Earnest & Dour

You know, when people around you don’t get the joke, when laughter doesn’t circulate, well, it’s easy to turn to Earnest & Dour.

Janice Dickinson admits she’s having fun testing male models with her transsexual protege, Claudia Charrie[NO PICS HERE, SORRY GUYZ]z: “”When it was time for a photo session with another man I had to disclose to the other model that she truly is a man.””

Oh, god, when you have allies like that, who needs enemas?

In the early 1960’s, when Dean Martin & Frank Sinatra & Sammy Davis Jr. were onstage, everyone knew that Sammy was black, or at least that he was a negro. But to them, Black was just another ethnicity, like Italian or Jewish, a source of humor.

In the late 1960’s, though, black activism was in force, and for the new generation it was hard to see being black as just something to joke about anymore. Sammy’s classic “low hug” of Richard Milhous Nixon seemed to finally write off that humor as a pathetic attempt to be accepted by powerful whites.

Still, in Sammy’s performances there was lots of brilliance that let him take the essentials from his marginalized culture and make really potent art with it.  That division between mainstream and marginalized left him as an outsider on both sides, but it also left him unique and memorable.

When I look at drag performers today, I think about the black performers of early in the century.  Black performers often had to appear in blackface, and even after they didn’t, they kept up at least a surface veneer of shuckin’ & jivin’ even if there were subversive and ironic elements laced though their shows that the marginalized could get while the mainstream missed them.

Dragface is what is acceptable as trans today.  Nora Grinberg has been talking about Jillian Todd Weiss’ notion that since marginalization or assimilation is the norm for trans expression, it’s trans expression that are both out and normative that are the queerest, most transgressive expressions.

I laughed recently when Lady Bunny (or at least her alter-ego) went on jury duty.  Her biggest revelation was that women are kind of smart and cool, and maybe she should spend more time with them.  A drag queen who characatures women actually being forced to spend time with women born female and deciding that there was something to be learned there?  Amazing!

I love it when I talk to TBB, because with her I can talk about what’s funny around trans without having to turn to just dick jokes.  What’s funny is funny, but unless you have experienced it, immersed in it, there is no way you can get the joke.  And trust me, subsituting jokes that make people laugh because trannys are “really men,” well, that’s not funny at all.

I miss, miss, miss opening my sense of humor.  I hate being earnest & dour.  But until others can get the joke, and not just demand mainstream dragface, well, earnest & dour is what I need to be.

In The Soup

We are the soup we live in.  It is what we eat, drink and breathe that defines us.

This is the process of immersion, and what we are immersed in becomes the prism we see the world through.   If we are immersed in entemology, we see bugs, if we are immersed in fundamentalism, we see heresy.

The process of immersion is the process that creates who we are. 

Our first immersion is involuntary, with our family and community being all we are able to see.

Soon, though, we get to choose what we will be immersed in — sports, fashion, books, TV, whatever.  That immersion, though, has to be limited.  We still have family and community demanding we be immersed in them.

If trans is one of the journeys to find the self beyond social expectations, is it possible for us as humans to do that without immersion in some social context?

growls

One of the most disconcerting things you can do on a trans list frequented by crossdressers and nouveau transsexuals is to act like a woman.

Someone, usually with a name like Candi or Emerald, is bound to get crazy over too many talky posts hashing out issues and end up saying “Get to the point, goddamnit!  We don’t need all this blather!”

And if you respond with that ironic woman chat that lets a wife say “Oh, honey, you are such a good driver!” in a way that elicits a chuckle from her girlfriend in the back seat, well, then things really get crazy.

For people trained men in head-on conflict, woman power is pretty baffling and even more frustrating.  And since they assume everyone on the list is like them, a man-in-a-dress, well, they can just cut out all that phoney crap.

It’s always interesting to hear the reasoning behind men who want to date shemales.  Some say that they like women’s bodies but hate all that emotional crap, and want someone who looks like a woman but who thinks like a man.  After all, wouldn’t anyone with a penis wanna fuck like they do?

Now, very few people born male who want to go to all the trouble of having their body femaled do it because they think like a man.  But for cash, they are willing to play a role for a while, the beautiful breasted fuck guy of men’s porn-driven fantasies.  After all, they gotta pay for their life somehow.

I have found that people who say that there is no difference between men and women are almost invariably men.  They have never been “other,” having to live in a world where they both have to manage mainstream and connect with others like themselves.  Women may baflle men, but women know they have to manage men, the ones they are in relationship with, be they sons, husbands, lovers or bosses.    

I know I used to frustrate partners because the standard men management methods never worked on me; instead, I understood the tricks and deflated the power.  “You are emotionally uncastratable!” one woman said to me, in frustration.  Yeah, if you don’t think your power is in your balls, if they don’t feel like the center of you, that happens.

But these guys in transspace, who can’t imagine how anyone born female can be a woman, let alone anyone born male, well, they get cranky as heck when women talk gets in the way of their laser beam jawboning, and work to make the place back into a lockerroom as soon as possible.

Too bad they don’t have any incentive to be nice to us.

Peonies

Deadheaded the peonies yesterday.  Their big, bountiful blooms had faded and it was time to tell them not to set seed, just to stay in place.

One of the big losses about being dead is that the days run together.  They are spent waiting to do what my mother decides needs to be done, helping my father do what he needs to take care of her.  Since I don’t really exist, I don’t really experience anything.

I notice that loss when the natural milestones come.  The peonies have come and gone and I haven’t really experienced them, haven’t felt change touch my skin.

