Big, Big Stories

TantraGal got her work name on the front page of the local paper today.

Unfortunately, it’s in the first paragraph of a story on websites that offer access to illegal sexual services.

I really don’t believe she offers those services, but she does do naked massage with clients.

And she does, like so many of us too people, leave a huge wake.  Her stories are big, really big, big in a way that almost seems soap opera, yet not with cheap little drama, but with real waves that intersect and crest from Munich to India.

TBB is like that.  Her week, from LA to Washington, has been huge.  It’s not that she tries to make messes, no, rather it is that where she goes she carries her energy with her, and people are aware of her presence.

For me, though, working so hard to make only stories that fly under my parents radar, seeing my sisters be out there reminds me of how much I chafe.   I believe that I might be big too, that I might have the hammer of Odin hanging over me, ready to clear the space and make big, big stories.

Big, Big.

Not small.

When Members Of Congress

When Members of Congress are better allies to you than your family, well, you know something ain’t right.

An Examination of Discrimination Against Trangender Americans in the Workplace

Those Testifying (240 Mb)

Barney Frank & Tammy Baldwin (200 Mb)

You want to right click & “Save Link As” because it isn’t a streaming server.

Can you spot TBB?


I cannot both break the wall and simultaneously protect others.

That’s why I don’t break the wall; it’s the habitual way to protect.

Monday morning I drove down to tell my sister about the job.

She was positive, said it would happen, she and my brother would. . .

She called Monday night, but she had her boyfriend there.

She called Tuesday night and was stunned at the messes that day.

She showed up last night, listened a bit and then talked about how far behind the 8-Ball she is.

My mother presses me for financials and then is upset I don’t engage.

I am upset that I barely made it through the day.  But there is no way to tell her that.  She doesn’t care about the details, rather she is just peeved that people don’t do what she tells them to do.

I can’t move forward when still bound and entombed.

But it seems to me the only way to get out is a smash through the wall.

And then I will be expected to clean up the mess, but I can’t clean up the mess if I am doing the running.

When Mama Ain’t Happy

When Mama ain’t happy,
ain’t nobody happy.

“You’re so excited!” TBB said to me.  “Just listen to you!  You are bubbling!  It’s great!”

“I know,” I replied.  “I can feel it.”

Yeah, I can feel it.

I just can’t show it.  Mama ain’t happy, and that means nobody can be happy.

It’s amazing how our delight, joy and happiness gives permission to others to not only feel their feelings, but also to express them.   And it’s also amazing how expressing our feelings can build momentum, momentum to move us farther, momentum to get us over the rough spots.

My mother’s rule, though, since I was a child, is that exuberance is just too exuberant.   We had somber events, even the party ones, so sucked dry of excitement and festivity that a friend I knew in high schools said that my mother’s house was the place he would least like to spend Christmas.

So I’m excited, but I have to swallow that excitement around my family; my mother, my father who just hears noise rather than nuance, and my sister who has learned to keep her head down. And when I swallow, my sister finds me dour, unpleasant to be around.

I need that energy to move on.

But it makes my parents distressed.



We see a girl from the back, and as she turns around, we notice that her clothes are so huge that she is swimming in them.

“Mom!” she yells.  “These just don’t fit me, they just don’t!”

“Everyone wears that size,” Mom replies.  “We know what’s best for you, so do what you are told.”

The girl shrugs in resignation and frustration, and walks down the stairs, scrunching up the clothes and holding them up, but she trips on the stairs.

We see her walking up to school in these clothes, wrestling with every step.  She passes a boy in very small clothes, tight and gapping, and they nod hello to each other.

As she struggles to climb the steps to the school, the voiceover kicks in.

“Imagine if what people expected from you just didn’t fit.  How would you handle it?”

On the screen, the tag comes up and is announced.

“Transgender.  It’s not about the clothes, it’s about the person inside them.”

On Being Product

Both [Dina Lohan and Denise Richards] have failed to make smash hits of their Sunday-night reality shows for the same reason their show-business careers never soared: talent alone isn’t necessary for success, but the people who do become stars, be it in movies, on television or just in the celebrity fast lane, are the ones who go all out to compensate for their lack of ability. It’s a little like the card game hearts; if you can’t win, you have to shoot the moon and lose big.

