Shrink

I saw an interesting article in the NYT written by a psychiatrist called in after a suicide attempt, .

Even after he had four years of therapy, he had never reached any goals, which his therapist simply wrote off to “underlying anxiety and low self esteem.”

The doctor called in didn’t see that at all.  What he saw was that therapist “apparently believed that no one could genuinely prefer solitude and that there must be a psychological block preventing this patient from seeking intimacy.”   Four years of failure didn’t cause her to question her assumptions at all.

The author notes “Granted, psychiatric illnesses are generally more difficult to treat than simple bacterial infections, but why should psychotherapy be any less self-critical and self-correcting than the rest of medicine?”

I sent this to a local therapist.   Her comments:

However, there is also social anxiety where people want friends, and there is Aspergers, which this person sounds more like than schizoid….schizoid behavior is often “odd”….not just unsocial, but bizarre, and they rarely have good job or function well in society….The fact that the client was not in emotional pain, high functioning, and very smart, leads me to a Asperger’s type of diagnosis more than a personality disturbance.

In other words, she didn’t engage the point of the article, the failure of therapy, but rather just made her own diagnosis based on nothing but a bit of hearsay.  Her MSW and experience lets her challenge people who have actually seen a patient.  Oy.

The whole idea that, somehow, these people are trained, skilled, healthy and open enough to move beyond their internal assumptions and understand others in a way that helps them heal has always seemed crackpot to me.

This story, where one therapist’s assumptions lead a patient to suicide, and my local therapist rediagnoses off of a few paragraphs illustrates the limits of giving our own mental health to a profession whose “self-criticism and self-correction” are very often limited by their own biases and sicknesses.

Often that means that they like abjection, and believe that we just aren’t working hard enough to meet their expectations, that our sickness is really the lack of being like them.  The assumption seems to be that if we could just enter their world more, be more like them, we would be healthy, rather the expectation that they have the obligation to enter and understand our world.   They know, we are less.

I been to my share of therapists, and while some have been useful, that experience has taught me that I need to be the primary contractor for my own wellness, bringing in subs to do what I cannot do.  Talk or books or workshops or whatever, others can be valuable mirrors, but like any mirror they have their own point-of-view, their own human limits.

Therapy is great, but too often therapists don’t at all enjoy the process where they see their own humanity reflected, so they stop healing.  So why should these be the people who get to make pronouncements about our own mental health, the gatekeepers about what is healthy?

I mean, if they really think all they have to do is blow it out their ass on a patient they never met, how can they ever be open to what they don’t yet understand, or worse, how can they ever see their own fear blocks, their own blindspots?

Committed

TBB was on her mobile, cruising home from the airport, as she went though a list of all the roles she had played over the Thanksgiving holiday.

“Well, there was girlfriend and love interest and father and son and mom and pal and plumber and, well, the list just goes on and on, really” she said.

The ex, upon hearing from the children that TBB was now a neat freak, wondered why she was the one who had to pick up underwear.  Why couldn’t TBB have been man and neat in the old days?

It’s the same reason that babies now smell good to TBB, like the baby sitting next to her on the plane.  When you immerse in a role, when you committ, it changes everything.  It’s not about a bit of this and a bit of that, it’s about being, as anyone who has heard me go into character can tell you.

That baby didn’t make a man squirm, and intimate girl talk didn’t delight TBB with foooling people as it would have.  Rather it opened intimacy, and even when the truth that she was her children’s father came up, her seatmate still saw her as a woman who could be trusted with stories and a baby.  This moment was true.

“I knew what was expected of me,” TBB says.  “My parents taught me how to be my father, how to be a husband and father.  That’s still expected, with me being in the shower when my mother’s friends come to drop off the pie, or spending the weekend buying a dishwasher & disposal and plumbing them in.

“But I know more, too.  I know I can be that, and then be with friends & children at a gay club and be myself there too.  You reshape yourself — would transsexuals transition without electrolysis & hormones? — and it frees you to be more.”

That’s not really a lesson the ex, who sees roles as reality rather than reproduction & revelation, can quite grasp.  She doesn’t have the freedom of the chimera, the form changer who immerses and becomes in the moment without losing herself. 

After all this changing, TBB even played my favourite role, singing showtunes and exploring roles.  For example, we imagined her as the candidate giving a speech I wrote to the Lithuanian-American club and going off script, talking about her childhood friend “Lithuanian Dick.  I can’t tell you why he was called that, but I will say that his name wasn’t Dick. . .”   Maybe we are angels with one wing, and we fly when we come together; flying with TBB is a treat.

It’s that comittment to possibility and to performance in the moment that  makes magic, at least to me.  TBB was really what she was, is really what she is, and will really be what she will really be, even if the through line between those beings is in the space between her choices, the shadow of her performance, and not in the choices themselves.

Being committed to the moment allows us to find truth that would never surface if we just repeat our training.   It is only immersion that opens the pathway to fun and insight.

So many roles, so little time, so small an audience.

You gotta be committed.

So, That’s It.

It’s a year today I started this blog.

Now, after 337 posts and 52 of my comments, you have my experience of a year in my life laid out in front of you. 

It is my testament, an attempt to show myself to a world that has always wanted me to be simpler & less challenging.   It is my attempt to take what so many have seen as overwhelming and to make it simple & compelling.

In that, I believe that I have failed. 

The real truth of what I have to say isn’t in the text, it is in the spaces between the text, the poetry sealed in prose.

I am the shadow my words cast.”  For a long time now, that quote from Octavio Paz has been what I put in profiles, used when asked to speak of myself.    I am not the symbols or surfaces,  I am the meaning and meta behind them.

For me, this has always been the lesson of transgender, that truth lies within.  We are not our flesh or our adornments, the symbols of our lives, rather we are the shadow of our choices, the truth inside.