That nice Rabbi Schmuley was on again last night in Shalom In The Home.   It was a family where joy had fled and drudgery dragged everyone down.  Schmuley got people to see how they had given up, taken to nagging rather then inspiring, lost their own joy and gratitude, turning life to a grind rather than an ecstatic dance.

For a dead person, that’s hard to see.  It reminds me of what I have lost; not the actuality of being loose and free and dancing though life, because I have always had to carry much & stay hidden, but rather the hope that someday there would be space for that before I was too old.

The peonies are gone.  Time mushes by, and I just worry about how to endure the losses that are coming. You can’t stop loss in life — the only thing you can do is make some wins, create some successes, follow some bliss, dance some ectasy, share some joy, create and laugh, so that life is always reinvigorated with shared and uplifting energy.

But that’s not where I can find it, and so I deadhead the peonies and miss the time they bloomed while I was just dead.

Fuck

You can't do trans without fuck.

You can do trans without fucking, sure — hell, the legendary Grae Phillps called one of her shows Everyone's Fucking But Me — but not with out the twin fucks; "What the fuck!" and its corollary, "Fuck You!"  (If you have real issues with anglo-saxon language, "What the hell!" and "Go to Hell!" may be subsituted for the above.)

To walk beyond the voices you hear that tell you that you shouldn't cross gender lines, even the voices implanted in your head, you have to be able to get beyond caring what other people will think of your choices.  For most of us, the moment we get past our internal editor is the moment we say "Oh, what the fuck!" often followed with a little chaser like "we only live once" or "it will be fun" or "it won't kill me."

That "What the fuck!" moment is the moment we break the bonds.

The next challenge, though, is when some external voice tries to remind you of all those sensible restrictions and boundaries, tries to tell you that your "What the fuck!" behavior is bad or wrong or just unattractive.

It's that moment when you have to decide what to do.  Do you try to ignore them (conceal), try to explain it with a rationalization (convince), try to dismiss it as a joke (clown), try to agree with them (concede),  or do you drop the big one on them?

"Fuck you, you self-righteous prude, fuck you."

The first step is being ready to say "what the fuck," but until you are ready to say "fuck you" to anyone who tries to shame, humilate or diminish you, you can't really take any big steps. 

You don't have to say it blunt, of course.  I remember a woman born female coming out of one meeting in MSL's last year at IFGE, and saying to me "I love that you know how to say 'Fuck You' in so many nice ways!"  Women in business learn the techniques, though all too often the nice "fuck yous" just frustrate the fuckers enough for them to want to fuck everyone over because they can't easily fucking defend themselves.

"Fuck you, you bastard."  It's an important part of the arsenal of any marginalized people who are fighting stigma and oppression, but it is the a-bomb.  It makes a quick explosive statement all right, but doesn't help much in rebuilding things.  That takes more concilation, more connection, more openness & vulnerability.

This is the challenge.  We can't get anywhere just by telling everyone to fuck off, but neither can we face down those who want to silence us without having the willingness to just tell them to go fuck themselves.  It takes balance, the balance between not being willing to swallow ourselves and being willing to be open to others with compassion.

I know that my current issue is being way to good at swallowing, and not nearly being comfortable with in-your-face fuck-off stuff.  I want to be tender with people, and I want them to be tender with me.  I didn't engage my transgender to be a fat-fuck waving her whatever at the world, because when I engaged my trans I found a sensitive femme who wants to bring healing.

But I also know that my trans nature is iconoclastic and indvidual, and part of healing is being willing & able to cut away the mushy rationalizations to reveal strong, healthy and supple thought.

"What the fuck!" and "Fuck you!" are tools we use to cut though the expectations placed on us, to move beyond the tame and claim our wild individual nature.  And that's why ou can't do trans without fuck.

And the people who think that fuck should never be required, that we never have to be rude to claim our divinity?

Well, fuck'em if they don't get the joke.

And that's my fucking sermon for Pride Day '06.

True Trannies

The holy grail for many, many trannies has been to find a differential diagnosis that quickly reveals the difference between true trannies, the real people born tranny, and the dilletantes who just play at trans.

The goal of each of these techniques is always to separate the true from the false, the good from the bad, the blessed from the evil, the holy from the unholy, even if they are couched in some milder purpose, such as finding language to explain differences so trannys will be easier to understand.

A term is a benign word that we like, a tool to express our position and point of view. A label is a invasive word that we don’t like, a weapon to diminish us by cutting us from the pack. And the difference between terms and labels is simply that, how we like the words being applied to us. If we would use it for ourselves, we consider it terminology that benefits understanding, but if we feel it erases us, assigning something false, we consider it labeling that simply is out to dismiss.

Whose ideas need to be considered and respected in our model of what trans is, and who can be dismissed as off the mark, over the edge, not really real?

I thought it would be interesting to recap some of the tests I have heard over the years to determine who is a true tranny

  • A true tranny has had genital reconstruction surgery (GRS).
  • A true tranny always hated their birth genitals, never using them for pleasure
  • A true tranny was never successful in their assigned gender
  • A true tranny has no fetishes.
  • A true tranny tucks.
  • A true tranny has no choice in needing GRS.
  • A true tranny refuses to buy into the binary.
  • A true tranny assimilates and passes as soon as their birth defect is healed.
  • A true tranny never allows their trans nature to be visible.
  • A true tranny never goes out for sex.
  • A true tranny puts on their wig first when dressing.
  • A true tranny is suffering.
  • A true tranny rejects manhood.
  • A true tranny has been raped.
  • A true tranny treats his wife like a queen.

