Standing For Context

“Why aren’t you out there speaking for transpeople?  You are the sanest tranny that I know,” TBB was asked by an old friend from Trinidad CO, one who has certainly met his share of transpeople in “The Sex Change Capital Of The World.

She was in a gay bar for karaoke night when the man next to her at the bar asked if she dressed this way often.   For a transwoman who has been full time for over a decade now, that can feel like an insulting remark.

TBB just kept her cool and told him about her status and experience.

“I’m sorry,” he said.   “I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

He had no context for understanding her, so he started with an assumption that was far off, but when TBB answered gracefully, he gracefully changed his understanding.

For TBB, meeting people where they are is key.   She has worked through her own triggers so she can meet people where they are, understand their perspective, work to find common ground.

That’s why, I suspect, her friend from Trinidad finds her sane, because she is open to others, not trying to impose her beliefs, not someone who can easily be upset or rattled.

The vast majority of people who speak for transgender are adolescents.   They are newly out and claiming their space, asking for the spotlight, asserting their independence.  For transpeople, that second adolescence when we come out again, struggling to find a new and more effective way to be ourselves in the world, is always a difficult time.

Once we find our maturity, though, we become pretty boring.   TV producers don’t find us as fiery, and we don’t have the same burning need to announce our presence with authority.    We become balanced and conciliatory, often choosing just to keep our head own and tend to our own business.

In other words, we come more from a heartspace than from an place of demand, working to build bridges rather than insist on change or else.    We move beyond the rules and templates, beyond conventions and expectations to a place where we can meet people where they are and then build bridges of understanding.

TBB is sane, sane enough that she doesn’t feel the need to get media attention to tell the world how it should behave.

That’s why she speaks for herself, and not for her class.

And it looks good on her.


Direct God

Watched a documentary on Questioning Darwin.   Tried to understand what the 29% of Americans who don’t believe in evolution are do believe.

As far as I understand, this is the thinking of those pastors who reject evolution:

If you believe in evolution then you believe God didn’t directly create humans as written in Genesis.

If you believe that God didn’t directly create humans, then you believe that God doesn’t directly create every moment of the universe, rather letting a process play out without direct intervention.

If you believe that God doesn’t directly create every moment, then you may have no need to honour/humour him, have no ability to expect intercession, or may find no use in discerning or trusting his purpose for every tragedy.

Pastors who proselytize an active and intercessory God — “an all knowing, all powerful, infinitely wise creator” —  reject evolution to hold their belief in a direct and instantaneous relationship with a  controlling God, keeping both the promise of intervention and the threat of judgment ever present.

This rejection of evolution is centred in the fundamental belief in a literally true bible and a rejection of any challenge to “biblical fact.”  It is supported the teaching that martyrdom is the essence of being a true Christian.  Biblical challengers are trying to martyr believers so they must be ignored and silenced.

In the end, this creation of common enemy who are out to persecute good Christians is a technique that has been used for centuries.   In “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom” Candida Moss suggests that the myth of martyrdom—and the expectation of huge rewards in heaven—was effective in organizing a cohesive early Christian identity.   Why should it be less effective today?

I understand why fear bonding is such a powerful technique, why preachy preachers teach that it is the others who need to change, why activists find it easier to focus on oppression and persecution than on connection, vulnerability, forgiveness and personal growth.

Those techniques, though, deny the space for change by applying confirmation bias, rejecting anything that doesn’t fit our beliefs, denying anything that offers us challenge.   It keeps us both fixed in belief and fixed in separations, unable to open to continuous common humanity.

When anyone goes into the world looking to prove that others are oppressing and persecuting them, they will always find sufficient evidence to justify their isolation, their anger and their beliefs.

How do we find people in the world who are not missionaries, just proselytizing their beliefs, who are willing to put themselves on the line to face to find connection rather than just look for affirmation of their expectations?  How do we find ways to open pathways rather than just to blame others who do not buy into our belief structure?

More on this challenge later.

Beyond The Rules

TBB had to drive through Daytona last night, while the Daytona 500 was being run.

“I don’t watch NASCAR anymore,”  she told me.  “With all the rules now, there doesn’t seem to be any creativity, like when Smokey Yunick used the frame of his car to store more gas.  The marketers have homogenized the heck out of it, creating formula pap, which sells, but I miss the individuality.”

PerformanceGal gave a workshop on effective presentations and she got some resistance.

“I tried telling them that they get to get to the heart, be authentic to be powerful, but lots of them just kept coming back to the formulas I suggested that they throw out.  They clung to the rules as if the rules would save them, just like in school where rule following was the highest value.”

The Upright Citizen’s Brigade, an improv troupe in NYC just came out with a new manual for improvisers that tells performers the most important thing they can do is follow the rules, according to the New York Times.

This tension between following the rules and being creative has existed throughout history.

“Know the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”
Dalai Lama XIV, 18 Rules For Living

I used to have a collection of Judith Martin’s “Miss Manners” books.  This surprised people who found me transgressive, but to me, the rules of etiquette, of making social situations gracious and comfortable, seem utterly vital to collaboration.  Without some shared rules of decorum, how do we support each other in creation?

We start by being immersed in the rules, learning how to be this or that, but as we achieve mastery we learn where we can bring our own personal creativity in to move beyond the rules.   No one ever won big by just following the rules, which are there to tell you how to avoid losing, but no one ever won big by just not understanding the rules, either.

To me, this isn’t about learning to break rules, rather it is about learning to play beyond the rules.   Beyond the rules is the unexplored territory, deep and fertile, where creation and risk can make new and breathtaking possibilities.   Beyond the rules is where we are forced out of our comfort zone and into our imagination, finding new structures and solutions that amaze and extend.

It is often frustrating to me when others thirst to see the world through a rules mindset, either demanding binary, either/or choices to base their decisions on, or by imposing their expectations and prejudices on the choices of others.  As Byron Katie would tell is, growth depends on first seeing what is, being wise enough to see what cannot change and demands serenity, and what can be changed and demands our strength.

I know that I can’t tell these people to forget the rules, because rules do hold knowledge and truth, taking the best of shared experience and codifying it.  Owning the rules does unlock a great deal of valuable teaching.

I can ask them, though, to go beyond the rules, to go into their heart.   I can ask them to trust that the more deep and personal their expression is, the more it universal it will be, reaching out to touch others hearts, not just giving them another canned, predigested marketing routine.

When we go into the world and all we own is the rules, we will always be put in situations where the rules fail.   We will be challenged beyond our conventions and then will need something to fall back on, something to help us reach out, make a connection and create some new rules, new structures to help us move on.

This, of course, is the outcome of maturity, the result of understanding not just rules but also fundamentals that allow us to adapt and thrive beyond our comfort zone.   When we own the skills and not just the rules, we become truly powerful

I love rules, which often puts me at odds with others who are in the stage of claiming their independence from rules, demanding that the world play by their rules, which they haven’t really codified yet.

Even more, I love people who go beyond the rules, knowing the fundamentals and then adding the magic of their own heart and vision to create something new and amazing.  The human touch of handmade creation makes everything less canned and fresher, more delightful and more nourishing.

Know the rules so you have the basics down.

Then go beyond the rules to create the individual, powerful and astounding.

That seems to me to be how to find the mix of tame and wild, of social and personal that lets you show your heart and be all you can be, beyond the rules.

Not Corrupt

My love is not corrupt, no matter what I have been taught.  Fearing my love will be seen as corrupt keeps me from the power of love in my life.

Love is a powerful force in peoples lives.   When the dancers in “A Chorus Line” look back on what they did for love, they remember things that they would not have done for any other reason.  Love really does make us invincible, make us powerful, make us crazy.

To maintain social order, though, society needs to blunt that force of love, needs to channel it into nice, acceptable desire.

We get told that our love is corrupt, sick, perverted and are told what is acceptable for us to love.

