Carrying It Around

I have no idea how not to carry my mind around.

That means I have no idea how not to have a big memory, how not to see connections, how not to actually listen to what people communicate, and how not to understand the world as symbols that have a deeper meaning.  I have no idea how not to understand the world as stories, no idea how not to see the twists used for rationalizations.

I have had this mind since I was young, and I have no idea who I would be without it.

And so I have had a life of carrying it around.

Oh, well.

No Obligation.

No matter what you believe, I have no obligation to make you understand and agree before I make a choice in my own life.

I speak my own truth, as clearly and as comprehensively as I can.

The fact that you don’t do the work to understand me, letting your own views get in the way of understanding, well, that’s about you, not about me.

Nobody Is More Different

“Sexuality is a tricky question. You get into transgender — it embraces all of that — and you have people’s fear and dislike of things that are different. Nobody is more different to an average person than a transgender person, and that makes them nervous.”

–Gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., to New York’s Village Voice, June 17.


“Barney [Frank] is a hero in many ways, but he’s hung up on trans issues. I was once too, so I know all these bullshit arguments inside out.”

–Former National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Matt Foreman to New York’s Village Voice, June 17.

Quote Unquote #385, July 01, 2008, by Rex Wockner

I get crazy when I hear a Trans101 presentation that starts by discussing the different types of transpeople, spewing out acronyms: TV, TG, TS, MTF, FTM, DQ, whatever, whatever, whatever.

To me, what is different about transpeople is so much less important than what is the same about them that it is almost not worth mentioning.

And Barney Frank makes my case above.  As long as transpeople are the most different people, transpeople will always be the most scary people, making people nervous.

Years ago I argued that using a clincal term to describe us was not useful.  One church recently rigged its news site to automatically replace the word “gay” with the word “homosexual” because that would keep the stigma around, make the difference clear.   Of course, this also made Christian singer “Jason Gay”  into “Jason Homosexual.”

It’s when transpeople — not “transgenders,” never “transgenders” — get a comfortable name that assimilation will be well and truly underway.  I once suggested “flips” since we flip sex and gender.  I’d much rather be identified across the room as a “flip” than “really a man,”  and I do understand the push for such identification; if we can’t talk about our history how can we ever really get past being so different than we get people all nervous?  Speak it out, make it clear and move on, eh?

Difference is the exploration of the adolescent — Clique Me Up, Scotty — and too often it is adolescents, still in the throes of emergence who end up speaking for transgender.

Until we can speak for how people are more the same, we are screwed.

In a culture where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity,”  I heard anthropologist Anne Bolin say over 15 years ago now, and I knew instantly that was my personal mission statement.

Continuous common humanity, one human nature and we all share it.  We expose how vibrantly the same all humans are, even across the percieved lines of sex and gender.

Barney Frank is right.  Nobody is more different than transpeople.  And transpeople are just the same as any other human.  Our only difference is that we perform an atavistic role of speaking for continuous common humanity, beyond percieved walls.  And that makes many people nervous.

It’s the people who have moved past spotlighting tiny differences in essence and gotten that we are fundamentally the same who are past the bullshit.

Keep the light on what we share, on what connects us.  That’s the only way to make people comfortable with us, comfortable with each other.  We can’t be fearsome aliens and still be embraced; we can only be embraced if we are just human, even humans who cross bridges and walk through walls.

Continuously common and just human.


I know what I need, so I know what I need to give.

To function in this world, I have to feel empowered.  And to feel empowered, I need to feel emotionally centered.

That’s why when I reach out to a friend, I try to offer words that will help them be emotionally centered.  That usually means two things.

First,  I need to put my friend’s challenges in context.  That usually means getting to the emotions of the situation, the patterns and habits that are going on.  Life is relationships, and relationships are relationships.   We need to understand what others are telling us about themselves, need to address their emotional needs.   Police officers usually need to feel in control of the situation, for example, and it is only when they feel in control that they can act gracefully.  This is when I talk about not needing to win, about listening before being listened to and all that.

Second, I need to put my friend into context.  That usually means getting past their own emotional whirl, so that they can act from their center.  We all need to believe that we belong, that we are connected, that we have the worth and value to get respect, that we are connected to something deeper and more eternal than this situation.  We have to remember our essence before we can act out of love and not fear.

