The Invisible Tranny in the Room

I know what I want everytime I walk into a room of new people, especially a room full of tran-activists from across New York, where I was this afternoon.

I want someone to look at me and say “You’re fascinating.  I need to learn more about you!”

Now, of course, I don’t expect that to happen, though a lovely butch thought I was kind of neat after they saw me help a retired police officer who transitioned after an on-the-job injury shape her story to be more potent, more elegant.

I was there with a full face of beard, and I did what I do here everyday: I did the work.  I carried food from the car, set up the lunch, cleaned up and so on.   Heck I even left early (just after a big chunk of the NYC crowd left) to get back and make dinner for my mother who was still in her robe and not really going to go out and eat.  She has taken to getting dressed just as I put dinner on the table, which frustrates me.

Invisibility is a strange thing.  People I had worked with before didn’t recognize me, and that was fine.   I barely recognize myself anymore.  I omitted my name during the introductions and only one person noticed and asked it.

The focus was on in-person lobbying to move the GENDA bill forward, a bill required because gender variant expression was deliberately excluded from the SONDA bill, which got passed when Empire State Pride Agenda cut a deal with Pataki and the Republicans.   I’m a bit cynical, though — I suspect GENDA also needs a high level deal to get passed, and tiny lobbying has limited power.  I do, however, believe that as a tentpole of an education campaign, GENDA lobbying is a powerful vehicle for public education.

“I want GENDA so I don’t have to say I am sick just to get what I need,” one person said.

Education would be easier, though, if we transpeople had more beliefs in common.  Even the powerful Melissa Sklarz wondered if the model of out and active trannys really worked in this world as it did for gays.  She understands that only queer identification gives us the grounds for political power, that assimilation erases us, but maybe erasure is required.  “I mean, being out works for me, but just barely,” she said.

This kind of high level thinking wasn’t really played in the room.  Too many newbies who had to learn, who needed to tell their own stories of life and loss.

And that too was why I was pretty much invisible. It’s thought and theology where I am interesting and compelling.

But I served, did the work, helped things go more smoothly.

And stayed invisible, and of course, alone.

The Non-Trans Privilege Checklist

 The Non-Trans Privilege Checklist

http://www.amptoons.com/blog/archives/2006/09/22/the-non-trans-privilege-checklist/

I’m pretty sure it’s from Rikki Anne Wilchins, probably included in “Read My Lips.”  We transpeople are thin on the ground, and a voice this distinctive is memorable.

One thing I find it hard to express is the kind of marginalization and oppression, internalized or otherwise, that trannys experience.   Since it’s outside of their experience, they want to locate these feelings in my “depression” or some such, hoping a pill will take them away.

This list tries to move though that.  It is impossible to be someone’s ally until you have internalized their narrative, seeing though their eyes by listening to their stories and believing them.

We all have an obligation to push past our own internalized expression, sure, but too many scars are too many scars, no matter what.

Cork In The Bottle

TBB thinks that my rage — what she calls my anger — is unbecoming to me.  Then again, she thinks that Sondheim’s work went quickly downhill after West Side Story, and if he cared about connecting with his audience, he should have written more nice shows like that.

Miz Ruby thinks I should get out to places where I can build a support network, instead of just feeling threatened, abused and battered.  Then again, she understands that would require me going though hard and difficult outsuff before I have a chance of being there.

Kiki DuRane, though, speaking though the amazing Justin Bond, knows the power of being outraged and outrageous and the difficulty of being normal.  In fact, the only thig that has gotten Kiki though her many deaths and many rebirths is her rage, her outrageousness that feeds her art, facing critics and proprietors to face another crucifixion. 

The issue, at least to me, isn’t the fact that I need to bottle my rage up more completely, rather the issue is how to feed on that rage, how to use that rage to enervate and empower a quest for truth and transformation.

