When I Was 9

Like every normal 9 year old, when I was in 3d grade, I was passionate about urbane political satire.

That’s why I begged my parents to let me stay up until 10PM to watch That Was The Week That Was, an American version of the British show.

You want to know something about who I was as a kid?

This is what I loved:

Full Vent, But…

I’m a Miranda.

If you don’t know what that means, well, no point reading this post.

“Miranda, she kind of strikes the dark note.

I had to find a way to give full vent to her anger and her pain but still have her be be somebody you wanted to watch. Not like ‘Oh my God, I can’t see that woman, she’s always unhappy. Lets go look at Charlotte.’

To give full vent to it but still make her a person you cared about and worried about and empathized with.”

Cynthia Nixon, New York Times, 2008-05-30

Ms. Nixon, brilliant as she is, has just explained the challenge that each of us Mirandas has, though we don’t have the luxury of not really being Miranda, the luxury of having good writers, great designers and a director to keep us clear.

I “kind of strike the dark notes.” And while I am not always unhappy, I know it is easy for people to see me that way.

And yet, like Miranda, who, as a lawyer, has to be solid and businesslike all day, serious and heads-down, I know that my situation also blocks me from expressing that happiness. I have to be that serious, that focused, that non-indulgent in a way that Carrie, Charlotte and Samantha just don’t do.

Miranda is empathetic because you see her sweetness & joy when she is with her friends, in the moments when she is not working. In the movie, she sees her marriage as work to be done, and that means she loses the joy and delight and comfort in it, that it gets dry and brittle.

But without those moments of sweetness & joy, as Ms. Nixon knows, Miranda is easy to leave. That’s why since Southern Comfort 2007, my own quest has been exposing my own vulnerability.

I keep my head down so much. And I don’t have that circle of friends to celebrate with, even celebrating our own pain by being allowed to feel it.

And that keeps me suffering and separated.

Unless, of course, I am actually able to show my sweetness & joy.

Celebrate Me

I sometimes imagine what experts would say about me. I think about going to a gender clinic to start changing my body, where either they would ask me the newbie questions or they would be smart and just say, “Why the hell didn’t you start this years ago?” I imagine my family asking therapist reading this blog after I am gone and saying “They had remarkable coping skills, but in the end those same skills blocked actualization and healthy development.”

Of course, as Ms Rachelle would remind me, that’s just my fantasy of being seen, even when I am gone. When people tell you what the right thing would be for you, rather than asking what the right thing would be, without even listening, well, that can piss me off and make me feel alone.

After two and a half years of this blog and 900 posts, I still think about many things. Today I have been thinking about Abby’s comment “denial has never worked for me because I experience it as deprivation.”

It is clear to me that my training has always been about denial, and by always I mean since I was two years old or so.

When I hurt, my habit is to impose more pain on myself to get more focus and more fury. It’s great training for being a hermit, hidden in the basement of a semi-detached in a development, and being a hermit, away from desire, brings the same rewards it always has, a clarity of vision, but not much else.

Let me give you a little tip to help your relationship with people you love: Celebrate them.

Don’t celebrate who they could be, or how they satisfy you. Don’t tell them how they are doing it wrong or are failing.

Instead, celebrate who they are, all of who they are,

When I was hiring people, I knew they would all have flaws. And as long as those flaws were the flip side of their strengths, well, that was OK with me. Beancounters get too picky, creative types get too wild, social types talk too much, well, that is all sensible and manageable.

I know who I am. And I know there are ways I am “too much.” I just wish those were areas in which I was celebrated.

But this is not a family for celebrating, and especially not for celebrating the challenging and potent parts of our humanity. There are people who celebrate — I think of Sarah and Rachel and Abby — but it’s almost impossible for me to enter that exuberance because I know that at any moment I will be called back to the mundane and soul-killing, requested to serve and expected to be who they expect me to be. And that service means negotiating what my parents cannot speak for themselves, what they have no words for, what they resist saying. That requires me to be in their world, requires keeping my own world silent.

I was thinking about taking the struggle back here — the hardest part is returning — to go to the TransMarch in Northampton. I see, though that now Kate and Leslie will not be attending, and I remember challenges with Bet Porter many years ago. I have recently chatted with a young trans “guy,” just really out this semester, who is full of big dreams — he is documenting everything for a movie of himself — and was lead to remember how invisible the lives of parents are in a gathering of students.

I would want to go and celebrate myself while celebrating those like me, but I suspect that I will be invisible there too, though for different reasons than I am invisible here.

The Sex And The City movie opens this weekend, and women across the country are looking to celebrate their kinship with those four friends who live women’s lives, from suffering pain to loving Louis Vutton. They will dress up and play and drink and immerse themselves in their frivolous side, their beautiful side, their connected side, their loving side. They will go to a romantic place for a few hours, where what they often have to hide is exposed to the world, and do this in the company of friends & soul-mates.

And my thread, well, my thread is threadier than that, not having the place to immerse in celebration, not, as Gwyneth reminds me, having found the damn audience.

But some of you are there, spread out, and I know the need.

So on this two and a half year anniversary, I take a moment to celebrate myself.

Huzzah!

Gosh. That was over quick, wasn’t it?

Oh, well, back to the grind.

Omnivore, Preferences

I get confused by human preferences.

When I feed people, I try to remember and honor their preferences. This is a rich country, and in such luxury, it is easy to assert that preferences are sacrosanct; we only have to eat what we prefer.

The truth is that humans are omnivores, and can eat a wide range of food. Our preferences are part of our history and culture, but they don’t define what we can or will eat. When we need food, some beans or barley, some soup or stew, some rice or noodles will be what we need and we will be grateful for it, even if we would prefer something else.

We are omnivores, and most humans will eat what is put in front of them, out of need, out of courtesy, out of interest. Anthony Bourdain is clear; he wants to be a good guest. If someone offers him food they would serve to their family, he will open his mind and his mouth to try it.

