of the guys than just the side they would see if the guys were alone, or with a group of guys.

One big problem with trans being such an individual path is that we never had that network of friends, or even if we did, we had to walk away from them to move away from their entrenched expectations of us. People on an individual path don’t have big groups of friends, and that means we don’t meet friends of friends, means we don’t have groups of friends around us to illuminate us to others.

A person sitting alone is a bit suspect, but a tranny sitting alone can be very suspect.  They have the power to stand alone, which may mean they are a threat, or may mean they are mature and centered.  And even if the person alone is mature and centered, they may be able to see through games and manipulations, which is also scary.

I remember one of us who met another tranny at a party, and they spoke.  Her friend said “Wow, you trannys connect easily!  That must be great!”  My sister saw the same thing when we met Dini at the Hudson River Theatre and I was immediately connected.

It may be true that we look to each other, but it’s also true that when tranny defenses hit tranny defenses there is often a big clash.  The protective bubbles hit and the streams cross and it’s not pretty.  We also often see things we have worked hard to move away from in ourselves in others, that defense or closeting or queerness or whatever, and that repels too.

It’s an old tranny myth that you are much more likely to be read out when you are with other trannies.  People assume commonality with groups — when my 6′ 3″ born female partner and I dressed as cheerleaders and people read me as being born male, they sometimes assumed she was born male too.

Which comes first: becoming part of the crowd, or finding the crowd? It is a chicken and egg thing: you have to be one of them before you join in, but you can’t be one of them unless you have already joined in.  For people who have been consistent and tradtional in their experience, they know where they fit and they know how to fit there.  For those of us who are liminal and move between worlds, we know who we are and we know who we aren’t, but the whole tame fitting in thing ain’t as easy.

I know why The Big Beautiful Bitch called me last night.  She wanted a pal to be there, to chat with, to be second pair of eyes, to create a safe space to have the kind of fun you want to have at a party where there is a live band and good tequila.  And I wanted to be there with her, safe and backed up, making whatever magic we can scrape together.

I’m not sure that this makes any sense to those who have always felt connected, being able to fit in with the crowd rather than to be strongly “marked,” standing out as themselves.

If my friends tell you who I am, then I know I am good.  But I also know that my friends are few and far between, and are as indvidual as I am.

That means people can’t tell much about me by them, and so people tend to stay away.

The obligation of the phobogenic object to negotiate the private & unspoken fears that reside inside others is a very tough challenge.

And without friends at your back, it’s almost impossible.

Peacock Balls

Thanks to TBBB who took me to the Noah’s Ark Peacock Ball at the Lucky Monkey in Trinidad CO via the magic of cellular telephony.  For someone who mostly knows where they are not going (where should I get ready and not go tonight?) it was a treat.  I just wish I could have tasted the food and got in a dance or two with TBBB — we all need to be able to delight each other.

 

Play

There was a moment at lunch with my sister today when I felt good.  It was when she laughed like she used to laugh when we were kids.  For a moment there, she wasn’t a manager, wasn’t a smart woman, wasn’t defended, she was just my sister.

I know how this blog reads.  It is a litany of pain and woe, of a smart person who can’t get beyond the hurt and is spiralling in.

And I also know what is missing, the healing bit that escape me.  I have hinted at it before when I talked about Colleen asking me if I grew up playing alone.  I did.

And that’s what I am missing still.  The playing.  I am missing the creation of a shared bubble of imagination where anything can happen, where possibility is rampant.  That’s what I am missing, that’s what keeps me small and down.  Play is breath to creative people, that moment of freedom where dreams can come to the surface and be visible, that moment of freedom where where imagination can create the possibility of moving beyond the expected and banal.

If we can’t play, we can’t breathe, and if we can’t breathe, life holds no flavor, no air to inflate our lungs, no air to lift our wings, no air to feed the magic of joyous transformation.   Play is an escape and an experience, a laugh and a lesson, a raucous rehersal for what we may do when needed.

Who do you play with?  How do your affirm, expand and extend them through play?  How do they amuse, challenge and encourage you through play?  How do you all move beyond borders to the space between through play?  How do the laughter and the lessons come together to move you steps ahead?

