Others

Anyone see the last episode of The L Word Season 3?

Max, the FTM, doesn't want to see Jenny dance with the new femme in the straight bar. "No one should ever be made to feel uncomfortable," Max says.

Jenny looks at Max and tells him that whatever normativity he wants to claim, he will always be one of the others, an outsider.  She then goes on to dance with her new lover.

Max looks upset.

I just got called a crossdresser and had my name put in quotes on a list.  It was an attempt to dismiss my challenges, to explain to me that I don't understand what it means to be a transsexual who was whatever and now is thus, is whole and separate from all those messy, liminal trannys.

Transsexual separatists telling the world that other trannys can never speak for them because they don't have open minds and hearts to accept that true transsexuals are different, and are changed.

And on the other side, crossdressers, who want to be seen as hobbyists, always men no matter what they do.

You know who the pioneers are, right?  They are the ones with arrows in their backs and in their chests.

I know this dance, I really do.  I value transsexuals, value surgery, value assimilation.  I think crossdressers who resist change miss the point and diminish all of us.

But I haven't seen anyone change anything but apparent sex yet, and I haven't seen anyone who isn't marked in some sense by their experiences and history.

The levels of toxicity of trannies is often astounding. 

For some it is toxicity by determined ignorance, a refusal to engage the stories of others.  One Roman Catholic deacon who identifies as a crossdresser found it so impossible to hear me that  he couldn't even hear technical explanations, even as he adored how I heard him.  I demonstrated to his wife as I repeated my explanation that P is the most important letter on the internet because Protocols allow intercommunication — TCP, IP, FTP, HTTP, SMTP, POP, IMAP, and so on.  I then asked him what the most important letter on the internet was and he said "What?"  His wife immediately said "P" and looked at him, but didn't get why he couldn't hear, why it was so frustrating to me.

For others it is the toxicity of determined defense, always finding someone else to blame for their problems.  I used to watch Tranzilla be broken hearted that she was always other, like Max, and look for someone to blame.  It was those stinking transgenders who polluted the ground for her, she was sure, because otherwise people would know she was a woman.

Erasure and blaming.  Two hard things to get past, I tell ya. 

And today I am pissed because I tried to be nice & open and got toxic attacks.

Any wonder why I stay hidden in this cave?

Psy Chic

I saw a bit of Char Margolis' new SciFi show, Psychic At Large last night, and I loved it.

The Amazing Randi knows how to critique what Char is doing.   It's a cold reading, that's absolutely true. But it does take some intution, some ability to actually pay attention and read someone.

One nice thing about pyschics is that they really don't even have to know that they are manipulating.  The cues are coming from someplace other than their concious mind, and that's enough for them to believe that it is from outside themselves.

When I was a kid, I used to enjoy the moments when I just made a leap from observations, said something, and people were astounded at how I knew what I knew.  I knew it was just watching and assuming, some kind of intuition, but their astounded reactions were not always worth dissuading.  And even when I tried, they often didn't believe that it wasn't some kind of pyschic power.

I was at a monestary once when I was about 14 (it was the same trip where I stopped participating in the eucharist) and I was chatting with a guy in the hall.  After we talked, he decided to intuit things about me.  I listened to his pitch, all the while making connections between what I had told him and what he said.  When he finished, I said "Wow!  You put all that together from just what I told you!"  He grinned a bit and said "You are very smart."  It was my guess most people saw his parlor trick as some kind of magic, and he enjoyed that reaction.

Part of the reason I knew it was a trick was because I actually listen.  Christine would get angry because I didn't seem to be paying attention to her, so I would repeat the last minute or so of what she said.  This frustrated her even more, of course.  I remember at IFGE Portland when a friend came into the room I repeated what the staff member had said.   The only shepard I ever met at a tranny conference turned around and said to me "That's amazing!  I thought I was the only person who actually repeated what people said!"

But Char, well, the reason I loved her isn't because she is magical.  Her magic seems pretty normal from where I stand.

I love Char because she is a human I understand.

She went into a diner and did her parlor tricks, which, when edited down for TV look pretty amazing. 

But the moments when she talked about herself moved me.  "I'm an intuitive," she told the waitress,  "I guess that's why I'm here alone."   And she liked the writer.  "You're so handsome!" she told him, and then asked for a hug after the reading.

I got that.  Here is an aging intutive, who can read people, and she feels alone.  She reads for people in a way that they like, so she can get affirmation.  "I'm not a psychic.  I'm a human who has some psychic powers.  And the affirmation is important for me," Char said after she drew a crowd at the bookstore, entertained them and signed some moving inscriptions.

I get that too.  I have had people who want me to do nice and affirming magic for them, entertain them and assure them that their are powers outside of them that have control.  I listen to Char do a phone reading on the website, and the techniques are very clear, but so is the joy of the people she talks to, getting affirmation and context they really want, even if it isn't really from magic.  "I love hearing that other people see ghosts!" she tells Diane, "It means I'm not the only crazy one!"

Yet, I see this nice hearty blonde woman who isn't getting any younger, who does the best she can to look pretty, and manage this intutive gift she has had since she was a kid in the context of being just a human who needs affirmation.  She does her thing, and she believes she is helping people, and in some ways she is.  That's easy for me to get, real easy.  Feels like a mirror, sort of.

So I watch Char and imagine being in her sweater.   I hope she finds the affirmation she needs.

I hope that we all do.

Being Spiritual

"Being spiritual means allowing your heart to break."

"In America, religious people often prefer to be right rather than compassionate. They've lost the Axial Age vision of concern for everybody."

"Allow the pain to break you open. Then you can begin your quest. Because that's when you can learn compassion. If you shield yourself from suffering as a lot of our society is set up to, then it's hard to relate to suffering in others. Once you discover what it is that gives you pain, then you must refuse under any circumstances to inflict that pain on others. It's quite easy to numb yourself instead of looking at it as a spiritual opportunity."

"Religion is hard. But then you begin to lose the hard edges of yourself and start to glimpse the other. All of the Axial Agers practiced what the Chinese called jian ai or concern for everybody. Not just for your own group, but for everybody. And if we don't do that, I don't see how we can save our planet."