. . .

These offerings from E! prove that it’s not enough for celebrities to be themselves; they have to make the best of their worst selves.

The Latest Candidates for an Image Makeover, Alessandra Stanley, New York Times, 14 June 2008


Went to a diabetes food thing with my mother yesterday.  The presenter had little wit and a less than deep understanding of the issues, but she could work the slides and did care about her three participants.

The bad thing with diabetes is capillaries.  When blood has too much sugar, because the sugar isn’t metabolized into the cells, either because of low insulin or resistance to insulin, it gets gummed up in the capillaries.  The capillaries in the eyes, in the kidneys, in the peripherals, all that.

This morning Regis was talking about his visit to the dialysis center at Washington Hospital.   People who live with machines, people who wait for transplants, people who have challenges because they didn’t take care of themselves.

I understand the issue.  And I understand why the American Medical Association House Of Delegates yesterday passed a resolution in favor of financial support of transgender medicine.  Too many of us learn to deny too well, and that mental cost is paid over time in our bodies.

Like mine.

Bottom Push

“The best lesson I ever got in auditioning,” said Brett Butler, the comic who is very much a “too person,” “is to go in there like you have been killing for twenty minutes.”

It’s that relaxed confidence which transmits power.

TBB knows that. She had a job interview where the interviewer asked if she would take the top project lead job rather than the one she was proposed for, and ended by sating he put a big #1 on her resume.

She knew she was hot.  She attributes her confidence to the loss of 30 pounds and looking good, an attractive woman, but I have to wonder if some of it is just the fact she hasn’t been getting ground down at her hourly job after the sexual harassment events.  She has been back in the water, feeling good, qualified and confident, connecting with smart people.

My mother saw an job ad in the local arts weekly.  Empire State Pride Agenda is looking for someone to create statewide support for GENDA, the NYS transgender rights bill,  She thought I would be good for the job.

I gulped, lost sleep.  Does she have any idea what my taking that job would mean?  It would mean I wouldn’t be at her beck and call, means I would be out and visible, really visible?

When I was at the resturant table in Atlanta with all the political activists, the one thing I was sure of is that I would never be that young again.   Can I really do the glibness the job requires, gladhanding and rah-rahing?

On the other hand, I have been craving a sales job.  I know how much I learned from selling cameras for two years; I did it my way and it worked well.  I also know that this job is less sales than marketing, trying to sell groups and not just stroke indviduals.

Would I like somewhere to get dressed and go every morning, somewhere I felt like I was contributing more than cleaning the toilets?  Yes, please.

TBB, well, she makes magic by moving straight ahead.  She lowers, she rises, she puts one foot in front of the other to do what is needed in the moment.

Me, well, I do love the symbols.  “I drove by where I got stopped for speeding today, the first time, and right as I passed the school there was a State Police car speeding by in the other direction, lights and sirens, and then another.  Don’t you think that’s interesting?” I asked her.

“Not particularly,” she replied.

It’s impossible for me not to see connections, and impossible for TBB not to see the literal.

My mother?  It’s impossible to see any ripples from her choices.  She can’t tell you what she would like, but like any pushy bottom, she is fast to tell you what she doesn’t like: she may have fancied the Target cereal in the canister box, but she wants more pecans, dammit!  She may not want someone to have to bother pushing her through the dirt floored greenhouse, but she wants to select her own flowers, dammit!

And that’s why my father and I learned a long time ago to think through her desires, to see how they could backfire on us when she realizes the cost.  You know, like I did last night as I rolled around in bed, torn between doing the work and keeping her stable.

You gotta go in like you have been killing for twenty minutes, but when your audience prefers to kill you to keep you small and at her beckoning, well, not so easy.

But damn, it looks good on TBB.

Intimate Pain

OK, it was late and I had some rum before I wrote that last post, Pain Loves Me.

But it came to me, and the computer de-hibernated by itself, so I wrote it.

And since I wrote it, I have had to question my relationship with pain.

I don’t have that relationship with suffering.  Suffering is a response to discomfort, to pain or disappointment or whatever.  Pain and disappointment can really get under your skin and drag you down; I remember wanting euthanasia for toothache (infection) and for frustration, I do.

