Reverse Chronology

This blog is unwieldy to explore, notes ShamanGal.   She can’t find notes directly addressing what she is facing today.

She’s right, of course.  This is post 1279, all of them posted over six and a half years, a few of them prequels, essays from before that time that I salted in.

And they are organized like a blog; reverse chronological order.

Today, Matt from Automattic wants WordPress to be the operating system of the web, and you can use it to create great sites, but back then blogging was just blogging.  Today bloggers start with tags and categories that allow people to find their posts in the blogosphere, but everytime I have have tried to go back and sort my posts, I find it challenging to imagine a taxonomy that can easily be retrofitted in.

I know that this doesn’t make the blog useful as product, but it does make it very much my history.

Every now and then, someone hits the blog and somehow peeks at some old posts.  I tend to look at those posts, just to see what interested them.

That happened yesterday.    And when I looked back, I was reminded how much this blog has been full of rage and frustration.

Taking care of my parents for the last decade was bloody difficult work, especially emotionally.

My sister forced me to go to Kripalu, to a course I told her was wrong for me, but I do tend to commit to the process in front of me.   One of the bits was trying to give new Kripalu teachers the experience of being in an Ashram.  To that end, the clocks were covered, we slept on the floor, and ate simply — rice and beans and salads, though all beautifully prepared.

The point was to break through the ego of people who liked having their life just so, getting what they wanted in every moment.   Fussy eaters, people who were picky about sleeping, those who were used to being demanding in the details of their lives were being taught to let go of the luxury of apparent control, to drop the controlling ego and be conscious.

To me, though, this simplicity was not the hardship.  I just slept on a pallet and ate beans.   Heck, there were many times I slept on the concrete floor here in this house, and beans have always been fine.  Renouncing control, breaking the ego, having no assumption of entitlement, well, that was just habit to me.

Doors are broken around me, knock off or out of true that they don’t close all that well. They are artifacts of the frustration and rage I had, slammed hard after having to endure the lack of empathy and understanding and compassion I got from my family while having to give them empathy and understanding and compassion while taking care of them.   It’s the “target patient” who doesn’t run, but who instead serves.

That difficult, stressful and painful experience is threaded all through the last seven years documented on this blog, threaded all through my experience of being me.   I see that when I dip into the reverse chronology of my life.  That experience will probably turn up if you just look at a random post from this blog.

Mary Catherine Bateson has written about the strategies we use when we compose a life.  How do we turn our experience into narrative that informs and structures our choices?   Do we move forward through the story, looking at twists and turns, or do we move backward through the story, choosing experiences that support our theme?   And how do we create those themes anyway?  Where are we taught what we should focus on and what can be ignored?  Do our themes hange over time, with each chapter of our life, for example?

Some quotes from her Peripheral Visions:

“Increasingly, we will cease to focus on learning as preliminary and see it threaded through other layers of experience, offering one of life’s great pleasures.”

“The capacity to enjoy, to value one experience over another, is the precondition of the capacity to learn.”

“Looking, listening and learning offer the modern equivalent of moving through life as a pilgrimage.”

“It is hard to think of learning more fundamental to the shape of society than learning whether to trust or distrust others.”

“Human beings construct meaning as spiders make webs.”

“The solution is to take responsibility for the choice of metaphors, to savor them and ponder their suggestions, above all to live with many and take no one metaphor as absolute.”

“School casts a shadow on all subsequent learning. Trying to understand learning by studying schooling is rather like trying to understand sexuality by studying bordellos.”

“Not only don’t we know what we know, we don’t know what we teach.”

“Most of the learning of a lifetime, including much of what is learned in school, never shows up in a curriculum.”

This blog is a reverse chronological series of moments in my life.   This being my life, it is a series of essays, filled with thought, informed by feeling and pop culture.

ShamanGal wonders how she can make sense of this torrent.  The best she can do, I suspect, is read what she reads and see what resonates with her.

In my experience, what you get out of any particular entry depends on where you are in your own journey.  Come back and read it again and something different will pop out at you.  Few people read to understand the meaning I put in the message, read to learn about me.  Instead, they read to learn about themselves, looking for words that inform or express what they hold in this moment.    I may read other narratives for challenge, for views I don’t understand, views that expose ideas I haven’t considered, but I don’t find that to be the habit of most people.

Making sense out of this torrent is my job.   I need to use it to construct a narrative that takes me into the next chapter of my life, a narrative that honours my struggle but is not limited by it.

In other words, I have to take this reverse chronology and use it as the basis of a forward chronology, making new story rather than capturing the old.

Can I be the star in my own movie?  Or have I surrendered too much of my ego already?

Tomorrow will tell, eh?


Come From Light

The world never becomes brighter by darkness.   The world becomes brighter by spreading light.

We don’t get well by being consumed by disease.  We get well by spreading health.

Our lives don’t become bigger by mourning loss.  We open possibilities by embracing abundance.

It may be important to dissect our own lives by teasing out the twists, the failures, the losses, the abuse, the heartbreak, the fears and the misses.    Learning from the past is important.

But in the end, it is always more important to build our lives by finding the strengths, the joys, the possibilities, the love and the triumphs, then working to expand those aspects.  Making new choices to build a better future is more important.

Find people and organizations that affirm your health, not your sickness.  Go to the place where you are supported in growth, not in finding others to blame.

The world can be dark and hard, indeed, but only your choices can help make it more light and more loving.

Know the broken, build on the healing.

Say “Yes!” to possibility.  Say “Yes!” to moving into the light.

So Much Loss

I worry, in the way that all grieving people do, that somehow I am going to lose what my parents left in this world.

I know, I know, I know that I cannot carry everything they left.   The towels that lined my mother’s chair to absorb her incontinence, for example, don’t really need to stay around, no matter how many times I had to wash them in the machine that is now starting to fail.

My siblings don’t have the same commitment, the willingness to pick up and carry what is important from what parents left.   It doesn’t feel a shared burden.  For example, this is the week of vacation where my sister indicated she wanted to go to Toronto and inter my parents ashes, but instead, she hasn’t seen me all week, though she has had me support a broken phone and create a mailer for her business.

I had hoped that I would be able to go through the data from last year, the voicemails, recordings, text messages and other primary sources to construct the story of my parent’s last year.  That is not something I have been able to do, however.  Kate B was once surprised at how fast I could turn my experiences into art, my old television habit of instant memoir, but the story of my parents is still way beyond my grasp.

People die.   It’s one of the things we all do.  Billions of people have already died, and maybe 155,000 people every day in the world.  And when we die, we disappear in all but the stories others carry about us.   I really wish others would care about the stories of my parents, but I know they have their own burdens to carry.    Ancestor reverence isn’t something that’s highly valued in this society.  We don’t really do history.