I am so attuned to people being stuck in their preferences that I often forget that people have a much wider range of taste and satisfaction than they use everyday. People can learn to consume new things, learn to actually enjoy the new.

I can actually be something new & different and not be bad & rejected. That idea often confuses and baffles me, even if I know that most humans are actually graceful and open to possibilities that satisfy other humans.

I suspect that my confusion comes from not trusting that my own instincts are human. I had to learn that most humans are very comfortable with binaries that baffle me, and with that I had to learn to respect those walls that are pretty well invisible to me. My attempt to work within those binaries meant I had to set limits and expectations, and those lead me to trying to satisfy preferences rather than trust in the omnivorous nature of humans.

I once told TBB that I had to remember to smile, and she was shocked. “Remember?” she asked, as someone who trusted their nature and inclusion in community life, not understanding my work to emulate what came “naturally” to her.

There is only one human nature and we all share it.   I know that.   Transpeople touch the same atavistic sense in all humans, even if in this society that response is twisted into fear.

But it’s hard for me to believe that, since, as Rachel has pointed out, I am a product of my own inwardly focused family.

And that leaves me confused.

Make A List

My mother wants me to get my act together. You know, finances and a cute part-time job.

I tried to get through. “The week before you came home, I found it useful to sleep on the floor to get my focus back. You know, monastic.”

She twisted her eyes. How weird I am.

“Just make a list,” she told me, “with the pros and cons.”

I chuckled a bit. Any reader of this blog knows that my problem isn’t that I don’t consider my options.

My problem is, as I told her, getting something done without stirring up too much shit. Heck, my sister is into me being silent about the speeding ticket; best not to stir the shit.

This leaves me quite divided, and my parents quite ignorant; through their own choice, of course. My mother says that as she sits in her recliner, she realizes she hasn’t done much to succeed.

“Well, time to change!” I said. That snarky look again.

“The problem is that your mother told you you were nothing but a failure, and you decided to believe her.”

“Maybe that’s true,” she replied, “but it’s too late.”

Is it too late to believe your kid isn’t really a loser, even if you think that you are?

I don’t know. I’ll just make a list.

And hit myself in the head.

Transsexual Woman

It was a normal office visit for TBB.

While taking her history, the nurse inquired if she might be pregnant.

After testing her color blindness, the doctor explained that 9% of men have this defect.

He did look a bit abashed after he said it, realizing a bit of a faux pas.

Just a normal set of incidents in the life of a transsexual woman.

You know, like the fella who bought her drinks for a couple of nights, and after she finally sucked his cock, he wanted to suck hers.  ‘Course, much of hers is in a medical waste dump in Utah, so he was rather disappointed, presumably after enjoying loads of she-male porn; lots of men just can’t understand why anyone would get rid of something so wonderful as a penis.

TBB, well, she got to be incensed and to cut him dead.  That was good for her, and not a way to treat men that she got to try out when she was in school.   She felt empowered and others affirmed her value of herself.

We live on the cusp, and out there it’s often precarious.

Or, thanks to the unconsidered preconceptions of others, it’s just weird.

Romantic

Romantic: someone guided more by ideals than by practical considerations. Responsive to the appeal of what is idealized, heroic, or adventurous.

What girl doesn’t, on some level, want to be swept off her feet?

Isn’t the idea of being taken to a romantic place, ideal and lovely, away from the practical, just breathtaking?

Now, grown-up girls may know that place isn’t somewhere you can life a whole life, but we have been there and want to go back; a dinner out of time with concentration and connection, a romp in a bedroom, a vacation by the sea or in the mountains.

That time-out-of-time experience where we can be one with the pounding of our heart, feeling safe and loved in a place that values ideals, well, that’s something to crave.

And we don’t just crave it in relationships.  Harry Truman found the romantic in music, where a great work could take him to a world where things were right and he didn’t need to be pragmatic.  Men often find the romantic in video games, where they can be the heroic warrior fighting an idealized fight, and the only practical consideration is having to resume a saved game after death.   Many find the romantic in following a leader; won’t Obama be the heroic savior, much more romantic than the pragmatic, lawyerly Clinton?

The quest for romance — idealized, heroic, adventurous life out of practical considerations — is the quest for a humanity where we don’t have to think & struggle all the time, a humanity of satisfying “hot” emotions as Dan Areily speaks of in Predictably Irrational Ariely’s research finds that when we are in a hot mode, in the throes of passion, we will often make choices we would not make in a “cold” mode, choices that are risky, less than well thought through, and compromising.

Odd, that, isn’t it — when we are in the romantic trance, chasing the ideal, we are more likely to make choices that we could know are not ideal if we were more in a practical state.  It is romance itself that often sets up choices that are less than ideal, our emotions chasing a hot state while we believe we are chasing perfection, and that chase of emotional heat actually pushes balance out of the way, moving us farther from perfection.

But still, that romantic heat, where everything feels perfect, even if the morning shows otherwise, well, could humanity exist without that passion?  Then again, could humanity survive without cool, rational and pragmatic vision?

Athena & Aphrodite.

I miss the romance.

Unanswered Mail

I sent this over a month ago, filling a request for details from one who said they hoped to open a correspondence, and haven’t yet gotten an answer.

I’ll file it here for reference.

Conscious gender always involves conscious performance of gender.  It is amazing how on What Not To Wear,a week in NYC” with a team of stylists and TV producers can remind women that performance is power, especially when that performance is centered in a deep self knowledge.

I know Aryn from her exhibition in Troy with Ethan Bach, and from the local list.  I suspect I was responding to some obligation to “represent,”  as they would tell blacks in the 1950’s and 1960s.

The whole go-around with Jessica about how she feels she was creating space for invisible transpeople reminded me that she was also creating space for transpeople to be invisible.

The people at St. Rose Speech Therapy thought I would be a good leader for  some young transwomen they have there.  I told them that they had missed the point; I am exactly what these young transwomen who are working to have a “female voice” don’t want to be, a big visible tranny.