But I experience joy and exuberance and satisfaction too.  I don’t need to suffer, and I need Eros.

I just know that pain is the flip side to Eros, and if I want to feel, I need to feel the range.

And honestly, I’m much more familiar and comfortable with pain than I am with pleasure.  Pleasure seems a bridge too far, but well, the intensity of feelings in pain, well, that’s close.

I’ve never been a sadomasochist, never have sought out physical discomfort and pain as some I know.  And more people I know like to create physical pain in others, usually as an act of domination.

But then again, I have never had a partner who has wanted to go to the intensity with me, either way.  My experience is very inwardly focused, no doubt.

I don’t think my intimate relationship with pain is a problem for me.

I do think that my lack of an intimate relationship with pleasure is a problem for me.

If I only have a relationship with pain, though, I don’t try to clear the pain fast enough.  That means I leave things hurting (and decaying), because if I don’t have a relationship with pleasure, I need some kind of intimate sensation in my life, and pain is it.  My center becomes pain and the avoidance of pain, rather than including the seeking of pleasure.

Pleasure, well, it baffles me.  Pain, though, I understand.  I trust pain because it won’t lead me to pain; it is pain.  Pleasure, though, opens me up to hope, and the pain of frustrated hopes is a kind of pain that has always tortured me.

To engage pain is to engage the invulnerability of the eternal, knowing that our soul lies beyond the body.

To engage pleasure is to engage the vulnerability of the flesh, knowing that we are here to be open to transcendance.

I get the eternal.  The present, well, it comes with more limits, at least for me.  The pleasure of human contact, well, it’s not something I ever learned to count on, from my earliest days.

Skin touching skin, heart touching heart?

Well, mind touching mind, and soul touching universe has had to be enough.

And I thank pain for the lessons.  Where you stumble, there lies your jewel, as Joseph Campbell said.

But yeah, I do think my lack of an intimate relationship with pleasure is a problem for me.

pain loves me

the pain loves me
when others desert me
the pain is always there
cosseting me
in its sweet razor grasp

when I am hurt or lonely
I always can count on
the pain to come
and take me into
the place of my tender humanity.

I lie on the floor
wracked with sobs
feeling the vacant kicks and strikes
knowing I am safe
because the pain
sweet pain,
is with me

the pain loves me
always snuggling up to me
keeping my heart company
through the darkest night

pain is my companion
pain is my lover
pain is the feeling I know I can have
and never lose.

I don’t scare pain
when I wail
it cuddles closer
familiar as a bruse
intimate as a scab
true as a scar.

the pain loves me
always close and always true
in my nostrils and my heart
the only true romance
of my fading life.

the pain, it loves me.

and in the end,
sometimes you just
have to settle.

sweet pain.


Oprah replayed her show about death on 10 June 2008.  The one Randy Pausch was on, doing the condensed version of his “last lecture.”  Of course, there was no note about what date the show was first aired on (19 Nov 2007), and no sense of how Mr Pausch’s life has changed since then, and make no mistake, the coming of death changes things.

They had Kris Carr on, living with a terminal cancer, and she talked about living every day, not worrying about the future.  Ahmet Oz was very inpressed that Mr. Pausch used a signed football to toss around, what else would he do with it, Mr. Pausch wondered?  Maybe his wife would sell it to pay tuition for his children.

I live in the face of death everyday, the death of my parents.  And the way we manage that is to keep them comfortable, which means that change is just not on.  They need the routine.

And what I need?  Well, I need life.

Change happens.  Change costs.

My ISP is dropping all Usenet access.   I have used newsgroups for over a decade now.  I lose part of what is now part of the package.

It’s a win for the ISP.  They drop a service and all the headaches.   It’s a great deal.

And how do they get away with this?  It’s a deal with the prig AG Cuomo who desperately needs to show how tough he is.  They found some child porn on 80 of thousands of newsgroups, went to the ISP, and the ISPs agreed to have a big press conference and shut it down.

What does this mean to people who crave child porn?  It means they have to pay $150 a year to buy unlimited newsgroup access from a provider.  In other words, it doesn’t really stop anyone but the very poorest perv.

But the AG gets his headlines, pandering to fear, appearing to be bold while doing nothing, and the ISPs get to drop a service with the associated costs and headaches.