It has taken me so long to understand my own meaning, and one of the joys & pains of that process is the ability to read meaning inside message in others.  X-Ray vision is a gift and a curse, but it is something we all can work towards if we just care about context & connection, looking below and beyond.

The one thing we can never get back is time.  The year passed & recorded here is gone, along with all its opprtunities and lessons.  So many years gone now, more than half a century of years, so many lessons learned, so many opportunities lost.

But this year is dried and left here, open for you to engage. I don’t know how I could have made my experience any clearer, any more explicit.

So now, it’s up to you.

Human Sacrifice

June 7, 2006

Don’t you think that religions today are really missing something when they pass on human sacrifice?

The culture of life is all well and good, but the culture of obligation, discipline & sacrifice has something important to be said for it too.  If the culture of life is just the culture of flabby, then does it really defend life or does it just defend comfort.

If you are a kid and you see your friend choose to die for his beliefs, see his family be proud of that choice, see the community value him for his contribution, well, I bet it makes you see your responsibility in a whole new way.  It’s so much different than figuring out who to blame for deaths, for crying and sobbing about how the death of others is about you, because you were discomforted by it.  Gosh, being discomforted can be a profound experience, reminding you that your expectations are just illusions, and life is a gift that doesn’t last forever, that life is a gift you can put on the line for what you believe.

Could human sacrifice get out of hand?  Sure it could.  It could become a tool of the status quo to force out troublemakers and undesirables.  That would be bad, and is a good argument against easy human sacrifice.

Every human culture has needed some people to risk or give their lives for the benefit of the group.   We may think some of those reasons are primitive — we don’t sacrifice to Gods much anymore- but there continue to be new reasons to sacrifice, as those who cleaned up Chernobyl sacrificed for the group.

It’s a good idea to minimize human sacrifice, I agree, but is it a good idea to also acknowledge and honor it when it comes, chosen as service by an individual.

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

On this Thanksgiving day, a symbolic year after I started writing this blog, I come back to this post, one that has been in my “edit queue” for the longest time.

Why was I so fascinated by the idea of human sacrifice, of the one giving their life for the many?

I’m guessing that it’s because it feels like what society told me to do.  The message at the heart of Roman Christianity: whatever sacrifice you suffer here, it’s less than Jesus, so shut up and wait to be reborn.

The argument against euthanasia is that people will feel it’s their obligation to die, and that’s too dangerous.

I understand that now.  If you feel the pressure, it’s easy to start to believe that it’s your own choice to die.

When you manage someone by intimidation,
you pay the price for that.
You beat them down.
You beat their passion down.
 Phillip McGraw, 21 November 2006

I know that I don’t have any objective view on human sacrifice.  I can’t have an objective view.

I was selected to die, and intimidated into it.

Thanks.

Unspeakable Thanks

How do you thank someone for wiping your ass?

Well, maybe not doing that exactly, but helping you go, and cleaning up after you and helping with all the other messy bits of being human. 

It turns out that there are many things it’s just impossible to say thanks for.  We can thank our parents for the encouragement and the cash, but it’s a blessing that since we are too young, we don’t really have to thank them for the diapering and holding our hair while we vomit.

My mother came home from her bus trip to see the Radio City Christmas Extravaganza all hunched over.   The walk from Bryant Park to Rockefeller Center was so tough, even with her roller, that she couldn’t even get back into the bus.  They’d misjudged some timing and so even though I woke them at 5:45, boiled the coffee water and offered egg salad — a tradition from my grandmother Ruby — it started a stretch and remained that all day.

Back, I made grilled cheese & ham, grilling the ham first, I bandaged broken blisters, offered comfortable clothes, and helped pull her up from the seat.  It was a late night helping her upstairs, and the next day, dinner was served in her room, just more caretaking.

Important stuff, all of it, but the kind of messy human stuff that we don’t really want to talk about.   It’s even the kind of stuff we don’t have words to talk about, the pre-language muss of a body.

It’s one thing to feel gratitude for something clear and full of pride, another to feel gratitude for something we should be doing for ourselves in private, something we want to do for ourselves in private, something in which we feel less than mature needing help.

Still, we know that it is imporant that someone is there to do the simple, messy human things that we frail humans need help with. When we can’t do what is needed, well. . . .

I got a Thanksgiving card in the mail from my mother.  She forgot and put a stamp on it, leading me to think about how we need to get her more of those nice stamps she likes.  I also noticed the stickers we found in the mall, where I had to push the wheelchair slowly so her wide hips wouldn’t build friction heat where the wheels rubbed.

Take care –
thank you for all you do
Be happy
Love
Mom + Dad

Sweet and simple.  

But I know that those words are just what she can say, the slim face of unspeakable thanks that don’t lend themselves to words, the thanks for being safe and caring when she is less strong than she would like to be, less capable than she hopes to be, and more vulnerable than she can speak about.

It’s good to be there and not make judgements, to just do with the grace of discretion, which is the true soul of privacy, to maintain the elegant dignity of a human spirit against the inherent crap of flesh.  It is what needs to be done.

And it’s good, too, to be rewarded with unspeakable thanks.

Thanks to each and everyone of you, thanks for what I can speak about, and most of all thanks for what remains potent, gracious and unspeakable.

Cesspoot

I love live TV.  It’s not that I just watch The Regis, it’s that I used to actually do live TV, every week.   Oh, sure it was hyper low ball cable access live TV, but I had a paid staff and all and we did five half-hours of TV every Monday night, one of them live.

It’s hot stuff, believe me.  Those lights and the focus and all, and you connect quick.  It gets in the blood.  I was at the Royal Agricultural Fair in Canberra and for $10 you could go in front of an ABC camera and read a prompter.  I had never read a prompter before, but I wanted to try.

Everyone else got a full read though rehersal.  I got 10 seconds.  The director stopped me when he knew I could do it as a cold read.  It was a compliment, but hell, isn’t everyone supposed to be able to cold read copy off the prompter while looking through the camera? 

