Insensitive Coursework

An undergraduate student, who found this eleven year old clip on the internet,  wrote to me saying that in a course on Women And Crime she was studying Teena Brandon and wondered if I had any information on where the killers are now.

I replied:

Brandon Teena’s death was a rallying point for transgender people at that time, and I was pleased to do my little part to try to raise consciousness.  A few years later his sister contacted me and thanked me for standing up and making people aware of this SNL “joke.”

Beyond that, I have no data, except to note that in the transgender community, we see erasing Brandon’s identity and gender, calling him Teena and identifying him as a woman, as insensitive to what brought him to that horrible end.



My mother went to the doctor, and they told her she would be seeing a different resident today.  That worked out very badly last time, when the guy was just blindingly stupid in doling out conventional wisdom that makes no sense to an 84 year old woman with diabetes, degenerative joint disease and congestive heart failure.

Rather than stand up and demand to talk to her doctor of record, she just passed.  She got an appointment with her old doctor, the one my mother was forced to leave two years ago when the doctor had a cerebral event and we left.

She then didn’t know where she wanted to go, and after a few rounds of “whatever you want” it was decided I would push her through the mall in the new wheelchair they bought in Florida.  It’s steel rather than aluminum, heaver bigger — harder to navigate through stores — with smaller front wheels, a stiffer frame, and offset pushing handles.  Whatever the reason, every grout line bumped my hands, and there are a huge number of grout lines in the floor of a modern mall.  My hands still tingle unpleasantly

I asked her if she wanted to use the loo when we entered, the small one right by the elevator, the one she can easily get through.  She demurred.  It was about eight minutes until she decided she did need to go, and I was trapped looking for one, and the one we found was a big one, hard for walking.

Leaving the mall, my father ran a red light and a car coming had to stop before slamming into him.  He backed up.  We made a noise as he ran the second red light, so it was merely a close thing.

And all through this my heart was broken.  Today was ESPA Lobby Day at the Capital, and I passed to try and take care of my mother.  I even had to break a meeting I had been looking forward to with a smart and kind supporter.   And then her medical practice humped her again, and she didn’t fight — “Well if you thought something else why didn’t you speak up? — and she told me that it was my fault I didn’t reschedule her appointment, even my truth was confirmed, that her resident only comes on Tuesday afternoons, when and if she comes.

I was crushed and I had to be nice and mellow and sweet, managing the old people with grace and calmness, whatever happened.

I remember, I remember, I remember, I forget.


Cranky Old Woman

Somebody, somebody, has to be the cranky old woman, with compassion and with strength, standing up for old-fashioned values.

And there will always be people telling that cranky old woman that she is being too picky, too trouble making, too obstreperous, too obstructive, too stick in the mud.

But the best cranky old women have a strong sense about when to fight and when to just let other people make their own mistakes, when to stand firm and when only to say a word or two that might make sense later when the bigger picture comes into view.

That’s the gift of maturity, if you choose to take it, the gift of wider vision away from the myopia of desire , way from the blinders of need.

I remember that as a kid I used to say “That may well be true, but you certainly don’t expect me to admit it, do you?”

I can’t imagine myself saying that today. There seems little purpose in denying truth, even if there often also seems little purpose about saying it out loud and pushing it into people’s faces when they are not ready to engage it. It’s about voice and breath, what can be said that might actually be heard, now or down the road.

Someone has to be the cranky old woman, the crone, the seer standing up for connection, for life beyond the imagined walls between us and them, between now and then, between good and bad. Someone has to stand up for context and nuance beyond momentary desire.

And I guess that one of those cranky old women just has to be me.

Venerating The Ladder

When people start to venerate the ritual more than the goal, becoming enamored more of the rules than of the dreams, then they begin to fall into fundamentalism and to lose possibility.

It doesn’t matter if it is venerating the rules of the church or the physical side of tantra, being more immersed in ritual can get us lost.

In the end the ritual, habits, doctrines and texts are never the goal, they are only one ladder that we can use to get closer to the shared goal of actualization, wholeness and enlightenment.

And when we get too involved in venerating our particular ladder, well, then we lose sight of what we share.

