“Do you want to be scary bright?”  the bereavement counsellor asked.

Apparently, she doesn’t remember me telling her about my eulogy for my father.  I told the story of how, in fifth grade, when the teacher had the class vote against my understanding of a scientific principle, but I held my ground, turning out to be correct.  I am my father’s child.

I never wanted to be one of the gang.  I never had the chops to be one of the gang. Assimilation isn’t my forte, though adaptation, consideration and empathy I’m good at.  There was  joke I liked as a kid: “I’d like to go to an orgy, but I’m afraid I wouldn’t know what to say.”   What comes naturally to me isn’t passion and herd behaviour, it’s thoughtful consideration.  I don’t think like everyone else, though I can figure out how they think if I take a moment.

But do I want to be different?  I have told the story of a therapist who offered me a lobotomy for the same HMO visit fee as his session.  It was a joke, a way to ask me if I would trade being smart and seeing the world in my own way for being a normie.  Of course, that wasn’t a trade I could make, wasn’t a trade I would want to make.

In my  What You Need To Know, number four is The most difficult thing about trans is negotiating others fears.  Of course, in my experience, my being queer, my being smart, my being sensitive, my being an iconoclast and everything else are all wrapped up together.  I know that people often find me scary, a phobogenic object, and they blame me for their fears.  Are they being transphobic, anti-intellectual, threatened or something else?  Or am I just an asshole?

All I know is that I work hard to be gracious and considerate, but that when they feel uncomfortable, people have no problem demanding I be even less, no matter how much I have scaled it back already.

Reminds me of the famous “Nelson Mandela” quote:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”, Ch. 7, Section 3 (1992)

My playing small does not serve the world. But my playing big often feels too big to others.

I did the ACIM work, and I wrote an affirmation that I used as a startup quote on my phone:

Your success is a gift to the world.

This is something lost in some support groups I have experienced, where the speed of the group is tied to the most abject members.  “How can you brag about your successes while they are suffering?”   It’s not just our suffering we share, it is also ur success, and if there is no room for success, there is no room for healing.   Success isn’t just self-aggrandizement, it is a gift to the world.

I’m not trying to be scary bright.  I’m just being myself, the child of my parents, the child of my God, but, in my experience, many people find who I am too damn big.  a “Too Person” — too big, too bright, too queer, too insightful, too challenging, too off-putting, too intense, too overwhelming.

But I have learned to play small.

As my father said on his deathbed, over and over, “You speak for me.  You speak for your mother.  When are you going to speak for you?”

I know who I am.  And I know that many people have found it scary bright, just too much for them.

But if I can’t speak for myself now, when will I ever be able to?

Thank You, Sir

Staring just around his stroke, about a year and a half before his eventual death, I never left my father for the night with out saying “Thank you, Sir..  Thank you for everything.”    I wanted him to know, just in case I didn’t see him again.

Turns out that even they stylistas agree with this choice.


Having been with both my parents when they died, expressing gratitude and/or love seemed the only choice.

But then, isn’t that always the right choice?


My mother couldn’t tolerate loss.

She just didn’t want to handle letting anything go.

My father had to do all that work.  In his last six months, he kept losing function, including paraplegia, but he remained upbeat and hopeful.  Even before he had let go of driving, let go of many things he loved.

My mother, though, was another story.  And as I start to clear out the huge piles of crap she left — I was just working on toiletries from various hotels, mostly generic soap bits — I realize what makes a good death.  In a good death, you work to put your affairs in order, to let go and take your own emotional crap with you.  In a bad death, you make others do that work, make others responsible for your own messes.

I don’t mind that my mother chose to die.  I do mind that she chose to never really engage loss, to never really take responsibility for her own mess.

I think of a friend of my mothers who very deliberately went through the process of paring down her possessions, who gave away what was important.

That didn’t happen here.  And the piles are mind-bending.

I have dealt with loss before.  The purge before I ended up in this house was massive, letting go of so much and only being left with what fit in some plastic cartons.

And I cope with loss now.  I find that after four years, whatever is going on with my feet, maybe neuropathy, maybe auto-immune disease, has left them too swollen and too painful to fit in any of my carefully collected shoes and boots.  I am stuck with sheepskin boots and big hoppers, with no money to buy more.

And as I clean up my the stuff my mother could not bear to part with, even cheap throwaway toiletries, I have to engage my own loss once more, the loss of decades living as trans in a world of stigma.