I’m sure I have missed many of these assertions, so feel free to share what you have heard.

But they all come down to one thing: a true tranny is like me, and a false tranny, like them, can be dismissed as flawed, as fatuous, as fake.

Every time I hear some start a differential diagnosis, I leave the room. We need language, terms, yes, but labels, well, they tend to be used for less than virtuous reasons, to dissmiss & defile, assigning motives to choices and then dismissing those motives as less than virtuous, less than pure, less than real.

I believe that every bit of trans expression is an attempt to tell a truth, to reveal something that is within us, even if that truth makes us ambiguous, makes us messy, or that truth is something we feel the obligation to deny even as we are expressing it.

I also believe what we work so hard to deny in others are things that we feel a need to deny in ourselves. Our denial is virtuous, so their indulgence must be the opposite of virtuous. This is certianly what has been discovered in deeply homophobic men, that they are more responsive to homoerotic stimuli than average men.

When we need to deny, we need to destroy, and justifying that external destruction as we justify our internal destruction, breaking anything that isn’t authentic or virtuous, well, that just seems to make sense.

You know the final trans surgery, right? It’s when we pull the stick out of our own ass, when we let go and embracee ourselves as our creator made us. It’s not until we can do that that we can embrace others as God made them, messy, ambiguous and human.

And that beautiful ambiguity? Well, to me, that’s what’s true.

Caregiver

My father's prostate cancer treatment, a clinical trial he was scheduled to join next week, has been cancelled.

There was a technical issue that had taken time and energy to settle, but she felt the need to raise it again with the medical monitors, just to make sure it was resolved, and they went against her.  She wanted her ample ass covered, and now, at best, there is a three month delay in treatmenent.  Her bad.

There has been a lot of buildup to this treatment.  Some can be seen, for example, $6,000 worth of imaging on Tuesday, but much of it has been emotional.  My mother and my father both had to deal with this setback that came only because of a clerical issue.

As a caregiver, the most important thing is offering balance, ballast and support to people who are struggling, with dimished heart capacity that seems to be causing diminished mental capacity, with prostate cancer that has metastasized to the bone.

Now, I have an emotional response to this too.  But since I have no caregiver and only a tissue thin support system, there is no place for me to ground out.  I need to be there for my parents, but really, well, no one is there for me.  I mean, I'd love to put on my cute heels, go out with friends, dance & drink and feel life just like any gal, but that's not an option here.

I tried to get to a caregiver event yesterday, but the car overheated and I had to deal with that without attracting the attention of our friends in law enforcement, who will find me marked as deliquent in their computer.  I've driven bombers all my life, though, replacing starters in parking lots and u-joints on the shoulder, so I could handle it.

I'm not sure I would have got much out of the event.  It was for caregivers with money, and while my parents have resources, that's not me.

I don't really mind being a caregiver.  After all, I am a femme, and we know how to be the mommy.  But I also have to deny that femme part of me, because people don't really have the energy to engage that part of a quarter-ton bald aging male-bodied person.

That's one reason this blog is so self-centered, because my life is so much about self-denial.  My anger and distress at events like the setbacks, or whatever, just have no place in the lives of two people facing the challenges of aging.  Of course, they didn't have much place in the lives of two people rasing kids, either; how do you think I learned about all of this.

In the car, driving to pick up my mother, my father went intio a little rap about me being capable and how they want to help me get back on my feet.  It was very hard, because while he was being sweet and caring, I understood how much I had to not engage my own issues and empowerment in order to keep caring for them.  I was boiling at what he couldn't hear, while understanding he was being as positive and loving as he could be.

The challenge, it seems to me, is not just to give the care people know they need, but also to give the care they don't know they need.  That's one thing for a mom, whose kids know they don't know what they need, but when you are dealing with aging people, it's something else again.

It's something else again in society, too.  To give not just our lowest and most basic gifts, making sure people are fed and the house is kept, but also to make sure that the future is considered and change happens.  We have so much to give, and so much of what we have to give is discomforting the status quo so the new can come.

It's a challenge.  And when you are decrepit because you aren't being taken care of, rather you are just denying and swallowing, well, not really a challenge that's easy to face. 

Meaning

The best part of who I am, and yes, the worst part of who I am because every coin has two sides, is the part that looks for meaning, for connection in everything.

To me, there are always lessons to be learned, revelations to be had, connections to be revealed in the smallest things.  That's great, because it's full of insight, that's bad because it's full of weight.

The trannies I always have the most trouble with are the ones who say that their expression means nothing, reveals nothing, that it's just a hobby.

And the people I have trouble with are the people who run away from lessons, insight and connections in order to stay in their own comfortable blindness, an ignorance that empowers their sickness.  I'm great to have around if you want to heal, crappy to have around if you need to stay sick.

It is the search for meaning that offers the only joy I know. 

And that's both divine and sad.

Counting Characters

I was walking down the main asile at the store when someone pushed a shopping cart out in front of me, coming out a side asile without looking at who they would run into.

I stood stock still while she pushed her cart in front of me, gabbing with the woman pushing the cart behind her in a language I didn't understand.  Arabic, maybe?

The moment that the second woman, her cart and her child were clear of my lane, I moved rapidly to continue walking.

That's when the jabber was split by a powerful high pitched shriek aimed directly at my left ear.  It was very long and very loud and very painful, leaving my ear ringing.