This is the secret need I have, people to play with, to assure me it’s allright and safe to test my limits, to push back frontiers, to try new things, fall on my face and try again.   Once I am beyond playfulness, I am beyond newness, beyond change & transformation, and that is beyond life.

I drastically need more playfulness in my life.  I need to breathe again.

Reservations

I didn’t make it to the noon meeting of the Albany County Human Rights Coalition.   It’s not easy to park around Lark, and I wasn’t at all sure what benefit my presence would have, but I did get ready to go and punted.

When I saw myself in the mirror I had reservations.  I couldn’t see anything but a big slab of flesh dressed silly. When I can’t see anything good, and the world has limits, well, it’s hard to get the energy up.

One of the reasons I have had reservations is because I have had to spend a lot of time making reservations.  After spending Tuesday morning making reservations for them, I spent a half hour on Tuesday night trying to get through to my parents in Lafayette, Louisiana.  Then,  yesterday I spoke to them early before they drove into new Orleans.  Last night I had to dial a dozen times to get though in Jackson Missisippi, listen to my mother talk over a heinous hum coming from computer equipment in their bad room, and have my father pull out the broken phone plug.  I redialed for 20 minutes, getting busy, and when I got through the computer system didn’t have them properly registered so I couldn’t dial trough to their room.

This morning it was three more calls to that buzzfest, while trying to help them understand their options and to choose someplace for tonight in Monroe Louisiana.  All of this ended at about 11:10 this morning, 10:10 their time, just when I needed to leave.  All this and one of those brusque “You better have the hard things done when we get home,” well, it made it hard to see anything in the mirror but a shithead in a dress.

It’s so easy to have reservations and not committ to the power and beauty I know I have inside me.  The line from Sondheim’s Company echoes through me, “Want something, Robert.  Want something.”   What I want isn’t different from what other people want: I want someone to see me and smile like I make them happy.  It’s just that isn’t something that comes easily.  It starts with being centered, self confident and potent, and then expressing that in the world with joy, freedom and release.

Me?  I have reservations.  And the spiral of those reservations, well, if you can’t be present, why go?  Too much effort.

My sister used to tell the same joke at the Thanksgiving table for years.  “Why is there always room for Jell-o?  Because Jell-o calls ahead for reservations.” 

My reservations are renewed all the time.  It’s just that I the reservations I have don’t lead me anywhere but to the thought that checking out is the best choice.

 

Maybe She Likes Your Rage

I told a friend that the Legendary Alexandra Billings had commented postively on a post I wrote.

“Maybe she likes your rage,” my friend said.

My rage.  Raging, Outraged, Outrageous.   It’s where the most scary intensity lies.

My rage as a teen was strong.  I once kicked a hole in the drywall with my foot.  “Maybe next time you should do it without your shoe and break your foot.  That would be a lesson,” my father told me.

I didn’t break my foot, though I might have liked to.  It wasn’t rage that was the point for me, it was pain, confusion, struggle.  I wanted caring, but then again, who doesn’t need love the most when we are most unloveable?

I learned early that people couldn’t or wouldn’t handle me at full voltage.   I learned to eat my feelings, my intensity, my pain, my rage, turn it inward.  If I didn’t, all I would get was instructions about keeping in control, being appropriate, or being isolated from what I need.   My passion never lead to compassion.

A friend once said that a quote from Harlan Ellison reminded her of me.  He said that after he got a new partner and after a few months she would ask when things got back to normal, got away from intense.  He told her that this was it, and in a few more months, she was gone.  They liked his rage, his intensity, just not as a regular diet.  It’s like Stacey on House — she had her fill of curry, even if she craved down the road again.

I eat my own rage.  That’s why it always is a surprise to me when I get to speak it out loud and it sounds so crisp, so clean and so sharp.   It’s not stupid this rage, rather it is funny, full of insight and dead on.

On a list, someone did a trannypride rap that sounded very good, talking about how respected we can be, how we can transcend being the victim to be potent.  Problem was that she did it after she did this sarcastic little passive-agressive turd about “Sure, why don’t we all give up like you want to!  They said this was good, but probably they are wrong and you are right…”   In other words, her first response was hurting, slapping  & defensive, and it was only when she considered that response, maybe with the help of her partner, that she came back positive.

