Owning It

What do SF, NYC and Trinidad CO have in common? As a transsexual, you can’t pass in any of them, or so TBB says.

She was called in to see the rehearsal of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap last week. It wasn’t good. The student actors just didn’t know the play, and asked for lines every moment.

They stopped the show in the second act, when TBB realized why she was asked to see the show.

She circled the actors.

“How many of you are scared about going on next week?”

They all raised their hands.

“Even though you are scared, how many of you still want to do this?”

They all raised their hands.

TBB asked them to look at each other around the circle.

“Will you commit to yourself and your fellow actors to give your best effort into being excellent?”

As she went around the circle, they did.

“No rehearsal tomorrow. Learn the play. Sunday at 1, back here, and we will do double rehearsal at double speed.

“And no line reading help. If you go up, you need to help each other get through.”

On Sunday, they came back and did it. In the next few days, she tightened up the show, and by last night, they were getting a standing ovation, and kudos from other teachers at the college. They close tonight, and I hope she gets the flowers she deserves, but then again, it is Trinidad.

Her lesson to these kids was simple: Until you own it, you can’t own it. It’s a lesson TBB has learned in her life.

She gave the gift of commitment to these students, believing they could do it with immersion and strength. It’s a lovely story, true.

But to me, the gift they gave her was as powerful. They were kids from Trinidad, the transsexual surgery capital of the US since before they were born. And when TBB came to help, there wasn’t fear and questioning. They didn’t worry about the idea that accepting gifts from a transsexual woman might be bad.

Nope, they knew she had something to teach, and they engaged it. That let TBB come from her heart, her mind, her experience and her gifts, and open them to the gift of theatre, to the magic of being on stage in relationship with other actors and an audience. TBB could trust her magic and open the magic in these kids.

I just heard Rise And Shine by Anna Quindlen, a fascinating exploration of living multiple lives. The narrator, sister of a famous TV celebrity, is at first uncomfortable when her boyfriend says that Sis is good at “maintaining the illusion.” She then realizes that everyone maintains some illusion, offering a dream that we are trying to turn into reality.

Back in the late 1980’s I was questioning Rachel Crosby who was just emerging as a transsexual woman. I pointed out all the problems, the crocks, the twists, and she just looked at me and said “You are really a bubble burster, do you know that?

It was thinking about that that I understood how fragile dreams are, and how they need to be treasured in order to try to make them come true. We need to be able to fake it until we make it, to act “as if,” as people have said.

Years later, I went out to do a project with a member of my staff who had spoken for spending more time in the office to prepare. At the end of the day, as we walked through Paramatta Park on the way back to our motel, I asked her “So… What problems that we ran into today would we have solved if we spent another week in the office?”

She thought for a moment and then said “I take your point. . .”

For a woman who, like me, identifying all the possible pitfalls & potholes was important, it was a big statement.

TBB, though, she knows that supporting the dream, with encouragement and with blunt feedback is important.

And those kids in Trindad just saw her as someone they could learn something from. What a gift from her to them, and what a gift from them to her, even though both just saw it as another step.

Tonight she’s dressing up nice for closing night, and will enjoy a cocktail or two afterwards. She’s seeing her daughter graduate from high school in a few weeks, with full boat scholarship offers from two great schools, and two weeks after that her kids are coming for the summer.

She gets to be a smart and loving teacher, to give her gifts that empower others, and more than that, to have those gifts valued. She maintains the illusion, keeps the faith, holds her center, and as such, she makes our world better.

And if that’s not owning her own power of transformation, I don’t know what is.

Thank God she doesn’t pass and can just be herself in the world.

And thank God those around her can value that self.

It’s a gift.

Integral To The Performance

To stay in my boy character, the one I built to try and meet expectations, the one I built to protect my tender heart, I believe social anxiety disorder is required.   It keeps me in role, keeps me tense and reactive, keeps me small and hurting.

In other words, high levels of anxiety are integral to the performance.

Opposite Of Anxiety

So, what is the opposite of anxious?

Calm, centered, even happy-go-lucky?

Looked anxiety up on Dictionary.Reference.com

They include a quote from Alice Miller, “Drama Of The Gifted Child” — a key text.