I know that I need to move on, and moving on means not having to carry both my own baggage and all the baggage my parents left.   And I know the time is coming soon.

But leaving them behind still makes me very sad.

Even if I will always carry them with me.


Fear Voice

Everybody is unique.  We are like ice cream; fundamentally the same, made out of the same stuff, but essentially different, each with our own special flavour.

And that means we each have our own unique fear voice.

Our ego inspires fear in us using its own unique rhythms.    We take all the experiences of fear in the world and make our own special collage of terror.   Bits from our parents, bits from our church, bits from pop culture, bits from our peers, coming together to make a pastiche of anxiety designed just to keep us small and maintain the status quo, no matter how constricting it is.

Hell, some of us have a fear voice that channels compartmentalization and avoidance, and that voice sounds like a motivational speaker or mystic, telling us to rise above the mess, the real challenges of our life, covering them over with pink paint or banner slogans.

One thing fear voices have in common, though, is that they all start with reasonable, rational and true facts.   The centre of every fear is a real possibility, of failure, pain or separation.

Our fear voices, though, take that kernel of truth and magnify it, just like our youthful imaginations took a shadow on a wall or a bump in the night and magnified it into a monster.    What better excuse for needing the attention of the ones we love than a monster who strikes terror into our heart?

The most intimate relationship most of us have may be with our fear voice.  In our darkest and most challenging moments, it’s always there to tell us to believe that reptilian fight or flight pull in our brain.  Yes, it whispers seductively, pull back, seek shelter, take a drug, hide yourself, become invisible.    Or, if that won’t work, then lash out, strike back, go crazy, slam them hard, invoke the terror, spread the fear.   Flight or Fight.  Either works for fear.

It’s risk beyond training that the fear voice screams or whispers at us to avoid.  If we do that, our worst fears will come true, unleashing the beast, opening Pandora’s Box, bringing retribution and stigma against ourselves, losing everything we value.

Our fear voice, our ego, that siren call to avoid discomfort, is ours, well created, well crafted, well integrated and uniquely our own.

It tells us not to remove the broomstick, never to remove the broomstick, not to even notice the broomstick, because the broomstick stuffed up our ass must be what is keeping us safe.

Of course we love our fear voice.   It kept us company in the darkest times, when we were most scared.

The problem is, though, that it is that fear voice that was scaring us.   Manipulative old self fulfilling prophecy fear voice.

Old friend.  Real enemy.

The Bully

The Bully showed up at ShamanGal’s work today.

Last week everything was going so good.   She surrendered to her feminine side, asked for help, started hanging with the gals, felt great and empowered.

But when the bully showed up today, he started telling her that she had her head up her ass.   He told her she was deluded to think that anything could change.  He warned her that she was cruising for a bruising, that trusting people around her would just lead to heartbreak like it always had.

The bully told her that she was too good, too smart, too cool for the idiots where she works.  They are just drone and could never really understand her.  They could never really love her or even like her, the bully said.

She was scared by what the bully told her.    He was probably right.  After all he had been right in the past.  How could this ever work out?  Wasn’t she a fool to let down her guard?   After all, there is so much to fear.

The bully, of course, is ShamanGal’s own ego, that fear voice who showed up when she hit puberty to explain that giving into that feminine shit was just a one way road to hell.  The bully came to do the dirty deed of toughening her up, teaching her how to be a man, before she was really bullied by all the people around her.

It was self bullying as a defensive strategy, because, if we don’t install a policeman, a bully in our head, how can we be safe from bullies in the world?

The worst part is that ShamanGal’s mom came over to make her dinner tonight.   But the bully was still there after the commute., and the bully knew what he had to do.

Her mother ended up crying.   The bully isn’t stupid; ShamanGal’s mom is her role model.  If the bully wants to stop ShamanGal from surrendering to the feminine, what better way than bullying her mom, acting out and proving that anyone feminine can never be strong enough to stand up to a bully?

This isn’t the first time her ego, her demon, her bully has acted out against her mother.

“When the bully showed up, what did you do?” I asked her.  “Did you go for a run, listen to a meditation tape, write, go shopping what?”

“I just got upset,” she told me.

“Remember what I told you.  The challenge isn’t to get rid of the darkness; that’s impossible.  The challenge is to find strategies to get yourself back to centre after the darkness comes.

“Do you have any bubble bath in the house?” I asked her.

She laughed.  “No, not yet.”

“You wouldn’t be the first woman who got over a bullying attack with a bubble bath and a glass of wine,” I said.

“No, I don’t think I would.”

We all carry our own inner bully, our ego, whose voice is full of fear.  And, especially in marginalized communities, we often pass that fear between us, amplifying it, letting that voice of doom and failure bully us into terror.

Some transpeople even think it’s a gift to others to help crank up the fear.  Bully, bully, bullied.  Ego.

ShamanGal’s bully showed up at the office today, because she was beginning to let her guard down.   Surrender?   The bully was having none of that.

She doesn’t yet trust the tools she might have to face that bully down, to not let fear terrorize her.   She couldn’t do what every woman needs to learn to do when faced with a bullying brother, retreat to her own strengths.

Instead, she played the bully’s game and her mother was hurt because of it.

She wanted me to call.   I turned the light on the bogeyman, showed him for the ego fear-peddler that he is, trying to keep her too spooked to relax and pull the stick out of her own ass.

We all gotta face the bully.   He’s never really going away, even if we know how to face him down.  We just need to learn how to stay in our heart and not our ego, to trust in  connection and  not separation, to come from love and not fear.

And then, maybe then, we can really trust that we are loving, lovable and loved children of our mother in the sky.

Because that’s what we have to know to not let our own inner bully, the ego we thought we bred for defense, not scare us.


Now, With Songs!

I love Kate Davis’ film “Southern Comfort.”  It lets transpeople speak for themselves in their own way, in their own time.  I was in contact with Lola Cola while she was caring for Robert, so the movie is very personal to me, my friends lives.

Within driving distance from here this month is “Southern Comfort: The Musical.”  Yeah; it’s a stage musical comedy version of the movie.  I saw the write up in The Boston Globe with 5′ 3″ star Annette O’Toole in a wig, looking nothing as grizzled as Robert did in the movie.  Testosterone will change a person, yes it will.

I sent the piece to my sister who immediately said “Let’s go see it!”

I can’t.

It’s one thing to watch a documentary film, even a bad film, that shows someone you love.

It’s quite another thing to see someone you love transformed into an archetype and then have that archetype polished for theatricality, especially in the very abstracted style of musicals.

I might go to a good musical about transpeople.   But I don’t care that “Grey Gardens” was a success, I can’t go to a musical that takes people I love and turns them into theatrical characters.   Maybe if it was “Sally Soda” and “David Egan” rather than Lola Cola and Robert Eads, I could take it better.