As I walked, seeing three clerks in the shoe department peering with quizzical looks to see what had caused the woman to scream, I tried to understand what happened.

The only thing I could guess was that the woman was so in her own world that my movement startled her, so she shrieked directly into my ear.  She was blind to me and my simple continuing down the path she and her friend had blocked without consideration for my right-of-way was enough to shatter her expectations.

My simple movement broke her comfort, and my ear is ringing because she didn't have the grace to see what was right in front of her.

Is that something she would want someone to do to her and her child?

One problem in this country is that because suburban living has eroded community standards, people feel free to do what they want rather than doing the right thing. Because community is exploded and mobile, self-interest is valued over standing, and many focus on their own comfort rather than not doing unto others what would be hateful to them. 

The local school district is part of the national Character Counts coalition.  That means that they like to go around and tell kids that no matter what everyone else is doing, you need to do the right thing.

The reason they feel such a need to say that is simple: this society is too surface, so they don't believe that characters count.  They have a big regional school that homogenizes kids to a smooth suburban blend, and while that pulp may come in a few flavours — nerd, jock, hippie and so on — it's all the same mix.

Being too different is just a problem.  So instead of encouraging characters to develop their own unique expression, standing against the crowd, they just tell the kids to remember that character counts and hope that the kids will go against social pressure when the time comes.

In the end, of course, most of them don't.  They blend in, go along with the drill, follow the rules, and come out the other end like product.  You can't have character counting unless you respect characters, empowering people to be hardcore themselves rather than expecting them to look like the rest of the people.

Trannys want what everyone wants, to be able to just blend in, do a nice mediocre job and have a nice mediocre life.  Bella Abzug was clear that the point of the women's movement wasn't to have a female Einstein regognized as a male Einstein would be, but rather to have a female schlemiel to have the same opportunities as a male schlemiel.

In other words, while we want the same option to be a special, unique and visible character that others have, we don't want to have to be a special unique and visible character just to be ourselves in the world.

Unfortunately, that's an option that escapes most of us.  For us, at least the ones of us born male, to be out is to be visible as different.  We don't just have the obligations of character, we have the obligations to be a character, visible, identifiable, and easily characterized, for good or bad.

It's kind of like the Roman Catholic position on celibacy.  Priests can choose to be celibate, but those with homosexual orientation have the obligation of celibacy thrust onto them, no choice. Of course, they can't also choose to be a priest either, at least not offically.  Any wonder that sexuality gone unexplored leads to dark places, that the choice to deny can be devastating?

Culture rationalizes this obligation of trannys to be a character, usually a cartoon character or clown, by the chain of thought that assumes if they were to dress up funny they would be doing it to amuse or entertain, or at least to garner some attention, so trannys who dress up must be doing that too.

In other words, trannys dress up to provoke, so they deserve whatever they get.

This leads trannys to a weird choice.  We can either seek to become invisible, so we don't provoke anyone, in any way, that might be linked to transness, or we can seek to become comically visible, making clear our expression is a costume for play.  Choosing to be mature and take power in a reasonable & respectful way while still being visibly tranny is very difficult, because there are so many people who expect us to manage their fear, discomfort, amusment or curiosity about our expression.

This happens with others too, like little people, but in our case the acts seem volitional; we choose what to wear in the morning. 

In fact, gender is all about choices, even if we don't often recognize them as such, because our gendered expression is always made up of choices that are designed to make us blend in or stand out, to express our similarity & connection or our indviduality & separation, choices to excite or calm people, choices to convince them of our respectability or our thrilling nature and so on.

I know lots of tranny people who speak proudly of their choice to stand out as a character, to be different and visible, to be themselves. 

As a devout iconoclast, I understand this pride.  I was the kid voted class indvidualist in my yearbook.   I have always walked alone. 

But as a transwoman, well, I know that a tranny born male who stands alone remains a man, even if a man in a dress.  My history is to keep the tender parts of me hidden behind the facade, not to turn them into some cartoon exterior that leaves me even more isolated.

Sandra Cole once hesitantly told me that she saw me even more femme in boy clothes and I laughed.  I get that, because in boy clothes I am not exposed in the same way I am when people see me as a guy-in-a-dress, and I don't have to keep up the same defenses.  For me, trans has always been something very personal and very internal, something needing protection, not something that averts eyes.

How do I open my introvert heart to a society that doesn't have the grace to see and respect characters?  They now have to try to instill character with external methods, but until their is a respect for other people, rather than an ignorance of them so determined it ends in shreiks when they move, how does character triumph?

I mean, heck, Reader's Digest doesn't even offer My Most Memorable Character anymore. 

I get the idea that the only way for trannys to survive in society is to stand out as characters.

I just don't see how a society that doesn't value the unique, challenging, iconoclastic voices of true characters will ever really value character, no matter how many Republicans they elect.

Bad Activism

One sure sign of bad activism is when you get pissed because people aren't supporting your attempts at activism and then decide lecture your target audience on how they are lazy piece of shit sloths who don't deserve you and your efforts.

If your activism isn't activating other people, that's not their fault. 

But for people who see themselves as victims, dying for the sins of others, it's got to be someone else's fault.

Right?

Keyhole

An old friend knows something about me.  She knows I am big, and that bigness can be overwhelming to her.

That's the reason, a few years ago, she said she could only handle me if I obeyed certain rules that limited her exposure to me.  The only rules she could suggest, though, were limited volume of communication, because how do you set up rules against limited intensity of communication? 

