Guru Gift

So, like years ago I read this book titled  The Hamlet Syndrome: Overthinkers Who Underachieve

It’s interesting because it pretty clearly describes the syndrome, but it goes haywire when it becomes prescriptive.  The authors haven’t found a way to help these people, but they imagine what might help, and that answer is to narrow their focus down, keep them more myopic rather than in the big picture.

In other words, the solution they imagine is to change these overthinkers into people like the authors, to force them to be more normative thinkers.  That’s the common way people offer solutions, of course; they assume that if people become more like they are, the solutions they used will make things better.    What cured me will cure you, because how can you be different?  Just let me force you to be more like me!

I thought about this “syndrome,” and realized I saw it in a different way.  These poor “overthinkers” are really just people who see a bigger picture, and while that may lead to some “analysis paralysis,”  it also offers the gift of context.  Every different way of seeing, different way of being, has its costs and benefits, its strengths and weaknesses.

For me, these people are the ones touched with the “Guru Gift,” a kind of vision that sees bigger and wider.  We are the too people, seeing the world in too much detail, sensing the world too viscerally,  experiencing the world too intensely.

From September 2002, after the jump:

Continue reading Guru Gift


So, once I got conned into seeing this minister for chats.

He asked me what made me happy.

I told him that it was the same things that made anyone happy.

He looked at me askance.  Surely, we all had different things that made us happy.

To feel seen, understood, safe enough to be selfless and valued for my contributions, I extended.

He thought for a moment, and then he agreed.  Yes, it is usually the same things that make us happy.

I know how to make myself happy.  I am reasonably safe within myself, unless I want to go outside and then I have to scare myself.  I can be selfless in writing, lost in the work and not self-concious.  I value my own abilities, and I understand myself well.

It’s just being happy around others that tends to elude me.  There it’s just so much work trying to negotiate their hidden fears & expectations, to help them understand what I am saying, and to stay safe from the “third gotcha” that happiness is turned into stomach churning anxiety.

What does this mean for people who “just want you to be happy?”    How do they help me feel seen, understood, safe enough to be selfless and valued for my contributions?

Or do I just have to be happy in my box?

Not Trans

So, my performance coach is now focused on the idea that, maybe, I’m not on the same path as other transpeople. 

what do you think about the idea that  you are really on a different path than most of the trannies (sp?) you know — a more encompassing path, one that you are crafting as a pioneer?

Well, Duh, as they say.

It’s in my what you need to know about my trans, it’s in Jamison Green’s context of trans that trans is always about indvidual paths, and not about some group identity.  Trans has to be a claiming of individual power, and that’s one reason why femme exists in a trans-context.

The problem, the problem, the problem, is not the fact that I am trans.  The problem is that in this culture, trans comes with all sorts of baggage crap, down to the boy in the clothing store yesterday who wanted to note that he wasn’t the only guy in there once I walked in.  I got lots of other smiles and small affirmations, though whatever context all of them came in I saw them though the context of growing up as trans, as being the nail that stood up, and others felt needed to be pounded down.

Trans is my gift, that huge painting, and it is my challenge.   But trans, damnit, is not who I am, not even some kind of group identity. 

I am not trans, not in any sense that I am following the same path as other trannies.   I am trans, in the sense that I needed to follow my own heart past gender expectations and conventions, and in doing that I share challenges with others who are doing that.

The assumptions that I am some kind of expectation, some kind of assumption, is exactly the challenge I am fighting against.  I want, I need people to hear my own complex truth, and when that truth is made insvisible by assumptions, well, that’s when I feel erased and oppressed.

I told her this week that for a long time people have told me that they don’t see me as a man or a woman, they see me as Callan.    While I have no doubt that is true — the road to enlightenment leads right past gender — it still feels like a lonely place.  But it is the place in which I exist, not as a tranny or a femme or a guru or whatever, but as Callan, who is all that and more, a complex & fascinating creature like no other (as they say in The Rules) .

I am crafing my own space, with pieces from many roles, but uniquely my own.  That’s a vital thing to understand, and I would hope people who listen get that quickly.

But for a world of people who think that they can primarily be one of the group, with some uniqueness, rather than be a unique person with some connections, the second is a steep understanding. 

I am on my own path and that isn’t a trans path or a femme path or a guru path or any other path; it’s my path.

And I would hope I have made that clear.


“Like, I’m pretty well sold on this whole femme thing,” said one transwoman in the session this morning.  “I think it’s me.

