Just Stop

A note to a friend:

Stop fucking around and self-sabotaging.

It doesn’t do any good in the long run.   You know that and I certainly know that.

To be so terrified of succeeding that we pack in our own failure, well, that’s something we learn early.

I’m going to give you a koan for meditation.

All this bullshit about success and no one ever makes it accessible for girls, especially queer girls.

It’s not about money.  It’s about life.

“Your success is a gift to the world.”

It’s a gift to up and coming trans kids, a gift to people trapped, a gift to the feminine, a gift to so many.

Your mother in the sky made you the way she did.

Either it was a fucked up mistake, or there is some magic in it.

Me, I think you are magical.

But yeah, succeeding as a woman of trans experience means that all that attempt to kill yourself off, to become invisible, was just banging.

So what?

“Your success is a gift to the world.”

You went out, and as soon as Grace had something to do, like focus on a date, all that wonky self-chatter silenced and you could get on with it, get on with being Grace.

“I’m Grace, and I am here to help.”

“Your success is a gift to the world.”

“Your success is a gift to the world.”

“Your success is a gift to the world.”

Go and succeed.  Don’t fuck around with stupid violations.

Make magic.

“Your success is a gift to the world.”

You are grace, and the world needs more of that now.

“Your success is a gift to the world.”

Hard To

TBB says that I should be nicer to my family, to let them help me.

They will see me as resisting their help, which will put the blame on me.

I get it.  It’s the “drink their milkshakes” idea from Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone.  When people want to do something nice, well, let them.   It’s the action that counts, not whatever  history or ideology or whatever.

We had snow today.  Around 3:30 I shoveled the end of the driveway.  As I have noted before, the house is located just past a left hand curve on a circle, which means it is where the plow straightens out, leaving a bigger dump of snow.

On the far side of the driveway (the near side is mailboxes & neighbor’s driveway) the snow pile is over six feet now, making it hard to get snow high enough, especially on a day like today when it is snow, then sleet & freezing rain, going back to snow, so the snow is waterlogged.

I did the end, where the water and snow is mixed, and where it stood a chance of freezing up.

But I left most of the rest of the driveway covered.  Since my parka was already wet with rain, I knew the rain wasn’t over, and I would let the snow take the ice, clean it later.  The snow would crust over with ice, but that crust could be removed easily.

Problem is that the next door neighbor wanted to be nice.    He cleared the rest of the driveway — the easy part — with his snow blower.

Nice thought, I suppose.

Problem is that the snow blower left a layer of snow, which immediately got water logged.  Then it got frozen.  Then it got snowed over.

The result is that I now have a driveway covered with a quarter inch of glaze ice covered with snow.

That’s hard shit.

One of the big problems in my life has been dealing not with people who want to hurt me, but rather people who want to be nice to me but who are so inconsiderate and unaware that they end up hurting me.

They make helping me about them.

My mother wants me to get my teeth “fixed” before she gets home, and while she never discussed it with me, she tasked my sister with getting it done.  Yeah, that’s right, the sister who threatened to call the authorities and have me removed from the home as a danger to my parents when I wouldn’t comply with something else my mother tasked her to force me to do.

I’m sure that they all believe that it’s the right thing, that it is for my own good.  But I’m sure that those religious assholes on Dr. Phil really believe beating kids into only showing normative behaviours think that is for the child’s own good, too.

My mother, well, she just doesn’t want mess on her watch. Ever.

So why don’t I just comply and drink the damn KoolAid, err, I mean milkshake?

It’s just after a half a century of other people claiming they are just trying to help, well, I tend to choke on the selfishness of piety.

The Christian version of the golden rule says “Do onto others as you would have them do unto you.”

GB Shaw found that anethmetic.

“Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.”
George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903)

I prefer the Jewish version.  The story is that a heathen asked Rabbi Hillel to teach the entire Torah standing on one foot.  Hillel said “Do not do unto others what would be hateful to you.  That is the whole of the Torah; the rest is commentary.”

Many, though, having never walked in the shoes of the marginalized, have no idea what would be hateful to them.   They just project normative expectations, and people who don’t recieve the normative with open arms are just rejecting what is offered.

“Are you hungry, you Jew, you Moslem?  Here, have some SPAM.  My family loves it.”