Feelings of resentment and rage over this devious form of manipulation cannot surface in the child…. At the most, he will experience feelings of anxiety, shame, insecurity, and helplessness.”

I understand the injunctions to get past it.

Decades ago I had a few yellow tablets of diazepam, one of the few drugs I have ever taken.  The feeling was almost unbelievable to me.  Do people really feel that released everyday?  Do people walk without that weight?

That weight is my experience.

I know why I stay small.  I know why it’s hard to find anyone in supporting me to be big, big & queer.

But, I guess there is a finite limit to the amount of stress any body can take.


Crazy Anxious

My key tool for staying small is my own anxiety.

I have a very good imagination, so anxiety has always come easily to me.    I probably also have some biological predisposition to the condition.

My anxiety consumes my life, and all that is left are turds on the ground.

When Family Cuts

From a family to a transperson:

“We do have a problem with your chosen path in life and it’s nothing we care to argue about, explore or discuss, whether you had to do it or not is of no concern.

Can you understand that under different circumstances, were we not your brother, sister or daughter or son, we would not even converse with you or be a part of your life in any way whatsoever. You are far too different from us and wouldn’t even choose to be a friend of yours if we weren’t related.

We mean no ill will and hope you don’t take this the wrong way.”

This is such a perfect quote, such a perfect representation of what people fear in transpeople, why we are “phobogenic objects.”

They are normative — only they call it normal — and we are queer. Therefore, we must be different, separate, unique.

Their normativity comes from the rejection of their own queerness, the denial of their own individuality, their separating themselves from their own wildness. They are normative because they are tame, work to want what others want, only accept what makes them the same as others.

You walked away from that normative life to claim your own heart, your own soul, your own connection to your nature, your own power.

And yes, that’s what makes you so different from them that they cannot bear to see you.

It’s not that they aren’t like you in all the ways that count. In fact, they know that they are very much like you, and that’s the problem. If they can see that individual exceptional beauty in you, then it probably exists in them.

But the difference between you and them is that you have chosen to surface it, and they have chosen to swallow it, and that is what defines their lives as normies. They can’t let your deviant and individual choice challenge their own choices, they can’t let your transformation mock their denial.

What people say always is about them. They may be certain that they are talking about us, and they may well want us to understand it as about our choices, but it is always about their response to our choices.

Now, we need others to respond well to our choices in order to get what we need from them, that’s true, That’s why we are tame, following the expectations, conventions and mores of the group. We have to consider how to comfort, please and satisfy them.

But we also have to respond well to ourselves and our creator, and that’s why we have to sing the song in our hearts, claim our own uniqueness to get right with our godhead, to come from our own personal power place.

It’s really tough when people act out of their own fears, their own denial, their own attempts to control, and that acting out leaves us bruised and battered, even when it’s their pain that is being surfaced.

It’s really tough when people feel the need to separate, to build walls, to not engage people in order to maintain the isolation from their own continuous common humanity. It’s my belief that there are two great themes in human belief, the belief that it is others who are sick, bad, evil and they have to change, and the belief that the only thing we can change is ourselves, and we grow by seeing our humanity reflected in others. The first belief is normie, the second is queer, at least to me.

Your family has gotten a glimpse of the human side of their nature in the mirror you offer, and they have chosen to try to break the mirror — they spent years trying to pound you into honoring their own path of denial — and when that didn’t work, they have chosen to put up a wall, so they don’t have to glimpse what might be inside of them.

It’s a perfect quote, but it says almost nothing about you, and very much about them.

Problem is that these are people you love, and who you want to love you, and when their healing is blocked and delayed, you feel it even more acutely than they do, because you have always been the one who felt the cost of their denial, which is why you were identified as the black sheep, the troublemaker, the problem. You wouldn’t accept their isolationism, wouldn’t play along with their story, wouldn’t respect their fears, wouldn’t honor their sickness.

Your pain at this slap is real, but this slap really isn’t about you, it is about them and their limits in being able to embrace someone who is flesh of their flesh, child of their heart.

Claim your own heart, though. It’s the only thing you can do, the only thing we can do. You may well stand for what they want to deny, but you stand also for what your creator made.

And that is beautiful.