Can you imagine if someone took a story you lived and then turned it into a show that was designed to succeed on Broadway?    Creeps me out.

I know what creative types do to transpeople.  They manipulate images of us to show the audience what the creatives want to see.  Felicity Huffman’s Bree in TransAmerica didn’t show any residual masculinity, while Terrance Stamp’s Bernadette in Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert didn’t show any femininity.   Stamp would ask the director if they looked pretty, the director reassured them, and then told the cameraman to “light them like shit.”

In the hands of creatives we stop being complex individuals and become stereotypes, puppets to be manipulated.  I actually liked both TransAmerica and Priscilla in their own way, but if those characters were meant to represent real transwomen, let alone my friends, I don’t think I would be as pleased.

Seeing transpeople as symbols, pawns in the stories of others, that’s hard.   In the end, our lives are what we mean by them, not the meanings others want to make up for them.  Bart Ehrman tells us that when looking at two different versions of the same text, Biblical scholars choose to believe the more complicated one is original, because the habit of scribes was to simplify stories they didn’t completely understand, eliminating ambiguity and meaning.

In the Globe article, the creatives for Southern Comfort: The Musical admit that the real life people the characters are supposed to represent aren’t really thrilled with the show.

They needed drama, so they changed the ending so the character of Robert stands against a transman who wants a phalloplasty, saying that people are defined by their heart.

That’s just real bad transtheory there, and against what transpeople know.  Not something Robert did or would do.   It diminishes the choices transpeople make to own their own lives.

But somehow, it makes the drama coalesce with a constructed conflict that allows a clean statement ending, much like the “purity” of Hedwig getting naked.   Fuck that.

I engaged with Lola while she went from flighty girl to solid woman as she dealt with Robert’s death.  And I remember her reaching out to me to share her experiences when she heard my parents were ailing.  That’s messy, sure, but it’s real.

Make your shows with stereotyped trans characters playing out archetypes that are easy to sell to wide audiences in 90 minutes.   You have that right.

But me watching these stories of yours cloaked in some kind of  assumed documentary authenticity about real friends of mine?

Turns my stomach.


ShamanGal thought it would be explosive, unforgettable, thundering, traumatic.

She imagined the moment when her defences would drop and everything would change.   She imagined it as cataclysmic, almost apocalyptic, a seismic shift of world shaking proportions that would mark her forever.

It didn’t happen like that, though.

It was her first Monday at the new job, her first as a woman.  She looked at the computer screen in front of her and realized she really didn’t know much about what she was supposed to do.

That’s when her life flashed in front of her eyes.   All those years of jobs gotten through friends of her father, jobs where she surfed the web, took two hour basketball lunches, screwed around and got fired.   Jobs where the pain of having to put on boy clothes after clubbing in heels the night before was the worst start of the day.  Jobs where she had to stay defended and hidden, wielding her cool attitude to keep her self-destructive streak going.

She knew how that played out.

But she knew this was different.  After two days at work, she had already gone out with the girls on Friday night, feeling like one of them.   She got a milepost at the MAC counter when her seven year old account came up, and she remembered the night they started that account, when she was just taking her first steps as a transwoman.

More than that, though, she remembered how delighted she was that on Monday morning she could get up and wear something pretty to work, a lovely business suit just like her mother used to wear.

She looked at that screen and knew she had a choice.  She could blow it off again, screw up, or she could choose again.

ShamanGal swivelled her chair around in the cubicle and said to her supervisor, “Hay, what exactly am I supposed to be doing here?”

Blink.   Surrender.  Change.

He loved showing a pretty girl what to do, so he spent 25 minutes showing her how to do the process of specifying the parts.

By the end of the afternoon, she had worked the sheet, done the process and completed her task.

“That’s great!” said her supervisor.  “The last person we had was here for months and never got it right, but yours checks out fine.”

Success.  One more step towards being responsible for herself, for standing on her own as a woman with a transgender history.

The week got better from there.  A first paycheck.   A birthday party at one of the gals from the office’s house, where ShamanGal was one of the gals in the kitchen even when the guys were chased out.

It was an amazing week.   And she wanted to know what changed.

The answer is simple.

In that moment where she dropped her defences, the strategies that she learned in high school to cover over her feminine nature, when she dropped her cockiness, surrendered her cock and just said to the universe “Can you help me with this?” everything changed.

In that moment, her defences shattered and her world opened up.   She worked the process, was in the moment and took the leap.   And after years of fearing it, years of running from it, years of building armour to protect against it, in the end, dropping her defences and opening took no more than being humble and mature enough to say “Can you help me with this?”

Surrender, when it’s the right time, often comes like a breath and not the tempest we fear.   We breathe in a little more deeply, surrendering our fear and we are new.

This isn’t the end, of course.

Her analytical self wants to beat herself up for not doing this earlier.  She couldn’t have done it any earlier, of course.  There was work to do, and now was the time.  It may be an incredible pain in the ass that everyone heals in their own time, even us, but it is the truth.

And her fear is stimulated thinking how many more times she has to leap.  This was easy, but what about the next time and the time after that?  Shouldn’t she fear being out to co-workers, fear what she says to therapists, fear the future?   How can she share her success with transpeople who are tied to fear, failure and abjection?

I may tell her no, to trust her own fabulousity, but that doesn’t make the future any easier for her.   She has a long way to go until her shaman heart has accumulated a tool kit that she can trust and use to help others, and that path will include some lumps and bumps.

No one can tell her the future, just like no one could have told her exactly how and when she would just surrender her defences and open to new possibilities.

No one could have told her it was as easy as swivelling around in the cubicle and saying “Can you help me with this?”

She was expecting a bigger boom when she shattered the gender barrier in her own mind.   Transvestism is about changing your clothes, transsexualism is about changing your body, and transgender is about changing your mind.   Boom.

It’s been an amazing nine days, nothing at all like what she could have predicted when she was telling me why she shouldn’t take the job.  That’s not surprising to me, knowing stories like my own or the story of TBB, full of twists and turns and surprises.  Trans lives are like that, crossing boundaries and full of magic.

For me, her call affirmed my choice not to drag myself out to the local activism group meeting.  This was a more valuable story to share.

Boom,  in the swivel of a chair, when she was ready, ShamanGal old defences shattered and she found power & joy in her new defencelessness.

It’s possible.

And amen to that.


I was listening to a biography of John Wayne — a man whose life and portrayals merged in very interesting ways —  when one word stood out to me.

Wayne wanted his life and his movies  — were they separate? — to be “lusty.”

Such a great word.  “Full of vigour, powerful, merry, joyous

For someone whose life has been defined by delayed or deferred or denied gratification, the whole idea of lusty seems almost impossible.

