Aunt Callie

As we were driving back from Atlanta, TBB called her mom.

“Yeah, Callie is right here,” I heard her say.

“My mother decides on names for people,” she said after she hung up. “And she has decided that you are Callie. Sorry.”

“Oh, that’s no problem,” I replied. “Lots of people call me Callie. It’s just the diminutive of Callan, and I think it’s pretty.”

We had the discussion about name origins at Tuesday’s dinner with TBB’s mom. So many of us choose names we like and then find that they tell something about us, like Diane, who chose Sofia, the feminine name for wisdom, like St. Sofia’s in Istanbul. “Crap!” she said, when told of the meaning.

We has found out that TBB’s name is Italian and means “from the border” Lookie there. Callan is the feminine for “powerful in battle,” and if I knew that, I would have thought twice, never liking the Les Fienberg “Transgender Warriors” theme, let alone it being a Scottish form of my father’s name. In German Callan seems to relate to “chatter.” Do I chatter on? On the other hand, Callie seems to come from the greek root of beautiful, “kallos”, like Calla in Calla Lillies, and some have noted its similarity to Kali, the name of a goddess with a long and complex history in Hinduism.

I was moved at SCC when the twenty year old son of a friend, who remembers me from when he was about six, offered me a small bottle of wine he had been given by another kid. He likes me, you see, because I seem to listen to him, to be trying to help. The wine felt like having an animal dropped on my doorstep by a cat, an offering of what they have in respect.

The gift of gracious receiving
is one of the greatest gifts
we can give anyone.
Mister Fred Rogers

It was at that same table when I talked to a young and beautiful gal who was going to SF to head a project on the children of transpeople. Not transkids, but the kids of trannys. Her father transitioned when she was about 17, and she not only lost a parent, she gained a competitor in the family, also trying to claim feminine power.

I talked about my friend’s kid, and what he had gone through, and she said to me “You are a good aunt!”

Now, I’ll admit I may have set that up some, but it’s meaningful to me, just like when Dame Lezlie, mother of three teenagers, tells me “you would be a great mother.”

It is a joy I have, being Aunt Callie, and I am pleased that the kids seem to see that part of me quickly and easily, unlike those like TBB, who kept calling me “he” until stopped by Dr. J. Kids just place me in one of the pockets they have for grown-ups, their own challenges not really the key. They get that I am a mom, though not their mom, and their word for that often is “aunt.”

If I could have had babies after, I would have had surgery years ago. But it takes away any possibility of having babies even the male way, another reason to resist, even if I know that I wouldn’t be good as the father.

We know what we know, and I know that my maternal instinct is strong.

“Aunt Callie,” indeed.

Raw Life

I just woke from a dream of a different gender conference, held in a combination of a mansion and a mall, where a group of smart people got together to talk and indulge, in a way that was anarchic and hedonistic.

People were flowing, tables were full of offered food, and the conversation went on forever.

I have been spending the last few weeks writing about my experience at SCC, but staying in my head, avoiding the sappy.

For me, the division in the trans communities is always between those who are out for a breather and those who are committed to pure transformation, as I said in 1995. It’s the people who use SCC as a relief valve who make me uncomfortable, reminding me of Amy Bloom’s criticism of crossdressers in Normal.

This dawn, though, I see these crossdressers whose face doesn’t match their costume as victims of the myth Clarisssa Pinkola Estes explores in The Red Shoes: On Torment And The Recovery Of Soul Life, people whose handmade love for life has been denied and damaged, and they have tried to replace it with the commerical.

If transgender isn’t about claiming our Eros, our lust for life & beauty & vitality, then what the hell is it about? Maybe that’s what Ms. Rachelle’s parents understood, that the quest for happiness is as important as Joseph Campbell said it is, although he called it following your bliss.

TBB said something to me as we drove across the causeway back from her interstitial island to the main land. “Often, people hate you because you are right. You speak the truth.”

How can people who spend their lives denying their bliss engage those who immerse in it? Don’t we have to be destroyed?

And so, I have been trying to write about something powerful, anarchic and hedonistic in a tasteful, appropriate way. Gwyneth tried to tell me what she has learned that whatever the cost, following your bliss is always better than denying it.

But my experience wasn’t about this or that, it was about how my life got easier when I was centered in my bliss, safe in my center, and not working to be off center to comfort people.