A Shimmering Creature Like No Other

On the phone with TantraGal we were talking about the challenge of bringing people to us in the world.

It is frustrating and painful to acknowledge that other people can only offer what they have to offer, can only heal and grow on their own schedule.  On the other hand it is much more frustrating and painful not to acknowledge that truth, scratching and scraping to try to get what we need out of someone who cannot give it, all the while feeling hurt and angry in our own neediness.

The authors of the book The Rules had one key rule: you have to be a shimmering creature like no other who attracts people to you on your own terms, rather than just being out there to give people what they think they want.

This is the hard part, especially in this culture.  So many of us want to get what we need without exposing ourselves, by just being one of the crowd, one of the mass of girls in jeans and a cute top.   We try to be who others expect, and then we find that we have no deep connection, not to others and not to ourselves.  We get lost in the expectations of others, and when we find ourselves at odds and ends with our dreams, maybe pregnant by a man who doesn’t even know our family name, well, we are lost and broken.

I often hear stories of people chasing down what they want in other people who just don’t have that to give.  But I rarely hear stories of people working to know and polish themselves to become more centered, more together, more rehearsed and therefore more attractive.  Marianne Williamson said you don’t need to go and find the perfect person, rather you have to become the person your perfect person would love to be with.  Then you can be ready for that other person, and if something different comes, well, at least you will be happy with yourself.  After all, who can be present and positive for someone else if you are not first present and positive for yourself.

“You always look nice,” TantraGal told me.  I told her it was because I knew I could never be just one of the crowd, one of the mass of gals in jeans and a cute top.  Instead, I consciously had to build my gender to be a shimmering creature like no other.  At the SUNYA LGBT conference I was pleased to be in line behind a guy in a sweater vest and slacks, a transman who, now being a professor, was also trying to build a conscious and graceful expression of self.

To become a shimmering creature like no other, though, means that you have to surrender the goal of being just one of the mob, being whoever they want you to be now just to get what you need.  It requires leaving behind the manipulations of trying to coax what you need from someone else, and standing firm in the belief that in the long run, being the best at who you are will bring you what you need.

In this mass culture, learning to stand out as a shimmering creature like no other is something that is rarely valued, even if some Southern women carry on the tradition.  (Gawd, I always wanted to be a belle).

But is there really any other feasible goal for people who own their own uniqueness, specialness and power?

Do Words Count?

One key question here is “Do words count?”

Some people are saying that since “for women married to heterosexual crossdressers” and “no transgendered people allowed” come to the same purpose, having a room where women who do not identify as transgender feel safe, that there is no difference between the statements, and anyone who challenges “no transgendered people allowed” is just quibbling over nothing.

They argue that it is about the ends, not the means, and questioning the means is just bad.

I believe that words count, and the difference between those two phrases, between those two approaches count.

This is something I have often been unable to explain to people who identify as heterosexual crossdressrs, people who see their primary identity as straight white men and their transness as something that is just something they can put on or take off at will.

Miqqui Gilbert, a professor at York University, liked one of my phrases — “crossdresser years,” which posits that the more out you are, the more you mature as a transperson. If you are only out six Saturday nights a year, then it will take a while to get out of the miniskirt and black eyeliner, but if you spend a few weeks out, you will learn to create a more mature presentation of self faster.

Problem was that when Gilbert used this phrase in a paper, they identified me as a crossdresser. I wrote and told them that I never identified as a crossdresser, even during my “guy-in-a-dress” days when I was using what we now call genderqueer to try and locate some androgny, some balance. Needless to say, that didn’t work for me, and I went to understanding I was more a woman of transgender experience than any kind of man.

Gilbert, though, was angry at my challenge. “I am sick of identity politics!” they replied.

The one who had invoked identity politics, though, was Gilbert when they assigned me an identity to which I had never ascribed simply because assigning me as a crossdresser fit their model.

To Gilbert those words don’t matter, much the same way as they don’t matter to another crossdresser who thinks that pigeonholing hurts the community.

I remember a crossdresser whose description of transgender fit his rationalizations, but didn’t leave room for me to explain who I am. I asked him to use more inclusive language, but he never would.

