“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?

Gwyneth Offers
Gwyneth Offers

9 thoughts on “Fireworks”

  1. Change does require, well, change, but I never thought of it as requiring explosions. Sure, that’s one way to do it, but there are other ways, as well.

    There are two kinds of change, of course. There are the changes in other people, institutions or society in general, which affect us. Then, there are the changes we ourselves go through. With respect to the first group, we can only control how we react; we cannot stop or control the change, no matter how much pain and energy we are willing to invest in efforts to do just that. With respect to the second group, however, we can choose how to initiate and sustain that change. Yes, we can be the “Dick” (sorry, I couldn’t resist) who shows up at Thanksgiving dinner in a dress for the first time (at least, I waited until the day after Thanksgiving and merely read a letter to my family and left the dress for much later). But we can also ease that explosiveness by preparing those around us for what is to come. Eventually, of course, we have to grab that bull by the horns and change to embody the persons we know ourselves to be, but we can do so with dignity and fair warning. If we do that, and other people still experience the change as explosive, which some, perhaps many, will, that is their reaction that only they are responsible for and only they can control.

    I was saddened, too, to see you refer to your changes as moving from “caretaker to sapper.” Life isn’t so black and white. Yes, you are a caretaker and that is one of your most honored and valued roles, but I also sense that you ignore yourself when it comes to caretaking. From decades of painful experience, I finally learned that, if I spend all my energy caring for others and ignoring myself, I start to build up expectations that those others should appreciate and reward me with love and acceptance, which only leads to resentment when the others don’t understand, or simply refuse to play, their roles the same way I’ve scripted them. When those resentments do finally emerge, which they always do, they truly can be explosive and, in my case, the resulting “explosion” was often very ugly for everyone involved.

    It may sound trite, but it is nonetheless true that we cannot care for others if we don’t care for ourselves first. You need to care for yourself in order to be truly caring to your parents. That will require you to change, which means your parents will have whatever reaction they choose to have, but that doesn’t make you the “sapper” or require that you abandon your role of caretaker. The world isn’t so black and white. Whenever I see the world as forcing me to choose between two seeming opposites, one of which feels selfish, while the other seems to require that I give myself away and ignore my own needs, my own identity, I know without doubt that there is a third way, a way between, that doesn’t require me to ignore either my own needs or the needs of others. It is always my ego that tells me that I have to choose one or the other, that it’s impossible to be simultaneously loving to myself, as well as others, because it is a favorite technique of, at least, my ego to trap me perpetually in either guilt or resentment, never seeing that love is possible.

    I know that much of what I have just written is my own projection from my own experience and may not relate to your experience at all, but I hope that somehow what I have said will help you to find your own way to be the change that you are with love, not explosives.


  2. Abby, I appreciate your desire to ease confrontation as much as possible, and understand that your path is about mediation & mitigation, about conciliation & compromise, finding safe middle ground.

    Clearly, I value taking care of people I love very much. But I know that I can’t be the only one who compromises or surrenders, can’t take it all onto myself unless I can survive and thrive.

    But even you admit that

    “When those resentments do finally emerge, which they always do, they truly can be explosive and, in my case, the resulting “explosion” was often very ugly for everyone involved.”

    We can’t get new life without death, can’t get new space without demolishing the old, can’t get new relationships without new eyes to see new possibilities.

    Explosions are required, even if we work to prepare the ground, even if we work to keep them small, even if we work to get others ready. They have to change too, and their change is something we cannot control. As TBB said, our job is to walk through the wall, their job is to deal with it, even if that means resentment and denial explodes in them.

    When we change our life, we change the context of those around us, forcing them to look at where they are stuck. That’s always hard.

    Love and explosives are not mutually exclusive, and may be intertwined in many ways. If we love a child, we may pull the bandage off quickly, even if we hate seeing them wince, because we know that is best in the long run. (Dan Areily in Predictably Irrational talks about his experience in hospital with nurses changing burn dressings, and how their feelings affect their choices)

    Sometimes, a bomb is the best thing all around.

    Even if it makes us cringe & cry.

  3. Callie,

    I didn’t mean to suggest that you need to compromise more.

    In fact, from what little I know, it seems that you may have crossed the line and begun to give yourself away without regard to your own needs and desires.

    I also agree that love and explosives are not always mutually exclusive. Sometimes the most loving thing we can do for ourselves, as well as other people, is to refuse to tolerate an intolerable situation any longer, “throw off the shackles” and live free, regardless of the disruptions it creates for those around us.

