Love & Work

I have been listening to Alison Weir’s biography of Queen Elizabeth I.

Marriage.  It’s all about marriage.  Well, marriage and intrigues and figuring out who was lying about what.  For example, were “The Casket Letters” real?

Weir wanted to do a book about the private life of Elizabeth, but found that there was really no clear separation of her public and personal life, of politics and love.  Elizabeth wants to be romanced, and she wants to use romance to make political ends happen, and that has a cost for courtiers and country.

My sister showed up for dinner on Sunday and again last night.  You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the discussion was all about her work and the bounces she has been though, retelling old stories.  For her there is no separation of public and personal, of politics and love.  As a single woman she loves and love & work are inseparable.

We have to love.  Oprah loves her doggies with that twist of thought that wants to believe that loving them like babies will turn them into children, without all the messy challenge of real human personalities that reflect our own hidden places.

I watch all this and know how different my experience has been than women born female.   I was never one of the girls, thinking like the group, so the loss of that connection is trapped in fantasy.  And when I tried to lead with love, maternal feelings flowing into a whole life, it was met with suspicion and fear.  I could never make it work, for lack of venue and lack of force.

My mother once told me that my problem was that I am not good enough at compartmentalization.  T my knowledge, she’s never said that to my sister, even as my sister wants co-workers to be both staff and friends.

Trump has been about flogging his new book, in which he is clear that if you don’t love what you do, stop and do something that you do love.

I know what I love.  I have the pain and problem of having been born to be a cleric.  I remember when I was first told this, after taking an occupational aptitude test as a freshman in college, and thinking it must be wrong.  But looking at my life choices up until then and the choice since then, well, it’s clear.  I have the tools of the guru, painful as that is.

And I have been clear that my transgender expression is about work, that it is about work clothes and work role.  For me, the power is there, risen up and standing strong, and that is one reason I am willing to be buried under beard shag and Mao suit, because power may well connect us to our God, but it can easily separate us from people.

I am human and have human needs, even as I am touched by the divine and have vision.

Love and work.

Gender Position

It makes me crazy when people want to postulate about gender but have no working definition of what gender even is.  How can you discuss something without some clear idea of what you are talking about?

For me, gender exists in the minds of humans, in the assumptions we make about the difference between men and women.  This ranges from the expectations we lay on people based on the sex we percieve them to be, to the liscence & demands we place on them for the same reason.

It always amazes me how many transpeople think that they can promote their own ideas by sweeping  away the traditions and assumptions that are common and widespread in culture.  People cherish these notions, and willingly gender themselves, taking on the obligations of gender (albeit with grumbling) to get the benefits of gender  (even if those benefits appear to escape them.)

People know what they know, even if that knowledge is just convention, and to change that convention, the new conventions have to hold that truth better.  We accept the capacity of those of color and females because, in the end, we realize that they have much to contribute, that white males hold not exclusive patent on smarts and capability.

We can’t change convention by trying to ignore conventional wisdom, only by using the wisdom to inform new convention.

And that is hard.

Corny

I was reading a review of John Cameron Mitchell’s new movie Shortbus.  He’s the creator of Hedwig, and this new movie includes real sex scenes between amateurs cast via internet calls.

The sex is too clinical, the review noted, but under all that weight, beat a sweet heart.  Yeah.

Some critics were blathering about August on Broadway, and while one admired the ambition of Kiki And Herb Alive On Broadway, another dismissed it as another parody of an aging diva.

And when I went to Boscov’s, dragged though the women’s department, the poly-blend sweatshirts with angels and kitties and rainbows printed on them reminded me of Oscar Levant’s line about Dinah Shore: “I can’t watch her.  I have diabetes, you know.”

If the big secret of meek, sunny and normative people, like the women who wear those corny sweatshirts, is that they have a dark & stormy side, then the big secret of powerful, edgy and queer people, like Hedwig and Kiki, is that they have a beautiful light & sweet side just inside the crust.

Listening, deeply listening though the bombast that is Kiki is to hear the tender pain underneath, the sweet heart still hopeful that someone will love all of her.

Do you prefer Leno or Letterman?  They expose this challenge, Leno being the bad good boy, nice on top but with an inner wicked streak that can be glimpsed, and Letterman being the good bad boy, a cranky cuss in whom you can glimpse a tender heart of gold.   I’m a Letterman gal myself, as you might well guess.