In “The Red Shoes: On Torment and the Recovery of Soul Life,”  Clarissa Pinkola Estés discusses the old tale of the girl whose handmade red shoes were taken away from her as being not in the proper style and who then replaces those shoes with commercial shoes that take over her legs and begin to dance her to death until her feet are chopped off.

I first wrote about this in 1994 with TG & Clothing, and went deeper in 2006 with Conscious Womanhood and Staying Stupid. 

When the world tells us that our deep, pure, essential love is corrupt, we can’t choose not to love.  Rather, we can only choose to put that love into the permitted substitutes, the commercial and approved objects which were chosen to support the tame social structure while denying the wildness of handmade love.

So much of the deep inner power of gender has been harnessed like this, taken and twisted by smart marketers who want to convince us that using their product is the way we become a better woman or a better man.   Gender is twisted away from something essential to something social, away from a call of the heart to a demand of the culture.  This marketing twist makes gender feel oppressive and demanding rather than liberating and personal.

To do that, though, the first thing they have to teach us is that we don’t really know what we love, teach us that our love is corrupt if it doesn’t fall into approved and controlled lines.   If they can’t teach us not to trust our own love, they can’t teach us that their manufactured substitutes are the only things we should trust to get us what we need to fill our soul.

I often feel that call not to trust my love.   Decades of being trained to go into my head, to put walls around my tender and vulnerable heart have created powerful habits of defence and isolation.

To bond over love, I have to act on my love everyday.   As long as I keep what I love buried because I am sensitive to having my deep, powerful, inner love called corrupt & sick, I can  can never use that love to climb over obstacles, never create deep connections with others with love, bonding over the power of love in our lives.

To act on my love, my crazy and deep love, I need to feel affirmed in the idea that my love is not corrupt.  I need to know that it isn’t what I do out of love, like take care of my parents for a decade that makes my love tenable, rather it is the love itself, queer and feminine and raging that is beautiful and of value.

It’s not what I did for love that matters, it’s what I do from love that counts.  It’s what I do from the love that dare not speak its name, or at least dare not show its fashion sense.

If we all trusted our deep and authentic love, rather than trying to stuff that hole with manufactured simulations sold to us and that then own our soul, we might be able to trust that it is our content than counts and not the way we obey conventions.

My love is not corrupt.   I don’t need to hide it.  I feel better, more present and more alive when I don’t struggle to suppress it.

But changing the habits of a lifetime, well, that’s hard, especially with very skimpy support for that change.

Love is not rational.   But it is, I suspect, the essence of what makes us human, even more than the ability for thought, symbol manipulation and cooperation does.  After all, why do all that other stuff if not for love?

Continue reading Not Corrupt

Love Bonding

I know how the conservative right wing bond.  They bond over what they don’t like, bond over what disgusts them, bond over what they find stupid and immoral.   It is easy for them to find a shared enemy and believe that is connection enough.

In my experience,  women bond over what they love.   One of the best ways to start a conversation with another woman is to tell her that you love something she has chosen; a lipstick colour, a shoe or a cell phone case, for example.

Grown up women come to a point where they can easily say “That would never work for me, but I love it on you!”    That’s a point that transwomen often find difficult to engage, being so focused on their own desires that they have trouble embracing choices made by other women that they would never, ever make for themselves.

You may never want to date someone like her boyfriend, for example, but unless you understand why she finds him hot, you will never be able to connect with her.  Understanding and affirming the choices that other women make out of their own love, their own excitement and their own desire is the essential key to bonding with women.

I was at the supermarket tonight and the gal behind the register — who called me “hon” — said that she had forgotten her work shirt today.

“I’m guessing you’d rather not be here,” I offered.

“I want to be home with my family, doing anything,” she told me.   “Playing X-Box, even listening to Britney Spears,” she said.

“But those bills still come due at the end of the month,” I said.

“Ain’t it the truth,” she agreed.  “That’s why I’m here!”

I needed to understand what she loved, her family to connect with her.  And by understanding that, I also understood her choice to be behind the register tonight, to take care of that family.

By understanding what she loved, I understood her choices and we could find common ground.

All too often in the interlocking communities around transgender, we are asked not to come together around what we love but rather to come together around what we hate.   We are asked to share in a sense of rebellion and oppression, asked to stand for rejection and for isolation rather than to stand for connection, caring and love.

I don’t really know how to do that anymore.  When I meet someone who wants to bond over how bad the world is, over how shitty life is, over how love is always wasted and futile, I have no idea how to connect with them.     I know that when I get a phone call from someone who wants to explain why change is impossible, why hope is daft, why love is a dead end that I have no chance of really connecting with them.

This is, I know, part of the essential craziness of women, this notion that love is potent and magical, that love (and the right beauty preparations) can really change everything.

The deep networking and relationships between women would be impossible without believing in the power of love, even the power of love for things that don’t really appeal to us or fit us.   If our sister loves someone, that’s gotta be good enough for us, even if we secretly believe that she will wake up someday and see what we see.   We do this because it isn’t the object of her love that makes her our sister, it is the power of her love that makes her real in the world, the truth of her love that binds us together.

Women bond over love, over the power of enacting love in the world, over the feminine need and craving for love and connection.

Does this make us crazy, trusting love, even the love of silly and irrational fashions?

Well, yeah, maybe it does.  But trusting love is definitely the kind of crazy that I want in my life.

I love because I can love.   And I love people who love and people who love the fact that I love.

As a transwoman, I need more faith in the power of love and less in the call for rationality and sensibility.     Truth is always stranger than fiction because we feel a need to impose a kind of order on fiction that makes it feel probable.   The improbable, though, the impossible and transformative, well, that’s where magic lies for me.

I don’t want to bond over some rational sense of oppression and rejection.

I need to bond over some transcendent sense of love and possibility.

And if that means you need to call me a crazy broad, well, you know, I’m really fine with that.


Woman, Crazy, Good

“Welcome to woman,” PerformanceGal told me, “Welcome to crazy.”

I have never understood transpeople who want a day where men can wear women’s clothes without any concern.  They imagine boys competing in beauty pageants, or bosses forcing men to wear women’s clothes to work, and never consider the way that changes society.

Nobody embraces womanhood because it is interchangeable with manhood.   The system of gender just would never work if most people didn’t wilfully gender themselves, choosing to become men or women because they liked what the gender role entailed, or liked the perks that came with the role.  Gender expression is like any other kind of expression, allowing us to show our skills and our essence in the world inside of a context of class, heritage and community.

We gender ourselves, mostly, because we love expressing ourselves in the world.  Little girls don’t love pink because they were told to do so, or because their friends love pink, they just love what it represents in the world and want to connect with that meaning.  Women don’t go to chick flicks because they have to do so, rather the ones who go love a good, emotional story with a happy ending.

We love gender because we love gender expression.  Most people even love contrasting gender expression, wanting the heat of difference in relationship.  The sizzle in relationship when opposites attract is the basis for most recorded human romance, even if we can always point out exceptions.

If a male wants to win a beauty pageant for women, don’t they want to identify as a woman?   Don’t they want to delight in mastering the choices of a woman, even down to femaling their body?   If a boss wants women in the workplace, why would she want men in dresses instead?

I remember when I first came out as trans.  My goal was rational expression.   I wanted my brain to stay in control, which is why I never identified as a crossdresser, but rather as a guy in a dress searching for integration, balance and androgyny.   I hated the crossdresser model of “Now I’m Biff!  Now I’m Suzy!” finding the pendulum swings involved disconcerting and unconvincing, so I wanted a model that would help me find a centre.

There was one big problem with the rational approach, though.

A friend called me while I was getting dressed to go out on a Saturday night and I couldn’t really speak well to them.

“What are you?” she demanded “In some kind of a fugue state?”

Yeah, well, there was that.   Like any woman who spends days in sensible and appropriate clothes but who still picks up high fashion magazines to fall into the highly stylized looks, well, I love gender and its expression.   I may not be able to wear those platform heels anymore, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to.