And like all change in this Jack Welch Hell, the costs roll down to the end user, who has no way to amortize them.


I used to ask my boss “Where are the wins?”  We were losing all over, but there were no wins.  That was a problem.

He replied that he was glad I wasn’t one of the sales staff.  They could be bought off with the promise of a shiny new watch; they didn’t really look for wins.

You know the three rules of thermodynamics as I learned them when I was around MIT?

  1. You can’t win.
  2. You can’t break even.
  3. You can’t get out of the game.

Time in management taught me that there were only two ways to manage a budget: cut costs or increase revenues.  And cutting costs is a finite process; you still have to pay the piper.

I know what I need.  Wins.  But I live in a space where cutting irritations is the only real understandable process, where comfort is all.

I cut and I cut and I cut, and shit still rolls downhill.  Investment is shirked.

And the game sucks.

The Man

My mother doesn’t understand why I get upset when she refers to me as “the man,” as in “I think it’s the man’s fault his pants are ripped.”

But I do get upset.

Even if she then wants to tell me that she doesn’t like “the man’s” reaction.

Expressing distress to someone who is upset and can’t engage her own emotions is just abuse, though.  And that one nurse who had to ask my mother the secret question, the one I couldn’t know — “Are you being abused by your caretakers?” — well, always fun to be suspected of being an abuser.

Even if that abuse is taken on oneself in order not to abuse others.


Motivational speakers seek to be aspirational.  They want to present a lifestyle that you can aspire to, offering the lesson that if you follow their example, you can be more like them.

Spiritual teachers don’t follow that approach.  They assume that not everyone wants to be an ascetic seeker, but that everyone has their own quest, with their own challenges and their own waypoints.

I’ve never been a great motivational speaker.  Many people have found that if you want to achieve a preplanned goal that I am a real pain to be around.  I just ask the wrong questions, offer the wrong challenges.   You just want to stay in place, demand others comply with your expectations, and I am just wrong.

If you want to heal, though, I’m pretty useful.  I’ll offer you insight laced with compassion and humor, slicing away at the shoulda, woulda and couldas to encourage you to come from someplace deep, smart & authentic.

But do you want to be like me?  Well, no.  In fact, you probably can’t understand how I stand being like me.

So, this is the question: would my life be better if I was more motivational, more aspirational?  If I was out and beautiful, polished and pretty, sweet and likeable, would I have more impact on my world, and would I be happier?

Or, she asked, would the burden of having to maintain that kind of lifestyle lead me to sell out?  “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.”  I watch people on TV blithely selling stuff that I know has been proved to be crap, but they don’t know or don’t care.  To feed the beast you have to feed the beast, and that means selling what you got to pay for what you want, the cycle of the market, now as overblown as marketing hype can make it.

I have remained in the fire for a long time, and as a result of that, I write about being in that fire with clarity and vision.  Since the fire is our shared experience, that is why Alice can be baffled about my life — why haven’t I gone one way or the other? — and still believe that I write beautifully about the trans experience.

But yeah, there are days when I wish I was on top of the world rather than under it.  And people have told me that I do have the capacity to be aspirational — just not the people who actually need aspirations.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

So I wrote this yesterday, and then last night Jendi Reiter offered this: “I’m so grateful I found your blog.”  Jendi and her husband are preparing to adopt a child, and is struggling with fears she cannot get beyond the fears of her parents to be open & vulnerable, coming from her own love.

Your resolve to open your heart to love, despite prejudice and rejection and an ongoing close relationship that reinforces that negative worldview, inspires me to believe that I too can choose life.

Oh.  She says I’m aspirational, or at least inspirational to her.  She also says, on her own blog, that my blog is “insightful and well written,” encouraging her readers to visit here.

Yes, yes, I’ll admit it.  I laughed at this whimsical bit of irony offered by my mother in the sky.

My quest for vulnerability isn’t easy, but I am sure that Jendi can unwire old habits and open herself to the questioning of a beautiful child.  After all, if she is willing to go to a trans pride march as an ally, she is willing to open herself up to the challenge of loving beyond her fears.

I am grateful to her for opening to me, for just opening her heart and sharing.

