Some Days

Some days are more healer.
Some days are more wounded.

Some days the pain informs.
Some days the pain overwhelms.

Some days I want to discover others.
Some days I want to be discovered unconscious on the floor.

Some days I feel the uplifting spirit.
Some days I feel the decaying body.

Some days I feel the connection so strongly that it lifts me.
Some days I feel so alone and lonely that it cripples me.

Some days I want to serve.
Some days I crave being served.

Some days the universe touches me.
Some days my body aches to be touched.

Some days it is enough to know.
Some days no amount of knowing is enough.

Some days I am the love.
Some days I need the love.

Some days I my breathing is easy.
Some days I struggle to get whatever I can.

Some days are a dance
Some days are a struggle.

Some days are more healer.
Some days are more wounded.

And guess what today is?

Don’t Get

Kiki likes to shout it out in her own disquieting way:

“DON”T!  GET!  TOO! COMFORTABLE!”

It is her message to the world, part of what she feels she was born to shout out, a trumpet blast to break through entrenched assumptions & expectations.

To Kiki’s fans, those of us who have never felt too comfortable in this world, we immediately connect, wishing we had her power to scream out this soul opening call at our next family gathering, shattering the walls of normalcy that most keep around them, the walls that keep queer at arms length.

To me, not being too comfortable is waiting for the “third gotcha.”   I know how to stay off balance and scared.

But, I have to ask myself, does not being too comfortable mean not being comfortable at all?

I remember zipping across Mirror Lake at sunset in a zippy little in-board, singing “I Am What I Am” from La Cage Aux Folles at full volume.   “It’s my world, and it’s not a place I need to hide in, my world, that I want to have a little pride in.”

My life has been a struggle against comfort.    To me, comfort was something for the straights, something I couldn’t afford, much like I believed I couldn’t afford drugs.  I needed to be smart, alert and irritated just to keep control.  No methadone for me; I need the pain to remain aware, vigilant and open.

But yesterday the question did come to mind: what if “not being too comfortable” isn’t the same as “being uncomfortable?”  What if some comfort is a good thing in a life, giving standing and power?

Being comfortable scares me.  But yesterday, I just sort of went with it.

It was a trans meet and greet at the local center.

I wrote before I left; funny to me, but too strong for the crowd.  Ms. Rachelle reminded me that Shakespeare said “Audience is all;” sounds like the theme of my life.

But when I got there I made sure to help make connections, between young and old, black and white, transsxual and crossdresser, all the boundaries that really are not important.  Kim, a black hairdresser who has moved beyond her drag show days, said she saw me across the room and knew she wanted to talk to me.

I stopped for a taco with Marcie, a police officer who transitioned on the job, retired and is now with a university public safety team.

The kid at the counter called me sir.  I just gave that mommy look, a bit of a squint with a raised eyebrow that says “Really?”, and he immediately corrected himself. Ah, passing as transsexual.

I had the power because I was comfortable.  I was with Marcie, my backup, and I felt safe, like a leader, and well, comfortable.

I know there is power in being uncomfortable.   Being open, aware and attentive, always looking for that beyond expectation, well, there is power there, the power of doubt and sensitivity.

But there is also power in being comfortable.  Being relaxed, assured and grounded, always trusting your own capabilities & your connection to the universe, well, there is power there, the power of confidence and grace.

I know how to not be too comfortable.

But do I trust being comfortable enough to believe that this is my world?

Trans Pride

Trans Pride
Callan Williams © 2009

Say it loud!
I’m trans,
and I’m, uh,
passing as normal.

I’m here, I’m dear,
and I’m definitely not queer!

Of course I have trans pride
Just locked deep down inside
Stuffed down in there with my history
Where both remain a mystery.

I stand tall and strong
just not for that all that long
as someone might notice,
Before I sit down and blend in.

Let me tell you a story
My therapist helped me write
about my charming girlhood
all archetypal and true
a proud creation
in my own special fashion.

I have invested in my future
with surgeons and beauticians
and at long last
I have completely erased my past
Isn’t that something to be proud of!

People around me
see what I want them to see
a lovely vision
a simplified rendition

Ambiguities
have no place in me!
I’m proud!

I stand proudly trans and alone
since because around other trannys
my difference might become known.
Keep your distance please
since I am proud of me
and not you.

I march in my own parade
every special day
proud and strong
nothing to see here,
just move right along.

Listen to my head!
Without fixing my illness
I would be dead!
The universe made a mistake
making my heart ache
Now I’m fixed and free!
No one should notice me!
I’m just who I claim to be
there is no more to me
so I will thank you to refrain
from invoking my name
ever.

Pride is never something
to be ashamed of
as long as you keep it
on the down down-low.
All those freaks in the parade
must be really sad
why else would they be dancing?