It’s great to come back positive, to explain that even if you “like being a threat,” that doesn’t mean you can’t work together to make things happen.  After all, that’s how change has always worked, someone to smash through, and then others coming up behind, more centrist, to consolidate the gains.

Watching a Canadian show about a trendy resturant in Vancouver called Godivas.  In one episode they worry that thee resturant is going too gay, “but at least we don’t have drag queens.”   Of course, it’s when a couple of trannys come in that they know something has to be done.

What’s interesting to me is how I see bits of myself in every tranny archetype.  Ms. Rachelle has noted that I am more transsexual than many of the gals she knew who ran through surgery.  I live across worlds in transgender.  And I love my false eyelashes and my rage. 

There is very little as potent as a raging queen, even if most drags today are as mushy as packaged mashed potatoes.   Few have the queer edge that slices, and as gay becomes more and more mainstream, so do performers.

The flip side, though, is how I know I don’t fit those archetypes either.  I never imagined that genital reconstruction would make me real,  think gender is a potent and valuable system of communication, and have never, ever been a gay man.  Men have never made my head snap, though the more I see the world as a woman, the more I see their value as partners.

My rage.  Raging, Outraged, Outrageous.   It’s where the most scary intensity lies.

In fact, I fear it is where I lie, because in that rage there is a sweet compassion that just sees things as they could be and asks why not.  My rage contains my hope for a better, more considered and more caring world.  My rage feels like a way to help. 

A visionary has to have vision, and without passion, that vision is just flat. 

With passion, though, that vision is raging, outraged, outrageous.

Maybe it’s nice that somebody likes my rage.

 

 

Tag Team

You know how most people get through challenges? 

They count on the strength of other people around them.

Sometimes that’s very clear, but often this taking strength is hidden.  There may be some healing hidden in the bedroom, there may be a memory of a time when someone believed in them, there may even be the knowledge that when they get through this someone will be waiting.  

Today, the call to transgender is a call to the individual.  It’s not a call to be like the rest of the crowd, but rather a call to follow your own nature, your own heart, your own essence, your own acorn against the expectations of the crowd.

It wasn’t always thus.  In many cultures, the call to transgender was a call to service, a call to live in the liminal space and serve the community by being a window, a bridge, a conduit, a messenger.  Living between worlds was the calling of a shaman, and that shaman helped everyone by keeping the energy flowing, the light beaming, and the drumming in harmony across the rivers, walls and canyons we often feel separate us from nature, from others, from God.

Stigma is the technique society uses for inhibiting behavior that challenges the status quo.  Stigma works by cutting us off from others so that every step is a slog, and we can never build up speed, we only get more tired.

Stigma cuts us off from the strength of other people, cuts us off from community and leaves us alone. Often our response to stigma is to try to stigmatize others so that we can be inside the normativity by pushing others outside.

What I ache for is the ability to count on the strength of other people.  What other people ache for most often seems to be some level of comfort within the status quo.  That’s a different goal indeed.

“For tomorrow, I have to sing, to sing, to sing.” 
Andrea Bocelli, GMA, 8 Feb 2006

No human is an island.  To sing we need the support of others.

And I don’t have any idea where to find that.

Preaching

The funeral of Coretta Scott King had lots of banality, but it also gave me a chance to hear the preaching of some of my favorite speakers including Jimmy Carter and  Bill & Hillary Clinton.

It’s my sense that if a church service doesn’t embolden and empower you to make better decisions in the week ahead — and that almost always means harder decisions — then it has missed its mark.   You should leave both knowing how to and wanting to live a more righteous life, a life where what you know to be theologically right and what you choose to do are more unified.   In other words, it should help you make choices that come more from knowledge of the lessons of God rather than from the expectations of the community.

And when Bill spoke, when Hill spoke, that was the essence of their message: Coretta Scott King and her husband Martin were people who, when God chose them to do her work, said yes.

Leadership is the esssence of doing the work.  To be a true follower of a leader who made an impact like Jesus, to follow in those footsteps, you have to lead.  And leadership means standing up, standing alone, and using your personal power to get people to do the right thing, with compromise, persuasion and even maybe a a bit of intimidation. 