Holly took the time to answer the question I asked TBB, her and Renee Chevalier (who was there at my first tranny outing in the 80s), at my first SCC, the question about how we power shift as transpeople. She says that our power comes from our exposure and our openness, because that is how we connect with and move other people, and that requires not just focus but also vulnerability.

I talked about this in 1994, the challenge to create a safe space, and I came down to carrying one inside, a space where your soul life, your eros, your bliss is recovered from its fight with the commercial & approved, a space where the handmade is valued.

Of course, the problem is still that other group, the ones denying their bliss, who don’t want the gift brought back from the hero’s journey, the gift of transformation & staying the same in naked contact with the godhead inside.

But this was my dream, just now, the dream that somehow, I could be loud, proud and blissful without having to filter it all through my head to not rile the natives.

I want to be indulgent, indulging that sappy girl who believes in happiness and likes affirmations, indulging that powerful woman who becomes whole when she speaks proudly of how her experience with spirit lead her to value our “continuous common humanity.”

Want it? Hell, I need it, I crave it in the pit of my belly, I am it, as the big full moon who is my mother in the sky reminds me as she bloomed brightly last night just outside the glass doors.

Sloppy, potent, open and powerfully engaged in humanity, drawing those who are attracted to your light and giving them the tacit permission to find their light and shine too. Isn’t that what being big is all about?

Follow your bliss girl, and once you have gone back and found your center under the commercial, trust that potent Eros, the love that your mother placed in your heart before you were born into this world.

This world is meant for you
my daughter
even if people have tried
to convince you that you were just
too intense
too smart
too bright
too strong
too queer
to be a vital part of it.

This world is meant for you
my daughter
even if you have lost
your connection to
the song I put in your heart
and taught you to sing.

This world is meant for you
my daughter
even if fear once blocked
your expression
of the essence you have known
since you were very small.

This world is meant for you
my daughter.

Revel in it!



As I listened to people speak at SCC07, I was reminded how the trans experience is best understood as immersion in a progression of pools.  We jump into an identity and need to own that being the only place we exist, and then we need to emerge from that identity and find a new pool, a new intensity, a new reality, a new way of seeing the world.

In many ways this is no different than other humans, except that our progressions don’t follow the normative sequence, what is expected.  We change and leap, becoming new in the moment, often needing to fight those in the pool we last inhabited.  The need to immerse is often seen as the need to reject, to be in the clique by denying those outside it.

This in and out chase gives the structure to so many trans lives, the need to be and then be again, participant and observer, contradictory and connected, new and old, ambiguous and true.

The people I connect with tend to be those people who have come to the understanding that all those pools are part of rivers that connect with the same sea, that we share more in common than what separates us.  Cole Thaler expressed that beautifully in his keynote speech, connecting a little girl & little boy with a man & woman of trans history, revealing what they shared as they fought together for rights, revealing himself.

We share the very plasma that carries our cells, the blood that gives us life.   These are what make up the pools we immerse in; the stories and fears, possibilities and promises that flow in our veins.

In the end, it seems, my challenge is to believe in the ocean, that holding my own in the pools keeps me connected with the current of my mother.

Or something like that.

Look Happy!

Miz Rachelle says that the tacit deal she struck with her family when she emerged was to look happy.   It was happiness they claimed to want, and happiness that they could approve, so appearing happy was what they could buy.  “Well, if it makes them happy. . . ”

Of course, as she notes, she came out during her year of euphoria and was happy.  By the time she got to dealing, she was 3000 miles away across the Atlantic.

When you first come out as a transgendered person,
you spend your first year in absolute euphoria.
Then reality sets in, and you have to make a life
and deal with the stigma.
Joan Roughgarden, NY Times Magazine, 9 May 2004

We are impressed with the obligation to manage others fears, and one way to do that is by looking happy.    Of course, that means you can’t easily surface your own pain and fears, because they will just be shot back and used against you.



I think, she said, that the biggest gift that SCC gives anyone is the opportunity to be vulnerable.

The secret dream and the secret dread of everyone who goes to SCC is to be read out, to be seen, understood and revealed in a powerful way. “Discover Me” as Kate Bornstein would say.

That’s why there is so much story dumping at the conference, people who have had no one around who could understand their stories through the past year. I understand this call, and thankfully this blog allows me to dump stories everyday, so I didn’t have that pressure.

We want to be visible, and vulnerable, but we know that is a dangerous place. I was able to help a few heavy hitters with their own need for being seen, a need that couldn’t be met by newly out trannies who don’t yet have the scars which reveal the web of stories that offer context for even the queerest and deepest understandings.