ShamanGal was worried that a friend’s husband would see her as being crazy.  I laughed.

“What is the one thing that every man knows about women,” I asked.

PerformanceGal knew the answer immediately, having grown up female.  “They know that chicks are crazy!” she laughed.  “Welcome to woman, welcome to crazy!”

Ray Blanchard, Gender Tsar of the Clarke in Toronto, once wrote a treatise shooting down crossdressers.  “They say they wear women’s clothes because they make them feel more comfortable,” he razzed.  “Well, that’s crazy!  Look at the shoes, the undergarments, the makeup and such!  Who could be comfortable in those clothes?”

Women can, of course.   Oh, not physically comfortable, maybe, but comfortable internally, knowing they are expressing their nature, expressing their status, and showing themselves as attractive in the world.

Are women crazy for making the choices of women?   Well, most men think so, and many women wouldn’t disagree with that assessment.

So why do we women make the choices we make, even the choices some see as crazy?

Because we love them, that’s why.   We love to look great, love to flirt, love a bit of drama, love love, all that.

When transwomen try to stay sensible, rational and appropriate in their choices, they usually succeed in moving away from manhood, succeed in being not men after having been raised as men.

To embrace womanhood, though, even to embrace it and move beyond it to not woman, we have to be able to embrace the emotional, the passionate, the loving, the crazy.    Holding onto rationality means we can’t really embrace our own crazy, beautiful and shimmering femininity.   Femmes are the ones who wiggle, and wiggling doesn’t come from sensible and considered deliberation.

Guys know this.  Almost every one of them has felt the pull of a crazy gal, one so passionate and luscious that they wanted to be with her just to feel the feminine energy.  Some guys love the crazy so much that they make it a habit, just like some gals are only moved by bad boys.

The idea that the only way to be trans in the world is to be deliberate and measured, rejecting gender to find some sort of queer identity seems to miss the point for me.  I, like so many other women, love gender.   Gender expression turns me on, and the dance of gender brings out the best in most people, finding both the warmth of connected humans and the heat of bold individuals sparking together.

A world past gender doesn’t interest me.  As Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”   Don’t drag me into your own view of the world, your own limits or projections.

To me, gender expression has meaning.   And if some of it means “I love pretty!” well, that’s just fine with me.   Let women own their beauty, passion and femininity before demanding they also own their rationality, brains and leadership, let us own womenhood before having to also own our not womanhood, our simple, shared and strong humanity.

Humans are all human.  There is one human nature and we all share it.  That means, though, that we all share some crazy, too.

“Welcome to woman.  Welcome to crazy.”

Let’s dance!

Substitute My Own

“I reject your reality and substitute my own.”

You may know that as a t-shirt on a popular TV show, but the quote comes from a 1974 episode of Dr. Who called The Deadly Assassin.

We don’t see things as they are,
we see them as we are.
— Anaïs Nin

The limits of your reality are the limits of your comprehension.   If you don’t get something, you can either enter the uncertainty with an open mind, learning fast and grasping the new reality quickly, or you can do what quote says, rejecting that reality and substituting your own.

I know that people have good reasons for clinging to their own reality.  Loss is hard.  Rebirth is harder.  Changes that threaten to disconnect us from the people, the history and the conventions that we have learned to love are terrifying.   We hold onto what comforts us, rejecting challenge that might demand we let go and change.

I hate the word “really.”   That word always pops up when someone is trying to impose their reality on a situation, trying to eliminate nuance & complexity and replace them with an easy — and wrong — “truth.”

When someone tries to assert their reality over mine — to reject my reality and substitute their own — I get all the struggle I have made for decades to create an encompassing, connecting and shared world thrown out in favour of the comforting blinkers that many other people wear.  If they believe in some essential reality, that we are more defined by our biology and history, that we just need to find a reason to dismiss challenge rather than engage them, well, I am erased and hurt.

“I reject your reality and substitute my own.”

That is the moment when we say that our comfort is more important than our growth, when we decide that others need to bend to our views.

That is the moment when we stick our head up our own ass.


Love Bad

90% of everything is crap, famously said Theodore Sturgeon.

He came to this conclusion in the 1950 while examining the science fiction that he loved was often being attacked over the worst examples of the craft.   His revelation was that there was always a huge mass of mediocre crap in any field, that the exemplary was always rare, was always just that magical 10%.

“I will guarantee you,” I said to ShamanGal, “that 99% of people on any given dating site will NOT be your soulmate.”   As the old adage goes, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince.

What does this mean?  It means that life is much more about getting through the 90% of dross, the 90%% of chaff, the 90% of filler than it is about finding the 10% of jewels.  It means that when you do find excellence, you have to value it, hold it close, get as much as you can, because excellence is a rare and precious thing.

More than that, it means that if you love something, really love something, that it will be shown not because you love that thing while it is excellent — it is always easy to love excellence — but rather that you love it while it is crap.   It means you have to love the mucky, unformed, raw and gunky version, the bits where the jewels are tiny and fine, the parts where even in an unpolished state, the potential excites you and captures your attention and efforts.

You only really love something or someone when you love them not only when they are good, but also when they are crap, doing the routine and struggling towards greatness.   This is, of course, something that parents know well, spending years dealing with an infant’s crap just to be rewarded with a smile and a promise of much better things to come.

There is no mastery without first doing the dirty work, the scut work, the crap that is required to extract good from bad, to tease out excellence from routine.   Many people imagine themselves being authors, for example, being interviewed on television, but few people imagine themselves being writers, struggling alone with a blank page for months on end.

If you don’t love something or someone enough to go through the trying and boring bits with them, then you don’t really love at all.

What do you love enough to embrace even the 90% of it that is crap?   What do you love enough to tenderly coax more great and wonderful into the world?

Confluence Love

I have learned to wait.

It’s not that I like waiting.   I grew up with ADD behaviours and my control was manipulation for the longest time.   Pushing buttons was easy for me, because I could read people well and stay ahead of them.

The biggest gift I ever got from love was someone who refused to let me manipulate them.  They resisted my grand gestures, teaching me that if I really loved them, I had to let them grow in their own time.   We eventually parted, though they have lived in my heart since.   Even thought I saw them in Sears last week.

I remember a carnival that came through town while I was a kid.  Blaring from the bobsled ride, on speakers louder than I had ever heard before, blared The Supremes singing “You Can’t Hurry Love.”   I guess the operator just loved that bouncy, head-bopping tune, wanting to hear it over and over again.

In all my life, the lesson I keep learning over and over and over again is the lesson Florence, Mary and Diana were trying to tell me when I was ten.   You can’t hurry love.

Performance Guy asked me if that meant all I could do was make sure I was out in the world enough to take advantage of bizarre coincidences.

I resisted that term.

To me, what happens in the world aren’t bizarre coincidences, they are divine confluences.   People, energy and things just come together, opening up and creating connections that you could never expect or plan for.   Follow your bliss and be in the moment to find the most amazing things happening to you.

Love is the ultimate divine surprise.  It comes when pathways cross and people connect, linking hearts in ways we never could have imagined, bringing out strengths in us we could not tap in any other way.

Love stories are always about moments when hearts crack, moments when we feel safe and loved enough to offer safety and love to those close to us.  The feelings twist together in those moments, the bitter with the sweet, the sour with the salty, making a mix that just takes us out of our convention, losing our fear and becoming new.

The surprise everyone wants is that moment when love releases our heart from the everyday in a way that makes us feel the spark of the divine.

You can’t hurry love.  And it’s easy to fall for cheap thrills when love appears challenging.

But love, well, love will transform you if you let it in, multiplying your power to do amazing things.

Love is the ultimate divine surprise and the only way to have it is to be open to the divine confluences that open you to love, be they romance or sickness.