Karen Armstrong, Washington Post, 29 March 2006

I Love You

I Love You.

I think that might just be the thing that most people don't understand about me.  I may be cynical, cutting and conceptual, but I don't do that because I want to take away your hope, slice you down to size, or dismiss your emotions.

I do it because I love you, and that's what I have to offer. I'm smart, with x-ray vision, and that's who I am.  That's what I do for love, so kiss today goodbye & point me towards tomorrow.

Give, giving, given.   I'm a femme, and I do it for love.  You can read whatever you want into this stuff, into my choices, and I can't do anything about that.  I know how dismissal works.  People assign a motive to my choices — "You only do it to show others up" or whatever — and then dismiss me because of that assigned motive.  Only problem is that my motive is simple.  It's love.

I was with my father at the urologist today.  The anti-androgens aren't working anymore, and his PSA levels are spiking.  Time for the oncologist & the chemotherapy, thinks the expert, because it's doubtful it's confined to the prostate anymore.  But it's a CT and bonescan first, just because my 81 year old father wanted to check.

The path of life, it seems to me, is getting to the point where you can do the whole uncondititional love thing.  I've never been good at judgements.   In the mid 1980s my therapist said that one big difference between me and most other clients is that they would say how other people were stupid, but after I did that, I would go on to explain my understanding of their choices, offering compassion and forgiveness.

Yeah.  My giving is about love.  The only problem is getting it back, feeling the bounce.   I give and people find it odd or overwhelming, assigning some odd motive and moving on.

But believe it or not, I love you.  I love people, I love humanity, even if my tolerance for their choices is kind of thin right now.  You are loveable, a child of God, beautiful as she made you.

And that love, well, that doesn't mean I do what you want.  "If you really loved me, you would do what I want, not making choices that make me uncomfortable."  Uhh, no.  The people who love you the most have the best and worst thing that anyone can hold for you, the scariest and the most potent thing: high expectations.  We know you can be more than comfortable.  We know you can be amazing.

You are loveable.  I know that. 

And for me, that's the problem.

Internet Dead

My hard drive is full of ghosts.

I've been on the internet, or what came before, for over twenty years now.  In the mid 1980s I found my way to HSX100, Section Eight, Genderline on Compuserve.  To my knowledge, that was the first nationwide discussion board on trans issues

Just like the days when the NY State Liquor Authority demanded we wear one piece of gender appropirate clothing, on CIS we had to wear TV or TS on our screen names so people would be warned about us.

In those two decades, I have met lots of dead people.  You see, when I stop hearing from someone on the net, I have found it easiest to assume that they are dead.  Sometimes I get a delightful surprise when I find out my assumption is wrong, but mostly, it has been ships passing in the night.

This is one of the most slippery bits of being internet virtual.  We have the power of reinvention, but we also lose the power of accountability, of having to act from a knowledge that we have to live with the consquences of our choices.   It keeps the interactions from having context, and that means we can do the same thing over and over again.

Those ghosts on my hard drive, the disembodied voices, though, they walk though my mind.  So many people, so much text, all threaded through with the energy of the moment, all now abandoned and unconnected. 

Obon, the Japanese festival of the dead, was feaured on last night's Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.   The Japanese come home and gather as families twice a year, on Obon to honor the ancestors, and on New Year to honor the future, but these are two sides of the same coin, inseparable.  How can we have a future without having a past, and how can we have a past without the echoes of people now gone to build upon.

This is my moment to honor the internet dead, all those people who came close to me, shared a bit of themselves and then died, hopefully to live a next life on the internet, a fuller incarnation to explore something newer and deeper.

I know that I am a porcupine, bristling with the quills that have the intensity of knives, existing only to cut away callous from living tissue, to separate the protective walls of death from the still vibrant.  That leaves me raw and tender, sure, but it after five decades, it seems to be who I was created to be.

But still, people have come close, and then they have gone away, out of my vision, living on some new plane, somewhere.

And to you, all the ghosts on my hard drive, the spirits who have entered my world and left again, on this day I remember you.

And thank you. 

But it is, she said, still lonely here without you.

It's not easy being a porcupine.

knowledge of persona

"With the stand-up comic on TV, whether it's Seinfeld or Cosby or Roseanne, more important than their knowledge of how to tell a joke is their knowledge of themselves, or the persona they've created as themselves. So that when you're in a room with writers you can say, 'Guys, that's a funny line but I wouldn't say it.' "
Bob Newhart, New York Times, 26 March 2006

How many of us know our persona well enough to know what we would not say?

And how do we learn a new persona when we have little idea how others see us, often because that vision is so variable?

 

New

Joseph Cambell is clear on this: our challenge is to communicate the eternal truths in modern language, to tell the essential stories in a contemporary and immediate way.

We don’t live in a culture that holds stories sacred, though.  We have so many stories coming at us over the air that we have no need to discover new and deeper meanings in the old stories, no incentive to watch for the differences in how the old stories are told to point out nuance, commonalities & differences.   We don’t have to internalize those stories and come up with our own version to tell the people who look to us for wisdom, insight and revelation.

Instead, we just let stories wash over us, enjoying the juicy bits, taking the points that we agree with and letting the rest fall by the wayside.

We take scrape up some bits and roll our own myths, the tales that we go back to for motivation and wisdom, the stories that put our lives in context.  The theology of these stories, the razor which slices god from rationalizations, which confirms the balance that includes obligations with priviledges, and which adds the touch of death which empowers living for the eternal rather than the ephemeral, well, that theology is just dropped as not relevant.

It’s all in our genes, we really are just recreating an old form, defending the faithful is more important than defending the faith.  We know the ways to justify our current creation.

But the only way to be really new is to use the fires of the old to burn away the bits where we have made it too easy, too oversimplified, too self-justifying.  The point is not that our ancestors would have made the same decisions that we would, rather than we have the obligations to let the questions that drove them challenge us.

The believer is happy, the doubter is wise, goes an old Hungarian proverb.