I have hung out with some Christians lately.   It seems to me that they have a hard time encouraging callings that are too big, ones that really challenge the community, and more than that, challenge the leaders.  Of course, this is the challenge Dr. King and the rest of the young turks faced, a generation of blacks leaders who had found comfort in the status quo and didn’t understand why they had to risk their standing to help people like garbage collectors.

I love good sermons that lift the heart, and I was moved.

But they followed it up with a video clip job that ended with Oprah giving Mrs. King a makeover and calling her royalty.  Not a bad thing to do in a life, but a way to always remember her?  A way to speak of how she did important work?

This is my secret: I love good, powerful, empowering preaching, the invocation of the possibility of magic & potency that lies within each and every one of us. 

But what I seem to find is earnest mush that shrinks from a real call to transcendance of fear to acting in unconditional love.

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. 
Small people always do that,
but the really great make you feel that you, too,
can become great.
 Mark Twain 

I know the call, and it is to be great. 

But anyone know where I can find some great people who might actually not be afraid of greatness and who can affirm it in me?

I’ve looked.  I’ve looked. 

 

Body Pop

Watched three episodes of The L Word today.

Seeing all this queer love, which was invisible when I was their age, made me quite sad.

I realize again how much I have missed by not living in a body.

Oh, well. 

Ouch.

Mushy

Ah, edge.

Have you figured out that I’m an edgy kind of person? Sure, I’m always thinking which makes me a bit jittery, but I also am an edge, someone who sees the lines between the rationalizations and the truths and likes to cut between them. The cutting edge, the bleeding edge, the edge of night, all liminal places where the transformation really happens.

I was thinking about self-sabotage, about playing small, as I drove down to the Bi-Brunch, a local tradtion. How do I set myself up for failure by avoidng being big & potent?

I came in with my Pannetone Bread Pudding and saw the crowd. It was six women, most in sweatshirts, who have been coming together for a long time. This was the crowd, over two dozen Dunkin Donuts and some bagels.

We talked about the nature of Smallbany. I noted that when faced with the choice of a sharp person with experience in another field and a mediocre person with experience in the same field, employers here usually take the less sharp person.

“Albany has no edge,” another woman agreed.

I also spoke about the pastors of our local MCC, and how I found them “mushy.” “Yes, they were mushy when I was working for them,” another woman laughed.

How do I self sabotage? I do it the normal way. Rather than being edgy, I get mushy.

That’s not usually how I am seen, though. One woman laughed when I talked about another tranny and said “You could take care of her!” Apparently she saw me as powerful. And Ari Kane, now living in the area, actually remembered a conversation we had on a bus over a decade ago. Apparently they see me as potent, unlike the vanload of black guys who cackled at me as I walked to my car, who seem to see me as a joke.

I drive back and my brain has turned to mush.  How does anyone keep sharp without constant honing, not being buried in muck but coming up against quality steel?

People love their mush, they do.

And I rust.

The Fecal Matter Contacts The Rotary Ventilation Device

I took the risk.  I chose to risk driving though the rain, to use precious gas, limited funds and scare energy to try to go to the Erotic Show opening at the Tivoli Artists Co-Op tonight. 

Tivoli is about 70 miles south of here. I left at 5:50 after lots of preparation — a night or two putting my outfit together, makeup, building a CD to replace the broken radio in the car I use (the half hour loading the cheap MP3 player was wasted time), and lots more.

I knew what I wanted.  I wanted to get there loose, open and funny.   That’s one reason I never responded to Ms. Rachelle who offered to have dinner before.  I couldn’t imagine leaving my parents house at 4 PM in high drag and then enjoying the early bird in some resturant, and I didn’t want to have hard schedules & expectations about getting there.   I wanted to feel it, to be present and pretty.

I also had to turn down my ex-brother-in-law who called today to see if I wanted to see TransAmerica tonight. Seeing that film will be an emotional experience for me, so emotional I have avoided watching the bootleg copy I found in December.  The last time I saw a film with him was Hedwig on my birthday, 9/10/2001.  I wasn quite sure why he offered, but while I was thankful for the offer, I had other things in mind.

