Imposed or Organic?

In management, there are two basic ways of creating structure in a business.

The first is imposing structure; creating a system that you have invented and then training the people to play their roles in that system. This can easily be seen in an assembly line. In that structure, people are just mostly just playing machines you can’t easily make or buy, doing complex tasks as an adjunct to the machines.

The second way is organic structure, in which you take the natural patterns and tendencies of humans and try to use them to achieve your goals. This is the kind of structure required for creative jobs, like journalism and programming, where people have to work in their own way, but also have to follow the rules, supporting the goals, requirements and strictures of the organization.

Of course, both of these approaches are required in any organization. An assembly line has to take into account the humanity of people, from bathroom requirements to congeniality to pride, and a creative organization has to enforce structure in order to keep things ordered and functioning.

It is the balance between these approaches that is a key challenge of management. For any given change or challenge, is it better to force structure and demand compliance, or is it better to use human patterns and desires to achieve that goal? Do we impose or do we harness?

Today, lots and lots of seekers are transfixed by the law of desire concept. In this belief system, you can imagine what you want and create it in the world. In other words, you can impose your own desires on the world and it will obey, if you just want it intensely enough.

To me, these people often seem to be missing the other side of creating side of creating structure. They miss the idea that all you can control is your own choices, and beyond that, all you can do is convince or train others within their own nature.

I was at a party with a friend, and the hostess had made a stromboli, sausage and cheese rolled in bread dough and baked, a treat we often call “garbage bread” in this corner of the world.

Her stromboli was a mess, raggedy and flat, not appealing. I offered to make the second with the other half of the same ingredients she used.

Bread dough, well, in my experience it doesn’t respond well to intention. Instead, it responds well to attention. I started working the dough, slowly and carefully, getting it to the right size and thickness. My hands felt the dough and what it wanted, working with it to be good, rather than demanding it follow my intent.

I took the time to let the loaf proof some too, to let it rise and relax, making its own structure of air pockets through the interaction of the yeast, gluten and sugars.

After being baked the stromboli looked nice, better than the hostesses first attempt. I predicted to my friend what the hostess would say after seeing my bread, and I got her reaction right on.

“That looks great,” she said. “How did you do that? I pounded the heck out of mine and it didn’t come out half as good!”

Yeah. She had the intention of imposing her will on the bread, while I worked with the bread to help nature to take its course.

I was speaking with a friend recently and she was noting all the obstacles she had to jump over to stay on her path.

I laughed.

“Uh,” I said, “those obstacles are your path. By engaging them you learn, about the world, about yourself. They are moments for miracles, for that change in perception that A Course In Miracles (ACIM) talks about.”

She promised to consider this. Still, I have seen ACIM gatherings where people are invited to pray for the miracles that they want, invited to try to impose miracles on the world, rather than to accept the teaching that miracles are a change in perception, a moment when this world we share teaches us how to surrender, how to become more organic, how to work with nature rather than against it.

The challenge between having dreams we can create in the world and learning to accept the world as it is is always difficult. We need to impose ourselves in the world, yet the best way to do that is by accepting the nature around us.

You know — God grant me the strength to change what I can change, the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference. That old saw.

Somehow, someone on LiveJournal linked to this blog, although I haven’t been able to find out who, rather just finding links from “friends” pages. I never understood LJ, and don’t now, either.

Grace chose to comment on “Who The Fuck Wants To Be A Tranny” about how trans isn’t a gift in any definition she has of the term, because she can’t return it, can’t reject it. She is caught in the cleft between her nature and a heterosexist society, and to her she just is being ground down between those surfaces, crush and pulverized in a way that causes her frustration and pain so great that she wants to “kill God.”

Me, well, I had to learn to kill the false gods to find the deeper real ones.

So many of these “law of desire” people never suggest that your desires may be limiting, destructive, out of whack, based in social expectations rather than natural essence, and really just off. They never suggest that desires need to be questioned and challenged, put into the fire to see what burns off and what remains solid.

For me, that process of burning my desire has been invaluable. I remember what I desired twenty years ago when I first started really engaging my nature. My desires drove me, and they drove me to be twisted and manipulative, to be desperate and needy, to be demanding and broken. I couldn’t accept the love I was being given because I wanted the love I wanted. I tried to bend people to my will, but thankfully I found Christine, who both stayed around and slapped me every time I tried to control her.

I am where I am now not because I imposed my desire on the world, but rather because I surrendered to nature and allowed the expectations to burn off, returning as much as possible to the handmade life, as Clarissa Pinkola Estes talks about in The Red Shoes: On Torment And The Recovery Of Soul Life, a fundamental text for me.

We need to impose structure, but we also need to let nature inform and elevate that structure, working with the world rather than against it. After all, not even the most impose order manager would suggest that we can ignore even the laws of physics; we have to work with gravity as a given. Don’t we also have to work with humanity as a given too, or pay the cost for abusing that energy?

I worry we have twisted the human out too much from the world, and that the cost of that is compounding daily, but that is another discussion.

Yes, we have to be in touch with our own desires, our own Eros. But that is very different than deciding we could or should be able to manifest anything we desire, bending the world to our unchecked and uncleaned will.