I really get that dream; I went to bed every night wanting to be a girl too.  I just had to get to the point where I came to grips with two facts.

First, my body will never be female no matter how much I want it to be, and while I have gotten my “passing distance” down to very close, it can never be never read.

Second, the attempt to try to pass has a cost too, in feeling failure when I am read, and in requiring me to surrender or at least heavily filter my history and my experiences, surrendering my voice.

I know why transwomen dream of being invisible, know why so many transmen end up “in the woodwork.”    I just don’t believe that it makes the world better for more individual expression.  I won’t out people, of course, but neither will I speak for trans as something that we should hide to fit in polite society and get what we need.

I noted to Melissa that I am “double queer,” being a transwoman and a lesbian, and she noted that with me also being a femme, she sees me as “triple queer.”  Flip, flip, flip.

You ask why I think that starting to explain trans with lists of words is counterproductive.

To me, it goes back to that Jamison Green notion that rather than thinking of trans as a label like gay or lesbian, it is better to think of it as identifying people who are on a journey.

I don’t think anyone wants to be trans, dreams of being a transperson as a kid.  Instead we dream of the kind of person we want to be — I remember a prof who decided he wanted to be a fey English professor and became one — or the adventures we want to have.

Transpeople transition in a transitive state, transgressing gender norms in a process of transformation which transports them through their own journey.  We aren’t our current position, we are humans as Vonnegut’s Trafalmadorians see us, with a dimension of time, a snake with a baby at one end and an old person at the other.

I know some are seeking to speak this with a rejection of gender, to become genderblind, but I also know almost no one who wants to be ungendered.  To me the anger seems to be more about compulsory gender, bridling at the idea that we have to be limited by the expectations placed on our biology and history.

Transpeople move or have moved through gender.  For some, they want that to be a one way process, short and sweet, moving from box to box, but for many of us when we get unhooked we become queer, claiming personal identity beyond labels.

Those labels are functional to us and often represent not who we are at center, but where we are now anchored.  Certainly our university years are a chance for growth and exploration, and who we are today may not be who we are next year.  When I look at those anchor points, those labels, I am much more interested in why we grab them or why we assign them to others than I am about how they represent a useful way to categorize people.  In many ways those labels just want to classify today’s performance of gender rather than getting to any deep and substantial essence.

The handout I found most powerful is page 28, which speaks trans experience rather than categorizes or enjoins.  I’m sure Jessica could have found other pieces of trans narrative, poetry or prose, video or audio, that also opens the heart, but instead it seems she believes (as she said) that administrators respond to bulleted lists and that’s what she included, even though (as she also said) she finds broad strategic plans useless.

I have known a lot of transpeople over the years, and in the end I haven’t found trying to fit them into a taxonomy useful.

To me, it just seems to continue the fallacy we have about sex /gender, that dividing people by sex/gender is always useful rather than just being always easy or always conventional.

In the old days when I did such lectures I would note that while we can freeze dry statistics like “most men (males!) are taller than most women (females!)” and even say that males average 5′ 9″ and females average 5′ 6″ (or whatever), when we try to rehehydrate that data to tell us about an individual it tells us nothing.   If you know what birth sex someone is, do you know how tall they are?  You do not.

In fact, virtually every study trying to quantify “sex differences” ends up with a statement like “The variation between two members of the same sex may be greater than the variation between the norms of the sexes.”   That just means that one female may be 4′ 10 while another is 6′ 1″.

Still, that doesn’t stop us trying to cut data by sex and claim that is meaningful, even meaningful to understanding individuals.  But If I tell you someone was born with a penis, what can you tell me about them from statistics?  How tall are they?  Who do they love?  Do they enjoy sports or opera or both?  What can you tell me?

I’m just ranting now.  I know you are a sociologist, and sociology holds that groupings and statistics are valuable tools to help us understand humans and to help inform public policy about them.

It’s just that my experience with trans leads me to valuing the journey of a human life, the poetry rather than the prose, the way we synthesize and show ourselves, using all the bits we can grab, from knowing who we are, to fashion trends, to expectations of our race and class, to social power cues and all.  It all creates the performance, and the performance is who we are now, not who we are.

If I was doing an intro, I’d do a collection of narratives. Personally, I do this by shifting and by quotes, the kind of power Kate Bornstein caught you with when she expressed the trans experience through performance before others tried to quantify that experience, that role or those people in another way.

Teach it, and through teaching it you will learn it.  You a smart guy.

Callie

Seen, Understood And Valued

Years ago, my sister’s friend encouraged me to speak with a local pastor with whom she did informal counseling. It was not really a useful exercise; when I told Rachel about his response to my writing, she said “Oh. He’s threatened.”

He asked me when I felt happy.

“I feel happy in about the same situations other people are happy,” I replied.

“Well, we each have unique situations that make us happy,” he said.

“I feel happy when I feel seen, understood and valued for who I am,” I clarified.

“Oh,” he said. “Yes, I guess that is what makes everyone happy.”

Rachel, well, she understands this.

I actually feel that this is a lesson I’ve learned, and it’s a valuable one.

When you first reached out, with your eulogy passages for yourself, I admit my first reaction was to want to see you take steps in the direction of coming out more, being more aggressive with your parents, etc.

But then I really heard you that what matters is to be understood and respected for who you are.

And the choice to care for parents is a powerful one, even when they don’t appreciate what you are doing.

What is also courageous actually is that you do not tell yourself that since you have made this choice it is all okay. Instead, there is a seeing of the reality, including the pain. And also seeing still the power you actually have even when you do not always express it.

What I call trans passion is an incredible force.

If I think of what Goddess I see in you, Athena comes to mind, and then Aphrodite. Very different figures.

The Athena part is the brilliance and the devotion to others.

The Aphrodite is the passion.

Blessings,
Artemis Grrl

Telling a wounded healer not to be wounded is like telling a hunting dog not to hunt.  It attempts to take away part of who they are, part of their essence and power.