I know that the demand that people come into my world makes me hard to love.

But if you can’t respect another person, can you really love them?

MMMMMMM

OK.

It’s been a week since my parents went south, and I have proved again that I can be a graceful, blendable, functional woman of transgender history, walking through the world.

Now, after a week, well, I’m bored.  It’s been a long time since walking through Wal-Mart in pantyhose was enough to excite me.

I remember a crossdresseer lecturing me on how, to be a woman, I had to be dainty and appropriate.

I just looked at them and asked a question.

“Do you think,” I asked, “that if I had been born female, I would have been a mouthy broad?”

They gave me that look of mild pain that people so often do when a question pierces their premise.

“Yes,” they agreed.  “I think you probably would be.”

A mouthy broad, a ballsy broad, a power woman.  That guy at the hardware shop wasn’t a bit trepidations because he thought I was trans.  No, he just knows that well dressed, big powerful women are people who can be challenging to men, even in a men’s enclave.   (And no, I just bought the six 23 watt/100 equivalent CFLs and not the $2 drygas he offered me.  Now I can have a good makeup mirror.)

I have done some good shopping in the three days I have been out, with clothes 60-70-80% off.  I like shopping.  But I don’t have that much money, and I don’t need that much stuff.  After all the years I spent buying cheap crap to figure out what worked, now I know, and I have a kind of uniform, preppy meets art meets clerical.  It’s creative and it works, and I’m too damn old for trendy anyway.

The number one thing I am denied in my family is expression, and what I wear is a small part of that.   You may not know this, but I have a powerful voice,  honed over years, and I have something to say with that voice.  I know how to make connections, how to illuminate crocks and how to empower people, and I want to do that.

I don’t want to be nice and appropriate in someone else’s context.  I can do that. I own that.

What I don’t own is my own power, my own energy, my own creativity, my own intensity, my own passion, my own Eros, my own connection to the divine.

And I am not going to find it by playing small and blending in at shopping malls.

Where the hell are my false eyelashes, anyway?

Committment

TBB has brought a VCR on the ship and is dubbing all the old tapes to DVD.

It’s time consuming, of course.

But more than that, it is emotionally consuming.

To go back and see her father, who has been gone for years now, is bittersweet.

And the tapes of the wedding, standing next to that beautiful woman, well, hard.

“I remember how committed I was,” she tells me.  “This was my wedding and my marriage was for life.  I was willing to do anything.

“I don’t think she was that committed.”

Andrew Vachss talks about kids who are “adultified early.”  For him, that usually means dealing with sexual abuse, but I believe there is a wider range. Kids who face disease, or family challenges also get “adultified early,” often having to take care of their own parents.

And queers, well, queer kids get adultified early.

I knew very early that I couldn’t just act on my own feelings and my own desires.

Instead, I had to committ to staying hidden, to performing a concious role.

TBB committed to being a husband just like she committed to living as a man, knowing that in every moment she would have to make a choice to deny her gut and do the right thing.   She was going to force it out hard and harder, to tighten her abdomen and take the G forces, to face the pressure and grunt through it.

The wife?

Could she even understand what committment was at that level?  She wanted what she wanted, indulging her desires, and when she had to make sacrifices, did she have the training?

Does any normie really understand the kind of committment it takes to swallow yourself working to be who you are expected to be?  Or is it only when those expectations lead them to some kind of ruin that they start to do the work?

I know that it’s not just trans that demands this kind of committment, that any child whose childhood is taken away when they are demanded to go inward and lock themselves down shares the same kind of challenge.   We learn that trusting our heart is bad and only denial is good.

How do we learn to trust our heart, and more than that, learn to trust that others can also embrace our heart and not just our committment?

How, indeed.

Them Is Me

I don’t really do group identity.

I have never really been “one of the” anythings.

No sports teams, no clubs, not even any nasty cults.

I may have been trained for man duty, but it was never simple for me.  I wasn’t ever one of the guys, not ever.

Recently, I have been reading the blog a newly transitioning transsexual who is sure that she is a woman.  She likes trannys and all that, but she is a woman, even if she only has been making woman choices for a few months now.

I have confidence that people see me as a man, so I can act from that assumption.