I need to be pumped up to face a tough, mechanical, hard, fast, shallow and reactionary world.  That’s why I try to pump up my friends when they are facing challenges.

Too often though, people don’t see that pumping up as something of value.  This is a tough, mechanical, hard, fast, shallow and reactionary world so they believe I need to face that fear & pain.   They think that I don’t need to get centered in context, they think I need to get slammed, to have my balloon burst so I can see “the truth.”

In other words, they feel the need to be a prick.

They may know how good it feels to be supported, but people taught them to buckle down, put their nose to the grindstone, become selfless, compartmentalize, soldier on, take it like a man (or the new ballsy statement “put on your big girl panties” so you can “man up.”)  Become as hard and heartless as the world around you, denying feelings and just get pounded.

I will tell you that after a half century of being the nail that sticks up, and being pounded for it, well, pounding ain’t gonna get me through anymore, even if it is my own pounding of my own defective head.

I went though this with a friend yesterday, who faced a big system and came out with a story that heartened me, a story of being treated well and gracefully, even in the face of challenge.

But when they came to support me on my story, they just wanted to tell me that I was screwed.  No suggestions of how to approach the situation, no affirmation of essential emotion, just “Bang, Bang, Bang, Fuck You, You Are Fucked.”

What a prick.

The hardest thing I ever do, the hardest thing I must do, is to hold out the possibility that others can and will change and grow.

I have to do this, because I need others to hold open the space for me to change and grow.  But everyone knows that it is much easier to dump others as unchangable when they are stuck in their own pain, fear and old habits.

I know that people can learn to stop being a prick, can learn how to gracefully and generously pump others up.  I just need to lead by example, and to have infinite patience.

But damn, when you let someone close and they act like a prick, even if it’s just old defenses and patterns, well, it’s easy to feel burst.

Only Six

TBB talked with Donna Rose about Wall-E, then Donna Rose went to see the movie and blogged on it.

Jillian Todd Weiss read Donna’s entry and made a lovely blog post on loneliness, which has always been the theme of this blog: The Loneliness Of A Long Lost Tranny.

I spoke with TBB about it this morning.

It feels like a circle to me, reminding me of my old observation that there are only six trannys in the world, which I mean like Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon; we are so thin on the ground that there aren’t more than six of us between each other, at least in our own country.

And while that connection should feel affirming, well, somehow, it reminds me of how alone we each are.

In other news, I brought my father up to date on TBB’s testing, and listened to how I just dropped pronouns, so I didn’t have to lie — he knows TBB is a transwoman — but didn’t have to irritate him either.  How weird.


People love flow. It feels so good when we are carried along, with a purpose a focus. Andy Rooney still misses WWII; the shared goals made everyone feel closer.

But flow has mostly given way to fragmentation and multitasking, to separation and serving the machine.

Marketers and TV producers — basically the same thing — understand this. And they have a solution.

Simuflow. It’s like flow, only it’s synthetic and fabricated. Flow with the real life removed, not reality, but reality substitute. And, much like Olestra, the fat substitute from P&G, it slips through us so easily that we end up with a lot of leakage.

Simuflow is designed to keep our attention without any of the challenging nutrients of real flow. It’s those store bought red shoes that keep us dancing out of control, even as they remind us of the red shoes we made by hand, only these are shows, not shoes.

When flow is too hard, then reach for simuflow, and you can feel good because you can share it with everyone, rather than having to make it for yourself and your family.

Simuflow. It’s letting producers simulate flow for you, about letting their own choices replace your own.

And it will keep you sick.

So Fast

I decided to toss off a draft for TBB yesterday, just to give her an idea of another way to approach a problem.  It was one of those step back notes I learned to so long ago, where rather than pulling apart someone’s last note, you talk about the bigger issues, where the conflicts and connections are.

“You write so fast,” TBB said after receiving it.  “It would have taken me hours to write that.”

Yeah.  And writing it in hours would make it less than flowing.  For me, I’d usually rather throw away some text that blocks me and start again than try to work it too hard.   My writing needs to have breath in it, needs to have flow; after all, it’s the only part of me that does have that at this point.

