Loss & Discovery

You can not discover new continents without losing sight of  the old.

I know why people hate me.

It’s my approach to loss.

It’s my approach to death.

I want to kill the Buddha one meets on the road.

I want to shatter the assumptions that are unfounded.

I want to demolish the dreams we hold of being who we are not.

God grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the strength to change what I can change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Wisdom, I guess requires both serenity and strength, serenity to accept the death of illusions, strength to engage being reborn in possibility.

It’s the deal.

It has always been the deal, at least according to all the worldwide myths that Joseph Campbell collected.

But that doesn’t mean humans like it.

They grab at anything that might let them hold onto their illusory dreams.

Today that’s the theology of sound bytes, where we want to believe we can take only the pretty stuff from any belief system we encounter, take only the ideas that are palatable, comfortable and non-threatening, and leave the rest.

Not me.  I like the intense bits.  The bits that clear away the debris and the illusions to get closer.  I believe that a commitment to life is a commitment to move beyond illusions and expectations, a commitment to pure transformation.  I find joy in smashing the false and finding truth, truth that enervates and empowers.

That’s why TBB likes me.  She laughs when her illusions are sliced away, chuckles when new healthy growth is revealed and revered.  She loves revelation.

But TBB knows that most people aren’t like her; they cling to their illusions like they cling to that last towel at the spa.  Getting naked is just, well, too naked.

This isn’t new, of course.  The homepage of my 1997 site included:

Guarantee: If you don’t find something on this site
that challenges your thinking or your identity within 20 minutes,
we’ll give you double your money back!

I always had the vision, even as a little kid.

Just like anyone else, I have had to accept myself not as I wish to be, but as I am.

And I am bound to revelation.

Which means, I guess, that I am bound to loss.

That’s something that makes most humans a bit queasy, since they are bound to attachment.

That’s why when that crazy woman in Asheville said I need to detach more, I know she can’t possibly know how much I am already detached and why I feel some need to attach.

And that’s why when my sister wants to hurt me, she decided to detach me from the car and the bed I was using, and was stunned that I just let go.  If I had it to do over again, I think I would just strip naked and walk away; let them take the clothes, too.

Attachment is what we use to motivate people in this country, because only when people are attached can the fear of detachment be used as a threat.

The people in aesthetic denial have always understood this.   A vow of poverty is a vow of engaging loss, based in the knowledge that only letting go can open the possibility of finding new.   But loss is wearing, very wearing.   The believer is happy, the doubter is wise, as the Hungarians said.

TBB watches her friends lose what they valued, and is touched by their sadness and grief.  But she also knows that the gracious engagement of loss is vital for the gracious engagement of the new.  It has always been thus.

I make people crazy because they want soundbytes about possibility that aren’t bound up in tales of loss, want snippets about rebirth that are not bound up in the experience of death.

That ambiguity makes them feel crazy, because they love what they are holding onto, or at least they are habituated to it.

And often that craziness makes them lash out at the messenger.  If people would just be silent, they could have their dreams and deny them too.

I know why people hate me.

But, for me, experiencing that hate is just another form of loss.

Yes, Star

When TBB and I met, the first thing we knew about each other was this: we both grew up big, with star quality.   No shrinking violets, we, which is why The Drama Queens (We have no act, we have no talent!) worked.

TBB is at lobby day, feeling a bit out of place among people who paid their way to DC because they know the answer, and know that the government is the path to getting what they want.

And me, well I am walking two people to the grave, having trouble making the small changes whilst I am denied the big changes, even if my tongue is literally sliced to ribbons.

There is a key adage in improv: Say yes.  It may be easy to get the joke by negating the premise, it may be more comfortable to change the premise to one you have done before, but that’s the wrong attitude.

The right attitude is to enter the world that is set, to say yes, to engage, to show up.

 TBB, well, people feel the energy from her, and her energy always comes from saying yes, fron entering the new possibility.  She focuses on you, affirms and empowers you, and it feels great.   Her son demanded she sing show tunes at the bar, and, after six or seven songs, the piano player wants her back again tonight.

So many people know the answers before they arrive, and anything which challenges that answer is dismissed.  This is a way of constraining possibility to the non-challenging, of pre-editing stories so they won’t twist into new possibility.

For me, my trans energy and my life energy are the same thing.  Being forced to deny my trans nature was being forced to deny my life.   And liberation, at least to me, is not about new rules, but about new possibility, the possibilities that open up when we say yes to life, to energy, to who we are and how we can shine.

When TBB and I were getting back together after her emergence and surgery, I asked her to say “Yes” to me, over and over.  She didn’t quite understand,  thought it was silly.

But to be a star, even a star-a-boletti, you have to say yes.