I show my pride by hiding
what others wouldn’t want to see
too much information
would be the death of me
so just shut up!

Be proud enough
to be respectful.
Don’t bring messy attention
which brings out my shame
again.

You have an obligation
to everyone else
to help us be proud and invisible
staying, in, in wherever we are!

Yes, I am trans and proud
just
not proud of my illness
not proud of my differences
not proud of my desire
not proud of my body
not proud of my freedom
not proud of my voice
not proud of my choice.

I am proud of how I swallow
playing along and staying shallow
I am not one of the freaks
Everyday I transcend their squeeks
by staying proud and strong
hiding everything that came along.

Does Choose Again == Regret?

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-02-24-transgender-penner_N.htm

It’s interesting to me that the author doesn’t really show “transgender regret,” rather he shows transpeople who try one treatment and then decide the costs aren’t worth the benefits and go back.

This seems to me to say much less about “the causes” of transgender than about the costs of the available treatments, all of which are high.

OutCloset

So, am I in or am I out?  Am I lost or am I found?

The answer, I suspect, is “yes.”

Was at a networking session the local Gay & Lesbian center did last night.

On one hand, I was a lost tranny people avoided.  The young people passed me up because I was old, and the old people passed me up because I was just a bit too queer for nice Gay & Lesbian people.

On the other hand, for people with whom I have established a connection over the last 15 years, it was a pleasant reunion, a networking meeting.   Former director, young academic, all that.

In other words, breaking the ice is hard, especially when I don’t have a simple story to tell, but once the ice is broken, people know, like & value me.

This blog may be quite the same.  Newcomers often find it quite daunting.  I remember one secondhand comment that someone wouldn’t read it again because “it isn’t positive enough.”  But there are a few for whom it has enough value to be kept on the short list.

I watch, looking for clues and patterns.  Quite an observer, I am.

And sometimes, I actually perform and make connections.

Because, well, because that’s the way I roll.

Or the way that I don’t roll.

Whatever.

Chick Shit

After a week where I laid low to respect school vacation in the cul-de-sac, I wasn’t feeling powerful going out yesterday.  There was a cold, sharp wind that cut through you whenever you stepped outside, and it just wasn’t nice.

But I went out and did my errands, grocery, shopping, all that, even though I felt off.  Still, at the grocery store, I got respect twice, when the fellow in front of me in express offered to let me go first, and when, after giving the cashier a few pennies, she joked about how it feels to collect them all in your purse.  Nothing special., just the simple social graces offered to any woman.

Offered to me.

Then I come back here, and I am pulled into duty, phone calls with my sister and parents, punching through, the expectation of solid brother/son to hold up.  I feel myself toughen and it’s not fun.

I turned a few heads at the bar on Saturday, and I know why.  I let myself do the chick stuff — the smile, the hair toss, the dancing, the femme wiggle.  It worked.

I know that other people have other demands of emergence, like body change.  Some believe, for example, they need to be seen as female or they will be cast out as a freak.  I know that my fear was that I wouldn’t be seen as a woman, and to just be a guy in a dress wasn’t worth the effort, the cost, the challenge.  I tend to think that in the end, the fear is the same: can I act in the world as being beautiful?

One story that touched me was about Evita Bezuidenhout, the creation of  Peter-Dirk Uhys.   She spent 20  minutes with a South African politician, including dancing, and at the end of the interview, the pol said “Ladies first.”  From behind the mask, Uhys said “I am not a woman!”  and the politican answered “Oh, yes!  I forgot!”

People, in the end, respond to our performance of self, even when they know facts to the contrary.  When we are present as a woman, we are a woman, at least after the first questions, and the longer we spend in presence, the more that is true.

There is a reason women travel in groups, or travel with a man.  It gives a sense of security.  TBB is going to travel in Philippines, maybe renting a motorcycle or taking a bus, and she has to understand the risks for her as a single blonde woman.  (TBB is surprised how well she passes as a hot blonde American woman amongst the smaller statured Philippine population, but that’s just an interesting artifact of cultural context.  Kelly Ripa likes to tell how she passed as a British exchange student when a substitute teacher came to her New Jersey classroom, but I doubt she would have passed nearly so well in the heart of Manchester, where they know better how British girls speak and act.  Still, even young male American crew members have declared that she is hot and doable, seeing her as a MILF.  Yowsa!)

It’s hard to do the driving and also remain the a chick, because it’s hard to invoke expeditionary leadership and be vulnerable at the same time.   That’s why one of my secret goals has always been simple: find someone else to share the driving.  There aren’t many people going my way, though.

I want to feel free to get away with chick shit.

I want to be able to fix my makeup, to get teary, to obsess over shoes, to toss my hair and get good glances from others.

And now, just now, I suspect that has always been doable, even if I have stayed defended against it, trying to hunker down in my defenses and put my desires out of reach.