I lived in love for the decade I took care of my parents full time, but it sure wasn’t the kind of love about which great romantic stories are told.   It was love, though, and always surprising, bringing out qualities in me that I wouldn’t have otherwise known that I have.

My job now, I fear, is to be ready for love again, to be ready to be surprised by a new kind of love and connection, a new and unpredictable divine confluence that brings a new and transformative divine surprise.   I need to be ready for a new story even as I fear that the future will all be just too damn much for what I have left.

You can’t hurry love.   But you can embrace it and welcome its effects into your life, whatever they are and however they transform you.  Your love is powerful and graceful, and when you let it out, to nurse a dying loved one or to get naked with a lover, divine surprises happen that make life hot, warm and worthwhile.

May you feel the sparks of love today in a way you could never have expected, being caught up in in a divine confluence that brings a divine surprise.   Follow your bliss and open your heart, be passionate and vulnerable, letting love in.

And pray that I can do the same, eh?

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Choice Essential

When you meet a person, don’t trust their history or biology.   People change and grow.

I know that will upset some fundamentalists out there who want to locate truth in what they see as factual and fundamental, but without the chance to grow and become new, how can humans ever really have hope?

When you meet a person. don’t trust their pronouncements and posturing.  Who they want to be seen as doesn’t define them.

I know that will upset some activists who want to locate truth in their own assertions about their identity.   They want to be able to define themselves at will, claiming an identity based on theory and preference.

When you meet a person, trust their choices.   We are what we do when in counts, as the amazing Joann Roberts used to remind us in her sig.   Our choices reveal “the content of our character,” and that content is always profoundly human, frail and divine at the same time.

TBB loved Panti’s Noble Call, a heartfelt call from Panti Bliss/Rory O’Neill after she was called out as creating hate speech for identifying people she thought were making homophobic choices.   Rather than asserting a demand that others change, Panti shares her own feelings and choices, reveals her own experience of internalized homophobia, opening her heart in a particularly Irish and dramatic way.

Performers are trained to understand the power of choice, how choices reveal character.   They have to know that words are often used as a screen, but it is the humanity underneath, the emotions, priorities, fears and thoughts which shape choices, that holds  essential truth.

Michael and Kat understand this.   As long time improvisers, they work with their company to help them understand that performance choices made from the inside out, from a centred place will always be more resonant that choices made from the outside in, from the attempt to build a surface.

For me, what this means is simple:  they respond to me not out of expectation or political assertion, rather they just see and engage my choices.

For a transperson, whose experience in the world is always one of being erased by other people’s assertions of fundamental truths, this is the experience of fresh air.   Their focus on choice revealing character opens the space for me to breathe, to trust my own choices rather than just always being tensed up and ready for the “third gotcha.”

Because they value my choices, those in their company who respect them also are forced to see me in a different, more open way.   They have to get past their own expectations, assumptions and conventions to wonder what Michael and Kat see in me, seeing past the surface to glimpse my choices.

In my long experience, it is very rare to find people who focus on seeing choices rather than relying on their own comfortable prejudices.  For my self-confidence to bloom, though, after decades of service to others, there is nothing more important than believing that at least some people can value my choices over my history or over their own politics.

We are present in the world and in the moment when we follow our bliss and trust our own hearts.  If that heart, though, is going to be stepped on by the expectations of others every time we reveal it, we quickly understand that armour is required.  Armour is always a shell, not a truth.

The best way to encourage others  to be honest and open with you is to show that you will value their messy humanity, that because you will take them as they are, you will keep their hearts safe.

It’s only when you can say yes to other people — yes, I see your choices in this moment, yes, you are another messy human — and not no — no, you are wrong! — that we can really learn who someone else is, really build trust with them.

Michael and Kat have offered a bit of that to me.  And, they tell me, I have offered a bit of that to them, seeing, affirming and building on their choices, doing the old “Yes, and. . .”

People tell you who they in every moment with their choices.

You just have to be safe enough with yourself, confident enough in your choices and potential for growth, to be present for that exposition.

Continue reading Choice Essential

Mastering Mastery

There has been a lot of chatter, by Malcolm Gladwell and others, about how long it can take to achieve mastery.   The original research Florida State was based on easily measured, ranked performance skills, which isn’t necessarily a good indicator for the world.

When I was hiring, one of the things I looked for in a candidate was past successes.  I didn’t really care much if the past success was in the specific areas of the new job.  My belief was that people who knew how to succeed, how to get things done in one area were ready to transfer those skills into other areas.

In other words, what I cared about is if these people had mastered mastery.   If they knew how to achieve mastery in one area, they had the basis for achieving mastery in others.   They had the basic skills of a professional, and those skills, I believe, are foundational. Once you master the techniques of attaining mastery, whatever the area, transferring those mastering skills to another area is much simpler than starting from scratch.

For people who have never achieved mastery in any area, the whole idea that mastering itself is the basic skill set of a professional is beyond understanding.   They don’t put their choices in any larger context, don’t take advantage of the mirrors and tools around them, don’t engage in the practice and risks it takes to learn through trial, error (failure) and repetition.

How do we give people who have no direct experience of mastery, no history of owning their own knowledge and their own choices, the comprehension that mastery is not only achievable but that it is also fun and very rewarding?

I saw a documentary on the students at the Harrow school, which has turned out many successful men since 1572.  The most striking focus at the school was training the students to achieve mastery at a range of skills, from athletics to music to academics.   Students were not expected to just learn how to follow rules and pass tests, rather they were expected to lead, to have context, to take charge of their own projects and their own choices.   If they are going to be masters of the universe, mastering is the basic skill.

The core skill of mastery, at least to me, is being willing to see the subject you want to master from as many angles as possible.   Every subject worth owning is bigger than the viewpoint of one human being.

No bit of human knowledge is absolute, rather it is held in tension, held between a range of views.  Even something that seems as absolute as the boiling point of water, which can be seen as a physical constant, changes with pressure/altitude, with impurities and with other variables.

To achieve mastery, we need to be able to understand that range of knowledge and then make the best choices for the current situation.  In fixed systems, like chess, that mastery may be knowing how games can play out, but in more flexible systems, like management and marketing, mastery is much more subjective, with lots of good choices that balance multiple needs, but no perfect choices possible.   Mastery in those systems requires constant learning, evaluation and correction to adjust our choices in the moment.

I see many people in the world who struggle.   I want to help them, but I often understand that what they need to do is to learn the skills of mastering and then use those techniques in the world.

Recovery programs, I believe, are about giving people the tools, skills and practices to regain mastery over their choices beyond the thrall of addiction.  From going to meetings, reading affirmations, exploring their own feelings and more, all the skills involved are the skills of mastery, which is why people who have mastered their own recovery have the capacity to master other challenges.

For me, the goal of being a professional was the goal of achieving mastery.   I knew that I had to master my own emotions and my own mind to survive in my family and in the wider world, so that was the challenge I set for myself.

Is there any way to get someone who is still inwardly focused and swept into their own emotions to understand the importance of achieving mastery, even at the cost of accepting discipline and stopping indulgence?

I don’t know.   I don’t know.

I do know that mastering mastery has given me everything I have in my life.   It has been what saved me, and what allows me to be in the moment, growing and making others feel safe.

And I also know that it is people who have not yet learned the tools of mastering their own capacity and power who make me feel unsafe.

Entering The Market

When you go into a megamart, it makes sense to bring a shopping list.   There, the entire experience of shopping has been homogenized and routinized, designed so that you know exactly what to expect, comfortable and simple, so you can just do the same dance every time.

In fact, the experience has been so processed and controlled that every so often someone does a tell-all book about the psychological tricks stores play to direct you around the store, to help trigger your unconscious into buying what marketers want you to buy.

The shopping experience, it turns out, is much like being on a theme park ride, full of manufactured stimuli to keep you feeling comfortable, keep you in the store and more than anything, keep you putting more products in your cart.