    Yes, change always requires death and rebirth, grieving for the old even as we welcome the new. (In fact, I blogged about that just the other day )

    I guess my point was more that, I do my best, within the limits of any given situation, to not be explosive myself even as I demand my right to change and watch as it effects others.

    It’s also a matter of focus (and, perhaps, here is where I misinterpreted your post because of my own projections). I demand the right to change who I am and how I live to fit the truth of who I know myself to be, but I do not attempt to force change on others.

    As it says in the Course, even Goddess Herself cannot remove the blocks to love that we erect, until we have that “little willingness” to allow Her in to heal us. So, I know that trying to change others is way beyond my power. Been there, tried to do that, got the f****n’ t-shirt.

    I liked very much what TBB said, that our job is to walk through the wall. I would expand on that by including the process we have to go through to get the place where we can walk through that wall.

    As I see it, our job is to learn that the wall isn’t really there in the first place and that the only thing that keeps us from walking through it is our own fear and belief in the illusions that fear creates to keep us trapped. That goes for the “real” walls in the rooms that surround us, just as much as the walls within our hearts.

    So, my sister, I don’t think we’re so far apart after all.


  4. Abby, you are correct. Since separation is illusion, the walls other people hold for their comfort are in their mind.

    And when we shatter those walls, we don’t shatter some kind of truth, we shatter some kind of illusion. If they weren’t illusory we couldn’t walk through them.

    It seems to me, though, that asking people to analyze their own fears and get over it is something that most can’t do, or at least prefer not to do. In the end, you have to bring up those fears so they can bring them into the light, see them, face them and move past them. For most, engaging fear isn’t a nice analytical process, rather that engagement demands facing, feeling fight or flight, and then having the chance to do the right thing, having the chance to do the loving thing.

    The question for me isn’t the choice to be explosive. Instead, it’s looking at the choice to be inert, to avoid explosions so as not to “force change on others.” Should I really be respecting their fears because I know that to trigger them will be forcing them to change, or should I just live my love, fuck the fear, and let them handle it where they stand?

    This isn’t about being explosive. It’s having learned that people find my nature explosive because I walk through walls, and then learning to be inert so as not to challenge them. It’s about being big enough to seem to explode the box, all the while knowing that the only reason I fit in the box is because I play small enough to pretend the box is real.

    If we fear the explosions that come with our exposure and expression of self, we also fear the exposure and expression.

    We have to trust somehow, that even if we are a knife, an explosion, a virus, to others, cutting away fear, exploding expectations, transforming normal, that we are just acting from love and doing our job in the universe.

    Or, at least, that’s what I have to trust.

    Thank you again for your comments.

  5. I too refuse to be “inert” out of fear of how it will effect others.

    That wasn’t what I intended when I said that I don’t “attempt to force change on others.” What I meant, but didn’t say very artfully, is that that is not my goal or intent. If my own changes help someone else to see the changes they need to make to live in peace, I am grateful.

    I need change, and will pursue it.

    I hope others will learn, perhaps from my example, to understand their own fears and refuse to be trapped by them any longer, but I won’t act with that as my goal unless they’ve asked for my help, at least implicitly. So, instead of saying that “[I] have to bring up those fears [i.e., the fears of others] so they can bring them into the light, see them, face them and move past them,” I see that as what *they* need to do to find the peace and love that I know.

    It’s not my place, however, to insist they go through that process or to try to force them into a situation where they must. My goal is to remember that the Source of happiness lies within me (and you), so nothing in the world around me needs to change for me to be happy, and to act from the knowledge that the only thing that needs to change is me.

    I agree that my job is to “just live my love, fuck the fear, and let [others] handle it where they stand.” If others find my nature to be explosive, I have no problem with that, even if they do.

    At the same time, however, if I can see a way to avoid increasing the pain that others experience when they feel their world being uprooted because I refuse to tolerate the status quo any longer, I will pursue it, but only if I can do that and still be true to myself. I do that not out of a sense of obligation or fear of their reactions, but because it is my desire to avoid causing unnecessary pain to myself or others whenever I can.

    I do not fear exposure or self expression any longer and feel blessed to be able to be “a knife, an explosion, a virus, to others, cutting away fear, exploding expectations, transforming normal,” because, when I am, I am “just acting from love and doing [my] job in the universe.”

    And all I have to do to be that knife, is to be my authentic self in every situation to the best of my ability.

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