The road was tough tonight, it being dark and rainy.  People were slow, like the ones who formed a rolling roadblock down Route 9, or the pickup that blasted by me on the right, making me miss the exit to Rensselear, or the woman who felt the need to honk long and hard so she could pass me on the right on 9W.  Normies are so assumptive: they want what they want and assume they have the right to take it.

I was jangled and off my game, pounding down an emergency bag of peppered jerky, but I figured that as long as I stayed on 9W, I’d make it to the opening, and maybe, just maybe meet some smart & insightful artists.

But then, one wrong turn and I was crusining along route 425, dark and slick and twisty.  I dig a pair of filthy old glasses out of my purse and tried to follow the white line along the right side of the road, as I was taught to, but it really wasn’t there.  The broken seat didn’t give me much support, but I cruised hoping against hope that I was still going south along the river.

It was 6:45, almost an hour of driving in, that I realized I was going west.  All my effort and focus had come to naught, because there was no way I could make it to Tvioli now.

The next half hour was spent breathing the fumes of hell.   I was hurt, frustrated and in a lot of pain, shot again.  But there was nothing I could do but keep driving.  What else could I do in high drag in the boonies?  It wasn’t easy to stop anywhere, I tell you that.

My mind took charge, just like it does everytime the shit hits the fan.  And as my head got hard and solid, my heart was shattering.   I sang my ditties of death as I pounded on through the dark, wet night, knowing that it was only death, now most often sold as drugs, that could get me beyond this.  I knew I was going to be alone and isolated again, and my heart would collapse a little more, my life would seep farther away from my core.

It is who we are in times of greatest stress that is truly who we are, and if that’s true, I am nothing but an overgrown brain which can only force out putrid piles of text when everything else is torn to shreds.

I drove and I drove and I drove and I knew all that was waiting for me was isolation and emptiness.  I did call Val, and she wished she could do something, but the only choice is a shower and a drink.  And I can only have that after 45 minutes on the phone with my parents in San Antonio, who bought a whole pie at Marie Callenders for only $6 (plus .60 cents deposit on the plate.

I try, but the journey is just so wearing that the end never comes.  The right place may exist, but the road there leads though every swamp in the nation.

Until I finally make it come, I suppose.

 

Yeah, Right.

A linguistics professor was lecturing to her class one day. “In English,” she said, “A double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative.”

A voice from the back of the room piped up, “Yeah, right.”

When I look in the mirrror, my response is often “Yeah, right.  I don’t think like a girl.”

All those years telling me what I was and what I wasn’t, and they got it wrong.  I remember the look in Christine’s eyes the night she figured it out: I wasn’t just dressing up.  There was really someone who thinks like a girl in there.

The one thing I have been clear on since I came out in the mid 1980s was that there weren’t two people inside of me.  There may well have been a cast of characters, like Chuck McCann, but it was all me.  In fact, when the therapist did her diagnostics when I was 13, she asked me “If you could be anyone in the world, who would you be?”  I knew it was a trap, limited by the state of trans-understanding in 1968, and I chose not to answer.

She pushed and finally I gave her an answer: “I want to be myself.”  I would not be moved off that answer, and it was only as I studied the works of people like Joseph Campbell that I found many cultures had found that the gift of a lifetime is being who you are.

Somedays, I just put my hair back, don’t bother with makeup, toss on jeans and a sweater and go about my day.  When i walk though the mall, I see that many women make the same choice.

The difference is that people see me differently when I get dressed up, for work, for church, for an event, or whatever reason.  And when they see me looking different, they assume that I must be different. They make assumptions and fill in with their own expectations and then I am layered with expectations I don’t even understand because they are never explicit.

What difference would there be in my choices if I felt more confident I was being seen as a woman?  I think the only difference would be that I would be more flirty — more open, more loose, more smiley, more reaching for connection.  Hell, I’m a femme, connection is what we do.

But what’s the difference between me and any other woman?  It’s only when we feel safe that we opens up, that we blossoms and turns towards the sun.  And when we do that, the reflected and internal light will keep anyone we focus on warm and growing.