We each want to be seen for who we are, not who others think we could be if we only acted more like they want us to.  God, that is the pain of my life, people telling me how good and great I could be if only I was someone different, someone more compartmentalized, someone more like their ideal.

Isn’t that the essence of queer?   If we want to be affirmed in our unique mix of humanity and divinity, we have to affirm both the divinity and the humanity in others.   This is the core of my playing “Yes, Yes,” not just to whip out high-falutin’ platitudes & affirmations, but also to affirm the messy, beautiful and potent humanity we hold inside.  TantraGal, for example, isn’t just a powerful presence, she is also a wounded girl who desires comfort, compassion and healing.  Both sides are important to her life on Earth; all sides are important.

I know that my words often lead my expression, that I speak above my present.  But isn’t that a key part of the human experience, having a divine view while living in the mundane, being spirit living a very human life?

Seen, understood and valued, not just for what other people think we could be if we just worked at it, but for who we are.   Respected and affirmed for who we are.

It’s important to me.

Excited! No.

I’m excited today because GENDA (Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act) made it through Government Operations and Codes committees of the New York State Assembly, which probably means a floor vote.  It won’t pass the Republican controlled Senate, probably won’t get a vote, but this is a huge step.

I was there when Emprire State Pride Agenda got a trans-EXclusive SONDA (Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act) through the senate, as a reward for supporting a Republican candidate for Governor.

This is great news.  I was so excited I told my parents, separately.

They both noted that the governor was in the hospital for migraines last night.

No questions, no congratulations, no support, no nothing.

And that denial of response is for public policy, not for personal expression.  Imagine how challenging that must be.

Gotta Love

So Barbara Walters is making the rounds to sell her book Audition — she feels she has always been auditioning.

Her “reason” for writing the book, she says, is that young women tell her that they want to be her, and she wants them to know not only the benefits but the cost of her life.  She wants to reveal the 90% of iceberg that is hidden under the sea, the massive women’s drama that comes with a massive woman’s life.

When asked what she learned, she offers a few lessons.

One is that we need to be kind to one another.  To her that means she can’t be as aggressive now as she was back in the day; her compassion has grown.

And another lesson is that we need to love.   We need to love someone.

I’m a femme, dammit.  And those lessons aren’t new to me.

I almost killed dear Christine with my compulsive and controlling love, a love I learned didn’t fit and was too intense.  I had enough love to make a family, but that wasn’t working out since partnering was too tough when who I was was buried so deep under fears.

I love the fact that Gwyneth & Sarah care enough to quickly speak up.   They are correct; for me to live, I need to find a way to give on other levels.   The divide between the potent, exposed Callan who only lives in the context of my writing, and the tip of my iceberg who serves my aging parents in a way that is comfortable and empowering to them, well that divide is the cleft I slip between.

I’m a femme, dammit.  And that means I need to love.  I love in ways that are real and practical. I caught a glimpse of Amy Roloff with her kids last night, and she made so much sense to me.  Problem is that my charges aren’t growing up and out; they go the other way.

Gwyneth suggests I clear the room, find a new audience.  That’s clearly vital to me.  But it’s not easy.  I listen to many narratives to find space I might fit in and am lost.   I was kind of excited about Femme 2008 in Chicago, at least until I read the mission statement; I don’t find women’s studies jargon often empowers intense creativity and beauty.  My resources are limited, in many ways.  I need to be judicious with my seed, and not just try it willy-nilly again on areas I have not found to be fertile in the past.

Sarah, femme that she is, gets the price, the limp we have from wrestling to find the new edges.  The idea that I am both the public face, fighting the demons, and the private face, making sure my charges are well fed and well cared for makes sense to her.  You can’t be all raw edges; you would never survive.   You need to love.

I need to love.

I’m not saying I don’t need change.  I do.  But I’m not some butchtype who can be out there doing battle and coming home everyday.  It’s not me, never has been.  If that was me, I wouldn’t have a mother’s quest for language, a need to find words to unlock and empower the best in those she cares so deeply for.   That may be baffling to many, but it is.

Thank you Sarah & Gwyneth for caring.  I continue to try to find the balance, cleaning and caring upstairs while coming down to the basement to wrestle the dragons.

I once had a psychologist who worked at an HMO.  I was listing some of my pains in session, so he said to me, “Look, this is a full service medical organization.  We can get you what you need, even today and for the same visit fee.  So, if you want a lobotomy, I can just check this box and we can get it taken care of today.  Is that what you want?”

He knew two things about me.  The first was that I respond well to wit, and the second was that the wrestling defines me, that I could no more voluntarily stop thinking than I could stop breathing.  I chose the name Callan as gender neutral, after piles of paper with names scratched on them, and it was only years later that I found it was the feminine for “powerful in battle.”  Oy.  I am a transgender warrior, but less one like Les and more one like Minnie Bruce, femme to the core.

It’s another morning, and I’m here, thinking.  I do the work.  And I know that something about the September time frame is important; back to school has always been the start of the year for so many, you can pull out the black tights again, my parents seem to be going away then, and it is my birthday. But I need to be positioned for that break, and now is the time to get clear.

Thanks again to those who love me.

Thanks again to those who I love.  It’s love that drives intensity, Eros incarnate.

And I need that.

Mild Intensity

Just watched the season finale of House, M.D. What a roller coaster ride! Smart and sharp; I’m glad we got that radiant image of Amber (Ms. Dudek) — all in light.

I might even call the episode intense. Heck, what else can you call a show about a doctor so driven to solve puzzles that he will break the rules and fight his own pain to do so? In the penultimate episode, Ms Edelstein looked so fetching in her schoolgirl outfit, but I smiled when Cuddy was then sitting next to House in his dream, wearing her well tailored suit; even in his dreams they know that diagnosing people is better than sex to him.

That’s why we like House, of course. We like it because in that world, intensity and brilliance rules. You can fuck up and fuck up, but as long as you keep trying, you can still win, and even if you lose and learn something, you still win.