This is the secret of so many queers, who flip the normative paradigm by being all different and unique on the outside while being connected and embracing on the outside.  Cheap over-cute commercialized sentiment may gall us, seeming to be manufactured subsitutes for real feelings, but those real feelings inside of us, well, they are sentimental, loving and yes, corny.

When you can externalize your queerness, you can be centered on connection, but too often when you externalize your connection, you end up centered on your own hidden darkness, at least in my experience.

I guess that’s one reason I love the people who are different and a bit scary on the outside, because I know they probably are the ones with the tender centers.  Dark and rich on the outside, and on the inside tender, sweet and loaded with unique flavour.

Yum!

Hot Trannies in Relationship

A list post from me:

This is a moving and potent discussion of the challenge we have as transpeople in relationship.

To be in relationship means, so very often, servicing the expectations, desires, and twists of another persons presence.  I see dating sites that talk about how relationships are special when we are finally seen, understood, respected and valued for “who we truly are,” but the truth is that we are most often just swept into someone else’s drama.

What transpeople do for love is just amazing, twisting themselves into knots to get and keep a partner, all the while feeling more and more divorced from ourselves.

The system of  gender is the system of desire, based around reproduction & child-rearing, and when we leave the role written on our body at birth, we also leave the system of desire.

I remember when doctors used to warn people before having GRS that you had to be ready for the possibility that you would never have sex again.   And even today, Dr Phil tells people that we have to be ready to accept that people may never get their minds around us.

We tend to cling to identities because they hold the possibility of partnership opportunities even though they cause us chafing and pain.  Fior example, we stay identified as a straight man so we can date straight women, even though we are more woman than man, or we stay identified as a lesbian, even though we are a man, so we can date lesbians.

But in the end, all that twisting just hurts.  It doesn’t unlock and enable our Eros, it shuts it down, and that’s painful not just in the bedroom, but in all the areas that bliss empowers, the fullness of our lives.

To have to stay defended is to have to stay circumspect, losing the footing to do the most basic of human relations, flirting.  How do we be sexy and energized when we know that we have to negotiate others fears and fantasies, from men who want a “fully functional she-male” to women who want “a man with a strong feminine side” and not another woman?

Never having an adolescence in the company of others who are also adolescent means we never really get to explore ourselves and who we are in relationship.   We have to do this in a second adolescence as we emerge, and that, well, that’s almost impossible.

What it all comes down to is being burned and shut down, locked away in our own lonely isolation.

I feel for you deeply.  Years ago, I told a partner that I was finally coming to know who I was, and I needed to explore who I was in relationship.  She replied “Can’t you do that by yourself?”

The trans road is an individual path, and has to lead us away from longing and the way we twist ourselves to meet others expectations, otherwise we never hear our own true voice.  But once we come to return the gift, as Joseph Campbell says, finding other post therapy people we can trust to move beyond their own own longing to their own Eros, to be in the moment and not in the expectation, well, that is so bloody bleeding hard.

Our potential partner pool is tiny, and many of those people are also trying to move beyond the scars that stigma & marginalization wrote on their life.

How do we leave the sickness and find a way to be intimate in Eros and possibility, creating new what can be, not in desperation and an attempt to create what we think should be?  I don’t know.

A friend once told me that she understood why no one desired someone like me.  “How could they desire someone like you when they have never met anyone like you?”

Isn’t it possible that some people are ready to to pursue an image in their mind, not to desire a type, but be open to the power, quirkiness and beauty that is in front of them?

It’s possible, yes, I guess, but my experience is that usually they get overwhelmed and something in their own fears comes up, something that I know they have to work out for themselves.  Negotiating other people’s fears is just acting them to project and act out on me, and at my age, I don’t have the tolerance for much more of that.

All this is especially difficult for us femme-identified people.  We have such tender hearts that just need to love, even as our partners find us baffling, that they can easily get even more tender with the heartache we suffer.

Blessings on you, beautiful.

And may that ember of heat remain in your heart until it is stirred into fire again.

