Back from her first tour, TBB got the letter explaining why the huge relabeled painting and the climate didn’t consitute sexual harassment.

To do this, the state had to interview everyone about what they knew about her, how they felt about her, and when they knew it and when they felt it.

“It was just so surprising to find out what everyone knew or thought they knew,” she said, reminding me of a friend who thought she was stealth, but found a congratulatory posting on the bulletin board for her work in trans rights.  Everybody knew.

To be a tranny is to walk in a minefield, not knowing, waiting for the third gotcha.  What do people know, what do people think they know, what do they expect, what will set them off?

The state paid to build a map to the minefield that TBB was walking through everyday at work.

And to TBB, well, it’s just mind blowing.

A New Voice

I need a new voice.

It’s not the voice of a guy in a dress.  I did that from, oh, like 1985 to 1995.

It’s not the gender neutral voice of a transperson.  I did that from 1995 to like 2005.

No, I need the voice of a woman.


Let me be more explicit.

I don’t need the voice of a woman.

I have the voice of a woman.

I just need to let it out.

To be a woman is to make the choices of a woman.

For too long I was told that voice had to be buried, killed. That voice was aberrant, perverted.  That voice was shameful, sick.

A voice crippled is a voice broken.

And a voice broken is a voice lost, a heart silenced.

I need to use a new voice.

And the idea of trying to switch between voices just seems like so much pain.

In the same way I need to be able to choose to have a nice manicure without being ready to scrub it off in any moment, I need to have a voice where I stay woman-chosen, trusting the energy, without always being ready to pull it back.

Committing to a woman voice is the gateway to committing to my own nature, committing to my own power.

I listen to a lot of women singing jazz standards.  Many actresses decide to make a CD, and I think that is because their voice is a key tool for them, something they hone and polish and value.  They need to find a voice that is powerful and connected, warm and wise, resonant and reflective, melodious and memorable.

They find their voice.  They claim it.  They use it.  They wear it in.  They let their voice become them, and they become their voice.

And I need to do the same thing.

To be present without a voice is not to be present.

I don’t know how to go from a strangled voice to a melifluous one and back again in a very short time.  A day won’t cut it for what I need.   I need a life.

I don’t think people who don’t hear my inner voice can possibly understand this.  Most of them are people who don’t own their own voices, so they can’t imagine that they have something to unlock.

I attended a session on coaching and quickly figured out the trick to being a good coach: you help people hear their own voice.  The woman running the session thought about that for a moment, then nodded wisely — yes, I got it.

The voice I need to hear is mine.

The voice I need to trust is mine.

The voice I need to sing out in is mine.

I need a new voice.

Fools Rush In

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,
And so I come to you my love
My heart above my head.

Though I see the danger there
If theres a chance for me
Then I dont care.

Fools rush in where wise men never go
But wise men never fall in love
So how are they to know?

When we met, I felt my life begin.
So open up your heart and let
This fool rush in.

Just open up your heart and let
This fool rush in.

Fools Rush In,  Johnny Mercer, 1940

I was in a restaurant by myself yesterday, and the Ricky Nelson version of this song came on.

I felt myself soften, and my hips swayed in a way that tells me I am connected with the feminine.

I smiled, finally feeling back to myself after so long.

And remembering that feeling this morning, I went to find the lyrics.

Fools rush in where wise men never go, but wise men never fall in love. . .

I felt my life begin. . .

Yeah.  I am working so hard to be in my head, to be dead that things don’t work.  Johnny Mercer knew it: only being a fool, falling in love, and putting your heart above your head lets life begin.

My sister needed permission to claim space for herself to go to Maine and not serve her friend, who felt incapable of going on the trip.  As hard as it was for her to claim her own needs, when she did, it triggered the possibility of her friend to claim hers, and today they are both heading for the coast.

TBB sent pictures of her and some pals on the Harley in Hawaii.  She rushes in, and life rises to meet her.

And for a moment, I felt centered in my hips, and well, happy.

Continue reading Fools Rush In

Don’t Want

I have always wanted shearling boots to wear with tights.  I tried to find some when I was in Oz, and for the last 20 years have watched UGGs with a pang in my heart.

