There is a review in the NYT today of a new book by Joseph Ellis, AMERICAN CREATION: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic. Ellis wants to speak about the ad-hoc and improvisational nature of the forming of the US
“What in retrospect has the look of a foreordained unfolding of God’s will was in reality an improvisational affair in which sheer chance, pure luck — both good and bad — and specific decisions made in the crucible of specific military and political crises determined the outcome.”
It’s amazing how stories read backwards make everything look foreordained, but as lived, they look chaotic and chancy. This is the problem of the classic trans biography, quickly written when one has finally become stabilized and needs to enshrine the correctness of the outcome by illuminating the path as obvious and the only one possible. It’s only when we get past that moment of bliss that we get back to the ambiguity of living a real trans life.
I think that the one thing I missed in this life is being more ad-hoc and improvisational. I am good on my feet, and I love being surprised by the viruosic quality of what comes out of me when I least expect it. I watch the Oprah and know I have a bit of that gift, to be in the moment, fluid & lucid, having an outline but making it up as I go along. Remember, when I was a kid, I wasn’t afraid I was trans: I was afraid that I was like Jonathan Winters.
Yet the one thing that I was trained not to trust is my instinct. After all, any instinct that calls a boy to wear a dress and respond like a woman, well, that’s an instinct that must be ill or evil, right? An instinct that must, must, must be stifled & hidden, right?
I’m getting a bit better, yes. The only person I have cut off is my sister’s friend who insisted on defining my sickness; up with that I will not put.
But I still have to filter so much, limit so much, edit so much, control so much that I feel cut off. My improvisational energy is cut down to a minimum, and that means I feel like I lose much of myself. Good calls with TBB are fun because I get to respond down a chain, always linking back, feeling power and grace come out of me.
There is so much to be said for trying lots and seeing what works, for the audience of engaged people with different viewpoints who can help separate good from bad in a way that often leads to excellence.
I miss that magic, I have missed that magic.
So it’s nice to know that even while fundamentalists read backwards to say that the US is a nice Christian country, foreordained by God, Ellis and others are talking about how crazy messes can make good stuff.
Even crazy messes like me.