But no, not right now.

Thrilling & Terrifying

I’ve been working on my speech for Southern Comfort Conference 2009.

Don’t get me wrong.  Nobody has asked me to speak, nor will they.

I just have something to say.

I want to tell that crowd that the most thrilling thing and the most terrifying thing they can imagine is true.

People can see who they really are.

So many transpeople, well, we want people to see who we pretend to be, the persona we wish to pass as.  That might be a man, a woman, a radical, a clown or something else, but it is what we have decided to present.

Problem is that what counts, in the end, is not who we present ourselves to be, rather it is who we are.

And that means our challenge isn’t to present, rather it is to become.

To become whole, to become integrated, to become actualized, to become authentic, to become ourselves.

To be seen for who we really are.  Isn’t that our deepest dream?

To be seen for who we really are.  Isn’t that our deepest fear?

TBB, well, things have changed for her in the last month or so.   Changed in ways she could never expect.

She had trouble with a co-worker.


Not because he didn’t like queers.  No.  Rather, it was because he didn’t like women on ships.  And TBB, well, she is one of those infuriating women who want to talk and process rather than just grunt.   Such a girl.

The showdown meeting was a breakthrough.  TBB, well, she handled it like a woman.  Just trying to find a workable solution, rather than trying to get the upper hand.  Her bosses appreciated the approach, even if it baffled her co-worker who wanted to go mano-a-mano, measuring in a test of dominance.

When TBB got home, she finally got her grown-up haircut, away from the long hair she has worn for years now.

Then, a few weeks ago at an LGBT coffee, a man asked her out.  And she went.

Dates.  And sex.  And phone calls.  And nice.  He likes her.  He likes her maturity, he likes her ass.  He wants to buy her clothes so he can see her in dresses.  And she wants to help him get a little more style.

Now, TBB knows clearly that she made good choices in the past years.  Her wife was wrong when she said no man would ever desire TBB.  And what TBB had to give up to get to this point now seems very small compared to what she has gained.

“You are right, you are 107% right,” she tells me, “even if people will hate you for saying it.  Going to Trinidad and spending $20,000 doesn’t buy you womanhood.  The only way you get that is to burn away the old and find the essence.  I see that my journey is important, and I thank you for being there, encouraging my choices even when you knew they were dead ends, and helping me see context that kept me going.  I wish everyone could have you to help.”

Of course, I had my own journey, but while TBB is a NLP kinaesthetic, who needs to feel truth, I am a NLP auditory; I need to hear it.  And from the beginning I have been entering the stories of women and transpeople to find truth, which is what lead me to my understanding of self and world.  That’s hard for many to understand, especially when my understanding contradicts their desire, their desire to believe in the possibility of being who they want to pretend to be rather than being who they are.

TBB is moving beyond her crossdresser fantasies of womanhood to actually be a woman.  It’s much harder than she ever imagined.  And much more rewarding.  She spent the night chatting away to a girlfriend who went through puberty as a female while her husband was in the other room watching soccer.  TBB connected.  “I finally get all that Sex And The City stuff,” she tells me, thinking about the cock of Samantha’s Malibu neighbor.

People can see TBB for who she is, beyond the expectations placed on her history and her biology.

Now, those people include TBB herself.

And that is heartening to everyone who believes that transgender is about pure transformation or it is about nothing at all.

I know that so much of the ideology around trans is about hiding, about milestones.  We are told that genital reconstruction surgery is a big deal, told by the hoops we have to jump through to get it, so we assign it meaning.   Many transsexuals believe that it is the surgery that should change everything, in the same way that many crossdressers believe that not choosing the surgery means nothing changes.    The old Guy-In-A-Dress Line.

And that’s what I want to say, even if almost nobody wants to hear it.

The most thrilling thing and the most terrifying thing you can imagine is true.

People can see who you really are.

And that means your challenge isn’t to present, rather it is to become.

To become whole, to become integrated, to become actualized, to become authentic, to become yourself.

To be seen for who you really are.  Isn’t that your deepest dream?

To be seen for who you really are.  Isn’t that your deepest fear?


My comments from a discussion on the future of transgender on DonnaBlog

A decade or so ago, I came to understand that a definitional term is a limit to integration.

We have gay people now, and we tend find the term homosexual people to be somewhat disparaging, something a fundamentalist preacher in a pulpit would use.

Transgender is pretty clinical, even if we came to it to get past other and more limiting terms. Personally, I hate it when people talk about the “transgenders” as if we are our category, though to me at least, transpeople or transgender people is fine. And many find derivatives of transgender, like “trannny” to be very distasteful.