Find your deepest desires, burning away the dross of socially imposed expectation, and then be that desire. It is then when you will attract what you need, when the universe will assist you in connection and creation. It is when you open to the miracles of changed perception that you can see what you need is around you, even if what you expected to want escapes you. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just get what you need, you know.

We live in a magical world, where there exist possibilities far beyond our limited perception. Desire is a potent force, but so is nature, nature in the world and nature in you.

It’s just my experience that working with the dough, rather than against it, will always make better bread.

U or I

Went to a viewing last night, Ethan Bach’s Reclaiming The Pieces, an MFA project that offers the voices of some transpeople, and Aryn Zev’s Drag Kings! Pro Wrestling! Finger Puppets! a selection of short videos by a transwoman who needs images to express the challenges she sees, the way I need words.

Of course, I couldn’t keep my damn femme mouth shut, which embarrassed Marcie, sitting next to me. “You are so dynamic!” she told me later, and included this in her summary:

And I can attest that Callie (who was at the viewing I attended), spoke most eloquently (as she always does) during the Q & A portion. Her profound comment in regard to another’s question was…well, profound ! Bravo!  She really is quite fun to talk to and I love her take on things.

The question was from someone fascinated with transgeneic humans who wanted to know where disability rights and trans rights crossed. Ethan gave an answer that made sense for trannies born female, who basically pass as men easily, but I added the discussion about how that has been a hot button issue for transpeople assigned as male at birth or soon there after. Is trans a disease which we treat and are cured, or is trans just a way some people are born, and the problem is not sickness but social context?

I suppose I could have noted that the 1994 draft of Rikki Anne Wilchins amazing Read My Lips talked about Childhood Chromosomal Disorder (CCD) and the 1999 pomo published version went right with accepting difference, but somehow that seemed too obscure.

People liked my answer though, so they spoke to me after. Filmmaker Jim DeSeve, his partner and his mother chatted with me about their experiences. Ethan’s parents and Aryn’s parents also attended.

Aryn was chatting with Marci, and when I walked past, she turned and said “Are you that amazing Callie from the list?”

“You mean the big mouthed obnoxious broad?” I asked “I’m her.”

“Yes!” she said as she jumped up to greet me. It turns out that Aryn is interested in the crowd who was there and did that, out in a tough time and making her road a tiny bit easier. It was odd being respected by up and coming people, especially when we kept our distance at the Yes Men screening a week ago. We may well end up chatting soon.

What I noticed was the partners. Ingrid, with bright eyes behind a cheesy false beard, was with Aryn and a great femme was with Ethan. She and I were the only two in black tights & boots, and we both agreed women who aren’t ballsy are, well, boring.

It has always seemed to me that it is much easier to get women, especially femme women as partners with transpeople, and I came up with a theory.

Women like to understand where their partners are different, queer, off the norm, like to get around them and inside of them. They may be lesbian or straight, but they have the mother need to understand, to help verbalize, to accept and empower.

Men, on the other hand (and by this I don’t mean all males, as you should have guessed by now), often prefer to ignore where their partners are different, queer or off the norm.

“Well, she’s great in the sack and there’s always dinner on the table, so it’s good. I think she may have a little crack problem of some sort, but it doesn’t get in the way of her taking care of me, so no problem.”

So much simpler if I wasn’t double queer, both a transwoman and a femme, because then I could just find a nice femme or such who would want to understand.

Anyway, it was a nice night, even if I did only dress up for the “Client #9 Pimps & Ho’s Ball, Honoring Elliot Spitzer.” The giant print of sticky cherry red 1980s lip gloss smeared on my cup amused me, even if as I spent two and a half hours trying to get through with my parents, ending in a screaming match to understand the network problems my father was having in the new hotel. I try to create a shared understanding with shared language, but, well, it is a battle.

Any wonder if after that I showered, put on my cozys, watched a sweet episode of What Not To Wear where a 23 year old girl had decided she could never be beautiful so she would only be wild, and the tam showed her she was beautiful, and went to bed?

Understand or Ignore difference, U or I. Is it about understanding you or ignoring what isn’t me?

Life.

Sexy And Strong

TantraGal and I have been chatting about the challenges of being gifted as a healer in the world.

We both know about being both tender and powerful in the world, with a sensitive heart and a brain that observes with metaphysical context.   People assume that because we can go places and do things that are hard for them then we can do things that are easy for them, which is not the case.

She has realized she likes it when I call her “gorgeous.”  Even though she knows she is beautiful, sometimes her heart doesn’t come along.  She can help other people understand their lives in context, but in her life, well, she longs for what she longs for, aches where she aches, needs what she needs.   Hearing it out loud from another, well, she likes that,

She has started affirming others and began her last note to me “Hi Sexy and strong! :)

You know, I don’t usually think of myself as “sexy and strong,” but while my mind looked askance, well my heart felt a little lightened.  If TantraGal sees that, well, maybe it really is present in me, maybe it really is possible to have it be seen.

Sexy and strong.

My, My.

Cleft

I know where the fault line of my life is.

I know how to be my parent’s servant, my family’s caretaker.

I know how to be a trans-shaman.

I don’t know how to cross those worlds, to connect them and make them live.

This is the tear in my heart, my soul, my brain, this line between power and family.