You go on the heroes quest, you face the dragon with “Thou Shalt” on every scale, you stumble and find your gift, you open and change, engaging loss, but the hardest part of the journey is always the last bit, when you have to return the gift to a world that does not want it, because if they wanted it, they would have it.

And eventually, you are too worn, too tired and too broken from comping not just with your own loss, but the loss others laid on you, the loss of their own comforting indolence, loss that was just too much too much to bear for them.

And you wonder how in hell you can plow through anymore, how you can eat any more unprocessed loss, any more  unconsidered shit.

The Work, The Cost

I was talking with the bereavement counsellor yesterday about the challenges I have faced in my family.

“How do you maintain your relationship with your family?” she asked.

“It’s easy,” I replied.  “I do all the work.”

I explained that I have the capacity to understand what someone else thinks, feels and believes, that I can get into their world.  I know what they need, how to take care of them.  I have that skill.

But I haven’t found that other people can do the same with me.  Entering my world, then acting on that understanding, well, not something I expect.

I told stories about this effect, like how people liked me at Kripalu because I could help them get a bit of what they need, bu they couldn’t do the same for me.  How I had a challenge with a friend’s partner, so I offered to write a piece from her point of view, so she would feel heard, know she was understood, if she would write a piece from mine.  My friend told me that would never work, not because I couldn’t do what I offered, but because the partner could not.  It was an unreasonable request for them to be considerate to me.

The same pattern happens in my family.  I had to prove that I understood my sister-in-law’s concerns even as I was dealing with two sick parents, but she had no ability to hold my concerns.  My sister worked to support me, and I asked her to feedback to me what she heard from me, to assure me I was being heard, but that never happened.

It was explained to me when I was very young that it was the obligation of the one who was different to do the work.  Conventional people had no obligation to understand freaks, but freaks had an obligation to consider the normative and expected in every action.  That’s how stigma works, demanding the impossible.   The most difficult thing for me about being transgender is negotiating people’s fears, as I wrote ten years ago.  And not being seen and valued for my own unique gifts has always been hard, even as I try to explain.

For me, in a family laced with Aspberger’s Syndrome, where emotional intelligence was often scarce even if intelligence was valued, the requirement to understand others without being understood has always been a challenge.  My nickname in the family was “Stupid” until I was about 12 and the therapist told them to stop, “Stupid” because I was incomprehensible to my parents, not doing what they wanted and expected.

I learned early that I had to understand my mother’s moods to keep on her good side, had to manage and take care of her from a very young age.  And I had to reach out to help my father when he got slammed by her, had to support him though her moods.

Or, as TBB said about her Christmas with family, “I put in nine years of work, and they put in four days.”

“Isn’t that hard?” the bereavement counsellor asked.

“No.” I replied.  “I have been doing the work of understanding and taking care of others without being understood for years.  I know how to do it.”

“But,” she asked, looking for the words

“Yes,” I agreed.  “There is and has been an enormous cost to always feel the obligation to take care of others without them taking care of me.  There has been an enormous cost in giving what other people need without getting what I need.  There has been an enormous cost in having to stay small to consider others without them considering me.  An enormous cost.”

“I suspect there would have been,” she answered, not understanding the cost of living with stigma, living queer in the world.  She had asked me if people really had trouble with transpeople earlier, and while I said that it was easier today, all it took was someone who felt indignant that their conventional borders were broken, who felt offended and threatened to really make trouble for a transperson.  I reminded her how much that women’s culture depended on the bonding of being able to know they weren’t like those stupid men, and she understood, recognizing that as both as a price of admission and as a challenge that transpeople offered as they reminded us of our continuous common humanity beyond the imaginary borders between us and them that keep people feeling safe, snug and smug.

The cost, at least for me, to walk in the world as queer, smart and challenging to assumptions that give comfort has been enormous.  The obligation to understand without being understood, to value without being valued, to consider without being considered, to care without being care for, to offer unconditional love without being loved unconditionally has been enormously costly to me in my life, taking so much of the life force I could have spent on flourishing.

And I don’t really see how to change that pattern.


It took three months for my mother to get her final diagnosis of lung cancer.  Napier is an asshole.

But in that time, I knew what I had to convey, what I had to bring.

To quote the gang at Wikipedia

In religion, transcendence refers to the aspect of God’s nature and power which is wholly independent of (and removed from) the material universe.