That’s one reason that it’s good that TBB calls me now and then.   Her life is defined by the term “lusty,” from evenings with steaks and highballs, to trap shooting, to motorcycle riding, to karaoke, to sport flying.

She laughed about the shower her lesbian pals threw her before she went to get her surgery.    After a meal filled with laughter, they brought out gifts.  TBB quickly found that the theme was “Things You Need To Maintain Your New Vagina.”   There were douches and tampons and sanitary pad belts and more.

It was quite a welcome into the  the pussy’d set.   “I used almost all of those things in the coming months!” TBB laughs.

The most lusty moment, though, happened just a few weeks ago.   The woman next door has a new baby, and TBB came over to welcome it to the world.

TBB is just the transsexual next door there, parent of two great kids, both of whom are out of college, one getting an advanced degree in chemistry, the other heading towards being a naval aviator.    Family is what she does, taking care of her mother, and making a home for all.

I watched TBB be a big encourager at Southern Comfort Conference, but I really saw her blossom at the spaghetti dinner house party held after, where Mama Sabrina came into her own, making a meal to nourish and celebrate family.

When TBB went to see the baby next door, the grandmothers were there.    TBB immediately connected with them, and immediately offered the use of both her house and her liquor cabinet when she was off on the ship.  Both grandmothers were delighted with the offer, acknowledging the truth that while they wanted to be around to help support the first time mother, they also needed a bit of escape, of solace, and a bit of brandy, too.

The moment that was the most lusty for her, though, was the moment they passed her the new baby to hold.

Maybe it was the smell, the cooing or the trust they showed, but TBB really felt that moment of just being a Nonna as a moment of bliss.

TBB is committed to having a lusty life. Maybe not at all like John Wayne, though I do suspect they would have enjoyed having a drink together, but lusty across her life, her family, her Italian roots and her American identity.

TBB?  She’s a lusty broad, all right.  If she had a stripper name, it might even be Lusty Turboe.

And lusty looks great on her.

Food, Glorious Food

I was watching a British TV chef, one who doesn’t really inspire me, on his travels through India.

He wanted to speak to the Dalai Lama about food.   He believed that the staff were a trifle bemused that he wanted to speak to his holiness about food, just food.

The interviewer knew what he wanted to talk about, about his experience of the importance of food in a religious setting, from the Christian eucharist to the daily meals served at Sikh temples.

But that was not what the Dalai Lama wanted to talk about.

Instead, he spoke of his personal experience with food.   He laughed as he talked about when he was a young monk, a time when what he got in his begging bowl was limited; no meat, fish eggs.  When he visited his family, though, he sat up like a panting dog as his father ate pork, hoping for a treat.  And his mother made him egg, which he scooped right up with joy.

His holiness said that Buddhist monks eat breakfast and lunch, but not dinner.  Yet, there are times, he admitted, when he is very hungry, that after a blessing, he will have a little biscuit in the evening.  Buddha will understand, he feels.

I was moved.  He wasn’t being a religious leader who talked about how holy it was to follow all the strictures of his faith, rather he was talking, even as the supreme leader of Tibetan Buddhism, about his human relationship with food.  He talked about loving it, about how it connected him with his parents, about how the Buddha understands that while we want to be like him, we have to honour our humanity too.

This was his point, that when it comes to food, we get down to what humans share, the essential and nourishing, not just of body.  Of course, this is why food is so powerful when we do share it in ritual and tradition, because our relationship with food and the people who feed us is so personal.

The host didn’t quite get that in the midst of His Holiness’ laughter, but it was clear that the Dalai Lama was pleased to speak about something not deliberately spiritual or political, but rather something as human as our need and desire for a good feed.   He didn’t lecture, wasn’t holier-than-thou, but rather exposed his humanity with delight, sharing his hunger and satisfaction with all of  us.

I have had Buddhists lecture me on the importance of non-attachment, but when His Holiness talks about his desire for nourishment, I feel much more connected, which seemed to be his point.  No spiritual bypassing, covering everything with pretty pink paint, for him.

Food connects humans.   I know that feeding my parents was always a joy for me, even at times when I wanted to explode from carrying their twists.    Food was one of the most important ways I could give them another good day, as was my quest for them.

Last year at this time I was processing cantaloupes into puree to take to the hospital, then making sure my mother’s breakfast was set for when Hospice workers came.    My mother liked to imagine her dinner and have it brought to her, but when she was in the hospital, my father liked me to come home and make dinner for both of us, then sit together at the table to eat it and recap the day, sometimes with my sister conferenced in on the speakerphone.

Especially at first, but even now, shopping was a time when I missed them most.  I would see something in the market that I knew they would enjoy, but I couldn’t buy it for them.  Sad.

I remember driving to Canada, telling the customs man that I was up for my grandmother’s birthday.  He looked skeptical when I said I had nothing to declare, apparently assuming I would have a gift.

“She’s 98,”  I told him, and his face relaxed.  Some flowers and ice cream would do for her, he knew.   We took her out to a hamburger joint, where she would have rather had the onions grilled, and even toothless worked her way through a maple walnut cone.

I miss having someone to cook for, miss having people to share food with.  It’s so basic and human.   Food is, in many ways, our shared expression of love.

But then, even the Dalai Lama knows that.


It might be obvious from the content of this blog that I have what people tell me is an extraordinary memory.    I refer to my mind as “like hot chewing gum on the bottom of your shoe; things just stick to it.”

I use that collection to find patterns.  I recently read a critique of theory where someone complained that most social theoreticians who work in anecdote just select the stories that bolster their ideas and don’t engage the stories that challenge them, that aren’t easily explainable by their theory.  I understand that complaint, and fight it in my own work.

But that memory often ends up  slapping me in the head.  Stories of when I made gaffes or faux pas come back to me, still stirring up shame.  I should have tipped when I had the dog cleaned, I knew from the face that was pulled after I paid, well over a decade ago now, and when I walk past that shop, I feel the error and mumble my regular incantation at that time, “marry me, gorgeous,” actually invoking the name of a love lost some twenty years ago.

In the past I have looked for an incantation that put that shame in context.   I do know that every error, every sin is a chance to learn something.    As humans, we aren’t perfect, we are the best we can be in the moment, and it is only when we learn better that we can be better.   It’s not making mistakes that dooms us, it is only refusing to learn from them.

I have tried “Live and Learn” as a replacement, but it never stuck.

Last night, I heard one that rang a bell with me.  “Like my father always said,” one Aussie TV host said “‘Every day’s a school day.'”

“Every day’s a school day.”  I like that proverb.  It feels good to me.   Maybe it will stick.

Every day’s a school day.  Indeed.