I remember one crossdressing friend note that transsexual women didn’t dress as well as she would like.

I reminded her that when you live as a woman, you don’t just go to work as a woman, go to church as a woman, go to events as a woman. You also clean the house as a woman, paint the walls as a woman, take out the garbage as a woman, do car repairs as a woman and so on. Those day-to-day activities often don’t leave much room for style and flair in appearance.

What I can’t do as a woman is to be my parents son. And what I can’t do as my parent’s son is to walk in the world as a woman, no matter how much I have done the work.

That leaves the chasm I live with. There is a zone, around the housing development, in local shopping, where I have the habit of keeping my head down, keeping my energy bottled up. I know that whenever I have to deal with my parents — and I still talk with them two or more times a day, hours altogether — they have an expectation of me that locks me down. Broken wheel chairs or walkers or phones, medical appointments or insurance, wakeup calls and daily chatter where they stretch and feel connected. It’s all work, like the work I don’t do, rehabbing their house, taking care of gardens and so on.

When I am out for myself I feel badly when I don’t get the work they need done.

And when I do work for them, I feel badly that I am not present for myself.

This is the crack that cleaves me into pieces, the gap that sparks seem not to fly across. This is where the break is, between my world and theirs. Then again, when have I ever expected that people can enter my world, and when have I not respected the worlds others live in?

When my sister calls, wanting to get together, I feel the need to jump in the shower before I meet her. This is my stuff; my sister, while not encouraging, has always been supportive, suggesting I use her house, buying me jewelry for Christmas, and having seen me many times. There would not be a big issue with being there for her, but to me my sister lives in my parents world and I know how I have to be there, defended and defined. I know she often feels torn between me and my parents and I don’t want to put her in that position, don’t want to feel her side with them and against me. She has her own desires and needs, which sometimes feel counter to mine, but it is important for me to respect her choices and her wants.

I get pulled back into my parent’s world; I have to be ready to be pulled back into my parent’s world at any time. This means that I have to have the quench switch at the ready, and it means I can’t immerse, can’t trust, can’t, well, it means I am cleft, split, broken. I wait for the phone to ring, wait for the third gotcha.

I walked through TBB’s neighborhood the first morning I got there, flip flops & denim skirt down to watch sunrise on the beautiful beach.  I knew I wasn’t the neighborhood tranny — TBB holds that role — and I felt safe, accepting the smiles and morning nods of other strollers.

But my parent’s neighborhood stifles me, trying to keep my head down in their world.  And when you feel stifled just leaving the house, warming up past there takes a lot of work.

I am cleft between my world and my parents world, and that leaves me feeling split and separated.

This is the fault line of my life, the bit that gives me headaches.  My parent’s rather gender-neutral son, the caretaker who cooks like a girl and shovels like a boy, the powerful transwoman who has to believe in her own power and attractiveness.

Cleft.

Blank Spots

When most people walk in the world, they carry with them a quilt that informs and protects them, a quilt made up of memories, experiences, beliefs and understandings.  Their adult life is built on a foundation, mostly a shared foundation of the experience of growing up in a normie world.

As a transwoman, though, my quilt is threadbare.  There are blank spots that leave me teetering; those moments when you were a pretty little girl, your first date, and on and on.  Without the social experience of being a girl, traveling through all the joys and sorrows of being a woman in the world, there are big gaps.

Now I know that others also have gaps, missed foundations, but they are usually not as gaping as mine.  For example, all immigrants have a somewhat different childhood than their present, but often they have at least similar experiences, or have been around people with those experiences.

When most women my age and size walk into a store and look at cute clubwear, they remember when they were young and hot, and even if you can’t or won’t wear this now, the experience exists.

Madelaine L’Engel said “The best part about getting older is that you are always all the ages you have ever been.”

Kate Bornstein heard that and chimed in “And all the genders too!”

But if you have never been that age and that gender, well, there is a gap, a hole, a blank spot.  You don’t have that moment, don’t have those memories to call on to inform you, to support you, to give you context.

I have worked hard to learn from the experience of others, as any immigrant should, but it’s not the same as being there.  To be the observer isn’t the same as being the participant, even if you are a very good observer who really can understand the world in context.

I have blank spots in my quilt, holes in my foundation that make me shaky sometimes.

And that’s part of my life.

Sorry, Honey

“Sorry, Honey.”

We were passing through the same mini-mart door in opposite directions.

She was coming fast with her head down, but looked up to see me, and with a warm, Italian-American voice, she said “Sorry, Honey.”

She just reached out with her words to be nice to someone else.

Warm and compassionate, present and graceful, I loved that voice.

It’s the voice that I want, that instant and instinctive, womanly and effusive.

It’s that voice that I need, not the timid little hiding voice I too often use.

I need to be able to let myself touch others without hesitation or trepidation, without fear.

Speak up, speak out, speak.

Sorry, Honey.

Naked Came The Tranny

I know how to walk in the world invisibly. I just slam on my camouflage — jeans, polo, fleece, cap — and I’m off, usually in a corner.

But when I walk in the world as a visibly trans person, well, I don’t know how to be invisible doing that.

That’s good, of course. My trans expression is my expression, how I become present and visible in the world. My work clothes are clothes that reveal me, that in concealing the expected parts of me expose the parts so many would prefer stay hidden, the parts that boldly show the heart & the nature my creator placed in me.