The only thing that can make us truly new, though, is offering our beliefs to doubt.  That lets our faith guide our choices with challenge, rather than having our choices shape our beliefs with rationalizations.

I Don’t Care Anymore.

I don't care anymore. 

I mean, I might like to care, but everytime I do I remember that it's not really worth the effort.  Over 90% of what I am going to get is the ripples from other people's fear and expectations, their acting out of their own little dramas.   The other 10%, well, I can't get much out of that after choking down the other 90%.

People are sure that they know the best thing for me.  Alexis Arquette, when she thought there would be a therapist joining The Surreal Life 6 house said "I would rather see a Nazi every morning than a therapist.  I hate therapists."

"Too Much To Expect, Not Too Much To Ask." I remember hearing Mary Chapin Carpenter and Joe Diffie sing while riding home from Southern Comfort 1994 with JJ — and that's a long story right there.   Maybe it was because I was being lectured about being swishy in the Chattenooga outlet mall, or maybe it was just because I felt so alone, but that song touched me.

People keep telling me that I need to be clear about what I need, ask specifically, go out and get it.  But they also keep telling me that they don't understand and can never understand. 

So, I don't care anymore.  

You want to play out your dramas?  Fine.   I don't care anymore. 

You want to aggrandize your fears?  Fine.  I don't care anymore. 

You want to put yourself up by putting others down?  Fine.  I don't care anymore.

You want to defend your own comfort by building walls?  Fine.  I don't care anymore.

You want to rush faster and faster so you don't have to engage your feelings or the feelings of anyone else?  Fine.  I don't care anymore.

You want to force others to clean up your messes, and then blame them when shit bubbles to the top?  Fine.  I don't care anymore.

You want to find reasons to push responsibility for your choices onto others?  Fine.  I don't care anymore.

You want to find ways to weasel what you want out of others rather than being reasonable and straightforward?  Fine.  I don't care anymore.

You want to claim the right to declare others who raise points that challenge you false and without standing?  Fine.  I don't care anymore.

You want to violate the golden rule, treating others in ways you would find hateful?  Fine. I don't care anymore.

You want to call me sick, passive-agressive or more?  Fine.  I don't care anymore.

You want to dish out your fears like they are chocolate sauce?  Fine.  I don't care anymore.

God grant me
the strength to change what I can
the serenity to accept what I cannot change
the wisdom to know the difference

and what I need to be clear that I cannot change
is you.

Grown Up

Sid Ceasar looked great in his bright blue blazer.  Sure, he needed a bit of help walking and standing, but he made us laugh with his doubletalk French, and we loved seeing him.  He thought the 2006 TV Land Awards were a great party, and he was happy to be there.  Heck, at his age he was happy to be anywhere as the old joke goes, and we were happy to have him, as James Burroughs notes when accepting an award for Cheers.

Heck, even on The Surreal Life 6 on VH1, Playboy TV’s Andrea Lowell thought Florence Henderson looked great, and hoped she looked as good as Florence when she was even close to that old.  On the other hand, Florence thought Andrea was immoral because she posed for nude photographs, and that control queen Tawny Kitaen, just back from rehab, agreed.

Of course, the big story on Surreal 6 is Alexis Arquette.  Alexis is participating as a “transgender” who plans to have surgery soon — she offered Andrea a last chance at riding the big one before it goes inside — and hates being seen as a boy anymore.  Everyone in the cast sees Alexis as one of the girls, even though her past is clear.  They showed a clip of an upcoming episode where they hold a party at the house and some boys give her a hard time.  The cast comes to her rescue, but Steve Harwell sees her on the warpath and claims to see her “guy face.”  To me, it just looked like her warrior face, but this is one thing trannys know, that when something strong is revealed, rather than just seeing it as another facet as they would in a woman born female, it is seen as essence revealed.

I like watching Alexis because I get the defenses.  Before she walked into the house she said “If I can make just one person feel uncomfortable, my job here is done.”  Does she say that because she wants to be a freak, or does she say that because she knows she had no choice but to be a freak, and if that’s the case, she wants to be a good one?   You probably know that my guess is the second possibility, because we have to learn to live within the constrained expectations of others, and hoping outside that box just sets us up for heartbreak.

When young people people see older people, they think, like Andrea did when she saw Florence, “If I am lucky and things go right, someday I will be old like her too.”  They understand their life in that bigger context, know that there is something more to grow into, some more maturity to be attained.  We smile at Uncle Sid and hope that someday, people will honor us too, tell the stories of how we touched them, will invite us the party and make us comfortable.

But when we see Alexis, we don’t get the same vibe.  What does a mature tranny look like?  Will she ever be as beloved as someone like Florence Henderson?  Or will she be some pervy guy in a dress jerking off in the library?

When we come out as a tranny, we don’t have the context to see ourselves as babytrannies, like a babydyke.  It’s not one step on a path, rather it is just a leap into perfection, into being who we truly are.

That has consequences. 

It’s often the newly out trannies who get out front and speak for the “transgender community.”  This, to me, is like having teenagers speak for society.   They rarely offer mature wisdom and insight, rather they offer rationalizations and pastiches of ideas they picked up from others that defend their own choices as really cool.   And like teenagers, they often need to say not only that they are doing it right, but that others are doing it wrong, forming the same kind of cliques and power plays that we remember from junior high school.

The second issue is that so often, once we make that leap we end up in a bubble of defenses and we stop growing because we just are cut off from the kind of feedback that helps people mature.  We reject rather than engage, become crusty rather than open, as James Hillman warns against in The Force Of Character: And The Lasting Life .

This problem of transition cutting us off from the very contact and love that can help us mature is very important.  Anyone who has seen The Prince age knows that rather than becoming an embracing grandmother, more of a crust has formed, separating and isolating.

So who do we see as being grown-up trannies, someone who offers possibilities for who we can be as we mature?  Who helps us put our life in context, hoping that someday we can be like them?

I don’t know.

The Comm-Un-ity

Oh, God help me. I have been called an a abuser in the “Transgender Community” again.