To help him understand, I wrote a four page version of his narrative written in the inclusive transgender language I use, rather than his crossdresser vernacular. For example, rather than saying “I am straight,” I wrote “I always loved women.”

He was touched and moved by my draft. He felt he had been seen and understood, respected and acknowledged by my writing.

The next day, though, he was using the same language to define himself, the language that cuts me out in the quest to claim normativity. I did not feel seen and understood, respected and acknowledged.

I was having a challenge with the partner of a transowman. I made an offer to my friend: I would write a piece from her viewpoint and she could write a piece from mine, so we both knew the other had respect for us.

“That will never work!” my friend replied.

“Why not?” I asked. “Do you think I can’t adequately reflect her position with my language?”

“Of course you can,” they replied. “But she can’t reflect your position!”

Language counts. And respecting the language of others counts, which many mainstream people, who quest for a kind of mainstream normativity that erases difference rather than respecting and venerating it, just don’t understand. We don’t become one by erasing nuance, we become one by embracing nuance, by understanding that valuing our essential differences allows us to more completely understand our fundamental similarities.

Human life is not about the destination, it is about the journey. It is about how we grow and learn and become more connected and connecting, more centered in spirit rather than more separating in the flesh. It is only sharing symbols that lets us share what is below the surface, and the most important symbolic tool we have is language. Language is what makes us more than animals, language is what lets us access and share our inner beliefs, feelings and thoughts, language is the foundation of art and the release for the divine inside.

Someone asked what one thing we would say about transgender. My answer was simple:

Every time you see someone express transgender, they are expressing something they know to be true about themselves in the best way they know how to do it.

To me transgender is about expression of truth, about expression. It isn’t about the ends, it’s about the means we use to achieve those ends, about our symbols.

To evaluate transgender on just the ends misses the point. We can do everything we need to do in a grey jumpsuit with our head shaved. But we can’t be in and of ourselves without external expression of who we know ourselves to be.

Transgender not about the ends, rather transgender is about the power and beauty of symbolic expression.

And to me, that means the language always counts.

Many Many Ways

Sex — male or female — is about the body. Gender — man or woman — is about expression, about the assumptions, expectations and conventions we use to shape our choices, our role and our relationships in the world. Gender shifts between time and culture, different in 1760’s Paris than in 1400’s Mongolia, for example.

There’s basically only one way to be female, and that’s the exactly same way for all mammals and for all time.

There is only one way to be female, but there are many, many, many ways to be a good woman or a good man.

In the end, aren’t the choices we make and the role we play much more important than the binary happenstance of our birth genitals?

Shouldn’t we care about being a good woman or a good man much more than just being female or male?

No Transgendered People Allowed

The people running the Kingston Spring Fling, which is claimed to be space for “the entire TG community” actually have a session where “No Transgendered People [Are] Allowed.”

The idea that any space is so marked is deeply offensive to me.

The space is for born female partners of self-identified heterosexual crossdressers — “Spouses” — and creating safe space for that affinity group is a reasonable goal. Doing it by banning a class of people, on the other hand, is unreasonable. Where else would we not challenge such a ban?

My challenge to this choice was responded to by them trying to paint me as an over-hyped nasty destructor of community, finding me an asshole and wanting to silence me.

It all feels like white boys pulling cock, which is not surprising for transpeople who cling to their identification as straight white men. They want to dismiss queerness rather than engage it, sanitizing trans in the way SSS did, denying any erotic components in a way Amy Bloom found distasteful in “Normal”

I wrote about the view. . .

Assuming Arrogance

Most of the time, we don’t know what we don’t know.

What we don’t know is out of our experience, out of our sight.

At the SUNYA College LGBT conference a couple of weekends ago, I spoke with a woman, now a teacher in a low-income area of NYC, who came to the University At Albany from a upstate town near Oswego.

“I didn’t know I that was white until I came to Albany,” she said. “I thought I was just normal. It was coming here, seeing and engaging people of color, that opened my eyes to how I was different.”

In the late 1990s I spent a lot of time in the space of Trans-Men. I did this because I was starting to understand how much I didn’t know about the experience of growing up trans and female bodied. I learned a great deal, about the range of challenges & choices that Trans-Men face, and about the experience about growing up female and queer, being pressed into a woman role that didn’t fit their manly hearts.