“In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity,” Anne Bolin said so many years ago, and that reminder is still a challenging wakeup call to those who need to believe in separation to feel secure.

Problem is, of course, I have grown to like separation too. Unless I can hear my own voice, unless I can observe without being unduly acted upon, it’s hard for me to stay in my center. Otherwise I feel like a shuttlecock, battered this way and that by the fears of others.

Walking in the world as a trans woman, well, it mostly means walking in the world with your heart and your nature exposed, naked to the world.

This is, of course, the dream and the fear of every human. We all want to be seen for who we know ourselves to be, and we all fear that others will see us and fear us, separating from us. We all want to be embraced by others for who we are inside, and we all fear that others will end up playing out their own stuff on us, projecting on us and then acting out on those projections, the ones they think they need to stay defended.

For a trans woman, there really is no simple place to duck and hide, protected behind a nice, conventional gender stereotype. We may try to become one of the gang, invisible, but something of our heart is always hanging out because we have had to make it so to not be too far lost to ourselves in our assigned pigeonhole.

You may not know this, but naked people walking in the world, even if it is their nature that is exposed and not their skin, well, they can cause the shit to be stirred a little bit.  People who are not comfortable looking at themselves, well they can get a bit crazy seeing what they fear in themselves exposed in others.

Exposed and vulnerable.  It is a conceptually good choice, much better than walking in shadow or hiding in the closet, even the closet we carry around with us.

But when naked comes the tranny, it’s not just the people around her who tremble.

How Many

After a bad wine & fondue Meetup party, where the food was hard to eat, the wine limited and the company snooty, I asked

“How many of these do you have to go to — 1? 4? 37? — before you decide it’s not worth the time and money and resource to even bother going?”

The line between the ego avoiding pain and prudence avoiding incredibly predictable bad results, well, very thin.

TBB’s Bubble

In talking about going through the bubble — that place between where people get that you have a trans history and where they get over it — TBB says that the process changes.

When she walked in the world as a crossdresser, she used to think that she passed all the time.  Now she knows she wasn’t passing, rather she was just carrying her own little force field around her and inviting people to enter.

Now that she walks in the world as a mature, graceful and beautiful transwoman, she often assumes that people know she is trans when they just assume she is normative.

Last night at the VFW post, hanging with a pre-op friend, her first karaoke song (did you think TBB could resist a stage & spotlight?) was a gender-neutral James Taylor tune.

A half hour (and a few drinks) later, she went right for the Sinatra.

TBB’s pal was surprised at how well she could perform.  The post commander was surprised too, but for different reasons.

“Did your friend, well,” she asked the pal “did she used to be a guy?”

“She’s a woman.  Just a transwoman, like me,” the pal said.

Everything was cool, but TBB entered the bubble without knowing it.  Two transwomen together, size, whatever, well, she assumed.  And since she did, she was comfortable enough to belt Sinatra.  Boom the bubble opened.

Comic Magician Carl Ballentine used to play a theater where the manager loved him, and was surprised when the audience didn’t laugh.

“Do you book any other magicians in here?” Ballentine asked.

“No, they are boring.” the manager replied.  “I only book you.”

Ballentine understood the problem.

“Book some boring magicians,” he told the manager.  “Unless they know magicians, they don’t have any context for me to be funny.”

When you have people who only know one transwoman they don’t have any context to understand the range.  TBB is much more together than her friend, so she looked good.

Rumor is that TantraGal is coming to the TransDance tonight after the wine club.  We shall see what she sees.

Entering the balloon without knowing it is scary, which ever way it happens, if you think you pass and are wrong, or think you don’t and are wrong.  It’s the gotcha we don’t like.

And it’s only in context that trannys can be understood.

Or at least that’s how I understand it.

Exemplary Erudition

Last night at dinner, when the discussion turned to controlling computers with your mind, and TantraGal wondered about wired up hands free orgasms for a pleasure party, I recalled a passage from Kilgore Trout’s Venus On The Half Shell about a space pilot who used brain controls to increase hormones, which enlarged his penis and controlled his spaceship. Of course, as Trout notes, he could have used the brain controls to directly manipulate the space ship, but he really never considered that.

Of course, I had to give context, Half Shell being written by Phillip Jose Farmer posing as Kilgore Trout, a character created by Kurt Vonnegut, local boy.  And afterwards, as asked, I found the passage and references on the interweb and emailed them to TantraGal

It occurs to me now that referencing details from a passage in 1972 novel was, in the end, what most set me apart from the other 10 people at the table, not the fact that I was trans. Exemplary erudition is not conventional, don’t cha know?

I did help Mark, who sat across from me in his spiritual seeking. He gets arrhythmia when under emotional stress, so wants to see medical intuitives. He thinks what he needs is feminine energy, but I suggested he might want to look for masculine energy, where he can be physical with his emotions.

Now some of that might have been viewing eight episodes of BBC 3’s Gavin And Stacey, which illuminates the importance of mateship between men, but I didn’t mention that.

And the programmer gave a discussion of how bad it was to work at a start-up software firm without ever even trying to catch my eye. Since I was senior management at that firm, and knew him well there, I knew he hadn’t recognized the past me in the present me. Just as well.