Now, I am also convinced that I can’t really pass as a man under any scrutiny.  For example, women looking for a man to partner with will quickly find that I don’t meet their expectations.  Hell, I haven’t been able to pass as a straight man for at least fifteen years.   And when people assume that means I must be a gay man, well, they quickly find out I am even less a gay man than a straight man.

I have spent my life ducking out of manhood.  It became clear to me in sixth grade when I avoided bullies in a way that baffled them.   It was very clear when I started being interested in women; behaviors that baffled me then made perfect sense when comparing adolescence stories with other lesbians; I was having lesbian sex.  Heck. even my first sex partner (at around age 20)  I now understand as a soft butch, though I wish I had understood it then.

I knew I looked like a man and people saw me that way, but that I couldn’t really pass as a man with any close examination.  The history of the last 35 years bears that out in very clear ways.   I don’t have an ex-wife and kids, don’t have that history of even trying to fit in and be ballsy.  Sure, some of that is my father — not a man’s man, he, being defeated by his nine year old son — but most of it is me.  If I really had it in me, well, I sure could have followed up by now.

One effect of this never being a man is that I never learned the expectations of the binary.  Conceptually I understand that men are baffled by women and women baffled by men, but for me, that wall of distinction was never there.

(As I am writing this, someone just looked at this post; right on point.  Serendipity.)

To walk in the world as a woman, though, to make the choices of a woman, I must be comfortable with that binary.  I need to be confident that when I claim choices, those choices will make sense to others who understand and live within the binary.

That concept is just weird to me, even if I understand it on a conceptual level.  I know that women make the choices of women and people accept that; no, they even embrace those choices.

Maybe one reason that running from one gender box to another — “I was a man and am now a woman’ — is comfortable is because gender actually makes more sense if you actually were living as a man rather than living as “not man,” as I have.

When I came out as trans, 25 years ago now, my goal was to become more androgynous, to stay in my assigned role with extensions.  I felt that would keep me stable in the context of desire, in  social status.

What I learned is that I wasn’t really that good at being a man, even then — just not cocky enough — and that moving roles would probably have been the best choice.   But letting go seemed impossible with my solid male body and challenged family, so I avoided it.   Truth be told, I also never really saw myself as a young woman, but as a middle aged woman entering her “Goddess Period.”

My choices make much more sense as the choices of a woman.  “Everything I do in this house, I do as a woman,” I told TBB.  “I cook as a woman, clean as a woman, track medical issues as a woman, take my mother shopping as a woman, everything.”

“I believe that,” said TBB.  “Why isn’t that enough?”

“Because I can’t do anything else as a woman.  I can’t go and take a bubble bath as a woman, change my clothes as a woman, cry as a woman, take care of myself as a woman.”

TBB laughed.  “You always hit the nail on the head, even when you are hurting.”

Yeah.  Like a woman.

I don’t understand fixed gender divisions.

But I do understand myself as a woman.

And if I want the power of making my choices in this world, if I want people to understand those choices in context, those choick choices, then I have to walk in the world as a woman.

In other words, I have to know that them is me.

And people who do think in that gendered context will get that and understand it,  even if the context baffles me some.

From Somewhere

One of the things I miss the most about being in the rut rather than in the groove is not being able to surprise myself.

When I am in open conversation with other people, I will often hear phrases come out of my mouth that contain wisdom I didn’t know I posessed.

For example, I was at a Pagan Day, and I asked a participant about his invocation of feminine energies.

“Well, the feminine is passive. . .” he said.

“Really?”  I said.  “I prefer to call it receptive.”

I could feel the women around me lift.  No, we are not passive, but we are receptive, and that counts.

I didn’t know that I understood that, but I opened my mouth and it came out.

I learned at a very young age to run everything through my head.  My mother was emotional, and she was a mess of narcissitic self-pity; it was all about her.  So I used the techniques from my father, not understanding they were based in his Aspbergers.

That whole head thing, I have used it.  At first it was for control, but I switched it over to monitoring, and that system of wiring helped me try to find words for what I was feeling.

But it has diminishing returns, and at some point I need to trust the source, not my mining of it.

I need to speak out and speak up, and be surprised & enlightened by my own wisdom.

That center comes from somewhere, and I need to trust it.

Chick Choices, you know.