Marketers know you have limited time and that actual attention is the most valuable commodity in the world, so they make it easy for you just to follow the cues and get your shopping done in a way that offers both emotional satisfaction and profits for the store.

This routine often leads us to believe that the world is as predictable as the megamart, that all we have to do is make our shopping list and choose the products we think would bring us satisfaction and happiness.   It gives us a sense that we are in control of our lives and that the world has some obligation to fulfill our expectations, even expectations as out of step as tomatoes in January.

For the vast majority of human history, though, markets weren’t like this.   Markets were chaotic, seasonal and very, very human.    We entered the market with few expectations but rather with open senses, prepared to explore and see what was available and good today.

Markets were places not of individual races through processed products but rather places for human interaction, with vendors, other shoppers, and with the goods available.  You had to come with an open mind, planning your menu not from an internet recipe but instead from what looked good and affordable today.

February would be a time for root vegetables, not for tomatoes, and if that meant you had to ask for a way to prepare the kohlrabi that was a great value today, there were always other shoppers available to interact with you, sharing their knowledge.

For me, the idea of going to a farmers market rather than a megamart is the model of how to live with an open heart, not blocked by assumption and expectation of comfortable routine but instead ready to be in the moment, understanding what is in front of us at this moment and making the best of those choices.

This is the centre of divine surprise, that attitude of gratitude that lets us be delighted by what we find rather than be stuffed with expectations and suffer when those expectations are not routinely fulfilled.

It’s easy to imagine what we might see in front of us and make decisions based on those assumptions, but the best things that ever happened in our lives were unimaginable until they happened.  It is only in the moment that we can be surprised and really grow, like those vegetables at the market or the humans we share them with.

How can we know what is going to tempt us today until we actually experience it?  How can we take advantage of surprising values until we see them?   How can we open to the new until we are introduced to it, open our mouths and our mind to it?

To me, the miracle of the divine surprise is there in shopping in a good, old fashioned market, the place that demanded our attention and involvement in the moment rather than offering a sanitized, routine experience of a highly constructed environment.  Sure, the simplification of markets has given us time to put our attention onto others things, but is, for example, the lure of cheap reality television really worth sacrificing real, live human experience?

Ralph Nader’s old Armenian mother use to stop young mothers in the supermarket and talk about the power of the old foods, like dried beans, to both stretch budgets and give satisfaction.   To her, markets were places to share, not just amusement park rides where we did what was expected.

I watched a woman choose a pork loin and miss the short dated ham right next to them, marked down from $3.28/lb to .98 that would feed her family well this weekend.   She knew what she had planned, so she was in her own expectation.   This wasn’t the way my mother trained us.  An ex said that my family has the “shopping gene,” the ability to scan a store and see the deals right away.   My mother may not have given enough value to quality, but her curiosity served her everyday of her life.

To me, I know that if I don’t enter the world like it is a farmers market, with knowledge & experience but without expectations and hard plans, I will never get the best out of it.  I know that I will miss the divine surprises the world holds, both the hard lessons and the joyous delights.

That may not be the behaviour marketers want from shoppers today, but it is what opens my mind and heart in this divine moment.

And that is what is important to me.

Forgiveness, Forgetness

When we don’t forgive, we end up letting our enmity, our anger, our fury control us.    Holding blame and judgment blocks us, blocks us from seeing change when it happens, blocks us from opening our heart, blocks us from vulnerability, blocks us from growth, blocks us from the new and healthy.

I practice forgiveness every day.  The basis of this is my refusal to blame people.  Thirty years ago or more now, I had a counsellor who found my behaviour notable.

“You tell me what people did wrong, how they screwed up and even how they hurt you, but then you explain to me why they did what they did, how their actions made sense in their context,” he told me.  “I don’t usually see that behaviour in this office.”

When you grow up with parents who you know love you but who have real trouble being there for you, living inside their own Aspergers, understanding their love in context was the only way I knew to accept their love in the world.

Once I learned that practice, it was impossible not to see the choices of others around me in context.  I saw the intention of others, how they set their own priorities,  and why they made actions that were not good for me, or even actions that were not good for themselves.

My own survival mechanism was always my mind.   My brain is like gum on a hot summer sidewalk; things just stick to it.   I don’t slough off memories easily, rather I have a low level of “latent inhibition.”   The choice was clear to me.  Either I could get swamped in a sea of stimuli, or I could learn to make stories and create context, generating mental structures to understand myself, my family and my world.

In other words, if I couldn’t have forgetness, I had to have forgiveness to stay sane and stable.

For me, forgiveness has never been letting go of memories, of stories, of scars.   I don’t have that luxury.

Forgiveness has had to mean putting those experiences in context and opening the space to let people change, to let people become new, to let people choose again.

Maybe forgetness is nicer than forgiveness.  I wouldn’t know.

But I did know that if I was going to have a relationship with my family, if I was going to accept the connection and love that they did have for me,  I needed to be able to forgive them, needed to be able to not hold a grudge against their previous choices as a block to what they had to give and what they needed today.

I suspect that for others, who see letting go of bad things as the key to forgiveness, this looks very odd.    I can’t let go of the memories, but to me that means practising forgiveness has been very important to me since I was very, very, young.

People are who they are, messy humans following their own needs and patterns, healing in their own time and their own way.

If you can’t love them anyway, how can you possibly love them at all?

For me, the courageous choice has always been to know how I have been hurt and to give loving people trust again anyway.  I need to be the tailor, always measuring anew, need to be the trans-shaman, holding the space open for transformation, need to be the femme, loving enough to keep my heart open.

I have cut people out of my life when they have hurt me too much, when they keep up that pattern.  I don’t do this without forgiveness, though.   I have compassion for them and their challenges but I just don’t need them acting out against me.

I know that if I obsess over their actions, believe that their choices were about me and not about them, I surrender control over my life to them.   Bad mouthing them, for example, or demanding that others also disconnect from them isn’t healthy behaviour for me.

It is still painful when people who love me can’t see how I have been injured and make the choice to connect with the person who hurt me, but holding my own pain over them just screws up our relationship.   I learned very, very early that my pain is just my pain and I need to own it, not holding anyone else responsible for it.

For me, forgiveness will never be forgetness.  Getting over it will never be the same as letting the history go, rather it will always be holding the memory and opening to others again anyway.

People deserve another chance, people need the opportunity to grow, people always have the opportunity to choose again and choose better next time.

To stay in relationship with them, I have to get over my own damnself and give them that chance, scar tissue be dammed.

Because without an open heart, how can I ever give and receive the love and connection I so desperately need?

Though I do have to admit, always being the one who has to see the context and hold open space for healing can really wear a person down, especially if the have had to do it since childhood.

But love has to be worth it.


Between Demand & Compassion

When someone doesn’t do what we expect them to do, what we want them to do, what we need them to do, we have to make a key choice.

Do we approach them with understanding, accepting their limits, re-calibrating our expectations of them, giving them the benefit of the doubt, being tolerant and stepping in to clean up whatever mess results?

Do we come come back with demands, holding them to a higher standard, showing our anger or disappointment, expecting them to take responsibility for their failure and up their game, cleaning up their own messes or being cut off?

Neither of these opposing approaches is always, right, of course.   Everyday, in every relationship we have with someone, we have to blend these strategies, both demanding people to get on the stick & pull up their own socks, and giving them compassion & understanding, more help & another opportunity to show what they can do.

If we see someone trying to do something for themselves, apparently trying to take responsibility but still struggling, it’s very easy for us to show compassion and pitch in to help.

If we see someone asking for help, apparently trying to shirk responsibility, it’s very easy for us to demand that they take responsibility for their actions or suffer consequences, no matter how dire.

As a transperson, I know that many people see my choices as indulgent, irresponsible or even perverted, deciding that I deserve whatever I get, because, after all, I brought it on myself.   They demand I take responsibility in the world for the fears and discomfort of others, often deciding that discrimination, abuse and the effects of stigma are all my own fault.