I need to trust my own chickness.

And just feel confident in my own beauty

Stubborn

I’ve known Ms. Monica for over twenty years now.   We met again at the same bar that I came out in, though then it was an active gay bar just being touched by AIDS and now, a quarter century later,  it is a sleepy jazz club kept as a hobby by the owner.

We have gone different paths through these years, with me falling into the stories while Monica has just spent day after day living where she grew up, in a rural area around here.  She’s  still doing the same work as then, a concrete contractor with crew, just as a transwoman.   She is a long haired blonde butch who takes pride in her nails, wears jeans and a well cut top, parents a 16 year old boy, and is going out to Vegas for the NASCAR this coming weekend.

She has maneuvered through the details enough to live in the liminal, just who she is.   “It’s hard to be trans in a rural area, but once you do it, it is easier than in suburbia.  People know you through your networks, and you just get along as an individual.”

Over the years, that means her goal has been the same as mine: to live an integrated life.    As we reminisced the stories often went to those who had the opposite goal, to compartmentalize & separate.    From crossdressers who thought they could control how other people saw them, ending up decietful & petulant, to transsexuals who are now in the “closet at the end of the rainbow,” keeping their heads down and blind to how people see them, we remembered the people who set out to cut their lives into what they wanted to be managable pieces.

We agreed that the one thing that all transpeople we had met shared was being stubborn.  Once they were out enough to meet us, they had decided that expression of who they are was more impotrtant than playing along, being what others expected of us.  Just to get through the walls of stigma intended to keep us normative we had to be stubborn.  I recalled young Kim in Germany, who had to convince her parents and her doctors that she was a girl, even before she was eight years old.  That takes a kind of subborness that just isn’t in the life of people who play along.

Maybe that’s why I love Kiki DuRane so much; she is the kind of stubborn broad who has kept her world intact whatever the world threw at her.  How could we queers not idolize her, even if she is the creation of Justin Bond?

If you want to claim your own expression beyond the normative, that deep stubborness is required.  But, as Monica has found, that intense stubborness also makes it hard to fall into relationship with someone else.  Most people want to cast you as a player in their own drama, fulfilling their own expectations, but once you have moved beyond playing along, we don’t make easy partners.

Sitting with Monica, I remembered what I really want, what most transpeople really want.

“Well, my wife saw me in a dress before we were married, some twenty years ago, and she said ‘Never again.” said one crossdresser at the gathering. “So she knows that I wear panties 100% of the time, that I wear pantyhose in the winter, and over the past five years or so, that I have nights out with the ‘boys,’ but she has never seen me in a dress.  Still, I know that I am getting sloppy, leaving clothes, makeup, jewelry where she can find them.”

It’s the worst way to get outed, becayse it allows other people to control your story, but I understand the urge.  We all, as Kate Bornstein said, want to be discovered, found and seen by someone who values & understands us.

And that was what Monica and I gave each other.  We understood the challenges, the choices, the complications of living a trans life.  For example, the simple act of not saying “I am Joe’s brother,” but saying “Joe is my brother,” leaving space for both truth and assumption is something we have had to learn.

I didn’t have to explain or just “let it pass” with Monica.  She gets the joke, understands the experience, knows the lay of the land.

And that means she sees me, almost as stubborn as she is, although she isn’t the black sheep in her family; they have other yardsticks.

Monica set out to show her truth, and that led her to living and integrated life, nuanced and full.

Quite a reward for being stubborn, whatever the cost.

Funny

There is a post somewhere on the blogosphere talking about how transpeople need to own comedy and using Bethany Black as an example of how we can do that.

I responded and got back a load of passive agressive crap, belittling what I said and attempting to remove my standing to speak.  According to the writer, I know nothing, nothing.

Now this is a writer who gets peeved when someone calls her “sweetie,”  responding with earnest indignation at such a slur.

Comedy?  No, not there.  No funny there.  Chris Rock talks about how he doesn’t like it when someone calls him names he doesn’t like, unless it’s funny.  To him, and pretty much to every comedian, funny trumps everything.  If it makes you laugh, well, that’s good.

I’ve done lots of funny over the years from a camp column to hosting the VP awards with the other Drama Queen three times.

And I know a few things about funny.

I know that funny is in your mouth.   Funny is not an intellectual exercise, it’s an exercise in capturing evanesence, those “you had to be there” moments.  Barry Humphries says he could write everything Dame Edna says but it is much easier and faster just to have her say it, even if that is also much more risky.

I know that funny is first for you.  If you can’t amuse yourself, well, no chance in hell of amusing other people.  Lots of people aren’t funny but they are fun, because they have a good humor, were they amuse themselves and others in a nice, close way.  They may never be the kind of out loud funny that can take the stage, but they can really make a meeting or a meal go well with their own warm and sly personality.