They canned me when new management came in, big house-cleaning. But I met the new manager later at a transevent; he was a crossdresser. We talked about the company and he told me what the founder had done. I laughed. The founder had played the same tricks on him that he had on us, and the new manager was not happy. Oh, well, what goes around comes around, eh?

TantraGal wants to be the hostess, but she needs her control. She never let me get close to her virus laden laptop to use the USB key I had taken the time to load with tools, including SysInternals AutoRuns, which would probably let me just clear the adware and crap out, the stuff the expensive computer fix firm missed.  I suspect that means I won’t get anywhere near her writing, as she first suggested.

Still, at that table I realized again that what makes me exceptional isn’t being trans, it’s being exceptional. Oh, well.

My mother in the sky kept me company on the way home, a gorgeous full moon floating over the Mohawk, reminding me that even if it’s cold and windy, spring comes, spring comes.

Again.

Off The Bubble

I have long said that it’s only when we spend more than 10 minutes talking with someone that we begin to erase their preconceptions and prejudices about transpeople. Shorter than that, and well, they just usually project their own beliefs onto us, which leaves them self-satisfied and leaves us flattened.

When I walk in the world, people who just casually see me don’t automatically see a transwoman.

It’s only when they have some cause to examine me, to interact with me, that they see the vestiges of going through puberty as male; the bones, the skin, the throat, the voice, whatever.

When we spend five or ten minutes talking, though, after they get over that revelation, well then they start to see my soul. “She, definitely she,” Lezlie told her daughter when she asked if I was a he or a she. She had to think about it, but only for a second, and then her vision was clear. I was a “she.”

It’s that time from between people apprehending me as a trans to when they see my nature that feels like the bubble, and it is that bubble that I hate. It’s in the bubble when people think they are being smart by warning others about trans, in the bubble where people have heightened fear and apprehension, in the bubble where we both feel unsafe. Everything roils, everything is suspicious, everything is in question.

It’s the time between when they get it and when they get over it that is the bubble, which feels airless, hot and claustrophobic.  And if they don’t get over it, well, life in that relationship just stays that way.

Of course there are many people with whom you never have the engagement and interaction to deflate the bubble. For example, you only speak with a cashier for a moment, long enough for them to look at you closely, but not long enough for them to get much of a deeper glimpse.   That means you never have a chance to get through the bubble.

It’s this bubble that I hate. It’s this bubble I avoid, like so many transwomen who find ways to deflate it or not enter it.

But unless I go through the bubble, I can’t achieve more connection, more depth, more life.

Every day, every relationship, bubble.

That’s what being trans in the world means to me.

The Dream You Sell Is Passing, Eh?

A response to the director of the “Female Voice Program” at a local college:

Thank you for taking the time to think about what might be possible with me.

I wanted to take the time to think about the same.

First, I’m not sure how much I want to try to change the pitch of my voice. I suspect that my best hope is becoming more resonant, more raspy, to do the Kathleen Turner as it were.

My real concern here is the same as my resistance to falling for dreams of passing as being born female and being raised as a girl. After long experience, I don’t think that’s really possible for me. I think that bones don’t lie, and my bones tell a specific story. Trying to pass, well, that just sets me up for failure, as I told Sr. Charleen.

That belief, though, informs the second point.

I am not someone your clients see as a role model, as aspirational. In fact, I am exactly the person that they fear they will become. They have no interest in becoming a “professional tranny,” rather they come to you specifically because they want to be more passable, disappearing into the world of women.

I know that your clients don’t come to me to see their reflection, but rather they stay away. They have different dreams, and those dreams are of being women, not of being trannys. You might want to ask them what they think about Callie. I suspect they don’t really like to hear what I have to say.

Just this weekend a transwoman who is bigger and taller than I felt the need to explain to me that passing is entirely internal, that if you believe you pass, you do. She didn’t want to hear the crap I had put on the list about biology and gender, about respecting womanhood & immigration, all that. She wanted to be a woman, and if she had to do it by brute force because finesse wouldn’t work, well so be it.

Your clients need to follow their dreams, and I assure you, I am not their dream. They would be much more responsive to an attractive, older woman born female who can serve as role model and mother, coaching them on being a woman as she would coach her daughters. This is their aspiration, not some old challenging tranny.

I do understand that you see the possibility of learning from my experience, that the “house mom” could do well to understand the experience of walking in the world as trans, which I have spelled out pretty well. But that doesn’t mean your clients want to learn directly from me; in many ways, I am what they fear.

I do write. I write like hell. My blog is here: https://callan.wordpress.com and my old site is here: http://callan.transpractice.com

My old poetry is here http://callan.transpractice.com/poemdex.html but if you read any of it you will understand why it isn’t why people who dream of assimilating in the world as women want to engage.

Thank you for your offer. In some ways I’d love to think that I can have a warmer, more powerful alto voice, feminine and pure. But that sounds like a bit of a dream too far now.

Go and help trannys, and if I can help, just ask.

Callie

Tough Night

In the end, I feel, my struggles have been pointless.

Or at least that’s how it feels in the middle of this dark night.

