Voice Pax

I re-posted Mx Justin Vivian Bond’s open missive to their community about Tranny Pride on this blog and I quickly got a call from TBB.

“Did you write that?” she asked, “because it’s so good that I thought you may have written it.”

I agree with her sentiment; it is a fabulous piece, standing up for proud, boldly individual connective queerness against the tropes of coercive, shaming and separating identity politics.

That’s why I did repost it, with links and notes to make the authorship clear, though I did add a lot of paragraph breaks to make it more easily readable to me than the original Facebook version.   I often find that actually touching narratives lets me get closer to them, lets me understand more clearly the point of view.

It’s clear, though, that it is not in my voice, or at least in the earnest, pedantic voice I use on this blog.

Speaking in different voices, though is something that I do and I respect.   I first came to know Mx Bond when they spoke in the voice of Miss Kiki DuRane, an old and brilliant outsider, whose drunk and passionate energy spoke a lifetime of intense and magical stories.   I have often written of them on this blog.

I remember being at Southern Comfort Conference on Saturday night, noting how it used to be queer at the core and crossdresser at the edges but then appeared to be crossdresser at the core and queer at the edges, but Kiki & Herb Will Die For You at Carnegie Hall was playing in my ears, boosting the queer level to a delightful and nourishing buzz.

Kiki is gone now, but Mx Bond now is speaking in their own voice, recounting a lifetime of their own queer and performative life with a certain wiggle and often after appearing to have a drink or two.

The voice of Mx. Bond, or that of her previous incarnation as Kiki is not my voice, but it is a voice I recognize as incredibly affirming of the beauty of the distinctively original, dancing the line between crackpot and brilliant.  I understand how much skill and energy it takes to create and invoke those magical worlds just through performance.

One of my quick codes for community is wanting to be around people who get the joke.   There is no enlightenment or mindfulness without laughter; we need the lubrication that comes from the recognition of the absurd to easily cut away the rationalization callouses we have grown over our own twists.

I’m not the only one who wants this; I know of improv performers, for example, who know that they are more present when they know there is someone in the audience who will see, hear and get even the bravest marks.

“You do those voices on the phone,” ShamanGal told me, “and all of a sudden I can really hear how other people sound, how I sound.   You play seem to back the tape and so much comes clear about the emotions of the moment, the meanings behind the rationalizations.”

The limits on my voice do tend to vex me.   Between my own attenuation, the limits of text and the absence of an audience that gets the jokes, I know that I have become earnest and dry, without glitter or dance.

My having the fun of play is cut back to a solitary pursuit, as it has been for the vast majority of my life.   I learned early how to play alone and when I tried to invite people into my world to help make it real, but was often told that it was too whatever and I should find my way to their world rather than they having to come into mine.

I understand why TBB responds so quickly to the sparkle and vitality of Mx. Bond’s letter and my my own earnest plodding seems so much harder to engage, so much more dense and dry.   I have more voices in me, but the echo of them lies in my dreams and not my presence, maybe one reason the fortune cookie from my difficult Monday lunch with my sister said that my dreams would be where any future lies.

I have the sense that I cannot afford a knee-jerk, can’t just pop out with wit and energy, but rather have to modulate so much that my voice becomes dull and raspy.   That ain’t pretty.

The other voices may be inside of me, someday to come out in stories that currently only inhabit my dreams, but for now, it seems, this drone that appears to keep any potential audience at arm’s length, with nuggets of my own play, the jewels of my experience mounted in a plain and earnest setting.

But when I see the queer jewels shining, like I do in Mx Justin Vivian Bond’s work, when I hear the voice with a vibrant and respectful narrative, well, I do still smile.

Family Fed

Every night at 5:00 I would make sure my parents had their dinner.   Five was dinner time since I was a kid.

Sometimes we would go out to dinner, always a rigmarole because my mother would want us to pick the restaurant even though she would only go where she wanted, forcing us to guess what she was in the mood for that night, and sometimes she would insist on me going out for takeout, but usually, I cooked.

My father was always grateful for whatever you gave him to eat, and he was also very generous, wanting to share.  I always had fruit ripening in the house and he was very happy when he could give some to my sister, the kind and loving act of an big heart.   When I had a friend she would often be hesitant to join my parents at a restaurant, but there was nothing my father loved more than as many people as possible around a table, sharing the food he provided.

My sister would call and ask if there was a place for her at dinner and my father would always start to smile, assuring her that she was always welcome at the family table.

My mother, though, wasn’t one to be satisfied with much.  When my mother was in the hospital, my father would wait to eat until I came home, wanting to sit with me and talk, but when my father was in the hospital, my mother would tell me what she wanted and then happily eat in front of her shows.

Dinner time was regular and crucial in my family, a real routine all my life.

And I miss it.   I miss the shopping, the planning, the focused hour I used to get the meal on the table.   I miss delighting people, miss seeing them enjoy whatever surprise I put on the table.   I’m not one of those cooks who has a week’s worth of recipes and churns through them, rather I cook with whatever is a value this week.

My mother used to stop after church and buy whatever markdown meat she found that looked good, like when she shopped once a week and proteins were frozen, but it meant I had to plan around what she found.    I liked to cook fresh, which my father got to understand.  My mother once said I should have more frozen vegetables and my father said “Why?  We get so many fresh ones.”   Even when he was misdiagnosed with aspiration pneumonia caused by dysphagia in the hospital, I processed cantaloupe and fruit everyday, our speech pathologist knowing we were a team.

I miss having people to care for, and I miss having people I knew well enough to give them one more meal, one more family time.   The rituals around dinner, of sharing time and food with each other, well, that was nourishing to me more than just physically.

Even today, without a working kitchen sink for the past six months, I will still try to make dinner for my sister when she chooses to let me know she is coming, once every couple of months or so.    Most of the time, though, it’s a high-value food product based dish that I can portion out over the course of a day or two.

Food may not be love, but the sharing of it certainly is.

It’s been a long year and a half.

Justin Vivian Bond On Tranny Pride


A Missive to My Community:

I’m writing this because I want to be very clear on where I come down on the recent controversies around the language issues with regards to our trans-narratives.

I’ve been an advocate for finding new, inclusive, thoughtful and evolved language for those of us in the trans and gender non-conforming communities for some time now. Therefore I feel personally compelled to weigh in on these latest dramas that are really annoying the shit out of me.

In my opinion there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with Heklina changing the name of Trannyshack in an effort to “rebrand” her legendarily inclusive, irreverent celebration of Queer fabulousness.

