Frustration Pighead

Q: How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change.

I watched a TV show recently where a gay doctor tried a series of ex-gay therapies.   In the end, to no one’s surprise, his sexual orientation didn’t change; he was still attracted to men.

The show made me angry, though.  The goal in these therapies is not to change someone’s nature, rather it is to change their choices, to modify their behaviour.    The patient, in other words, has to really want to change, and it was clear this doctor had no desire whatsoever to change his behaviour.  In fact, he had a deliberate need to retain his identity and so to mock & sabotage any potential therapy that might change him.

He is out, out, out, out, seeing no need for the closet anymore.  For LGBT people who, unlike him, don’t feel safe being out, life is a very different thing. While gay people may well have more freedom today, transpeople still operate in a world where being visibly trans has a very high cost in many ways.  Many of us do want to keep our behaviours modified even if we know we can’t change our essence.

It is this willingness to grow, to learn, to change that is a key difference between humans.  Are we in the world with openness, working to become better everyday, or are we in the world with a closed mind, defending our own comfort zone?

In other words, do we really want to change, or do we just see the process around change an unnecessary annoyance?

If we reject challenge to stay in our own conventions, if we are a tourist asking life to entertain us, rather than a traveller asking life to transform us, we are, in the opinion of many, normal.

Performance Guy was a bit frustrated with me yesterday.  “How would you deal with developmentally disabled people?   You are so impatient that I bet they would frustrate the shit out of you!”

I laughed.  I spent a decade caring for my parents, both firmly in Aspergers, and my patience had been tested and proved.

“I know that for many people, there is no such thing as quality time,” I said.  “What counts is quantity time, slow and persistent effort to make small changes over time as they struggle with the challenge of growth.”

The challenge, I said, isn’t with people who struggled with change.  The problem is with the people who have a closed mind and who reject change.

The number 5 entry in What You Need To Know About My Transgender is “The most painful thing about trans is not being able to give your gifts and have them accepted.”

My experience of life is not with people who have trouble grasping what I say, my experience is with people who reject, deny, ignore and erase what I say because to accept it would require them to move out of their comfort zone.

To engage what I say would require them to shift their worldview, to let go of binaries and walls that they have built to separate scary from easy, separate good from bad, separate them from us.   To see through my eyes would require them to see themselves and their choices through my eyes, to open up the requirement for growth and that is something they just don’t want to do.

It may well not be worth my while to invest in people who learn slowly, but people investing in people who reject learning and growth, whose minds go into vapour lock to maintain their own myopic view of the world, well, that makes little sense at all.

When I try to give the best I have to offer and those gifts are rejected with prejudice, well, I find that a frustrating experience.  My life is about resources, trying to use what I have to get good returns.  It would be good to have more to give, but I only have what I have, so investing it where it will be ignored, dismissed or even attacked seems a profound waste.

I understand why people have trouble leaving their comfort zone, why seeing the world through new eyes that might reveal new obligations is a difficult thing.  In the end, though, the human journey to self — the gift of a life time is becoming who you are — demands that kind of open awareness and transformation, the kind of growth and maturity that casts out venality and embraces love and transcendence.

One of the most profound bits of advice I ever got came from Chuck Munson and it was simple.  “Don’t piss into the wind,” he told me.    Don’t spill your seed on the ground; husband it so it can make a difference.   Or, as Robert Heinlein said in Time Enough For Love,   “Never attempt to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

“The most painful thing about trans is not being able to give your gifts and have them accepted.”    I may have so much to give, but trying to give it to those who deliberately and wilfully find a need to reject those offerings can cause a lifetime of pain.

If you want to grow and change, I have much to offer.  If you need to stay where you are, I am just plain stupid and annoying.   I understand that.

Because, in the end, the pig has to really want to sing.

It’s Fine

It’s fine,
I said to her
if you want to be bitter
that you were slammed into the closet.

It’s fine,
I said to her
if you want to be angry
that you were pounded into self denial.