I don’t think there is a transgender community. Communities form around shared interests, and all people who might be called trans don’t have shared interests. Rather, we find people with whom we do have shared interests — crossdressing, drag, women, politics, whatever — and then those communities interlock. Each of us belongs to a few of them at some level, and they tie together.

There are only six trannies in the world, anyway, or at least only six trannies in the US. You know that old game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? Well, with trannies, it works the same way. You would be hard to find anyone, except on the fringes you can’t link to in six or less. We are thin on the ground, we are, and we connect.

I laughed when I read BC Holmes commenting that people like Rachel Pollack and Holly Boswell were trans spiritual gurus. I don’t think those two have ever met, but I have been tightly connected with both of them, the sinew between. And BC Holmes? We met in a subway car and chatted, but never really clicked.

Anyway, one local tranny was dissapointed that an organizational meeting didn’t happen and took out her frustration in strong language, saying she spoke for over 100 local trannies. Well, I knew she didn’t speak for me, and I wondered if the people she was speaking for appreciated her speech in their name. I forwarded her note to a local list with a few questions, and it apparently caused a commotion.

I got a note from her, accusing me of doing the same toxic things that had been done to me, but more than that, saying that I wasn’t a very good “role model” because I didn’t just say good things about trannies. I talked about our failures too much.

Oy.

Imagine if they read my “Wary Of TG,” which I wrote when a baby tranny said they wanted to communicate to lesbians. I thought the fears needed to be engaged and acknowledged before we could move on. They wanted shiny purple paint and glitter over all the problems, and didn’t like the piece.

I learned a long time ago that the biggest challenge that any LGBT person has when they become visible is to handle the complaint that they aren’t speaking well for the community, aren’t properly representing all of us.

There is only one answer to that challenge, and it’s the one all have to come to: I speak for myself and not for you.

That’s hard to hear for people who just want to see someone like them visible in society, who have craved that affirmation since they were tiny. I wanted to see someone speaking for me, I did.

But the problem is that I can’t demand anyone speak for me. I have to speak for myself. And the answer to anyone who thinks that I am not properly speaking for them is always to listen and see if there are any changes I can make, then to tell them the hard, nasty, unpleasant and difficult truth: If they want someone out there speaking for them, they have to get out there and speak for themselves.

The problem with community is that we often are asked to speak for the most damaged members rather than speak for the healthy ones. This means we can’t talk about healing, we have to talk about sickness, and boy, that always sets us up for failure.

In the trans-communities, one of the biggest sticks we have is to call someone an oppressor, just like That Big Freak, the one who is so full of internalized pain and self-loathing that they prefer to try to destroy others rather than succeed themselves. My trans-experience is very much tied into the idea that if I’m gonna look like that person, I’ll just pass, thanks. I know the scary trannies, and they shape my fears of what I look like in the mirror.

How much do we use the stick of being denied community to demand people do what we want? And how much is individual expression about having to bear the marks of that stick and learn to separate from others and their demands we stay sick like them. (And yes, Christine was often concerned about the stigmata marks she saw on my back.)

So I stay out, but when I saw one person I care about lashing out at others I care about, I felt the need to hold up a mirror.

You know what people do when they see a reflection of themselves they don’t like, one that doesn’t show them as they want to be seen? They smash at the mirror, saying that it’s just immoral to reflect what should stay hidden, be that our Eros, our failures, our vulnerability, our liminality, the pain and damage from years of stigma, or anything else. They say that we should respect people by only saying what they approve of, always speaking for them.

The local GL center’s newsletter used to be called community, but some earnest person changed it to Comm-Unity, demanding unity. I once had a public forum with a Black leader and asked him if his goal was to build strong Black voices or to build a strong Black voice. It was a question he hadn’t considered.

If trans is about anything, it is about valuing the indvidual’s discovered truth over assigned group values, about moving from compulsory roles to mature roles. And when community is used to try to silence voices that open questions, it becomes oppressive.

I’m in favor of people coming together, but I don’t think the responsibility for adaptation lies only with the indvidual, rather it lies with all the indviduals, facing challenges to their own identities.

Do we really want to force challenges out of community by making life so unpleasant that they will shut up and leave?

Or, more to the point, do we really think a community that does that, where the most toxic control the floor and silt up the stream will ever become mature?

Skimming

There was a fella on NPR giving a little commentary in which he said that he didn't want to hear about what you put on your blog.  Maybe he'll skim your blog once a week or once a month, but that's it.  Just too many damn blogs, too little time.  Diane Sawyer once said that in an information economy, attention is the ultimate currency.

I look at the keyword system that this WordPress has, the possibility to create pages and such, and I know the rules.  If I want more people here, I have to make this blog more accessible, more organized, simpler and easier to skim.

To get and keep attention, you have to entertain.  Make people think that they are thinking and they will love you.  Make them really think and they will hate you.  People will pay to be entertained, but not to be educated.  It's the reaffirmation and rearrangement of current assumptions most people want, not the challenge of them.  The most compelling thing for most people is the most comforting thing they can find, the bold affirmation of their current prejudices.  Just ask Bill O'Reilly.

So I hear this and I know this, and I wonder if I can make my life, my thoughts and my feelings, easier to skim. 

To do that, though, I have to use shorthand codes that play into your assumptions and expectations.  The only thing you can skim is something that you pretty well understand already, an old thought couched in a slightly new way.   Nuance is lost.

When was I kid I used to read fast, real fast. Senior year, Ms. Spousta was to teach speedreading, so I took the class.  First day she ran the click flimstrip projector at top speed, 800 words per minute, just to familarize us.  She was surprised when I asked to take the comprehension test after that first run.  I scored 80% comprehension, for an effective 640 words per minute.  According to my progress graph, she actually slowed my reading speed by over 75%, since I never scored more than 150 WPM after that — 100% comprehension with a projector running at 150 WPM.

My grandfather told me that I was missing something reading as fast as I was, and after hearing tales of prisoners of war who read one page per day to make things last, I understood that he might be right.  I learned not to rip read, but to try and get nuance.