And I am grateful to my mother in the sky for reminding me that I am doing the work, no matter how much it isn’t as big as some would like.

Trans Pride

We are not gathered to say that we are proud to be trans.   Our being trans is a happenstance of birth, just another way some people are born.

No, we are gathered here to say that we are trans and we are proud.  And in a society that works hard to shame non-normative people in to silence, that is a remarkable thing to say.   We have taken the shaming and the ostracism, taken the threats and the fear, taken the abuse and the separation, taken the pounding that tried to keep us down, taken the brickbats and the bombs, and we have emerged.   We have emerged alive, we have emerged thriving, we have emerged proud.

And who are are we not to be proud?  Are we not children of the creator as much as any other human on earth?  Do we not have the possibility of wonder written into our souls?  Do we not have the spark of life burning in us?

Many people still tell us that we should be ashamed, ashamed of who we are, ashamed of our choices, ashamed of our very nature.  They tell us that by being visible we can corrupt their children, make the world safer for sexual predators, offend those who value fear and obedience to the norms over expression.  They tell us that we are indulgent and challenging, and we should be very ashamed of who we are.

But we gather here together to say this, to share this: It is possible to be trans and proud.  And, in fact, any trans person who has created a whole, integrated and healthy expression in the face of such shaming, has a great deal to be proud of, trancending the internalized self-loathing to come out into the sunlight of such a bright June day!

We are here, we are trans, and we are proud.

We are proud of ourselves, yes, but we are also proud of all those who helped get us to this point, those who struggled with burdens of stigma and lead the way, opening up possibilities for all of us.

We are proud of the transpeople who are out today, showing themselves as valuable members of society, just doing the everyday work.  They challenge the lessons that all transpeople are sick and broken, and show that we can be as potent as any human when we come from our own gifts.

We are proud of the transpeople who are out and doing the icebreaking work, taking down political, social, medical and other barriers to the simple emergence of transpeople as proud members of a wider community.

We are proud of the history people like us wrote, and proud of the future that we can imagine, where kids can actually be who they are, bringing out the best of them without being shackled by compulsory gender that puts genital configuration over the power of their open and graceful heart.

We are here today saying that yes, yes, yes, it is possible to be trans and to be proud.

And that is a message that there is no going back from. It is a message that all need to hear.

And it is a message we need to carry in our heart everyday.

It is possible to be trans and to be proud.

And we are both!

Pride, No Aspirations

Where does reason end and rationalization begin?  Dammned if I know.

But even though my mother offered to have me go to the New England Transgender Pride March in Northampton last night, and my sister even offered to drive, I don’t think I am going to go, and here is why:

  • It’s going to be 95 and humid.
  • I haven’t had the energy to do what is needed to look good, which leaves looking bad or looking invisible.
  • Gas prices are outta here (and heading higher!)
  • It will mostly be women studies feministas speaking.
  • Nobody from the local e-mail list showed any interest.
  • If I can’t go with pride, can I afford to come back with pride?
  • I tried to imagine what I might say to the group and couldn’t think of anything.

I will acknowledge that Justin Adkins offered me a personal invitation to come, and I thank him for that.    He works just over the Massachusetts border; it would be cheaper and easier to have lunch with him someday, since today he is doing staff work at the march.

So I had an invite and my family was encouraging, as far as they could be.  But they think that I just need to change clothes, and that is wrong.  To be present, I need to open up and be vulnerable, alive and energized.

I could definitely attend the march, look and listen to the event.  That might even offer some good writing, some stimulation and some insight.   Observer mode.

But I don’t know how I could be present at the event, present in a visible and potent way.  Performer mode.

I know that people often respond to the aspirational, to someone who embodies something that is attractive & desirable, something they want for themselves.  This is a key sales trick; if you want to be like us, you need to do what we tell you to do.  We see what we desire and then want to emulate.

My failing for many people is that I don’t offer that aspirational goal.  They prefer someone like Donna Rose, who is speaking today, and who offers that attractive vision of blonde possibility.

I suppose that’s why I couldn’t imagine what message I would carry.  To carry pride you have to be proud, bold and graceful, saying “Hay look at me!  I’m a shining example of potent humanity!” Pride past families that support the concept, but not the brave and bracing performance.  Pride in the sun and in the dance and in the smile, not just in the notepad.