Most of the time we don’t know what we don’t know, and that’s OK.

It’s when we assume that what we don’t know isn’t important, when we assume we know all we need to know, that we slide into arrogance.

The more marginalized we understand ourselves to be, the more we understand how much we don’t know. If we are raised a woman, we have to understand both the world of women and the world of men. If we are non-white, we have to understand the world of our culture and the mainstream world of whiteness. If we are non-Christian, we have to understand both our religion and the dominant Christian Culture. If we are non-heterosexual, well, you get the point.

These challenges are additive. The farther off normative we understand ourselves to be, the more we know how much we don’t know.

Only people at the center, who see themselves as normative, can imagine that they know all that needs to be known, and that any challenges to their knowledge can be dismissed, erased, and negated. This is the gift of privilege, this assumption of owning and controlling the normative, policing troublemakers into silence so they can maintain and assert their own power, often seen as God-given power.

To serve the marginalized — and what are transpeople but marginalized people? — requires an attitude of humility. You have to be open enough to know that you don’t know everything, that your view of “truth” is just one view, and the views of others who are not in the center are real, valid and valuable. After all, how can we see the cracks in our own edifices if we don’t listen to observers outside of our own assumptions & expectations?

It is impossible to speak for the experience of all. But even the attempt to speak broadly can always be foiled when we don’t have the humility to engage others who have different views of our shared world.

Personally, I have given up any attempt to speak for all. Rather, I just try to speak my own truth with humility & reverence, trying to be specific enough in the details to touch common experience, the one human nature that we all share.

When I hear people claim to speak for some idealized group, without the humility to also listen to others, it irks me. When I see people arrogantly trying to deny standing to speak to challenging others, it irks me. And when I look closely at these people, I most often see people who live in privilege, believing they are at the center of the world, holding essential truth and not only not knowing what they don’t know, but also dismissing any idea that what they don’t know might be an important and transformative view of the world.

The assumption that mainstream normativity is the only view of value is an assumption of arrogance and blindness. People who hold that view may not see their own limits, but those limits are usually brightly illuminated to those who have been denied the mainstream. The more people who want to claim normativity want to silence others, the more their fear of their own difference, fear of their own separation, shows as motivation.

For people whose see transgender as something they put on, like a pair of pantyhose, while holding onto a more normative identity as straight, white man everyday, they may have no problem with deep and daily marginalization of trans people.  They only want the freedom to dress up, not to be in the world as different, unique, trans, queer.

That may be OK, but when they then have the arrogance to speak for “the entire TG community” they speak from their own hobby and not from their own deep commitment.  They don’t know what they don’t know, and more than that, they don’t believe that what they don’t know is important.

And that is just arrogant, dismissive and destructive.


Long day; lots of laundry and an impromptu dinner party with not only my sister but also my brother and his wife.  They take work.

But I got the Sansa working – I first learned about recovery mode on Sigmatel chips maybe three years ago with a then cheap 64Mb Memorex player which cost more than the new 2Gb one– and so I drifted with the music.

My choice on there is mostly chantuses, women with smoky voices singing jazz standards, women like Cheryl Bentyne, Lannie Garrett and Jessica Molaskey, interspersed with quite a bit of Beegie Adair and just a little bit of Lester Lanin.  These are the singers I want right in my head

But as I drifted, I imagined what I was wearing as I danced to this music.  Cuban heels with a t-strap,  or a slinky rayon dress, or pearls that rubbed against his wool jacket.  Sometimes I just knew the 1940s shoulder pads were perfect, or in the case of Camille DeVore, well, I was on stage with a beaded gown.

My mother bought me a sweater and skirt at Coldwater Creek outlet.  I want to encourage this affirmation, but it is hard; I can’t really be present with the grunt work that needs to be done and while my sister loves their stuff, I’m not really a Coldwater Creek girl.  I know what I look like, just like I know that the skirts and wrap my mother bought my sister look like her, but my mother has no idea what I look like, who I am.

