When I look at my middle period writings — the stuff from around 1994 to 2000 — I see one key question that seeds through all of it.
(For the record, while I wrote bad trans fiction as early as 1973, some of it published in Female Impersonator News out of Belmar, New Jersey, my first real writing was from 1988 to 1994, much of it published in The Transgenderist fo TGIC, and some later ripped off by Cross Talk. Most of that is lost now, written on a Commodore 64 in the mists of time, but a representative sample of the middle period stuff is on http://callan.transpractice.com )
That question is about truth. How do transpeople live a life that is truthful, truthful to their history and biology, truthful to their inner knowledge, truthful to the universe, truthful to themselves?
In those days, our narratives almost nothing but rationalization, creating masks to explain and justify our seemingly twisted behavior.
There were a few voices out there; Kate Bornstein, whose awesome Gender Outlaw I read in the bookstore parking lot, reminding me of how in the early 1970s I went through The Transsexual Phenomenon and A Year Among The Girls on the blue line to Wonderland to meet my parents, but this one I didn’t have to leave in the station, and Holly Boswell, whose “The Transexual Alternatives” seemed to offer a life past mounting a normative facade.
It was those years when I learned to love the word queer, a word that captured the idea of individual expression beyond convention, rooted in the old words for twist and thwart, which suggests crossing, baffling and claiming a different path to me.
The most important thing for me was truth, to live a life without lies. While others looked for women’s clothing they could wear as a man, I looked for men’s clothing I could wear as a woman, in the end much preferring to be a woman in men’s clothing than a man in women’s clothing. It was inner truth that was always more important than a claimed cross expression. I knew women who wore men’s clothes for many reasons, and I finally understood myself to be one of them.
For me, that second period was a quest for understanding my trans in a context that was neither dismissive nor self-centered. I knew how to be erased, the way society wants to erase challenging deviance, and I understood the option of indulgence, the option of just saying “screw you” to the world. I wanted a path that allowed connection & interdependence while telling truth.
This last period, from 2000-now, has been about internalizing that truth, about making it part of me.
It’s my guess that if there is a fourth period, it will be about acting on that truth in the world.
It’s all very Joseph Campbell — youth, searching for the gift, becoming new, returning the gift. And returning the gift to the world you left is always the hardest part.