But keep in mind that the reason she has “evolved” is because she’s been forced to due to harassment from a group of people who have decided that instead of learning from our queer history of re-appropriating, owning, and disempowering words that ACCURATELY DESCRIBE WHO AND WHAT WE ARE — instead of taking those words that are sometimes used to hurt us by those who WILL HATE US NO MATTER WHAT and making them a part of what makes us wonderful, a small group of vocal “queers” has decided it’s better pursue a shame-based agenda.

Therefore, it seems, Heklina has decided it’s easier to “rebrand” her party to avoid any more grief. That’s her decision and I applaud her for doing what she feels she needs to do.

It still makes me sad.

I also think there was nothing wrong with the whimsical “Female or Shemale” game played on RuPaul’s Drag Race — especially because the contestants couldn’t even tell the difference.

Hello! That’s revolutionary!!!

Not to mention the amazing talent displayed later in the episode by the transgender artists on the show which has now been pulled from the air.

So. In lieu of standing up to the haters who seek to diminish us and our accomplishments and standing UNITED IN PRIDE IN OUR DIVERSITY these thoughtless “word police” instead go on the attack and achieve easy victories by harassing, silencing and shaming members of their own community and the allies who are thoughtful and sensitive enough to the reasons and feelings behind their anger that they are willing to listen and -as usual, blame themselves and make the changes because it’s just EASIER to “evolve” back into silent, bullied shame.

What they fail to recognize is that by banishing the use of the word TRANNY they will not be getting rid of the transphobia of those who use it in a negative way.

What it does do is steal a joyous and hard-won identity from those of us who are and have been perfectly comfortable, if not delighted to BE TRANNIES, but the fact is WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY. In case you didn’t know it WE’RE TOUGH!

A reality check, if people think you are a tranny it’s because you are perceived as one. OWN IT!

If they think that’s a bad thing then THEY ARE STUPID!

If you don’t wish to own that word or any other word used to describe you other than “male” or “female” then I hope you are privileged enough to have been born with an appearance that will allow you to disappear into the passing world or that you or your generous, supportive family are able to afford the procedures which will make it possible for you to pass within the gender binary system you are catering your demands to.

If you’re capable of doing that then GO ON AND DISAPPEAR INTO THE PASSING WORLD!

Otherwise quit using your big, privileged — yet ignorant — mouths to make the words used to describe who we are a shameful thing.

It is not shameful to be a tranny, a she-male, or any other word used to desctibe a gender variant individual.

It’s shameful to harass people for being comfortable with who they are and the words they choose to use to describe themselves when you aren’t.

That is my opinion on this ridicuous subject. As you can tell I’m angered by this trifling bullshit.

We should be working on unifying our community and getting ourselves basic protections under the law. If everyone who is expending so much time and energy harassing their sisters about this word would harass their elected officials with the same amount of verve and fervor we’d be on the way to a much more trans-inclusive society.

These words were written in love and anger.

Mx Bond


Somebody Puts An Eye In

It’s all fun and games until someone puts an eye in.

Blessed are the weird people, for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.
Jacob Nordby

It’s a great line. The only way we can see things in a new way is when we see them through someone else’s eyes.   We don’t end up seeing things just like them, though, we see things in our own way but with slightly different vision.

When that new insight just expands what we can see in the world, it’s fun.   We all like a bit of novelty and better acuity.

But when that new vision changes the way we see what we used to see in the world, letting us see the limitations of our choices and the limitations of the choices of people we are connected to, well, that’s when things get uncomfortable.

My father drove past the point he should have been driving, at least according to one of the women who threw me out of a caregiver’s support group.   In those last years, I had to be a co-driver while stuffed in the back seat of the Subaru, as my mother needed the passenger seat.  I would twist and bend to shove my head between the seat restraints and offer a continuous coaching experience of driving, cuing turns, pointing out hazards and doing the tongue click thing to signal my father to slow down, a coded sound rather than words to process,  a trick borrowed from ox-cart drivers.

To do this, I had to know his mind and only feed him what he needed in a simple way because between the limits of aspergers and aging, asking him to process too much information would just slow down response time.

My mother didn’t understand this process.  It was her big gasp that got him to break short at a light about to change which got us rammed in the rear by a heavy truck that could not stop short.

Once I started driving, I knew I needed to manage my mother.  I would scan the roads ahead using standard defensive driving habits, but as did, I would offer a play-by-play of what I saw.   I would call out what I was seeing, what I was anticipating and so forth.

This had two goals.  The first was to calm my mother down so she would trust my driving, but the second was to engage her endless curiosity, keeping mind active and agile even as she aged.

I recently learned from my sister that when she would drive my mother in those last years, my mother would often speak up from the passenger seat.  “If your [sibling] was driving, [they] would say that the guy in the blue car is about to pull out. . .”

I apologized to my sister for creating that behaviour, but she had just been amused by it.

“You taught her to see the world in a different, active and involved way that made her less jumpy and more connected,” she told me.  “It was a good technique you used to take care of our mother.   Thank you.”

As an empathic shaman, one of my special talents is quickly seeing through the eyes of others.   I can often then offer language to communicate and share their point of view, language that they don’t have for themselves because their vision isn’t considered, just habitual.

I have often had the experience where someone wants to understand a phenomenon in the world, so they ask me to tell them how I see something.   For example, I had a sales guy who loved to hear my analysis of other companies marketing campaigns because they let him see the strengths and the weaknesses of their choices, revealed the intent and the crocks.

When I analyzed one of his campaigns, though, that was all different.  He didn’t want anyone seeing through his choices.  He had done the best he could and that was enough.

If seeing through my eyes gives you what you think helps you, that’s a great thing.

But if seeing through my eyes gives you what you feel challenges you beyond your comfort zone, beyond your limits, well, that’s not so great.

It’s all fun and games until someone puts an eye in and sees illuminated what they are not yet ready to engage, what they fear might require them to disconnect from habit and comfortable connections.

Mr. Nordby is correct.  We grow when we see the world through different eyes.  When seeing through different eyes leads us to feel too much stress, though, then blindness is often preferable, so we reject the gifts that others offer to us because the truths attached to them are too strong for the moment.

I know how to see through the eyes of others.  It’s the way I have learned to survive in the world.

That doesn’t mean that I always act on them quickly.   As a teenager, one of my regular comebacks was “That may well be true, but you certainly don’t expect me to admit it, do you?”

When I share what I see through my weird eyes — my queer eyes, as I would say — I know that I have to be very careful about their comfort level.  If I don’t modulate what I share, they will shut me down, will shut me off, finding reasons to remove my standing to share and dismiss what I offer as just too whatever.

It’s all fun and games until someone puts an eye in and sees something that unsettles their current comfort level.

That’s when it gets really weird and gets really unsafe.

Nerd Heart

I find that the people I connect with tend to have a technical background.   They may be trained as scientists or engineers, may come from a family where analytical thought is valued, may just have always felt called to thinking rather than following the trends.