I know that being funny for others is a whole different thing.  Professional comedy, working a crowd and making them laugh, is a job.  I remember when I first saw Maggie Cassella, a smart & funny lawyer do her act.  She was insightful & wry and I loved her.  A few years later, I saw Maggie Cassella, professional comedian, do her act.  She was simple & simplified, doing routine routines, and I could take or leave her.  I did understand the transformation, though.  To work regularly she needed surefire comedy that would engage the crowd, and insightful & wry don’t cut the mustard.

If you are doing commercial comedy, you have to have people get the joke, right away.  That’s not me.  I remember Terry Murphy coming up to TBB and I after our performance at IFGE 1999, saying “Well, it was better than 1995; not only were you funny, but people knew you were supposed to be funny.  It would have been better if they got the jokes, but you can’t have everything.”  We had done a bit about being in retirement and being called out; TBB was a wacky CD and I was an earnest transsxual lesbian whose conciousness raising group had told her that being funny sold out feminism.  We bickered about how much she was a man and I was lost, but eventually, with the help of a spotlight, TV cameras and an audience we came to the brightness; “We have no act!  We have no talent!  We are The Drama Queens!”

I spoke last week about sharing the challenge of people not getting the joke at the LGBTS support meetup.   We see the irony and wit, but others see, well, nothing.  I remember having people read my blog and be unable to imagine how someone with my authoritative voice could be funny.  People who knew my voice, however, understood that the humor wasn’t in the words, it was in my mouth.  ‘I wish people could see your face when you say these things on tele-conferences,” a former co-worker said, “because then they might get the joke.”

That’s why I admire people like Jennifer Finney Boylan, who can write comic fiction.  I can write in other voices and be funny — in high school people were taken with my “thousand voices” or later with my “radio plays” — but sustaining a long fiction is something I have never done.

In the end, though, I remember a bit of old wisdom.  “Everyone thinks they have a sense of humor, but most people couldn’t be funny to save their life, so many of them have to be wrong.”

I do think we need more funny out there.  But that means valuing laughter over earnest dilligence, valuing laughter over almost everything.  Funny cannot be held within the bounds of good taste; we need a bit of surprise and puncturing to make the laugh break out.

And when someone who is advocating humor needs to do a passive-agressive bitch slap, backhanded ways to reduce and dismiss an opponent, I know they don’t have the funny in their mouth, at least not now.

Makes me want to go and get out a cream pie. . . . .

Ignorance, Euphoria & Dreams

In my years, one thing I have noted is that the biggest defenders of the stealth option for transsxuals are those who haven’t yet emerged into the world.

At that point, they aren’t talking about the reality of walking in the world as a transsexual woman, rather they are defending the dreams they have had since childhood of walking in the world as a girl.

I have often posted this:

When you first come out as a transgendered person,
you spend your first year in absolute euphoria.
Then reality sets in, and you have to make a life and deal with the stigma.
Joan Roughgarden, NY Times Magazine, 9 May 2004

In the end, I usually end up talking about the stigma, but as cockeyed and optomistic as it may be, I can’t disagree that the “absolute euphoria” is important, too.

Success requires “intelligent ignorance.”
Zig Ziglar

One of the greatest joys known to man
is to take a flight into ignorance
in search of knowledge.
Robert Lynd

All you need in this life
is ignorance and confidence,
and then success is sure.
Mark Twain

A person is never happy except at the price of some ignorance.
Anatole France

A system of knowledge is always also a system of ignorance.
Terry Tafoya

Let me here give praise to the ignorance that lets humans start on long and challenging journeys with one step following another.

Problems can only be solved when we move beyond the mindset that created them.  And how can we move beyond when we don’t move at all?

The young do not know enough to be prudent,
and therefore they attempt the impossible,
and achieve it,
generation after generation.
Pearl S. Buck

Ms. Rachelle talks about my exquisite self-awareness.  It may well be a gift, but it is the flip side of the gift of daring, the ability to say “What the fuck!” and just try something new, bold and fun.

I may be the voice of consideration & awareness, but that doesn’t mean I don’t value bold ignorance & absolute euphoria.  As long as they form the basis for a journey of exploration, and not just the core of a defensive fort designed to keep you stuck in a disconnected illusion, the way euphoria & ignorance power leaps into transformation cannot be undervalued.

I missed trusting my gut and leaping, and from where I am now, that seems like quite a loss.

My goal isn’t to be a bubble burster, especially if those bubbles let you float above expectations and become new.  I suspect, though, that anyone who finds the notes from my journey dispiriting is looking for something to justify their own inaction, looking for signs of failure.

The biggest burden I carry is holding open the possibility of transforming beyond expectation in the world.   But I know that unless I bless that possibility of starting over in others, I deny it to myself.

I know that I can always be surprised, and usually by those who don’t know why they are bound to fail so they end up finding solutions and succeeding.