TBB notes that a mutual friend has pulled back from living full time as a woman, and her anger is showing anger.  It’s interesting to me to note that our friend is also a writer like me, while TBB is an anti-writer, not reading, not writing, not even notes to herself to remember positive events like exciting journeys with her beloved children.

This is, of course, a key in human questions: Which is not worth living, the examined or the unexamined life?  Artists can have only one answer to that question, which is not the same answer most non-artists give.

Frank Gehry was profiled by his friend Sydney Pollack, shown last night on PBS American Masters.  There were two quotes from his therapist that fascinated me.  One was along the lines that a number of architects came to him after his relationship with Gehry was revealed, but that he discouraged them, knowing he couldn’t help them be more like Gehry. 

“I might be able to help open the flood gates like I did with Frank,” he said, “but there was no guarantee that there would be the same flood of creativity locked behind their gates.”

And in another comment which ended the film, he noted that “When most people come to me they want to change something in their life — their job, their relationship, something.  When artists come to me, though, they want to change the world.”

Bond is clear that Kiki’s art is inherently political, enacted diffused rage aimed at changing views, at changing the world.

Where is the energy I need to transform supposed to come from, if not from me?

But I don’t really know how to keep the bottle mostly corked, letting only the stuff that helps me be normal come out.  Tapping the wellspring is what opens the flow,and without flow, the dryness makes everything a scrape.

Rage, raging, outrageous, outraged.

But they liked my early funny movies.

The Good Things

Miz Ruby notes that I don’t write much about good things here.

She’s right, of course.  I write about the things that are emotionally impactful, or the things that I think about, and often that means the good things aren’t visible.

It’s good, for example, that I got two long phone calls from people who love and care about me tonight. 

TBB talked about an SCC where she was in the background, holding court, and we talked about how mothers and grandmothers have to take care of each other when the kids and grandkids are doing their own thing and forgetting history.

Out into community, TBB thinks is the solution for me, and coming home from SCC, to her that means the trans community.

Out into the community, Miz Ruby thinks is the solution for me, and having found connection at the local food back over the last five years, to her that means volunteering.

Miz Ruby wants me to know that while the things I talk about here are trans-flavoured, they echo in her life, common human challenges, though maybe with another level of difficulty.

I know that, I do.  It’s all about being human.  There is nothing in being trans that isn’t essentially about being human.

They care, they do.  Miz Ruby read my blog about my birthday, and as soon as a major internet retailer could do it, I found a package of Kiki & Herb Will Die For You and Antony & The Johnsons on my doorstep.  A night of high volume though the new clearance Wal-Mart headset, and I felt the power, which I shared with her via e-mail.

They both believe that I have something to share, something valuable.   I don’t doubt that, but I do doubt I can do my caretaking role and a rebirth role at the same time.  Miz Ruby says I should just stay in Toronto and ask for the amnesty my Canadian citzenship should entitle me to.  TBB thought I should start taking hormones, but settled for having me write her book, if I can take dictation while she drives.

The best part of the calls, though?   Both of them laughed.  I so much miss using my full voice, not just the freeze dried bits I can put in this blog, using my full voice and helping people find the laughter.

My lifemyth is simple: I believe that I am too hip for the room, that people won’t get it, won’t get me.  But when I have an engaged audience who is open to laughter, well, it feels like I am actually touching them with my funny little scalpel. It’s easy for the funny bits to vanish on the blog, but where my voice can dance a bit, well, that makes it all feel better.

There are good things in my life.  The new Diana Krall album is blissful, and after her drunk pal argued with us about what to do for our parents, my sister had another awareness of what I do.  I write things like the notes on audience and fel good about that, even if it’s hard to explain the joy of writing well, which always means thinking well.

I’m OK, really I am.  But I don’t know how to convey when and how I feel pain without being a bit dramatic and potent, even if that overwhelms the other content here.  Can I make change and stay in context?  I don’t know how.  But I do know how to take care of myself in little ways that count, even if they don’t pop out, aren’t worth writing about, or address the dual issues of my “emotional sunburn” and the way out of the holes I am dug into (change for Miz Ruby) the way out of the holes into which I am dug.