I wondered if we could find a more engaging word. One possibility I came up with was “flip;” we flip sex and gender. I wouldn’t mind someone saying “She’s a flip,” acknowledging my gender while communicating my difference. To me, it seems much less clinical, much more light.

Yet I know that people who identify as transgender, or who can be identified as transgender do not yet have any common origin story or beliefs. At least gay men know that they are men who love other men, and that the struggles from Mattachine forward have created some common tenets.

This means that any new term will be dissected and resisted and rejected by some.

But, gosh, I’d like to have a polite, non-clinical and somewhat respectful term that we own about ourselves. And I don’t think “gender-variant” or “gender-queer” do the trick.

Give us a cute nickname, one nice enough that we won’t wince when we hear it!

Gay and Lesbian and Flips?

Maybe, maybe not.

But damn, we need something cute.

= = = = = = =

Renee mentions the word “conventional” and it reminds me of a classic quote by Harry Benjamin to Christine Jorgensen; “We don’t know what normal is,” he said, “we only know what is conventional.”

For me, that idea is expressed by the difference between the words normal and normative. Normal is a wide band of possible behaviours and choices, while normative is the set of expectations for this place and this community. It’s normal that some humans speak Spanish, but it may be normative in a specific community that people speak English. I live within the normal, even if I am not normative.

Personally, I need to be able to talk about my experience in the world, and my experience has not been and will never be the same as someone who went through puberty as a female. I may live in the gender role of woman, being seen as a woman, but doesn’t make me female, with all of the expectations laid on that reproductive biology.

I need concepts and words to talk about my experience, and yes, I don’t think “transgender” is the end of the line on those terms.

And for those who think the word “flip” is too flippant, one question: Is the word “gay” too gay?

On Drag

Some notes to a friend on drag”

In my experience, there is no such thing as a uniform type of drag, which I find fascinating.

Montreal is full of clowny drag characters, while SF is full of queer drag characters, Dallas full of glamour golden helmet drag, Chicago full of earnest performance drag (Honey West and Alexandra Billings come to mind) and so on, and so on, and so on.  Be it NYC or Boise, drag styles are very regional.

To me, drag is just gender taken to abstraction.  And in that, it is revelatory.

Gay men who show their (real or figurative) cocks poking out from under their mini skirt, well, they creep me out.  They seem to be fighting the suit rather than working it, and that is creepy, be it goofy Wal-Mart managers at a big meeting or crossdressers.

From my 1995 keynote

What’s Wrong With Drag?, Kim France,
New York July 17, 1995

If it weren’t so politically correct to be in favor of drag — and if the question of drag weren’t so closely tied into the broader issues of gay rights — drag would long ago have been dismissed as hopelessly politically incorrect. When men dress up and act like grossly unpleasant versions of women, we women have a right to heave our surgically un-enhanced breasts in a fit of pique. Drag queens will insist that they don’t really want to be women, they just want to honor us, darling. Which was exactly how Al Jolson felt about his [blackface] minstrel shows.

The kinds of performers who are doing the best things with drag are those who are striving for pure transformation as opposed to base caricature.

When drag reveals mysogyny or self-hated, well, it creeps me out.

But when gender abstraction, drag performance reveals some essence or power, it makes me thrilled.

I don’t see drag as one thing to communicate, any more than I see writing as one thing to communicate.  They are both modes of communication, and they can both be crap and can both be transcendent.

If you go back to Butler and work with gender as performance, albeit mostly unconscious performance, then the line between conventional gender performance and drag performance exists mostly in the abstraction and intensity of the performance.  By definition, drag always both conceals and reveals, hiding something to expose something else.  But isn’t that true of every performance?

Some drag is reverent, some satirical.   But even that satirical drag has to find a focus of satire.  Does it parody culture, or expectations, or whole classes of people?  What’s the point?   I couldn’t say all parody is stupid ass stuff, but I do know a lot of it that is.

I know that you want to express a truth in your life.  You aren’t trying to mock or be mocked.  I think great drag, like any great communication, always contains truth, even if twisted.   That’s why I love Kiki & Herb, and I don’t really have any fondness for RuPaul at all.   Ru has nothing to say, just wants to be a Disney character in the culture of marketing, while Justin is clear that everything they do is political.

Drag is play.  It may be the kind of play that kids engage in, trying new ways of being, or the kind of play we see on a stage, where essences and abstractions reach to express deeper and more ambiguous truths, but it is always play.

When you have someone shit on you, you need “what the fuck.”  “What the fuck” is what allows us to walk through the boundaries of expectation, to move beyond our comfort zone, to try the scary.

“But you might get shit on!”

“Oh, what the fuck.  I have been shit on before; let me just take a shot.”