Barry Humphries, the force behind Dame Edna Everage, said “I could write everything Edna says, but it is much faster to just let her say it.”  It’s the flow that makes the grace, not the force.

I write fast because I have learned to trust my voice, even as it says things that surprise me.  When my voice flows it’s much more than when I had to force everything out through my brain.

It is that flow in performance which I miss.  I loved the days when I could stand in front of a group, speak, and feel the flow come.

TBB knows this.  She tossed off a six page response on her harassment issue, all flow and ease, and her therapist was pleased with it.  When she enables her voice, lets it flow, it comes out with grace & ease.

It’s flow I miss, and flow that empowers me, far from my father’s constant injunction to “slow down and think things through.”

Fast is fun, which is one reason femmebabble is often incomprehensible to others; speed communication in code, assisted by intonation and expression which carry codes of nuance and meaning (the tone of sharing is almost always more important than the actual content).

Fast is flow.

And other than in my writing, I miss it.

Forget Winning

TBB knows how to win.

Being trained as an engineer, winning arguments was part of the repertoire.   She can muster details and precedent, put together charts, graphs and illustrations, pick apart opposition.  She knows how measure up, to show and to dominate.

Only problem is that when she tries those kinds of tactics with her family, well, she’s bound to lose.  Members of her family, well, they still think her trans choices are indulgent and sloppy, that she should have bound herself tighter to stay in the role of their expectations.

That means they keep pushing, that their reservations and distress flare up now and then, like when TBB hits the news again.

They make detailed logical arguments about why TBB should follow the rules as they understand them, why her breaking the rules is bad for everyone; everyone, of course, meaning them.

And that engineer training, well, when TBB sees arguments couched as logic, she wants to reply with intellect.  She wants to win the argument.

Problem is, though, winning the argument with most people is just impossible.

No matter how their argument seems to be laid out, it’s not about logic.  It’s about distress, about emotion, about loss, about pain, about suffering, about letting go of expectations, about being new.

You can’t win that argument.

And not winning is hard if you want desperately to win.

But, on the other hand, unwinnable arguments are something women have always had to deal with.  If it’s kids or men, well, they often don’t talk directly about their emotion.  They talk in ways that feel comfortable to them, and the emotion is laid between the lines.  Women need to see and understand the emotion to stay safe, to keep relationships stable, to keep connected.

That’s why women often let men win.

Women know that they don’t need to win.  Winning is a moment of ecstasy, and that’s all.

No, women need to succeed, and succeeding not a momentary thing, it is a lifetime thing.  If you need to let someone else win in order to succeed, well, success is always better than winning.

Powershift is one of the hardest parts of shifting genders.  It was the first question I asked at the first trans conference I ever attended: “Men and women take power in different ways.  How did you shift power?”  Holly answered back then, as did Renee Chevalier, and TBB, all on the panel.

I listen to transwomen to see if they say a magic phrase to others:  “You are right.”  So many people raised as men know how to tell other people how they are wrong and not tell them how they are right.  But until you can show respect and support for others, well, it’s almost impossible to make the kind of connections that knit women together, the kind of warmth which binds girlfriends.

TBB really wants connections with her family.  And that means she has to forgo the quest to win and settle for just succeeding if she wants to share a Thanksgiving with a broader family.

It’s that smiling “You are a nasty snake, but please pass the cranberry sauce” that is required if she wants to have connection with the more recalcitrant members of her family.  They may never see eye to eye, may never have a winner in the eternal struggle, but that failure doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy a lovely dinner together, as families around the world prove everyday.

Trans isn’t about rationality, but then again neither are families.  We don’t have to think alike, come to one state of mind, but we do have to love alike, respecting and caring for our significant others.  Women don’t make holidays to meet rational processes, rather we make them for emotional and spiritual reasons, so we can all share what is important.  The best days are about respect and connection, that’s when we find success.

That’s success, that gathering, even on a day where nobody wins over someone else.

The reflex to win, the habit trained into boys, well, that’s a hard thing to lose, especially with the sparring partners we learned with as kids. Defense is attack, just keeping the cycle going, which is why our power is in our defenselessness, why our power is in our willingness to get beyond the need to win and to the ultimate need for opening the connection which is always there.

