I once told Ms. R. that I wanted an editor.
“Why?” she asked. “You write very well.”
“I know,” I said, “but what I don’t have is the perspective on how to package my work up so it resonates with an audience.” The challenge of making product, the challenge of becoming product.
Walking in the world, I limit the risks that I take. I play it safe and small. I know that.
For example, I don’t trust sweetening my voice, afraid it would sound fake and not pretty. I don’t smile enough, I don’t speak enough and I certainly don’t flirt enough.
My little fantasy is simple. I imagine wearing a wireless IFB earwig and getting performance tips from a director, one who has a better. less biased and fearful view of what is happening in the moment. I dream about coaching, someone who can help me go farther towards trusting my feminine side, towards putting my weight on my pins and learning to dance, someone who will help me pull back when needed and push forward when possible.
I watch other transwomen, watch how they have not learned to trust their womanly expression, so they stay defended. They don’t have the experience of being a teen girl, in the company of friends, learning how to work what they have, learning to trust the power of their beauty.
Every time I don’t trust my own femininity then stigma wins. I know that. But stigma wins the conventional way, because other people do feel empowered to call me out, to challenge, humiliate and destroy me in the moment.
When asked about the experience of being a transwoman, I used to tell an old golf joke.
Arnold Palmer gets an offer to play a single round of golf for a million dollars. His handicap, though, is three gotchas. He takes the deal, and on the first tee, just as he is about to swing, his opponent shoves his hand between Arnie’s legs, squeezes his scrotum and screams “GOTCHA!” in his ear. Arnie muffs the shot. On the second green, just as Arnie is about to putt, it happens again, the hand, the hard squeeze, the “GOTCHA!” Arnie gets into the clubhouse, and he has lost by six strokes. His friend asks how he could have lost. Arnie answers “Did you ever play 16 holes of golf while waiting for the third “GOTCHA!”?”
I need to move beyond the experience of waiting for the third gotcha. If that’s all I am doing, well, what the hell fun am I going to have anyway?
Where is that voice in my ear that says smile, slow down, look them in the eye, purr, wink, wiggle? I know the voice that makes my heart thump and hears every “Sir” people call me, the voice that keeps me alert for the third gotcha, but the voice that tells me the feminine looks more authentic on me than my defence does? That’s the voice I fantasize about hearing in my ear.
How do I understand how far I can go, how loose I can get?
TBB and I laughed again about the ultimate trans operation. The ultimate trans operation is the one where you finally pull the stick out of your own ass. “Oooh, that sounds painful,” quipped one gay bartender when I said it. “Yes,” I agreed, “very painful indeed. But just think how much more painful it is to leave that stick in there.”
The best time I had yesterday was hitting the supermarket during rush hour. As just one of the crowd, I was less self-conscious, knowing that others were much more interested in getting what they need and getting home than in judging me. Good, for someone with acute self-awareness, but more a technique of avoiding scrutiny than of trusting that even under examination I will be found beautiful.
I dream of someone who whispers in my ear to remind me that the looser and more present I am, the more beautiful I am.
But like so many things, I am left to negotiate others fears and hold open space for transformation alone.
And that’s always a challenge.