But alone, my ears stuffed with silicone and wired to a DAP, well, something is present for me, something that hasn’t be present in the beauty days of my life, and probably won’t be present in reality.

But there, in the night, dancing, well, it was nice.

Manhood And Maleness

During a breakout in the conference, a self-described “soft butch” spoke of her years as a drag king, and how she got amazing affirmation from lesbian women; they wanted to be with her. When she came back without the performance, though, she became invisible again, much less desirable. In the end, she decided to walk away from that powerful performance to become more authentic, even if that was much less desired and therefore apparently less powerful than her drag performance.

On the other hand, drag queens of my knowledge have usually found it hard to find gay men who are interested in them, and find themselves much more successful in meeting partners coming back the next night in boy clothes of some sort.

It seems to me that women read drag kings as women, manly hearted women, maybe, but gay men don’t read drag queens as men, rather as someone who is forfeiting manhood for something else.

This means that manhood is something males can lose through drag performance, but manhood is also something females can’t gain though drag performance.

It also seems to explain why FTMs, who can male their body can have a kind of easy social manhood, but MTFs, who mostly cannot really un-male their body find it difficult to have an easy womanhood.

This leads to MTFs often ending up as a permanent guy-in-a-dress or surrendering their power by silence, rather than achieving woman power in their lives, because in a hetrosexist culture, womanhood is located by the absence of maleness.

This may be why so many MTF transsexuals work so fast to surrender their pole and end up in the shadow, and then are frustrated when they find that male puberty is a permanent change, and their male body is unerasable, no matter what the current shape of their genitals. They want womanhood, but all they easily get is a kind of surrendered manhood. Women, as the marginalized shadow of men, control their identity in a way that men don’t need to, and that means the barriers to entry can be high.

But other women who perform a kind of stylized masculinity?

Well, they are hot women, not men!

Gosh, I think even I feel that heat.

The first person I met at the conference was a young FTM Post-Grad, who has consciously created his gender presentation for power. We joked about What Not To Wear and how they recreate the gender presentation of their participants, consciously creating a new performance. And when TantraGal asked me who pulled at my heart, I said that a conscious butch in a good jacket was always hotter than androgrrl flannels and jeans.

It’s hard to get past being identified as male bodied — as having gone through puberty as a male — though.



I slept on the cement floor last night, as I have so many times before.

I did so because my body ached and hurt all over.

It sounds counter, I know, but I knew that what I needed was a dose of monastic discipline, something to stimulate denial.   I had originally thought I would go to a big drag party benefit last night, but I realized I could never get back from that indulgence into my own heart, so it was on the floor.

Yesterday was frustrating.  Seven hours waiting for a dryer repairman at my sister’s house, time I needed.  A $23 dollar 2 Gb Sansa Express coupled with a $9 2Gb MicroSD that I opened, loaded with music I thought would help, but then seemed to die, frustration overnight, damn customer service.  I was stuck with Edward Hermann reading David Halberstam’s The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War, a powerful subject, not a joyous one.

Still in all this, there is light.  Sarah has made a most generous offer, powerful because it represents her belief in the value and power of what I do.  I am still moved by Grace’s second breath taking comment. “I am angry with myself, as you know. I am sorry I took it out on you.”  She speaks about her own knowledge of her own pain, affirming both my knowledge and my hit, gracefully facing herself.  I know how hard that is to do, know what it takes to do that.

I stay silent so much because I know that my experience of pain is not useful to most people, no matter how much I feel hurt.   I never took a sick day in school after second grade because I knew however bad I felt, staying home with my mother would always be worse.  My sister suffers her own way, lives in her own monastic denial, and my pain, well, not someplace she can go.

So I have 24 hours to get a lot done before for my parents, and the only way to do it is bull, head down and pushing.  Aching don’t get the carpets cleaned.

Hit the floor and leave heaven alone, at least for now.  An injunction for humans, not for spirit living a human life.



Have to wait for the dryer repairman at my sister’s house.

That means I got gas when people were heading for work.

There were numbers of women in skirts and heels heading to the office.

My heart ached that I was not one of them.