In the end, unless we forget winning, how can we ever really succeed as ourselves?

Somebody has to break the cycles, become new and compassionate.  Shouldn’t that be us?

We can’t win them all.  But if we try some times, we just might find, that we can succeed, if we just don’t get all hung up on winning.

TBB knows, all of this, of course.  She may want family members to see where they are wrong, may want to point out their sins, but she knows that she has to be willing to remove the log from her eye first.  A battle of sin finding doesn’t connect a family, birth or chosen.

So she seeks ways to change old habits.  To open the space for respect, connection and love she needs to forget winning.

May she have blessed success.

Dam, Dam, Dam

When I was a kid, I used to listen to all-folk WCAS, the radio voice of Watertown, Cambridge, Arlington and Somerville.

My favorite song back then was by It’s A Beautiful Day, off their Marrying Maiden album.

I let my woman flow to her own natural rhythm, I let my woman flow to her own natural rhyme,” it went.

Of course, I wanted to be that woman, flowing to my own natural rhythm.

Over the last few days talk has turned to explosions, to logjams, and then to flow.

Flow is where I suspect the talk should have been all along, because that’s the state in which action and awareness are merged, beyond blocks.

TBB, well, her gift to the world is positive statement that by take one positive step at a time you can move forward, move to better.  It’s my job to remind her of that when she gets worn down, when she believes too much in the shit facing her now and not enough in the existance of love.   I see her when she gets slowed down, in the weeds, and I see her when she flows, positive and powerful, offering that lesson she gives in the movie: if she can do it, so can you.

I watch when she appears to get sidetracked, making choices that don’t make sense to me.  And I know that when I see that, I only have one choice. That to encourage her choices, whatever they are.  They may not make sense to me, but then again, five or ten years ago I could have never predicted where she she has come to now.  Why should I have the arrogance to assume that I can judge what is right for her now?

No, the individual choices aren’t what’s important.  Sure, we talk about the choices, and in that discussion we both think through the options, getting more ready to make the next choice in the best way we can.   For many people, it’s easy to fall into “woulda, coulda, shoulda,” but in the end, we don’t ever make wrong choices.  We make the best choice we can in that moment, and if we get a lesson instead of a success from that choice, well, that’s what we needed.   Sure, we can go back and look to where we wished we made a different choice that might have had a better outcome, but we weren’t who we are now back then; we did the best we could.

What is important, I believe, is the flow of her life.  That’s what needs to be valued.    Flow isn’t habits, rather flow is that active balance I see as riding a surfboard; always making corrections, always shifting for the better, being in the moment the best we can so we have the next moment to make another connected, flowing choice.

When in doubt, people I meet are “gorgeous,” and I want them to tell me a story, to share the flow of their lives with me.  It’s my job to say yes to other people, to be encouraging and empowering.

Sure, maybe other people need to learn lessons, but the one thing I have learned is that no one can learn a lesson they aren’t ready to learn.  People heal & grow on their own schedule, and not on mine, and that even includes me.

I’m great to be around if you want to grow and heal.  I tend to illuminate the crocks and twists, and if you want to stay blind to them, then you best avoid me. But I’m not out to change people on my schedule, to teach them lessons.  It’s my job to believe that they can grow and learn, to believe that if they trust their own flow they will get there.   The most potent and the most terrifying thing in the world is the same: someone you care about who holds high expectations for you and what you can do.

It’s not for me to make other people learn.  It’s for them to grow, heal and learn on their own; it’s for me to illuminate and educate.

And, it should be no surprise, that what I want most from others is for them to support and encourage my flow.

That’s not easy for many people.  They feel the need to tell me where I am going wrong, where I need to block up, where I must retrench, fear and bobble.    Even when they know it’s their stuff, it’s important stuff to them, and they need to share it.

TBB sent me a link to some fundamentalist Sheldon crap that just railed at how sick Congress is to even hear deluded and demonic trannys, ignorance or evil incarnate as we are.   I have seen enough of this shit and know that I don’t really need to pay attention to it. It’s not about me and I have done the work facing it down and am clear where I stand.  I was looking at some old satire I wrote, all these trannys screaming at how evil the writer was.   I realized that the lesson was clear: If you don’t like the kind of tranny this guy is characterizing, well, then don’t be that tranny.  Shouting them down won’t work, only not doing what you find to be distateful to glimpse in the reflection will work.  Breaking mirrors never works, even if every mirror has its own flaws and twists.

