Powerful In Battle

I think it was the blue eyes that clocked me.  

I went down to Avenue to see what today’s 40% off clearance would buy me, and as I entered, dressed as well as you please, the gal said “Good Afternoon, Sir.”

Well, now that’s a slap any way you read it.  No need to say “sir” to a person in a dress unless you want to put them in their place. 

She doesn’t like me.  Hasn’t liked me since I refused to give her an address for the marketing flyers.  It just set her off, and when I have been in there in my boy clothes, she has always had a glaring bit of scowl for me.

It’s not like we both didn’t know I was trans.  But any place that sells size 13W shoes, well, you know I’m not the first transperson who has darkened its door.

I went to the back and tried on the boots.  The knee high ones fit, but they felt very plastic, even for $18 after discount.  I like the suede ones with the little platform, but they didn’t appear to be on sale.

I looked at some other clothes and left, this time with both staffers glaring at me.

In the line of judgement, I was judged and found perverted & scary.  “After all, if they will boldly walk around the mall in a dress, imagine what else they are capable of!”

And me, well, I had to figure out what to do with that.  I knew I couldn’t show fear in front of them, so I was strong, making me even more scary to them.

But I didn’t buy anything.  No need to give them trade with that attitude, after the tall manager in the other mall was very nice when I was in the same chain.

I went to Target, found a 4 1/2 Everyday Calcaphon anodized non-stick sauce pan marked down from $70 to $10.  Deal.   Apparently I wasn’t supposed to run.

You know, when we trannies usually have to end up naming ourselves.  That can be a challenge, as the number of transwomen with frilly two-part names can attest.  But often, well, we surprise ourselves.

My friend, Diane, took the second name Sofia.  I loved hearing that, thinking how wonderful that she chose the feminine name for wisdom, as boldly illustrated by St. Sofia in Istanbul.

She gulped.  What did it mean, exactly?

Eventually, she took the message and settled down.

Coming up with Callan took a while, lots of scrawled lists.  I wanted something like Ann — I went to high school outside of Catholic Boston — but also wanted it to be reasonably gender neutral.  I also liked the southern tradition of people using family names for first names.  Names are fun for me; I admire WC Field’s generation of amazing monikers, and still enjoy creation.

Finding a name wasn’t a push — I used my given name for years, a rare choice.  Trannys need a bit of secrecy; I remember one wife asking a crossdresser his real name and me having to shush her.  Not asked — and besides, who knows what name is real?  We only know the name your family gave you, and the one that found you later.

It was looking at baby name lists later that I found a meaning for Callan — a feminine name meaning “powerful in battle.”

That hit me hard.  I didn’t think I was finding a new name for war, I though I was finding a new name for pretty, feminine, nice, sweet.

I have never been a fighter.  It’s not something my father or mother could teach me.  They learned how to avoid battles, and to this day, even as my father does his crackpot engineer moves, frontal assaults are out, long rambling missives are in.  My mother was emotionally beaten up by her narcissistic mother, and so she learned to control though weakness, emotional manipulations and denial.

I learned how to take long detours to avoid fights, learned how to fight guerrilla actions from the jungle camouflage.

That didn’t mean I was useless in fights.  Having an experienced jungle warrior who knew how to use words to claim and consolidate power was useful, the akido of capturing their words and using them against them, cracking open the convoluted and contrived to reveal bare truth.  People often wanted me to turn my attention on competitors, but when their plans had to come under my scrutiny, well, they worked hard to find ways to avoid that.

I knew I took a shot in that store, a shot from a self-righeous sales clerk who just didn’t like my attitude and my choices, who had her co-worker on her side.

I took the shot, and I had two big choices: fight or flight.  As much as I like flight, that being the approved method in this household, I chose fight, and felt the reflexes snap to.  I’ll tell you the truth: as an empowered woman I fight better than I do as a disempowered man.  My fighting skills have always been much more the tools of women, not braun & battering, but brains & bite, which makes sense when you — and I —  understand my nature.

I fought, today, but that doesn’t mean I liked it.  It doesn’t feel good, doesn’t make me feel supported, safe and warm.

Still, the message is that I am a woman who is “powerful in battle,” and I know that to be true.

Yet, I’m not yet convinced that there is anything I want that is worth fighting for.

It seems that finding the energy and resilience for the battle, well, that is a fight right there.


The boots I ordered through the net came.  While it took a bit to figure out I hadn’t taken out the last plastic stuffers, after those were removed they fit well. 

I was most interested in the motto on the box from Avenue: Because Nothing Should Stop You.  OK, I don’t think they meant me, but I’ll take it.

I drove north, stopping at the new junk store — $1 pita chips and frites — and Dollar Tree.  My long-stored CG Colourfast is drying out, which is a problem.  I need the plastic lipcolor so I don’t have to fuss with it — not easy for me to feel safe primping in public.    But there it was, a whole selection of colors for $1 a package, the phial of color and tube of gloss, a gift.

Lezlie, well, she didn’t think the tall gal with orange scarf was there for her.  She was expecting a tranny, and frankly didn’t know what to expect, but this gal looked like she was here for the offices next door.

She’s an actress & coach, working with debate teams, students and others to sharpen performance.  Today, we did the tranny transfer, with me telling the stories, a new story every other minute it seemed. 

The breakthough for Lezlie was simple:  my stories are both uniquely mine, with my own meaning, and shared, touching common experiences of living in the world as a human.  Lezlie would spark at the connections, stories from her life, her friends, her children that touched the same themes.

My challenge, of course, is confidence and comfort, trusting that others see an integrated and appropriate woman.

Here is what I offered her today:

I may not know what makes a good performance, but I do know what makes a bad one:  the failure to commit to the moment.

My gift – and, of course, also my curse – is that I am an extraordinary observer, observing details and keeping them in my memory.  I see patterns, make connections, watch well.

This means that often, I don’t engage as participant.  I sit on the edge, watch, feel the pull to run and pull away, to not be in the center but in the fringes.

A friend notes that as transkids who had to survive in a world where we were told that denial was the only appropriate choice, we learned detachment early.  What we didn’t learn was attachment, trusting the moment and the connection.

This is often hard to explain to people who are now, at this point in their life trying to learn detachment, how to not fall into every feeling and every desire.

My challenge is to trust myself and my expression in the moment, without the visible pulling back to observer that often signals to others that something unknown is going on underneath, something to fear.

I offer an example of my own self-talk:  Look At Me, written in 1998.

It is faith that she is in my heart that I need, both my own she and “my mother in the sky,” my creator and God.

Learning to stand still and let people look, to feel confident in my voice when speaking, to cashiers or on the phone, well, not easy stuff.  Fleeing, though, well it doesn’t help me get what I need, and doesn’t help my world share what I have to offer.  Lezlie is sure I need some kind of practice, need to be able to help others.

Having a smart, observant, fast-thinking actress sit across from me and communicate, well, that was good.

But what do I say when I meet someone at a Chamber Of Commerce mixer?   How do I just let them look at me, trusting my own grace?

Maybe Lezlie can help.