I ordered a pair of shearling boots from Amazon. They came, and not only are they too short, just ankle length, they are also too small, though I ordered them in men’s sizes.  I can’t even pull them on.

They have to go back.

And I feel the pain where that pang was.

This is one of the key lessons of my life: don’t want.   Detach from desire.

When my parents started planning their September trip, even with all the work I did, I couldn’t allow myself to hope for time to hear myself.  And now, with my mother absorbed by the pain in her shin, the trip looks gone.  Six weeks of me, lost.

And I wanted to pursue the activist job so much that I went to see my sister at her work, almost crying, and while she promised to help with my parents, she lost the thread, so I lost the chance.

That was hard.

It turns out that it’s always hard for me to want something.  All those nights I fell asleep wanting to be a girl, wanting parents who could see me, wanting friends who get the joke, wanting a world where I could be beautiful, well, they taught me well.

To move forward, you need a kind of hope for the future, but to be me you have to separate from expectations.  This line, where you go for it without a clear vision of how it will be, or at least with a vision you can jettison at any time in favor of what comes next.

I know how this works from watching TBB’s life — there is no real way to predict what she will be doing in the future.  Her life twists and turns, always new and emerging.    On the other hand, well, it hasn’t worked that way for me; I seem to live the life of Sisyphus.

But if I don’t want more, well, maybe I wont be crushed flat again, praying to be taken out of these patterns.

Don’t want.  Leave desire.

And return the damn boots.

Vision Of New Blooms

A transwoman wanted words of support after cutting loose her wife, apparently a requirement to follow her own path.   She was surprised, though, that breaking this long-term pair-bond relationship still made her feel bad.

I offered

The only way out of hell is through.

While death may be required for rebirth, it’s still death.   And it is the death of the hopes, expectations and assumptions that always cost the most suffering.

You know how much you have to cut ties, but I know that in the end, it is making and venerating connections that brings joy.

In the dark times when you do the dark work, all you can hold onto is whatever gives you faith that something new and better is out there for you.

I am sorry for your loss.

None of us can go through this dark winter for you.  It is your path, made with your choices.

But it is my experience that every winter also brings the promise of spring.

May the vision of new blooms cheer you through the lonely night, however long it lasts.

A Bifurcated Life

I can’t ever remember a time when my inner life and my outer life were in sync.

“Did you used to play alone a lot as a chld?”  Colleen asked me in my freshman year in college.

Well, yeah, I did.

I heard a story on the local public radio station reporting a study showing girls success in math is affected by their peer group.  If their friends think math is cool, they do much better in math, which the authors see as an argument for all-girls middle schools.

As I listened to the authors recount their remembrances of girlhood, I realized something clear: In school, I had no peer group.

My outer life wasn’t ever my life.  Never having trusted my parents, feeling the need to take care of them, I learned from an early age to separate into observer and participant.

This was always baffling to people who looked for external validation and affirmation.  My teachers couldn’t figure out how to motivate me; when I went home, I went inside.  For years I would go to sleep when I got home from school, be bashed in an attempt to wake me up for dinner, and then stay up all night listening to talk radio.

And so I try to think of when I had a peer group that I trusted enough for assimilation, when I had a partner who needed to know my deep inner life, and well, that list comes up short.  Very short.

There was no connection between home and anything else.  That’s why homework seemed so far from me; nobody at home really was invested in my success.  I was written off as stupid and scary, so I lived alone no matter how many people were around.

My life is a bifurcated life, where my inner life and my outer life just aren’t in sync.  A few weeks ago, my inner life bubbled to the top, and I tried to explain to my sister why I had to stop, but she just went with my parents on this: they don’t like to see me suffer.  They don’t mind if I do suffer, as long as they don’t see it.

This doesn’t mean that I didn’t connect my own life, or that I don’t make those connections clear.  As any reader of this blog knows, I expose my inner life here all the time, and this is accessible to my family if they ever chose.  I often offer comments and insights from my inner life in my outer life.

No, my inner life isn’t solitary because I have huge walls.  My inner life is solitary because people choose not to enter it, choose not to engage it, choose not to see through my eyes.  I am just too much information for them, too intense, too intellectual, well, just a “too person.”