One woman tells me her women’s group has discussed me and decided it would be alright if I attend.  It feels like being invited to be the exhibit, and the idea that somehow, an open women’s group feels they have the right to decide if transwomen are woman enough to attend, well, that feels creepy.   Then again, most women grow up looking for the validation of other women, so maybe this is just another normal I have resisted.

I was aggressively challenged at a trans gathering, called a drag queen by a gay man, and my father told me that the gimmick I got him to have an unlimited phone in the hotel room is just crazy, crazy.

And, as always, I feel like my only support is talking into this can, which helps me think things through — why else would I be doing this at 3 A.M.? — but also feels empty and alone.  I know that I am a great writer, but I also know that there are much better authors out there, people who have gotten their voice out there in ways I never have.

There are the good moments.  I chased around looking for a working Coca-Cola fountain, and after three failures, the one that worked was in a shop managed by the woman who used to manage my local.   She called me ma’am twice and smiled, with those goofy-pretty white/pink nails, and it felt good and safe and affirming.

Even the astoundingly beautiful Candis Cayne walks in this world identified as trans, and that means identified by some as a man, by some as a drag queen, by some as not a real woman.

I remember some gimcrack show on A&E, where a British production company had volunteers cross gender.  Of course, while they sold the show on walking in the world as a woman or man, the participants actually walked in the world as trannys, but no one wanted to talk about those issues, because that was too, well, not mainstream.

Walking in the world as visibly trans.   Pointless.

Well, there may be a point, I’ll cede you that.  But a piffle, a drop in a vast sea.

I had to tell someone who thought I was smart and had leadership that since he promises better passing that I am not useful to him.  Being visibly trans is not what his clients want, rather it is what they want to avoid by using his services.

Heck, being visibly trans is, in many ways, what I want to avoid too.  It’s just that after twenty years, well, I’m a bit too gimlet eyed.  Makes my writing interesting, if not very engaging.

Got a movie on.  One of those chick flicks where women fall in relationships, with partners, with other women, with each other.  It seems so sweet and it seems so separate from me.  I know how to love, but no one has ever helped me learn how to be loved, and that seems isolated from me, as if I am on the other side of the glass.

It’s raining outside.  Has been for a couple of days now.  Spring showers, fertility from the shy, warm and most, opening up the buds.

But me, well, it’s a tough night were I feel pointless.

Oh, well.

For The Wrong Reason

As I was driving to the event last night — the one where the gay man in the next pew decided I was “in drag” — I was thinking about transwomen and attraction.

What we hate, I decided, is people who are attracted to us for the wrong reason.

And it really doesn’t matter if those people are attracted to a she-male, or a drag queen, or a man with a strong feminine side, the wrong reason is always the same.

We aren’t real happy at people who are attracted to us because we have — or had — a penis.

I do know that physical fact may be what seems to differentiate us from women born female, and therefore it may seem to be our selling point in the world. But I also know that almost nobody who likes their penis and is cocky enough to use it well, nobody like that wants to go through the trouble of appearing in the world as a woman.

I sure as heck know that I never was cocky enough to well use my penis. From my first time, which sure as heck seems like a lesbian experience now, having to be the cocky one seems impossible. I assure you that I see those parts for my pleasure, and not for use in pleasuring others. I would much, much, much rather use a strap-on to pleasure others than my own parts, and would satisfy partners more with a dildo.

This isn’t really comprehensible to most. On a radio show, a lesbian asked me “Why, if you want to have sex with women, would you ever want to get rid of your penis?” Straight women have wanted me to be a feminine man, androgynous in ways they like, and lesbian women want me to be butch, since I have the body and training for it, which has always seemed impossible to femme old me.

Straight men have a thing for she-males, imagining the pleasures of a woman with a dick, and gay men can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t be fascinated with cock.

We are a heterosexist society, dividing people by birth sex, and the males, well, they have the poles. This thinking continues. Heck, I remember a lesbian therapist who much preferred seeing transpeople born male as men with something extra rather than women.

Steven Whittle tells the story of meeting a transwoman he knew in a gay bar where she was working as a drag entertainer, and her asking him not to mention that she had had genital reconstruction, changing her penis to a neo-vagina.

“If the owner finds out, he’ll give me the chop again,” she said “He wants drag queens.”

Even if being a penised woman-like person seems to be our best selling point, our “unique selling proposition,” the one consultants would tell us to leverage, almost nobody who goes through the hell of exposing their own nature of a transwoman wants to be seen as the one with the dick, a man-in-a-dress. That feels demeaning and crappy to someone who is trying to scream out with every choice “I am not a man just because I was born with an outie, dammnit! Talk to my heart and not my birth genitals!”

But still, people are attracted to us because they want some kind of penised creature, a cocky creature we have never seen ourselves as being, expectations we have felt as so onerous that we work very hard to claim womanhood.

I hate people who are attracted to me for the wrong reason, just like TBB wasn’t real happy about that woman who was attracted to her in the bar. I hate people who are attracted to me for something I hate about myself.

Maybe that’s a mistake, and the consultants are right; just start there and eventually they will see your womanhood. Yeah, but they will see it quick when you aren’t as cocky as they desire in bed.

When you walk in the world, though, and people are attracted to you for the wrong reason, well, then, what attraction can you actually be open to, what attraction can you actually trust?