It was that space for vulnerability that was a huge gift to me, and it was that space of which I encouraged my people to take advantage.   To be understood with compassion & encouragement, rather than being grilled with fear & trepidation is a great gift.

It’s being back here, though, that the contrast is so telling. Here I’m not just another transperson, another woman with a unique & compelling history. Here, I am the queer who has to take care of others, the one who scares others, the one who needs defenses.

The feeling that vulnerability is safe and potent is one I need to hold onto. It is where my magic lies, and when I hide behind my own fear of normies, I lose my connection to myself and my power.

My grace is in my messy humanity, my strength is in my vulnerability & openness.

And that, when I am back in the nest of fears, is hard to remember.

Pattern Of Pain

It’s my pattern, apparently.

It’s my pattern of raising something I have previously identified as important but that has been lost by others, and then taking responsibility for not being clear or explicit enough.

That’s the pattern that makes my sister grow cold, trapped between my father, my mother and herself, and withdrawing into her own confusion, frustration and hurt.

See, she doesn’t like to see me hurting.  But she doesn’t like to see me hurt others, either.

Today, the trigger was asking where $6 worth of grocery chits, chits I fought for, went in the clean sweep that my mother triggered and my father executed during my absence in preparation for their friends arrival.  They got thrown out, of course, no one here able to understand why they would have any value to me.

Of course, that’s the problem I have.   My sister is busy, my parents slowing, and having them remember what I value seems like too hard work.  In fact, so much of what I value seems so queer that they deliberately choose to ignore & dismiss it.

This makes me confusing and dangerous to them, as I may be upset that they threw out something that I valued and get a blast for it.  And, what for me seems the simple solution, actually engaging me about things and listening, well, that seems bloody stupid & impossible for them.

My sister wants to see me stop being in denial, being in pain, and taking responsibility for all failures.  Those patterns chill her.

But, on the other hand, she doesn’t want to support me in confronting my parents, breaking through the wall, helping me be out and centered.

No wonder she feels confused and frustrated.

And then again, no wonder that I get frozen out for what she considers my patterns of pain.


I believe that our stories shape our lives.

It’s not how the world is that defines our experience, it is how we understand the world which creates our reality.  For example, Dr J’s mom just doesn’t remember the bad things, and that’s why she is such a Polyanna, a trait she passed on to her bright & intense daughter.

Our stories form the context of our understanding, provide the foundations that we cling to when we feel troubled.  Joe Solmonese of HRC explained to the SCC crowd that the LGBT crowd thought that the challenge to the Hate Crimes bill would come down to our classic internalized question, “How queer is too queer?” trying to draw a line between protected expression and unprotected, but instead, they went to characterize how this bill might stifle their religious expression.  “What if we cast these queers as sinners, then someone acts out against them?  Wouldn’t we be liable just for calling queerness the sick perversion that it is?”

We may or may not die to defend money or property, but we will stand up to defend the stories that sustain us, as TBB proved when she felt Solmonese was unfairly smearing Roman Catholics, and challenged him.  She needs to believe in her stories of the church, and often repeats her explanations of how, even with Rome’s history & continuing denials and a large conservative base, the Roman Catholic church supports people like her.

My role in the thinly spread transcommunities is to stand as the theologian.  When many hear that word, they assume that I am defending Christian principles, or interpreting the laws.

That’s not me.  I’m much more interested in the personal creation stories of transpeople, the way we create and use stories to oppress and liberate us, the way what we hold defines us.  Those three key questions: “Where do we come from?” (or “How did we get this way?”), “Where do we go after here?” and “What should we be doing when we are here?” (or “What are our obligations in this world?”)  define us.

In this, I’m much more interested in the work of Joseph Campbell, who by looking at comparative mythology seemed to find elements of continuous common human stories whose meaning exists almost universally, even if the symbols & metaphors to describe them change over geography & history.

I shared the story of one transsexual woman who has to leap to a new life with Jennifer Finney Boylan,  telling her how the woman was conniving to appear that she was pushed rather than jumped, and Boylan just stared blankly at me.   The idea of creating stories for sale, transgender as a marketing challenge, isn’t one she could enter at that moment, a moment when she was more interested in recreating the experience of palling around with girlfriends.

