I went to a PFLAG meeting this afternoon. A number of people knew me, and I even got a warm greeting from the pastor of the church, which was a nice surprise; apparently I had read her wrong in November.
The meeting started at 3 PM, and we went around the circle and spoke. I was last, speaking at 4:50 in a meeting that ended at 5 PM. Joyce, needing to leave at 4:30, had graciously waited until I spoke.
OK, what do I say to this crowd? How do I tell a story in five minutes that will move them?
I decided on two themes.
The first theme was my search for language. The people from HomoRadio understood how that started in 1967 when I heard Virginia Prince on The Steve Fredericks Show, over a tube radio from WMEX. The White Prince Of Crossdressers gave me my first language for my trans nature. I met The Prince in 1991 and co-hosted the Virginia Prince Achievement Awards at IFGE in Portland (1994), Atlanta (1995) and Toronto (1998). I fought with The Prince every time I met them, too, as my developing language and their static language diverged.
We as transpeople still don’t have language we agree on, that offers a simple and clear definition of what trans is and how transpeople want to be seen. I noted that my mother would prefer that I was a gay guy, because she knows how to explain that to other people now, and the parents and gays laughed.
My history has been a search for language, chasing words, first through essays, and now through personal narrative, and while I have helped — one of the hosts of HomoRadio thanked me for being on an email list I started in the 1990s — there is much we have to do.
The second theme was how the experience of transpeople become visible and then become invisible again in patterns. Sometimes that is as fast as one shopping trip, turning visible at the register as the cashier registers our queerness, and sometimes that is over time, where we come out of the closet, transition and go back in. There are lots of other patterns, of course, from the crossdresser who is out between marriages to the transsexual outed by a spouse, and on and on.
We are pulsars and we blink, we transpeople, made invisible by passing (either passing as our assigned gender or our claimed), or by assumptions of normativity imposed on us, and then spotlighted by our own expression or by being used as symbol by others (TBB has a co-worker who has been rude & sexual about her at work, for example.) I offered the old chestnut about how, when I walked into a gay bar, the lesbians saw a male body and wrote me off as a drag queen, and the gay guys wrote me off as a lesbian when they saw my sensible shoes.
And between that darkness and that scrutiny we look to find words that can help us just be, owning our own story and illuminated in a good way. (If all the world is a stage, I want better lighting.)
I stopped a cheap joke about trannys falling because we wear cheap shoes and kept things moving to the point where even the president, who had said that when her son came out as gay she feared he would be trans and she would lose him (she apologized later), thought they needed a meeting on trans issues; trans-language and trans-blinking, moving between invisibility and caricature.
It was almost worth having to run the gauntlet of Sunday families in the development to have gone, almost worth running the spotlight and invisibility to tell my own story.