I like Studio 60 when it’s fast and about TV.  Almost as much as when I was in fifth grade and got to hold Elliot Frankel’s Emmy.  I was friends with his son, they lived up the block in Hillsdale, NJ.  I may not have understood how powerful he was or would be at NBC news, but I was 10 and I liked that Emmy.

See, when it’s good, TV has little room for anything but smarts.  It squeezes out niceities and cuts to the core, demanding the best you have to offer.  Small talk, meaningless and polite is something I don’t have room for.  Smart talk, well,  anytime any place.  My family is sharp, it’s what we do, and one of my jobs is to keep my mother sharp by throwing her bon-mots that make her think, make her laugh.   Many of them are about how bad the local news she prefers is, all shallow thinking and sloppy language.  I tend to pick a bit at shallow thinking and sloppy language, if you haven’t guessed.

I get that part of Sorkin.  And yeah, I was a pol in high-school, working campaigns and being on Army Intelligence bad lists.  Same kind of energy, you do it right.

Problem is that editing is what I do now.   Smarts demands smarts, and speed.  I watched Debra Wilson do Oprah on Comic Relief 2006, thinking that she was incredibly brilliant even as she tanked.  People who didn’t know O didn’t get the joke, and people who did know O didn’t appreciate the joke.  But she sold it.

Problem is that what is there, inside me, all that live TV stuff, well, I know who doesn’t get it.  I can take rancid fecal mattter and make it funny, and people who get it laugh even as the sick oily taste fills their mouths.  That’s what we do you know, we take garbage and make it tasty, funny, beautiful.  Fast art.

Michael Richards went kablooey at a comedy club this weekend, over the top and beyond the edge.  Thanks to a bootleg camera taping the show and a black man who announced that all Blacks in America were offended by his performance, it’s national news.  Wanna guess who offends me more, a crack ranting nasty stuff to 300 people in an L.A. comedy club, or a guy who feels entitled to speak for all Blacks in America?  God, go big — why the hell not speak for all Black people in the World, or the Universe?

I know when people don’t get it, know when people don’t hear, know when people get all up into their own judgement place and have no freaking idea how to be funny while they tell the truth.   And if you don’t know how to be funny, you don’t know how to be with funny.  It just don’t work.

I wrote a bit about Portland, gonzo style, and Holly was worried that TBB wouldn’t like one of the jokes.

“Do you mind if I compare you to a beloved star at one of the tourist attractions in your native Orlando?” I asked TBB.

“Oh Shamu?” she asked.  “Sure.  Everyone does.”

TBB knows funny. 

I live in the cesspoot.  It’s not the cesspool.  That’s nasty.  It’s the cesspoot.  That’s funny.

And the idea that it’s a treat to spend time with people who can’t tell the difference, well. . .

It’s like having to have dinner with the fucking suits.

Conscious Womanhood

To a correspondent who is beginning to put together an inclusive women’s gathering:

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 

 Your note made me think about what I might say to a diverse gathering of women.  I was at the first “Full Circle Of Women” and have watched the inclusion movement continue such as it has.

It’s my sense that the big lesson contained is the lesson of conscious womanhood.  It is moving away from compulsory gender, assigned by dint of genitals and trained into us, most often by our peers, to conscious gender, a mature expression of who we know ourselves to be, as revealed by the choices we have made in our own journeys.

We can no more directly see our desires, our heart, our mind or our spirit than we can see the back of our head.  That makes it easy to believe what people tell us we should be, what others tell us we must be, or have to do to be a good woman.  This kind of trained womanhood is often shaped by fear, of the fear of being not woman enough to be one of the girls, the fear of being not woman to be attractive to others, the fear of being not woman enough to be a good daughter or a good mother.  If we were only more womanly, more female, then everything would be better, or at least that’s what we are lead to believe.

For those of us who have claimed conscious womanhood, we understand that the only way we can learn to be better is to be more ourselves.  That comes not from fear but from love, from discovering what we love and following the path to being more loving.  It is a life of Eros, of following bliss, not the purchasable substitutes that Clarissa Pinkola-Estes talks about in “The Red Shoes,” but our own authentic desires, the desires that don’t look for someone or something to fix us or to stuff our empty places, but rather the desires that challenge us to reveal more of ourselves, to become more naked, confident, trusting and empowered.

The lesson for all women comes when we realize that we can’t get what we want by following the rules, by grabbing or buying more, by being more like the norms, but that the only way to heal, to be healthy and to grow is to open our hearts to others, to test our assumptions, and throw out the ones that keep us small.  We need to deconstruct the training to open the space for learning, and that learning always takes us away from being one of the crowd and back to ourselves and our relationship with our creator.

It is the women who have begun to open their hearts to this lesson that come to inclusive gatherings, who seek to seek beyond their own training and assumptions.  The biggest block to growth is always the clinging that comes from fear, the resistance to change, the pain of seeing yourself reflected in a way you do not yet feel safe seeing.

For transpeople who have engaged their own womanhood, who have embraced their own surrender to the person in side of them at the cost of having to walk beyond all the assumptions, hopes and defenses sewn into a persona who can hide in the world, we bring insight to the process.  Unfortunately, the truth of living the life of a woman born trans is the truth of being exposed in the world, always vulnerable to those who need to project their own constructed certainties onto our liminality.  That means many of us haven’t opened up, and still offer blocks to the revelations we don’t want, that we cannot yet accept.

I heard my own personal mission statement years ago.  “In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.”  To me, this doesn’t mean there aren’t differences between people, but that the differences that count aren’t in the color or shape of our flesh, but rather in the scope and the choices of our mind, heart and spirit.

To me, the place where transwomen offer the most insight is in the area of conscious womanhood.  We haven’t just got trained in woman rules by those around us; in fact, we were trained in other rules.  Our womanhood had to come in a mature, conscious way, learning to drop the old assumptions and create an expression that respects both social conventions and who we know ourselves to be.