Here is to intelligent ignorance and absolute euphoria.

May they keep making dreams come true well into the future!

Stand P A T

I saw a bit of Marci’s latest show on Discovery Health.  I don’t watch Discovery Health much, and I will admit that when they pulled out the drawings of to transsexct and reshape a penis, well, enough for me.

But I was amused at the whole transsexual voice thing, so I pulled on my headset and made a voice mail for TBB, who is now somewhere in the Phillipine sea.

She said she laughed when she got it, me all high-pitched, mask resonance, sing-song, breathy, with just a touch of southern accent.  But she admitted that when I wasn’t goofing around, it sounded pretty good.

“I remember,” she replied, “traveling with another transwoman and deciding we would spend the whole trip squeaking like Mickey Mouse. It was fun, but it didn’t do anything for my voice.

“As transsexuals,” she continued, “we change so much about ourselves.  Why not change our voice, too?”

Why not, indeed?

It’s tough for me now, with two calls a day to parents who can barely hear me in the first place, between failing ears, failing focus, and lifelong challenges with nuance.  I end up needing to punch through, and that isn’t quite doable with a new and sweet voice.

A few years ago, I got into a discussion of how transpeople born male use tells to flag their status.  Lots of crossdressers were offended by those remarks; in their view, they were being authentic.  But in the view of others, we can see the tells.

Part of that is maturity, of course.  We become more polished, more finished, more together the more we actually are who we present ourselves as being.   I know that my tells of years ago were there for a reason, and while I remember people explaining to me where they were, I now understand that they were part of what I held.

Today, I look together and polished.  But I don’t work my voice to be high, breathy, and such.

For me, the challenge is always when someone first sees me as one thing and then comes inside my passing distance.  It’s that shift, that change, that shock that gives them a start and causes them to reconsider.   The moment when your sex changes in someone’s yes, well, that’s hard.  It happened to TBB when she was chatting with a retired seaman at the bar, at least until

I suppose that one technique could be to reduce the passing distance, to become more femaled so people don’t see.  That’s what changing my voice from the gender-neutral one I use (the man voice went away years ago) to a more feminine one would do.

The problem is, though, that no matter how I reduce my passing distance, there will always be one.   My bones, my throat, my hair, all that can still get me clocked, can still create that shift.

In the old days I would avoid that slip by being clearly a man-in-a-dress with no pretense of passing.  Over the years, though, as I have come to know myself as a woman, evidenced by people who know me as a woman thinking I look odd trying to pass as a man, that technique doesn’t  work.  I’m not a man-in-a-dress at all.

So what I do now is PAT; I Pass As Transsexual.  I don’t work to pass as female, rather I get the messy bit over quickly and just get identified as a transsexual woman.

Don’t get me wrong; I’d rather PAF, Pass As Female.  I’d like to feel comfortable and confident and not wait for the third gotcha, but in my mind, if people as beautiful as Candis Cayne and Calpurnia Addams can’t really pass, will get outed by the gay guy, just like Kaylynn in Brooklyn, well, then I don’t think I have much of a chance.

I just suspect that the more I try to PAF, the more trouble I cause when someone comes within passing distance.  I remember Jeanette Talia talking about her tricks, and how they got angry at her when she didn’t pass, because they didn’t want the scrutiny.

I like my cute voice, and would really like to believe it can help me PAF.  And it might, sure, it might.

It’s just that I will always have a passing distance, especially if I want to talk about my experience as a transperson in the world, and make no mistake, my experience is that of a transperson in this world, and not that of a man or a woman.

So I stand PAT.

Can’t really imagine any other way.

Nooper

Went to a local LGBTS meetup last night, hosted by a young, newly out lesbian and her partner.  Also along for the ride were a lesbian looking for other women, a smart atheist bear type bisexual man, a crossdresser and a lesbian couple from up north consisting of a smart butch in her early thirties and a “bluejean femme” in her mid twenties.

I ended up talking quite a bit, mostly because I was getting a lot of head nodding from the more mature members of the group I explained how I see the world.   They saw me as holding back, empowering, being gracious.

That doesn’t mean our hosts got me.  When asked what I was looking for, I said “Someone who gets the joke.”  While many smiled, our hostess earnestly asked “What joke?”  It wasn’t I who had to explain that she didn’t get the joke.

In the end, the meeting made me sad.  It reminded me that my damn guru tendencies make it almost impossible to just be in conversation with other people; I see process & connection and that makes me separate, isolated, lonely.

I’ll write down some points here.

1) What I want is to move from a model where we believe that everyone should be the same on the surface and different underneath to a model that believes everyone is the same at the core and different on the surface.  I want what we share not to be choices, but rather to be essential, connecting and shared humanity.   That’s very hard in a suburban American culture, but Europeans, who understand the context of history & connections find it much easier to grasp.