We were driving back from a workshop and I had a pressing bout of diarrhea, so I had my staffer take the next exit off the Thruway and dashed into a small drive-in.

We then got back on the highway and continued to Zebbs in Mattydale to meet our co-workers for lunch.

“Sorry we were late, ” I told the guys.  “I had to make a quick stop at the Didy-Dee drive in,”  referring to the name of a well-known diaper service.

As we got back on the road, Janet was interested in what I did.  “You actually told them why we were delayed, but they didn’t really care.”  As a woman, she noticed, but the guys didn’t, and by making a reference that Janet got and the others could have, she thought I had come up with an interesting solution.

ShamanGal was worried about giving the names of some more references to HR for the new job she has.  These would be references she hadn’t coached to refer to her with her current name and gendered pronouns.

“HR doesn’t know about me,” she said, confident in the way she changed her transcripts and such.

“You don’t know what HR knows,” I told her.   “You worked hard not to tell them anything, but in this world of information, perfect stealth is impossible.”

“Yeah,” she admitted.  “I don’t know what HR knows.”    She went on to give the references that got her the job, telling HR they may say they knew her under the other name she put on the application, a Chinese name that looks gender neutral in English, and another gender.

One of the most challenging moments is always the “If that’s true about you, then maybe I don’t know who you are!” instant, that flash when people feel like their understanding of you is shattered by a bit of new information about your past.

To many, that moment feels like a breach of intimacy, a breach of trust, and it can set them and your relationship back.   Finding out there is an gap their understanding of you can feel like they caught you in a lie, if it’s just an omission of some information we thought was just noise, or even if you have offered the information in a way they chose not to engage, like saying you needed to stop at the “Didy-Dee.”

I had this happen at Startup Weekend.  I registered under my initials, the ones my parents gave me at birth, but when one team member had to deal with me as a transwoman, he spat out “I don’t know if XX is even your real name!”   I laughed a bit and said “Initials cover a lot of sins,” but he was still a bit angry and perturbed about what he saw as my kind of lying.

One of the first discussions I got into on BoyChicks, the butch/femme list I was on in the late 1980s, was over the idea that “If I found out that the person I had sex with was really a man, I would feel raped.”     I wondered about the whole idea of “retroactive rape,” and imagined other things that you found out about a hookup that would make you feel like you were really raped — things like that they were really a Methodist, really a Republican or really a bisexual.

TBB and I did a skit at my second Southern Comfort Conference about two people driving to a conference.  The jokes were about the liminality of the drive, that kind of sway between the world we were leaving behind and the world of the conference we were heading to.

We built the bits out of our own experiences DWT, driving while trans.  One of the pieces was going into a convenience store.

TBB approached the store in her way, adjusting her scarf and putting on her “peril-sensitive sunglasses,” then grandly entering the store, buying a can of iced tea and some condoms as her voice broke a little.  She swept through like a diva, still hot from a local theatre production and enjoying the stage.  This was the way she took everything; she loved the plane ride to IFGE Portland 1994 because “she passed all the way” on the plane ride in, talking about birthing her babies with the woman in the next seat.

I, though, had a different approach to our imaginary convenience store.  “I’m just going to a party,” I mumbled, “It was really my sister’s idea that I dress like this,” I babbled on, throwing out constructed justification after convoluted excuse to a clerk who just wanted to ring up my Coca-Cola.

Of course, that’s how my mind works.  I want to understand everything in context, making connections, so that’s what I offer.  TBB, on the other hand, likes a good moment of drama, so that’s what she offered.

We exaggerated these situations for the laughs, of course, knowing our audience would see a bit of their own behaviour in our sketch.

But they do reveal differing approaches.  I made a boss of mine crazy because I came with the opposite management strategy to his.   I operated from the assumption that staff should know everything except what specifically should be confidential, while he believed that information should only be given out on a need-to-know basis, that staff should only know what management specifically chose to divulge.

Clearly, this blog is a perfect example of “too much information,” or TMI.  People have no right to know everything, and more than that, they really don’t care about all the bloody details of a life, don’t have time or energy or care to engage them, just like those guys who couldn’t care less about my stop at the “Didy-Dee Drive In.”  Most people just want to ring up the Coke and move on.

Transpeople often code our own history into our expression, just like I coded our quick stop on the Thruway into mine, but in the end, we just don’t know what other people know.    And it’s really not important what they know until that moment when they feel betrayed or lied to;  that’s when you have a problem.      The possibility of that “gotcha” moment often feels like a good reason to hang onto some “tells,”  a bit of flagged authenticity left out for others who want or need to understand.

But, how much information is too much information?

I know my bias has always been to let it out and let others figure it out.   I may be very limited at getting naked physically, but emotional and intellectual exposure has always been something I valued.  I let it hang out, but I also know that letting it hang out often gets in the way.

Transwomen who come to me usually get the same advice; in the end, it’s better to more honest, more exposed and more authentic, because trying to control your story by hiding information just makes you seem phony and sets up potential gotcha moments when facts surprise the tales you want others to believe.

I’m feeling, though, that in this age of tinier bytes of information that model the tinier bits of time most people have to digest what comes their way, to sort out noise from content, sort out titillation from truth, that there is such a thing as too much information.   Sometimes, that moment of drama is more important than all the explicitness in the world in conveying potent truth.

And that’s my struggle now.   Where is the balance of editing for focus and deleting for manipulation?    What is enough information to make a truthful impact, but not so much that it leaves my story swaddled in noise?

I’m never going to be a gal who doesn’t get naked now and then.  But I also understand that naked isn’t a great way to walk in the world.

And that’s gotta be an area of focus for me.

Being Beautiful

There are two women, born female, who both have blogs and who are looking a bit better nowadays.   One has left university with an advanced technical degree and is back at a place where she interned, but now in a clerical position, wearing skirts and heels, and the other left the house as she never does, wearing makeup, and her parents didn’t say a thing.

Both of these women have secret identities.

The scientist has been keeping up a Tumblr blog about being a Bimbo.  It’s chock full of images of women with ridiculous amounts of hair removal, augmented boobs, tiny clothes, and exquisite hair and makeup in revealing poses, often accessorized by a sex partner.   She’s been exploring this gender expression with one boyfriend, step by step.  She has decided to get implants, for example.

The high school gal’s blog is about her deep secret.  In her YouTube blog, she talks about how she wants to become a drag queen.   This young woman of size painted up to go to gay pride, where she felt she could be bold and pretty, and was surprised when her mother didn’t say anything about her appearance as she left the house.

Both of these gals feel a secret need to break the gender norms imposed on them so they can just be, well, feminine and beautiful.   It’s a thrill for them to express their secret feminine identities on the street and get away with it, a thrill to actually be bold enough to break the rules of gender enough to actually be passionate, dramatic and enervated by their own appearance.