What are the assumptions we hold about being a true woman, a real woman, a good woman?  How do we feel when we don’t meet those criteria, from the shape of our bodies, to the desire of our loins, to the power of our own knowledge?  How do we have the strength to move past those assumptions to find a way to be powerfully and consciously woman?

Those are the questions I like to ask.  

Innocence Hole

Carlos was the new VP of Sales, an elegant Puerto Rican guy who didn’t get the whole software thing.  He didn’t understand why I didn’t wear suits, at least not until the end, when he wondered why I brought a suit to a consulting gig.   That was when he understood that it was content that mattered.

When he came, though, his salesman training taught him that he had to get a handle on the staff. He got them, but I baffled him.

“I can’t figure out what motivates you,” he told me.  “I’m glad you aren’t one of my salesmen.  I need them to want a better watch, and when they have that, to want a better car, and when they have that to want a better house, and then want a better boat. ”

Carlos was frustrated because he couldn’t find an unfiltered tap into my brain.  You talk with someone, and you talk about their desires, get into their dreams, and once you figure out where they lust, you can find their ear hole, the tap into their brain you can use for your own purposes.

It’s a classic sales technique.  Until you figure out what the customer wants, there is no way you can convince them that your product will give it to them.

Me, though, well, I was a challenge to Carlos.   I had learned to keep filters up on all the ports to my body, heart, brain and spirit.  My family wasn’t safe, my school wasn’t safe, others weren’t safe, it was just unsafe to not keep the filters up.

My innocence was long gone.  Innocence, and the faith that it engenders, well, it’s not something that can be recaptured.  I seem to have always been out of synch with those who should have been my peers, living my life backwards, trying to learn how to open up as they learn how to turn inwards.

I live a filtered life, filtered on the inputs and filtered on the outputs.  That serves me, like the way I can obscure facts for privacy while still telling truth, but it also defines me.

Dance

Okay, I dance.

I dance, unfortunately, like a comedienne, with lots of exuberance and little discipline.  Ask poor Darlene, a Balanchine trained ballerina who tried to choreograph me in a dance to Tuxedo Junction when we worked for the Arts Council.  We got a free souvlaki out of the deal, but that’s about it.

Darlene was always surprised I can’t point my toes, such a simple act for her.  But somehow, this body, with the big flat feet, won’t do it.  Since I didn’t see myself as my body, it didn’t surprise me too much.

I used to go to t-dance at local clubs,  but that was as much about the crowd who came for one price beer, wine and wells.

But sometimes, when I am alone, my body starts to move and it surprises me.  The vernacular of Broadway style dance surprises me, just like when I would watch late night Astaire movies and then feel the urge to jête on the grass, or see Singin’ and ship down the mountain from McGill.  How do I know these moves?

My sister went to Joan Wolff, but my ballet desire was spurned.  Too weird, too much in the wrong direction, and besides, wasn’t I altogether too clumsy?

Bette Midler, when asked what women wanted, said that the answer is simple.  Women want to dance, and watching the women behind the screen on Live With Regis & Kelly, I am sure that is true.  So many bits about exuberance, expression, partnering and abandon come into dancing well, into sweating it out and heating it up.

Trannys, well, we inhabit our bodies in ways that aren’t normative.  For many people, dance is a body thing, which then reveals something.  For me, though, dance is an inner thing, that comes crudely out of the body I have.  I do feel it, below my mind, but not in my muscles and bones — they are only on top of what is important.

Dancers have trouble with this notion.  They usually lead with their bodies, and that helps them know something about their head, while I lead with my head & spirit, and something, sometimes comes out of my body.

But sometimes, I dance.  And I wonder what it would have been like to have a body that could dance with me, vertically or horizontally.

Oh well, next life.

No Ranking

I was in the international dollar store this morning — you know, the one where none of the staff speak English and I always want to whistle “It’s A Small World After All” — when my cell rang.

That’s a rare event for me on a rare day when my parents took the bus to see the Christmas Extravaganza at Radio City Music Hall.

I looked at the phone and it was Ms. Rachelle. I answered the phone with a phrase I use routinely, “Hello, Gorgeous!”

I have known Rachelle for over a decade now, and Rachelle has commented on my affirmative approach to others in the past, saying that she thinks of it as the Callan approach, and it works when she has tried it. She likes it.

This time, though, it wasn’t Rachelle. It was Rachel’s partner, Zooey.

Well, partner is stretching it. They are roommates, and Zooey does promotion/business management for Rachelle, and she stable pony too, listening and calming. She’s about the same age as Rachelle, but she keeps her head shaved and worked for a bunch of Roman Catholic perverts in SF before coming here. She’s still looking for a man, but knows how to use Rachelle, in the way that Farrah did for so many years.

You see, Rachelle is butch, but she doesn’t really want to know that. How could she have had surgery in 1972 and still be butch? It’s not hard, thinks I, but I know anyone who tells me there is no big difference between men and women isn’t deeply woman.

Zooey, well, Zooey does one thing well. She holds judgments. Judgments about southerners and priests and trannys and lots of other people. It isn’t, at least to me, an endearing quality.

Well, there in the dollar store I heard her respond to my “Hello Gorgeous” by saying that she wasn’t the gorgeous one. Or at least she was less gorgeous than the other one.

I said that she was gorgeous in her own way, that I don’t rank gorgeous.

“Well, I think I’m going to sit you down and force you to rank gorgeous,” she told me, her own judgementalism being projected onto me.

She invited me down to Rhinebeck for Thanksgiving, and then put “the really gorgeous one on.”

“I won’t rank gorgeous!” I said to Ms. Rachelle when she took the phone.

Rachelle laughed, but I was serious.