Can I make my narrative more skimmable?  Can I make my life more accessible, so that guy who doesn't have time to actually engage the lives of his friends might just be able to glance at text I wrote and have it quickly fit into his system of thinking?

Rishaya's been going to her therapist for a long time.  This is a person trained and paid to listen and understand nuance, but even now, they think Cheryl is a crossdresser, refer to her "dressing."  Cheryl lived as a woman twenty years ago, and has come to a place where she is centered, the same person no matter what she wears, just like any other woman. 

If a professional psychiatrist can't get the nuance after years, how can I expect skimmers to get the point?  Heck, even most trannys who haven't been the places I have been, who don't have the scars, don't get what I'm saying.

If it's not skimmable, it doesn't have enough value to engage.

If I'm not skimmable, I don't have enough value to engage.

I've spent decades trying to find a way to speak what is inside in a way that can be heard, in a clear and understandable way.  And what I have kept hearing is that my narrative is still not skimmable, still requires too much work.

Not worth it.

It’s the sound of it.

NeuroLinguistic Programming says that we experience the world in one of three primary ways.  Most people start with the visual, a few of of us (like TBB) need to experience it in their body, in a kinasthetic manner, but a bunch of us start by hearing it, by using the auditory.

I just saw The Aristocrats, and in that film, Penn Gillette says that it wasn’t until he heard of mess of comics tell the same joke that he really understood that comedy is like jazz — it’s the singer, not the song.

For me, it’s the voice more than the words.  The reason I can just sit down and crank out these long pieces in one blow is because I trust the voice.  I can hear when I have typed a klinker, something that isn’t right.  And on the rare occasions I have to send something out for publishing, I like to read it out loud before it goes, smooting the voice so it sounds right.

When the house is empty, I make noises.  Songs, rantings, poetry, noises.  I need to hear the range of sounds come out of me.  A friend once said that she often heard me making sounds, and she assumed I was trying to affect her, to bother her or communicate, but when she turned to look at me, I seemed to be completely unaware that was even making noises.

I remember one conversation I had with a four year old boy in the library. The text was simply the alphabet said over and over again, but by changing the sounds, it added interest and fun.  I would say letters with intonation, and he would reply with a few letters of his own.  He was young enough that remebering the letters was sometimes hard, but the sounds kept him involved and engaged.

It’s mostly women who are auditory.  To be a mommy, you have to be attuned to kids, and that usually means being attuned to how they sound, when they cry, when they are playing in the other room, when they are telling a story and have no words to fit the feelings into. 

I love the BBC.  In the UK, people sound different, and that diversity of language is valued.  Samantha Jones, she of The Travel Channel, said that was her biggest delight on her trip to Britain, the reverance for language, for the sound and the nuance of it. 

Sound is tough on the digital page.  I have often had people wonder how anyone can like me because I sound so intellectual and harsh, while people who know my voice say that my writing sounds like me and it makes them laugh, the way I do.  We hear texts with the voices we have available in our head, and too often our own expectation of sarcasm or belittlement creeps into our reading.

And that’s the most frustrating thing for me, the fact that there really isn’t anyone attuned to my voice, that so much of what I want to communicate that can’t easily be put into words is just lost.  I try to communicate and it falls on deaf ears, or worse, onto no ears at all.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t love the sound of it.  Ah, godalmighty, I do.

If You Were To Suggest. . .

If you were to suggest
that the fear, trepidation and loathing I feel
all rooted in the expectations of something bad
when I look at the possibility of
a new message

that churning twisting tightness
which stops me from opening the envelope

if you were to suggest that
it’s all rooted in the way I learned
to inhibit myself
so I could stay small & hidden
my own self too tender for the world

and suggest that decades of that
have left my heart too strained
to imagine I can move past it

if you were to suggest that
well,
then I’d probably agree
with you.

Crossdressers

Just for the record, I never identified as a classic VP style crossdresser.

Heck, I was even lectured by The Prince about how I was denying my femininity because I wasn’t a crossdresser like him.

Now, I’ve been called a crossdresser.  Michael/Miqqui Glibert, who I helped with some nail polish on the collar at Van Nuys, called me a crossdresser when using my “crossdresser years” idea in a paper (the idea that crossdressers only mature in their expression when they are out, and for some that means they only mature four days in a real year).  I called Gilbert on this, and was told that they hate identity politics and I should just give it up.   They hate identity politics?  It was Gilbert who assigned me an identity not of my choosing, and then refused to respond to my complaints.

When I came out in 1986, I came out as a-guy-in-a-dress, using my birth name and all.  This confused “Now I’m Biff, Now I’m Suzy” crossdressers no end, because they love their little game, the one where Suzy can stay in the closet while Biff is a big strong man.

My game, to explore androgyny and/or gynandrony, to try to be whole and complete while still living as a man, was baffling.  They didn’t want to change their life, no they wanted a lifestyle, a hobby.  Changing who they were everyday wasn’t it, it was just blowing off steam on a weekend. 

I remember one who wrote a collumn about things they saw and liked while in their boy clothes and called it “The Hidden CD” and asked why they couldn’t just call it “Always Trans.”  This is the premise of the badge I suggested, “This is what a Tranny wears,” which can be worn on boy suits, track suits or dinner suits.

What makes me crazy about The Prince crossdressing model, the one I argued against at IFGE 1995, just hours before I hosted the Virginia Prince Lifetime Achievement Awards for the second time, is how it works to deny that trangender expression has any deeper meaning other than the one we claim for it.

I know one person who wants to deny the term transgender to anyone who is in it for the sex, the guys who claim trans but then stay closeted and treat it like a fetish.  I have a real problem cutting these people off, because I really believe that anyone with an intense drive is trying to show something deeper.  After all, there are lots of ways to be male, not trans, and still dress up in costumes and have sex, if you are BDSM or Furry or even just an Elvis Impersonator.

But I do understand that there is some cross-gender expression that doesn’t come to the level of Trans.  Just because Larry The Cable Guy tried on a Carmen Miranda outfit in his new movie, “Larry The Cable Guy: Health Inspector,” doesn’t make it trans expression.