Oh, well, I guess that I just found what I would say today, that pride is pride, lifing us when we actually embody our best possibilities, which, I hope, is the goal of the transgender quest.

But I can’t embody it today; just too many trees fallen on me to get up and dance.

And so I stay.  Stuck.

Shorthand Conventions

Rachel & Alice have taken the time to remind me why labels have the power that they have.

Labels are shorthand conventions that we use to get through the complexity and jumble of everyday life.  The more complex life becomes, the more important labels become, because we don’t have time or energy to engage nuance and detail.  Rather, we embrace the soundbite and let it guide us.

I remember someone joking that in San Francisco, people knew who they were and who they wanted to fuck using labels. You know, like bad classified ads: “Pushy Bottom seeks Small Hairless Bear Top,” which would then be translated into “Creep seeks Chihuahua.”   They would then program these labels into their Palm Pilots which would beep if they were near someone on the list.  Poof!  Expectation meets expectation, label meets label.

One of the key challenges I have is to shorthand myself for introductions.  What codes do I want to use when I greet someone, what polished soundbyte will give enough information but not too much, will allow people to understand me but not give “too much information,” will explain my choices without limiting my options, will code my group assignment without queering the deal?

People always wanted me to give a quick blurb for who I am.  I would often fall back onto a line from Octavio Paz: “I am the shadows my words cast.”  I am not my words or my identity props, rather I am the shadows they cast, the meaning behind them.

And sure, that’s a great and powerful line, but I have found that it is not really all that useful at a Chamber Of Commerce mixer.  There I need quick labels, codes, conventions that just match the search parameters people have put in their brain to denote what is desirable and useful to them.

Labels work because we have little time or brainpower for much more attention today.  “In an information economy, attention is the ultimate currency,” Diane Sawyer said.   Labels are designed to minimize the need for paying attention to details and nuance, constructed to push buttons and open doors like codes and soundbites always are.

The utility of labels is clear to me, as is the limitation of labels.  They do have the power to bypass thought & consideration and get directly into the conventional cortex of programmed people, and any of us who have grown up in society are programmed to understand labels.   Labels don’t have the power to get under that programming & convention, which is both a benefit and a cost, defending us from ambiguity and blocking us from nuance.

Labels are canned convention, and as such, can be very powerful.

But if convention is what is blocking forward movement in the first place, well, labels don’t help get beyond those limits.

Terms & Labels

I may not like labels, words people apply to me, but I certainly need terms, words I use to describe myself. I need words to speak who I am, to make myself visible beyond the expectations of heteronormativity.

But labels have limits because they are always based on some degree of ignorance; they describe how others fit in our taxonomy, not how others know themselves.

I have often asked transpeople to explain who they are without using the word “Not.” Too often we use labels as crutches and end up with a negative identity, one based on the claim that we are “not like them” and “not like those others.”

The more we try to positively state the nuances and details of our own identity, without resorting to quick labels as identity props, the more we begin to value not only own our own complex nature, but also to value the complex nature of others.

Words are symbols, and like any symbol, they are not equal to what they represent. Meaning lies not in the word, but in the spaces between the words where reality exists.

When we use words to cast those shadows of meaning, we have terms.

When we use words to paper over that nuance, we have labels.

My Comment on “Label, Label, Label” by Monica Helms

Once I Have Stability, I Can Start Healing.

“I really need to build a stable life before I can start to work on my own healing.

“All I need to do is to first find my lifetime soulmate and settle down with them, because if people can’t find one person who can meet their expectations, then my entire belief system is false and has to be discarded.”

I really feel for her when I hear her say something to that effect.

I wanted to have the same thing before I went back and engaged the healing I needed to do.  I once turned to Christine and said “I believe I am learning to trust myself, but now I have to work on learning to trust other people,” and she replied “Can’t you do that on your own?”

I dunno.  As a transperson I had a sense that I had to give up normative expectations of coupling, no matter how much that broke my heart, but other “Too-People”  — the ones who are too smart, too strong, too visionary, too powerful, too questioning, too sensitive, too intense, too queer — well, the idea that they have to let go of what they consider everyday expectations, well, that’s not easy.

