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.

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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.