Continue reading Hot Trannies in Relationship

Dreaming Of It

And I have the firm belief in this now,
not only in terms of my own experience
but in knowing about the experience of others,
that when you follow your bliss,
doors will open
where you would not have thought
there were going to be doors
and where there wouldn’t be a door
for anybody else. 

— Joseph Campbell

You want to know what my dreams tell me?

They tell me that I have amazing creativity that lies untapped.

Blam IV: Day Of The Living Manager

My sister’s district and regional managers killed her.  In fact, they were impressed with how graciously they took it.

But my sister talked to someone at corporate, and the CEO raised her from the dead.  Said she shouldn’t have been killed in the first place.

So Regional and District were tasked with her coming back.  Problem is, they had already killed her, and they knew the power of the resurrected body.  They didn’t want her to be alive.

So District came up yesterday and started a gripe session with the employees, all women.  And you know who spoke the loudest, who controlled the room?  The whiners.  Others didn’t really want to get in the middle, to have to fight the room.

District took a vote, and when she saw my sister, told her people didn’t want her back.  As a good woman, she wouldn’t want to impose herself on people who didn’t want her, would she?

My sister was hurt by this.  But thinking about it, she saw it for the power play it was.

She told District she was coming back anyway, just like CEO wanted. 

Oh, shit.

So before district leaves, she gets a “Final Warning” saying that she violated the “Respect Policy” in unspecified ways, and if one employee complains, she is out.  Ah, yes, that was all the evidence unburied in the gripe panel got. 

How was this given to her?  At the front cash, in front of other employees, a clear violation of the “Respect Policy.”

She also got a chance to look at the rule they said she broke.  Turns out that her specific offense, paying an employee out of her own pocket to come in off the clock to prepare for a visit, isn’t on there.  And the words “zero tolerance” are never mentioned.

District, though, wouldn’t even shake her hand even though she had to endure huggs when she was fired.

It would be like shaking the hand of the walking dead, a zombie or maybe a redeemer.

Too bad so many people act out of fear rather than love, isn’t it?

Blam III: Feel The Rage And Do It Anyway

My sister was to head back to work today.  But before she went, her district manager held a store meeting to have employees vote to see if they wanted her to come back.

What?  The CEO makes a decision and this woman thinks she can turn it with a vote of part timers? 

Of course, she and the regional manager would like little better than for my sister to turn down the job.  Who wants to welcome back someone who went over your head and showed you as a fool for not fighting for her? 

My sister, of course, was hurt and upset.  She told us that the only way she would go back is if she felt that there was still something to learn.

My suggestion?  This is the time to manage from fuck: What The Fuck, and Fuck You.  Hell, she was already fired for being too conciliatory, now get fired for something new.

This idea isn’t easy for her, even if she does see the wisdom.  Performance requires performance, and even if she does draw hard lines, come from power, there will still be a pained introvert inside of her.  She is a tender human, after all.

The only way we can power such a performance, at least from my perspective, is to tap into our rage.  Don’t let them pull that shit on you, even if that shit is passive agressive crap they don’t know they are pulling.

Once you come from power, the only way to go is to keep with the power.  Come from your strength, being your best, not from your weakness, trying to play their game and be nice.

I worked hard to empower my sister in this, this morning, to teach her some tricks.  But I’m still her elder sibling, the one who tried to get her to fight when she was a teenager, and that still feels hard for her. 

Learning to take her own power is something she has to do for herself, in her own time and her own way. 

I bless her, and will be here for her, even if this week has taken a lot out of me and my parents.

After al, I always think it’s good when we encourage people to feel their rage, take their own power, and do things that we might consider scary.

Isn’t it good?

TLC

In the interlocking communities of interest around transgender — the “Trans Community” for short — we have a problem.

That problem is common to many communities, and it is a lack of people willing and able to take leadership. 

The trans path is inherently an indvidual path, working to manifest what is in your heart, to express what you know that you know.  It’s not really a group path where you want to identify as one of the gang, because even if that is your fondest wish, your very transness will countermand that identity.  In other words, we might dream of being one of them, but in the end, our only choice is being the one and only one of us.

The trans path is also a path that includes stigma, shaming and abuse.  These are what drive transpeople into the closet, what keep us trying to satisfy others expectations, what teach us to be small.  It’s an extremely good way to bring out whatever introvert and iconoclastic tendencies that we have, an extemely good way to keep us playing defense rather than working to win.