In other words, they are nerds.

You may prefer a different term — geeks, boffins, whatever — but in any case, they tend to lead with thought and know how to understand the details of technical things.   They have the process of asking questions to get to a level of conceptual knowledge, wanting not just to understand how to work things but rather wanting to understand how things work.

Now, since I know myself to be a girl nerd, the people I really find I click with are nerds who own their own hearts.   A sharp mind and deep empathy, open to both connect with feelings and understand the shape of things, well, that’s where I live.

This makes me wonder if there is some kind of community to be found around the idea of Nerds With Hearts.

We don’t have control of anything until we take ownership of it; are people who work to own both their scientific, analytical brain and their open, vulnerable heart the kind of people who can get together, move past dogma and cant to find a way to connect with the world on many levels?

One big problem is that there are no humans who live without emotions.  Every nerd has a heart, that’s true.   For that matter, every human has a brain.  Nerds, though take ownership of their brains, but they often don’t really take ownership of their hearts, often have seen too many examples of emotions creating drama, so they reject any feelings that they can’t easily categorize into neat compartments.

Much of this struggle can be found around alternatives to belief.   Many atheists just flat out reject anything that can’t be empirically proven to their satisfaction and this rejection becomes dogma.   All belief, even the belief that there might be forces past logical human understanding, is denigrated and mocked as simpleminded and atavistic.

For agnostics, though, accepting that there are things they don’t know, being graceful with the belief systems of others, understanding that myths and mythical language are just ways to code human understandings that cannot be easily codified, are important parts of their worldview.   They accept that the heart knows what it knows, even if that knowledge isn’t purely rational.

The scientific, technical mindset is based on questioning, on the doubting and experiments that extend  knowledge.   That’s a great thing, a real valuing of the human rational mind that seems to set us apart from other mammals.

The symbolic, artistic mindset is based on expression, on the creation of symbol that reveals and shares knowledge that is not simply rationalized.   If you have to explain a joke it falls apart, because unless it, like other art, enters the consciousness in a sly way, it won’t enter the consciousness at all.

I have a nerd heart.   I own my own nerd self and, after a huge amount of surrender and trust in my own feelings, I also own my own heart.

In my experience, that’s a rare combination.   Yet there must be others who have done this work, trying to blend fire and ice in a cute way.

Is there a basis to form community around Nerd Hearts?   Maybe.

Trans, Powershift & Agency

On my first morning at my first transgender conference, twenty one years ago now, I was jittery as I walked through the hotel.

I’d been out for about eight years then, but with the identity of a “guy-in-a-dress,” reaching for androgyny, for the integration of the masculine and feminine while presenting as a man with my given, masculine name.  That’s how people in my area knew me, even as they rejected that identification for themselves, preferring the old separate transvestite / transsexual / drag models.

Today, though, I was here under my new name, moving towards a new identity.   I was acknowledging that “man” was never something I was good at, even if I had cobbled together an iconoclastic nerd presentation that allowed me to function in public as a man, though not really in the bedroom where I was a femme lesbian through and through.

The first session I went to was a panel hosted by three differently identifying transpeople.  TBB was there, talking about her perspective as a married crossdresser with kids.  You know how my relationship with TBB worked out.  She just called me from Italy where she is travelling with her beautiful daughter, a grad student in chemistry, chasing down their ancestry.

Holly Boswell spoke about the role she was living, the one she summed up in her famous “The Transgender Alternative” essay.    Holly and I became very close for a long time after that day.

Renèe Chevalier was there to speak about her identity as a post-operative transsexual.   Renee had been the married crossdressing president of my local transgender support group when I first came out, and she immediately identified read out my guy-in-a-dress identification from the panel, saying that I had helped her learn a lot about transgender expression.  My first day, 750 miles from home, and my history was outed in my first session.   I knew better than to try and hide it.

I had one question for the panel.

“Men and women take power in very different ways.   As you shifted your gender identity, how did you shift the ways that you take power in the world?”

I got three answers, from TBB commenting on the difference she saw between crossdressers  and transsexuals in a social situation, from Holly talking about working to stay balanced and from Renèe about how she was a woman now and that was it, no matter what her ex-wife said.  (Renèe’s crossdressed marriage renewal was featured in Mariette Pathy Allen’s book Transformations: Crossdressers and Those Who Love Them, and I learned a great deal from her born-female wife.)

“Men and women take power in very different ways.   As you shifted your gender identity, how did you shift the ways that you take power in the world?”

Shifting gender requires shifting the way we take power in the world.  I knew that then, but didn’t know how to make that work.   I still don’t.

I don’t take power like a man not only because I don’t want to be seen as a man, but also because it doesn’t feel right to me.   I was rubbish at being cocky when I was trying to be a man and today, well, cockiness escapes me.

I don’t take power as a woman because I know that my woman identity is disquieting to others, that seeing both my expression and my biology can make them nervous.   I neither have the deep and long experience of being treated like a woman in the world, nor do I have the safety to know that my  standing cannot be attacked in a moment.

The practical upshot of this division is that I just don’t take power in the world.  I don’t believe that I have the agency to be effective in negotiating the minefield of gender.  I feel the years of abuse and scarcity on my heart.

What I have learned to do is modulate myself rather than to assert myself in the world.  I continue to not have an effective model of gender shift that includes effective power shifting.   I end up modulating and I end up being under nourished and under nurtured.

This thread of struggling to find a way to assert power and agency in the world while not falling into gender conventions that erase continuous common humanity, finding a way to be powerful that still allows one to be vulnerable and nurtured in the world is the thread that laces all though my journey and my writings about my experiences.

Creating a performance that works well without too much damn work to modulate myself to slip through the fears, expectations and borders that other people maintain around opposites of gender & sex is, frankly, a killer.

I know how to be an iconoclast.   I have learned to modulate, to package myself up cute, to be professional, to not push into areas that make people too crazy, too uncomfortable, too nervous.   I have learned how to read individuals as an audience, how to know when I am just being incomprehensible to them, when they are just replacing my narrative with their own expectations, leaving a blank sheet.

I know how to be an imperfect woman, a warrant woman, how to stand proud and do the work.   But just being happy and safe, feeling affirmed and lovable in the world rather than feeling like a porcupine?  Not so much.

My experience of my life isn’t some generic experience.  It’s not one thing or another, one category or the opposite that leaves me where I am today.  It’s just my human experience.

And recapping this essential challenge I have been struggling with since I came out?

Well, I could do worse for my 1500th published post on this blog.

Heavy Lifting

I just don’t have the bottle to train new people how to engage me from scratch.

There is a 2008 quote from Barney Frank that says “Nobody is more different from the average person than a transgender person and that makes them nervous.”