Crossdressers, well, with regular and complicated trans expression, well, I see their expression as revealing something deeper, revealing some inner meaning.

The Crossdressing model, though, well, it has to insist that expression has no meaning, that everyday they aren’t dressed they are normal, self-diagnosed heterosexual man. 

And that most often means that they need to deny that anyone can really be anything other than what they were assigned at birth, the compulsory role that this society ties to genital configuration.

Most recently, some people have gotten on a list to promote some trans mailing lists, where female partners are respected.  They tell everyone it will help with their lifestyle.

The transsexual identified are up in arms because they don’t have a lifestyle, they have a life.

But in doing that, they make the difference between transgender as a lifestyle and transsexual as a life.  I get peeved at that line, because being transgender has always been to me part of my life, not just part of some lifestyle.  In fact, my lifestyle pretty much denies trans, even as I try to squeeze it in.

TBB gets upset when I talk about the limits of crossdressers, even as she, now almost two years post op, now gets their limits too.  After all, she identified as one for a long, long time.

I offered her the distinction that works for me.  It’s the difference between people on a path to growth, trying to be more mature, and those who are denying that path, trying to stay stuck.  In many ways, it’s the same line as crossdresser years, the difference between those who want to grow and become more integrated every day, and those who want to have a lifestyle and disintegrate their life, compartmentalizing it with a vengance.

The one indicator I use is how these people affirm the paths of others.  People on a path, who have often been called travelers, want to listen to others, respect their journeys, learn from them, use others as mirrors to see new sides of themselves that help them grow.  People who want the comforts of stay stuck, who have often been called tourists,  want a bit of novelty, some stimulation, but assume that everyone else is like them, has the same limits & desires, and end up rejecting the challenges that travelers crave. 

I know lots of people who identify as crossdressers who are searching, and in that search are committed to the possibility of transformation and change beyond history, biology and tradition. 

But I know more people who identify as crossdressers, and even as transsexuals, who are committed to supporting the status quo and writing off expression as something without meaning, something that doesn’t reveal meaning, something that is just play. 

Does powerful play transform us or does it just let us blow off what we have to surrender to fit in roles?

This isn’t a clear line, of course.  I know some trannys who really say that they want to embrace their path and the paths of a wide range of others, but who practically have to stay unchanged to maintain their work, their family and their relationships.  They can’t afford to really explore change, even when they want to, and this shows in how they say they want to engage others with new and different experiences but they can’t find the time or energy to actually enter those other people’s worlds.  It’s not enough to just say that if they come to us we will be welcoming, we have to go to them, especially if they feel alienated or iosolated from us.

The classic crossdresser model, and those who practice it, make me very uncomfortable.  Men in dresses claiming femininity without ever moving beyond priviledge?  It’s icky.

I hate how they deal with me.  I spent a long time and lots of challenge to move beyond my inital training to enter the world of women and learn their language.  Crossdressers, though, can’t afford to learn to speak woman, only to pretend, and so they can only assume that I am just pretending better than they are. They reduce my journey to something within their realm of experience, and in doing so, they essentialize me in ways that are often more oppressive than the person-on-the-street uses.   I may know that they are doing this because they need that oppression to keep their “lifestyle” from changing their life, but it’s still hard for me.

I may know their actions are about them and not about me, but I’m still the one that gets bruised, bloodied and battered when they need to externally silence the same challenges they need to silence in their own heart & mind.

Crossdressers creep me out. As I promised TBB, though, I will always take everyone of them as an individual, as a group they, and the women who are invested in maintaining relationships with them are just creepy.

 

Every Day A Little Death

I once had a few scheduled chats with a pastor.   He asked me when I felt happy.

"Well, under the same circumstances everyone feels happy, I guess," was my reply.

"We are all different," he said.  "What makes you happy?"

"Well, when I felt seen, understood and valued for my highest contributions."

He thought for a moment and said "Hmmm, well, yes.  Maybe you are right, that is what makes everyone happy."

Our chats got odd when I gave him a folio of my writing and he quickly decided it was just a bit too good, too challenging.  He couldn't hold open the space of possibility, couldn't afford to see things in me that I couldn't yet express openly.

My body's been aching recently, from heart to teeth to ankle to shoulders to belly.  It amazes me how many years I can go without touch, without tenderness, without intimacy.  I mean, I figured I would be dead by now. 

The sun climbs higher in the sky, telling me that spring is coming, and whatever has supposed to be saved up for rebirth feels rotten now, soft and mouldy.  It's impossible for me to even imagine I can make it out of here to someplace that where I am seen, understood and valued for my highest contributions.

Now, of course, that sets off all the sickness seekers I have lived with so long, the parts of me that have bought into the model that my difference is illness that must be denied, looking for twisted thinking and working to muscle past it.  As much as my father has put me down for trying to muscle past things, the option of coming at them from a place of grace has always seemed impossible, beacuse my grace has been defined as the sickness I must deny.

So spring threatens and I hurt, but isn't it the hurting that makes me virtuous, the denial that makes me healthy?  I know that truth and exposure just makes me both dangerous and vulnerable, potent and woundable, powerful and weak, so the other must be right, right?

Take one for the team, and even when you see Smith wait for a Samantha we know is hurting, don't ever imagine that can happen for you.  Ah, my butch sisters have it all over us femmes in the MTF department.

Ah, chicken & cheese, chimps & children, just take the stabbing pain in your heart.

YSW

I got it again this morning at the supermarket. I mean, I’m used to it. I’ve been getting all my life, no matter how much I try to avoid it.

It’s the look. The YSW look. The “You’re So Weird” look.

Today it was when I stood waiting for someone to move the shopping cart that was between me and the frozen limeade concentrate I wanted.

She saw me waiting and moved the cart, but she shot me that look, that YSW look. You know, the look that starts quizzical, then shifts into feirce and ends with and eye roll, maybe accented with a sigh.

The YSW look says, I think, “I know what normal people do & say and what you just did or said isn’t what I would have done, so I have to signal to you and the world that you are so weird.”