The gimmick was, though, that I would be responsible for enforcing the rules.  I had to keep my communication down to a level that didn't disquiet her, didn't disturb her comfort too much.

I agreed that she has the right to set her own boundaries.  I work hard to respect boundaries. 

I just believed that once she set her groundrules, I had a choice to play or not.  I chose not to play.

After years of disconnect, she recently suggested the same deal.  I recently declined again.

I know the compassionate part.  This is someone reaching out, someone who wants to connect, and one has to start somewhere.  Just take it one step at a time and see where it leads this time.

But I also know the trick.  I'm allowed to squeeze though her keyhole, and she feels like she is letting me in, but the minute I get too big, too intrusive, too intense, too potent, she gets to cut me off sharp and claim it was my fault, my problem, my rudeness, since she declared that it was my responsibility to enforce the rule of not making her uncomfortable, not her responsibility for her own feelings.

In other words, it feels to me like a setup.  I'm being set up as the bad one, the abuser, and she is ready to pounce.  That don't feel like a fair deal, and does feel like it's gonna hurt.

I have a friend with Dissociative Identity Disorder.  Her therapist asked me to help, even brought me into session to define the relationship.

In the deep of one night, my friend kept calling.  I wrote e-mails on the calls and mailed them to this therapist.

That morning, when she saw six emails from me, she freaked.  And she did what she needed to do to stay comfortable: she accused me doing something bad (using her as my therapist) and cut me off. 

In other words, she treated me like an abuser.  She decided that I was beyond negotiations, and just cut me off, after one night of reports. 

Later, after a note from me and my friend having problems she saw the error, wanted me back in the loop.  Needless to say, I was circumspect.

That's the problem, of course.  I've been cut off at the keyhole a few too many times, and know how bad it feels to me.  I know I'm not some tiny little being, but I also know that I am the way my mother in the sky made me.

I get that people have comfort zones.  I get that I'm not in most people's comort zone.  But I also get my bigness not my fault, and enforcing their comfort zone isn't my responsibility.

But I also know those damn damn dangerous keyholes are the only way into being close to other people.

LG, bt

——– Original Message ——–
From: Callie <CallieATQueerBitch.com>
To: cdtga1@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [cdtga1] LG, bt
Date: 17/06/2006 9:24 AM

Heard Libby Post’s commentary on WAMC yesterday.

She says she wants to talk about “Top Ten Reasons LGBT people have to be proud of being who we are.”

What I find amazing is that while she uses the words “gay” and “lesbian” over and over, she never once uses the word “bisexual” or “transgender.”

All these people who claim to speak for LGBT and then speak for themselves, who are not B or T, well, they make my blood boil.

You wanna do marketing to the “gay and lesbian community” well, that’s great, but why the hell are you using B & T? Just to sound cool and inclusive while not being inclusive? Transgender is not just another “sexual orientation.” In fact, maybe homosexuality is just another “gender variant” behaviour.

Grrrrrrr….

But see what you think:

http://www.wamc.org/compost.html

——– Original Message ——–
From: Callie <CallieATQueerBitch.com>
To: cdtga1@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Re: [cdtga1] LG, bt
Date: 18/06/2006 9:21 AM

Contempt on our part will avail us nothing.

I’m not contemptuous. I’m tired.

I actively participated in CDGLCC events for a decade, including writing a column in CommUnity for a year, doing weekend workshops and so on.

I agree with you, that it is discrimination against gender variant behaviors that forms any common ground with gay & lesbian people. Unfortunately, many gay & lesbian people believe that the best way to handle that discrimination is to enforce gender norms in their own community, using the power of desire to enforce those norms.

It’s the classic challenge. “Sure, I stuff mice up my butt like a normal person, but he stuffs guinea pigs up his butt, and that’s just sick!” The line of normal is drawn just past where we are, so we can join the normies in finding some other behavior beyond the pale. We find someone else who should be limited and oppressed, ask “How queer is too queer?” and by finding someone else who can be defined as too queer end up positioning ourselves as “just right.”

For me, the question is who speaks for what community. I love it when gay and lesbian people speak for their own views, their own lives. I love it when they see commonality with transpeople and work hard to be our allies.

I am tired, though, of people speaking for the lesbian and gay community while calling it the LGBT community. To me, that doesn’t feel like they are allies, it feels like they are expanding their purview by just giving lip service, like they are heeding political correctness rather than engaging the challenges.

I don’t think these people are my enemies. I don’t even think that most of them are trying to be dismissive, rather they have the good intention of inclusion, even if they don’t have the internalization of it.

The notion that “Attractive behavior is important,” though, makes me very uncomfortable. Sure, I believe that Harville Hendrix was right when he said that no one can really hear us until they believe we have heard them.

We have to be open and engaged in the stories of lesbian and gay people, understanding their shared cultural touchstones and the challenges of their lives before we can become allies of them. We have to be prepared to stand up for them if we want them to stand up for us, rather than being focused on how we separate from gay & lesbian people.

However, that doesn’t mean we have all the obligation. I am still surprised that no one in this group has expressed any outrage at the school who banned the transwoman from the prom because they believed that others may be disruptive because of her presence.

As long as we are held responsible for how other people respond to us, we will always be stigmatized and marginalized. Others can become disruptive, it will be assigned as our fault, and we will lose.

There has been some interesting chat the last few days about a story in the Houston Chronicle which talked of a transitioning police officer. No one in the police department would say anything negative, so the reporter went to some religious official who had been transnegative in the past to get a dismissive quote.