I played on the phrasing of that quote, agreeing that nobody is more different, but the truth is that no matter how much all humans are fundamentally the same, part of the continuous common humanity, transpeople are essentially different, outside the experience of the average person who sees gender opposites (and opposites of all types) as  real and fixed.

How do we build allies who understand and empathize with the experience of transpeople when we don’t even yet know how to be allies to each other?   I know that while I am unfailingly supportive of the journey and struggles of other transpeople, most are not supportive of my expression and journey because they find it too challenging, too outside, too queer.

The amount of effort I have to expend to train other people in understanding the trans experience, in understanding my experience, is just enormously heavy lifting.   After all, they have neither the real interest or the real incentive to step out of their history, expectations and comfort zone to engage me, and even if they wanted to, they just don’t have the time, attention and energy in their busy lives to do the work.

Unless someone is ready to learn there is no point trying to teach them.   They just feel challenged and threatened by others who require them to change or stretch their comfortable mindset to be in relationship.  They want to use the tools and understandings that they have worked hard to acquire to handle a new relationship, not to be asked to own or create a whole new set of understandings and strategies.

This is not unreasonable behaviour from people.   That’s why my primary approach in dealing with others is modulation.   I attenuate myself, cut my expression down, to fit into their mindset and expectations.   I try to remove what they read as noise, communications that they cannot interpret, to focus on what they can understand in the moment.

The tradition of transgender theory is the tradition of transgender rationalization.   We look for ways to package our desire and our choices in a way that is comprehensible to those we need to live and work with everyday.  We create rationalizations that are effective.

Central to that process has always been the idea of separation.   There is a reason why Trans 101 sessions have usually involved separating TV from TS from drag and so on, because that idea plays with people for whom separation is real.    It allows us not to have to justify all queer behaviour, allows us to ally with other average people in agreeing that some are just too queer.

To create political structures, we need to herd cats, get people in line.  One of the easiest ways to do that is to impose identity politics, assigning identities and then creating tensions based on those identities.  Are you with us or are you against us?   For example, today, anyone who uses the word “tranny” is labelled as against the true transgender cause, a traitor worthy of attack.    This false separation consolidates political power for those who use it.

My message, my theme, my expression has always been based around the notion of connection rather than separation, and this idea is profoundly challenging.   It forces us to look within ourselves and rise to challenges rather than look outside of us for where to place blame.  It forces us to open to and engage others rather than just work to silence them.   It forces us to learn, to teach, rather than just to separate, to preach.

For someone who believes in connection, the  obligation to separate ideas to make them digestible by others is a big reach.

I had a thing called the five minute rule.   If you saw me as a transperson, more different than the average person, you would be uncomfortable with me, but if you spent five minutes in conversation with me, you would begin to see where we connect, begin to see our shared, continuous, common humanity.

The problem comes with thirdhand fear and snap-back; once your mind started opening to queerness, the conventional world around you would remind you how dangerous and queer what you were engaging was, how threatening to comfort that removal of separation is, and end up pulling you back away from stigmatized ideas and choices.

The world is very different today for lesbian and gay people.   Their expression is understandable now, in the mainstream, and the leap to supporting love between same sex couples doesn’t appear as a big thing to many, many people, though certainly many in this country still find those ideas make them feel threatened and offended.

Being an ally to a gay or lesbian person isn’t such a big deal anymore.  But even lesbians and gays have trouble being allies to bisexual people, those who don’t enforce clear gender boundaries in their love, because that makes them nervous as Barney Frank would say.

And if bisexuality is an issue, well then trans is even bigger.   Transpeople are usually clear on who they love, but to love a transperson you have to engage your own bisexuality, because you need to love all of them, not just who they are in this moment.    Politically, transpeople are all bisexual, no matter who we love.

I know that I can’t just walk into a space and be accepted as trans.   I often want to joke “It’s okay, I’ll just sit with the other transpeople,” knowing that there will very rarely be any other transpeople in the space, and even if there are, they probably know themselves not to be trans like I am.  I would make them nervous, threatening their separations.

Calling ahead to ask if the space or organization is trans inclusive is no use either, because once you say those words, people imagine the worst, most unhealed and struggling transperson they can think of and then decide that is the kind of person they don’t want in their place.  I know that the real question is if they will be inclusive of me, and they can’t know that until they know me.

Ah, but knowing me, well, that’s the thing.   Do I play nice, modulate myself way down, package myself small until they get to know and like me and then reveal my essential, challenging queer connectedness, or do I just let the freak flag fly on the first visit and see if they can handle the challenge?

I have often told of an LGBT religious workshop where a Jewish man told of his coming out at synagogue over time, slowly, step-by-step, helping the congregation come to understanding.  The participants loved the story, thinking that’s how it should always happen.  After the session, I asked him if he did the same process in every new temple he joined, and he replied “No!  I’m out now!”  Right.  He did the process once, but the obligation to do the slow hand holding every time is just way too much heavy lifting.

I know that people aren’t going to get me quickly unless they have already done the work, work in connection and queerness that even most transpeople haven’t done.  Unless they have done the inner analysis, getting past their comfortable separations by facing their fears, well, then, I am a real challenge.

But sometimes I choose to do the work with someone who says that they want to be my ally, to stand with me in support of my own goals, dreams and possibilities.   Sometimes I invest in helping them understand me, engage me, build relationship with me.   Sometimes I even imagine that this slow, difficult learning, pushing past their own challenges is a gift to a wider community, leaving an ally who can help other transpeople in their own struggle.

I invest my energy and my time to do the work, trying to use my big brain to explain the emotional truth of the transgender experience.   Trans is essentially an experience not of the brain but of the heart, an understanding and calling that we experience very much beneath the rational, logical level.   We are forced to deny our heart to honour convention, demanded to put what doesn’t neatly fit into a deep dark closet where it will grow twisted from lack of light and love.

The experience of growing up trans in this culture is the experience of being abused into severing parts of our heart to fit into the expectations of others who just still see transpeople as “more different from the average person than a transgender person and that makes them nervous.”

It’s one thing to have people be rude.  It is another thing to know that I have to cut myself back, lying or being called a liar. becoming a lightening rod for all the distress about the costs of compulsory gender separation in the world, the shame around gendering that  Brené Brown talks about so clearly, and still end up being surfaced, erased by their assumptions & expectations, end up feeling invisible, frustrated and hurt.

I just don’t have the bottle to train new people how to engage me from scratch.

It might be different if I had some allies, people who could do the work of helping others understand and the work of understanding me when I feel too shattered by the work, but that isn’t something I have been able to drum up in all my decades.   I thank God for the few and the powerful friends I do have everyday.

I understand why I am such a big challenge to understand and I work very hard to make myself accessible, using my big old brain to make my experience clear.  That doesn’t mean it is primarily a cerebral experience, doesn’t mean that thinking better, clearer or slower will help me solve my problems.