I know I get gifts, and I try to treasure them, to take full flavour and power from them.  They are good things, very good things.

And Miz Ruby and TBB, I thank you so much for all the good things you bring me.

Amen.

Condescending

Whose the bigger fool, a drunk arguing or someone who argues with a drunk?

Last night my sister’s friend, who I first met when she dated him in high school, was drunk and wouldn’t stop talking.  He told me that sometimes find me condescening, and more that that, he told me, my sister sometimes finds me condescending too.

It’s almost impossible come off as not smart.  And that means that it’s almost impossible not to be read as condescending at some time or other.

Problem is, the time I am most likely to be seen as condescending is when I am hurting.  I tense up and rather than people seeing I am hurting, they see me as trying to hurt them, rather than seeing me toughen up, they see me being tough.

People need love most when they are at their most unloveable.

You know, like when you read them as defensive and condescending.

Story

TBB called this afternoon, on her way to SCC. 

When her name came up on the caller id, my father said “Shit.”

Anyway, I told her this story.

A few years ago, I found some time & money and went to a local therapist who advertised that part of her practice was transgender clients.  I know the other therapists in the area who deal with trannys and it would be hard to have a theraputic relationship with them.  After a session, one even told me she didn’t know how to help me.

Anyway, I went to this woman and talked for an hour.  I mentioned I had been at the local college when Kate Bornstein spoke, and she said she hadn’t seen me.  I wasn’t surprised, even Kate didn’t recognize me there, with a shaggy beard.

At the end of the hour she said that I was compelling enough that she could listen to me for hours, but she knew that what I kept saying was that I was in immense pain, and looking in my eyes, she believed it.

I didn’t set a follow up, left it to wait.

In a few weeks I called.  There were limits — she was leaving on maternity soon, and she really hadn’t worked with someone like me.  But she was femme in partnership with a butch, and the best I could get around here.

I was sobbing one night, as quietly as I could, down in the basement.  Problem is that the heating ducts go straight up, so my father could hear me in his bedroom two flights up.  He came down to try and calm me, which of course meant that he wanted me to be silent, somehow.

I sucked it all up, but it was still there, of course. The next day, jangled and aching, I clipped a car in a parking lot, a mess still messy.

On the cell phone, my father said “You aren’t going to be driving again for a while!”

I called and cancelled my follow up.

Of course, I kept driving.  Who else would do all the required marketing, from bread to disposable protective underwear?

But I was lost, again.

TBB says that it’s her experience that people tend not to believe what you say, only what you do, so the only thing that convinces people you are serious is GRS.  “Well, if you cut off that thing, you must really mean it,” she offers.

She spoke of her experience, going to a check in at a psycheatric hospital to prove she was serious, to get a doctor to tell her family she needed to change.  The admitting nurse heard her story and told her “Get yourself out of here.  You don’t belong here.  This is a place for sick people and you aren’t sick, just trans.”  That affirmation of not being sick was meaningful, even if only started a long and continuing journey for her.

I try and talk to her about the details of my experience, which are not so much about coming out as transsexual but rather about coming out as prophet and she humors me.  “One step at a time, honey, one step at a time.”

She noted that she heard “Can’t” from me too much, and that I needed to believe in “Can.”

I asked if she remembered one of the first calls of this contact cycle, where I wanted us to echo the word “Yes” to each other.  She did.

“I know, sweetheart, I need to believe in possibilities, to hear yes, and I also know you are good at saying it.”

She still doesn’t get the sweep, but she was there and does care.  That counts; thank you.

But I had to hang up to take my father to soccer and then to serve the parents dinner.

“Remember what women do,” TBB said.  “They ask for help.”

I don’t think that I don’t ask for help, but I do admit that I am very suspect of being able to find it, not after seeing churchpeople and medicos have their own limits.

I told TBB  that I know I’m near the end of my rope, but on the other hand, I have been there for years.