People want me to be intense again. After all these years of learning to slow down, to fall off, to go slow, they want me to go intense again, to, in the words said by Sondheim to Company‘s Bobby, want something — want some thing. They know I need to take back my life, to burn brightly.

The problem is that most of them don’t want me to be intense like House. They want me to be nicely, mildly intense. They don’t really want the shit stirred, but if there is anything House knows, stirring the shit is the only way to get to the bottom, below the lies to truth.

Dear Miz Ruby, always so kind — I owe her for the trip to SCC and much more — disconnected from me after one particularly intense email exchange where I told her I had to get through the trip with my parents to Toronto before engaging SCC, and pushing me now would do nothing. I was just too, well, too something for her in that moment, and I regret the loss of that sweet connection.

KInd people want me to rev up, but they want me to do it in appropriate and low impact ways. They want that intense mind and energy and sight, but they want it in a mild and unchallenging manner.

Needless to say, I have no fucking idea how to do that, so I stay cranked down.

Until I watch the season finale of House M.D. and my heart races, craving that intensity that I have felt in the past.

But it’s OK. By tomorrow morning I can be a little bit dead again.

It will be fine.

Not Entitled To Should

Lots of people in this world have a real clear idea of how their life should be.

That includes, of course, a real clear idea of how people with whom they are in relationship should be.

After all, they argue, isn’t that the way to create a better life, to have a clear vision of how your world should be? Just pick the bits and bobs out of a catalog, a design magazine or a TV show and build your own American Dream life!

It’s always interesting to me to hear new-age teachers use the world visualization. Some suggest that means visualizing the end product, the ultimate goal, what you want, while others suggest that visualization is another way of rehearsal, seeing yourself work the process before you go and take your shot.

Athletes have long figured out that visualizing an outcome isn’t very useful. They don’t control the outcome of the match, rather they only control their own actions, their own behaviors and choices. Their opponent and the world has a say in the outcome, but doing the best they can is their best shot at winning. Athletes know they need to visualize performance, not outcomes.

When you get attached to a should that is a visualization, you get attached to an outcome. Getting attached to an outcome means you limit yourself to what you can imagine, and your imagination is paltry compared to the universe.

Think about the best things that ever happened to you; love, success, delight. Could you have predicted a year before how those great moments would look? Five years before? The best parts of our life are always better than we could have imagined, better than we could have visualized, and conversely the worst parts of your life were probably a lot less nasty than you imagined they would be.

Life is a curvy road, and you can’t see very far ahead. You might have the vision to decorate the living room, but the vision to know what is possible for you in ten years, well, that’s not really in your range. Your normal will change, because of challenges, because of successes, because of love, and the best you can do is work the process, not the outcome.

The universe doesn’t think you are entitled to shoulds. You don’t get to pick the way you want your life; the best you can do is offer your smarts and sweat to co-create your life with God, trusting what you offer and what the universe gives to create what is right for you in this lifetime.

Planning is essential but plans are useless, as General Eisenhower said. We need to be smart and well rehearsed, thinking options through and visualizing possibilities, but we also have to be able to adapt and change to meet what is. We don’t get comfort and satisfaction promised to us; we only have the opportunity to work to create that for ourselves and others.

For many, I know, the idea that they can’t visualize a future of their dreams is an idea worth rejection. They need to cling to the idea that they have ultimate control of their world, that they are the only ones who get to shape and define their world.

I just think that years of experience in living in God’s world, our own experience, the experience of history, and the experience of scripture tells us that in the end, we are just traveling through. We can make moments and spaces, but what we leave behind is story in the hearts of those we touched.

It works if you work it. The process is the product. And no one is entitled to should, no matter how much their shoulds are better than the present. We have to create what we create, and we can’t control the outcome, only our own choices.

Clear visions aren’t bad things. But a willingness to see things and people as they are in this moment and in the next is also important, too.

And should can easily get in the way of that.

Not Upset

You are not upset about what you think you are upset about.

It’s a key ACIM motto, based on the basic premise of a Miracle being a change in perception towards a broader view of the world. Miracles happen when you learn to see them, not when something you wished happens.

It’s easy to think we are upset because “they” didn’t do they right thing. But in the end, we are upset because we are frustrated or angry or hurt somewhere deep inside of us.

Sure, others could have acted in a way that didn’t trigger us, didn’t push our buttons, but they acted from their own reasons, their own fears, their own limits. Their actions weren’t about us, even if they acted out and tried to hurt us. Their actions were about their own pain and rage and unclear thinking.

Our buttons, on the other hand, are all about us. They are the tips of the icebergs of subsumed fear we hold inside of us, and when they get jostled, they jostle everything inside.

We can’t directly control how “they” act. But we do have some control over how we feel, using the miracle of perceptual change to understand ourselves in context.

You are not upset about what you think you are upset about. You are upset because what you think you are upset about brings up deep and unhealed stuff in you. When you use your own mighty view of the world to tell others how they are wrong, for example, you aren’t angry at their actions, rather you are upset by how their actions bring up the hurt and deep pain inside of you.

Even if someone changes their actions to not push your buttons, that doesn’t take away the fear beneath them, the fear of separation and disconnection that lies within us. That discomfort stays real, ready to rear up at the next disappointment or frustration.

This makes it almost impossible for people to engage you, because they can’t get to what is really upsetting you because you can’t get there. They try to put the aggravation into context, but as long as you think you are righteously upset at someone who wronged you, rather than upset because something deep was irritated and reopened, you can’t get a handle on the real pain and frustration and rage, can’t see it in context.

When people get angry, they always have a reason, and that reason always has roots in reality. “They” really did something stupid, did something they shouldn’t have done, did something that was inconsiderate, rude or even destructive. There is always bit of reality there.

But the deeper reality is that what you are upset about isn’t what you think you are upset about. Being upset about them can’t get you disturbed to the core; only being upset about you and your feelings can touch you that deeply.