This is the old pride parade issue.  Sure, at work, you need to be appropriate.  But one Sunday in July you can go and get over the top pretty and say “Fuck ‘Em If They Can’t Take a Joke!”

Play has been important, at least to me.

Now that doesn’t mean I don’t look at the wigs that will be on sale at “Gals Spring Fling” in Ganonoque on the weekend and think that they all look like drag wigs, that would look over the top unless you are in a club or under 25.   Ick.


But, I can see the fun there, the play, the abstraction.

I just also know that the vast majority of participants at GSF won’t understand how ironic their choices are, how they play into submurged Eros and not to aware wit.  Ick.

For me, drag isn’t one thing.   It’s just a medium.  And much of it squicks me, makes me queasy.

But some is fun and revelatory and transformative and magical.   Think Kiki & Herb, Justin & Kenny.   Awesome.

And that bit opens up my energy and opens up my heart.


My mother wants me to go to the cheap dental clinic and have my teeth fixed.

To her, that means rippped out and replaced by false ones.

She doesn’t want me to go to be healthy or to avoid pain.

She doesn’t want to look at my teeth.

It’s the same as hiding the cracks under the rug; it’s not suffering, pain, or bad health that’s the issue, it’s that my mouth disturbs her.

I find this massively offensive, the same as her tacit request that I not appear queer.

And she finds my resistance incomprehenisble.

There are bigger issues for my long term health, even if they are not visible to her.

But as my mother, she doesn’t care about my health, she only cares about what discomfits her.


Wanna bet she’ll try to have my sister strong-arm me again and hurt me even worse?


Of course, truth is stranger than fiction.

Fiction has to be sold.

For many transpeople, the key need is to develop a plausible and saleable story about who they are.

And that means they need a convienent and effective fiction that explains and justifies their own choices.

This is the school of trans as marketing, creating a fictional character that is compelling and comprehensible.

For them, it’s not about truth, it is about effective manipulation of expectations & stereotypes to get what they want and need.

For me, these are the scary, scary transpeople, the ones who always have something hidden, and that something is usually anger and venality.

In Normal, Amy Bloom talked about glint in the eye of self-diagosed crossdressers, who tried to create a surface of respectability, but in whom Eros glinted underneath.   To me, that’s just part of the “Now I’m Biff, Now I’m Suzy” pendulum that always scares me, the swing between one projection and another.

My goal has always been integration, from the earliest out days of “guy-in-a-dress” to my presentations.

The side effect of that goal, though, has always been ambiguity and strangeness, the kind that leaves me isolated and lonely.

People like people they understand, people like them.

And that’s why so many transpeople get so good at fiction, at manipulation.    They create walls rather than destroy them, pretend that there is an inside where we can gather, rather than a call to queerness where everyone is connected in the ambivalence of human life.

I know, I know, I know that a digestible story is the best way to be product, to sell to other humans.

But those fictions, covering those hidden twists, well, they have always lead me to see sickness.

And fear.

Door Into Womanhood

My niece is turning the corner.  She is graduating college, entering the work world, has a brand new husband, planning to leave home and set up her own house, all in one fell swoop.

She has been an isolated and internalized gal, engaging her horses and not her world.  She didn’t even go to the university library until her senior year, even though her grades were fantastic.

But now she feels the call, the need, to spread her wings and fly.  She’s scared, wanting to pull back, but knowing that the only choice is to be a butterfly and soar.  It’s terrifying.

I believe in her.  I don’t believe in her next two weeks or her next two months or even her next two years.   That’s going to be hard, and she is going to stress out and make mistakes and learn hard lessons by being dropped on her head.

What I believe in is her next twenty years.  I know she will learn from each problem, getting better and more confident.  She’s smart, and late bloomers are often the best bloomers.

I gave her an image to hold onto, one of her in a fuzzy robe, holding a mug of tea, and listening to her kids fight in the next room.   She has made them a home, given them what they need, and she is happy.

“Become the person your kids can be proud of as their parent,” I told her.

“Become the woman your kids can be proud of as their mother.”

That’s the challenge we each have, becoming the person that we can be proud of, the person who embodies the best we can be.

It is the message I wish someone gave me when I was her age, the notion that my success wouldn’t come from denying my nature, but rather from exploring and polishing it.   The idea that I am good enough, that I have the right stuff, I just need to build it into a life.

Instead, though, I was pulled into the damn momentary drama around my mother’s failure cycle and my father’s disconnection.   I was around people who wanted me involved in the shit, rather than people who were confident that I could rise above it and be better, with just work and rehersal.

I wish I had believed that I could build a home I could bring others into, rather than looking for others to complete me.

That time is gone for me, but she is just starting out, moving beyond girlhood to womanhood.

And I know she can be the woman her kids are proud to have as a mother.

I know it.