Or as De Chardin said:

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

If all you see is the material universe, if all you see is the human experience, well, then death is nothing but a terrifying shock. But if there is some bigger context, well, death is just another transition.

More than that, if we see our human experience as just part of our spiritual experience, we will feel empowered to do things that transcend the mundane, that transcend social, human convention.

For most of human history, when life was short and death was omnipresent, this transcendence was taken for granted.  It’s why people acted from courage and died, knowing that something bigger awaited them.

We live in a different time now, where life has been extended so much that it is easy to believe that our human life is the point, the only point of existence.  We have no context for death, which is why massacres now seem even more futile and crushing, even as they become easier to create with effective mass human killing guns so available, at least in the US.

My mission statement, on the front page of my website since 1997, is

“In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender transgression remind us of our continuous common humanity.”
Anthropologist Anne Bolin

In other words, gender crossing reminds all humans that what defines us is the content of our character, not the colour or shape of or skin.   It is our essence that makes us, not our flesh and bones, which makes dividing people very, very silly indeed.

My mother couldn’t cope with loss, so she decided to die.  Her death was, in the end, deliberate and wilful.  The idea that she could transcend the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to just was beyond her ken.  I tell the story of her death as being romantic, but I don’t quite believe it.  It feels more like a denial of life, a denial of the possibilities of life.   She didn’t think she was moving on, making a transition, saying goodbye to those here, she just wanted out.

The challenge for me is how to claim life again.  To claim a mundane and conventional life seems to me to be torture, no matter how much people around me want to deny the idea of transcendence, to deny the affirmation of spirit and play.  They want to deny the possibility of transcending beyond convention, beyond the limits of their mundane view, no matter how much that locks them in a world of death and decay,  a world where fear always triumphs over love.

“Bah, humbug,” they spit, and end up spitting on me.  They can’t embrace my reality, so they dump on it.

Still, what I have to bring, if no longer for my parents, but for myself and the world, is a sense of transcendence, that something counts more than the flesh, that something exists beyond the mundane.

So Many TBB

Just got the Christmas report from TBB.

She achieved her nine year goal.  She hosted Christmas dinner with her mother and kids, plus her ex and her brother’s family, who have been estranged from her since she transitioned.

It was a good day.

It just wasn’t enough, though.  A pink crescent wrench?  No one knows what to buy her.

Today, she is alone again in her house, and feeling the need to throw things out.  Those thigh-high boots with the broken zipper?  Gone.

But from the back of the closet she dug out the spare pair of thigh-high boots she bought years ago, fresh and neat and ready to go.

And this New Years Eve, well Power TBB is coming out of the closet.  Stiletto boots and a mini? Why not?  Fuck ’em!

I have seen so many TBB over the last two decades I have known her.  Crossdresser, drama queen, transsexual, parent, engineer, organizer, so many roles I can’t name them all. No simple binary for her, ever.  A complex and beautiful human, absolutely.

Her story reminded me of the first time I met Virginia, the White Prince of Crossdressers.  The Prince wanted to talk about my masculine side and my femme side, but i wanted to talk about all the sides of me.  After all, when I was a kid, the first time I knew I was very different was when I saw Jonathan Winters and instantly understood how all those characters lived inside of him.

TBB worked so hard for most of a decade to achieve what she achieved this Christmas, all the family together and happy at Christmas.

Now she gets to keep growing and achieve new things, to find new TBBs, or just let some of the more intense ones fly a little bit.

There must be a lesson there, but I’ll be dammed if I can figure out what it is.


I made Christmas dinner yesterday for my sister and her boyfriend.  She wanted it, ostensibly so she could feel good I wasn’t alone, but really because she needed to be taken care of, no matter how I felt.

It was ironic, because after I prepared Thanksgiving dinner so he could bring the turkey, they neither called me upstairs to dinner or left me any turkey at all.  No Thanksgiving for me this year.

They did very little support.  I asked her to bring a gluten free desert for her, as I only had my father’s favourite pie and the whipped cream they denied my mother at Thanksgiving (and that she complained about.)  He stopped at the milk store and got mint chip ice cream, spray creme and a can of chocolate sauce.   And a friend of hers had given me a bottle of wine, which my sister decided was for her dinner.

Money is tight, but I bought and marinated a beef roast, veggies and scalloped potatoes, which my sister said she would have asked for.

Just before dinner, my father’s account got a spam e-mail with the subject header “Why do not you answer me?”  My sister even blanched when she heard that, so like my father’s speech in his last weeks.  Disquieting.

