deVulnerable

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.

Theology

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.

Fork

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.