My experience is that of connection beyond opposites, and if the first connection is between heart and brain, so be it.    That is where I live, as queer as that might be.

I know that I have no power, no agency, to change others.  You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.   People heal in their own time and in their own way.  The only thing I can do is be present in the moment and work the process.

I just don’t have the bottle to train new people how to engage me from scratch.   I have done that work for many years now and have not been particularly successful.   Some would say that the smart thing is just to package up some of what I have, a few of the treasures I have brought back from my own transformational journey, into nice, easy to sell bundles that work with people’s assumptions and expectations rather than against them would be the best plan, but that just seems altogether too daunting to do on my own.   I don’t have the inner editor for that trick.

So I know how queer I am, how queer I be, and I know that desiccation is the result.   I have done lots of heavy lifting, but like Sisyphus, there is only so much boulder pushing any one human can do.

I just don’t have the bottle left to train new people how to engage me from scratch.

And I tried.  God knows, I tried.

Emotion And Thought

If you read my stuff and believe that it is all about thought, treatises of conceptual purity, you miss the point.

If you read my stuff and believe that it is intellectually lazy, not academic enough, and more of indulgence of emotion, you miss the point.

In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.

For me, connection, integration, is where I live, walking through walls others see as solid.  And the wall between thinking and feeling isn’t a wall to me, rather it is where I live.

This is a difficult path.

I go to the Freethinking Community and people want to use the rigours of the brain to avoid the excesses of the heart, ending up creating intellectual structures that often seem like mental masturbation.

I go to women’s space and people want to fall into soft new age metaphor to justify emotion, reading destiny in DNA and following rules of prosperity consciousness.

Neither of these are useful to me because both seem to miss the point that human nature has both head and heart for a reason.   Body, heart, head, creativity/crown, the chakras that each of us balances alone and in culture.

Man’s conclusions are reached by toil.
Woman arrives at the same by sympathy.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 It has been called to my attention that the summary line of many of my posts is marked with resignation that the thesis I offer is beyond me.

The suggestion was that this is a sign of a block in my brain, is a sign of my tautological thinking, where I set set up a straw man and then knock it down, creating self-fulfilling prophecies with stinkin’ judgmental thinkin’.

To me, this assertion misses one of the key points of my work, that it is powerfully and potently emotional.   The basis of my resignation isn’t in my head but rather in my heart.

My experience of the world has lead me to a scarcity based worldview in where I don’t believe that I have the agency in to create the kind of transformation I need in the world.

There are lots of roots of this belief system.  I grew up in a house where my parents were unable to engage my emotions, my experience growing up was that of an iconoclast, people often found my analytical brain habits — my x-ray vision that made the meta explicit — challenging, and most of all, from a very young age, I was told that my trans nature, as expressed by my desires was sick, depraved and needed to be denied at all costs.

The force of stigma is abuse, the attempt to silence and “correct” someone to be compliant with the enforced status quo.  The result of stigma is to create a self-policing mechanism, an internal censor that enforces the strategies of safety in the world.

Stigma leaves people feeling powerless, without agency, without the power to create their own lives against the prevailing belief systems which create oppression in the world.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how smart and transcendent you are if nobody gets the joke.  if you keep running into the expectations and conventions of the status quo placed into others, if you appear too challenging and disquieting, you are going to keep running into barriers to understanding and affirmation, going to keep having to negotiate the fears of others and have your gifts ignored or trashed.

The result of this experience isn’t tautological thinking, rather it is the real and continuing emotional experience of scarcity and separation.

I have learned that I am almost always expected to be the one who does the work of negotiating queerness in the room.   I have to understand and manage myself for the feelings and thoughts of others while they have no obligation or capacity to understand and adapt to my feelings.   This isn’t just true of people who have no experience of trans, it is also true of people in the LGBT sectors who haven’t yet come past identity politics and the policing that entails to affirmation of bold, individual queerness.

This work has a cost and very little reward.   I have come to always expect the “third gotcha” to be waiting, just beyond where I am now.

When I come across what I sense as resistance, I modulate.   Actually, what I do is modulate even more than that; my first strategy, trained into me early, is to modulate.  I have been taught that I have the responsibility to modulate myself, been taught that if I don’t, people will have the right to attack and stigmatize me and if I complain, I will just prove that I don’t understand or respect “what good people do.”

One of the fundamental moments of my life was when I told a partner that I had been learning to trust my heart, but that I needed to learn to trust other people and she replied “Can’t you do that on your own?”   No, actually, you can’t.

While I can continue to press the strictures and boundaries that stigma has placed in my heart, I will always tend to over modulate, primarily because I am doing it alone.  Without an external observer to check and affirm my choices, to affirm my choices when I hit resistance, I can’t see what others just get, can’t polish my choices, can’t feel like I have a wing-woman.  I can’t do it alone; that’s why stigma works so powerfully.

It’s not my brain that is scarred and battered from the experience of being a transperson in a binary, heterosexist world, it is my heart.   It’s not my brain that stops me from understanding possibility, it is my heart that has paid the price of the systemic, institutionalized scarcity designed to inhibit trans expression in the world, writing it down as sick, freaky, perverted, unreal, delusional, twisted, scary, and so on.

Do I hit a block at the end of my posts where I end up resigned to failure and isolation, to loneliness and scarcity?    Yes, I do.  But I don’t do this because I don’t understand the concept, I do this because I understand the feelings, get the price of going out to push barriers and the limited resources left in my very, very malnourished heart.

Do I  think that there are people out there who can understand, who can connect with me, who can get me on an emotional level and be nurturing and nourishing to me?    Hell, there are 355 million people in the USA & Canada, of course there are.

Do I believe that I have the wherewithal, the energy, the endurance, the bottle to thrash through the haystacks to find that needle?   No, she said, that’s where the idea comes a cropper, where scarcity consciousness reminds me that all I can do is all I can do.   I just don’t feel like I have the agency to engage all the entrenched beliefs that offer me resistane in the world for so many reasons.

My challenge has never been to unkink my thinking, rather it has always been to trust that if I spend my limited resource in the world that I will get the emotional connection which pierces my loneliness and makes me feel seen, understood, embraced and valued, that lets me not have to always be the one doing the work of over modulating my heart just to stay safe.

My challenge has been to move past a scarcity mindset to trust that opening myself more in the world, following my bliss, will get me what I need and not just leave me more battered.   It is to move past the gaps and scars of my history to find respect, connection and nourishment in the world.

In the end, chicks just want to feel safe being chicks, as Amy Schumer hilariously points out in her hilarious “ad” for SandraGel.