Creeks flow, streams flow, rivers flow, and the route of none of them are straight or unchanging (at least until the corps finds them.)  They follow terrain and curve, shifting over time and distance, eventually connecting to the big oceans which connect all.  Water doesn’t have plans and goals, it flows and makes a difference, small & beautiful or grand & majestic.

And no matter how much I believe that the mind is powerful, a tool for seeing and effecting change, in the end all our smarts and thoughts are useless if we don’t have flow.

The way society inhibits us is by trying to dam us, trying to have us lose the flow, lose the power of movement and grace.

If we want to break free of those dams, if we want to empower our own flow, well, we have to support flow in the world.  We can always find ways to tell others that they are wrong, that they should stop and learn a lesson, but does that really empower them?  Isn’t it better to tell them they are right, that they need to keep flowing, staying smart & aware & engaged enough to find new and graceful solutions to blockages?

It is my experience that the key challenge most people face is breaking through the dam blockages in their lives.   Yes, we need to change, but if we have motion, momentum and flow, well, those changes happen as part of the process.

We become smoother and more integral, like a river rock polished by the flow.  The angles and ambiguities get tumbled out, the edges more graceful and attuned.

Language is hard because it forces us to express who we are and what we think in sequence, one bit after another.  Flow, though, helps with that, because when we see our life as a flow, when our language flows with us, that sequence becomes a flow and we can express nuances and ambiguities not as jagged sides, but as the flow of a process, the flow of a river, the flow of a life.

It’s easy to pick apart one phrase or another, but when that phrase is in the context of a flow, well, it may mean something very different.

Flow is the only way I have found to keep me and my world connected, to be the twists and turns while staying congruent and whole.

I let my woman flow to her own natural rhythm, I let my woman flow to her own natural rhyme.

And that means my inner woman too.

That’s why it seems to me that if I want to flow, the most important thing I can do in relationship is to support the flow of others.  That means not just throwing up one dam thing after another as blocks or challenges, but rather finding the flow and trusting it will get them, trusting it will get me past the challenges, finding a way around that may not be as simple as blasting a path, but will be effective and will honor the environment around us.

I need to trust my flow, and that means I have to trust the flow of others, even when it scares me, because we get what we value.   It seems to me that is the difference in my inner life now, that rather than cutting the world (and myself) up for analysis, I trust the flow.

Sometimes water gets blocked behind a dam, but we have to trust that it knows its own nature, and will break free when it needs to, in a trickle or in a torrent, and find its own path to the sea again. In the end, we dams only have limited control; it is nature that will run its course.

To me, the only way forward is trusting the flow, when it needs to pool or when it needs to crash.

And frankly, that means I can’t afford to give a dam.


“People believe that by protecting the status quo they are protecting you,” TBB said to me. “That’s why no matter how much you tell them that change is required, no matter how many ways you tell them that change must come, they never really engage it.

“I told my mother that if she wasn’t comfortable seeing me in a dress sometimes, then the only other alternative was seeing me in a dress all the time.  By now, though, I don’t have to hide when one of her friends comes over; she knows it’s not that big a deal, and that’s because I ended up using the atomic option.”

It’s been about two weeks since I told my sister I need change. She promised support, but there have been lots of others issues taking her attention, legitimate issues. I am placed into the “too hard” basket once more, understandably.

It seems that Big Jim McBob and Billy Sol Hurok from SCTV had a point. In the end, for change to happen, the status quo has to be “blowed up good, blowed up real good.”  It’s the only way.

I never did that whole “Oh, My God, Uncle Dick came to Thanksgiving Dinner in a Dress!” trans cliché.

I came out to my parents (who knew my childhood history, including the therapists to whom they sent me) when I did the keynote at IFGE 1995.   I didn’t want to fall into the trap of talking about how painful & difficult trans is and then being surprised that the people I tell think trans is painful & difficult and to be avoided.