To me, though, this idea of stories as functional tools just ties in with my understanding of gender as a system of communication used to manage procreation & child rearing.  We are trained in gender roles, and we communicate how we were trained, who we know ourselves to be, and what we desire in our expression.   That’s one reason Dr. Jaye isn’t as clear about her smarts on her MySpace page; like Annie Savoy in Bull Durham, men will tolerate a great deal if they think it’s foreplay.   Let them get hooked, and then they can learn more, a plan that I, without such a pretty package, have found hard to execute.

By the way, Boylan admitted in her session that she wishes she had waited to write and publish her biography, “She’s Not There,” now understanding it has the limits of so many rushed transsexual stories, even if it is the only best-selling one.

I believe in the power of stories.  At SCC I watched the limits of our stories again, how they form the walls we use to act in the world, defending us and restricting us at the same time.

Since we can’t get our stories from conventional places, we need to pull them together from many sources, and that collage has challenges.  One session at SCC on words we can use was limited to those who believe we live in a context of patriarchal oppression, that we are crushed by those who own class and race and gender, and that they need to change for us to be free.  If you didn’t agree with that assumption — that lifemyth, that story — then you shouldn’t participate there.

The only way we can create shared language is to create shared metaphors, and that means creating shared stories.  Dr. J and I can bond over the stories of our shared girlfriends, Carrie, Miranda (me!), Charlotte (her!) and Samantha (TBB, though she doesn’t know it), and through them (and the writers, producers & actresses who create them) we can talk about our views of being a woman in the world.

I came away from SCC with an understanding that I have to be more clear, explicit and accessible about my view of theology, of how we need to own our stories to own our lives.


The transitioners often see those who limit transformation to be less womanly than they are, but it’s my experience that many transition with bull stubbornness, and those of us who are more sensitive, nuanced, aware and connected see the limits of demanding that others accept who we claim to be. It’s always been my sense about you kiddo, not that you are not trans and femme, but that you are more vulnerable at deep levels, probably something your lovely GF finds irresistible about you.
(My note to a friend)

I wasn’t the most happy at SCC07 in the conference hall. I was most happy popping up to the mini-mart to get one of those Cokes that are killing me, walking in the world as if it was made for me.

My sister’s solution for me is that I spend days away from my parents in my own expression. It’s what TBB suggests too, because from her kinesthetic viewpoint, unless you express who you are physically, it doesn’t exist; you are not woman, you are man.

That feels like the wrong expression for me. I shaved and have my jacket, dress, tights and boots on and I am thinking about going to the service at the church that includes transgender welcoming on their website. But I know that as long as I have to feel closeted, sneaking out of here and wondering how I get back, unable to be in my center and connect, well, I’m just going to be another stranger on the edge.

“You have no more work to do emotionally,” said TBB, “but you do need four or five trips to Electrology 3000, facial liposuction, weight loss, cute new glasses and a long course of hormones.”

I know that it is only when I lift my head up that I can be open enough to walk in both power and vulnerability. The rules about dressing down to blend in are all well and good, but dressing up to stand out also has its power, and that is power you need to be centered in, power I need to be centered in.

Stick a fork in me, I’m done, and that means there is a fork to be taken.

But dang, the one thing I don’t want is to clank around in transsexual armor.

Fork that.


I was in the living room with my parents when I got a cell call from my sister’s “functioning alcoholic” friend.

I answer it, and it was clear that he didn’t know who I was, even though we have met many times over the last 20 years.

“I’m her sister,” I said.

Ooops.  Not what I should have said, even if it’s what I believe.  Did my parents hear that?  I can’t tell.

My sister believes that I over process.  She’s right, of course.  I have to leave all the filters in place to keep myself from slipping like that, have to process past.

I know who I am.

A week ago tonight, I didn’t have to hide it.   It was easier, at least for me.   It was truer, closer to my heart.

But not for them, you know.

Do I get up tomorrow, get dressed and go to church?


Nikki & Betsy

Of the two Miami counseling students at SCC, I wanted to be Betsy, the queerdyke with the long red hair who had her girlfriend sleep over in high-school, the changeling who came as a man to SoCo A GoGo Roadshow. Her flashing power was something I missed in my life.

But Nikki, the strong, dark eyed beauty in the chair, well, she I was the one I wanted to date — present, smart, sensitive and sharp.

It was a gift to meet both of them, for Betsy to say she saw me as integrated, actualized whole, and for Nikki to want to have a chance to kiss my cheek before I left.