If I don’t approach other people with understanding that they are who they are and they make the best choices they can in the moment, even if those choices are not the most sensible ones I can see for them, then how can I ask for the same approach from others?  If I harshly judge others, am I not asking to be judged, according to the golden rule?

My parents both approached the world with a mindset that today we call Aspergers Syndrome.  Their minds worked like their minds worked, brilliantly but without much emotional intelligence.   This meant that they both had a very centric view of the world, requiring others to enter their viewpoint rather than entering the views of others.

I knew that I had to accept them as they were, knew that they were trying to do they best they could do in the world.  If I didn’t believe that, I never could have tolerated the choices my parents made, or more accurately, the choices they didn’t make for well over half a century.  I understood their behaviour in the context of who they were, of how their brain worked, what their capabilities were.

I watch parents on tv shows and they work to understand their kids, work to help their kids, are there for their kids, rather than requiring the kids to take care of them, and I realize I never really had that in my life.  If I want people to accept me as I am, don’t I have some obligation to accept them as they are, to not make demands of them that are almost impossible for them to meet?

Now, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t struggle mightily, doesn’t mean my heart wasn’t broken by my parents time and time again. There are enough broken doors in this house, the one I have to let go of, to understand that. And even that letting go is hard, because nobody could get my father to do real planning for his estate. Still hurts, bad.

I know the problems with approaching others with understanding rather than demands, of always having to leave room for transformation and trust again while also being smart about other people’s limits.  The result is that I  am always at the end of the whip, always expected cleaning up other people’s messes.

That cleanup has shaped my life, has consumed my life, has taken my life.   Rather than creating my own place and success in the world, I have learned to clean up after my family.  My resources and energy have been consumed with taking care of those who had their own struggles rather than claiming my own possibilities.

My mother would always tell me that she was doing the best she could do.  I came to hate that line, “I did my best,” because she used it as an excuse to not come through, to not have to be uncomfortable, to not have to really put blood and sweat into the need for change.

When I was 16, I would tell her “The way you approach me isn’t getting you the results you want.  Maybe you need to try another strategy.”   I learned, though, that wasn’t going to happen, that she was going to keep doing what was habitual to her, trapped in the limits of her own collapsed vision, because the emotional connection wouldn’t come.

When I see others struggling to do the right thing and still failing,  it is easier to have some compassion.    They may fail me, but they really are doing the best that they can, and no amount of pressure from me is going to make her heal or grow faster or better.

People heal in their own time, in their own way, and if we could make them heal differently, life would be easier. If we could make ourselves heal faster or better, life would be easier.

It’s easy to know how to approach someone who hurts you out of hate.   It’s much harder to know how to approach someone who fails you and causes you pain even though their choices are the best that they can make in the midst of their own struggles, choices made out of love.

Where is that line between real limits and real denial? Do I give people too much slack, or do I just need to take more hits?  Not every amateur can be professional, but then again, without demands, we almost never get what we need.

This question is really at the nexus of my hope and my pain.   Do I give people the benefit of the doubt, giving them another chance because I know that their intentions are good, or do I call them out on how they cause me pain?

Piers Morgan claims that he is on the side of transpeople, but Janet Mock feels he should be held accountable for sensationalizing her by focusing on her body, not her heart.  As people who stand for transformation, we have to give people the space to grow, but as humans, we have to call out even well intentioned people when they hurt us.  Hard.

Somewhere, somewhere, though, there is a line where someone’s best really is the best they can do, even with struggling, and you just have to accept that and love them anyway.

How much do I extend compassion and the space for transformation, and how much do I snap, demanding everyone do it the right way or take whatever shit I choose to give them?

I know what the golden rule says.   I just also know how scarred my heart is.

Asymmetric Connection

Relationships take time, time to share understanding and time to build trust.

This is especially true of relationships across conventional boundaries of class, race, gender, and so on.   When we share a lot in common with others — like our trust in Fox News Channel, for example — we already have common ground to work from.   We have the seeds of a deeper relationship.

Being a too smart, too queer drag-mom theologian trans-femme, you probably won’t be surprised to discover that I usually find these common cultural starting points to be hard to discover.   I, for example, shudder to think of meeting with a new counsellor or life coach just because the whole “catch-up” — the sharing of life story and views to get a basis for the work — seems altogether too daunting.

That’s why I try to find spaces where I share something with the people.  I went to the improv space because I understand the power of performance, of creation, of theatre, of art.   There I found that the professionals in the room, the co-directors, had the background and the skills to make a connection with me and value what I had to share in a profound way.

We clicked, those performance people and I did, but like anybody in this culture, they have limited time and energy left over to build new connections.  Priorities are priorities, so family, work, business and art have to come first.  We grab moments here and there to connect, and I am grateful for them.

For me, this whole idea that relationships take time to develop, especially across cultural differences means that I don’t easily make new connections.  I’d love to find people who share the other bits of my focus, in theology, as a femme, as trans, in business or writing, in content creation, but I know that there are few places where people have the skills, the time and the intent to create new relationships.

Even Performance Guy, who has dedicated time for me and reads new blog posts — the 1300 posts I wrote before I met him remain untouched — is still learning new things about my experience of being in the world as a transgender person.   And in trans-space, most people are so focused on their own real and immediate challenges, working the armour and surviving in the world, that they have little energy to see through the eyes of another, different person.

My history means that I have a a great deal of context and skills to quickly enter another person’s world, to see through their eyes, but I also know that history makes it more difficult for them to enter my world.  As a shaman, walking through walls that others find real and solid has become second nature to me, penetrating beyond convention and expectation.   When I see in others what they are not yet ready to see in themselves, there is asymmetry.

The question I always struggle with is where I can best invest my limited time and energy to make connections across cultural divides to build trusted, strong and reliable relationships.   Trust is never something you can rush, and reciprocity takes time.   Time and understanding are scarce commodities for most people, even those with the best of intentions.

Asymmetric trust is the usual result, as it was with TBB on Saturday night, people who quickly get that she is safe with their own humanity, but who are not yet safe with hers, never having built up trust with themselves.  We can cross the boundaries back to where we started, but others cannot imagine crossing boundaries that we have traversed to get to where we need to be in the world.

Every human needs love and connection.   We struggle when we don’t have that in the world.  

Love and connection are built on mutual trust.   Trust takes time and commitment to build, starting with us taking the time and commitment to listen to and trust our very own heart, even the bits of it that others tell us are ugly or queer.

If our primary goal is to stay comfortable, maintaining the props we use to avoid the challenges of seeing beyond, then the limits of our trust will always be the limits of our comfort, no matter how loving we think we want to be.

Where do I go to find people I can share myself with? 

I know how to let someone share with me, how to make them feel seen, understood and valued.

But where do I go to find connection that makes me feel safe and trusted?

That, I suspect, has always been my biggest struggle to find connection across borders, the connection I need to feel loved.

Charred Phoenix

Performance guy is enthralled by the Phoenix metaphor I threw out to dismiss, loving the idea that I will walk into the flames, burn away the old and habitual, emerging from the ashes new and stronger, released from the past and transcendent.

It’s a great image of course, one used in 1986 by Holly and Jessica in Asheville, a well accepted tale story of loss and rebirth.

Mind you, he’s not enthralled about it for himself.   He’s enthralled about it for me.   He had no real interest in throwing himself onto a pyre and seeing what emerges.  You’d have to be crazy to want that, but wanting to watch someone lose their human frailty and emerge beyond it, well, that’s one hell of a good show, eh?

ShamanGal had a nice chat with TBB last night about her Saturday night at the bar.  To her, the night sounds exciting, full of mastery and power that she doesn’t yet own.

The part of the story where TBB felt dehumanized and left as a cartoon, only to finally be touched by the empathy and sharing of a bisexual guy who made coffee and spoke deeply, well, that part wasn’t as clear to Performance Guy or ShamanGal.    It’s in the story, of course, but it’s small, messy and difficult, the hurting human part of a wounded healer, who is often seen just for the power of moving beyond human convention.