Add these bits together and you find that the “Trans Community” has a history of killing and eating leaders, acting out from pain to silence those who challenge us, even those who challenge us to move beyond our pain and care for one another.   The challenge to heal and grow is the toughest challenge of all, and that makes it one of the most desirable to silence.

In communities of proximity, one of the solutions to these challenges are organizations intended to develop and support leaders, to give them insight, skills and affirmation.  They are organizations like the Rotary, Kiwanis and Jaycees, who encourage leadership as service to the community as a whole.

Every group in the “Trans Community” needs leaders.  We may want activist leaders who do political change, leaders who strive for social programs that care, leaders who create venues for new expression and art, leaders who do spiritual & religious work, leaders who create support networks, leaders who facilitate communications on-line and face to face, leaders who produce gatherings like conferences, leaders who educate the public and each other, leaders, leaders, leaders.

There is much work to be done, but the fundamental need underlying it is leadership, encouraging, developing and supporting leadership, especially in the face of those trying to silence leaders, to extend the closet or to keep their own story of sickness thriving.

We are thin on the ground, though, we transgender-identified people.   It’s rare that we have easy proximity to a critical mass, which is why regional, national, and virtual events are so important to us.   Each of us has our own calling, with little overlap, redundancy or network behind us.

I sat in the NY Pride Agenda’s statewide gathering for GENDA, and looked around the room at those who would stand up to offer political leadership in this vast state.  There weren’t many people, and even those here didn’t all understand the skills of leadership as service, as the obligation to listen to, empower and shape new leaders, to pass the skills that let others become a leader in their own life.

Trans Leadership Council was what came out of that thinking — TLC.  I’d prefer the Trans Leadership Conference to echo the organizations of the civil rights movement, but I don’t want people to think this is one gathering, one event.

I spoke to TBB about it. 

“If someone gave you three million dollars to help transpeople, wouldn’t one of the first things you would do is to invite the people who you have seen offer leadership to come together and decide what we need to do?”

“Of course,” she said.

“Well, we don’t have the three million dollars, but isn’t it something we should think about doing anyway?  I mean the newbies are great, but as long as we have to speak for the most tender person in the room, how do we get to the big and hard issues?”

The fundamental need in the “Trans Community” is leadership. 

And I suspect that some TLC for the nascent leaders we have out there would help.

Now, all you have to do is to go make this happen, okay?

Old Site

The old site has moved to a new host for at least the next two years:  http://callan.transpractice.com/

It’s a sample of my writing from about 1994-2000, back where I was writing in and for the “interlocking communities of interest around transgender.”

It makes me sad to read this stuff because I was clearly able to explain where I was stuck back then, and while my view of the challenges is clearer and sharper today, my resources in enthusiasm, endurance and cash are much, much, much less.

Decrepit is as decrepit does, I guess.

Small

I’m extrordinarily bad at small talk.   Deep talk, well, that I’m good at — I love content — but small talk, I’m just horrible.

It seems to me that I don’t know how to think like the crowd.  Instead, I know how to understand how the crowd is thinking, which is a very different thing indeed.

I remember in college when I started dating Tweety, and she chose to sit with me on the edge of the meeting of the Soc-Anthro community, rather than in her traditional place in the middle.

“It really looks different from here,” she told me.  Yes, life is different on the margins, in the liminal spaces.

I have been thinking that the opposite of entitlement is disenfranchisement.  I watch people in stores with their assumption of entitlement, not needing to engage their peripheral vision, just acting as if the world was made for them, and I marvel.  I never knew how to do that, never learned to trust that there would be open space to step in front of me.

It seems to me that I don’t know how to think like the crowd.  Instead, I know how to understand how the crowd is thinking, which is a very different thing indeed.  And I am clear that the crowd doesn’t know how to think like me.

How can anyone give me what I need if I don’t need something they can understand?

And how can I connect with them without a fluency in smalltalk?

Blam I: Shit + Fan

My sister, who was used to paying for things needed in her big chain store out of her own pocket, paid a staffer to come in out of her own pocket.  Another employee who holds a grudge called HR, and the next day — today — she was fired after eight years building a business.  Zero tolerance on exposing the store to liability, no condideration to you.