And somewhere in those eyes, I had just a glimmer of hope that someone closer to my age could find me attractive, could make a connection.

Thanks gals.

The Brilliance of TBB

I need to hand it to TBB.  In the past week she has come back from SCC, taken a new entry-level job with the department of transportation, been to dance class and out dancing, taken her son to dinner and been at his track meet, gone on a motorcycle event, taken Italian lessons, and been told she is one of three candidates for a prestigious management position on the new vehicle, so desired that if she doesn’t get this job there will be another coming.

It is the power of moving from the body, with limited self-awareness that keeps her going, all routines, habits and motion anchored in a faith.

And, as much as that isn’t who I am, I need to admire her for being who she is.

Owning It

When I looked around at Southern Comfort Conference 2007, I saw all different types of presentations and positions, from young, angry & stupid to old, tired & resigned.

To me, though, the key measurement I ended up taking of people was simple: to what degree did they own their own expression, own themselves?

I saw people dressed in sharp outfits, but their faces told me that this was still just a costume that someone helped them with, not an expression of self.

As he was getting another drink, I asked Mrs. Bob Davis if he knew what the ultimate tranny surgery was. He averred that he didn’t.

“It’s pulling the stick out of your own ass,” I said.

The bartender responded, “That sounds painful!”

“Not half as painful as leaving it in,” I explained. The bartender thought that made sense.

Who here had pulled the stick out of their own ass, I wondered as I watched people flow by.

To me, as the old Wounded Healer I am, I was looking for how people owned two things; their vulnerability and their power.   I saw powerful people kicking ass, but who didn’t have the tenderness of being open, and wounded people struggling through, but who didn’t have a sense of their own transformational energy in the world.

Power & Vulnerability.  In my experience, it is how we alloy these two pieces that allows us to make magic in the world,  bringing together adult responsibility and childlike openness that both connects and creates new.  The hardest thing we can do as those who need change, is to hold open the space for others to change, but without that space, we can’t claim our own transformation.

I felt this strongly as I saw the people I was connected to at SCC; Holly who has felt flashes of her power on the last year, preaching & leading circles, but often covers it over; TBB who feels the loss of her past, but not yet the open and engaging power of her future; Lola, whose open heart charmed so many on film; and Terry whose open smile warmed my heart and whose powerful words filled my inbox this morning.

This amalgam of power and vulnerability, of wounds and healing, was reinforced by the way I saw signs line up to take me to SCC, from plane ticket to paddle balloons to hair, to Mari G.  And it was sealed by Vickie Davis, a reader of this blog, who I found as we were in the parking lobby about to leave, and who includes this quote in her sig

If you are not working to integrate your life
you are working to disintegrate it.
Callan Williams

I was there at SCC to remind others, and myself, of the magic of owning our own lives, the power and the vulnerability of walking in this world as one who reminds others of our “continuous common humanity.”

How do we integrate our frail humanity and essential divinity to own our center in the world?

It’s a question worth working on, at least to me.


The striking thing, at least to me, about my trip to see TBB and SCC07 was how easy it was.

There were challenges, of course — TBB’s network eating my detailed summary when I tried to post it here was hard — but in general, it was easy.

I went to rest stops, walked to stores, chatted with other women,  all that, easy.   I had shoe/foot trouble, of course, but had good enough shoes to move the trouble around.  Chatting with Holly & Terry was easy.

It’s when I got back here that things got hard.  Stuffed into an inhospitable corner, changes made without considering me, having to get out in front of two recalcitrant people, well, that is hard.

But getting on a plane, going through screening, moving through the world, well, that almost made me feel like an adult again, someone for whom the world was made.

I need to try to recreate that summary, of course, when I can get the text to flow, and that will be a challenge.  Here everything seems like a jumble, with blocks and piles.  For example, my mother has moved things around in the living room so there is only a two and a half foot gap to enter the kitchen, a gap my father likes to stand in.  I have to wait to move, keep silent and dormant around them.

Easy was good.  Almost let me believe in my power.

But then there is here.

Sister Mother

TBB likes to drive, and she knows where she likes to stop. 

I know how to practice self denial, to be “gracious.”   That’s why I rode with my legs crossed tight for a while.

But in Macon, the dam burst, and the cup from Krystal was urgently pressed into emergency service.  It was a mess — my dress, the seat, undepants and all.

We stopped at a Wal-Mart and dumped the cup. I went in to clean up, and TBB bought some absorbent pads to soak up the mess.