Having a history from my youngest days of living a bifurcated life, with an inner and outer life divided by the capacity of humans to enter my world, well, it has created habits and defenses that can often be crippling.

I still play alone a lot, because if I need to play my own games, well, I haven’t found anyone who is willing to join in.

And that means I am very, very, very good at being lonely.

Empathy Impaired

It’s my sense that the first thing we have to lose in an overstimulated, mechanized, fast and frustrated life is empathy.

If we are so stressed that don’t have enough time and energy to engage our own needs & feelings, how can we ever effectively engage the needs & feelings of others?

I grew up in an empathy impaired household.  My father has Asperger’s like symptoms and my mother is tends towards a kind of self-pitying passive aggressive narcissism.  Those attitudes either dismiss or disconnect empathy, the kind of empathy kids need when they are working to understand and manage their own emotions.  It quickly became clear to me that opening up my emotions was an unsafe thing to do, as they would roll over them or make my emotions about their pain and frustration.

That experience now seems to me to be training for a world where we move so fast that we don’t have the capacity to understand others in their own context, where we don’t have broad shared experience (other than the passive experience of viewing television), and where we don’t even have the ability to take the time to understand our own feelings.

It’s probable that empathy impairment actually creates more empathy impairment.   If you are empathy impaired you don’t want to be with someone too empathetic; they might know things about you and your feelings that you don’t even know or want to know.  And how can kids grow up with a strong empathic sense when they have empathy impaired parents who don’t know how to empower them to understand and access their own feelings and the feelings of others?

It’s impossible to be a sociopath without being empathy impaired, but does being empathy impaired always lead to an increase in sociopathic behavior?  If we don’t understand the consequences of our actions on others, then how can we be considerate and compassionate in our actions?

It always amazes me how people are often more comfortable having empathy with those at a distance than with those in their own life.  So many feel for the suffering of far-away animals, for example, but have trouble engaging the suffering of children in their own community.   It’s so much easier to be empathetic to those who are not challenging; you can just make your empathy all about you by projecting, rather than having to face your own challenges.

Stories, well told and well engaged, are always about empathy, putting ourselves in the experiences and feelings of another person.   We explore by feeling though another skin and seeing through another set of eyes, but so often we explore only when there is no real blood shed.  “You are going to be so powerful when you are dead,” Kate Bornstein told me, knowing when the story is separated from the blood is is much more easily engaged.

If you are empathy impaired, you can easily go through your whole life feeling lost and frustrated.   Unless you can meet others where they are, you won’t get what they can offer you.  Demanding others meet you on your terms, respecting your own fears and your own blind spots, means that you can only engage what you expect, not what is opened and offered to you.

Still, just being open and vulnerable to the stories of others is no guarantee of connection.  Even if you can engage the story of another with empathy and understanding, there is no assurance that they will have the empathy to engage and understand your story.

It is my sense that empathy impairment is the technique we are trained to use to survive in a mechanized, stressed and de-humanized culture.

And it is also my sense that empathy impairment is, in the end, a high price to pay for more stuff.

Roots & Sky

TBB has big, big stories.

Last night, she jumped right in and helped with first response to help someone having an epilieptic seizure.  This was just after she did her first fuel bunker move in 25 years, just miles off of Waimea Bay.

Three weeks ago she was sweating exams, two weeks ago she was facing challenges, a week ago she was flying to Hawaii, and now she is in the hot tub at Midnight under Pacific skies.

She’s back and reclaiming her maritime roots, working under a Chief Engineer who is 27 years old and a woman. It feels great for her, away from history and trans, feeling capable and back doing what she loves, after other women have paved the way.

Now, when she gets off this cruise it’s back to Richmond and to the NYC premiere of her movie, which details the story of being in history and trans.

TBB is back and doing what she loved enough to pursue as a kid; back feeling competent, capable and valued; back to someplace completely new and completely connected.

TBB doesn’t write stories, she lives them.   She is big, dramatic, humble and gracious, gifts from God and gifts to God.

TBB always brings this energy with her, moving along and creating space for others to believe in their own stories too.

Now, this may not be at all where I am, but you gotta admire it when you see it, or at least I do.

Big stories tell big lives, and big lives come from big hearts.  I believe that.

I kind of wish other people did too.