But feeling safe and supported in the world, moving past a scarcity belief system, especially one hammered so deeply into my heart through a lifetime of abuse, well, that’s tough.   When the world shows you again and again that people get lost in opposites, not understanding the idea of emotion AND thought, when they end up erasing parts of you hat force you to have to be the one who does the work, well, that hurts as it affirms a lifetime of experience.

My thinking is my blessing and my curse.   But my heart is where I live, scared and scarred.

For people who see those two things as opposites, well, they don’t see me, either.

Diva Bonding

The season finale on Nashville had the payoff for me.  I often find the show difficult to watch because it is so soapy, the characters just pawns for the writers, making bad choices every minute to give that sensational ride needed to keep viewers titillated in a Twitter age.  It’s just so different than the early days of television, where stories could play out slowly, in a more languid and naturalistic pace.

For many, the heart of Nashville is the relationship between Rayna and Deacon, who have lived intertwined lives since they were in their teens.   It’s romantic and comprehensible.

For me, though, the heart of Nashville is the relationship between Rayna and Juliette, two women who have the awesome power to engage and seduce even when their music is dried down to a bit of vinyl or a digital stream, and who,when they get in the spotlight, shine back the kind of energy that powers up and enthralls a crowd, weaving a shared energy that binds and thrills audiences.

How do you survive in the world as a woman who can make lightening bolts come from her throat?   How do you take your own energy and turn it into magic?    These women are archetypal wounded healers, their own pain and struggle providing the basis of art that moves and connects, touching people deeply.

In the show, Rayna has been doing this for twenty years but it is much newer for Juliette, whose performance is much more canned and simple rather than seasoned.

In the season finale, Juliette has found Avery, her Deacon, a soul mate who she can actually love rather than just manipulate, and actually trusting her love is terrifying her, because she gets how powerful it feels, how vulnerable it makes her.  Of course, vulnerability is at the core of her maturing as an artist, away from pop songs for swooning girls, but it is hard.

When Avery has to pay attention to someone else in need, Juliette acts out with the evil record label executive just to get a fix of attention and control, like she has been doing all her life.  The exec blackmails her and she is hurting, with no one to help.

Until Rayna shows up and Juliette lets her in.  Rayna holds her hair as she pukes and totally gets the  raw emotional power of fear.  They bond in a way that only people who hold the lightening inside of them can get, opening up beyond modulation and using the shorthand of queens to share the struggle to be both normal and goddess in the world.

I loved that scene, almost making it worth all the cheap drama of people acting out.  It made me laugh in connection.

Jessica St Clair and Lennon Parham also have a new show, Playing House on USA, a kind of follow-on to their Best Friends Forever,  a lovely show in with their friendship at the centre.

The deep intimacy of women’s friendships is compelling to me.   Ms St. Clair, in Out Magazine:

I honestly feel like, with a good female friendship, you are there to make sure that that person is leading her best life. The show that we wanted to tell was really about childhood best friends because we were fascinated by the idea that those best friends were there when your personality formed. So they can really tell you, as an adult, if you are either pursuing the dreams that you had as a child—like who you were meant to be—or you are not. So the story we wanted to tell was about these two people, these adult friends, who have come back together and, because they have known each other for that long, they can be the ones that can really call each other out on their shit and encourage them to lead their best life. I think that’s what’s really special.

Other women get this power, too. Julie Beck in The Atlantic

More than the men I’ve dated, often more than my family, [female friends] have nourished and challenged me, pushed me to take positive risks, shown me the depth of compassion people are capable of.

 I’m not sure that there is any substitute for being seen and checked by someone who really knows the challenges you go through, who has been there, with deeply shared experience and understandings.    They will never be exactly the same as you, but they will get you, finding the balance between support and pushing, between tending wounds and invoking healing.

We live in a culture that is heterosexual but homosocial, where we are expected to share our beds with someone who compliments our skills and our desires, but we share our lives with people who get our challenges in their lives and in their hearts.

How can anyone but an awesome diva, a wounded healer who taps into the shared energy to create and concentrate ever understand another diva?   This is why Juliette cracking her shell, moving beyond acting out to a kind of vulnerability that lets her really, really love someone even at the price of feelings so deep that they terrify her, is also what lets her open to Rayna, lets her open to the kind of healing that Rayna has had to do.

When the student is ready, a teacher will appear, and seeing Rayna hold Juliette’s hair in the season finale of Nashville told everyone that the student is more ready than ever before.

Everyone heals in their own time and their own way.  On television shows, that means when the writers are good and ready to move the healing forward, towards catharsis rather than cheap sensational drama.   Still, Nashville got picked up for another season, so you know the path will not be smooth for any of the characters; viewers must be enervated.

But in this finale, two insanely powerful women connected over shared experience, helping growth happen.  While it didn’t happen for me, it did happen for them, which makes me think that kind of connection may still be possible in the world, may be something Callie Khouri has seen in the world and brought to her story.

And if stories can’t feed dreams, well, then what are they good for anyway?

Nurture Basis

So, you don’t ask, what’s the big trick to being a great nurturer, be it nurturing growing children or nurturing talent in others?

All you have to do is know the person you are nurturing better than they know themselves.

For children, this is a straightforward process.   Since you already know yourself, can make connections and insights from your experience, since you have the emotional intelligence and language to understand and express feelings that they are just beginning to explore, it’s not really that difficult to stay a few steps ahead of a child.

Where it gets difficult, though, is when your own stuff gets in the way of their own stuff.  If you feel like you have needs they should be fulfilling, if you believe that they should be the ones understanding you and attending to your feelings, if you just don’t have time to be present for them because you are stressed with all the demands of your life, well, then understanding and being there for them is just too hard a task.

When children push back and need to claim ownership, a deep understanding of their needs lets you play the parts they need you to play in their development.  For example, you can understand that “I hate you!” usually means that they are frustrated with their limits rather than actually indicating hatred.

Nurturing adults gets more difficult for a number of reasons.   First, their needs and motivations are deeper and more complex, and second, we really want them to take responsibility for their own life and their own choices, want them to be there for us rather than just our being there for them.   For an adult, responsibility goes two ways and when we run into someone who doesn’t fulfill their own responsibilities, who doesn’t do their own work, we often get frustrated, angry or just want to cut them loose.

The first obligation in taking care of someone is to make them feel cared for, to make them feel that  you care about them.   This is the essence of the Hawthorne Effect, where the very act of having someone pay attention to you is enough to boost your own motivation.

I know that my sister was very glad to see me at her arts showcase over the weekend because she knew that I would understand the stories she had to tell, that I would engage them and draw them out, offering useful insights and affirmations.   She also knew that I was taking care of her, down to silly blinking dollar-store ring that I told her marked her as the “featured artist.”