“The only problem I have is that you all keep saying that as a femme, you lose your voice, become invisible.  I don’t want to lose my voice.”

I remembered the first question I asked in my first session at my first tranny conference in 1994.  “Men and women take power in different ways.  How did you handle this powershift?”

“It’s not about losing your voice,” I said.  “It’s about changing your voice.  Femmes rarely argue about who is wrong & who is right, who is small & who is bigger.  Femmes just tell a story that changes the context of the discussion, opening up new ways of thinking, and then, though persistance and persusasion, make change.  It’s beyond black and white claims. I mean, do you know how many shades of pink there really are?”

Jill read a poem about the cost of wearing heels, how we take the pain to put ourselves on a pedestal.  

This fear of walking away from cut and dried masculine power to trust our own femme power is not simple or easy.  That feminine power is often not respected, even by those in women’s studies who see seduction as somewhat illegitmate.   There is often a view that women who wear heels and lipstick deserve whatever bad things they get, since they aren’t playing from some kind of artificial rules designed to enforce “equality” by disempowering excellence.

The difference, at least to me, is that my femme voice comes from somewhere much, much deeper than my agressive guy voice ever did.  It goes to somewhere authentic, rather than just to somewhere manipulative.

It seems to me that we have to believe that femme voices count, that they have power, even if that power isn’t the same as academic agrument voices. 

If not, how can we ever tell our daughters that they have to find their own true and deep voice and trust it?


“But how do I tell what is oppressive sexist junk laid on me by social expectations and what is powerful femme expression that comes from my core?” a young woman asked me after Jill Barkley’s FemmeGender session at Translating Identities Conference at University of Vermont.   She had appreciated my contributions to the discussion and wanted my view.

“That’s the whole point of femme,” I told her, “the process of figuring that out.  That’s how you claim your own personal gender identity past stereotypes and unconsidered assumptions.”

It turns out though, that the one thing femmes share is the challenge of stereotypes and unconsidered assumptions.   I noted that the words “complex” and “invisible” were next to each other on the board of words that people held about “femme.”   I suggested that it was exactly that complexity that was invisible to people who couldn’t read the nuance we express, and it was the erasure of that complex self that was the hardest thing.

“Oh, yes,” the gal said.  “I go and express something and all people see is my necktie or my fishnet stockings, missing all the meaning between them.”  Jill agreed, saying “It’s not gender normative when I wear a dress, and you will know that well if you know what I do in that dress!” 

Jill told the story of a child afraid to admit their love for shiny & sparkling things, who had to sneak into a bedroom, lock the door and pull down the shades before trying on pretty skating dresses, twirling in the mirror.    That child, though, was Jill, and the skating dresses were bought by Mom for figure skating exhibitions.  It was just that Jill didn’t feel safe in admitting how much she loved pretty, how much that expression engaged her.  Jill continues to navigate the road between power and femme, now moving beyond being defined by her partner, and in fact, taking pride in redfining partners.  “There are lots of trans men now, but when they go out with me, they can’t hide as straight — I queer them good!” she told us.

The notion of femme as process, as the process of creating & claiming a powerful self who embraces her own receptivity and learns to express herself as strong & unique in the world seemed to lie behind most comments.  Partners wondered why femmes needed self expression when they were treated like princesses, or why any femme woman would object to a partner who went trans and wanted to see her as a straight woman.   Femmes wondered why it was so hard to find a way to be in the world without being erased by the assumptions of others.

Of course, this mirrors the challenges of straight women, who, as Deborah Tannen has noted, are more “linguistically marked” than men, using more, more diverse and more complex expression of self, though words, actions and symbols.   The difference is that femmes need to express their differences from straight women, in how they choose to take power, in how they assemble both conventional and extra conventional woman components, and in who they desire & love.

Femmes must do this in ways that both venerates objects of inner power — style — while resisting the objects of normativity — fashion.  We have to be willing to be objects of desire, but also be clear that when that objectification becomes non-consentual it must change.

That means, I suspect, that femmes need to help each other see and understand our own inner landcape and help each other create powerful expressions of that landscape.  That means encouraging and affirming process. 

TIC is full of college age people, or those who recently left college.  I was surprised that a number of young femmes — and one transwoman — wanted to affirm me for what I shared, wanted to know my take on things.   It’s my hope that we can share the femmestruggle through the  age groups, each of us sharing our own femmestruggle to illuminate the path of and for all.