It’s fine,
I said to her
if you want to be shattered
that you were denied your own childhood.

It’s fine,
I said to her
if you want to be desolate
that you were shamed into self loathing.

It’s fine,
I said to her
if you want to be outraged
that others like you are still slammed every day.

It’s fine,
I said to her
if you want to be broken hearted
that people think they have the right to laugh at you.

It’s fine,
I said to her
if you feel hurt
that others know they have the right to call you pervert or freak.

It’s fine,
I said to her
if you want to be distraught
that others do not hear you, choose not to enter your space.

It’s fine,
I said to her
if you want to be furious
that your trans nature gets you assaulted and abused by others.

What’s not fine, though
I said to her
is if you feel that being
bitter, angry, shattered, desolate, outraged, broken hearted, distraught or furious
is something you should be ashamed about.

What’s not fine, though
I said to her
is tormenting yourself about your feelings
just because you can’t transcend them.

What’s not fine, though
I said to her
is reaching out to slap others
who reflect your own fear and defences

What’s not fine, though
I said to her
is acting out on your pain
even if you hold it close.

I know this,
I said to her
because I know the cost
a lifetime of trying
to squeeze myself into the spaces
between people’s assumptions.

I know this,
I said to her
because I am always
pincered in the shifting and shrinking cracks
where they just cannot see me.

I know this,
I said to her
because of a life
tucked into crevices
hidden behind conventional reality,

I know this,
I said to her
because my heart was
pushed into the cavities
beyond any expectations of light or love.

I know this,
I said to her
Because I have become
lost in the folds of the normative
living a denied life,
my heart invisible as
people have no awareness
of seeing someone like me.

I know this
I said to her
knowing that it is impossible for people to value you
if your nature is invisible
if the scars on your heart are unseeable
if the price you paid is unimaginable to them.

I know this
I said to her
know that it is impossible for people to value you
if the only bit of you they can see
is the bit that protrudes into their world
is the slice they can judge through their own fears
is the sliver that they decide is real.

I know this
I said to her
because I lost my own love
in those cold, dark, frozen places behind normal
in those lonely, lost broken places behind understanding
in those painful, poisoned places behind lovable
where I was taught to hate the parts of me
that others saw as funny, freaky, fearful parts
beyond the pale of comfort and affirmation.

I know this
I said to her
because I learned to be the person
who uses their brain and their grace
to rise above the slaughtered life.

I know this
I said to her
because I learned to
to show the acceptable,
show the service and the smarts
show the insight and the empathy
show the vision and the value
that people could see
while all the while I was
oozing inside where my heart is tattered
from the scalpels of their limits
severing my queer and present beauty.

Your feelings are your feelings
I said to her
as real as any other human experience of this world
and you get to have them
no matter how much they are poisoned to destroy you.

You get to be
bitter, angry, shattered, desolate, outraged, broken hearted, distraught or furious
yes, just like I am everyday,
living in a world where there isn’t space for me
living in a world where my nature is
either invisible & marginalized
or despised & taunted,
where even those who are curious
only care how it amuses them.

The obligation to transcend your own feelings
is no obligation at all
the struggle to connect and
the struggle to stand proud
pull humans at the seams
extracting truth from comfort.

It’s fine
I said to her
to be ripped apart
for ripping the nature out of you
was what they intended.

But it’s not fine
I said to her
to rip others apart
to rip yourself apart
punishing yourself
wailing in bleak and keening grief
over losses of life
over losses of control
over losses of dignity
over losses of self.

It’s fine,
I said to her to be broken
it’s just not fine to break others
or to abuse yourself
even if others still feel free to
abuse you



I ended up choosing from two meetups yesterday afternoon.  The Pagans were celebrating the March full moon at one Unitarian Church, while at the other, the Freethinkers were gathering to hear a presentation on a rational God.