To get the new dryer in all by myself, all I have to do is take apart the laundry room and all the half-ass kludges my father built into it, the bailing wire and bent venting, the jury rigged shelves and blocking cabinets, move them into my mother’s craft area, full to the ceiling with crap she hasn’t touched in a decade, and then rebuild the kludges the way that my father would.

In other words, all I have to do is think like my father.  He, of course, thinks that’s a reasonable request.  It’s one I knew how to do in my younger days; heck I have gotten many places by that learned skill of thinking like a guy trying to do something and helping.

But now, thinking like my father, living in his world, is palpable torture.  His Aspbereger’s like mind, his judgementalism, his closed ideas just cause me pain.  “If you would just slow down and think you could do it” booms through my brain, his omni-purpose put down to me whenever I think like who I am and not in his way.  It is my failure to be in his world, my failure to think like him that is my failure in the world, my failure as a human, my total failure.

I scream and pound myself and know that I am right in his trap, the trap he has trying to catch me in since I was a kid, trapped in a world where only his solutions will be right and anything else is failure.  I don’t have the money, skills or time to do the thing right, so I have to do it his way, and his way is myopic and skewed, as reviewers tell him every year he tries to submit a new technical paper.

I am sweating and panting and dying, but I know that I can do this if I just put in enormous amounts of energy and take enormous amounts of pain, which was the way I did it when I was a kid.  It’s just that now I have less energy and less tolerance for pain, less willingness to enter abuse to do what is expected.

But this has to get done, and with enough force I can do it.

And the pain & wear?  Well, it’s just to do things the right way, thinks my father, so I should just slow down and think, crushing my own flying spirit.


It intrigues me that those who try to speak for invisible transpeople often seem to make visible transpeople invisible.

When real narratives are shoved into theoretical constructs, real stories shoved into pigeon holes, the loser is more often the narrative rather than the belief structure.

I suppose this happens because narratives are messy, ambiguous and human while belief structures are clean, edited and designed to be strong.

As I sat in a room full of college students, I was reminded of how much of life remains invisible to them.  The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time, and they are biting as fast as they can, working through their needs and process.  Maybe it is no wonder then that they like the theoretical constructs; being young, they don’t yet have their own wider context to create their own deeper understanding.

Of course, when I look at them I can’t help but remember how much shit I was buried under at their age.  Sure, I may have had other contexts — I was the one who organized support for the scared gay guy in my dorm who wanted to kill himself — but I had no language, no support, no structures that could help me find my own expression.  I was buried under the challenge of negotiating my desires and my nature, and it took another twenty years to really start the process of digging out, and twenty after that to get to where I am.

I was given some notes on my comments on the conference; a note about the fact there was at least one transwoman who chose to stay invisible in a session, a note that it was improper to mention the name of a transman who is out on web pages he is responsible for, a note that not knowing and not saying the depth and duration of an ally’s work to educate on trans was “stinging” to them.

What I wasn’t given, though, was any engagement of my content, my open offerings of my feelings and my ideas as offered here.  Those, I suspect, fell into the “too-hard pile.”

That means, of course, that it feels like my own exposure, while affirmed in concept — “thanks for the work you do” — was made invisible in practice, unable to be engaged because no one had the context for it.

There was significant chat about how queers change visibility as we walk through worlds; here we may be seen as an old white person, there as a queer, here as a woman, there as a tranny and so on.  We are surfaced by the context and limits of the belief structures others hold to understand the world, our own complex narrative made invisible by the limits of their vision and their willingness to see beyond.

I am smart and well spoken and I work really hard to be mature and graceful in the world.  The tagline of this blog, however, is and has always been “The Loneliness Of A Long-Lost Tranny.”  I will tell you that, well, no matter how much I make connections, my sense of loneliness and my sense of being lost don’t go away. There is always someone to remind me how weird I am, and how my presence & expression make them uncomfortable.  As I said to a butch woman at the conference, I find very few people who are dreaming of the day when they can hook up with a big, bright mature transwoman who can read them out.  Very few.

The limits of visibility will always be the limits of vision, the limits of our own vision and the limits of the vision of the people around us.   And when our allies have trouble engaging us, rather offering what feels like lip service rather than engagement and being stung by the way we see their offerings, well, that’s hard.  It’s easy to be angry at an enemy, but when we feel we are made invisible by kind hearted people who want to be our allies, well, a double bind there.