But that’s just my story.

Audiences

I have been writing some pieces on the relationship between creativity and audience on a mail list.

I’ve had one response there; the irony of talking about audiences without having much of one is an irony I live with.

I don’t think most of the audience understands what I am saying, but having passed the time where I have to practice defending everything, unless I am helping someone else, I don’t tend to write unless I have something to say, something I need to understand more deeply.  I write for an audience of one, helping develop my own sensibilities & senstivities.

But it’s interesting to me, and might be interesting to one or two of you, so I’ll share it here, after the jump. . .

Continue reading Audiences

The Traditions Of My People

I did a poem at a Unitarian Coffeehouse, and I rememebered one thing that Kate Bornstein told me.  People, she said, need time just to look at a tranny and take them in before they can hear anything they say.

I wanted them to hear my poem “How Old,” so I took her advice.

“I am here tonight in the native dress of my people,” I joked.

In my world, see, part of being a transperson born male includes knowing the difference between a jeweled lash and a beaded lash. 

I rediscovered a quote:

If you really want to help the American theater,
don’t be an actress, dahling.
Be an audience.
 Tallulah Bankhead

Trans is so very much an indvidual journey, of that there is no doubt.  Like any journey, though, the only people who can help inform you are people who have traveled a similar path.  Now, all paths are similar — we are all human, after all — but I have learned much from reading everything I can find that contains even scraps of trans narratives.

That naturally means people who appeared in what I call “dragface”  — female impersonators, drags, and others who were the public face of transness for many decades.  So many of us learned to drag up, much as for a long while blacks could only appear on stage in blackface.

The traditions of my people are to have a public clown face and a private face that is kept hidden.

And this, well, this, is. . .

The Lesson

Isn’t “The Lesson” always the worst part of any reproach?

It’s not just “Someone forgot to flush the toliet upstairs and it needs cleaning,” rather it’s “Someone forgot to flush the toliet.  You go too fast and don’t think about things, and that’s why everything always ends up in a mess.  You need to slow down and think!”

What about the hundreds and hundreds of times I did flush properly?  What do those times show?

The Lesson, of course, isn’t about the incident.  The Lesson has been waiting there looking for another indicident to attach itself to, because it is truth just waiting for an excuse to be taught, pointed up again, highlighted and pounded in.

The Lesson is about how you do things wrong all the time, you fuck-up, and this incident just stands as another proof, another verfication of truth, another vindication of belief.

Of course, when you know that whatever you do right or good doesn’t count, and all that counts is when something does slip which validates The Lesson you will get it again, well, that tends to define you as only negative, right?

I screw up, I do. 

I would like to see those things in context.

Instead it is suggested that I see those things as proof of The Lesson, the one I am unable or unwilling to learn.

Disempowering, eh?

Support

Does anyone understand that asking me to die more, to gut it out more, even to do something that is supposed to be “good for me,”  by manning up, is a request bound for failure?

The only thing that might turn the tide is a taste of life, of embrace rather than denial.  But life for trannies is almost always a process of defense rather than one of the kind of following bliss, negotiating the fears of others.

It astounds me that people around me don’t choose to speak to my possibilities, but rather to where I can get even tougher to do what they think I need to do.  It’s not about “yes,” but rather about “have to.”

But hell, my possibilities scare them, so instead they think I should be able to toughen up, be a man and just do it.

And that is the most disempowering idea that I have ever heard, that the only way out is more denial, at which I am my limits. It means that the only way to claim my own power over my own life is to end it, push the play again button and take the chance of going straight to another hell.

Oh, well.

Everything Pisses On Me

My sister wrote an e-mail at 5:10 that the powerwasher I packed for her wasn’t working.  She told me that her friend, the abusive one, wouldn’t be there tonight, so after I served my parents supper,  I went to her house, carrying a sack of food.