I knew I needed to entertain, so got lots of television to distract them.

I put on Love Actually after dinner.  When it was done, my sister’s boyfriend felt the need to explain how all that Christmas magic and love stuff was just bullshit.  Stupid, romantic bullshit.  To him, sex is just hormones but true love is best exemplified in Fiddler On The Roof, where an arranged marriage has grown into understanding comfort.  Asshole.  He’s just explaining why he can’t give my sister romance, play and support, why he rejects the emotional. A professional balloon clown who rejects play, love and theatre; no wonder that career never took off.

I explained why he was wrong, in great detail.  He said I loved this conversation, being cathartic.  I explained that giving an enema to assholes who are full of shit wasn’t really my idea of fun, but he didn’t get it.

My sister said later that she just wanted to hit him.

But still, she stays with him.

He thinks people do crazy ass shit for love.

I agree.   But I wouldn’t have it any other way.  We need the eggs.

But I knew that I had been right to make no effort to invoke Christmas magic and be pretty.   It would have been shat on and rejected, just like when I was taken to Hedwig for my birthday in 2001, all wet blanket and mortified silence, followed by the attack on the World Trade Center.

I had to come out of my own space to take care of people who want to shit on love and magic, or want to stay with people who do.

This was my worst Christmas.


Nobody’s Girl

I’m trying to get the spirit this year, even if just a whiff of it.  But Christmas is a time to come together, and after a decade, I’m skint. No network, no system, just a sister who seems to want me to take care of her even when I’m the one who feels battered,  Having to tell her it’s going to be right seems to obviate the truth that I don’t know myself how I will turn out.

So I found and watched a copy of “Love Actually,” Richard Curtis’ corny and joyous celebration of Christmas love.  Holidays need some theatre to me, some kind of movement that leads to catharsis and joy, and cinema was the best I can get right now, with no audience of my own.

Not surprisingly, the character I empathize with most is the one played by Emma Thompson, a strong woman,  mother & sibiling, who wants, at Christmas, to be someone’s girl for a little bit.  And she thinks she will be too, when she sees her husband buying a swank gold necklace.  But when her gift is some CDs, she faces the challenge of any aging woman, wondering if she is ever going to be someone’s girl again, or if romance has passed her by, leaving her humiliated and sexless.

The big difference between her character and me is that I never got to be anyone’s girl.  Not a cute little girl, not one of the girls, not a girlfriend.  And when I look at representations of transgender women, I see how that age has passed me by, even if it was ever available to someone who was never slight of build. never a “trap.”

And so, like many older women, I know that it may only be service that can get me connection.  TBB asked me what I was going to do now, and I joked that I was going to go to a bar, find an unreliable loser, bring them home, take care of them and let them bleed me dry.  It’s what so many lonely women do.

But I’m not simply a lonely woman, trying to recapture her days of attractiveness.  I’m a lonely transwoman, who never had that kind of adoration and affirmation.

And on Christmas, especially, that seems like a very cold place.

Anthracite Walnut

I can hold it in my hand, or at least believe that I am holding it.

It’s smooth, rippled and oval, like the walnuts that came in the Christmas bowl that was outfitted with crackers and picks.

It’s also black, hard and cold like the chunks I would pick up by the coal yard next to the train station.  A lump of hard coal, for Christmas.

And somewhere in that anthracite walnut is the spark I put away so many years ago now.

I cup it in my hand, feeling the cold weight of it. and I blow on it, breath still warm and moist, as if I was still alive.

Can I warm it up enough to feel a shiver of the energy trapped in it? Is there something in that shrivelled nugget that can still vibrate, still pulse?

Years ago I was sent to Kripalu for healing.  My sister told my parents it was good for me, that people valued me.  I told them it was bad for me, proving only that I have the capacity to give people what they value, but they have little capacity to give me what I value.  I know how to move into other people’s worlds, to illuminate and warm, but my world stays solitary.

After the appointment with the lawyer revealed how my sister failed me again, the next time she saw me she wanted a hug.  She wanted me to reach out to her and make her feel better, even as all she offered were promises that sounded even more hollow now than they did before.

Her friend wanted me to do tech support, wanted me to drag her brain into understanding.  She wanted to help my sister, but she didn’t want to have to say that the goal was to help my sister manage the estate, as her friend didn’t want to upset me.  So many failures, so much time, so much effort on my part.  I know.  They want to kill me.  I get it.