(BTW, I’m pleased that this year’s Translating Identity Conference has a session on “Femme As A Gender Identity,” something I sugggested last year.  We femmes may center our lives around relationships, but that doesn’t mean we should only exist as ourselves in partners (SOFFA) workshops.  We have to be for us.)

What would I do if I felt more confident that I was seen as a woman?  I’d make more femme choices, and femmes are the ones who wiggle.  I guess that means I’d be more ballsy, because femmes, well, we are some ballsy women who trust the power of our minds and hearts.  I could never really be ballsy as a guy, because those balls just didn’t have it.  But when you show your femme balls and people can read you as born male, too often they assume it’s your past coming though rather than your heart reaching up to meet you.

I look in the mirror, and I think “Yeah, right.  I don’t think like a girl.”

And others look at me and assume I am really just my bones.

Yeah, right.

 

 

Cave In

A long time ago, I was talking with a local lesbian therapist who identified as an ally of transpeople who would use the pronoun he when reffering to me.

“Look,” I said. “I don’t really care what you think of me. I mean, you know that I have obligations where I choose to not push woman presentation, and your experience of me may be whatever it is.

“But if you want to be an ally of transpeople, you have to refer to me as ‘she.’ Otherwise, you aren’t opening the space where there is a possibility of transformation beyond biology & expectation, where people are who they really are in their hearts, not just what they are in their panties. You have to make it clear that you believe who people express themselves to be through their choices has real meaning, even if they have a history of expectation that it is hard to overcome.

“It’s not what you think about me. It’s about your committment to the idea that what one “always is” is not what was written on them by the world, but rather is what their creator placed in their heart, no matter how hard a struggle it may be to manifest that in the world.”

She shot me a look and changed the subject.

A few weeks later, she spoke to me. We had been stuffing envelopes at the local G&L center, and one of the women had referred to me as “he.”

“When Barbara called you ‘he,’ I realized that the reason she did that was because I call you ‘he,'” she said. “I got what you were saying a few weeks ago, that my words count, and to support you, I need to open the space rather than just convey my shorthand.”

When someone reduces me to just a “guy-in-a-dress” rather than a transwoman, it feels like it did all those years when people pinned me into a box. It feels like my world, my bubble of self-expression is caving in.

Transpeople have all sorts of ways to deal with this. Some of us just stay locked to the heterosexist duality, staying firmly a “guy-in-a-dress” or a “butch woman.” Others try to change the apparent sex of our body with hormones and surgery so that our passing distance is much more close up. And many of us just find a way to carve out our own bubble in which we can stay isolated.

And then, of course, there are the Classic Six defense strategies: Concede, Conceal, Confront, Convert, Clown, Calm.

I have lived my life like a miner, always being ready for a cave in. My bubble of Safe Space (God, I wrote that 12 years ago) just still isn’t that strong. It keeps collapsing, keeps prolapsing, slipping down and away.

And until there are many more allies, it doesn’t feel like things will change.

Normal/Queer

My mother wishes she was normal.

She’s 82 this year and away at an Elderhostel full of people, including one pediatrican my mother has identified as a transwoman who dresses butch.  There are 38 other people from around the country, who she thinks are normal.

But she’s not normal.

“How long haven’t you been normal?” I asked her, thinking that maybe it was her walker that made her feel different.  After all, she was the only one who had to sit in the bus with the driver while the others took a walking tour of a quaint, historic neighborhood. 

“I don’t think I was ever normal,” she tells me. 

“Ah, so you were always special, unique and exceptional,” I say

“I was always weird,” she tells me. 

Carol Queen said that whenever queers tell their story, straights always think we are writing about them. 

I suspect that is true because we speak a truth that isn’t often heard in society.  The mainstream talks of normal people living normal lives, but inside each of those people, they know that they are different, special, unique and exceptional.  In other words, some nagging part of them tells them that they aren’t normal either.

Heck, the guy from eHarmony promises to find you a partner who can “See you, accept you, and love you passionately for who you are.”  Of course, he only makes that promise to straight people, who are the only ones eHarmony serves, but the fact the marketing wonks chose that statement tells you that even straight people don’t feel they are seen, accepted and loved passionately for who they are. 