It’s good to know that the femmestruggle goes on, and that what I blog here reflects the challenge of understanding and expressing complexity in a way that it is not made invisible by the assumptions & expectations of others.

And that includes shopping well, which is why I love the $6 VickiVi top and $5 Notations skirt I picked up in Glens Falls. 

Objects and meanings, symbols and content.   I guess we just keep on expressing, and being the mothers who help others express.  What else is there?

Mimicing Women

We were talking about The Prince. . . .

I also had a copy of “How to be a Woman Though Male” –
but was never really comfortable with it.
It seemed to alternately glorify and objectify women
(of course, it was intended as a handbook for mimicking women).

You know, this is one of the most difficult challenges I have with crossdressers.    Many know that they can’t be a woman — they have to stay a man for their relationship, their job, their family, whatever — so the best they can do is “mimic women” by “alternately glorifying and objectifying women”

To me, this is the same as The Muppets Swedish Chef mimicing Swedish.  We know his “blah, blah, blah” probably doesn’t mean anything in Swedish, but it’s fun to see him blather on and pretend to make sense.  For crossdressers who are committed to mimicing women, it’s about some kind of externalized at that a native woman speaker would never understand as anything but gibberish.

Now, that’s OK.  It’s the classic model for men in dresses, clowning as women, athugh many of these crossdressing men don’t understand their act as clowning, don’t understand their performance as full of tells that they aren’t really women.  After all, they don’t really speak woman, don’t really speak Swedish, so how can they tell?   This performance is comfortable for women, because the men stay men, just as drag queens who make it very clear that they are really gay men rarely offend women, because they locate their own manhood clearly.

The problem comes not in the choice to mimic women, or to do gay drag, but in the assumption that others are trying to do what you are trying to do.   I may have spent decades understanding what it means to be a woman, respecting that culture and experience, but all too often crossdressers assume that I’m just real good at mimicing women, erasing my work.

Of course, all this tends to come out of locating truth in biology: If you were born with a penis, you always stay a man, no matter what.  This is a comforting belief to both gay men and crossdressers, who need to stay located as men no matter how much they express femininity in their choices.  They want to believe that their choices have no meaning, that their gender cannot be undermined, that their birth sex is determinant.  They want to believe this as much as some transsexual women want to believe that their current genital configuration is determinant, that now they have no penis, they can never be seen as men.

It’s when we hold others to the expectations that comfort us that we become the oppressor class, denying others to keep our own power in the world.

I understand why people want to not have to engage the messy bits of becoming real, holding onto their own fundamentalist belief in what defines reality, and what lines can’t be crossed.

But boy, a “Swedish Chef” crossdresser who just assumes that others can only be mimicing women, like they are, well, I find that bad magic.

Then again, that’s always what will set me off, people who don’t open to the possibilities of others, who just assume others must be like them, with the same limits and boundaries.  GB Shaw was quite clear that was why he didn’t like the common Christan version of the Golden Rule; “Don’t do onto others as you would have them do unto you; their tastes may be entrirely different.”

It’s the older Jewish version of the Golden Rule that I veneate   Hillel, when asked to speak the law while standing on one foot, was reported to have said “Do not do onto others what would be hateful to you.  This is the whole of the law; the rest is commentary.

If you want people to accept you as a unique indvidual with your own experience and your own story, you need to accept others as unique indviduals with their own experience and their own story, not just as people like you.

But, to me, that’s why honoring queerness is honoring a committment to exploring reality, and resisting it is the assumption of determinism & mere mimicry.

Of course, my openness sometimes makes resisters crazy, because I listen to hear their personal truth even in their ersatz Swedish, and often find it there, the last thing someone who just wants to mimic while staying fixed wants to happen.

Exposure is hard, but is their any other choice in the long term?

Super Trouper

“Don’t you think Oprah would love to meet you?” Lezlie asked.

“Probably not,” I replied.  “She holds some thin views and I think I would probably challenge them.”

“Well, yes.  To do her show, she has to be flexible,” Lezlie agreed.

The idea, though, that anyone would love to meet me seems baffling.  I’m just a, just a, just a. . .

I know, somewhere deep inside, that my real skill is my deep viruosity.  Anyone can read my stuff, my poetry, but what they cannot do is synthesize and come up with connections & considered responses in real time.  They just have never been that immersed in my way of seeing & thinking, and truth be told, they never will be.