She wasn’t there, which was fine, but when I tried to find the powerwasher to work on it, the trigger assembly wasn’t there.  I called her cell and she told me it was in the car with her, and she wouldn’t be back until 8:00, after yoga.

Fine, fine, fine, fine.  I go back to my parents house and see the note that bitch friend sent to me years after I ceased contact with her, a joke about a husband who demands too much with a punchline where the wife tells him she will kill him in a witty way — “the undertaker will dress you.”

The abuser shows up in the morning, so I have to work tonight, no matter how bad my teeth are.

I’m back just after 8, and she finally pulls in about 8:30.  I grab the handle out of her car and go to set up the machine in pitch blackness, slipping on the clay and being soaked. 

Finally I get it together and see the problem.  I pull it apart, and the machine squirts water all over me.

“It’s pissing on you,” she laughs.

“Everything pisses on me,” I reply.

It’s at that point she wants to tell me what the procedure is for bankrupcy.  I’m not listening, I don’t have the emotional strength, as I told her two weeks ago as we waited for her friend to arrive with the junk scooter I had to manage for my mother.

She sees this, so I ask her “Do you really think this is the best time to talk about this?”

It’s the best time for her so she goes on, and I get more and more boiling.

Doesn’t she understand what I clearly have told her?  I don’t need help doing the paperwork, I need help getting by my emotions.  I have accepted my life as being over, and that’s easier and better for me.  Droning on with no hope is worse than dying, at least to me.

But no, no, no.  She sees I am upset and stressed and goes ahead, and then when I don’t act nice, I am blamed for not accepting help.  She doesn’t remember what I said, because she can’t hear it.

Same when I get back to parents.  I am just an asshole for rejecting help.  They have no need to deal with my emotions, to help with that, I have to suck it up.

Everything pisses on me.   I tell that to my sister, and then I feel her piss on me again, and when I don’t take it like manna, I am seen as ungrateful shit.

“My death will be pleasant and appropriate.”  I find myself saying that often.

I can’t figure out a way to bloom, to return the gift, and I am way too frayed from a half-century trying.

But damnit, just be normal and do what we want.

Listen Up

I had a bit of birthday money and God knew it. 

At Wally, I saw a pair of headphones marked down from $19 to $10, and I bought them.  I sleep and have my computer in the “family room” in the basement, which is really my father’s den.  That means I have to be quiet here, and while my computer is hooked up to a reciever & speakers, I really can’t use it.

But the headphones, though, well, when I put on Latin ala Lee, and Peggy sings her showtunes with that 60’s mambo beat, well, I can almost imagine I am dancing at the Tropicana.  Almost

Then woot.com had a deal on a SanDisk Digital Audio Player, 512 Mb for $25.  I love the Memorex my sister got me, but with cheap software and a Sigmatel 3440 chipset it doesn’t pause and resume.  I get interrupted a lot, you see, to service the parents, and without that, it’s frustrating.

The SanDisk is based on the upgraded Sigmatel chipset, but has nicely customized software — everything from file selection to FM radio is pretty easy to get to. 

Soon, I was in the world of Harry Flashman as he moved through the Punjab rebellion, and that was more fun than being here.

Ben’s Bargains had a link to an MP4 player based on a Samsung chipset with 1Gb of memory, rechargable lithium battery, and a color screen that can be used to play video for only $40 plus shipping.  I sent the link to my sister, and she thought it would be a find birthday present.

It came fast, and although it has a very Asian asthetic — bright color & cartoony screens — it does what it says.  Not much good for movies because the screen is square, but TV shows are OK.  It’s nice, fun and looks like a StarTrek communicator, perforated grilles and all.  I am still looking for the button that will beam me outta here, but I suspect that’s on the firmware update I cannot find.

I am an auditory person.  This last week I have been again amazed at how I can be sucked into a different world by voices and music, and it has been a bit of a respite, though coming back to here is challenging — mouth infections, my father feeling down and wanting to stop his blood pressure medicine and more.

But if I can hear another world, well, whatever gets you though the day, eh?