My experience is that it is healing that brings us the potential of stability, and healing is always in the miracle of seeing our experience and our possibilities in new ways, beyond and outside of old conventions & old expectations.   To look for stability before healing is like building a house on sand; the foundation will shift and crack as the ground moves underneath it.

Behind that sharp exterior, though, I hear the cries of an abandoned child, one who didn’t have the kind of empowerment and stability she needed to heal the effects of her traumas and terrors.   That cuts through me because share that experience.  My mother feels the best she can do is worry for other people, so she spews her own fears around, adding to burdens and destabilizing the experience, pushing farther away from empowerment and more into despair.

When I think what I did to try and find a partner, well, it was manipulative and bad.  Thank God I had Christine to push back against me, to explain that I had to do my own work and couldn’t expect anyone to just be there for me in a way I imagined.  It was very, very much not what I wanted to hear, but, of course, it was what I needed to hear.

Writing this, I have to wonder about the possibility that I might have been wrong, that if I had just kept looking I would have found the perfect person to support, comfort and empower me to become who I really am, which is the reward of a lifetime according to Joseph Campbell.  It’s such a seductive thought, but in all my learning, the basic lesson is that we have to heal ourselves, and that is an individual journey, no matter who supports us.

No, the falls and the bumps and the instability, well, those contain the lessons we have to learn, and until we learn them we just get more of them.   It is where we stumble that the jewel lies, and our obligation is to find that jewel and carry it until it becomes part of us.

It’s so easy to want to externalize our own struggles.  “It’s they who don’t get it, they who cause me pain, they who aren’t healed, they who don’t come up to expectations.”    All those cries are correct of course; the most difficult thing for us is that others heal in their own time and not on our schedule.   They can’t be there for us because they cannot yet be there for themselves, or they can’t be there because they have their own work to do, or they can’t be there for us because we are not yet there for ourselves, not yet engaged in our own healing.

It’s hard, very hard, to internalize our struggle, to be clear in every day and every moment that we are the only one we can heal, that we are the only one we have the obligation to heal, and that we have to find our own stability before we can accept what others can offer us.

Each of us dreams of the perfect home, where we can be safe from pushing the buttons of others, where we can be seen and understood deeply, reflected in positive and affirming ways, able to push though our own fears and pain while feeling supported and empowered.  We crave that safe space.

It turns out, though, that space is expensive to create and maintain, because everyone enters there with their own pain, their own trauma, their own terrors, and their own turmoil.  We have to be able to create our own safe space, as I wrote in 1994.

In the end, it is our responsibility to unwire the buttons that can send us into a spin.  Pilots know that the only way to learn to exit spins is first to enter controlled spins and then to follow the procedures.  To heal, we have to enter our own unstable places and learn to create stability.  Maybe we do that first in a simulator, rehearsing responses — I do that in writing — and then we stretch our wings and get stronger, counting on our own choices to regain stability.

I’d really love to be able to externalize my challenges, to look for external stability before entering the pain.  I crave having someone near me to help, I do.   That’s one reason I had a crush on Shelly from Celebrity Rehab, she is post-therapy enough to help each other do the work.   But she isn’t in my life, and her TV/work role as centered saint isn’t all of who she is.  We would have issues too, so we each do our own work, and find the lessons we need offered to us.

Healing is the path to stability, rather than stability being the path to healing, at least in my experience.  The only way out of hell is through,  as I have learned.

But my heart cracks a little bit more when I hear the cry of a child who just wants that dream of a perfect partner.

That’s because somepart of me wants it too, of course.

New Shoes

You are at work, and your shoes hurt.  You really want to slip them off, but you know that if you do that, when you need to get them back on for the meeting, it will be almost impossible.  Your feet will have swelled and those heels you wore especially for the meeting will be useless.

It is a very trans day.  The NYS Assembly passed GENDA, and there is a big open session in town tonight.  My sister asked why I didn’t go.  Part of it was my mother’s expectations of what she wanted to do, but the big challenge for me isn’t coming out to do the work, it’s coming out with the clear understanding I have to go back in soon and hard, and often in a moment.   Taking off those heels may give a moment of comfort, but slamming them back on is a killer.