Ms. Rachelle hasn’t spoken to me in a while, not since I moved her hosting & reconfigured her e-mail. I was expecting a technical query on the phone, though after some bad experiences, I don’t support Zooey anymore. Rachelle tried to comment on the blog, but it was mostly intelectual comments on posts that weren’t really intellectual at all, and stopped when I told her that the blog is a testament, “for after.”

It seems a gift not to have to go to my brother’s house for Thanksgiving, even if the drive there is risky, and gifts are to be accepted.

But this gift comes with Zooey, her ranking and judgements. Not pleasant.

I’d probably rather be alone.

But I knew I couldn’t write this up on the blog. I don’t get between R & Z.

And I work to not hold judgements to not rank people, but sometimes, you answer the phone, and get reminded who someone is right away, if you know what I mean.

Thanks.

Consumption

In her autobiography Speedbumps, Teri Garr talks of her relationship with François Truffaut on the set of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.  

She learned an enormous amount from her time with him, learned by allowing him inside of her, by consuming him.

Women often learn that way, finding relationships where we can learn from our partners, where we can grow and expand from what we bring into our life, bring into ourself.   We even eat our own children, seeing the world though their eyes, and finding ways to help them speak their own truth.

It worked somewhat differently for me, because what I needed to learn was different.  My partners taught me about being a woman  Gini is 6′ 3″ with size 13 feet, her menarche induced to try to stop her growth. Lots of lessons there.

Mostly, though, it was books and tapes that let me consume people, let me become them in some way.   I read Gender Outlaw in a half hour in the bookstore parking lot and became Kate Bornstein.  We later chatted about this and I channeled her, and she smiled, knowing that she did the same thing as part of her acting, saying that we were sisters.

I became Marianne Williamson, listening to her tapes and channeling her.  She remains inside somewhere, but is now just part of my voice, in the same way that I am sure that she has others inside of her that make up parts of her voice.

I note this now because it has been such a long time since I have had that experience, found someone that I wanted to put on, just for a while, to learn.

This might be because my life is committed to others now, or might just be because I am getting old, have learned a bit and find fewer people that I want to consume.

But whatever the reason is, it leaves me a bit hungry, because eating hearts and brains is the kind of nourishment that feeds a femme.

I got a few bytes from Ms. Garr, and her experience of growing up female, but in the end where she can’t see how the context of her Multiple Sclerosis connects her even more with every human who faces the challenges of the flesh, and the challenges of others separating themselves from what they see of sickness, she seems shallow & surface.  Then again, I am sure that helps when she gives motivational speeches for her drug company.

I remember what it feels like to consume, even if not what it feels like to be consumed, and you know, sometimes I miss it.

Honestly Sincere

Cynicism may look cool, but sincerity, well, it stands a good chance of looking vulnerable, mushy and just a bit goofy.

On the Internet, people read your work with the voice they assign to you.  Often that means they assume your are being facetious, ironic and cynical.   They usually assume this because this is the pose they strike on the net,  detached and aloof.

Sincerity is expository.    And that makes it both dangerous and powerful.

Ever notice that we almost always fall for someone when they trip up in someway?  We may fall for the image of perfection, but that’s always falling for our own desires.  It’s the messiness of humanity, the fumbled phrase, the dropped drink, the painful pause that reveals the heart, and falling for that is sincerely falling.

I don’t do cynical much anymore, tend to avoid the sarcasm.  I’m trying to be honest, and honesty has to be sincere, or what truth would it hold?  Added irony only obscures the true and profound irony that life already contains, don’t you think?

I love Nina Arsenault’s comment “I liike doing stuff without knowing if I am being ironic.” 

Being a tranny in the world means that our expression is conciously constructed, that we have had to deconstruct the training, consider the possibilities, and build a new life.  It’s easy to fill that construction with defenses, but when we do it right, that construction should reveal our humanity in a way that is honestly sincere.

That is, after all, where the power of human attraction lies.

Failure

One thing Miz Ruby wants me to engage is the idea that I make other people feel like failures.

She suggests that my parents feel like failures because I didn’t build a life with money and family.  My sister feels like a failure because she can’t get though to me on her terms.  My partners feel like failures because they can’t drag me to their idea of normalcy.

Miz Ruby suggests that people who have tried to help me, and believe they have failed, see their own failure reflected whenever they look at me, and that makes it hard for them to really look at me.

Clearly, this has elements of truth.   My sister gave my parents a book titled “When Our Grown Children Dissapoint Us”  a book I felt should have been titled “When We Feel Dissapointed By Our Grown Children,” since the dissapointment is the parents feeling.  Yet the authors know that people need to externalize feelings, and as long as the kids don’t meet our critera, it’s best to assign it as the kid’s fault.

Am I really a shining beacon of failure, an everlasting and intense flame of failure that no one can bear to look at for very long?  And if I am, who is at fault: my parents and friends for not “launching” me properly, society for not providing space & support for people like me, or am I at fault for not doing what was required to simply be normative?

I feel badly that people see me and see failure, not just my failure but their own failure in helping me.   It feels bad when people feel that failure and disengage, or worse, turn it back on me.  I know that I am often blamed for my unwillingness to be helped into the light.

The drill is clear.  If someone shows responsibility, we can give them compassion, but if someone seems to ask for compassion, we demand responsibility.  Where is my responsibility for the failure others see in my lives, my own obligation and toughness to fit in, serve the machine, be one of the crowd, do my duty?

But who is responsible?  I rarely blame others.  It’s my responsibility to get it together, whatever that means.  Maybe I didn’t compartmentalize enough, maybe I didn’t suck it up enough, maybe I didn’t deny enough.  Heck, maybe I didn’t break free enough, trusting my nature over my family instructions.

I may know that I tried to do follow the rules, but I also know that my trying was never counted as enough.  I always felt asked to do more, to come closer to the middle, to be less threatening, less challenging and less iconoclastic.

When people look at me and see failure, does that say more about my reality or their feelings?  Is their disquite more about me or more about them?  Am I responsible to not be challenging to others, reflecting the limits of their own sacrifices, the shallowness of their own success, the cost of their own alliegiance to the system?