It was odd, down to the Mennonite girl waiting for my stall.

If I had known that this was was going to happen I might have avoided the trip.  But the truth is that when things happen, I’m pretty good at handling them

More than that, TBB is good at it too.  She took charge, and when I tried to go and get upholsery cleaner, the heel cap of my shoe falling off.

Yes, I know how to be the mother, good in battle. But that doesn’t mean I always have to fight.  TBB wanted me here for a number of reasons, but one is because she feels better with family around, and she knows that we are sisters.

And in this moment, I had to accept that she was my sister mother, another mother who could just take care, and in this case, I needed to let her help me.

Two lessons there; the first about the cost of denying what I know to be true for too long, about speaking up for what I need when I need it. 

And the second about trusting sister mothers.

I know I’m a hitter.  Our bellman winked me into the freight elevator when the evevator line was clogged, knowing from me pulling much of the luggage while the cart was full of TBB’s hanging dresses, that I was someone who knew how to work it.  “Powerful in battle,” as I found out that my name suggests.

And TBB, who swore she was just going to stay in the background this year at her signature event, an interactive murder mystery evening, after another gal was called “the new TBB” last year, was called on at the last minute to be the sparkplug again.  The staff at the theatre said she was the best they had seen.  All that desire to blend in, to hide, and her nature wins out, shining with her own beautiful inner spotlight. 

But we can’t do it alone.  And we can’t do it in silence.

Thanks, sister mother.


There was a big tower of cloud out over the ocean, looking like a huge plume of smoke.  This finger into the sky blocked out my view of the sun as it rose over Cape Canaveral beach.

But there, the amniotic water lapping at my feet, while I couldn’t see the sun, I could know that it was there, lifting into the day, as it lit the clouds and water with rose, red and orange hues.

The light may be blocked from view, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t illuminate the world as it rises.  Oh, wait; that seems like a metaphor for something.

From the plane yesterday (and 9/11 is a good day to fly standby) I was struck by the margins of the land as it met the sea, that thin strip of beach which forms the doorstep between earth & water.

I am the verge, I thought, that space between, and that means I am always on the verge.

And it’s verge again with Mama TBB as gracious hostess, laying on an impromptu dinner party last night that was a delightful mix of food and people.

Today it’s Atlanta, moving again through the world.  But as I walked back from the beach in my denim skirt, a lady walking her dog on the crossover said hello.

TBB says people are friendly down here.

Good things can happen on the verges, I guess. 


It’s 1:30 AM before I can go out into the backyard and buzz off the beard.

It’s 3:30 AM and I’m checking the weight limits for luggage on the airline.

It’s 4:00 AM and I’m trying to figure out what I can leave out.  It’s not like I have practiced outfits, put together looks; this is a crap shoot.

It’s late and dark and I am alone in a jammed basement trying to make magic happen, but I all I want to do is crawl up and cry. My sister told me that she can feel the pain & frustration in me, but is then amazed at how I drop that to serve my parents in a positive way. It’s actually a trick that any long time hotel employee can pull off. It’s not always fun serving people, but service must be done.

I’m so tired and I fear that this trip will cost my slim resources more than it will replenish them. That’s a constant fear, coming from experience. But signs are good and it is the best bet I can imagine.

Still, it’s very late and I am so tired and there are so many hurdles and I just want to collapse.

Carry that weight, carry that weight a long time.

Paddle Balloons

It’s hard not to note the paddle balloons.

There they were, right in the shiny new Dollarama at College Park center across the street, 4″ round, flat and on cardboard under a transparent dome.

Maybe I should have bought more, but I got six. Three pair.

Almost every tranny born male needs something to help fill her bra, no matter ho big her man-boobs are. And the solutions are legion. Joann Roberts was in a late night taxi cab crash in NYC, and her water filled baggies exploded, causing discussion at the emergency room. Ed came up with a recipe to make forms out of fishing worms molding plastic, allowing huge creations. Charlie Brown jokes that when their car broke down coming back from Birmingham, they drained the hot water from the radiator and ate the four pounds of oatmeal she keeps in front of her.

Now, of course, the cost of silicone prosthesis have come way down, but I never bought them. Still, the one thing I hated was hugging someone when I had rock hard boobs. Not nice.

International Chrysis had that problem with her injected boobs, probably silicone that went hard. She used to joke that they were filled with Johnson’s Wax, and called them Johnson & Johnson. (Yes, I know Johnson’s Wax/SC Johnson of Wisconsin and Johnson & Johnson of NJ are different companies, but we gotta value the joke.)