Her ex wanted me to reach out to a transperson who is having trouble finding a place for expression and reflection in this world.  Yes, I know the problem. And no, after four years, ten years of conscious denial, I have no answer to it.  Maybe the worst birthday of my life was when he, my sister and a friend demanded to take me again to the movie Hedwig And The Angry Inch, a kind of drag show, and sat like lumps, not reflecting any energy.  It felt like death.  And when I woke up the next morning, I watched the second plane fly into the World Trade Center live on TV.  My response was God bless the world, but the right response turned out to be God bless the USA.  Missed it again.

A walnut is a seed, but turned to anthracite, it will never sprout.  So many years, so much waste, so little fertility.  I know why trans gets twisted into Eros and fetish, so much easier than embracing essential life.

When I was 17, I had a greeting card printed up at LSC.

“Sure, we are all born to suffer and die,” it read.  On the inside, it continued, “But before you go, try the pâté.  It’s wonderful!”

All these decades later, and my taste buds seem to have disappeared, along with so much of my sensuality and vitality.

Are they in the anthracite walnut I hold this Christmas, or are they gone forever, leaving me fit only to service the needs of others?

War is over, if you want it.  War is over now.


It’s been a week today since my mother died, upstairs in her power recliner, just the nurse and I watching her slip away.  I made her her last meal the night before, gave her her last medications that morning.

Almost ten years of full time care giving to aging parents, starting in March 2003.  And it’s been almost four years since I actually saw myself, actually took the time to reveal my visage.

And now, somehow, I have to find my own voice again.

I know what this blog was when I started it in November 2005, seven years ago.   It was a private place to speak out loud what I had no one else to hear.

I know what this blog is now, after a year and a half of neglect. It has turned into a vessel of a few posts with hot button titles that people like to offer comments on, out of context of anything else on here.  The last comment was some fool who wanted to explain that most transpeople were idiots because they didn’t spend enough time and money to assimilate correctly, to have their body femaled enough so that the normies could let them pass unchallenged.  How that approach disempowers the voice of those with unique and profound trans histories, well, not engaged.  I haven’t approved that comment, haven’t approved the last 17 comments.  Just stopped.

But I know what my father wanted for me as he spent his last six weeks in hospital.  He wanted me to speak for me.  He thought it was time.  I knew that I couldn’t do that until my mother passed, but she called death to herself as fast as possible, and went a month later.

And now I am alone. I have a sister, who dropped the ball on estate planning, neglecting my mother’s wishes by getting an updated will that would have respected my decade here, not doing any asset transfers before death, not working with any professionals.  It’s a bloody mess.

But it is also my fault, as I took responsibility for others, became enmeshed, and didn’t take control of my own life.  The conflict of who I knew myself to be and who my Aspberger’s parents needed, well, just a huge gap.

Now, though, my challenge is to clean up the enormous mess they left me and to discover who I am, ten years older, ten years more decrepit, ten years gone, ten years whatever.  Dear Sarah says she misses my voice.  I assure her that no one misses it more than I do.

That doesn’t seem simple and easy.  I have to look in the mirror again, have to try and create a public persona more in harmony with my inner self, one that allows me to connect with others on a deeper level, to give my gifts and to accept my rewards.

And that seems, well, nigh impossible.

And, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.  I have given a lot of love, amen.

Now to trust that what goes around comes around, and that there is abundance in the world for the real me.


And nothing to do with people who come to this blog to argue their hobbyhorse point of how others are wrong, avoiding the complex and beautiful nuance of messy humanity.

Oh, well.

My Mother

My mother died yesterday at 3 PM.

It was exactly one month after my father died.

It was on what would have been my father’s 88th birthday.

She was clear from the moment my father died that she wanted to die too.  Hospice nurse doesn’t want to believe that people can will themselves to die, and that was a fight.

My brother’s wife decided that her family, including my brother, could not stop their routine to take time to mourn her.

But my sister and I did what the whole family did after my father’s death, out to dinner with a grace.

Then we went to the spot next to the river where my parents used to love sit, look out and eat ice cream.  I bought their usual, a double dip dish of chocolate and maple walnut, and my sister and I ate on a black, dark night.

Then I levered the ice cream out of the bowl into the water.

“Some ice cream for the birthday party,” I said.  “Enjoy being together again.”

My sister and I held hands and walked back to the car.