You have the right to feel that pain, rage and frustration, of course. You just don’t have the right to take it out on others, however you do it, from flying fists to a cutting tongue. Your pain is real, but you have no right to create pain in others because you are hurting.

You are not upset about what you think you are upset about.

You are upset because you hold deep wounds that tear at you everyday and are very hard to heal in this fast paced, surface oriented world. You really do suffer, especially when you expect people to respect your space, your dignity and your pain and they do not. They think of themselves, because they don’t have the compassion and wisdom to see through your eyes. Heck, they barely have the compassion and wisdom to see through their own eyes and understand how they hurt.

The world will always disappoint and surprise us. The ego wants to deal in shoulds and expectations, projecting a future, but the only thing we can control in this world is our own choices. Weather, disease, rudeness and more will come our way, but so will love, affection, affirmation and delight. To be open to the world is to be open to the good and the bad, knowing that we can’t tell which is which at first. Our expectations will always be frustrated, so holding them causes suffering as the Buddha says. And when we suffer, we can lash out, even in elegant ways.

You are not upset about what you think you are upset about. And it’s your job to go deep and engage your own pain so you can engage your own healing. No one else is responsible for your healing.

When you get the miracle of new seeing, well, thats when you can get the miracle of new and freer life, even if others see that life as less driven than they would like.

You are not upset about what you think you are upset about, no matter how your ego finds good and rational reasons to convince you your upset is about “them” and not about your own deep upset.

You just aren’t.

No, Women.

It has become seen as witty, insightful and chic to say that some women look like drag queens.

In other words, some women are stylized in a way that is reminiscent of female impersonators who often create stylized versions of women’s expression by taking cues from women who started with stylized expressions.

Yeah, it gets crazy. Are Maria Callas, Dolly Parton and Cher like drag queens, or are drag queens like these stylized women? Sure, it is often gay men who style the abstracted expressions, but are they turning the women they dress into drag queens, or are the women they dress such powerful female icons that they feel called to emulate them?

In my mind, the only women who should be identified as drag queens are the ones who identify themselves that way, like Raven Snook. The idea that somehow women can turn themselves into men impersonating women seems to me just the idea that someone women present themselves in a way so stylized and powerful that they scare men, and in that fear, men diminish them as being men — “drag queens” — and not women.

Maybe some think this is a good thing. After all, drag queens are now just an accepted mode of expression, and so they offer a shared understanding, a shorthand for a kind of over the top stylized presentation, clowns for adults.

My sense of drag, though, wasn’t some kind public fun. My sense of drag is rebellious expression, cracking at what was denied, cracking at those who didn’t have to consider their choices.   Take expression over the top and twist it a bit to show the backside, and then it’s ours, not theirs.  Drag queens were the edge of queer, letting everyone follow up behind.  Someone has to be the drag queen, and I guess it’s me, as Charles Pierce often said.

But the edge of queer has lost its edge as gay culture has gone mainstream.    A broader class of people think they know drag now, drag not as spokespeople and hostesses for the queer side, but drag as clowns for adults.    And when they see a woman who looks clownish because they are stylized — even just a contestant on a reality show — they call her a drag queen.

Personally, I am sad that the meaning of “drag queen” has come to be just a reference any stylized femininity.  I think that meaning insults women, who should get to own the power of femininity, including diva stylized femininity, and it insults the transwomen (and men) for whom drag was not just expression but was also service to a marginalized community.

I still have drag performers I love, especially the ones who use pure transformation to express what cannot be simply said.

But hell, now anyone with too skinny eyebrows is a “drag queen.”

And all it shows to me is how scared people are of the power of intense, overwhelming and stylized femininity.

Can I Really Engage My Own Trans Nature?

A reply to a private note from the contact form:

You have the trans calling in your soul, deep at the acorn. You know that.

Your question is simple: What the hell can you do about it?

The answer, as you know too, is both simple and insanely hard. You stand in front of the mirror and say the serenity prayer: “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.”

Then, everyday for the rest of your life, you work it, saying the same prayer, changing what you can, finding ways to accept what you cannot change, and searching for the wisdom to know what to try next.

You know that no amount of praying is going to turn your body female, no matter how much you want it. It would have happened long ago.

But you should know that now, more than ever before in America, being out as a woman of transgender experience is not only possible, but it is easier and comes with more opportunities than ever.

Yeah. You are never going to be 18, thin and hot again with a body that hasn’t fully taken all the hits of male puberty. But you can be a grown up woman.

The challenge for you is to take the steps. One step at a time.

I suspect that there are things and people you value in your life; a family, a career, whatever. Those are things you do not want to lose capriciously, that you have to be smart and prudent about.

But there are steps to take. 1) Find a transpositive therapist and start. 2) Find a tranny group and attend 3) Find a tranny conference and go. The Be-All in Chicago, First Event in Boston, or my home conference, Southern Comfort in Atlanta

I don’t know where you live or what your life is like, but there is some way that you can start the exploration you need. And the first part of that exploration is finding someone to whom you can say out loud all the things you have held inside for years. It is only when you can hear what you say, see what you express that you will know what is inside of your heart, inside your head, inside your soul.

One of the hardest parts of starting down the exploration of trans is finding the wisdom to know what expectations you need to release. In the darkness, everything grows twisted, and it takes a long time in the light to straighten out our thinking and feeling, those deep desires and deep fears, what we want and what we need and all the other bits we twisted together. We have to feel our feelings, think through our thoughts and challenge our beliefs to get straight again.

I am absolutely sure that you can find a trans-expression in this world that suits you and your situation, though I don’t know what it will be. Take it slow and don’t assume you know where you “should” be; like all of life, our destination is always the same, planted in the dust, and it is the journey that makes all the difference, choices and immersion. Lots of transpeople thought they knew they were a this or that, ran to that place, and wonder why it didn’t make them happy.

