I wrote this to a correspondent, and thought I might share it here.
For me, maybe the hardest part about being trans is having to be a woman without ever really having a chance to be a girl.
I watch pop TV shows and I see a few things. First, I see people age, people I first knew as young and who now are old, and I know that process must have happened to me too.
But I also watch the girls and young women on TV play out their own explorations and stories. They learn how to be in relationship, with other women, with men, with everybody.
That exploration seems to be a big void in my life. Gendershift requires a new adolescence, finding new ways to take power in the world, ways that honour both potency and vulnerability, but if you are doing that while people see you as an aging adult rather than as a kid, you lose both the indulgence people have for puppies and the peer group who also need to play at growth, who need to experiment. We also go at the second adolescence without the exuberance and innocence that lets kids try something, fail and bounce right back.
That’s the effect of stigma, of course, freezing us out, and I know it will change as kids get to explore what it means to be a transperson in the world as a primary adolescence, rather than having to do one shtick and then coming back to try and unlearn that and do it all again in a new way.
If you have figured out anything about me, it’s how much I love the voice. I may not be able to shape my body, but I can shape my language, both styles and stories. It’s why, when I meet someone, I will as often as not ask them to tell me a story. It’s really not important what story, because while I do remember details, I’m much more interested in their approach to situations, and to the themes they hold in their life. What delights them? What do they find funny? How do they defend themselves? When we open our mouths we reveal ourselves, not just revealing what we want other people to see, but also revealing much we want to conceal.
What does this mean for my adolescence?
It means I loved speaking in tongues. I would try new voices to say new things. I would experiment with just taking a new approach to the world, having fun with it. After all, the first adolescence is all about play, trying on new looks and attitudes and behaviours to see how they work for us, then taking the best bits to create a new collage of expression. How the hell are we gonna become new if we never try new things?
I used to have dozens of e-mail addresses. I would joke that on the internet you can’t change your shoes, but you can change your address. And these addresses would let me play with different personae to respond to different challenges.
The most important thing to me, even more than seeing how others responded to these voices, was seeing how I responded to these voices. It’s like this note; I am writing to myself as much or more than I am writing to you. I want to hear what I have to say about these challenges, hear my own themes and priorities. I talk about it as “seeing the back of my head,” which one can only do with a mirror, though seeing the inside of my head (and my heart) is more like it.
The point of the old site was explaining myself to other people, back in the day when it was important to know what I thought, to put out a contextual framework for trans. The point of the blog, though, is to explore myself, to say what I need to say. It’s my art, my Greer Lankton statement: “It’s All About Me, Not You.” That’s why I never put tags on it, never tried to follow a pre-defined structure to communicate what I thought I wanted to say. I just said and that’s it. Very Julia Cameron “The Artists Way” kind of stuff.
Now, I had fun with the voices. I had a number of runs on Usenet. Jim Fouratt went through this whole thing of negating transpeople because they didn’t stand up as gender variant and instead wanted surgery as a cure, so I played with that. By the end, with The Golden Penis I was challenging the whole transsexual separatist mindset that was a big thing in 2000. People lashed out horribly, but my underlying message was clear: If you don’t want to be one of the transpeople who are seen like that, well, don’t act like that.
That kind of play and rehearsal was really important to me, even if I would have rather been able to play in character. I just didn’t have the space locally
I’ll attach something from February 1993 about one version of this play that I only touched a tiny bit. (The editor of the local newsletter boggled, as it was the first FAQ style piece they had ever seen. The style wasn’t common even then.)
So, how do you play? How do you pull on a new experience and find a bit more of yourself?
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Questions & Answers
about The Lost Girls.
The Lost Girls are a group of “T” people in San Francisco. Their birth sex is male, but they have issues with their gender, and spend at least part of their time dressed as women. Some live full time, some take hormones, some identify themselves as transsexual, while some are part time, do not take hormones, and do not identify themselves as transsexual.
2) How many Lost Girls are there?
There are about 20 Lost Girls. It is rare that more than 10 of them will be at any one place at any one time.
3) How & when did The Lost Girls start
The Lost Girls started in August 1992 as “The Wrecking Crew” in an undisclosed San Francisco night spot.
4) How does one become a Lost Girl?
One becomes a Lost Girl by having The Lost Girls say that you are a Lost Girl.