Once I understand that it is at the core we all share humanity, then I can delight in expression, how each and every one of us surfaces our own special expression, creates our own unique place.  Surfaces are for art, hearts are for connection, at least to me.

2) We all live in the swirl between tame & assimilated and wild & individual.  We want to be one of the gang, with all the perks of fitting in, and also be uniquely ourselves at the same time.   This is the primary duality, the one each of us struggles with. As much as our hosts just thought being ourselves would be the solution, those of us with time in understood the compromises we make to fit in and stand out at the same time.

3) Fear is a stopper, which I learned in the late 1980’s when Rachel Crosby called me a “bubble burster.”   To be out and queer, we have to do things that really are scary and without clear outcome.   We need to support dreams.  I wasn’t supporting Rachel’s dreams, I was projecting my own fears.   Now, the questions I asked were valid and real, but we need some ignorance to be empowered; we can’t solve everything before we leave the office, because it is in the field where solutions present themselves.

4) Without the standing to flirt, we can lose the connections others take for granted.   I know how to flirt if the audience is safe, queer-friendly, but flirting on initial meeting always feels a bit too risky.

I remember dressing up the crossdressing deacon, but his wife was afraid it would be risky if he was too wild.  I explained that the more it looked like costume, the safer he was, it was the threat of passing that made things hard.  She got it when he came home in leggings and wild wig; he had a more confident step than when he was hiding as a woman.   This is the magic of drag queens, and the magic I invoked as man-in-a-dress; it was clear and play.  But when I expose more of myself with authenticity, well, I walk along that crack between the sexes, and I feel the ground shift beneath me.

Different

It now and then occurs to me that I tend to think differently than many other people.

In the past few days, I have been dealing with people who want to silence other trannys they don’t like, demanding that they disappear into jeans & a nice top normativity, who want to attack rather than heal when facing Fred Phelps, who want to dismiss  people as being mostly gay. It has been a frustrating time when I feel I can’t get my voice heard.

The beautiful Ms. Rachelle has suggested a reason:

Most of us project when we communicate.

We pretend to talk theoretically, or to talk just about another person, but really, it’s about our own choices and situation — primarily, I would say, our own choices, because we do not need to justify our own situation.

Part of your self-awareness — which may seem at times to you a curse, but which I strongly believe is a divine gift — is that you know, pretty much always, what you are saying.

My struggle, which I have called being “too hip for the room,” has always been the challenge of making a space to be understood in the worlds others live in.   My points of reference and context are so different that it’s hard for others to get them.

The brilliant Ms. Rachelle understands this problem of context:

One of the most amazing things happened once after the New Women’s Conference in Northern California.

We’d been up at a retreat center for a few days, much of it spent naked or in semi-nudity, in the hot tub or the pool, seeing only each other.  I’m sure the original idea of renting a place where there was no one else was to protect our privacy.

But the effect was to change the mirrors.

So after a long weekend we came off the mountain to a gay resort town where they were ending a lesbian weekend.  We went into a market, or a gift shop or something, with women of various ages shopping or whatever, and for some of us our first reaction was “They look wrong.  Too short, too small.”

What an amazing experience that was.

(I tried to explain that once to a non-tg person and the silly woman thought I was showing “reverse prejudice.”  I would say the prejudice was hers, insisting that her body type had to be the standard model, the “real” version, and she could not give up that privilege even for a moment.)

I keep trying to explain my vision, but without being able to expand the context, it is erased by the normative designs of other people’s projection of what is “real.”

The wise Ms. Rachelle even offers a solution:

Hello, Beautiful.

Beautiful in words, beautiful in being, beautiful in generosity, beautiful in wisdom.

And beautiful in face and body.

What people have trouble understanding is that TG has its own beauty, its own power.

This is so strong in your speech and yet as you say, it’s hard for you to hear it for yourself when you are telling it to someone else.

So please, hear it from me.

I have seen you in your elegance and style, and you are beautiful.

So yes, give yourself the gift of affirmation that you give others, but accept also this gift from me:

I give you the power to see your own beauty.

I give you a great magic power, the power to change the mirrors.

Such a gift, the gift to trust that my own beauty can make a difference.   As a friend reminds me:

I can’t trust the body I was given; is it really any wonder that it’s taken years for me to try to trust the heart?

Yet, I have found myself catching myself smiling in mirrors occasionally of late, and even I find it pretty sometimes.

It is, as the hot Ms Rachelle reminds me, the challenge of each of us to change the mirrors.

And that means, I suspect, trusting my voice, my presence and my mind are not only different, they are also beautiful.

Tender Shoe

My womanhood is like a pair of pumps with porcelain heels.

Beautiful, and real, yes.

But I am always aware that it can break at any time if someone kicks too hard.

So I don’t put my weight on it sparingly.