Now, on some levels that is a benefit.  They also don’t carry the baggage that I carry, don’t have the welts, scars and open wounds. They can just be missionaries, oversimplifying, rather than visionaries carrying the experience that got me the wisdom on their back.

But Lezlie, you see, well, she sees fascinating stuff that is of value.  She doesn’t have a lot of time and energy to engage it outside of our occasional hours, but she sees it. 

She sees a style, black with a splash of color.  (“It’s clerical,” I said, “but I’m sure in another time another place you would have been put on the priestess track.”  “In another time, another place, I was on the priestess track,” she retorted.)

Lezlie talked about a new stage, a more public stage in my life, and while I resisted it, I know that it’s out or down for me. 

It is surprising to have someone who is excited about what I can offer the world.  Being excited & proud isn’t really a family habit here.   The idea that I am that good, good enough that people would want to meet me, or make a movie about me, well, that just seems off.

“Were you really called ‘stupid’ as a kid?” Lezlie asks me, after sharing her own bête noir.

Yes, well, yes.  I wasn’t ever thinking like others, and to them I was being stupid in not taking the easy way, in not just going along to get along, in standing up for a unique vision. 

Lezlie noticed because I declared that I wasn’t stupid, that old deep seated fear still well entrenched.

It was years and years ago that I started telling my sister that she is gorgeous and brilliant, asking her to kiss my cheek.  I knew how much I needed to be supported in being beautiful, so I support her, and others; you get what you give, after all.

That kind of affirmation isn’t so easy to get.  I may know that I am very good at what I do, but believing that others see that is very hard.   My life is so inwardly focused, without much play — no one to give me outfit tips or warn me when I have lipstick on my teeth — that I don’t trust connection.

When TBB asked me to help host that first talent show at my first SCC, so many years ago, after having met only a few hours before — “I always knew you wanted to be a mistress, but a mistress of ceremonies?”  — we knew something about each other that would be proven again the next night when the Atlanta Gay Men’s Choir didn’t show and she pulled me up to vamp.  What we knew is that we had the bond of the trouper, the eye of the performer, and on stage we would protect each other by giving a good show.

I suspect that Lezlie & I know that about each other too, that we both can see man behind the curtain, both can figure out a way to make sure the show goes on by taking care of each other in the spotlight.

This, at least in my experience, is a rare understanding.  “You have so many skills,” Lezlie tells me, “speaking, writing, poetry, networking. . .”  How does she know that, and why should I trust that she knows that?

I suspect it’s because she has the eye of the performer, honed by a few trips around the world, that lets her see what isn’t quite obvious to the rubes who think it is all magic, who think that it’s about just letting the natural happen, and not about concious, calculated and constructive choices.

It’s all about the preparation, as any trouper knows, not just the rehesal beforehand, but the years of learning & seasoning.  That’s what lets you just get out and get naked and trust that your performance will touch people.

That’s not something I’m good at.  Who would want to meet me?  Who would find me attractive, and if they do find me attractive, what the hell is wrong with them?  Do I really want to join any club that would have someone like me as a member?

All very woman fears, as Lezlie reminds me, telling the story of how her high-school daughter is overstuffing suitcases for a two day trip to check out colleges.  What will she wear, how will she look, what if people aren’t entranced?  Worse, what if they are?

Yes, I note, but she has a mother telling her that she looks fabulous.  Sure, she dismisses that support with “You have to say that because you are my mom,” but she also needs to hear it again and again and again.

Can I be attractive?  Can I bring people to me and leave them wanting to see & hear more of me?

Or are my family right, I’m just a pile of poop that should make something out of myself?

Ah, being human.


I have known since I was very young that I was an alien.  Heck, from the age of four I have had a card to prove it, a green card marked “Resident Alien,” along with a requirement to report every January. 

My family explained that I was from the planet “Stupid” and that I didn’t really belong here because I didn’t think like a normal Earthling.  This made coming back to my parent’s home; since I didn’t fit in, my existance was only tolerated with a wary distance.  This home was about my mother, and that was the context of all my actions, how they reflected on her, how they made her life difficult.

Home may be where they have to take you in, but that doesn’t mean it is where you feel safe, loved and valued.  And when you feel like you have no safe home, no place you can let down your guard, be seen and valued, understood and accepted, well, that can feel, what, lonely & long-lost?

Garry Marshall’s key piece of acting advice to the kids he worked with on Happy Days was simple: act like you belong in the room.   Believe that it is your home, a place where you can open up and relax.