My eventual solution was big balloons, really big balloons filled with the gel from inside of freezer packs, those bags you put in the cooler. It’s important that the sac not be tight, that it can move.

A few years ago, I went through the stock I had of them — rubber doesn’t last forever — and had to move on. But even Nyjer/Thistle seed inside stockings doesn’t have the same fluidity, even if it is somewhat more useful for push up. (White Glue/Borax gel makes interesting push up pads, but they don’t last)

But here, in front of me on the shelf was a whole peg filled with paddle balloons. Felt like a sign, even if it was just coincidence (I just listened to Julia Sweeny’s Letting Go Of God )

And two of them are filled with freezer gel and in a bag. Still haven’t gotten on the plane, though.

Just something hard not to note, those paddle balloons.

To Love Me

“I love you, Boucha-Boucha!”

“You do not really love me. You only think that you love me.”

That’s one of the motifs of the little radio drama that plays from me here, the profession of love and the consequent rejection of it, always for good, smart and logical reasons.

I know that it’s one of the motifs that runs through me. How can you love me if you don’t understand me, if you can’t hear what I am saying, if you can’t love me when I am sharp, if you can’t get past your own stuff? You may claim to love me, but isn’t really something other than that, some need in you to have me play the role you cast me in, to feel pity, to be amused, to love the idea of love, or something else? Isn’t your love just conditional?

Of course, this mirrors my experience, and my experience may mirror my own expectations.

I remember going to a big ESPA event and seeing a whole mess of people in the TransRights workshop. I looked at them and wondered what the hell they were doing there, since they didn’t appear to actually have processed their own transunderstanding. I mean, I looked and saw family, sure, even some quite sick family, but I also saw people who I didn’t think I could trust to stand up for queer lives.

I know that I am loveable. I just have deep suspicions that any human has the capacity to do that.

When people express appreciation for my offerings, the first question that goes through my mind is “Did you really understand what I wrote, really hear what I said?” I understand the density, complexity and challenge of my own work, and when someone doesn’t approach it with at least some ambivalence, like Yarrow or Gwyneth, I always wonder if they are listening to their own voice, rather than to mine.

I have been thinking about what I would say if asked at SCC (and I won’t be asked) and I keep coming back to Circling Beauty as a theme. It may well be possible to be loved without being understood, but because I never started at that level, it is still an idea that I struggle with, that just being present is enough to be beautiful, attractive and lovable. “Thanks for admiring me as a symbol, but do you think that I am pretty?

A long time ago, on Jenny Jones, I saw a transwoman, who seemed to identify as a drag queen/gay man w3ith her boyfriend. She explained that she had made him see her without her makeup once before she could get serious.

The crowd didn’t understand, but Jenny, a stand-up comedian who knew how people projected on performers like her, got it instantly. It was important for her to know that he saw the person behind the performance, knew and liked her too. I know too many transwomen who date straight-identified men and when the illusion slips a bit, they get blamed for it, as if performance isn’t an art that requires constant work between participants — performers, audience members, or often those who are both.

This is the challenge of being product, of offering answers rather than questions, of being stigmatized into institutional doubt, the kind that enforces the Butlerian performance of gender as an imitation for which there is no original.   And for those who walk outside the norms, it is the challenge of the expectations projected on you by others, especially potential partners who imagine what they are looking for.

“I love you!”

“You only think that you love me.

Is testing love pushing people away? Or is love that demands sanitized and conscious performance something other than love?

Does love require knowledge, or just feelings?  I understand the limits of symbolic communication, understand that while creating these words is the best that I can do to communicate my experience, you can only understand them through your experience, and with the depth of work you are willing and able to put in to figure out what I am trying to say.  Many people just hear what they can hear, and assume that the other words are noise, garbage, filler, but I assure you that if they didn’t have meaning to me, I wouldn’t take the time and effort to write them down.

I am a porcupine, a shaman, a knife.  I know that.  I bristle, I x-ray, I cut.

One core lesson in Wally Lamb’s “She’s Not There” is that love is what love is, and when the janitor who doesn’t approve of homosexuals finds out you have AIDS and stops on his way to church with his family to drop off a coffee milkshake — this is Rhode Island — you need to drink it.   I know that it’s important to take the love people can offer, and not wait until it looks like what I think it should look like.