The last decade with my parents had many “one more good days” because I had a model of who they were and what they felt that was deeper and more useful than their own understanding.  I knew when to challenge and when to delight, when to stimulate and when to comfort, knew how to offer them context about medical status or theology, and even knew what they liked to eat.

From Scott Eyman’s John Wayne: The Life and Legend:

[Maureen] O’Hara pointed to her oft-told anecdote about [John] Ford shooting a close-up of O’Hara’s hair lashing her face on the beach [during the filming of The Quiet Man].

The average director would have put the fan in front of me and blown the hair back from my face, but he put it off to the side so that the hair was lashing my eyeballs. Then he started yelling at me to keep my hands down and let the hair go across my face.

And I put my hands down and said, “What would a baldheaded old son of a bitch know about hair lashing across his eyeballs?” And I immediately thought, “Oh, God, what have I done. I’m going to be killed.”

And in the flash of a second, I could see him check every face on the crew, up in the lights. And I saw him make his decision about whether to kill me or laugh. And he laughed. And the whole crew was relieved. So people laughed for five minutes. But there was that split second when he took everything in and made his decision about how to handle it. And I thought, “That’s a great director.”


Ford had to go to his mental model of his actors and make a choice in the moment that nurtured the process.  Did he push back, or did he laugh?

“A therapist is someone who sees something in you that you do not yet see in yourself.”   In other words, they hold a model of you that is beyond your blocks and limits, beyond your current understanding, but holds open the space for you to grow into a more actualized viewpoint.

Finding someone who can hold your own self knowledge, who has a model of you that reflects your truth, well, that is a rare and special thing.

A friend is one to whom
you can pour out the contents of your heart,
chaff and grain alike.
Knowing that the gentlest of hands
will take and sift it,
keep what is worth keeping,
and with a breath of kindness,
blow the rest away.
— George Eliot

To be a great nurturer, you first have to be a great understander, beyond your own emotional triggers.

To be a great understander, you have to have an open heart, full of empathy and compassion that allows you be inside the feelings of another.

To have an open and vulnerable heart, you first have to know yourself, know how to to listen to your own feelings and open to your own fears and passions.

That’s all it takes to have the foundation to be a great nurturer.  Just that.

A Certain Nobility

I’ve been reading about John Wayne, been listening to Luca Zingaretti talk about Montalbano.   They both talk about the characters they play as having a sense of justice, and that sense makes the characters attractive to women.

When we see someone do the right thing in the face of challenge, rather than doing the easy, comfortable self-indulgent thing, I think that we see in that person a certain nobility.

It’s good when people have a reflected nobility, working as part of a team working for a noble cause, something bigger than themselves, something of service, but it is even better when people carry their own personal nobility, standing up alone to do the right thing.

Years ago, a friend told me that what most women want was to be treated like a queen by a partner who deserves to be treated like a king.   I think what she meant is that we want to commit our energy, our caring and our love to someone who carries a certain nobility, someone who is strong enough to rise above themselves to do what needs to be done for their family, for their community, for their God.

Nobility, though, is usually only visible in contrast.   You can’t walk through the supermarket and pick out the noble people, you can only see nobility when it is revealed through choices, when you understand how they make noble choices when it counts.

If your choices aren’t comprehensible to others, then the nobility of them is invisible.  Nobility is fundamentally an old-fashioned value, classic rather than trendy, so those caught up in fashion don’t know how to value it.

I have known many transpeople who have a certain nobility, one that shows in their choices which put others first, which reflect a struggle to be both honest and appropriate in the world.   I have seen many of these transpeople who make noble choices dismissed and denigrated by others, those who believe in comfort and judgment over nobility.

Maybe it’s just my feminine heart, but I find a certain amount of nobility makes me soften a little bit, responding to a bit of gallantry and grace which tempers the earthiness of human nature.

And I find that especially true for people whose nobility is invisible to a wider world which values surface status & fashion over deep style & substance.

There is a reason women respect nobility, want to find and treasure it, even if it is an old-fashioned value.


The Nature Of Nurture

 Nobody ever complains that
you are treating them like a child
when you
listen to their stories,
encourage their dreams,
and tell them how special they are.
—Callan Williams, 1997

 I grew up in a home with parents I loved, with parents who loved me, but with parents whose Aspergers brains just didn’t let them understand the emotions of others.   For my mother, especially, as a woman with Aspergers this inability to make an emotional connection — emotional anorexia, I called it, as she consumed emotions without taking nourishment from them — left her frustrated, angry and narcissistic, demanding that everything be about her sense of loss and separation.

This meant that my world was a minefield, with something always ready to blow, be it my father’s missing the point — I called him “The Man Who Couldn’t Take ‘Yes‘ For An Answer,” as he pounded away past agreement — or my mother’s disconnected emotional rants that my father learned to service in an extremely co-dependent and enabling way.

My models for learning how to interact in the world, how to have appropriate and pleasant social interactions were deeply flawed.   I had to learn to protect myself, had to learn to survive in that mess.   I had to piece together a way to learn to be a human from the shards I had around me, doing the best I could with broken models.

One of my gifts has always been a big brain, so that was the survival mechanism I used.  From the earliest age, I didn’t just grow, I had to analyze, understand, assess, measure and consider what things meant and how to respond to them.

I couldn’t just take things as they were and be happy, rather I had to pull them apart to find the deeper meanings, becoming a very close observer of everything, not left in my own world but struggling to understand the world around me so I could get out in front of it, understanding and working to manipulate the world around me.

I stayed defended, sharp and independent, never learning to be one of the gang, but rather being forced to be boldly myself, actor and observer, in every moment.  I was never one of the sharks, feeling master of the world, never that young.  I had to be immersed in the meta information of life, working to make it explicit and process it at a high level before I even went to school.

That was, in the end, good work.   The skill to make the meta explicit, to suss out what is going on beneath the surface, lets me do the work of meeting people where they are, of assessing and analyzing their feelings and their needs, of being able to to tease out the threads and identify what is important, what the deeper challenges are, the ones below the surface.

The obligation to learn to do that hard work, though, at such a young age, just to survive in the world with a difficult household and a queer heart, well, that was costly.   At the time when I should have been exploring myself, my desires and possibilities, my potential and my joy, instead I had to explore others, had to deny and control myself so I could take care of other people.

What I missed in all of this, the big gap in my life, was having my own heart nurtured.  No one was there for me to encourage and support me in working the process of growth & development.


  • care for and encourage the growth or development of.
  • encourage, promote, stimulate, develop, foster, cultivate, boost, contribute to, assist, help, abet, strengthen, fuel
  • help or encourage the development of.
  • cherish (a hope, belief, or ambition).

I had to learn to nurture myself.   In school, I was queer and smart, not just one of the kids, but one who pushed the boundaries, reading through things I was just supposed to be seeing the surface of.