Why did the newspaper think they had to find someone to speak against trans, and search for one outside of the situation? Was that good reporting, or just yellow journalism?

If others have issues with us, is that really our responsibility? I know that gay and lesbian liberation would never have come this far if they let others opinions stifle them. AIDS, though, made it required to be queer and be here, no matter how unattractive that seemed to some.

I remember when Vicky Steele transitioned, and she wanted an article on trans for lesbians. I wrote one, but she didn’t like it much. On the other hand, Jamison Green liked it, and that’s enough for me.

Two Reasons To Be Wary Of Transgender
http://callan.transpractice.com/text/waryoftg.html

Lesbians and Gays are moving into the mainstream. Libby Post makes it clear that part of her income is marketing to that demographic.

Trannys, well, we aren’t doing that. And that separation between mainstream and marginalized feels to me like it’s growing.

I’m glad you have found a home in an LGBT environment. That’s great.

But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t tried, and that I haven’t been found to be “too queer” in many places, even in a tasteful Worthington by JC Penny suit.

But as long as we dismiss others as just being contemptuous rather than engaging their concerns, we just keep the marginalization going.

Dancing With The Elephant

Some of us learned very early how to dance with the elephant.

We were smart and we were aware, and somewhere, close to us, there was an elephant that scared the heck out of us.  That elephant was a big, narccistic person who never seemed to notice the little people around them, instead being always ready to stomp down.

If we didn't want to get stomped on, we always had to be primed and ready to leap out of the way, always had to be invisible and quiet so not to rouse them.  We knew this because we knew the moments they decided to pound the ground, and knew how we had been hurt.

Miss Paige knows this dance.  Her mother even locked her out of the house naked one day. Today, though she can perform with others, Miss Paige is always the introvert, aware of trying not to "hurt" people, sensitive to people who take out their own desperation on her.  Every time someone acts like an elephant, a little bit of her remembers those days and shudders with a deep laced pain.

When I walk though a store I am always amazed at how people are unconcious of those around them, how they don't keep aware and primed.  I'm amazed that anyone didn't have to learn to dance with the elephant, anyone didn't have to keep sensitive at all times.

There is an old line about US/Canada relations that Canada is like a mouse in bed with an elephant — we have to be very sensitive to when the elephant rolls in the night. That always made sense to me, but I bet it wouldn't make sense to an elephant.

Even now, as I write about this, I can feel the tension between my shoulders, the mild headache that keeps me alert.

Some of us, the ones pushed to the margins to keep others comfortable, the ones who could get right up someone's nose, well, we had to learn to dance with the elephant.

And once you have felt the pounding caress of those toes, it's not something that's easy to get over.

Newbies

On one hand, newbies, those just coming out and exploring their own nature through expression, need to be encouraged to go out and try it for themselves, to be new and make new breakthroughs.

On the other hand, newbies need to be given some cultural context, some understanding of where we have been and what the challenges are.

This balance can be hard.  How do we impart the history & lessons while encouraging the pioneering & risk taking spirit?

I don't know.

I just know that if we don't do both, we aren't serving them the best we can.

Staying Stupid

When I look back on my “years of longing,” what hits me most strongly is how dillegently I worked at staying stupid.

Of course, that’s what longing does.  It gives us tunnel vision, and tells us that if we focus more tightly, if we become even more blind, things will get better. 

Longing is the tool that society offers to keep you doing what they want you to do.  Longing is a promise that if you do what they tell you, you will find your happiness. 

Most often, of course, what we long for is what A Course In Miracles calls the “special relationship,” the one that is different from all other relationships because it is the relationship that will heal us and make us complete.  It is the relationship that connects with our soul-mate and in which “the two shall become as one,” as it said on the napkin’s at my brother’s wedding.  ACIM reminds us that the belief in “special relationships” is one that keeps us crippled, but then again, so does Oprah, at least when she remembers.

This promise, that if we deny ourselves just right, we get issued a perfect partner and a gorgeous life, well, it’s real easy to see that it doesn’t really work, but it’s only easy to see if we stop being stupid.

I have said many times that my best understanding of transvestite behavior came from Clarissa Pinkola-Estes “The Red Shoes: On Torment And The Recovery Of Soul Life.”  In looking at how society seeks to take away what we love and replace it with the manufactured, I see how children who love dolls and dresses eventually become controlled by fetish gear and closets, and how that control theatens to lose us our soul.

But all of this, well, it’s nice to know but it doesn’t get me back the stupid years, those years when I kept denying my heart because I could find someone to make it all better.  Society had very little interest in telling me that I had to make myself better before I could attract, because they didn’t want me powerful, they wanted me normative, and longing is the tool that keeps us in line.

A friend was recently out at a bar with a group of young women, and was surprised how they used the longing of men to get what they wanted.  Women learn to surf desire, but men are taught to be the surf, the pushing force that simply moves for others to use.  Complicated and nuanced aren’t expected or desired.  Personally, I was never very good at being the surf.  I wiggled too much, but then again, I never learned to use that wiggle to surf, either.

I keep seeing this today, expecially with crossdressers, a dedication and devotion to staying stupid.  It’s part of who they have to be to stay in place, because if they open their eyes, open their mind and their heart, they will see their dream of staying small to find the perfect woman is just a pipe dream, bound for failure.  It takes decades of failure until they can move past being who they think women want them to be and into trying to be themselves, and by that time, the energy and exuberence, well, it’s a bit flat.

Too many years staying stupid, that’s my regret today. 