When you don’t feel at home in the world — when you feel like an alien — the world is a very different experience.   Alienation is alienation, safe to say.

This experience of home is something that I have been looking for over the past month or so.  I know TBB has found it by being open, and I know HollyFairy creates it by building walls — walls that she is very clear I belong on the outside of.    Frank’N’Furter’s last cry echoes in my ears:  “I’m going home.”

This dream of community, of knowing, safe and supportive audience, is the dream for so many.  As I spoke about in 1995,  the Coke commercials have been effective when they evoke a connection to community, a world of happy Coke drinkers, all together.

I have been pondering the long cold drive to Burlinington, VT this Saturday to see if there is community there.  Are there femmes there who will get the jokes, who will smile and affirm what is invisible to so many?  Or will it be like that orgasm workshop where Barbara Carellas read ironic bits of a suicide piece as affirmation, while I stayed invisible on the floor in the midst of a room of panting college kids?

In other words, will there be people like me, or will I be a alien there too, out of synch with age and size and birth sex and history and all the other bits that seem to create more separation than connection?   I do know it takes time to create connection, but I also know that someone who isn’t even close to getting it today probably won’t be close to getting it — getting me — next week.  After all, it’s not like I don’t reveal myself here, but that revelation hasn’t caused an outpouring of connection, although I do value those like Gwyneth, Yarrow, Ruby and Inland.Dreaming who have shared; thank you.

This metaphor of alien seeking a home is older than the uigly duckling, and as current as The Riches.   

But it is one I feel acutely everyday.

Restraint Velocity

The odds are that if you walk in the wide world as an aging, overweight tranny, you aren’t going to get a lot of spontaneous positive feedback. 

I mean, most people are focused on themselves, and even if they aren’t they don’t know what to say.  Few people get a lot of spontaneous postive feedback from strangers.

You, will, though, probably get some spontaneous negative feedback from strangers.  Maybe just looks, or whispers to companions, statements of incredulity or even outright negative statements. 

What this means is that to walk in the world as an aging, overweight tranny you have to carry your own energy with you.  It can either be positive radiant energy, shining outward, or negative defensive energy, held inward.  Now, one has a better chance of making connections than the other, but they both work.

Here is a lesson I have learned: if you are self-loathing enough to stay nicely in the closet for most of the time, switching into a mode where you can shine brightly with confidence and the comfort of your own skin isn’t easy.  You cannot both be nicely hidden away and also proud & out.

Dr. Phil believes that when you win through terrorizing others you squash their passions, and their passion is what they need to activate self-healing.  Demanding that others stay small so they stay in your comfort zone is demanding that they break themselves into little pieces.

My goal in this time-out-of-time has been to try to find enough affirmation and feedback to engage my passion, to have what I need to walk in the world shining.

That hasn’t happened, and now, with the possibilities left, well, there is almost no chance it will ever happen.  It’s not worth the risk to even try.

It’s like those early Atlas rockets on the pad, primed to go down-range, that start flaming, spewing energy, but when the clamps are thrown, the bolts are blown, well, they go up an inch or two and then fall back in a huge ball of metal fire.  Crash.

Some suggest that I be able to change quickly at my sister’s house.  I remember four or five of those attempts as the worst, worst moments of my life, slamming on makeup to make an appointment, looking like an awful clown, then scrubbing it off again, arriving with a blotchy red face, a massive frustration, and a deep inner hurt that I had failed again, that I had a dream that got smashed one more time.

So, it is over.  Time to throw stuff out finally, give up, just let myself die.  I have been down to see a wig I liked at a cheap store that includes some beauty supplies, but the asian kid behind the counter just never wants to come help me buy his wares.  God, if I live in a world where he doesn’t even want to get my money, what hope is there?

What might help me feel the breath again?  I need someone to get the joke.  Lezlie is sweet, but she too is like a baby, with so much to learn.  She tries, but she isn’t really there where I am, too much too learn, not really enough energy, her having her own life and all.  To have someone laugh is to be affirmed and understood, at least for me, and that, well, that playful awareness, that childlike engagement, that wise presence doesn’t seem to be available for me.

This is whiney downass shit, but it is where I am, about 12 days before I have to go back into full dogsbody mode.  I hurt and I break and I stagger and I cry, and I can’t see anywhere begond that.

The odds are that if you walk in the wide world as an aging, overweight tranny, you aren’t going to get a lot of spontaneous positive feedback. 