They just want to be able to dress up and be attractive, but they feel that behaviour is so policed in their own peer group that they have to turn to bimbo porn or drag queen drama to feed their own simple need to be beautiful in their own life.

Bimbo gal likes to talk about how she is submissive, but to her that doesn’t mean bondage and discipline or sexual slavery, merely being the partner of a strong and somewhat dominant man.   Drag queen gal likes to talk about how she is queer, but she has little cultural knowledge of the fierce women born female divas whose expression sparked much drag drama.

If we live in a culture where the casual and compliant has so taken hold that young women need porn or drag role models just to embrace their own desire for beauty,  what does that say for gender empowerment from the women’s movement?

The people around these women don’t seem to think it’s a big deal that they want to dress up some, to look pretty and feminine in whatever way they want.    But that doesn’t stop them from needing to feeling transgressive inside so they can follow their own bliss.

As a culture, we have moved away from more formal and constructed models of beauty and expression.   We like to imagine that natural is best, even if natural requires bi-weekly waxing and regular hair dye to go with our carefully pre-distressed jeans.

Dammit, drama is beautiful.   And  no one should have to feel like they are breaking the rules just to bring out our own vision of beauty.  You can be a smart woman and still love sexy heels without having to follow porn models, and you can be a woman of size and still be glamorous without having to want to be a drag queen.

We don’t all have to play down to conventions of studied casualness.    But being bold enough to trust your own unique and dramatic beauty isn’t easy.

Even if you are beautiful young female.


Target Patient

In a group or family dynamic, there is often what clinicians call a “target patient.”    This is the person who seems to most disturb the group dynamic, and so is identified as the source of problems within the unit.   Other terms for them might be “black sheep” or “scapegoat.”

The target patient isn’t the one who is causing the dysfunction in the group, but rather they are the one who is revealing it through their behaviours or words.   For example, mother may demand a regime of compliance to a somewhat dysfunctional norm, and the target patient may point out the costs of that compliance, which results in the rest of the group trying to silence them, trying to remove their standing to speak, or to directing social pressure to try and make them compliant with group norms, whatever those norms may be.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I was quickly identified as the official shit-disturber in my family.   Was I the one who was causing the shit?  No.   But I was certainly the one who was stirring it up rather than letting it lie.   The Emperor may have no clothes, but it’s pointing that fact out that is often seen as the problem, not the Emperor’s demands for denial.

What did this mean for me?   Because I was selected as the target patient, I was also selected as the target healer.   My challenge was to get beyond the family dynamic so the sickness could stop with me.

That’s a challenging path, being the one who turns the other cheek.   Others act out their own fear and denial, trying to push my buttons and make me complicit in their game, but my obligation was not to let them drag me in, to stay centred and cool, not manipulated.

I know how to manipulate, but, like Penn & Teller, I had to learn to use that talent to educate rather than to baffle and control.    This meant un-wiring and examining the emotional triggers my family placed in me, understanding them well enough to come back and not be wazzled.

As I took care of my parents for their last decade of life, which including working with my sister and brother (or my sister-in-law’s husband, as I took to calling him), these learned skilled were taxed beyond the limits, at enormous cost to me.   As the target patient, the one who revealed the dysfunction in the family, I had to turn myself into the target healer, taking all those twists and smoothing them out using my own limited time and energy.

A friend of my sister is in a dark place, and not for the first time.  She stopped responding to my sister, and my sister found that frustrating.

“I tried to figure out what I had done wrong, why I was left hurt and angry,” she told me.

“Why you felt hurt and angry,” I suggested to her.  “Those are your feelings.  There is no indication that your friend wanted to hurt you.”

“Yes, but whenever someone is distant with me, I immediately start to worry about what I have done wrong,” she said.

“You had a passive-aggressive mother who wanted attention and control,” I suggested, “so she taught all her kids to be hypervigilent to her expression, to immediately try to satisfy her before she started making things worse.”

“Yeah,” my sister answered.  “My friend just dropped out for her reasons, but I immediately assumed it was about something I did wrong.”

“Well, better than our brother,” I noted.  “He got so habituated to that experience that he married a woman who always demands her feelings come first, and always makes him feel he has done something wrong and needs to work more to satisfy and satiate her.”   I admit, that when my parents were both dying and my brother would tell me that the highest priority had to be his wife’s happiness, I found that difficult.

I was the target patient, and that meant I had to be the target healer for my family.

And while it was admirable I took up that duty and did my excellence to do that job, I’m really feeling the cost of holding and processing the sickness for an entire family, rather than finding my own health and exuberance.

Oh, well.


Sick Of Sick

“The transgender community is the only group I have ever known to refer to a therapist as ‘the rapist’,” I heard one professional say.

One key line between transpeople is how much they like the idea of their nature being medicalized.

For many transsexual identified people, their diagnosis is a key to identity.   “You see, I have had the docs say that I am really gender dysphoric, so I require treatment, just like anyone else who has a syndrome resulting from a birth defect!”

When they get challenged in the world, they defend their choices and actions by pulling out the judgments of clinical professionals.  “I am different than crossdressers and drag queens because the professionals have diagnosed me!  I am a true transsexual!”

For others, though, the idea that somehow, their nature is an identified medical condition just makes them crazy.   “Sometimes, humans just turn out like me.  We have existed in every human culture across history.   It’s only the heterosexist binary view of this particular culture that chooses to see us as diseased!”

Of course, even for people who reject the idea of transgender as sickness, we often still need medical sign-off to get  the resources we choose, including exogenous hormones and body modification.     We need to satisfy the medical gatekeepers to get access to resources.

This division, between transpeople who love their diagnoses as justification, those who need their diagnoses to get resources they require, and those who reject diagnoses as an unwarranted judgment upon our nature is at the heart of much warfare between the interlocking communities around trans.

In many communities, like around disability, they don’t like phrases like “disabled people.”  Instead, they prefer phrases like “people with disabilities,” choosing to emphasize that they are not primarily their disabilities, but rather they are primarily people, who are exceptional in some way.

I will often choose “people of transgender experience” when I am writing in a formal way, just to make this distinction.

Still, I do know that this phrase will be rejected by people whose identity is very medicalized.  These people often reject the idea that they are at all transgender, rejecting links to other people who identify as or who could be identified as transgender, instead demanding that they be identified as people with a diagnosis of transsexuality.   Often, they see that diagnosis as a form of intersex diagnosis, even if the only identifiable symptom is their subjective knowledge of self, which, for example, they claim proves they have a “female brain”.