I know that when others see me they see failure.  That has been made very clear to me.  And more than that, when they see me not striving to be a success on their terms, they see me as mocking what they did to be a success in other’s eyes.
But it is true that one of the questions I have been asking for over a decade is “What does a grown-up tranny look like?”    Where is the space and the empowerment to both open my nature, bring out my best stuff and also be a good, on-the-grid member of society?

We each have our own responsibility to make our own life, but few have to carve out a unique space against stigma & marginalization.  That’s not easy.

I know whose fault things are.  It is always my fault.  That has been made clear to me, time and time and time and time again.  But this is always made clear to the stigmatized and marginalized.  They fail, and that must illuminate some weakness in them, must prove that the assumptions — the prejudices — we have about them are true.

All this can be dismissed as rationalization, twisted thoughts off the beam, just a sign that I don’t get how to suck it up and be a good citizen.  I am sure some will take it that way.

But when people look at me and see failure, does that help me in any way to find success?

I used to have scary dreams of Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Alva Edison walking through the house in the night.   I remember what Edison said when asked about his lack of success with a lasting light bulb — “I have not failed.  I have merely found a thousand ways that will not work.”

I know this to be true: If the context I live in is dealing with the stigma of being a failure in the eyes of others, rather than finding ways to expand my own unique successes, I will never be anything but a failure. 

Do I need to more deeply engage how others see me as failure?  Do I need to stop talking about my own pain & challenges so I am not reflecting the failure we all have to face in a society where success is defined as effectively serving the machine?  Does the failure others see in me do anything but affirm the value of following the rules at whatever cost?

I’d love to find someplace where I can create success on terms that satisfy my community and myself.

But it feels to me like that ship has sailed.

I am sure that Miz Ruby, in bringing up the topic of how parents can see their own failures in the lives of their children, just wanted to encourage me to find success.  Yet reminding me how people can easily see their own failures reflected wherever they look, reminds me of how hard it is to find people who can see the seeds of success beyond the normative rules.

I suspect that especially includes those who were reminded of those rules and their failure to achieve them though their lives.  My mother failed my grandmother, and I failed my mother, and the gift of failure is handed down from generation to generation, and the one with the most blame is always the one at the end of the whip.

A Simple Story

One of the things I don’t have, one of the things that it would be valuable to have, and one of the things I despair of ever having, is a simple story.

People don’t grasp complex instantly.  Their overall capacity to grasp complexity, with all its contradictory facets, is directly related to their life experience with complexity.  If they have had a lot of complexity in their life, it’s much easier to understand. 

I remember back in 1984 driving the Northway and thinking about the difference between vector heads and network heads, between people who saw the world as a series of straight lines and those who saw the world as a vast web of connections, with huge numbers of pathways that were all valid, all useful.  When I worked at GE one smart fellow noted that I rarely did the same thing the same way twice, which he thought was odd and remarkable.

One brilliant tranny sees that complexity as a shield, noting even as I self-reveal, “reading you over the past couple of years is like standing in a gale-force wind, raised by a desperate elemental.”

For me, it’s just what happens when a femme has to filter everything though her brain.  It always amazes me how few femmes write on-line, but the bandwidth limitations are killing.  Leslie Feinberg notes that Minnie Bruce Pratt is always losing sunglasses because she had to take them off to talk.  I tell the femmedykes by looking at their eyes.  The amount of communication there tells me a great deal about the exposition of someone’s nature.

To understand myself, I have had to go deep, to dive into my own web of connections and explore them.  I have stumbled and looked for the jewel.

Joseph Campbell says that the hardest part of the hero’s journey is often not the losing or the transformation, rather it is returning the gift back to the world.  If the world wanted that gift, it would already have it, so bringing back the crystalline jewel which contains a bit of elemental & mythical wisdom is fighting the tide of culture.

We go, find understanding in scope, but then are asked to pack up that wisdom into a neat little package that people can understand and buy without it transforming their life.  If they wanted real transformation, they would be searching, but they want the feel of transformative wisdom without it actually disrupting the patterns & habits that they have created to let them work in the world as it is.

When I meet people, they want that neat little package, that simple story that lets them categorgize me quickly, stuffing me into their own neat pigeonholes.  As they know me, they may develop a deeper understanding, may let seeing through my eyes give them new insights, but to engage that complexity takes time, takes trust, takes innovation.

Even if I could do it, the idea of having to package myself up into something small, easy to understand and very simple just terrifies me.  I have spent so long wondering at the majesty of connection,  the intricate revelation of networks, the swirling & vibrant beauty of complexity, that I don’t see simple in that way any more.

But still, I wish I had a simple story, so I could just meet people and make connections like normies do.   I miss the connections.

But I guess that it’s not that simple.

Or, more to the point, I guess that I’m just not that simple. 

Nobody is, really.  

What Mattters

To a correspondent:

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

 You say that you wish you were dead.

It sounds like what you really want is someone to care deeply if you are dead or not.

Maybe you even want someone to understand how you have had to be dead, to kill your own girlself, to try to kill your own heart.

I care, but I also know that I can’t be there for you.

That’s why I always talk about making girlfriends, but you can’t have girlfriends until you can be a girlfriend.  That’s the way it works.

Then again, it only works if you work it. 

But you know that, don’t you?

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = 

I guess the question, in the long run, always comes down to what matters to you.

Is what matters that others validate your claim, that you are now a woman, have always really been a woman, that womanhood is the only reality of you?

Or is what matters that others see you as capable, compelling, attractive, and loveable?  

When your therapist affirms that you are cute in boy clothes, is she telling you that you are really a guy, or that she sees something vulnerable and true in you, something that resonates with her?

The ultimate question about trans expression is always this: Is trans expression about concealing our true sex, or is trans expression about revealing our true heart? 