You don’t know what will make you happy, though you suspect some magical new life that starts as a young girl might. You don’t know that for sure, and you also know that’s not going to happen.

But you know that you can’t stay this sad, hidden and hurting anymore. That means you need to take the steps, my friend, starting with the basic one, saying out loud “I always wanted to be a girl,” and continuing down the long road to find out what kind of mature expression works for you, merging honest and pretty expression with whatever else you value in your life.

One step at a time. Don’t jump ahead, because that will only bring fear. You have choices to make everyday, a choice to go ahead, to go back, to stay where you are, or to try a different choice. You will go down dead ends and have failed experiments; all human growth has that, as any teenager will be happy to tell you.

Find a way to make your own art, your own representation of your inner self, and shape that art to become as beautiful and as challenging as you want to be.

But take the step. One step, just one, to saying “This is me, without all the denial and filters, with understanding and grace.”

I believe you can free yourself and find a balanced life, you a transperson who is loved and valued in the room.

But I also believe, in the end, that while finding good help is key, in the end, who you are in this moment and the next is up to you.

And you can do it.

Dance the dance. Find a therapist, a group, a conference. Make art and see yourself reflected. The longest journey starts with one step, and can go any way at any time.

And most of all, trust the love and the beauty in your heart.

Callie

Revelation Ritual

There is no ritual more gendered than a wedding. I remember vividly accompanying my partner to her sister’s wedding, a blue collar fete, and then jumping in the car and heading to Southern Comfort where I was going to do the keynote speech. The contrast between the traditional & binary gender separations of the wedding and the gender crossing at the conference, much of it echoing traditions in a slightly twisted way, was less interesting than the connections; gender is gender.

A wedding is the ritual where a girl becomes a woman. TantraGal knows that; that’s why she imagined a white ceremony for herself where she could walk down the aisle to claim her own womanhood, a woman even if without a man. I suspect that this is a much better considered idea than the women who get drunk and drive to Vegas just so they can get hitched to their first ex-husband and then get on with the woman part of their life.

TantraGal wonders what my ritual of claiming womanhood would look like.

It’s not the first time this has been discussed; Ann Angell and I spoke about it over a decade ago. She too imagined elements of a wedding; an aisle, a transformation, a claim.

Ms. Rachelle is a kind of expert in these matters; she wrote the text for Omega Institute on Ritual; I just helped edit her forward. Rituals are how we embody connection to God, she said, and I understand that. Hard to remember that it was ten years ago this summer that Rachel had her Bat Mitzvah, four decades after her Bar Mitzvah.

Public rituals are something I support in concept, if not in practice. My secret calling is to be pastor; the church of the divine surprise as I have termed it, a place to come together and be delighted in the surprising magic of the godspark. Yet my public position has been the penitent, marching on my knees towards something, something enlightened and unclear at the same time.

I must admit that the primary ritual I have considered is my funeral. I have never attempted suicide, but for at least thirty years writing suicide notes has let me understand what I want to kill, where my pain is. I even have stories about having them read out in an orgasm workshops, the sarcastic, ironic bit seen as new age affirmations. My laughing jag lasted almost an hour.

Poor Ms. Rachelle has plenty of notes for my funeral in her mail archive; songs, obituaries and more. She handled them gracefully, but that flow stopped a few years ago, and she has to come to this blog to get her portion of hard, brilliant and faceted cutting prose from and about me.

So what would I want if I could actually have a ceremony, and it was one I would actually have to be present and breathing for?

Well, I had a party for my high school graduation. Nobody came. I guess people would have to come. That’s one nice thing about a funeral; if no one shows, you can’t look any more embarrassed than you already are.

And “The Way You Look Tonight.” Have to play that. Probably the Sally Mayes version.

Beyond that, well, anything goes or nothing goes. Do I unveil myself? Marry myself? Do I do an obit for a past? Is their dancing? I mean, I can’t point my toes; Darlene proved that. Hell, even TantraGal’s salon is across from the apartment that both Zipkin and Santucci lived in, at different times.

I suspect that the real key to any ritual for me is that it has to have some “don’t go there” intensity. I remember sitting at the sea wall in Marshfield in the 1964 Chevelle, the pounding of the storm fueled waves calming the beating of my heart, or driving to the top of the hill in the thunderstorm so I could get out of the car, get soaked and get connected. To me, God is not some still small voice, rather she is the crashing sizzle of change, the swirl of power, the rhythm of life.

“I like to kill my audience so that they can enjoy the shock of rebirth as much as I do.” Yeah. I said that.

How do you get that energy into a room without freaking everyone out? I mean, even if you could invite Kiki & Herb, would more than cacophony get though?

For me, the breakthrough is becoming comprehensible rather than being divinely ambiguous.   I have done that through finding my own center, through words, thoughts and belief, which have lead to consistent and appropriate presentation.  I know that I am centered, and Tantragal — and others – see that.

To do that through becoming apparently normative, though, well, not going to happen.

What is the ritual that affirms, completes and defines a moment of transition?  Is it more like a beauty pageant, where Gary Collins kisses you and throws a sash around you: “Ms. Callan 2008?”  Heck I know I already have the housekeeper / emotional caretaker part of being a woman down cold.

My need from any ritual isn’t some kind of validation.  I had to work that out between me and my mother in the sky.

Instead, I need social permission to make the choices of a woman, choices I avoid for the comfort of others and for my own sense of safety.   These may be as simple as wearing the same bubblegum pink polish that TantraGal has on her toes, or as difficult as flirting with people.

You wanna make everyone give me a rose?  Wouldn’t that freak them out?  Wouldn’t that be as cheezy as The Bachelor, me wondering when I won’t get one?

Yeah, I wonder about what an emergence ritual would look like too, I guess.

But like any good ritual, it’s scary as hell to me.

Scary after a half century of denial.

Take Care Of Yourself

TantraGal asked me to lunch at her elegant salon of an apartment, one befitting an inveterate hostess who also runs multiple business ventures from her sophisticated lair.