Maybe if stupid had worked I wouldn’t feel this way. 

But does stupid ever really work?  Is it what we should be teaching our kids?

No Jihad

I love Gwen Smith.  She speaks for so many trannies who cannot speak for themselves with her Remembering Our Dead project and the affilated Transgender Day Of Rememberance.

It’s astoundingly difficult to get any good numbers about transpeople.  We don’t show up on the radar.  Through the years, though, Gwen’s collection of information has given us a number, the number that about 12 transpeople are murdered each year in the US.  Because she now collects worldwide, her yearly total is higher, but it’s easy to separate US numbers, and reporting is better in the US.

Michelle Dennis put out a press release in November where she claimed that

The murder rate of transgender persons is 17 times the national average; the highest rate of any minority group.

That qute was picked up as a lead by the Whittier Daily News, and then picked up by a number of blogs.

The US Department of Justice does offer statistics on homicide rates.  The average rate in the US is 6 murders per 100,000 per year.  The rate of 102 per 100,000 per year, 17 times the average, is about the rate for young (18-24) black men, who sadly earned this rate by often killing each other, which is not a problem trannys have.

Are transpople really killed at a rate 17 times the average, the highest of any minority group?  Gwen’s figures can help there.  Even assuming that there is a 400% under representation and there are 48 murders at a rate of 102 per 100,000 per year, there are would only be a total population of around 2,800 transpeople our of 280,000,000 people in the country, a number which I believe to be quite low.  At that rate, there would only be 10 transpeople in every million, which means, for example, a population of about 100 transpeople in all of Los Angles County, with about 10 million people.

Vicky Ortega of the LA Gay & Lesbian Center suggests there are really about 10,000 transpeople in LA County.

If you do the math, assuming trannys are murdered at an average rate, that ends up working out to a national tranny population of 0.5%, one half of one percent, or one in 200.  That comes out to about five thousand in a million, or one and a half million transpeople in three hundred million in the United States.

Because we will tend to move to metropolitian areas this jibes well with the estimate of ten thousand in the one million people in LA County, much better than the estimate of 100 transpeople which extends from a 17x normal murder rate of 102 per 100,000 and, using the four times underreporting estimate,  48 reported murders in the US.

If we aren’t being murdered at extreme rates, why do these statistics staying that we are have such life?  Why do we pass them along so easily?

I suggest that we do that because those numbers feel right.  We feel murdered.

And we are murdered, but not in body, in soul.

I wrote about this experience for the Transgender Day Of Rememberance in 2000.

how old
callan williams copyright © 2000
(for transgender national day of remembrance)

how old were you
when you found out
you had to die?

was it
the moment they caught you
dressed in your sister’s clothes

or the moment they bought you
your first bra

or the moment your mother saw a transsexual on tv
and said “thank heavens I don’t have to deal with that?”

how old were you
when you found out
what was in your heart
had to die
or
they would deny you love
they would deny you humanity?

how old were you
when you found out
you had to die?

how old were you
when you found out
the truth of your life
should never be revealed
on penalty of death?

relationships die
respects die
concerns die
bodies die
dreams die.

how old were you
when you found out
you had to die?

how old were you
when you found out
if your heart didn’t die
someone could kill your body
and that would be all right?

it’s easy to understand
why people attack what they fear

it’s hard to understand
why the love in people’s hearts
is queer.

how old were you
when you found out
you had to die?

how old were you
when you first saw
a transperson murdered?

in the news,
a broken body
reduced to a freak-in-a-dress.

in a talk show
a broken spirit
lampooned as hideous liar.

in a sermon
a broken heart
cast out of the only home they knew.

in a joke
a broken person
made less than human.

in a comment
a broken life
dismissed with a sneer.

who was that person?

was it you?

did you just fear that it could be you?

or did you think
“they put themselves in danger”
“they were just asking for it”
“it’s their own fault, you know”
“they got what they deserved”

how old were you
when you found out
you had to die
for other people’s comfort?

how old were you?

 

Not So Easy

I was looking at Talking Tranny for a bit. It’s a nice podcast centered site put together by a transitioning transwoman.

While in the forums, I followed a link to see what’s new at Lipstick Conspiracy, and ended up again seeing Tori Tait‘s bio. I think I talked with Tori at IFGE Portland 1996, as she was just coming out.

I heard from that Brit Tori a few years later, and her story was one of intense exploration, lots of experimentation with men, women, jobs and personae. It was fascinating to me, but simple it wasn’t.

I’m sure I have complained on here that the most often heard voice of trannys is the voice of transitioning trannys, our own little adolesecents who want to speak up of what they believe. The voice of mature trannys just isn’t heard as often.

In the past I have attributed this to the fact that more mature trannies have learned to keep their heads down, are blending in better, don’t need to posture in public in the same way as adolescents.

But in looking at the contast between what Susan shares and what Tori shared with me, I think there may be another issue at hand.

Transitioning tranny stories are easy to understand because they follow the script. They are climbs towards what must surely be an eventual sunny and positive outcome, the transition that makes everything work. It is the hero fighting the usual demons — family, work, medicos, money, etc — to gain the ultimate reward.

Transitioned tranny stories, though, well, they are not so easy. It’s not a simple hero quest, it’s a deeply nuanced story of how all the forces of history, relationship, possibility and destiny come together to shape an indvidual human life as unique as a tree. They are less pleasant to read because they aren’t leading to a happy ending, and less easy to understand because they don’t follow any conventional script.  