About Him

“I don’t think your father is feeling very well,” my mother says to me.

“Yes, I noticed,” I reply.  “That’s why I had him sit while I pushed you though the mall.

“But after 55 years with you, he knows that if he shares his feelings you will respond as if they are all about you, so he has learned to be, in his words, stoic, and I can’t get him to actually tell me how he feels.

“It would be much easier to help him if he learned how to open up rather than be affirmmed in shutting down, but hell, too late now.”

Judge Joe Likes Simple Gender

Mty mother loves the judge shows, and her favourite is probably Judge Joe Brown.

He was hectoring a woman today who was complaining about the no-good father of her children, telling her that the problem was men whose mothers didn’t set proper expectations of what a man must be from the very beginning. 

His lesson to the mothers who have issues with men is that they have their mothers to blame for bringining up a generation of boys who never learned to be men, and that they have to, from the earliest moments, teach their sons how to act like a man, teach the obligations of manhood.

Oy.  I love gender, the system of communication societies use to regulate reproduction and child rearing by enforcing gendered roles, and I agree that, like taking anything apart without understanding the function, we have broken it pretty badly.

I’m just not at all sure a reactionary course is the way to deal with the problem.  People — male female and otherwise — need to be responsible with and for their reproductive organs, responsible for what use of those organs creates, be that craziness, children or both.

Kids need to be taught that the role of the parent is sacred and is directly linked to any use of reproductive organs, that’s true.

But just telling mothers to man up their sons?

I think that’s not really thought though deep enough.

Joie de Vivre

In around 1971, I had a card printed up:

Sure, we’re born to suffer and die.

But before you go, try the Pâté.

It’s wonderful.

It was a statement of something I couldn’t invoke, a lesson to myself. 

My real feelings were on a blue felt banner of Linus Van Pelt from Peanuts on my wall in my high school bedroom: I feel the need to have the feeling that it’s good to be alive.

Anna Quindlen, well, she seems to understand the importance of Joie De Vivre

Love is scary, and big love is big and scary.

And me?  I learned the lesson of small, which is why I can write so clearly about the choice to be big.

splatter

When my father scowls and asks if I am still drinking that filthy Coca-Cola, I have to remember that he is doing it because he loves and cares for me.

You know, like “The only reason he is hitting me is because he loves me.”

I had to help him edit the abstract for his new paper.  I wanted to discuss it and ask questions to get to meaning, to understanding. He wanted to defend it and belittle anyone who didn’t understand what was so plain to him.

I was hot and heard myself say “Stop hitting me!” when all he was doing was lobbing defensive grenades of words at me.   That must have been how it felt.

Eventually we got it clean and understandable and agreed on.  Soon he will fuck it up again and the process will continue — the whole paper needs to be edited.

Black and blue.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Isn’t it ironic that my family doesn’t really want me sullying their surname, so I hide, while my brother feels entitled to hand it out to a kid who fills his wife’s need to have childrent to control?

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

You know, every damn love story I see on TV is about someone who needs to realize that who they love is right in front of them, and they just need to open to love.

How come, then, it’s so hard for people to figure out that often what we love is right in front of us and we resist opening to that?

Love is love, Eros is Eros, and as long as we can stay fixated on loving someone else rather than loving the power that God put in our heart, we can always imagine that Mr. Right is just a heartbeat away.

But when we have to know tha it’s what we deny in our heartbeat, what we deny in the heartbeat of people we love, well. . .

It’ll just be a silly movie.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Birthday

On this birthday
I sit on the nexus

enlightenment and rage
pain and bliss
denial and engagement
emotion and thought
masculine and feminine
lost and found
being and not being
wounds and healing

live in the liminal
hurting like hell
and
wise like heaven
in
the same decrepit body.

happy birthday to me, eh?

pass the vodka
and
pray the beauty
for me.

and tico-tico plays on
while that damn gwen araujo movie flicks on lifetime
abject and reduced to
pap

happy. . .