She is a force of nature, that TantraGal. She got an anonymous e-mail from Munich saying that his Bosnian girlfriend had been driven to the edge of suicide after reading his journal entries about TantraGal. Sure, maybe international drama happens to everyone, but anonymously? She has now determined that he is an old client, and the internet channels to Germany are now regularly heating up with tantric soul stirring.

One of her handles attests to the fact she knows she has the energy of a storm, if a contained one, but that doesn’t mean that she is altogether at ease with this fact of her life. She wants to be taken care of, too.

“Well, you are so strong and powerful, how could you need anything from me?” I parroted over a plate of international food planned for a Mother’s Day brunch with family that didn’t happen.

“Yeah, I get that,” she said with a sigh. We both understand how hard it is to be potent, unique and called in this world, how we live on the edge of other people’s fears in a place that is both very tender, sensitive and open to the world, and very forceful, with the energy of nature swirling in us.   We push for understanding, and that light scares people who want to stay in the dark.

My biggest interest is in seeing our different solutions to similar challenges. She, a beautiful girl, learned how to use beauty as an offering, from a gracious space to using her body as a tool of expression, Me, much more lost, learned how to focus from my head, not trusting beauty, not creating space & grace, but shaping my expression in the contextualization of text, of story.

I need to learn to trust the external as she does, creating practice, even as she wants to learn to own her story, looking for ways to create a book that shares her wisdom as it supports her enterprenurial creation of practice.

I have been sick for over a week now, starting with the wicked sore throat, and continuing onto a hacking resperatory challenge leaving me drained and sore. I had intended to go out a week ago Saturday, and that fell by, and now have missed my opportunity to use my sister’s house as a staging area. I really do want to go to TransPride on June 6 in Northampton, but getting the energy up to reveal myself, well, that has been hard.

Well, the energy up to reveal is hard, yes. But worse, much, much worse, is getting the energy up to conceal again, go back into the monastic denial that drives my service to my parents. It is like pulling them to get things done, like carrying them on my back to create motion. Hard.

All this means I ended up at TantraGal’s house in “Invisible Mode.”

After a while, including a bit of a shock at the door, she was clear: I looked better, more whole & authentic, as a woman. My trans expression isn’t about putting on a costume for a night, it’s about expressing who I am inside.

I had heard this before. I remember almost a decade ago, PalVal took me back to her favourite restaurants in Placid. She later told me that a line cook had noticed me and said I looked much better as woman. Part of me wanted to believe she was just hyping me — PalVal would do that — but I checked years later and well…

TantraGal, well she wants me to take care of myself, like she works to take care of herself. My monsastic taking care of my parents, well, she, like so many others, just doesn’t understand it. Wouldn’t I have much more to give if I was present in the world as myself? Wouldn’t I be happier, more potent, and more graceful?

TantraGal, like any good entrepreneur, lives by her appointment book, and had to be off to continue her day. Her transition reminded me of how much I miss the kind of work that sweeps you up, carries you along, offers momentum and the possibility of success rather than just the need to minimize failure. Some wins can help lift one from the inevitable shocks that flesh is heir to.

I don’t take care of myself. And, even though my parents say they want me to get my life in order, well, they don’t want to freak either.

TantraGal believes that me as woman is so “natural” that it wouldn’t be long for them to get over, a key difference than for so many transwomen who transition as men in dresses and take a long time getting to woman — and sometimes, because of the defenses, they never get there.  She sees my healing as engaging the healthy parts, not struggling with the sickness.

But me as woman means engaging myself as a force of nature, standing & showing in a world without having all those years to learn to trust & shape my own beauty.

Still, the problem is really no different than for anyone else who is a force of nature.

And see how good it looks on TantraGal!

Yes, Yes

I really need a few rounds of “Yes, Yes.”

Whenever TBB calls, I understand my role is to say yes.

Yes, you are more than the woes of the week.

Yes, you are more than what limited and scared people can see.

Yes, there are blessings in your life that get lost in the day to day.

Yes, your struggles have paid off in the past and will again.

Yes, you are beautiful and potent.

Yes, you have the gifts your creator gave you running through you.

Yes, you can make it through this and blossom again

Yes, there will be lovely times for you in the future.

Yes, I remember the song in your heart and will remind you of it.

Yes, you can shine in the world.

Yes, you deserve the best because you are a glorious child of God.

Yes, people will see and believe your magic.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, you must follow your heart, even when others fear it.

“Yes, Yes” is a game girls learn to play with each other, rounds of affirmation from friend to friend which can buck us up for expressing our own individual strength and unique beauty in a world that wants to treat us like an interchangeable gear.  Women need to see and be seen, to trust that their personal expression does make a difference when it is so easy to believe that our only value is how we serve the expectations of others.

That’s why one of the best ways to play “Yes, Yes” is to use someone’s own words, own history to enlighten them.  When we see the brightness that we have brought to the world and see how this world has spotlighted us, well, we may just believe that more of our own magic better than hiding.

TBB, well, she has challenges aplenty, like every transperson, like everyone in this fast, grinding and complex world.  And while she loves the fact I play “Yes, Yes,” with her, getting to the point where she can play “Yes, Yes” with me is rare.  She is jetting, pounding, in the many, many challenges of the day, and that means getting out of herself to reflect me is just not even possible.

I work hard to keep my little mental book of affirmations, and when people like Sarah speak up, or Allyson quotes me, I see myself reflected for a moment.  I know that people value my presence and my gifts, or at least a few of them do.  It’s just that those bits are often obscured by the obligation to be invisible in the face of a world that has enough trouble managing their own problems.

So, I really need a few rounds of “Yes, Yes.”  And I don’t feel like writing one of those affirming notes to myself as I have done so many times in the past.

Today, why don’t you play “Yes, Yes” with someone you care about.  Remind them they are more than just dust, that they are also spark, not just meat but also light and magic.

And my hope for you is that someone does that for you, too.