They have always been transsexual, and all they need is appropriate corrective medical intervention to be set right.   After that intervention, others will then be required to see them as doctors identified them as always having been, not at all as some kind of gender crossing individuals.   If, after intervention, others do not see them as cured, then that is only due to interference, usually the interference of those not properly diagnosed who want to colonize the structures of transsexuality without true acceptance and engagement of those canonical structures.

The flip side of this idea is important.  What is the cost of giving medical professionals the power to define and diagnose trans conditions?

Many therapists seem to believe that the very fact that someone comes to a therapist means that they are submitting their life to the therapist for judgment.   Even with therapists who believe that transgender is not a sickness in itself, they may believe that no trans-identified person can survive in this culture without damage that makes them sick, too sick to make good choices.

It’s these therapists who feel empowered to judge us that we often identify as “the rapist.”  The system that empowers them as gatekeepers over the choices we feel called to make in life may give them the assumption that somehow, they are responsible for controlling the choices we make in all areas.    Rather than just helping us understand the patterns and ramifications of our choices, they want to control them.

It’s clearly this assumption of control by medical professionals that makes so many of us reject the idea of trans as sickness, reject the idea that trans expression is something that should be medicalized.  I don’t want to be seen primarily as a patient, because I know how the idea of sickness can be used to deny standing and disempower us from making our own choices to claim who we know ourselves to be.

I have been fighting against medicalized models since the early 1990s and see no reason to change that position.  That doesn’t mean that I have seen uniform change in clinical professionals; too many of them still assume that there is some kind of power separation between client and professional, that trans clients should always be seen as less than, as someone who presents with illness, as someone who needs to submit to professional authority.

I do acknowledge that there are many transsexual people who feel comforted surrendering to medical authority and using that authority to deflect responsibility for their own choices.  I just still think they are wrong, as I did in 1996.

I’m sick of having people define having a trans nature, and those who have a trans nature as sick, for whatever reason.


I’m watching an episode of BBC Horizon last night — it is the science show PBS Nova wanted to emulate — and it’s about how to change your personality.

Now, this is Horizon, so it’s hosted by a medical doctor and full of rat brain dissection, identical twin gene studies, EEGs, and such.  No simple new age arm waving here.

The doctor knows he has insomnia and is a catastrophic thinker, a bit of a pessimist, somewhat socially phobic.  The studies show he is right; he twigs to negative faces much faster than positive, and his brain is asymmetrical, the right half working much more than the left.

He is in the media lab at MIT and is given a pair of bracelets that track neural activity.   When the graceful woman prof dumps his bracelets and hers, you can see that he has much, much more activity than she does.  A much higher “arousal level.”  He is overthinking.

“That looks quite tiring to sustain that level of peak,” he says.

“It’s work,” she agrees with a sympathetic nod..  “Being around people can be hard work.”

That is my experience of the world.  My sister knows it, that I have to work hard to be around people, especially people like my family who always terrify me.

Still, the twin studies show that genetics is malleable.   Different genes can be switched on and off, affecting behaviour, even between identical DNA people.  So he goes to do some reprogramming of his brain, with mindfulness meditation and  Cognitive Bias Modification.
Seven weeks later, it seems to work.  His brain activity is more balanced and he sees negative and positive faces at about the same rate.  He is sleeping better, and his wife notices a difference in him.

Change is possible, at least for him.

One of the heaviest burdens I bear is that knowledge, that belief that change is possible.   It means I can’t just assume the world is as it is, but rather I have to hold open the space for my own transformation and the transformation of others.  It keeps me working.

But is change really possible for my mind?

It isn’t as long as I am tethered to the expectations and behaviours of my family, as long as I need to be who they expect me to be.  Their inability to engage change has always been what left me struggling.

It’s that permission to change my mind that seems to escape me.

Stigma & Stigma

A note to someone who is over 60 and thinking about the energy lost in putting family first and not transitioning in the past, the “time wasted and diminished productivity” :

The way stigma works in the world is like a brake, all that social pressure around you creating friction when you start to do something that is off the norm.

Like a brake, it changes forward motion into heat, burning off energy rather than letting it drive you on.

You regret that the energy you feel in your life got burned up and wasted rather than being used to empower and invigorate you.  You wonder if breaking through, if presenting as a woman, would change that dynamic, allowing you not to waste and dissipate valuable energy, energy you feel you have already wasted way too much of in succumbing to the friction of stigma rather than breaking through.

I encourage you to do what you need to do, to heed your calling and follow your bliss.  Times have changed in the world, and the stigma about trans is much less than when you were a kid.

But I do want you to know that stigma still exists, and while transitioning is enervating, there is still stigma.

When you first come out as a transgendered person, you spend your first year in absolute euphoria. Then reality sets in, and you have to make a life and deal with the stigma.
Joan Roughgarden, New York Times, 2004

You may well unlock lots of wonderful bits of you if you are out full time as a transgender woman, (or even as an androgynous man, as you sometimes fancy you would like to be, though I doubt that is really you.)

But the tethers that hold you — the family you committed yourself to — won’t go away, and neither will the stigma, even if it happens in a different way than it does now, more externalized and less internalized.  Dumping your trans nature into the world means you don’t have to police yourself in the same way, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be policed.

Leap, yes, find your bliss, yes, but don’t beat yourself up for losing energy to the presence of stigma in the the world, burning energy as heat rather than motion because of that pressure.

That’s gonna happen however you present.

Holding The Good

“My life, my life,” said young ShamanGal to me.   “I spent so long denying who I am, and that lead me to do so many self destructive things, and now I am hurting.   How do I get over this?”

The lovely thing about other people’s challenges is that the answers are clear to us, objective and without the baggage and tethers that ensnare us.

“You did the best you could,” I told her, “to try and be who others expected, to try and be some idealized human.  It was only failing at that attempt which allowed you to let go of those fictions and become more authentic.   You couldn’t be who you are now until you let go of who you thought you should be, and that took a mess of failures, self-destructive failures.”

“Maybe,” she agreed, still struggling with the loss.

“Anything else going on in your life?” I asked her.

“Well, yesterday I got a facial,” she told me.  “That was nice.”

“Good!” I said.

“And it looks like I start the new big job on Thursday,” she told me, talking about her first job in years, her first job since transition.

“That’s great!” I told her.

“Yeah.  My friend the esthetician thought so too.   She’s a great Québécoise gal who did my electrolysis, the best in town.  We went out for dinner after the appointment, so I dressed up classy because she always looks so nice.   She insisted on treating me, saying I could return the favour after I got my first paycheck.”

“Wow,” I said.

“And then after that an old friend from  school and I got together.  She thanked me for not returning her interest in me, saving her some romantic heartbreak.  We went to a pool hall not too far from here that I never knew about.  There was a tournament on, so the place was filled with guys, a real sausage fest.  One of the guys hit on me, but when he touched my ass I cockblocked him.  It was fun.”