This truth, that we all feel misunderstood and unseen is a blessing and a curse for queer people. 

It’s a blessing because it means that straights feel there is something they can learn from those on the edges, something about engaging that feeling of difference.

But it’s a curse because the limits of how they feel different are the limits of how they can understand how others feel different.  If we all don’t feel normal but can suck it up and fit in, then why can’t you?

The moment you step into queer is the moment at which you see and affirm choices others make that you would never make in your life, and beyond that, keep loving the people who make those choices.  The choices may squick you, may seem distasteful or weird, may feel scary or dangerous, may be ones others would separate from, would stigmatize and deride, may just be queer, but only affirming them can help you become at peace with your own queerness.

I realize that we do need some kind of line to separate good choices from evil ones, and for me that line is consent.  Killing, raping, stealing, all things done without consent, and all bad.  But just making others uncomfortable, just pushing the people’s buttons, just bringing queerness into a worldview they want to sanitize “for the kids,” well, in a free, pluralistic society, your comfort isn’t protected, just your rights.

My mother feels different and separate from the rest of her group.  She feels like she isn’t normal.

I know that.  I needed her to teach me how to nave normal relations with the community, to have friends and neighbors, and that wasn’t something she could do.  But neither could she teach me how to be happily and sucessfully weird, walking in the world with self-confidence and pride.

But how do I connect with all those people who fear they aren’t normal without triggering their fears that moving too much past normal will lose them everything, even if that just means standing with and for people who are very much not normal, standing with people who are queer?

The fear of being seen as not normal and being stigmatized for that difference is the tool society uses to keep people in line, and that fear is strong.

But that fear only works if people know one thing: that somewhere, inside, they are exceptional, different, unique and not just normal, and that must be hidden.

Imagine, though, what happens when we start to understand it isn’t just us who isn’t normal, it’s everybody who is exceptional, different and unique.  Then we can start to affirm their choices, even the choices we would never make for ourselves.

We can move from feeling abnormal to queer. 

And that, my friend, might just be liberation.

D/F, T/C

You won’t believe this, but when i look at myself in the mirror, I see all my weakest spots.  I mean, I see where the foundation doesn’t cover the places where my beard is turning black (everything else is turning grey, except along the fu-manchu line, which is going black — what’s up with that?), where the cheap wig is frizzing at the ends, the adams apple and big hands, I see it all.

Oh.  Wait.  I bet that you do believe that.  One woman reading me out to her husband in the Dollar Tree, and it’s just no fun. 

I mean, transgender is about revelation, but to get people to see past their assumptions, it becomes important that you conceal.  And, yes, I admit it, I like concealing maleness too.  I want to be pretty and femaled.  I tucked all the time until I read about how it seems to have some anecdotal link to pre-cancer tumors in the testes.  (There are so few of us that anecdotal medical information is the best we have.)  

I spent my time looking like a guy in a dress, and it was fine and fun, but now I have another message, other cues to give.  I remember turning to someone at a trans-event and noting how much work it was to read what people were trying to say with their presentation.  The other person looked at me like I had said “Which are beluga, which osetra and which sevruga?”  a nonsense question to all but those who appreciate caviar like I appreciate considered gender presentation.

There is a line between doubt and faith, between trembling and confidence that is hard for me.  A friend tried to explain to me that my time in the dressing room had to be full of doubt, questioning every choice and trying to create the best me, while in the world I needed to have faith in who I am so I could stop trembling and just be in the confidence that I am potent and pretty, and what some doesn’t matter because those with open eyes will see my heart.

That’s a challenge.  I feel shaken and then I see a mirror and I don’t see positive and present, I see all the places I have failed to be perfect. 

So many trannys love pictures of themselves, still images that capture a perfect image.  That was true when I came out, and with Photoshop it’s even more true today.  All we can see in the mirror is a still image, because the moment we snap into observer mode, we snap out of the mode of just being ourselves.

But I know that I can’t be in the world as a flawless image, helped along by dark bars, stylized outfits, selective lighting and drunken observers.  My beauty, if it exists at all, exists in the pores and wrinkles that make up the real me, all the scars that I show, not just the ones I conceal.  And finding an observer who values, understands and encourages that,  well, hard.