I wrote this while watching the Assembly feed:

I have watched some of this, and I was moved at how Assemblyman Gottfried spoke for us when challenged by Assemblyman Mike Cole (R, Erie // Niagara) and Peter Lopez ( R, Scoharie) on issues like transpeople teaching in elementary schools, transpeople using the same restrooms as young children, dress codes, sex offenders pretending to be transgender to gain benefits and so forth.   They both offered hypothetical worst case scenario cases of young children being exposed to sexual organs, asking people to be incensed by these extreme possibilities of abuse, asking that the assembly take all fears very seriously and not dismiss them.

Traditional human rights legislation deals with classes of people, and the class of who is transgender is not as simple to define as characteristics like skin color or birth sex.  Those in the opposition want respect, an end to abuse, but they also want clear, black and white definitions of who is what.

As Assemblyman Gottfried responded often, shouldn’t we expect people to use the facilities appropriate for their gender and not just for their sex? Or should we just tell trans people to go before they leave home?    Bad behavior prohibited by law will still be prohibited after GENDA, but regular behavior by transpeople will not be protected without GENDA.

I have lived a long time without seeing elected officials stand up for people like me.  It was easy to assume that was either because I was invisible, not worth understanding, or because I was broken, not worth defending & supporting

Seeing Assembly members stand up and speak eloquently to support and defend me and people like me was heart rending.  Even Joel Miller, a Republican from Poughkeepsie who practiced as a dentist, stood to defend the idea that we are who we know ourselves to be.

At around 555 PM, EDT, GENDA passed the New York State Assembly, 102 to 33, after a long fight.

More work will have to be done to get it passed in the Senate and made law.

Thanks to the hundreds who have worked for years to make this happen.

Today, the NYS Assembly said that transpeople are good and valued New Yorkers, worthy of protection.

And it feels good to have had that moment.

It was just after writing that that I ended up hitting myself in the head a number of times.  The debate happened over dinner, and while I missed the beginning preparing dinner, once I came up after, I had obligations to fulfill, work to do, a meeting to be at.  I had to get those damn shoes back on, and fast, and that takes the kind of wincing pain that will focus you.

I can take the moment, but is the moment worth the pain of going back?  I can be called at any moment, and that is sharp.  I may feel soft and safe after hearing Assembly Members stand up for me and people like me, but that doesn’t let me off the hook.

It’s not the trouble of going that stops me from peeling off the armor, it’s the absolute knowledge that I have to be ready to slam it back on, with the sound of a car, or a call, or anything.

And that’s the truth.

Open To Fear Or Stay Closed

I put on a movie for my mother, and it turned out to be one where Donald Sutherland plays an old man with Altzhimers and other complications.  He dies of a heart attack at the end of the movie.

To her, it was a very sad movie, reminding her of her own mortality.  She can’t celebrate life anymore, not that she ever really did, but rather she fears death, aware of her own limitations in caring for herself and others.

I have often said that there are only two basic approaches to death.  We can either fear it and try to wall ourselves off from it (fear), or can accept it and live vibrantly while we are here (love).

My mother fears and feels sorry for herself, her own self-pity celebrating her own failures, wishing and hoping for some kind of ideal and never achieving it, entitling her to be morose.   That morosity, then, disempowers her, which generates more failure.

So now she worries about the future, and her worries for her own future taint her vision for the future of those around her.  She sits in her recliner and wallows in worry, which never allows her to be actually present, helpful and empowering to those who need to claim their lives.  Rather she brings them weight and sadness.

To worry is to invite fear into your life.  Is that really something that one should be proud of doing?

To open to her is to open to fear, so one has the choice of accepting fear or staying silent and closed to her. Both of those choices have the kind of consequences that make my heart feel hurt, and I mean that in a practical, physical way.  My heart aches, from denial and lack of caring, in a practical, physical way.

To care for her is to carry her with you, always aware of her omnipresent fear, worry and sadness, always ready to be small and broken to respect her chosen pain.

Yes, death is near.  As humans, death is never far away, maybe from us, maybe from those we love.

But the lesson of fear and incapacitation just brings death closer, makes it an everday thing.

It is the lessons of love and empowerment that keep life bright and vivid within and around us.

And I miss that in this new spring.