Tranny autobiographies, as Dallas Denny once pointed out, often follow a model structure that start with tragedy and end with redemption, all clean and simple and saleable.

But tranny lives, well, they aren’t so neat.  The tranny path is a path to indvidual empowerment, as Jamison Green has often said. But unique indvidual lives are well, unique and indvidual.  Even if we could draw a neat though line, how can we find the language to express feelings and ideas that most people have never felt or thought?

Maybe the reason that we hear so much from baby trannys isn’t because grown-up trannys aren’t speaking, but rather that we have learned that people can’t or won’t hear our story.  An upbeat hero quest is one thing, but the aging of the hero as she attempts to return the gifts she found in the wilderness to a society that doesn’t want those gifts (if they wanted them, they would have them,) well, that’s not easily coded into buzzwords.

The stories of grown up trannys are not so easy to tell because they demand engaging nuance, ambiguity and death.  

Maybe that’s why people keep looking for upbeat, hopeful, immature trannies to define a community, and why the real elders dissapear. 

Leap

TBB is right, of course.

My sister took my parents to my nephew's soccer game, and I got a call that they were all coming back for dinner in 15 or 20 minutes, and I needed to order Chinese.

I got tight.  I did it, but switching back to do that was hard.  I couldn't drop my own stuff that quickly, and couldn't shove it away.  I was left raw and tense, and that was clear, especially when my father told a story about a foster kid that echoed of the complaints he had against me, being unable to "pull yourself up by your own boostraps" and get focused down because your rage and pain set you apart. 

I knew the story wasn't directly about me, but I also knew that it was hurting me with those echoes.  It was a reminder of how unsafe my own family is because they have no sensitivity to what hurts me because so much of me stays invisible, by their choice.  TBB reminded me to talk to them like I was talking to a three year old, because, according to her, my model of a three year old is more like a highschooler, and that just reminded me of how far I am from others.  "We are big so others assume we can take it," TBB said, and I could feel her pain as she said it.

I ended up just walking out and talking to TBB.  No one in my family went to connect with me — the kids and parents and all are more important, and either I can take care of myself or no one can help me, which ever they think.  Hell, I know that my pain & distance are palpable, and few have the tools and stamina to enter it.

TBB hears the tension though.  Having just transitioned as a transsexual, she assumes it's about that.  For me, it's a bit different, but it's still about denied calling — the thing I was writing about when I got the call to order Chinese food for a mess of people whose tastes I didn't know. 

To work with my emotions I have to bring them to the surface.  And even if I know I have to leave them disarmed, because expressing my feelings is unsafe around here, I often can't get them back in the can fast and cleanly enough.

It's about trying stuffing myself tighter into the bag, and losing it.  It's about the limits of mental discipline — the thing my father doesn't think I have — to stay compartmentalized and denied.

A bit of advice
given to a young Native American
at the time of his initiation:

"As you go the way of life,
you will see a great chasm.

Jump.

It is not as wide as you think."

Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion, Edited by Diane K. Osbon, Harper-Collins 1991

TBB is right.  You can't cross the gap in baby steps; the only way is to leap and have faith that whatever happens will be right, dying or what you find on the other side.  Transformation is always like that.

Even if trying to stay more bottled up to do what community says they need is wrong, leaping is always hard because the other side is often more of the same. 

Yet there comes a time when only change will do, when a leap is required.  TBB hopes I will leap on a greyhound and give her some time in Trinidad before I do any other big leap, but in the end, a chassm is a chasm.

And you just have to jump.

Fascinating

Your blog is about what is fascinating to you.

Or at least it better be, or it won't be fascinating to anyone else.

Ms. Rachelle and I were chatting about her new blog.  She's pretty excited about having a place to write about what fascinates her, how myths and images come together to reveal truth.  Ms. Rachelle is best known for her work with Tarot, where myths and images interesect, but her fiction and non-fiction writing have always been about that intersection.

Her blog is based around these interests, seeing the world though her eyes, through the central organizing principles of her life.  But isn't that the way that every blog works?  If you are fascinated by cars or fashion or chickens, you see the world in that context, and your blog reveals that. 

If you are a bit lost and a bit lucky, you might even discover the central organizing principles of your life by reading your own blog.  So many of us have had our structures set unconciously, by habit & convention, that we don't understand the filters and biases that control our life.   We need to deconstruct those expectations before we can build new ones, conciously reconstruct a life of considered reactions rather than life of kneejerk responses.  After all, as Steven Covey notes, freedom only exists in the moment between stimulus and response.

You makes the art and it remakes you.  Just the way it works.

After I suggested the organizing principles I saw in Ms. Rachelle's work, what fascinates her, she asked what fascinates me.  What are my organizing principles?

I thought for a moment.

I think my work is about language and healing, how evaluating our stories can change our life.  I am interested in telling the old truths in modern language. In my mind, the link between language and healing, shaping stories that allow room for transformation & growth, is theology.  

This isn't easy work.  Our language holds our beliefs in coded ways, and changing that language changes the way we see the world, because language shapes the way we think.

That may be the theme of my work, but the subtheme is also real, profound, and the cause of most of the pain that bleeds through here.

It is also the main challenge in changing language, in transformation, in growth and in healing.

I resist calling because I have always known that to follow the voice in my heart requires challenging the status quo that defends comfort, that resists transformation.

I resist calling for the reason I have always resisted calling, to be nice, gracious and to stay in the good graces of a family whose buttons can easily be pushed. 

Gotta get the phone. . .

(see next post)