Two notes: Always tell transpeople, especially transwomen, that they look great. They have never heard it enough in their splintered lives.  And when a transwoman says that a gay man assumed she was in drag at a public event, have the courtesy to gasp at how much that must have hurt her.

I know why I am invisible, and I know why I often work to be invisible so people won’t be challenged and discomforted in their own space.  Visibility requires work on the viewer’s part, and after half a century, I know very well how hard that work is.

But I won’t tell you that exposing yourself and then being made invisible by the limits of other’s sight ever feels good.

Theoretical Trannies

If I call a beauty salon, tell them I am trans, and ask if they will provide me services, there is a good chance that they will say that they will not.

If, on the other hand, I walk in to that same salon, looking good and open, and ask if they provide services, there is a better chance they will say yes.

What’s the difference in these two cases?

In the first, I’m asking if they will help a theoretical tranny. To them that could mean a whole range of possibilities. Are they rough, are they crazy, are they sexual, are they a fetishist, what?

In the second, I’m asking if they can help me, a real person they can see and smell and get the sense of.

Individuals can be taken on an individual basis, but theoretical trannies scare people. Too many variables, too many potential problems, too many possible messes.

Heck, even I am uncomfortable about theoretical trannies. How much challenge do they offer for what reward?

It’s my sense that the key problem with Jessica Pettitt’s training on trans is that her training is about theoretical trannies, and those transpeople, well, they are paper thin and full of problems.

Ms. Pettitt herself is an open-hearted femme-identified woman who is traveling around and doing the work. After a decade of work advocating for transpeople, she has contact with lots of transpeople. She doesn’t trust the beauty in her own voice yet, doesn’t trust her own breath and her own poetry, but she works very hard to stand up for what is good and right, with humor and compassion. She was very gracious and engaging to me.

Still, her training isn’t about real transpeople made of real flesh and blood, with real humanity and real hearts. Instead, it is about theoretical trannys who have to exist in a context of sex, gender and sexual identity, who come at you as one paragraph cases to be considered, squashed flat and dried.

As she taught, I felt the urge to stride to the front of the room in my trans-shaman outfitand tell everyone to queue up. They could then all file past me and hug me, so they could go home and tell people they touched a real transwoman and it wasn’t that bad.

We had a table exercise to talk about how our privilege brought us power. The powerful stories at our table though came from how people walked away from power to claim their own heart, like the soft-butch who walked away from a career as a drag king, losing the money and the honeys so she could be true to who she knows herself to be. At that table we talked about where we cross between being rewarded for taking identities others affirmed and walking away to claim identities based on our own hearts.

Another woman talked about coming out as lesbian in the evangelical communities of her heritage, and how, though they couldn’t theoretically affirm her, they could accept her as a person, being kind and gracious to her and her partner.

This is a key reason why I identify trans not as an identity that comes from a box, but rather as an individual quest for authentic expression. I don’t want the standard treatment for standard trannies, I want personal treatment of me. I don’t want tolerance or acceptance, I need actual engagement, and we can only engage with real people, not theoretical ones.

But Ms. Pettitt didn’t have the advantage of having a box of real trannys to bring out, so her 32 pages of handouts were full of theoretical trannies, dusted and dried into marks from a copy machine.

I guess that’s why it should have been no surprise that people didn’t seem to warm up to her presentation; it’s hard to warm up to a flat piece of 8 1/2″ by 11″ paper copied on two sides.

That’s why I long ago walked away from Trans 101 presentations that start by flattening transpeople and boxing them up, instead affirming narratives that give breath and life to real stories of real people. Heck, even a trans-man acknowledged that his emergence came after he heard people tell their coming out stories and felt his own heart moved.

Maybe there aren’t enough grown-up real trannies to be out and welcoming, taking the blows, showing the flag and giving life and presence to the T in LGBT.

But that’s what I did this weekend at SUNYA, and I suppose I am glad that I did.

Two Track

Gender is a a system of communication that defines a range of status, just like race and class.