I mean, most people are focused on themselves, and even if they aren’t they don’t know what to say.  Few people get a lot of spontaneous postive feedback from strangers.

You, will, though, probably get some spontaneous negative feedback from strangers.  Maybe just looks, or whispers to companions, statements of incredulity or even outright negative statements. 

What this means is that to walk in the world as an aging, overweight tranny you have to carry your own energy with you.  It can either be positive radiant energy, shining outward, or negative defensive energy, held inward.  Now, one has a better chance of making connections than the other, but they both work.

And if you don’t have the energy, well, you don’t have the life.


I have spent the last six days choked by the magma of my lungs surfacing and blocking the air I needed.  There have been days with sore throats, days where I feared every cough because of the pain in my chest wall, days when I woke up gasping for air, days when sleep would not come, days when my sickness caused me to slip, taking away reactions so I hurt myself and the car, having to rebuild fractured lights and hope they looked legal.

The magma rises, and it changes everything.  It started when my big hope was denied again, and continued through being uable to shovel more than two feet of snow, more than that the plow plugged in the drive way, through long and difficult tech support handholding with my father, my air shutting down as I had to be the one who paitently rebooked hotels or diagnosed internet connections, as he didn’t listen so well, and was frustrated by my inability to be more fluent.  He didn’t want to know about my sickness, just to get to the farthest south point they will visit, having things work, and then head home.

I did the work, but “A Crack In The Edge Of The Earth” by Simon Winchester has set the geological metaphor for my own personal seismic event, a vision of sliding plates colliding, of faults and boiling rock, all hidden under pretty landscapes people want to see as banal & safe.

The pain and rage that bubbles beneath, the frustration and fumes that underlie everything, well, they are right there during events like this.  The normal ouches I would be able to subsume turn to rents, and those rents into rants, where the prayer of getting out of this fucking game comes immediately to mind and lips.

My breath is still full of whispers and sighs, emerging not from my vocal cords but from the hole, the back of my throat, where what gurgles inside bubbles up and tries to escape, choking me, especially when I have the obligation to hold it back, to drive or to be nice on the phone, say.

A quote from a different read:

He is incapable of making “Fuck You” his first response, or even his first thought. Being black has taught him how to allow white people their innocence.  For black people, being around white people is sometimes like being around babies you don’t like, babies who throw up on you again and again, but whom you cannot punish because they are babies.  Eventually you direct that anger at yourself.  It has nowhere else to go.

 Hilton Als, “A Pryor Love,” The New Yorker (1999) 

All the magma in the world is connected.  All the magma in me is connected.

And now, it comes forth to remind me it has nowhere else to go.

Here, the poem I have been working on, after the jump.

Continue reading Magma


Today was the day that Annie Sprinkle performed at RPI, a place to meet interesting people, the day I had an appointment with Lezlie. 

It was the pinnacle, so to speak, and on the other side was packing up and putting myself away.

Now today is the day I have the fever & sore throat and have to dig out 18″ to 24″ of snow, with everything cancelled.

All this on Valentine’s Day, which seems designed to remind that my PPP — potential partner pool — is tiny to the point of infintesimal.

So from here I go downhill without ever hitting a height.

Doesn’t feel so good, but does feel regular.  Sad.

Shattered Valentine

She is the only one who loves me enough to correct me
or so she tells me
in that imperious voice
that details all the sins of the world.

I would never fit in her floating cloister
or so she tells me.
Not authentic enough
not exposed enough
not focused enough
not suffering enough
not enough like her.

I am a failure of truth
or so she tells me
while her compartmentalized life
where she builds walls
between the proper
and the venal
which she only participates in because of obligation
is the model of rightness.

My cavalier play, my laughter and fluidity is all wrong
or so she tells me
while her dour earnestness
allows her to judge
the sickness of the world
which I just can’t see.

I have to understand how it felt to discover that
the voice she was falling for was actually me
or so she tells me
because getting under her skin
and making her feel
something human
is just rude and offensive.

After a tranny life, her heart is broken into tiny bits
or so she shows me
shards spraying everywhere
misted with the blood
of a beautiful girl
hacked up and stuffed in a box

It hurts too much to be the one who wiggles
or so she shows me
with a red cloud of corrections
shaped just like
the mist of her own painful denials
walling off a heart shattered too often.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Holly.

Your Journey

To a list member who wants to engage her trans while not upsetting the wife too much:

I need language that helps me talk about the nuances of gender.