It’s a code to most people that they have to learn to modify their behavior to be acceptable, normative. We learn it early, in school or maybe even before, when people want to just separate themselves from us, draw a quick line between the normative & good and the weird & bad.

I learned a long time ago how to manage that look, of course. Hell, that’s what most of my persona was, defense against YSW. Let fly, it will just bounce off all this damn armor plating that keeps my seeping pain inside and your little jibes outside.

But now, well, now, too much is at the surface and I notice. I still have the armor, so FU on the outside, but on the inside, it’s just another reminder that, well, that I’m so weird.

I saw a sign yesterday designed for a girl’s dorm room or such, with instructions to men. It was cute lines like “Don’t talk to my breasts. You won’t be meeting them.”

While I do understand that people feel this way, it seemed so weird to me that you can clearly know who you are, who is other, and end up being able to create some us versus them dichotomy. I mean, that’s so weird, that whole men/women split, so weird to me, and so blissfully normal to everyone else. Heck, just watch five minutes of The View and you can get that.

I live in a world where so much seems so weird to me that I have more or less given up on ever being able to fit in and be functional, but it’s also a world where I know that when the vote comes down on who is weird, I’m gonna be the odd one.

One of my foundational stories is when Miss Hansen, my fifth grade teacher, got a point of science wrong and I corrected her. She didn’t like that, but I wouldn’t back down, so she had the class vote about who was right. She won, of course, with a 100% majority, but I still wouldn’t back down. After I was trained as an elementrary school teacher, I understood the magnitude of the stick she attempted to demolish me with, and how weird I was that I wouldn’t back down with that huge slam of peer pressure. I was so weird.

(My mother also tells a story about Miss Hansen. She was visiting the classroom and so Miss Hansen picked me to do the example math problem on the board. I was supposed to fail to solve it, and then Miss Hansen would spend 45 minutes teaching us how to do it. Unfortunately, I solved the problem and my mother watched me sit in my own world as Miss Hansen spent 45 minutes of my time teaching the other children.)

The problem is that damn 14 year old girl inside of me, the one who wants to be pretty. She doesn’t want to be so weird, she wants to be one of the gang, welcomed and popular.

She doesn’t have a chance in hell.

So people shoot me YSW, and they bounce off the old iconoclast, but inside?

Ouch.

Far Shave

Yesterday, I was in the same store that I was in a week ago yesterday. 

Only difference was that last week, a gal said “Excuse me, ma’am,” to me as she had to cross my path, and this time I had to pop into the men’s room while my mother used the ladies.

I saw lots of women who were dressed nicely to move through their day. 

Only difference is that I wasn’t one of them.

I was driving my mother back from the hairstylists to puck up my father, immersed in “Aviation Week & Space Technology” at the library.

She rubbed my face, now with a weeks worth of stubble, and said “Ah, the beard is back.  You know, you can even shave while we are at home.  I mean, I don’t know how I will handle it, but you can.”

“It’s not you, so much,” I said.  “It’s Nicholas.  After he figures out it takes me a couple of days to get him back.”

“I don’t know how he feels,” she replied.  “He just goes cold, closes down.”

“Exactly my point,” I replied.

I don’t want to make them uncomfortable.  And as a woman, I am not exactly low-maintinance.  No woman born male is, as Andy Warhol noted so long ago. 

But packed away, it’s just shit and shower, change my socks and skivies and move on.   I’m as low-maintenance as I can be.  Heck, I’m even negative maintinence, letting lots of important things decay.

And I’m maybe as defended as I can be, too.

Vulnerability is hard, expecially after a life of people telling me why I am wrong and need to change to be more normie. 

Hard.

Apologies

To everyone who has accidentally ended up here, though the kind links of Gwen or Gwyneth, or even just the “next” function in WordPress, I apologize.

I know that most people write blogs to address an audience, to publish something for others.

This blog, well, not so much. In the words of Greer Lankton, “It’s All About Me Not You.” I spent a decade trying to find the balanced, delicate language to connect with people about who I am and the challenges I face, but now, this isn’t it. I don’t cut things into small bite here, don’t try to make sure that I pace myself and stay close to expectations. The politics aren’t sweet and the ideas aren’t always digestible.

All that mainstreaming, well, didn’t help me so much. Maybe it was just because I didn’t do it well enough, deep enough, nicely enough. After all, I’m not an extrovert, except on stage. And somehow, you need to be an extrovert before you get on stage to find an audience.

Nope. This isn’t about you, it’s about me, and I feel sorry for people who have to read it, expecially people who are unsuspecting about the content. Now, I know that leaving here is as easy as punching the button for another bookmark, that no one really is hurt by an internet page, but I still feel bad.

That’s a challenge for me in life, too. I try not to be “in-your-face,” especially with people I love, but the fact that what is just normal, sweet and pretty to me seems “in-your-face” to others, challenging, intense & queer, well, that makes negotiating the line tough. I pull back and hide, and to many, like the next-door neighbours, they well may think that means I think I have something to hide.

Is it my job to be concerned with the sensibilities and comfort of others? Miss Manners would tell me yes, it is, and I love Miss Manners. One person who knew me was shocked by that revelation years ago, not imagining how ettiquette & grace could be something even on my radar screen. And when some woman pushes by me in the store as I wait for a woman to pass in front of me, well, I know that there are many in this society for whom grace isn’t at all visible when they have their own agenda to push.

I am a raging queer who cares deeply about respecting others, and who doesn’t want others to feel uncomfortable. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

So to all of you who happen upon this spot on the web and it makes you feel, well makes you feel anything bad or uncomfortable, I deeply apologize. At no time was it my intent to trick you or decieve you or challenge your choices and your life, which are your choices and your life, and you have ultimate responsibility and control over them. You get to set your own boundaries, and if just happening on this page has overstepped your boundaries, then I apologize.

I do know that it is only your body and your property that can be protected by society, not your comfort, and that I have the right to self-expression as much as anyone else. I know that I get to speak my piece, to make my choices as much as you.

But I feel bad if you were hurt or insulted or challenged by anything I do here, and I deeply apologize. Sorry.