I’ve been around a long time, so I ended up sitting at the old people’s table last night, with sponsors and speakers, including Ms. Jessica Pettitt.

We may each have a gender, but that gender couldn’t exist outside the matrix of communication defined by the system of gender.

There was Jonathan Lang from Pride Agenda; Tandra LaGrone from IOOV who needs to divide by race; Pat, the PFLAG grandmother and all.

Gender has value as a system of communication, of definition and enforcement, of claim and substantiation, of advertising and information, or it would never have existed in every known human culture, with people happily gendering themselves.

We watched Carmie Hope, Frieda Munchon and Whiskey Sour just keep the show going for hours. They are the Energizer Bunnies of drag; they may not be excellent, but they keep going and going and going and going and going. . .

It’s moving away from a heterosexist, binary gender system where, for purposes of maximizing reproduction, our birth genital status is defined as trumping our nature, to a gender system like the ones other human cultures that don’t need extreme breeding pressure have used, one where who we are counts more than reproductive configuration, that moves compulsory gender aside for empowering & expressive gender.

And my heart went out to Robin, who sat alone at her table, a transwoman who hopped off the grid to claim herself and now sits with the moose and walrus.

Queer is about empowering individual expression in the matrix of gender communication, moving gender roles away from just two to a network of supporting roles, villages that work together to raise children, since controlling procreation and child rearing is at the heart of any system of gender.

Tomorrow is another day with another workshop, and I will see how things go.

The systems that divide us can oppress us by separation or they can empower us by affirming the connection of all humans in shared community.

But everyone needs sleep, eh?


In the trans session (and I was the only self-identified transwoman there, old decayed me), all the questions seemed to come down to policing; how does it feel to be policed, who polices trans expression, and what is their interest in policing trans expression?

There was agreement that gay and lesbian people seem to have a big interest in policing trans. They feel the need to out us, to try and make sure that we are firmly anchored to our birth sex. Is that because they need to stay anchored to their birth sex, or because they need to stay anchored to their desire?

This week I saw a snip of the Will & Grace where Jack is freaked because he was turned on by a lap dancer at Stan’s bachelor party. Karen is freaked because she can’t turn Jack on, but all is right when the stripper is revealed as a transsexual saving for her “snippity-doo-dah day.” Jack wouldn’t be the only person who needs to keep trannys located so they don’t “accidentally” sleep with us.

There was also a sense that feminists have some interest in policing womanhood, from defectors who show that womanhood isn’t forever (transmen) and those who might want to enter womanspace (transwomen.) We didn’t talk about how trannys need to police gender, like the SSS troops who kept crossdressers straight men.

Sadly Jessica Pettitt‘s day of trans inclusion tomorrow looks like another exercise in policing, at least from the handouts in our binder.

I guess people think that if Gay and Lesbian are policed boxes, and bisexual is a crossing of that box, well trans must be one of those boxes, too. The handouts start with a list of labels (Crossdresser, Drag Queen, etc) and go downhill from there.

I am lead to understand that Ms. Pettitt’s partner is a transman, and that is at the heart of her credentials.

It seems to me that her presentation is about dequeering trans, and while I know many transpeople who find that a worthy goal, to me it misses the point of all this work, moving to claim identity and self past the normative, boxed and expected.

I may well be wrong here, and may get lots more from her presentation than her hard-milled handouts suggest.

But sometimes, I just get sick of the prospect of less empowerment and more policing.



I spent 45 minutes searching for the skirt I wanted for this morning.  I had chosen it and placed it separately.

It’s still missing, though I dumped out every tub, making a horrendous mess, like the proverbial “drag bomb” went off.

This is a condition that a friend used to call “clothesmania” when you just can’t get it and get crazy.

And in the middle of this I had the 15 minute wakeup call to my mother, now in an Econo Lodge in Fayetteville.

I’m crazed and crazy, and there must be some point to this.

Why did goddess hide my skirt and leave my arms tingling with frustration and craziness?

I can only assume she did it on a morning when I have time obligations because she wanted me to work through it and get on.

I feel crappy and want to give up.

But I’ll get in the car and go anyway.

That must mean something, eh?