And that makes it hard to dance.

Crowd

I see the crowd of lesbians, all happily catching up with each other at the bar.

There must be over 50 of them there.

I see the crowd of lesbians, here in the nice resturant with the hors d’oevure buffet set out.

And I can’t think of anything I want to say to them that will make them want to change their chit chat.

On the third episode of Lie To Me this week, one plot point was that popular girls in school are facile liars. They figure out what others want to hear and then tell them that.

God, not me.

I remember sitting with a friend on a riverside deck at a bar, and she looked over to a boisterous crowd at another picnic table.

“Were you ever like that?” I asked.

“Never,” she answered, with a knowing look.

Introverts.

I spoke to the owner for a bit, a fellow from NYC.   We had a nice chat, observers both of us.  And another city gal, Sunnie, came up and said hello.

But I just couldn’t imagine elbowing my way through that crowd and breaking into a knot of conversation.

Oh, I suppose I could have found some trope.  “Can you tell me a good place to buy sweaters with bear pictures knitted into them?” for example.

But it just didn’t seem worth it.

I imagined what TBB would do if she were here.  She would be right in the middle of the throng with her drink, holding court.

An old friend did show up.  Monica looks nice — she now co-owns a spa with the woman who does her hair — but her center is still as a concrete contractor.

Monica didn’t disagree when I suggested that she is butch.  She’s my age and dating a 28 year old born female bartender for fun, but looking for more.

“I like men,” she told me, “but what they want is just, well.  I say to them ‘Sure I love anal sex.  Just let me go first.’  It’s not what they are expecting.”

I tried to make my point.

“Are you a bottom?” she asked me.  No, more like celibate.  But I don’t know many women who see themselves as a bottom, even if they are submissive in bed.  It’s like when a fellow talked about women having the “passive” role in sex at a seminar, and when I said that I prefered the word “receptive,” all the women nodded.

No, I’m not a bottom.  I’m a femme.  And, like Grace says, I want to be valued for what I bring to the table.

I saw a few femmes in the crowd last night.  One, who looked like Staci London with a buzz-cut, was a power performer, her energy  just illuminating the group around her.

I watched the women for their own gender cues, the in-group cues of lesbians.  I know how to watch for gender cues in the eyes; femmes sparkle, while butches are butch.

But I knew that no one came there tonight looking for a femme transwoman.  A butch trans woman, well, maybe.  “I just don’t get it,” a butch lesbian said to me many years ago in a radio interview.  “If you want to date women, why would you cut of your dick?”   Well, maybe because I could never be cocky enough to operate it well.  If GRS was easier and cheaper, I might do it next week, that’s how I am feeling.   I laugh at the concept of going to a doctor; after seeing so many newly out trannies, they would probably be stunned that I am so mature in my expression and still TransNatural, to coin a phrase.

It was a very nice event, with a very nice buzz.  I was very pleased to see so many gay women and a sprinkling of gay men taking their space and connecting, even as it reminded me of my own dyke failure, my inability to be one of the lesbian crowd.

And I got to connect with Monica, and we will sit down at a quiet table some day before my parents get back.

But somehow, I just couldn’t think of anything worth saying to break into that crowd.

And that’s me.

Not First, Not Last

As I emerged, I would often be challenged to deal with things that weren’t particularly feminine as a woman.

When I had to do a bit of dirty work, my little mantra was: “I’m not the first woman who had to _______,” and fill in the challenge.  Not the first woman to have to change a tire, for example, or not the first woman to have a runny nose, or not the first woman who had to fight with a clerk.

For people raised as girls, this is obvious.  They do everything as a woman, be it bailing out a flooded basement or shoveling a driveway.  But those for whom woman was a special performance, there was always a man to do the dirty work, even if he had the same face as us.  Karen Taylor may have a character who just calls out “Man! Man! Man!” when faced with a messy challenge, but for women of a transgender history, we don’t have the same expectation that men will find us attractive enough to do our bidding.

I’m not the first woman to do whatever challenge I need to face.

Lately, though, I am realizing that I am not the last woman either.  Whoever I am today, I am not the last woman I am going to be.  There is another woman with my face in the future, and she is making other choices.

I was amused yesterday.  I sent a note to TBB and Ms. Rachelle about some things I am going through now, and as a reference, I included a “The Rainbow Speech” that  I wrote in early 1994, 15 years ago now.  It was written as what I needed to hear someone say to me at the time.

Both of them were moved by the speech.  Ms. Rachelle wanted to forward it to a newly out FTM, and TBB remembered hearing it back then, but it touched her much more now.  She put it down to a weak performance back then, but I remembered the quote:

We don’t see things as they are,
we see them as we are.
Anaïs Nin

TBB isn’t the same woman as she was back then, and todays woman gets it in a whole new way.  I suspect that even the beautiful Grace will have a different response to that piece as she grows more confident in her own gifts than the negative response she first had.