No Man

I went to see The Yes Men Live at a church in Troy, part of a fund raiser for a politically challenged space.

I have two things to say about the presentation.

  1. People may be excited when they proffer utopic visions, offering hope, but just because they are excited doesn’t mean the visions can get off the ground, and a half hour lunch conversation amongst accountants in Sydney proves nothing.  If you want to build utopias, then work to do it, but just to promise and create hope ain’t it, though it does seem to be working in the Democratic primaries.
  2. Their failures are funnier than their successes, and when they finally get a film script together where Jack Black can play a socially conscious prankster falling into pitfalls, they make make some money.

But as everyone knows, this blog is about me and my experience of the world.

So let’s talk about me, shall we?

The place filled up by the 7 P.M. starting time, but I was all alone in my pew. A few women came by, but chose to avoid the big pew I was in.

I was put in the mind of Ms. Rachelle’s note that the reason we don’t get much support from women is that when they identify our body as having gone through puberty as a male, well, then we are one of the others and not one of them. We may be able to change that perception with time and exposure, but we have to have openness and engagement to do that.

But Gay and Lesbian people, well, they should be our allies, right?

The well groomed gay man sitting next to me, across the pew wall, well, he did open a conversation, and that was nice.

Well, up until the moment when he asked if he could speak freely, and told me he noticed that I was “in drag.”

In drag? I mean, I suppose it’s great that he felt safe enough to be honest, but really.

I suggested he might mean “trans.” Yes, yes, that’s what he meant.

It’s just that he said “in drag,” which, coming from the cultural reference point of a gay man, made perfect sense. He can’t imagine not being a man, and when his friends dressed, they called it drag.

Oy. Out Magazine has a special issue on trans now. Of course, they didn’t actually put a tranny on the cover. What gay man wants to buy a tranny? Heck, on The L Word, Max has been a bollix this year, reduced to technical status. Of course, I can’t ask the actress playing Max to change her body with T and surgery, but when it means they have to have excuses about his GF liking his tits, well, I think I’d prefer Max to disappear completely rather than turn into a comforting shadow of a tranny, safe for Lesbians who watch.

We had noted that Saratoga Springs didn’t have much of a gay scene, and he had asked if I had been to any of the events at Circus Cafe up there. Of course, this was all when he assumed my fundamental identity was as a gay man, which, as I sadly informed him, was an identity I never had. He assumed I was like him, and that was just demeaning.

We didn’t speak again, but he bid me adieu and scuttled out quickly after the event.

“I couldn’t help but notice that you are in drag,” he said.

“Usually,” I replied, “if you see someone so committed and worn in, it’s not drag.”

But those are my allies in a social justice setting. My pals.

Yes Men on stage, No Man back here.

But tell that to the women and gay men.

Mantra

Over the years, I have often searched for a mantra to replace the stock phrases that often jump to my mind, phrases that aren’t really encouraging or inspiriring.

For example, I spent some time trying “Live And Learn.”  It’s a good motto, helping me understand that I did the best I could then and when I know better I can do better, reminding me that a miracle is a change in perception, that growth is the purpose I am here.

A good motto, yes, but less than inspiring.  It never really caught on with my heart.

But in the last couple of days I have been working with a motto that isn’t just well based in theological thinking, but a motto that also has quite a bit of emotional resonance and satisfaction.

Fuck The Fear.

I know Susan Jeffers’ 1986 “Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway.”  It’s a classic, true.

But somehow, it never really resonated with me.  Too nice, too prissy, too cerebral.

I also know, though, the brave and bold transwomen I admired, the ones who just got out there and danced their own dance, sang their own song, lived their own life.

I was imagining a tape I could play of these queens, confident in their own beauty & power, that would help me retrieve my center when I lost it.   I tried to think about what they would tell me about living in your own spotlight, about being the grace God gave you.

And I realized the key message: Fuck The Fear.

Too many of these women are gone, victims of AIDS and other challenges.  To me, though, they burned brightly enough to live on in my memory, to be vibrant and present even after their bodies are gone.

They embodied two of the key lessons of queer life: What The Fuck! and Fuck You!  They boldly went where no man had gone, and when they got crap designed to stigmatize and scare them, to spank them into submission to the norms, they answered in the negative.

They lived their own lives, claimed their own power and owned their own beauty.

And they did it with a simple motto: Fuck The Fear.

Fuck The Fear. Fuck The Fear. Fuck The Fear.

I love gender.  I love convention.  I love nuance.  I love working together.

But I am assured that while prudence and grace may be required for all those things, fear isn’t.

Fuck The Fear.

One of the easiest ways I know to make people crazy is to challenge their fears, the ones they use to comfort themselves that they are doing the best they can in a scary, scary world.

These people mostly externalize their fears, assuming that it’s the objects that stimulate their fears that are the problem.  Those freaky people, those rich people, those crazy people, those heathen people, whatever. (I call them objects because it isn’t the individual humans that they fear, it is the classes of humans, objectified and dehumanized into demons.  Those People!)

Because I know this, I often try to play small and hide so as to not get them all fearful.

When I do that, though, what I am doing is respecting their fear.  And when that fear is respected, it becomes real, not just fear.

Fuck The Fear.