New members are chosen by an informal process of determining if the individual is both truly lost and is on a personal quest to find.
5) Are they members of any more formal group?
Many of The Lost Girls are members of ETVC, but in general they do not feel that large organizations represent or understand The Lost Girls.
6) What have The Lost Girls lost?
While this point is under debate, some feel that The Lost Girls have lost their girlhood, their time of exploring their own femininity and how others respond to it.
Some note the allusion to the Lost Boys of Peter Pan fame, who have lost their mother, and point to the key role that mothers play in teaching girls to be women, but this connection is tenuous at best.
7)How do The Lost Girls search?
The Lost Girls ostensibly are focused on outreach into the San Francisco community. They talk with people about transgender issues.
This interaction with other people is a key part of The Lost Girls search process. Lost Girls get a lot of feedback and input about both how others see gender and about how others see them.
The Lost Girls are sensitized to accept this feedback on a visceral level by the extensive use of Party Therapy. The Lost Girls spend 2 or more nights a week out until the wee hours of the morning at unique S.F nightspots. The late hours, loud music, chemicals and other interactions wear down their mental defenses and make their psyche more accessible and sensitive.
This Party Therapy is not for everyone, and can have side effects, including severe emotional vulnerability and limited energy for other issues. However Party Therapy is crucial to opening up the senses for the quest.
8) Have any Lost Girls found what they are looking for?
At this writing (February 1993), no. All of the original members are still members and none have become “Found Women”
9) What organization do The Lost Girls have?
The organization is informal and ad-hoc. While there are social structures coming out of the individual characteristics of each member of the group, none are defined.
It is important to note that all Lost Girls are very unique individuals. The key to The Lost Girls is following a a unique personal quest to find the girlhood inside of them. This is in sharp contrast to some organizations where the key is finding ways to fit an pre-defined external behavior pattern.
10) Do people like The Lost Girls
While as individuals, most are very likable, and have made many contacts and friends, some people have large conceptual problems with The Lost Girls. Some traditional gender community members refer to them as “those people who want to get people to accept them as something odd.”
The traditional gender community sees the key to peace and acceptance as fitting into reasonably clearly defined gender roles. The Lost Girls, as they explore their own gender issues, press on the firm definitions of gender roles, and make some people feel uncomfortable. For this reason, The Lost Girls often feel out of touch with large gender organizations, who they see as focused on the concept of “fixed gender role” behavior.
It is interesting to note that a “new gender community” of very young people exists in San Francisco. These people may wear a skirt, heels and an unstuffed bra with their own short hair out to a club. They break gender role restrictions even more than The Lost Girls, but without pursuing the quest of The Lost Girls.
11) What do The Lost Girls wear?
Anything they want to. While they dress as women, most have a wide repertoire of looks, from office to casual to serious night life, including torn hose, leather and chains.
Lost Girls can always be identified by the The Lost Girls pin that they wear.
12) What is the sexual preference of The Lost Girls?
While some have a clear preference for men, and others for women, many are experimenting with various relationships for what they can discover in their quest through intimate relationships. Some Lost Girls are very active sexually, and some are celibate. Some bring partners they have met into the club scene, and others find partners in the clubs.
13) What is the attitiude of The Lost Girls?
The Lost Girls have an attitude of irreverence, of distrust of traditions that limit people from expressing and understanding all parts of themselves. On the other hand, they have an attitude of support for each other, and for humans in general, as they know how difficult it can be to be a human. The Lost Girls are known for quiet and spontaneous acts of kindness as much as for wild abandon.
14) Is it easy being a Lost Girl?
No. Many Lost Girls comment on how difficult it is to pursue the inner quest. They note the late hours, the response of others to their quest, and their own personal inner turmoil.
Some Lost Girls are concerned that there is no end to their quest that meets all of their needs, including self satisfaction and participation in society. While this is probably true, in that for those who have taken the challenge of the quest to find the Lost Girlhood, will always be questing, there is some hope that a level of peace and comfort will be found along the way.
15) If The Lost Girls had a motto, what might it be?
“We have to dare to be ourselves,
however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
16) How can one contact The Lost Girls?
They are creatures of the night, and can be found there. However, Lilly’s (“Where Life is Always a Drag”), a bar at the corner of Market and Valencia in San Francisco is a good place to start the quest.