The local Freethinking Community has two goals.  One is to promote freethinking, the ability engage deep questions rather than thinking you have the one right answer, and the other is to build community, offering a kind of home to those questioners.

The group split off from the Atheists & Agnostics group when they realized that some atheists could be as fundamentalist and judgmental as any other believers.  If you didn’t believe in their (absent) God, then you were condemned to hell, which they were happy to show you right now, because for atheists, the promise of a coming hell just doesn’t work so good.

There was a good proportion of women at the meeting last evening, which I suspect reflects the feminine urge to find connection between people rather than the instinct for hierarchy which separates and ranks.

I had to do an introduction, which is always hard.  I started by joking that I knew from an early age that there was something profoundly different about me; I knew that I was a theologian.

Now, that’s a funny twist on knowing I’m trans, but it’s true.  I went to confirmation class with the Rev. Etkins in 4th grade and my parents wondered how I was getting along.  “Oooh!” he replied.  “They are doing wonderfully!”   The reverend, who chain smoked King Sanos, would soon be off for a “rest cure.”   We moved, so when I knew the right answer to the confirmation class questions in 7th grade, the ex marine chaplain just assumed I was cheating because we used the same book.  He couldn’t imagine the complicated theological discussions we had in the back room when I was 9.

“I prefer the questions to the answers,” I said, something I also said at a trans workshop in Northampton ten years ago.   No one else liked that answer, as it didn’t fit the women’s studies, identity politics model of politically correct transgender that they swim in.

I ended up making a short comment on the presentation, talking about meaning and Jesus and Buddha and Joseph Campbell and such.   After the session, I found that it was well received.  A fellow said that it was cogent, a guy compliment, but many women just hoped I would come back and share more.  A few even said that they were looking forward to me presenting, though with the schedule, that couldn’t happen before July.   One gal, a UU minister, hoped I would come to her upcoming chat, on “Theology 101.”

I brought up some other points, talking about The Red Shoes And The Return Of The Handmade Life by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, how we are taught to relinquish our own meaning to substitute it with purchased meaning, which then leaves us empty deep down while taking over our life.

“If I think that my life will have meaning if I get a Coach pocketbook and that doesn’t work, then I get a Chanel bag and that doesn’t work, does that mean that a Hermès will give meaning to my life?”  I joked, a joke that would only work with an audience of women smart enough to have considered a Birkin.

“You have done some work,” said the UU pastor as we left.

“Yeah, well,” I said, “I had some issues that I needed to understand.”   She smiled.

It was interesting to find some women looking for meaning & understanding of the world.   I’m not sure how their schedule fits in with my very limited budget, but if you know me, I’ll work the process.

Always Primed

TBB was in a HVAC shop with a shopping list of fittings she needed for a refrigeration job.

The fellow behind the counter saw her, but as TBB went down the list, she saw his view change.

“Thank you, sir,” he said cordially after ringing up the purchase.   Something in the demeanour or authority set his view.

TBB walked out of the shop wondering what she did wrong.  Was it the voice, the fact her blonde hair was mostly tucked under her cap, or something else?

As TBB got into the car, a gentleman on the street greeted her.

“Has anyone told you how beautiful you look today?” he said with a big grin.

TBB flashed a broad smile and thanked him for the compliment, as he continued into the shop she had just left.

“I find those experiences where my gender shifts in a moment disconcerting,” I said as she told me the story.

“So do I,” she agreed.  “It means you always have to be aware of how other people see you in order to be who they expect you to be.  You have to be always primed for that moment of change, holding on or staying defended.”

We divide humans by sex almost instantly, and our responses are bound to that reading.  Surprise someone and they can get thrown easily, often blaming you for their own fluster.

“I can’t rely on how people see me,” TBB said, and I knew just what she meant.

“The saddest part, though, is that it means I can’t rely on being a woman in relationship.”

“It means that I can’t top from the bottom, can’t just be feminine.  It means I can’t just open my heart and let the energy flow.”

Sad.  Sad indeed.