Last night I met a woman who I didn’t recognize, even though I met her last year as she was just starting to emerge.  This year, she was much more pulled together and confident, away from the cartoon of imagined woman and more towards being a real woman in the world.

This is always a challenge for us.  Nobody emerges from a lifetime of stigma induced darkness full blown.  One crossdresser was talking about how her college age kids got crazy when she came out.

It’s odd, but the best gift we can give others is getting sane and new and together as fast as we can.  They just want us to know who we are so they can know who we are, and when we keep slipping, it’s hard.  For example, the classic “Now I am Biff!  Now I am Suzy!” crossdresser model usually involves such wild swings that we can’t find our center, and that means we are kind of scary to others.

I’m not the first woman to face these challenges, even the messy ones.

I’m not the last woman I am going to be.  There is a new woman to come, for each of us.

And somehow I find that knowledge that I am not the first and not the last to be comforting.

Cold

It’s amazing how many things are chilling.

This morning, I went to a church I was at last year.  The front doors were locked, and in the ten minutes before service started I saw three couples go into the side entrance.  Sure, they are probably just saving the cost of heating the main church, but it’s hard to it in the back without a crowd.   I often joke that I just want to sit to the side with the other trannys, but of course, there never are any other transpeople.

The snowstorm this week was chilling.  I set aside Wednesday to shovel, but then, thanks to my neighbor, I had to set aside Thursday to clear the drive of ice.

Of course, the cul-de-sac is always chilling.  I try to keep my head down for my parents, but people know.  I’m sure the next door neighbor who uses her car as a smoking/phone lounge knows, as I ran past her diving into the garage this morning after coming back from my aborted attempt at church.

My parents are chilling, and I need to talk to them a couple of times a day.   They are so stressed and getting so old that just communicating with them is very hard; you need to bang in to get them to hear what you are saying.

My sister is chilling, with her objectives and work stories.  She scares me, and certainly doesn’t create warmth to open up and feel safe.

The economy is chilling, to everyone.

This area has long been known for its chill, for its lack of a supportive culture.

And winter, well, winter is winter.

I wrote about safe spaces fifteen years ago now.  And the challenge then is the same as now; how do I carry a warm and safe space inside of me to get through the chilling parts?

I need some heat.   To me, at least, that is the most important part of calling, that heat of mission which drives you and keeps you moving even through the chill.

But no matter how I beat the bushes, I find few hot spots around here.  The visible trans community around here are mostly crossdressers who like being out in the dark spaces, mostly bars.  I did that, years ago, and they hold little appeal to me now.

Some notes from a conversation with same:

As to nerve, well, I have found that its hard for me to both have the nerve to stride in queer & alone and the vulnerability to be accessible & open at the same time.  If I go in balls to the wall, well, then it’s hard to switch to soft.

That’s why women like to travel in packs, you know.  Better someone has your back.

You met a Genetic Girl?  You check their genes and find out that they are a girl?  I mean, I know females are chromosomal XX, but as to genes, well they are complex, and I don’t know where girl is written.  I mean, I know many trannys who seem to have feminine written into their genes, even if they are chromosonally male. The best I can do is figure out that someone was “assigned as female at birth or soon thereafter and raised as a girl,” which I usually shorten to “born female” or “BF.”

As to _________ well, she needs to stay where she is, and so is kind of crusty about challenges to her theory of trans.  Can’t find other language or meet, which is fine.  Far from the first tranny I have known with that challenge.

Transpeople, well, we live in phases of out & in and such.  It’s just the way we have to do it.   I’m sure she is addressing some other priority in her life, and has had to put trans on the back burner.  But it was great what she did, even as she had the challenge every transperson who is living with a heterosexual identified born-female wife, how to hold onto the husband role and also be trans.

I once wrote Helen Boyd a piece on how we use “tells” to tell contradictory stories.  She put it on the MHB message boards and the crossdressers beat up on the premise completely: they really were not giving mixes messages, they were women.  Somehow, I don’t think Helen would have posted it if she hadn’t seen it, but I also think she was surprised by the response of the CDs, who really need to believe that they are telling pure stories when they are a man and when they are a woman.

TBB wants me to remember that trans is a road, and that it’s not right for those of us in high-school to challenge those still in elementary school.  I understand her point, but real elementary kids understand that they are growing up, and that they will change in the future.  For example, no teenager watches High School Musical, but ‘tweens do, imagining their future high school days.   Newly out transpeople, though, or still closeted transpeople, don’t have any context that they are just starting out, that they have something to learn, that others have more experience and wisdom.  They are grown ups in body, so how can they not be grown ups in mind, heart and spirit?

I am so cold, so very cold.

I search for fire to burn my bonds.

But somehow, it escapes me