But I still question love that doesn’t seem to come from deep understanding.  I don’t really trust anything but brain centered, symbolic based, deep ambivalence.  If you can’t engage my depths, can you really engage me?

To believe that I am more than my analysis, more than my text, which is separate from convention, is very hard for me, because it is in that realm of consciousness that I have learned to live, even as I am turned dead in the world.   It’s there where I believe I hold my true self; complicated, complex, contradictory, queer.

To love me, don’t people have to love that part of me?  Don’t they have to have come to grips with their own individuality, their own unique self, their own queerness?

Yet, as long as I hold that they don’t really love me, they just think they do, how can I ever be open to love?

The biggest burden I carry, as I have said here before, is holding open the space that others can change.  If I don’t hold open the space for change, what does my life mean?  Yet, people are their nature, and opening to them can mean you are  at the mercy of their old patterns, old habits and old fears.  Even when you are clear that what you express is about you, you can push their buttons, bring up old stuff, and end up taking their old pain.

To love me isn’t easy or simple.  My PPP — potential partner pool — only includes people who are post therapy, who have learned to own what comes up for them as about them, not the the fault of whoever triggered those feelings & thoughts.

But for me to dismiss love because it isn’t as mature as I might trust, well that cuts me off from breath.  People can give what they can give, and their gifts are from the God that connects us all, even if shadowed by demons that are very human, the kind we all carry.

To trust that I am lovable on some level other than my deep symbol, well, that’s hard to grasp.  I circle my own beatuy, not engaging it, not trusting it, not honoring it.

And that keeps me separate from love.

Lifelong Failure

My mother is feeling pushed to make everything nice for her friends coming this week, people she hasn’t seen for decades.

This means she sits in her throne reading magazines and puts pressure on my father.

I try too help, but his frustration and confusion come out at me.

I deal with this as if I was in a business meeting, trying to set an agenda, to make punch lists.

This frustrates them even more, because they don’t want to feel trapped.

They then explain how I should see things the way I see them and do what they would do, highlighting examples of where I mess up, leave crap, make problems, etc.

I acknowledge that I fail at seeing things the way they see them, that I fail at meeting their expectations, and go back to asking what to do.

This frustrates my father more and he says it’s unreasonable to try and do this, and he should have taught me when I was younger how to do things right, but I was so. . .

I acknowledge that it is my lifelong failure to meet their  expectations, and ask again to make a list of what gets done.

My mother explains that no list can be made, because it is all of a piece, and has to be done in toto, whatever that means.

They fail at management, they have never learned, and set up others for failure to meet their unreasonable, unspoken and apparently unspeakable expectations.

And I just want to get a plan of action for what needs to get done, which they see as unreasonable, impossible and oppressive.

I acknowledge my lifelong failure to understand what they want and satisfy them, even though they hate it when I make their position so clear.

What do you think they might acknowledge?


Dr. Phil likes to say that “You can’t serve two masters.”

Most of the time he says that, it’s bulldonkey, of course. These aren’t people serving a master, these are people trying to meet multiple expectations and requirements, to manage some sort of course as a modern human. They have the requirement to deal with conflicting and contradictory obligations, to live in a world full of tension & ambiguity, which is nowhere near as satisfying to viewers as just doing the right thing.

This potential trip, well, it feels to me like a microcosm of my bigger challenges in the world, obligation to family & propriety versus obligation to self & calling. I suspect that it is needless to say that as such a microcosm it feels particularly bad.

I have the sense that my parents not only depend on me in ways they don’t fully understand, but that they take me for granted. As they get older their tunnel vision increases, and for different reasons neither of them had a particularly wide, integrated or compassionate view in their younger days.

This alone is a good reason to go, so they again value how much I do around here. When we were in Toronto, one of my mother’s friends asked if I worked out. I suspect it was because she (and others) saw the kind of muscle moves it takes to manage an 1/8 ton woman in a tiny transport chair. How would my father handle that? Remember, it’s my perception that I am helping my father take care of my mother, not that I am taking care of my mother.

It’s only a week and a half or so, I really need it, TBB could use me, lots of good reasons to go.

But trying to get it all together in hiding, without support & feedback, well, that’s dammed hard. Yet if I am open, I have to deal with their fears and prejudices too, and I fear that is more than I can bear.

I am torn and shattered, hopeful and hopeless, and all under wicked time pressure.

Microcosm, but Macropain.