InterConvo

In looking back, I am understanding how the requirement to be my own best friend has always lead me into internal conversations.

One great thing about human relationships is that we can spread the ambiguity and ambivalence.   The final answer might be patchwork and rough, but at least in the conversations we have leading up to that point we get to take pure and perfect positions, arguing for this factor or that, fighting out a compromise outside ourselves.

For example, a family may have to choose if they want to attend an event or not.  Their process of making that decision is externalized.   It may be true that it is both an obligation and there are preferable things to do, but when one person takes one position and another takes another, it works to process.

For an introvert dealing with stigma who lives an internalized life, well, it’s not that simple.  Analysis paralysis is easy.

The therapist I saw in the 1980s noticed.  “I have people come in all the time telling me that, for example, ‘My boss is an idiot,'” he told me.  “But you come in and tell me that, and then tell me “but the reason he is making those choices is because. . .’   You take their position, work to understand, have compassion.  That’s different.”

Other people see that.  One commenter on this blog offered “I feel a certain hope that your compassion is going to get you past these things…

But that compassion is very much part of my internalized conversations, that requirement to puzzle things out inside by taking multiple positions to find some kind of center.

Recently, for example, I know I have lost that balance, falling too far onto the cynical & sad side.   In the past when this happened, I would often find myself writing a letter to me, reminding me of hope & possibility, of the good things lost in the mess.

I take these internal conversations as normal now, unremarkable.  It just happens.  The first time I met Virginia Prince, she thought I wasn’t embracing my femme side.  I wondered which femme side she was talking about; my Jonathan Winters energy always ended up with lots of voices bouncing around in my head.

I guess I can’t imagine how you can possibly save yourself until and unless you can listen to many parts of you, the many points of view that are required to describe a complex world and a nuanced worldview.  I know that I can no more see my own heart than I can see the back of my own head; I can only see the choices I make (or want to make) and learn from those choices.

I have seen lots of therapeutic techniques designed to foster this kind of inner conversation, down to watching someone hop between chairs labeled with points of view in a demonstration at IFGE Portland 1994.  Many have figured out that to live the examined life we have to be willing to examine our own inner voices.

I know that some believe I have taken this a bit far, adopting a number of posting personae over the years.  But this has been useful to me, speaking in another voice and seeing what comes out.  The process of becoming someone else to understand them has always served me well, as it has many shamans and femmes through the centuries.    When Ms. Rachelle tells me she finds my written conversations good because she can easily tell the difference in voice and point of view, I know I have succeeded.  In fact, hidden on this blog is a very long series of conversations between me and a therapist also played by me, conversations that came out of some very, very tough times.

I know that my own inner conversations have been key to my own self-discovery and actualization.  I have let the facets speak, and they have helped me map my own inner landscape.

For me, I don’t know how I would survive without a thriving inner conversation, a talk show in my head.

But maybe tha’t’s just me.

Pretending Not

Yes.  There is no doubt that some people freak when they meet someone trans.  And I know that most of us have the dream of not being freaky, of being normative.

But in the long run, I believe that people freak more at someone pretending not to be trans.

We each have a passing distance, whatever that is.  Get closer than that and our history and biology become clear.

To assert that we have always been what we are today can seem delusional and disconnected to others around us.  They may not directly call us out, but they see.    To make those assertions we have to act in confidence, and that often means deliberately not seeing through the eyes of others to know how we are being viewed.  It also often means finding someone or some group to scapegoat for our failures in passing as what we assert ourselves to be.

Jessica Pettit teaches the lesson of hypothetical transpeople who need to be allowed to assert their own claims of  invisibility.  Yet those transpeople can never stand for themselves and stand for others who have a trans body and a trans history.

People know what they know.  And I believe what they want to know about transpeople is that we are connected and interacting with the world they live in, not isolated from that world and the people in it.

Yeah, sometimes we do pass as having been born normative for our gender presentation.   I know that I can pretty easily pass on cursory inspection, but that on closer inspection my bones and voice tell another story.  And I also know that if I try to keep passing, I deny that voice and stay in a place where I have to cut off more than just my genitals.

We all get smart.  TBB won’t talk on a cell in the women’s room, for example.  Doesn’t want her disembodied voice coming from a stall.