I have to believe that it is the latter, about revelation rather than about hiding.   When I dress in clothes that speak to me, that speak of me, I do that because I want to reveal my own choices, want to advertise what I know to be true about myself, want to express my own fundamental nature. 

What is bad, of course, is when people decide that the symbols we put out mean what they think they mean, rather than what we meant them to say.    That’s when we feel labeled and pigeonholed.   It’s one thing to look cute in boy clothes, another for someone to believe that means we are really a boy.   It’s one thing to look cute in girl clothes, another for someone to believe we are really a fetishist or liar because we are wearing them.

What people believe they see in others usually comes with a raft of canned assumptions to which they are oblivious.  It’s those assumptions that pile on us, pinning us down, crushing us and leaving us broken & in pain. 

So this is the question I put to you.  What is more important to you, people seeing you as female, or people seeing your tender transgender heart?   Would you rather they miss your history and assume you lived a normative woman’s life, or would you rather they have the open mind and open heart to engage the truth of your transgender history, the reality of a life lived a hard way?

As a brilliant tranny once said, “Everyone needs to be known.  Can anyone know you as other than trans?  So how’s that going for you? Are you not trans yet?”

What matters to you, that people affirm the image of who you always wanted to be, the image you try and project by concealing your maleness, or that people engage & embrace the trust of who you always have been, the tender two-spirit heart searching for balance and affirmation in a world of extremes?

What mattters to you?

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

When I see you trying to pull the walls up around you, to create separations, I speak against that.

And when I write, I always tell you that the only thing that can make you feel better is connections, connections beyond your defenses, connections with humans who you care about and who care about you.

You have the possibilities, kid. 

But finding a way to reach out and connect, rather than being choked by your pain and separation, well, honey, only one of us can do that for you.

And it’s not me.

No Time

Trafalmadorians, whose vision includes the dimension of time, see humans as snakes, with a baby at one end and an old person at the other, according to Kurt Vonnegut.

Transsexuals, who work hard to remove the dimension of time, prefer to see themselves as a dot, and often get distressed when others see anything else at all.  

The worst way to communicate your gender is to have to tell someone who you are.    If you can’t show them, they won’t believe you.  And yes, you can’t show anyone what they don’t want to see.  As Dorothy Parker said when she was asked to use the word “horticulture” in a sentence, you can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.

If we live in a world where all that counts is the minute, the momentary presentation, then how do we contextualize a rich and complex history that is more like a gale-force wind moving across time than a snapshot?

How do we become a bit more Trafalmadorian?

Ripples

As a physics nerd, I used to watch the wave pools.   It was so beautiful to see the waves intersecting creating patterns, ripples meeting ripples.

One beach we used to go to, north of Boston, had these long shallows, and as you would walk across them, you could feel the sand molded into ripples.  You could see them under the water, tall and firm, just like the simple ripples from a wave pool.

It wasn’t until later that I saw geological formations where that sand at the bottom of a sea had not just be formed into ripples, it had been frozen that way, tiny rocks shaped by the movement of water, turned again into rock that shows the shape of waves vanished millions of years ago.

Now I look at people, and as alive and vibrant and in the moment as they are, I see the shadows of those waves that formed them so long ago, now turned to rock.

The nature of the particles that form us may define the shapes we can take, but the shapes are so often made by the regular and rythmic motion of the waves that moved past us, the scrubbing, scuffing and moving we have endured.

We are our waves, and the only way we cannot be our waves is if we have no firmness, no memory, no solidity.

And those patterns can be beautiful.

Most Common

The most common state in the human condition?

I suspect that it is loneliness.

“We are all in this alone,” as Jane Wagner commented.

A Course In Miracles says that our ultimate fear is the fear of separation.  Coca-Cola says that our ultimate desire is for connection, which is why Coke ads so often feature happy and connected groups of people enjoying a Coke together.  Gosh, maybe that’s why I drink so much of the brown sugar water, even now that it’s made with that nasty HFCS.

The question each of us has to answer is what separation we will trade for connection.  Will we be tame and trade separation from our inner self for connection with the group, or will we wild and trade separation from the group from our inner self?

It’s my suspicion that we knew which trade came most naturally to us from a very early time, around the time we knew we had to pay a price for that choice.  

Some of us tried to become likeable, pretty, thin, beautiful, whatever, and the price of eating disorders or other ways we tried to twist our challenging bits outside in began to catch up to us.

Some of us understood we had to stand up for ourselves, and we learned we had to pay the price of the social pressure to force us to fit in.  We may have had the class vote against us, may have been locked outside in our underwear, may have had parents blam us when we demanded fairness in bicycles, but we learned that there was a price to pay to be true to what we knew to be true.

It won’t surprise you to find out that I am in the second group.  My stories are about choosing connection with my inner — well, I would say godhead, but you can say voice. And that means connection to the outer world was always tenuous and thin.

I’m a femme, and I don’t know how to live without loving.  Unfortunately, I used to try to manipulate into love.  It’s amazing what I tried to give, amazing what I did, and I thank Christine Elaine for being with me long enough to make it clear when I did that, long enough to teach me that manipulation wouldn’t work. 

So, I love, even those who cannot find a way to love me in a way that is healing, cannot find it because they have never found a way to love themselves, cannot find it because they are mired in their own loneliness and the techniques they use to fight the pain of separation. 

Carol Queen says that when queers write about our lives, straights always think we are writing about them.  What else can they do?  They can only read our writing though the context of their own lives, only understand our stories as they read them as versions of their stories.   We are the queers, the one who sought connections with ourselves, and they are the straights, who sought connections with the crowd, and stories of feeling disconnected, lonely, and separated, well, those stories are the stories of their lives too.

Loneliness is the most common state in the human condition.  And what we do to try to assuage that feeling and claim connection, well, that defines us in a primal and essential way.  We are what we do for love, love of our creator, love of our tribe, love.

