One of the big differences between our pitch and the others at Startup Weekend was that ours contained considered and conscious performance.
While I was at the centre of that performance with a minute and a half script as Caroline, two other teammates had written their performance as script, and Chris had included deliberate transitions in his segment.
That performance resonated with the judges, and we know that because of their praise of my voice.
I watched the What Not To Wear episode where they helped a transwoman, and Clinton got it. “For other women, bad fashion choices are just silly, but for you they can leave you exposed.”
What does this mean? It means that our performance has to be more considered and conscious than those who are normative, because failing has a greater set of risks for us.
It is very tempting to see transgender expression as a kind of negative expression, with a goal of erasing everything that will twig our status as non-normative. This is the underlying idea behind trans as concealment. “I was always a woman, always female, but with a birth defect, and anyone who would point out a birth defect is just a rude and horrible person. ”
TBB, who worked for a long while in Trindad, CO, sometimes chuckle about the transwomen who believe that genital reconstruction surgery will change everything, that erasing the penis will somehow change who you are. Do they believe that somehow, problems on the flight into Trinidad will magically disappear on the flight home? Sure, GRS may make you feel more congruent, and it may give you confidence to commit to change, but that simple erasure doesn’t change you.
TBB says the best part of her surgery was that it finally silenced family members who kept telling her to give up gender transition and go back to making her feminine nature invisible. But she also says that the best part of her transition was when she gave up trying to conceal her biology and her history, and finally opened up about herself, which helped all of her open up. “People wouldn’t want me as a manager before, because I was a bit volatile,” she told me, “but now I am centred in my authenticity, they tend to trust me more.”
This was a hard lesson for her to learn. She did have friends who told her, for example, that she couldn’t be seen with other transwomen, because now she was a woman and needed people to see her as that. This is an outgrowth of the truth that it is always easier to pass as being born female if you stay away from other transwomen, because one being read tends to get everyone read. Of course, this is also a component of stigma that stopped transwomen from gathering, organizing and supporting each other, because if we fear that others will expose us, we will lose our power to connect to change the world to make it easier for kids like us to find healthy expression.
When Dr. Pickering at a local college wanted to help transwomen find their voices, he initially wanted to do what they asked him to do: find a voice that was passable as that of one who went through puberty as a female. Of course, that was the imagined goal, to make the truth of history and biology invisible, to erase what people found as noise so the message was easier to get out.
I told him, though, that was a futile quest. When the goal is passing, then being read is failure, and failure disempowers people. Each one of us has a “passing distance,” where if you get close enough our biology and history is visible, and, really, we want that to be true. We want to be able to share our story and our experiences, although, as gay and lesbian people can do, it would be easier if we could only share them when we wanted to and not with every yahoo at the mall. For many transwomen who went through puberty as a male, though, our bodies can’t lie, and our bones, our adams apple and other bits make our passing distance much greater than we would wish.
What does that mean?
To me, if my trans expression can’t be all about concealing my history as being born male and being raised as a man, it instead has to be about revealing inner truth in the world with confidence and grace.
That may not be what I want, but as my mother in the sky keeps hitting me over the head to learn, a life full of bitterness about what should have happened, about how people failed us, about pain and sorrow, is a life that doesn’t empower anyone to be the best that they can be. That pissed me off, too, but, well, God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the strength to change the things I can change and the wisdom to know the difference.
What did that mean for me in the pitch session on Sunday night? It meant that I had a lot more experience with conscious and considered performance than the majority of participants who never had to consider how they could communicate themselves in a way past the conventional and routine.
That performance gave us a leg up in the competition. And it works other places too. Bereavement counsellor said yesterday “I feel like I was there. You tell the story of that weekend so well. But then again, you know that.”
I don’t always know that. I need to remember my considered and conscious performative exposition that gives me a special place in the world too, at least when I use my experience to powerfully express my own vision of the world. I need to remember that my voice can resonate with people, just like it resonated with the judges, as long as I stay centred in my hard won confidence and truth.
Which, I admit, is easier said than done.