Maybe one of the differences between normies and queers is that the normie life is seen as an arc, a journey from birth to school to marriage to death, while a queer life is seen as a sequence of episodes; childhood, school; coming out, loss, retrenchment.  Queers twist and thwart conventional expectations as a matter of linguistics, as a matter of life.

In a normie life there aren’t any sharp turns that seem to be disjointed, breaks that seem to mark different lives joined together. When we hold a queer life up to normie expectations, there are just too many things that seem unexpected, with no ability to predict the future from the past.

One of the experts on trans sexuality came to us with a background in looking at those who had traumatic changes in their life; accident, injury, illness that left people profoundly changed. These were people who had to find a new normal out of the expected arc of their life, and that experience of transformation was jarring.

Your nice normie life turns queer when something unanticipated happens and you have to become new. If that’s true, it means that Campbell’s Hero’s Journey is always a tale of queerness, but then any journey where you have to slay the dragon with “thou shalt” on every scale to gain the gift of a lifetime, being who you are, well, how could that be anything but queer?

The difference between normative and queer is that queers leave the well trod path because they are called to, because of events or because of their heart. That makes sense.

Yet, when we do that, we often stop seeing our lives in context.

This is a big issue with transpeople, who, because their life has made a sudden veer off course, assume that there is no path beyond where they are now, that this is the alpha and omega, the point of whatever.

That’s not true, of course. Queer lives do have a path of growth and development, just one that can only be seen in hindsight, not in anticipation. They don’t follow convention, but they do follow truth, and the truth is that the human journey from birth to death has areas we all pass through.

The best part about these arx of queer lives is that when we see them we have grounds to affirm and to engage transformation.

When the only arc we have is the canned transsexual biography, for example, we expect that there is no way to move beyond the sorrow, the surgery, the cure. We cling to our syndrome.

But for me, the most powerful trans lives move far beyond that, creating new ways to express humanity, new catalysts to reveal and support deep connection, new incentives to take the hero’s journey in life.

I need other queers to affirm the arx of a queer life, so myself and others have the license to move beyond the normative we cling to and see our dramatic change in the context of the blessings of a long & empowered queer life.

Change is normal, even if it is not normative, and being committed to rounding the next curve, even if we cannot see beyond it, is the only way to become continuously new and better.

I need to celebrate the arx of queer lives, beyond the conventional, predictable and expected arcs of normative ones.

It’s the way I can celebrate my own possibilities.

Amber’s Koan

I always thought I had to choose between love and respect.

I chose respect.

With Wilson, I can have both.

Amber on House. 5 February, 2008

I have been saying since I was young that I would rather be loved than respected. It’s one reason that I have never easily accepted group identity, staying strong as an individual rather than working to be loved by the gang.

But the love, well, the love hasn’t been bountiful.

On Live With Regis And Kelly, this year’s bride endured painful burns on her face and body while saving her kids from an explosion in her mother’s house. She was quite covered up as she took her vows, even though the show got the best people to do her wig and makeup.

She reminded me of a local gal who had a nightgown light on fire as a child, and who now works in her family’s diner. Some radio jocks saw her and talked about the monster on their show, how that restaurant hires people like her. A few months ago she got a big settlement from those assholes after she took her day in court to show her face and tell her story.

The pastor on Regis wanted to talk about what a lesson the bride was to all of us.

I fumed.

This beautiful woman, now scarred for life, isn’t a lesson. She’s a human. This is not about you, this is about her, damnit, and she is not here for your learning.

I thought about what I would say about her.

I would say this is a human who deserves our love and our respect.

We need to have compassion for her, as we have compassion for any human who has gone through pain & trauma, who is living with the long-term effects of the challenges of a human life.

Of course, every human has some of that. We don’t wear it on our skin, as she does, but it is there none the less.

Compassion is love, a heart felt reaching out to another in pain.

We also need to have respect for her and for her moving beyond that pain & trauma to care for herself, to care for others, like her children and family.

Respect, though, isn’t just a gift to someone else. It is also a gift to ourselves, because once we choose to reallhy respect someone else, we have to open to them and accept what they have to offer.

If we just feel pity for someone we keep them at arms length. If we feel respect for them, though, we listen to their story, and we allow ourselves to be changed by it. Respect for others is a gift to ourselves, because what we value in others we value in ourselves, and what we value shapes our choices, making us more respectful and more respectable.

I recently posted about a letter to a local paper from a guy who wants to keep the right to castigate and despise queers, who feels that if society says they deserve respect that removes his right to free speech, speech that marginalizes and dehumanizes them. There’s no way he wants to have to be silenced in his moral judgments just because others respect queers.

When Amber talks about feeling the need to choose between love and respect, I get it. And as I say in “What You Need To Know About My Transgender” the most painful thing is not to be able to share my gifts and have them accepted.

In other words, the most painful thing for me is to not be respected.

After all, Amber and I know the truth; love without respect, without opening to the one you love in a way that can change you, ain’t really worth it.

I am a transformative person, ready to open and change when change is called for. I live on the bleeding edge where comfort in convention is rare but joy in revelation is common.

And that’s why I crave the respect that I give others, as I open to them so I can grow from their gifts.

And why making that choice often feels like it is a choice against love.