But, I believe, pretending not to be trans is more isolating and more scary to others than being a part of the world, even if that means we are trans in the world.

Yes, even if we have always dreamed of not being trans.

Time To Stupid

TBB is concerned that my cycle time is decreasing.   That’s engineer talk for time to failure, or at least time to maintinance.

I see it more as mean time to stupid, time to that craziness where the black hole caves in and I get so obsessed with the little stuggles in my life that I lose sight of the big picture, lose sight of the life.

“I totally get that,” TBB said when I explained that I had worked out that the Volvo was a Chick Choice, not an engineer choice.

“And I affirm you making woman choices,” she told me.

Yeah, well, I need to affirm me making woman choices.

I know that I won’t “own” the Volvo until I can put on my black tights and boots and eyeliner and drive it.  It’s a chick car.

But when I force myself not to make those chick choices, well, I get stupid, lost in the fight, not sharp or present.  You know, like Elaine Bennis when she didn’t have sex.

TBB offers blessings on the car.  If it works for a year, it has been paid for, in her estimation.

Me, well, I just feel stupid.

The other side of stigma is a kind of swampy obsession, dark and repeditive, trapped in the box of your own desires and going nowhere.  It’s hard for me to convey how much I have spun my wheels creating the rut of my life, because being constrained by walls of stigma stopped me from moving forward and beyond, the kind of explorations that bring new challenges, new balance and new life.  Trapped in the stigma I fight the swamp, and I feel myself get sluggish, lost and stupid, a waste of decades.

I can tell when I don’t feel clear, when I feel stupid, and it hurts.   My family wants me to act, but they want to believe it is more denial which makes that work, not trusting my own energy.

“I am not so happy when you start to spiral in,” TBB told me.

I need to reduce the time to stupid.

And I suspect that means making Chick Choices and to trust them, even when they may not feel supported.

But oh, the stupid, the stigma, the stupid.

2009

In the preface to Welcome To The Monkey House, Kurt Vonnegut talks about “commiting suicide by cigarette.”    He thinks his own behavior is hideous, scorning life.

Me, well, I’m committing suicide by soft drink.  In my case it’s Coca-Cola.

Diabetes may be a softer way to go than lung cancer, but from eyes to toes, I can feel it.

= = = = = = = =

TBB had a lovely New Year’s Eve.   She got attention and affirmation from a beautiful and worldly ex Pan-Am flight attendant.   It felt good, even when the other woman’s date took her back.

Of course, TBB felt beautiful last night to start with.   Her hair is newly done, and her mother complimented her on the black dress she chose, slimming that showed off her figure.  Her kids were there with her, she is back to doing work she loves and is good at.  It is good.

TBB is flying back to the ship in a few days, after a screening of her movie in Austin, but she has that glow, you know?

= = = = = = = = = =

Me, well, not so much.

My parents wanted me to go out with my sister and her friends.  Yes, the same sister who told me she would call the authorities and have me removed from the home as a danger to my parents, that one.  And her boyfriend, who I struggled with on Christmas night, my conversation whizzing past him even with my best efforts to connect.

Instead, I got a missive from a beautiful transwoman locked in her room, explaining that she knows that other people are hell and she has no real hope of change beyond her own walls and defenses.  It is her lifemyth, the story she believes, holding dreams of machines she can control which free her.

There was only one thing I really, really wanted this year, and that was the chance to take an advocacy position for trans rights.  I didn’t even get the chance to try, because I respected and enforced the walls of this house.

Around 1 AM last night I went up to find my father hadn’t turned off the lights for my mother, who hasn’t used the stairlift in a week and a half.  I had been in the basement sobbing for around an hour and a half, pleading for death, a ritual by now.

“I hope that your 2009 is better,” she said to me.

I told her that I couldn’t imagine fuck-all ways that would happen.

“I’ll do whatever I can to help,” she continued.

Yeah, well, if she can’t even do what she says she is going to do and makes me wait on her, literally wait, well, then clearly there is little she can do to help.

My parents need consistency, not change.

And a classic program maxim says that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

No change, well, no change.

= = = = = = = = = =

And so, a broken Volvo. a broken heart, a broken & wasted life, and fuck-all little hope.

Welcome 2009