No human is a Goddess of Eros, even though she may own her desire in a way that transcends the conventional fears of many humans.   Humans may channel the divine, but in the end, they do that in an aging body of flesh and frailty, do it with a human heart than needs love and connection just as much as any other human.

We may have learned to rise above the fray, learned to let go and become enlightened, but we can never learn to let go of our human heart, no matter how awesome we may seem.

To be present in the moment is to surrender to the moment.   We learn to take things as they come.  There was no way for TBB to schedule, plan or create last Saturday night, to control all those elements coming together, rather she just had to take it when it comes.

More than that, she has to hold onto that energy to get her through the other struggles of her life, the ones that she uses her trans armor for, that learned behaviour that keeps her upright everyday and not sobbing about the love and connection she doesn’t find most days.

It is an amazing power to learn to transcend emotions and claim your own choices in the world beyond convention and fear.   I understand why people respond to those they see who can do this.    The healed can become healers, potent and compelling.

Getting some of that power, though, doesn’t mean you also transcend basic human needs.  The loss that convert to lessons is still experienced as loss, the hungers of the heart still flow through us.

I stopped into Sephora last night after my chat.   I know that they are a place for charms, for potions, for unguents, for paints and tools, for surfaces. That didn’t stop me, though, from being entranced by the magic, from wanting to shovel up an armful of brushes & colours & scents & treatments and drop them on the counter, take them home and luxuriate in them praying that their magic would bring me solace and charm.

Yet, as the cashier at the market who was surprised I was only buying pretzels and potatoes — “is that all you need tonight?” — didn’t understand, my bare pocketbook wouldn’t tolerate any more, my choices had to be tightly constrained.  I have no room or resource for indulgence.   I work with spare bits, scraping whatever I can find and making the most of every scrap.

I do pray that I can rise above the ashes once again, and I have some indications from my mother in the sky that it is what she has in mind for me.

Still, when I look around and see everything that has to burn in order to release me, I am terrified and humbled.  Walking into the fire doesn’t mean that you don’t feel pain, only that you know that the only way out of hell is through, know that loss is required for rebirth.   We feel everything, for if we didn’t, we would never be able to find the divine inside, instead being a sociopath disconnected from our continuous common humanity.

I understand why the image of the phoenix is compelling and thrilling.

I just also know why the charred bird bleeds.

Work, Resistance

Imagine holding small weights in your hands while holding your arms straight out, perpendicular to your body.

You might think that would be a simple task, at least until your muscles started to quiver and your joints began to ache.   After all, you aren’t really being asked to do any work in this scenario, all you have to do is resist the omnipresent pull of gravity.

You can use your energy to do work, pumping the weights up and down, or you can use your energy to resist work, just holding those weights out until you are shuddering in pain and gasping for breath.

It may seem tiring to do the damn work in front of you, but work is usually fulfilling.  There is motion and momentum involved, giving us a real sense of accomplishment and development.   Work makes us feel like we did something, made something happen, that we got somewhere.

Resistance, on the other hand, may seem like the easy choice, the inert choice, the less costly choice, but in reality, resistance is wearing, expensive and leaves us feeling worn and futile.  Resistance is energy burned in staying stuck in one place, life used up by trying to fight the forces that pull at us all the time.

Work gives us a chance to use those forces, to work with those forces, to create something new and better, while resistance puts us at the mercy of those forces, demanding we fight them all the time to just stay in place.

When I hear people say how tired they are, I usually find that they aren’t the kind of tired where they fall into bed with the knowledge of a day well spent, rather they are sick and tired of the ennui and routine of their life.  They use up their energy in the mundane, the boring, resisting actually doing the hard work that can create new choices and new power for themselves.

Life engenders life.
Energy creates energy.
It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.
Sarah Bernhardt

Resistance is the easiest way to consume your own life without having anything to show for it.

Doing the damn work may seem the harder and more complicated option, but in the end, it is by far the most rewarding choice.

You are going to pay the price of life everyday, whatever you choose to do with it.

Wouldn’t you rather have something to show for it?


Goddess Of Eros

“It’s you, you know,” the bartender told TBB this Saturday night at her favourite chophouse.

“This connection wouldn’t have happened without you.  You are the reason everyone is feeling loose and sexy tonight.  You are amazing!”

There is something magical about someone who has made peace with their own desires, learning to show their heart on the outside.  When you are comfortable in your own skin, not very bothered about what other people think and trusting your own Eros, people can feel it.

That doesn’t mean that they are always comfortable with it, especially at first, as the two older Southern Belles who joined TBB at the bar for dinner gave her the fisheye, putting their heads together to chatter, proved.

The restaurant  is safe, though, with a gracious owner so TBB ignored them, just chatting with a bartender who remembers good guests and makes a fine Negroni.   This is a classy place and they know how to make people feel comfortable.

It was when the trio of young, well-heeled swingers came in that things began to get interesting.  The gent peeled off to enjoy his evening, but the two thirty something women picked out TBB from across the room and bracketed her at the bar, one cocky and one tender.

As dinner came out, there was laughter and sharing, of stories and of erotic exposures stored on their phones between the girls at the bar.  TBB was the catalyst for their relaxing and the gals went off to find prey for the night.

“I held court,” TBB told me.

A bit of magic had already happened, though.  Those curious belles had seen TBB chatting with the hot gals, learning that she was not only fun, she was also safe.   Soon they too were sharing with her, relaxing into the evening, and telling stories about desire.  Heck, they might have even invited TBB to join them if she still had the equipment they favoured in place.

TBB even knew how to play cupid, though, telling the bartender that the hot swinger found him very attractive.   If he just asked, he might have some company tonight.

That bartender had seen the magic that TBB and her strong comfortable Eros brought to the bar that night, affirming how her transformational energy had changed people around her.

“The stars aligned when I decided to get out of my engineer outfit and put on boots, a skirt and show some cleavage.” she told me.  “I know I’m in my fifties, but if you just show people you aren’t a threat, aren’t competing with them, they open themselves up to you in really beautiful ways.”

A few drinks and the big, open, vulnerable heart of a visibly transgender woman at the bar offered a glamour on that chilly Saturday night that no one was expecting.

“I don’t think the other gals actually saw me as a woman, which was sad” she said, “but I know that they saw me as a magical individual, saw me on the girls side.”  They saw her as bold enough and strong enough, to stand up to social pressure, not subject to the judgment and fear of other woman like they are, saw her as not bleeding to stay in the system of desire, unlike them.

After 4 AM, when she drove home the horny high-maintenance blonde who needed lots of affirmation, even calling a boyfriend in the night, things changed.

A guy staying at the house invited TBB inside and made some coffee.  They chatted, connecting not just over curiosity and transcendence, but over humanity.   They spoke of the men and the women that he had loved, and he even shed tears over a lost child the mother chose not to take to term.

TBB sat together with him, two grown ups bonding over being queer and being the parent.  TBB was finally not just the transcendent queen who smashed the ice for others, not just a subject of curiosity and awe, but a human sitting together in empathy with another tender heart.  At that moment, she let go of her shield of playful desire and entered a deeper intimacy that left her moved, touched and wanting more.

She got a text message the next day from the tender woman, the gal who struggled with her own emotional state.

“God put you there for me,” she said.  “Months ago I prayed for a transwoman to teach me how to be a woman.”

TBB, the Goddess Of Eros, wove her spell over those people, creating an energy that opened hearts.

More than that, after the party, someone who saw her as a tender woman, opening up so they could share hearts together.

All the points of light came together on Saturday night, her huge heart creating a nirvana experience for TBB and the people around her.  She made magic, opening doors for others, and finally letting the door be opened for her.

It’s just what she does.

Amateur Terror

I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I wanted to be a pro.