And if you can read it, you just heard one of the biggest reasons it’s hard to be me.

Highly Sensitive, Spirited Introverts

I have never thought that the primary influencer of my experiences is that I am trans.  I know many other people who are trans who have approached the world in very different ways.  In fact, I know of no other person who has experienced trans in the way that I have.

For a while I explored ADD as an issue.  While I was moved by the recreations of the battles between kids and parents over the demand to fit in, and while I knew myself as a more mercurial than earthbound, it never seemed to be me.  I do know that a few years later they would have drugged me down in school.

After glimpsing a TV interview, I found another category of books about Highly Sensitive, Spirited or Introverted children that resonates a bit.  The problem is, of course, that finding books about children doesn’t help an adult who grew up going though the gauntlet of attempts at behavioral change that ignored their essence, spirit, or maybe even the biology of their brain.

By the time we get to middle age we are such a mish-mosh of experiences and essences that it’s impossible to trace any thread down and say “I am that!” no matter how comforting that fixed diagnosis/definition may sound to a society that believes purity is truth and ambiguity is lies.

But I have a map of my own scars, the ones that make things that are simple to others heavy lifing to me. And the messages in these books seem to have patterns I recognize.

Too bad, too late. 

Speaking Of

I was recently hit by an old friend who told me that while I spoke to the marginalized, she spoke to ALL trans people (the caps are hers.)

You know if you look at the stats on this blog, or the impact of anything else I write, you will quickly understand that I am speaking to nobody.  There are a few who come back, but mostly, people don’t visit, and when they do, they don’t come back.

If I am doing anything here, it is speaking for myself.  I am doing my best to make my thoughts and feelings visible. 

First and foremost, I am making them visible to me. How can I know what is behind my eyes until I cast it in front of me?

I was speaking with Sparkle yesterday and she noted that people didn’t believe her when she told them that gender transition was mostly about self-discovery.  It’s one thing to believe that somehow, transition is about bringing your idealized self into vision, but quite another to believe that transition is about bringing the hidden into a world that burns away the false and the fickle to reveal a deeper and more human (more messy?) self. 

You gotta show it to know it, need to reveal yourself to see yourself, need to expose what is hidden to light so both the truth and the twists can be visible.  Once we do that, we have to choose how much we defend our own faith and inner knowledge and how much we let the flames burn the false away.

I write for myself.  That’s one reason I haven’t published, because to publish isn’t for you, it’s for others.  Publishing gives your work to publishers and critics and readers so that they can get what they need out of it.  Yes, there are things the writer gets from publishing, but those things are different than what you get out of the act of writing as self-exposure.

Maybe, if I had a good relationship with the world I would have a good relationship with giving my art to them.

My friend said, though, that I don’t write for ALL transgendered people (like she does) rather I write for the marginalized.

I keep going back and reading through the stuff I wrote years ago, and it’s so very nice.   It talks about how to be strong and effective in the world, how to move past your own pain and challenges to be a better communicator, a better advocate. 

In other words, it speaks strongly for how to use rational and effective techniques that put your heart aside to speak to the mainstream.

That writing, though, was my response to the mainstream, the kind of stuff written from the perspective of being there.  The stuff I have been writing since, on the other hand, is about following my heart and my feelings rather than following the expectations of normies.

I don’t think I write to the marginalized.  I think that I write to the part of people that feels marginalized, that feels pushed out of the mainstream, lost and alone.  I call those parts the “too” parts of people, the places where we are too smart, too sensitive, too sharp, too insightful, too intense, too potent, too big or just too beautiful to be one of the crowd.

For most people, it becomes vital to deny these parts of themselves.  Living on the grid is how they take life, and to cling to the rewards of the mainstream they have to fit in.  And fitting in requires denying the places where we are too much and stick out.  We play small because it gets us what we need, allows us to take care of ourselves and the people we love, like our children.

I understand this.  It’s why I have never tried to put myself out to a big audience, because seeing through my eyes can really be unpleasant in a life where you are doing what you have to do to stay on the grid.  People need lots of latent inhibition to survive this blindingly fast consumer culture, lots of insulation and defense, and stripping that away exposes pain that they have no room for, that has been hidden because they cannot handle it.

I know why people who love me have to keep me at arms length.  Who can afford to get too close to a fire that burns away the insulation we need to survive?  If I could just figure out a way to be less — less intense, less cutting, less overwhelming, less questioning, less visionary, less whatever — it would be better for everyone.  I might even be happy and have some success. 

I get that.  And I also know why so many suggest that pills which add insulation might be the solution. 

My father often tells me that if I could just be a different person, slower, less intense, more like a farmer than a hunter, that my life would be different.

I asked him once if he remembered my favourite poem from when I was three years old.  He didn’t.  It was from A.A. Milne, and I’ll enter it here from memory 

Christopher Robin goes hoppity, hoppity
hoppity hoppity hop.
Whenever I ask him politely to stop
He says he can’t possibly stop.
For if poor little Christopher ever stopped hopping}
he couldn’t go anywhere
wouldn’t go anywhere.
So Christopher Robin goes hoppity, hoppity
hoppity hoppity hop.

I have always known who I was.  And I have always faced people who tell me that if I could just be someone different — and usually they mean if I could be more like them — that my life would be better.

It never worked.  And the key to transition, as Sparkle tells people who can’t listen, is not that you become the idealized person you want to be, but rather that you become even more the person your creator made you, whoever that is.

I speak for myself because that is the only thing I can do.  I speak my view on this world that we all share.  I speak for being too in a world where being the same seems the only way to get rewards, where if you are held back during the window of possibility things can build up and leave your crippled forever. 

That’s not the sweet pap of transcendence, where normies want cripples to be symbols of getting beyond damage to be more normal, want us to be symbols that if we crips can do it, anyone can.  I tried that, I really did, but maybe I’m too damaged or maybe I’m too stubborn, or maybe (as my parents tried to tell me as a kid) just too stupid to get it.

But it is speaking what I know, what I have found to be true.

Even if I know that it is going to cause most to just dissmiss me and move on.