“This was all yesterday?” I asked her.


“Why didn’t you tell me about this, why didn’t you write about this, rather than about today’s sadness for the loss of having to deny yourself and live a life that hurt you?” I wondered

“Well, I didn’t think of it,” she averred.

When we live life up close, we get myopic.   And those wonderful moments, when God sends jeeps and boats and helicopters in the form of people who affirm us can just get lost in our story of pain and loss.

“Get yourself some big Post-It Notes,” I told her, “and when something good happens, write it down and paste it up on the wall.   Maybe on the back of the front door, so those messages are the last thing you see before you walk out into the world.”

Like all advice that is so easy to say to someone else, I know that I always need to listen to what I offer to others.   Wisdom that is clear to see in their life can sometimes get lost in our own myopic view, the baggage and tethers that ensnare us.

I know that ShamanGal needs to hold onto the good in her life, needs to keep the affirming right out where she can always see it.

I wonder who else needs to listen to that advice?

Letting Go Of Your Cock

Our erotic desire is shaped by how we want to hold onto cock.

Do we want to put our own in a hole,  do we want one to enter our hole, or do we want to avoid it altogether?

And then there is what our partner wants to do with cock.  Do they want to put theirs in a hole, do they want one to enter their hole, or do they want to avoid cock altogether?

There are so many reasons that transwomen resist assimilation as women.   We know that we want to be one of the girls, but no trans person has ever gotten out without the call to be true to themselves, to be on some level, an iconoclast. For example, I know why I failed to be a good lesbian, no matter that my love life makes much more sense as a lesbian narrative.

We hold onto bits of ourselves that don’t quite fit our current performance, bits people see as ambiguous and dissonant, because they are important to us.  Maybe they are just old tapes that we used to protect us, or maybe they reveal parts of our history and desire that we value still.

“Why can’t we just be women?” a transsexual asked me.

“Because no woman was ever terrified to walk out of the closet wearing women’s clothing,” I replied.

That’s what we share, the experience of being pressed into a life we know doesn’t quite fit us, the experience of living across and between worlds.   Some of us may still live in our socially issued life, with only dashes out now and again,  others of us may live in our rebuilt life with only memories of that experience, and others may still live somewhere between, but to be without the experience of feeling alone and lost when some said “You can’t do that, because you are really a ______!” is to be without the experience of being trans.

That experience is hard earned, and not something we want to or that we should give up easily.   We earned our expression, the expression we were trained in, the expression we crossed from, the expression we claimed, all of it.

I once took a pounding on a board when the partner of a crossdresser wanted me to publish a private note I sent her about hanging onto “tells.”  They didn’t want to hear that there are good reasons to hold onto indicators of our trans nature even as we claimed to want to be women.

It’s safer to avoid having our gender shift in people’s eyes, safer to not be able to be seen as a liar.   But it’s also authentic to show our tells, the way we haven’t just lost our biology and history.   As TBB says, “I like some of my guy bits!”   She earned those bits fair and square, so why should she have to give them up just because others find them a bit transverse?

There is one guy bit, though, that we all have to deal with, and that is our sexuality.  In a culture that venerates the cock, sometimes it’s all about the penis and how we relate to it.

Our erotic desire is shaped by how we want to hold onto cock.

Do we want to put our own in a hole,  do we want one to enter our hole, or do we want to avoid it altogether?

And then there is what our partner wants to do with cock.  Do they want to put theirs in a hole, do they want one to enter their hole, or do they want to avoid cock altogether?

“Has she had surgery?” TBB asked about one transwoman.  “I know that was when I really had to learn how to let go of my cock.”

While that certainly is one part of GRS, we also agreed that it was possible to let go of your cock without surgery.  “I’m sure that, in her mind, all she has now is a big clitoris,” TBB said of one non-op transgenderist.     And the gal who said, in frustration, to me years ago, “Oooooh!  You are emotionally un-castratable!”  knew I wasn’t holding on to my birth bits.

Death and rebirth is a tricky business.  There are so many things to let go of so we can open space to find the new.

But I agree with TBB.  For transwomen, anyway, letting go of their cock is one of the hardest.


An idea for a local program…

Let me run something by you.

You know that I believe that consciousness raising of trans identified people is the heart of activism, because the more we can become allies to each other the more we become self empowered.   When we can speak for a range of trans choices, even those we would never make for ourselves, we can more profoundly stand for change in the world.

I also know that the most popular events with transpeople are the events where we get to speak, to tell our story.   We each have something we want other people to hear, something profound we need to say.

What about a monthly event that flips the normal paradigm on it’s head?   Isn’t that a kind of very transqueer idea?

Bring in a person with some kind of authority every month — someone from the governor’s office, the head of LGBT organizations, the police chief, a noted doctor, a reporter, whoever — but instead of bringing them in to speak, we bring them in to listen.

The designated listener will come, and the first 15 people to arrive will each have 3 minutes to say anything they want to that person.   Whatever you think they need to hear about trans life, you can tell them.

The key benefit, of course, is to the group.   Everyone gets a chance to speak up on what they think is important, and everyone in the room gets to hear what others of different viewpoints and choices see as a priority.   The format asks for leadership and listening rather than asking for compliance and consensus, and that seems valuable, at least to me.

There is no crosstalk, no commenting on other presentations.  If you have something to say, even something contrary to another presentation, you have to get in line, stand up and speak for your own viewpoint.  The power of change isn’t destructive, just telling others where they are wrong, it’s constructive, telling others what you think is right and moving them towards your point of view.

It might change the mind of the designated listener, but that’s not the point.  We don’t come with any agenda to convey to them other than the fact it’s time to listen to the voices of trans identified people.  That simple.

With small, concentrated presentations, we ask people to prepare, to gain skills in public communications.  And because they are short bits, they can even be put on video for YouTube or other outlets.

When I did Uniting As Allies with CDGLCC (now Capital Pride Center) in 1997, I was in the big final exercise with the head of Sisters And Brothers In The Life, the organization for people of colour.  The question was about the exclusivity of organizations; should there be identity limits on membership?

I, as you can imagine, argued against identity boundaries.  And one question I asked that made a difference was “Is your goal to build strong black voices, or is it to build a strong black voice?”

I strongly believe that our goal has to build strong trans voices, not a strong trans voice.   We are a community of individuals, and our goal has to be to work to empower individuals to follow their own unique path, to claim their own unique expression, their own unique voice.

What about an event that is designed to showcase and hone those voices, where the expert is there to listen, and we are there to share?   Could that help raise consciousness and leadership?

Call it something like TransSpeak.   With work and luck, it feels like something that can develop over time, as people see others model speaking up, as people take the time to consider what they want to say.

It’s just a notion at this point.

What do you think?