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.