Sweet, sweet TBB called me last night to remind me of the fundamentals.
“If you are open, easy, honest and authentic, people will respond positively to you. You will never be perfect, and striving to cover up all of your nature is just a recipe for sadness. You need to just trust that you are good enough and appealing enough just as you are, and that’s what will give you strength in the world.”
All excellent points, indeed. And they are the points I have made to her over the past eight years as she has moved from trying to be a success in the home of transsexual separatism, Trinidad Colorado, through trying to play small in various jobs, trying to hide her nature rather than be exposed, and having that blow up in her face, to the point she is now, an honest and beautiful woman of transsexual experience. Now she isn’t trying to hide, and that makes people around her much more comfortable, now she has support for who she is because she is strong in being a member of a community at work.
That progress has been great to watch, and that’s why I often just ask her to tell me stories about her life, stories about how she has been affirmed from Taiwan to Charleston. It’s great and empowering to me to hear about how she gets more and more clear, more close to self.
I understand the concept. Just stand in front of the mirror and say the serenity prayer, changing what you can, having serene acceptance of the way you are, of what you cannot change, and being centred in the wisdom of knowing and trusting the difference. If you think you can or of you think you can’t, you are right.
TBB likes the image from The Matrix, where the lead character has to believe that they can leap between buildings before they are able to do that. They fall, they get back up and they try again, eventually mastering their own power.
I like Joseph Campbell
A bit of advice
given to a young Native American
at the time of his initiation:
“As you go the way of life,
you will see a great chasm.
It is not as wide as you think.”
Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion, Edited by Diane K. Osbon, Harper-Collins 1991
I agree with TBB. Heck, here is me agreeing in 13 years ago.
It’s just that I know the challenges, too. Not all of the stories that TBB shares are so positive. Recently, in NYC, a Indian waiter decided TBB wasn’t worthy, and disrespected her in front of the party she was hosting for her children and their friends. Nasty. And at Christmas she hosted a gathering for family, which she succeeded at, but the demand to be dad to the kids, son to her mother and brother to her sibling’s family had a big cost.
TBB is much more in the groove when she is around a group of people who know her as a bold, tender transwoman and treat her like that. At the end of a day being seen and valued, she can go into the world in a comfort zone, so centred that other people respond in the only way that they can.
Finding that kind of community, well, it’s not easy. And it’s so easy to get pulled back by fear, by your fear or the fear of people around you.
And one other big thing. TBB didn’t feel the power of yesterday’s koan, “Always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. Then always be a unicorn.”
When I met TBB, she was huge and out there, creating something so powerful and amazing that it lives today, so awesome that it has empowered people of transgender experience for over twenty years now. She was big and breathtaking.
TBB is not back to that place yet. She is still trying to be one of the gang.
One thing that we come back to is that we need people to be more themselves, no matter how big that makes them. We need Kate to be more Kate, we need Holly to be more Holly, need TBB to be TBB, need Cali to be Cali.
In other words, we need people to be the unicorn that we see inside of them.
It’s easy to see the unicorn inside of others and encourage them to bring that out in the world, easy to encourage them to be special, unique and magical.
It’s not nearly as easy to go and always be the unicorn that you glimpse inside yourself, because you know people are just going to try and cut off your damn horn. You know that because they have done it before, claiming it’s too big, too overwhelming, too sharp, too disruptive in the world.
I know how challenging I am in the world. I have been told since I was a young child, reminded every day that I was “stupid” for not assimilating and playing small.
I’m really happy that TBB can assimilate so well. But I miss her being as big and bold and potent as I have seen her be in the world. I crave the kind of performance from her that fills a room with energy, big brilliant energy, the kind I have seen from her when she lets herself just fly.
I suspect that kind of assimilation isn’t something I get to do.
The deal I cut with TBB last night is simple: I have to keep trying to go out in the world and find affirmation. It really wasn’t hard to agree, as the only other choice I see is death. Be reborn or stay dead.
For me, the biggest challenge is not understanding the requirement to leap, or even coming up with strategies.
The biggest challenge is trusting that these strategies will work for me, a goddamn huge unicorn.
“The best lesson I ever got in auditioning,” said Brett Butler, the comic who is very much a “too person,” “is to go in there like you have been killing for twenty minutes.” I knew that years ago, but unless you own that feeling of success and affirmation, really own it, it is awfully tough to invoke it.
I have quite a memory and see connections quickly. It’s hard for me to slough off moments by letting them go, leading to both low levels of latent inhibition and a very good imagination for what might go wrong in any moment. Both of these are strengths, no doubt, but they are also my weaknesses, leaving it hard for me to go into the world with a beginner’s view, as the Buddhists would say.
Still, TBB is right. “If you are open, easy, honest and authentic, people will respond positively to you. You will never be perfect, and striving to cover up all of your nature is just a recipe for sadness. You need to just trust that you are good enough and appealing enough just as you are, and that’s what will give you strength in the world.”
It’s just trusting that this advice can work even for unicorns that often escapes me. I understand the concept, I just don’t have much experience with good results.
But there is only one way to learn to leap. Leap, pick yourself up and do it again.
I just fear I am too old and decrepit for that strategy to pay off for me.
But fear doesn’t make magic, only love and trust in connection does.
One more time, eh?