My trans nature is out there and understood.  It’s just my trans expression that is resisted, being seen as the person I know myself to be.  There are layers to that knowledge; it’s not just trans that stays hidden, it’s empowerment, queerness, professionalism, strength, voice and other facets of my calling and my power that remain disabled and invisible.  For me, freedom is about the ability to make a range of choices I find authentic or empowering, not just to wear a skirt.

But TBB and I have come to the same conclusion.  If you want to shatter the status quo, an explosion is the only way to do it.   It may be calculated, balanced & prepared for or it may be ad-hoc, crazy & wild, but the blast has to come to shatter the wall and make room for everything new.  It’s like finding the balance; you can’t creep up on it, you just have to swing the pendulum wide so it can find its own center.

There is a reason we celebrate freedom with explosions and fire; they honor the impact required to create freedom from the past.  Change is usually not only revolutionary, it’s also revolting.

For someone who has been working hard to anticipate and avoid explosions for decades, this change from caretaker to sapper is far from easy.

Then again, blowing up, especially blowing up real good, well, that’s probably never easy for anyone.  Explosions are messy and dangerous things, and we have only limited control of them.   It’s reasonable not to use them except when absolutely required, like when foundations need shaking and rebuilding.  But breakthroughs, well, they most often require breaking things, from broken expectations to breakdowns.

I suspect that this is one of the things that scares people about trans.  They know that explosions are required for emergence, and that the status-quo — what many call “normal” — must be transformed not only forever, but also routinely.  After all, isn’t what most people fear about change, is that there will be disruptions to the status-quo, meaning their expectations and assumptions will have to be explored and they will be required to let go of comfortable inertia to become different, even if that different is probably better?

Big booms in the sky are spectacular and fun to watch, just like cheap drama on TV.  But when those explosions hit home, shaking and shattering the panes we see through, well, that’s scary.

I suggest that it is just that fear which makes explosions required.  Bang change happens, even when we resist it, and maybe we even breathe a little easier knowing we are beyond the first bang.  We need something to break the status-quo, even if we are just holding onto it because we fear change, and that something, well, boom/crash/bang/shatter.

There is no rational reason for trans, unless you count it as a rational thing to respect and honor a form of human nature that has been in evidence since classical times.  No, trans is about passion, desire, and Eros, about creativity and expression, and all those emotional & spiritual bits resist rational expression, instead demanding the passionate, the creative, the explosive.  As much as we try to pass it though medical or other logical filters, the best we can do is understand the spark in context, not to rationalize the inner spark itself.

And sparks?  Well, we all know what happens with sparks; they light fuses and trigger explosions.

I’m really good at the balance, grace, thought and theology.

But somehow, if I want freedom, it seems I have to have some expertise in igniting fireworks too.  Bomb throwing, it seems, is required.

Detonation, anyone?

Continue reading Fireworks

Broken Heart

“If someone else gets what you want, what you know you would be great at, it will break your heart,” TBB told me yesterday.

Maybe. But the key is that I live everyday broken-hearted, letting go of dreams to stay small enough to not be discomfiting to my parents.

The real pain to me is if I have a dream, a possibility, because then, when my heart starts to heal, it can be rent apart again under the weight of my parents fears and limits.

TBB says that I wouldn’t be selfish doing something for my future, and my sister agrees.

That’s true, of course, but it isn’t the issue.

It’s not that I wouldn’t be selfish, it’s that I wouldn’t be selfless.

And being selfless feels like what has been demanded of me all my life, down to yesterday afternoon where the expectations of a simple shopping trip demanded I be there without being there. My mother wouldn’t even keep track of what she wanted to return, let alone the reciepts that went with the purchases. I just had to let go of the $20 silk jacket I wanted for myself as she returned it, just be selfless once more.

Get the ego out of the way, say the Eastern masters. They don’t mention the part where you replace it with the will of a self-pitying narcissist, though many of the gurus, well, they do have their own sense of self.

Hope may be the thing with feathers, but a plucked chicken never has to worry about falling, though her life may be short, fat and consumable by others.

Living with a broken heart, being in relationship with pain is the survival solution that has seemed to work for me.

And changing it now, well, lots of big blocks.