While social sex and legal sex can be changed, biological sex cannot.  I was born male, and that’s not going to change, no matter how much I female my body or am seen as female in the world,

Gender role can be changed, but not easily.  Changing gender changes the way we take power in the world, changes the role we play in relationships, including romantic relationships.  To become a woman we first have to be willing to be a girl, learning from other women and our relaionships with the world.

So, choosing to engage the role of woman in the world, to make the choices of a woman, requires the willingness to get naked and choose again, to drop the habits we learned to present as a man in the world and find new ways of being in the world.

When I came out as trans, it was my goal to engage my androgyny, or gyandrony as I might call it now, leading with the woman.  I used my given name, rejecting others attempts to “feminize” it, and was very clear that I wasn’t pretending to be a woman or be female, and tried to drop the man-up stuff and choose from a wider range that I might be more authentic and honest.

As I kept exploring, I realized that wasn’t enough for me.  I moved to a new name, one that was androgynous in this culture, but whose root meaning is feminine.  And as I tried to become more authentic, I realized that I had never been one of the guys, and that my heart & my power come out of a femme place,  My defenses, well, my defenses have always been based in my sharp mind, and those still haunt me a bit, but I know lots of women born female who are also too smart for their own good.

My own clothing choices have always been more towards men’s clothes that can be worn as a woman rather than women’s clothes that I can sneak around in as a man.  No secret panties for me.  Over time, though, I began to understand my own style, preppy meets art, clerical garb that includes flashes of bold expression, and that’s been good, but I still boggle when I see all the clothes I had to try to find that center.

That’s my point, I think.  Expression and understanding are inextricably linked, and only by making choices and getting feedback, starting with choices of dress and continuing through our other choices can we really begin to understand who we are. 

While we can understand some by making some choices and resisting others, to really find our center we have to remove the stops and set the pendulum free to find its own center.  In my experience we can’t find the balance point by creeping up on it, rather we have to be willing to go a bit beyond and fall back, like any bob finding its neutral.

Stability & equilbrium are inherently dynamic things.  If we aren’t willing to let go of stability, we will never be able to walk, to move forward to find new ways of being.  Being human isn’t like being a rock, it is more like being a surfboard rider, always changing as conditions change, as we get better.

Holding on to the present always means compromise.  Change requires the willingness to engage death, entering the cycle where spring follows winter.

I understand your wish to hold on to what you value while also moving forward to release what you have suppressed, and I hope that it happens for you.

But remember that it is your life and in the end, your death.  You have the obligation to claim what you need to claim, to learn what you need to learn while you are here.

And that is your journey. 

Looking For Help

On a list, someone was asking how to find a good counselor.  I responded:

The truth is that there are at least as many trannys with an agenda to push as therapists with an agenda to push; at least therapists need some sort of accreditation.

For me, the first rule is that I am the “primary contractor” in my own life, the one responsible for the building.  When I look for help, I need to remember that they are sub-contractors, that I can’t just dump my responsibility on them, but rather that they help with specialized work.    That means I can look for what I need across a range of specialists, from beauty, to voice, to movement, to performance, to workshop leaders, to writers, to religious people, to therapists and beyond. 

I often see people raised as men who are unused to sorting out and managing their own feelings, and so they want someone else to transform them, to make it all work.   It may be a lovely fantasy that someone else will know the inner you better than you know yourself and shape you into a perfect new being, but I’d never seen it work that way.  You are the only one who knows your interior landscape, and the only one with responsibility for your choices.

The second rule is that everything is connected.  I can’t just change one part of my life, I have to change all of it.  Most often that means I have to follow the star pattern used when putting the lug nuts on a car, screwing down one and then two, three, four, five, and going back to one and starting over.  Just as doing all of one at one time puts the wheel out of balance, not attending to the range of challenges puts me out of balance.

I can’t become a whole, integrated and actualized person if I just work on how I look or what I say.  All of this and more have to come together, away from the compartmentalization and detachment of defenses I learned as a closeted tranny in the world.

And the third rule is exposure.  I know I need my defenses in the world, but I also need vulnerability.  I need both a shell and a mirror, both assertiveness and doubt.  It’s all too easy to disconnect as a tranny, to stop listening to others say “no” so you can finally listen to the “yes” in your heart, but without some openness, some questioning, some feedback, some engagement, I find people can get lost in their own imaginary world, always a lonely place.