Indeed, that was the charm of the old show: women, fundamentally women without men, were compelled to talk as fast as they could to keep their loneliness at bay. The virtue of Ms. Sherman-Palladino’s shticky style was that it created characters who were new to television. In their purest incarnations, Lorelai and Rory shared the witty woman’s challenge: to architect a wall of words so high and so thick that no silence, no stares, no intimations of mortality or even love could penetrate it.

Lorelai’s out-of-touchness with her own emotional life — her conviction that to swoon, even once, would be to forfeit her verbal power and thus her reason for being — has only grown more extreme as the show has aged. That process has had an incredible poignancy and even suspense, as when a single friend becomes funnier and more self-aware even as she stifles her need for romantic love.

Virginia Heffernan, NYT, 7 Nov 2007

We take the loneliness, and we take it because there is something we value more.  We are isolated from people because we value our own voice, we are isolated from our voice because we value other people, we pay the price for the choices we make.

But the loneliness demands from us, and we lose something in the bargain — the solace of other people, the delight of the self. 

And we do it, I suspect, because we are all in this alone.

Thrown Out

The three CDs with all the songs that I collected for the 25th anniversary party got thrown out without being listened to.  They weren’t even given to the tech-savvy nephew by the niece throwing the party

They decided “to go another way,” even though they didn’t even know what they had.

I walked out of the house where they were previewing the slideshow I suggested and for which I found the images.

It’s not that big a deal.  But a car ride with This American Life telling about how the Johns Hopkins study of civilan casualties in Iraq — now estimated at 600,000 souls — was dismissed by a quote from a guy who never read it and isn’t a statistican, well, that is a big deal.

Much of my thin skin is this rooted in this election cycle.   Our local House race is filthy, with an incumbent Reuplican who loves lobbyists and has some issue with his wife that required a police visit, is banging the hell out of a fresh faced Democrat. 

My father loves the natter bang bong where these partisans duke it out, so it fills the room in which I sleep.

I know it’s this fundy shit that leaves me battered, which is why I didn’t go off the handle at my work being thrown out without consideration, which is still bad.  If you don’t want to be dissapointed, just remember not to do anything for anyone, no matter how much you want to give something special.

I am as tight as the smile on Lynne Cheney’s face.

And it feels bad, real bad.

Anything You Want. . .

My mother says that if I say “Anything You Want. . .” to her again, she is going to kill me .

It was just yesterday, when I expressed a bit of distress she used a bread bag rather than a carrier bag to wrap up her urine soaked pad before she threw it into the kitchen garbage, that she told me that if I was going to say anything she didn’t want to hear I could just shut up.

Today she was cooking for my Sister-In-Law and Brother’s 25th anniversary party.   She wanted to make the product herself, and that’s fine.

One of the first things she asked was if I thought microwaving cream cheese, Velveeta and blue cheese would make a good base for the artichoke dip.

It didn’t sound good to me, but it was her taste, what she wanted.  I knew she wanted it her way.  I told her that I couldn’t imagine the flavour profile, so I couldn’t tell her, which is true.

I can either cook something to my taste, or I can follow a recipe.  Those are the only two ways I know how to cook. 

Unfortunately, she wanted her taste and she didn’t have a recipe, so the only thing I could do was keep my mouth shut and try to satisfy her.   She was clear she didn’t want to talk about flavour profiles or anything stupid-ass like that.

I decided to do only what she asked.  Better to not do something she didn’t want than to do something wrong.   Only problem is that not doing something was also wrong, and actually discussing what should be done is just torturing her, reminding her of her limits, pressing against her loss.  In other words, nothing I can possibly do is correct.

I was trying to execute on my stuff, following her directions for sausage rolls with Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets and Jones Brown-N-Serve sausage, but kept getting pulled away.  I don’t know these products, but realized by the end that the sheets were too soft too work.

One of the things I had to do was “mash” the rock hard avacados.  She suggested the food processor, but she had already added the onion and garlic I diced which weren’t supposed to get mashed.  Lots of work with a knife though the bowl to get some kind of chop.

In the middle of all this, my father decides to start cleaning up, and takes up all the room at the sink, blocking traffic and counters.  I saw him trying to shove the potato masher into a drawer, and remembered how just this week I had bent it to hell when it jammed in that very drawer, the reason I left it in the tools bucket.

Now, to finish work, I have to muck up his “cleaning.”  He wants to tell me that it’s my fault I don’t know the baking instructions for puff pastry, that I put the packages in the trash and he took out the trash.  He wants to tell me over and over, no matter how much I prostrate myself, say I have heard, he is right and I am wrong.  I am wrong not to be able to suck it up enough, to smilingly eat more shit.  I know that, I know that, I know that.

In the course of all this, I showed my mother the sausage rolls, and asked her if she wanted them cut in half. She asked me what I thought, and I sid “Anything you want,” leaving off the “Chef.”

“If say ‘anything you want’ again, I will kill you!” she told me.

“When you say that, it sounds like you are not engaged,” reinforces my father.

I’m executing on what she wants.  I won’t be complicitous and lie; I don’t like these bowls of gum she is creating, don’t want my name on them, don’t know some tiny tip to make them better.  I tried with the cheese pud, adding milk, but of course, only after she dumped everything together and the processed dairy had clotted back up so it was hard to incorporate, but maybe it won’t set like cement.

I take pride in preparing food well.  It’s one of the last things I can take pride in.  Helping turning out badly prepared food is hard for me.  I can help her look good, but only if she lets me, only if she particpates.

My mother wants wants to not listen, make messes, have me clean up the messes, and also lie and say it’s good.  What she doesn’t want is to be asked to take responsibility for her aging, responsibility for her own choices, responsibility for her own satisfaction, responsibility for her own happiness, responsibility for her own life.

She’s getting older, and can’t gracefully compensate, her frustration radiating, and while I can help, I guess I can’t actually give her what she wants. 

Better just let her kill me.