Amateurs are just indulgent dilettantes in my book.  They are in it for their own purposes, having a good time, staying comfortable, indulging their whims.

Professionals, though, well, they are in it to win it.  They want to get better, sharper, more skilled, more aware, more confident and more competent everyday.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think being a pro had to be the goal.

Amateurs scared me, always did, because they were so essentially unreliable.   They didn’t know how to be good team members, weren’t committed to learning and growing, and were always into themselves.

I learned early the progression: dependence, independence, interdependence.  Pros understand interdependence in their bones.   They know that they can’t depend on people to take care of them, but they can’t just go it alone either.   Pros have to play their part while trusting that others will also do their job, coming together to get stronger and more effective everyday.

My family, well, they weren’t pros.   My mother wanted people to take care of her.   For my father it was his way or no way, not because he was domineering but because he really couldn’t anyone elses vision.   My brother turned into an appendage of my sister-in-law, learning to satisfy her instead of being a pro.  And my sister is often lost in her own feelings, feelings she doesn’t really own.

They taught me not to trust amateurs.  They showed me I had to be a pro.   One reason I was such a great translator for them in the hospital is because I knew instantly how to be a pro alongside the other members of the care team, from aides to doctors.    The palliative care lady, who I had to deal with a few times, was amazed at how I could be there to assist them in ways that few families could.  Of course.  I’m a pro.

My sister blew up at me yesterday, all shame and venom, because I noted that the amateurs she had me help by putting together a website for their upcoming gala dropped the ball.   I wasn’t trying to play the blame game, just noting with a bit of frustration that my work was bypassed for another, unworkable solution.

But she felt the cut deeply.   Her history of not being enough was stirred, so she lashed out in a way that hurt me.

I know, I know.  How unprofessional.   Pros are wholehearted, acknowledging feelings and failures, helping the other person back up and working together to look for a new solution.   Pros solve problems rather than exacerbating them.

I’m interesting now because I approached the world as a professional, committed to ownership, development and growth.   The price I paid in loss I worked hard to translate into competence.   I can be a safe space for others, a teacher and encourager, because I bring a professional approach to relationships, a commitment to the community, to raising everyone’s game.

I remember all those times when I did the easy thing and ended up making a prat of myself, getting knocked in the head.   And I am grateful for those moments, when I turned loss into lessons, achieving greater mastery.

Lessons are what we get when we don’t get what we want.  And according to A Course In Miracles, miracles are what we get when those lessons teach us to see the world in a new and clearer way.

The lovely thing about your mother in the sky is that if you miss a lesson, making the comfortable choice rather than the right choice, she is more than willing to repeat the lesson over and over again until you can actually make a better, more considered and more actualized choice.   A more professional choice.

Now, lots of people don’t understand why that process is a lovely thing.   Somehow, getting bopped over the head again and again until they make a better choice doesn’t seem like a gift to them.  They really don’t have the whole practice of gratitude down.

Those people?   They are amateurs at the art of life.   And they scare me.

I know why I want to be a pro.   And I know why I hate having to clean up after amateurs, hate having amateurs work to silence me rather than engage, respect and honour my contributions.  My acute situational awareness is part of what I developed as a professional, but the first thing I always have to use it for is to scan for amateurs who will crack and act out under load.

I figured out early that being a pro was the best thing I could do.  And I also figured out that the people who were the most dangerous were amateurs who just chose not to see the whole picture and their part in it, chose not to respect our essential interdependence.  They would be the ones looking to blame rather than to learn, looking to accuse rather than grow.

I have enough scars from that behaviour, thank you.

But I will pick myself up, learn from my mistakes and work the process the best I can.


Because I’m a pro, that’s why.

Change Changes

I’ve been listening to a lot of Brené Brown recently, and one thread has struck me.

Ms. Brown shows herself to be a nice, conventional lady, with a nice conventional history and nice conventional desires.    She shares a mainstream experience with her audience.

In that understanding, she often puts up warnings or disclaimers when she gets to challenging bits of her work.   For example, she notes how she just wanted wholeheartedness and authenticity to come with a couple of changes in her life, but what she found in those who had those traits was that they had — and here is where the gasp, the warning comes — a practice.  Yes, they had to work at making different choices everyday, not just do a couple of things.

This reminds me of when MythBusters started adding a notebook with diagrams and equations to their shows.   They originally labelled it “Warning!  Science Content!”  They dropped the warning after a season because someone figured out that people who watch MythBusters are not people who are afraid of science, and even if some are, creating disclaimers stops them from entering the good stuff.

The question that any guru has to decide when offering lessons is how much do you invite people in with sweet candy and how much do you help people heal & grow with raw truth?   In other words, how much sugar and how much spice?

Ms. Brown often talks about how producers want her to back off on words and concepts that can be off-putting to the audience, offering a sweet invitation to change.   She knows now that she has to stand up for her message to some degree, for example, using the word “shame” in her big TED talk keynote.

ShamanGal has been doing shame work recently.  In one of her calls, she asked me why she seemed to get over shame around transgender quickly, but shame around family and identity was more difficult to get over.

Her unconventional shame, I offered, was easier to get over even though it was more stigmatized, because it was surface shame.   Her conventional shame, on the other hand, shame about perfectionism and duty, shame about family name and success, was much more difficult to get beyond because that shame was not only taught early, but it was shame that connects her to others she loves.

To break the bonds of conventional shame, she has to recreate her relationship with her deep identity and her family, has to question some of her deepest held teachings, and has to examine choices she made based on those beliefs.  Her shame about transgender isn’t deep, but her shame about failing to deny her own heart in order to carry out familial expectations goes right to her core.    It is those early, conventional and deeply embedded ways she has learned to block trusting her own heart that are the hardest to release.

This is the deep, dark secret of every motivational speaker, the one that they so often want to hide under glossy homilies: Change changes.   Once you commit to change, you don’t get to be the same person making the same choices in the same relationships.   You end up having to work the process, to go where change takes you, to become new not only in ways you chose but also in ways you could not expect.

It’s easy to know what the right choice is, but it is often hard to make those choices.  Why do we stick to choices we know aren’t optimum, choices that we know lead to the same blind alleys, choices we know are flawed and limiting?

We stick to those choices because we know that changing them won’t just change that one choice, it will change our relationship with the world.

TBB has a friend from high school who was far from supportive when she started living as a woman.  Her friend blamed her for screwing up everything by attending his wife’s funeral as a visible transwoman, for example.

Recently, though, her friend has been working to change his life, starting with stopping a lifelong habit of drinking.   His latest struggle is around a relationship with a controlling woman, a relationship that he doesn’t want to lose, but also a relationship that keeps him bound up in drama and sickness.

Who does he call for help in engaging that change?   One person he calls is his old friend TBB, of course, because he knows that she has done the change work, knows that she has had to let go of the comfortable to engage the new and better.   TBB stuck out his blaming, hung in there, and now that he needs to heal, he knows what friend he can trust to share his vulnerability, trust to be safe with his darkness.

Change changes things.  Change changes everything, for that matter.    And the deeper that change goes, the more it changes relationships that we have counted on for comfort even as they bind us up in expectation, convention and limits.   Is there any wonder why we resist change, why we keep doing the same things that trip us up every time?

The notion that change is something we can choose like we choose from a menu, only taking the bits we want and declining those bits that are not to our taste, those bits that demand too much from us, is a lovely, sweet and compelling fallacy.

Change changes, so if we want change, we have to take the changes that come along with it. New always comes with different, innovation always comes with surprises, re-creation always comes with restructuring.   We have to stay in the moment, surrendering, having the strength to change what we can, the serenity to accept what we cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference, always grateful for the opportunity to choose again, working to choose growth and healing.

Opening your heart will change you.  Your change will change your relationships.   But your change can be both something to blame and something to open a heart, as TBB found out with her high school friend.

Change changes.   And that’s the secret many successful teachers don’t want to have to say out loud.