Look for people to help who don’t scare easy, because that means they can listen and respond to you, not just play out their script laced with their own fears.

Learning to be a grown up is hard, especially for those of us shamed into the closet, pounded into the margins.  But in the long run, it’s my sense that growing up is the only thing worth doing, and engaging our trans is part of that process, rather than just following the path to trans and hoping some maturity, wisdom & comfort come along the way.

Not Upset

I’m not upset that I feel giggly after a few rum & cokes.

I’m not upset that I am wearing very good face, all hot black eyeliner and sexy dark lips.

I’m not upset that I have on a new long dress, black cotton & spandex, long & tight, only $7 on clearance.

I’m not upset that I didn’t end up going to the Sunday night drag show at the gay bar, because it’s my experience over decades that there aren’t many fascinating people who show up (especially people fascinated with me), and that having to stay sober to drive home is less fun.

I’m actually happy that TBB may have someone special with whom to celebrate this Valentine’s day.

I actually don’t know how I feel about TBB assuming that someday I’ll be a nice out transsexual like her.  She says that once she couldn’t imagine laving thee box, but changing her body changed everything.  Such a kinesthetic, that one.

The only thing I’m not really happy about, the one thing, is that there is nobody here to make out with. 

Heck there isn’t even anyone here to tell me how great I look.  Domina Blue — Tina — used to be surprised that I would put on makeup before I took a shower rather than after I cleaned up.  She would put makeup on to go out; I would paint my face to see myself before I wash it off.

It is one thing to keep my center after an hour of affirmation, quite another to keep it just walking in the Wal-Mart.

But having a lost center, well, that’s just lost.

Say, are you sure you don’t wanna make out?

Freakin’ The Yokels

The gaggle of hyperactive boys swarmed the shoe display. Roundface growling dad was trying to find something for worn out pudgy mom, as the brothers romped and pulled and asked stupid questions.   It was amazing how much room the six of them could take up.

I stood back, looking at the selection, but dad eyed me with a squint.  I didn’t go away, and eventually he decided to cede the ground, anouncing he was tired, marching out with an ape kind of sway and denying mom shoes.

I passed them again in the department store.  One of the kids eyed me, and snarled out “look!  must be looking for a dress to go with them shoes.”

Dad growled.  Apparently I had been a subject of discussion.

As it happens, I was in boy clothes.  


If I’m going to feed the fears of the yokels, well, then, maybe I should just wear what I want anyway.

Keeping Your Center :)

On Wenesday, after seeing Lezlie, I wrote this, titled Just Stand There :

So, I went to the mall before driving south. 

The other skirt was still at The Bon Ton, but last week it was $12 and today it was $9.

I’m almost to the checkstand when another woman beats me there.  The one girl starts to serve her, and it’s taking forever.  First they have to go check a price, and then apparently she applied for credit, and there were forms to fill out and it was long.

I stood there holding the skirt. 

As I am standing there, the woman says “Can you let this lady check out quickly?”  OK, lady, that’s good.

And while I am looking for another service center, I realize this is a lesson I am being offered.  Can I just stand there?

So I stood there.  And I stood there.  And stood there.

And when her transaction was done, the customer thanked me for my patience. 

The girl even gave me an extra 10% off my purchase.  OK, so that was the senior citizen discount, but she didn’t mention it, and I assumed it wasn’t because I looked that old, but because she was being nice.

I stood there and I didn’t run.  And it was OK. 

I stopped for my big mug of Coke on the way south.  I worried that they would see me as unfeminine.  The gal punched my collector card, and as I left, the woman manager said “It’s Tuesday!”

The girl said “No it’s not!”

“I know,” said the manager.  “I just wanted to give her an extra punch.”  I smiled, even without going back to get the second punch. 

Your question at the end of today is the absolute, dead on question: I’m dammned good at what I do, at who I am, but how do I create an audience in the world?

We will chat about that next week.

Got this back, with the title Keeping Your Center : )

Okay, so now I’m really impressed with your shopping prowess!

Just stood there — waited in your center, trusted in your center; alright, and practiced patience and perserverence. (The gift of patience being … patience.  hmmmm)

I find it fascinating how twice in a row the Universe chose to do something a little special for you, on the spot!  Puts a smile on my face. 

The subject is clearly the gift of a koan I need to hold: Keeping Your Center.

So powerful, so hard.

Julie Andrews: Living In The Shadows (Bricusse/Wildhorn, from Victor/Victoria on Broadway)