Now, she’s the fourth manager in the district who got canned for a similar violation, because her district manager asks for the world, but doesn’t help, doesn’t give resources or balance.  Lawsuit?

It’s good for her, good, because now she gets away from that co-dependance, our habit to stick it out even though crap.  But there is mourning before rebirth, and that won’t be easy.

I am so sad for her, so angry at the B-school assholes who push unreasonable demands down in big corporations, demanding so much with so little and then being poofy about what needs to be done to make that happen — “Kill them!” as Jack Welch would say — and so happy that she gets to restart in a place where she can have her own choices, not just the choices of customers, staff, management and everydamnbody else.

I affirmed her possibilities, affirmed that this was a gift, affirmed the signs she saw that said it was right.

But it shits, it really shits, and shits they are too.

Amen.

For Yourself

My sister wants to tell me that I have the right to do things “for yourself.”   For example, I didn’t have to leave the lobbying workshop early to make dinner for my parents, relieving my father greatly.

Well, yeah, sure.  But the event had spent itself, and I was invisible, and there wasn’t really anything else to get, no chance to get the engagement, encouragement, affirmation and stimulation I need.

Trust me, if I knew what would replenish, renew and invigorate me, I would do it.  But crawling though broken glass on my belly to try and find something that might be good, well, been there, done that, ate the shards.

Yes, if I got back on the grid, immersed and did everything right, I might, just might, find what I need for myself.  Or I might be as hurting as most of the transpeople in that room Saturday.  Remember, the challenge with me isn’t just to be trans, it’s to be trans and brilliant, standing for and in light, which is what give me pleasure and power.

I do have some idea what I need to do “for myself,” and it doesn’t involve packing myself away again into a tiny box after a couple of hours.  Few things are harder or more painful than packing oneself into the closet once again.

I know who I am, and I know who I am denying to stay small.  It’s not some person just a scotch bigger than who I am now, it’s a big ballsy broad who speaks loudly and attracts powerfully.    I know what to do to patch myself up a bit, but entropy is entropy, and what I need to do to replenish and regenerate myself is something bigger.

It is always a challenge when people tell me that I need to do what I need to do “for yourself,” but can tell that doing anything that scares them, that brings up their own stuff, is something they can’t come near.

I value relationships and I try to maintain them, but, as Phil McGraw said to the transman, many if not most people can’t handle it, so in the end you have to be willing to sacrifice being understood and loved and just be happy inside, taking care of yourself. 

I have spent my life not trusting other people, and when people who are close to me tell me that I have to do what I have to do “for yourself,” I understand that.

It means that I will always be alone.

No Crap

The last book I read about transgender
was Kate Bornstein’s My Gender Workbook.
That turned me off trans books.
Trans writers have an obligation not to write crap.
Diana Montford

Nyquist’s Theory of Equilibrium:
Equality is not when a female Einstein gets promoted to assistant professor; equality is when a female schlemiel moves ahead as fast as a male schlemiel.
Ewald Nyquist

As long as we hold standards for others that we don’t hold for ourselves, we will never be able to empower leaders.

In the long run, Kate writes what sells, and a book designed for students was what was wanted after her groundbreaking Gender Outlaw started selling as a textbook.

But to dismiss all trans books because you got one you didn’t find to your level?

Seems to me to be internalized oppression.

four ounces

The news is that the creators of Nip/Tuck and Brad Pitt are doing a show for FX about a transitioning transsexual.  The story will take at least four seasons to develop.

They are calling it “four ounces” which they say is the average weight of the human penis.

Any show that saddles itself with that phallocentric name, reducing the trans experience to being about the presence or lack of a penis seems doomed to myopia.

I saw a production of Paul Rudnick’s “Jeffery” and when the actor playing the lesbian transsexual saw me, he asked my view of his performance. 

Running around yipping about having his dong cut off?  That’s a gay man’s view of an MTF transsexual.  Most MTF TS I know are much more jazzed about gaining a vagina than losing a penis.

“I think you served the author well,” I told him, which he seemed to take as a compliment.

And here I thought four ounces was the average size of a male brain, she said, knowing that she just played another stereotype for a cheap laugh.