The only way we can ever feel powerful in our lives is if we feel empowered to face our fears and make change.   As long as fear is real, our fear or the fears of people around us, we cannot feel our own power.

Fuck The Fear.

A motto that resonates with me, that helps me center, stand up straight and feel confident in my own power and beauty.

Fuck The Fear.

Fuck your fears of me, fuck my fears of you.   Fuck all the fears that keep us stooped and small, fuck all the fears that keep us powerless and pained.

Fuck The Fear.

I don’t know how this is going to wear, but right now, with Spring banging on the door, it feels good.

Fuck the fear and follow the love.

Amen.

Invulnerable

Choosing to be invulnerable to what other people think and feel
can leaves you vulnerable to isolation and sickness.

Choosing to be vulnerable to others allows connection that
can make your spirit invulnerable to your own ego-centered fear and separation.

I have watched Celebrity Rehab this first season.

What I saw were people living in their own isolation and tolerating the pain with drugs that made them invulnerable to feeling pain.

Unfortunately, those same chemicals also made them unable to engage their own pain, their own fear and their own humanity in a way that fostered their own healing and growth.  That surface invulnerability just made them more sick, more pained and more disconnected.

The only way out of hell is through.  More layers of asbestos don’t really help you go forward, and can easily just help you end up with mesothelioma too.

I understand how to walk in the world in armor, and I understand how to walk in the world invisible.

But unless I can walk in the world with openness and power, well, my ego-centered fear and sense of separation can keep me small and broken, no matter how defended I look from outside.

The choice to be invulnerable is the choice to be separated from others, to be separated from your own feelings.

And, at least in my experience, separation is no way to get closer to God; the God we share and the God that lives within me.

Passing Like Bull

“Oh,” she said, with a mixture of disgust and antipathy.

“So you’re Callie,” spitting out my name like curdled cream, apparently familiar with it from my postings on the local e-mail list

“Let me tell you one thing. Passing comes from in here,” she said, thumping her chest.

“I pass all the time, every time. And I pass because I pass in here,” thumping again. “I am full time and I never have a problem.”

“It’s all from here. That simple.”

Her lesson taught, she and her friend headed out and away for a smoke, leaving me with the other transperson in the place and the gal who makes drinks for the club every third Saturday.

I had been talking with them about the voice program, and issues around the goal of passing. I told the story of TBB last night, how she was read out by an admirer, how we have.

Well, this gal didn’t want to hear my crap. She has no problem, and to her, that must mean she passes. That simple. If TBB had a challenge, well, not enough pounding.

The woman born female I was talking to looked up at me. She knew this transperson didn’t pass as born female, didn’t read as a woman. But we both also knew she needs her defenses, and that means she needs the myopia of believing that passing can come just through pure, bull-headed, hard-driven belief.

I looked around and knew this place was unsafe for me, that she and her friend were going to be a problem when they got back. She didn’t like my crap, didn’t want to take it, and I felt threatened and unsafe.

I believed she didn’t have a problem. I believe that few have the balls to challenge her, and the nuanced challenges of women go right past her. And I suspect that attraction passes her by.

I was in a flowy outfit with peep-toe pumps, lashes and decollete, open and engaged.

And I was reminded of the fun of transwomen born male, passing because they believe they pass, entitled to womanhood, and defended as an armadillo.

Not safe.

Not pretty.

Stepped Up

TBB went to a new bar with her woman biker friends, and at least one of their husbands.

As she sat down, she saw a barfly clock her. To be clocked is to have someone get your difference, though to be read is to have them read you out, tell everyone.

This drunk woman came to TBB’s table, and started gushing at how beautiful TBB was. She flirted, with hands and body, until she whispered “You’re a man. . . ”

The gang at TBB’s table fell silent. They know her history, but it’s not a big subject of discussion. How would she handle this breach?

TBB made her decision in an instant. Rather than being upset or resistant, she turned the tables.

“Why yes,” she said to the drunk woman. “How did you ever know? Usually nobody can tell. How could you tell?”

The drunk felt special, and TBB’s friends at the table got the irony right away. Regina Barreca, in They Used To Call Me Snow White… But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use Of Humor talks about how women use irony to keep connected in the face of challenge, though I assure you TBB hasn’t read that book. She just gets it.

Later, a woman at the bar was sad, and TBB felt called to her. She had recently been widowed, and had just dreamed about her husband, though she couldn’t see his eyes. TBB knew she was supposed to be there, even if drunk woman was getting jealous at attention paid to the widow.

So often when we transwomen feel challenged it is because someone is attracted to us, attracted to some part of us we don’t feel safe exposing. After all, people who don’t feel that attraction have no incentive to pay attention to us, to talk to us or about us in ways we might feel invasive.

But when TBB had that happen to her, instead of shrinking down, instead of feeling captive, she stood up and felt empowered. Her friends understood, and TBB was open enough to go to the woman with the tear at the end of the bar who needed a moment with a shaman.

TBB, in other words, played it big rather than playing it small.

And it felt much better for her to be big, better than the bad mornings she cries at home wondering if she will ever again be small enough to be accepted as normative.

The Big Bitch went big, accepted her own powerful attractiveness, even though the attraction came very sloppy, and ended up being there to do her work.

And then she called me to tell the story.

A treat, indeed.