I flipped though a show on poker playing, and Annie Duke was explaining why bluffing almost never works.  “The unconcious things you do are readable, but when you try and conciously convey something, it almost always looks big and fake.”  That’s one thing actors know, it’s not actng the moment, it’s being in the moment.

And when I am not feeling strong and potent and pretty, well, that moment has pretty well passed. 

The obligations of a tranny in public are many.  We have to put the people who fear us at ease, have to take the people who doubt us and negotiate feelings that they have which they have never put into words.

From 2002: 

3) The hardest thing about trans is doing it alone.
For most people, life is like riding a bicycle. Slow down, and momentum from people around you keeps pulling you forward.
For people on their own path, life is like running a marathon.  Slow down and you lose momentum and have to restart.
Trannys don’t come from a community that is like them, so the issues aren’t taught, worked out.  We each struggle very much alone, and that means we often lose momentum and falter.
4) The most difficult thing about trans is negotiating others fears.
Too often people feel scared by what challenges their assumptions, what makes them stretch, what brings up their own stuff, and when they get scared, they find it easier to blame it on what scares them than to confront the basis of their own fears.  We become a “phobogenic object,”  invested with their own terrors, and like voodoo, they assume that if we are erased, their fears will never have to be faced.
Transpeople learn early that expressing their nature brings torrents of abuse from the world.  The world wants to do the good and nice and appropriate thing by shaming people into normativity, which is good for the status quo and good for the individual.  The attempt to erase the nature is seen as caring and appropriate — these people should understand reality, or at least the reality as we have accepted it.
Even when talking with mothers of gay and lesbian children, they express fear for their kids, a fear that can never be removed, but a fear that their children have to get past.  It’s not useful to have parents fear, it’s useful to have parents help and encourage.
There is an old joke about a top professional golfer who is offered an enormous sum to play a round.  When they asked what handicap their opponent wanted, they were told “Three Gotchas.”  They accepted the offer, and on the first hole, just as they were about to drive, their opponent rammed a hand between their legs and screamed “Gotcha!” which caused them to miss the shot.  The same thing happened on the second green, just as they were about to putt.  When the golfer got in the clubhouse, they had lost by seven strokes.  When someone asked why they had lost, they said “Have you ever tried to play 17 holes waiting for the third gotcha?”  This is the power of stigma — when you are used to abuse, you lose your grace and power.
When you think you are already on the edge, or even over it, it becomes hard to take the simple risks humans have to take to get others to agree with us, to take power in the world.  When we play safe and defended, we rarely get what we need, rarely make the changes that we know will benefit all.
To ask the person assigned as fear producing, who has been bashed by stigma, to be the one who always has to negotiate the fears of others is a daunting and overwhelming task.  People often assume that their fears must be respected, but to respect fear rather than real danger is to allow fear to shape our world, rather than to allow love to do that task.
5) The most painful thing about trans is not being able to give your gifts and have them accepted.
When we accept the gifts of another, we accept them.  For many, who don’t want to accept people who challenge their beliefs in comforting boundaries that separate good from bad, accepting the gifts of people they believe are acting in immoral or inappropriate ways is impossible.
What does this mean?  It means that because of other people’s belief in the need to keep separate, to minimize and stigmatize by isolation, to avoid what causes them challenge and discomfort, to believe in their fears, people who are diverse are seen as less than human and their gifts are not accepted.
It pains me most not to have been able to feel safe enough to give all of me to my community, and to get the simple rewards in return, just because my nature is one that many would rather not exist.
Trans rights are not about special rights, they are about simply having the right to contribute and be rewarded for those contributions to the mainstream.  This right is key not only to our financial well being, it is key to our health & our pride, and, believe it or not, is a key to really embracing diversity and innovation for all of society.

To stay in the faith and show the confidence, while always keeping the doubt which allows you to tremble before God, well, that’s hard.

How did Reinhold Niebuhr put it?

God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other. 

Mr N. did it through faith in Jesus. 

But defending a God who creates people like me to remind the world of our continuous common humanity?

I’m tired.