From that story of being in Kindergarten and being able to read not just the paste jar but also the teachers manual to the time in fifth grade when I stood up to the teacher having the class vote to decide my scientific understanding was wrong (it wasn’t) I was the nail that stood proud, not one of the chosen kids who knew how to make teacher proud by shining at following the rules.

I learned how to be challenging and smart, seeing through the games rather than playing them.

But you cannot go on “explaining away” forever:
you will find that you have explained explanation itself away.
You cannot go on “seeing through” things forever.
The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it.
It is good that the window should be transparent,
because the street or garden beyond it is opaque.
How if you saw through the garden too?
It is no use trying to “see through” first principles.
If you see through everything, then everything is transparent.
But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world.
To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.
– C.S.Lewis, The Abolition of Man

I learned early that there was only one person who would nurture me, who would support my unique process, and that person was me.  I made my own comforter, out of tiny bits of fluff and warmth that I found wherever, a patchwork of scraped together pieces that I struggled to keep together.

It was much later in my life that I began to come to emotional maturity, working to integrate the heart I had to deny with my understanding of the world, to become actualized by learning to trust that heart rather than just control it with my big brain.  By that point, though, both of them were too big to trust with anyone else.  “I have am doing better at learning to trust myself,” I said to the love of my life, ” and now I need to learn to trust other people.”  “Can’t you do that on your own?” she replied, telling me clearly that she wasn’t going to do that work.

I learned how to nurture myself and in that process, I learned how to nurture others.   This was the work of seeing, supporting and encouraging them.   By being able to see their deeper, meta truths in an explicit way, by being able to put language to the feelings and thoughts that they had but had not processed, I was able to serve them, at least until they felt challenged that I was illuminating too much of them and acted out.

This still happens, as people tell me when they find it difficult to read my blog entries because they are too explicit and too revealing, not about my struggles but about the struggles that they have and try to keep under wraps.   But I have, over the years, learned to modulate myself around others, going into concierge mode, denying my own heart and being gracious when doing the work.

For their last decade I took care of my parents in a way that was so powerful that I was thrown out of two different caregiver support groups for bringing  challenges too difficult for novices to hear into the room, for being too much of a porcupine.  Professionals may not have known how I did it, but they were awed by the care I gave my parents.  “You are all over his chart,” one clinician told me.  “We trust you.”

My question then was “Who cares for the caregivers?” but now the question is much more personal, much deeper, going back not only to when I learned how to turn outwards and care for others, but when I had to learn to care for myself at a much too tender age.

Who nurtures the nurturers?  How do we get “encouraged, promoted, stimulated, developed, fostered, cultivated, boosted, contributed to, assisted, helped, abetted, strengthened, and fuelled?”

Sometimes, I feel like a motherless child.  When you never learned to accept nurturing except through an analytical filter of caution, challenges occur.  When you never learned to just be one of the gang, challenges occur.  When you never learned to just trust the call of your heart without processing first, challenges occur.

I know that I can nurture others, know that I have polished the work of nurturing to a very high level.  What I don’t know is how I experience being nurtured in the world, experience being nourished, replenished, affirmed and supported.

My requirement to nurture my parents was to be beyond judgment, beyond my own tastes and my own fears.    This is at the core of my embracing of queerness, the belief that people need what they need, not what I think they need, not what I would be comfortable with, not to my taste.  I have to meet people where they are to be able to nurture them.

My experience of the world is that if I am too whatever for someone else’s taste — too queer, too smart, too big, too insightful, too explicit, too intense, too whatever —  then I end up having them try to cut me back rather than nurturing me.  I end up having to do the work to nurture them, because the feelings that come up when they engage me, their feelings, the feelings that make their world about them, end up being placed on me.   I know that unless they do their own work, they can’t be there for me, and know that there are good and pressing reasons why they haven’t yet done their own work.

To be unnurtured is to be alone.  From my earliest days, I learned to use my head to make sense of the world, learned to see through and make the meta explicit.  I learned to scavenge my own emotional nourishment, learned that my world had to be alone and separate or else it was unsafe.  I learned that my instincts would get me in trouble, so I had to modulate everything or be at risk.

It took me decades to learn to trust  my own heart.   Owning both my heart and my head is a powerful blend, letting me communicate my reality with strength and grace, letting me be a safe and nurturing space for others,   I know that I can do the work to be there for them.

Finding others who have done the work in a way that lets them be there to nurture me, though, is a more challenging proposition.  Who nurtures the nurturers?    Where is the empathy that we need to be replenished and nurtured?

I learned early how to watch out for myself, and thanks to my big brain and my femme heart, I learned well how to nurture others, beyond just pushing my own expectations and into working & supporting the process of growth and development.   I meet people where they are and do the work to listen to their stories, encourage their dreams, and tell them how special they are.

Nature or nurture?   Both, of course.   But nurture is the part we can work on, we can develop, we can give to ourselves and others.  The lack of it, though, well, it can leave some gaps.

But-But Heart

“But,” she said, “but, but, but, what if I am wrong?  What if I am coming to the wrong conclusion, what if I am missing the point, what if just don’t get it?

“But how can I be sure that I won’t be embarrassed, won’t look like a crackpot, won’t lose face?

“But how can I make sure that I will avoid losing?   But shouldn’t I think it through with my head, figure all the angles, play it safe?

“But isn’t doing the analysis the smart thing to do, the thing that will keep me from being humiliated, the thing that will show I am exerting moral control over my choices?

“But isn’t it better to over police myself to the point of paralysis than to not seem smart and controlled?

“But how can I look cool and measured if I just let go and am enthusiastic and vulnerable, looking like I trust this cracked heart of mine that calls me to transgender expression?

“But how can I ever trust myself in the world?   But shouldn’t I be bound and controlled by my brain?

“But isn’t trying to sort everything into opposites, putting them all into a nice binary formula the right thing to do?

“But if it is, why then do I get so bound up, so bleak and so sad?   But, but, but, but what if I am wrong?

“But what!?!?!?!?”

You cannot follow your bliss by just using your brain, no matter how smart you think you are being.

The transgender calling isn’t rational.   It’s not something that we choose.   It is a call from inside of us, from the gut, from the soul, from the heart.

Men don’t choose to have a beard.  Leave his face alone and a beard will appear.   The only choice he can make is not to have a beard, choosing to actively work to remove the hair that appears on his face.

The same applies to trans expression.   The heart wants what it wants, so the only choice we can make is to deny it.  We are taught that the appropriate thing to do with that expression is to cut it off, to deny it, to use our brain to fight those feelings, that call, that Eros.

This is why people like Klingenschmitt feel perfectly justified in open messages to Nicole, a trans girl in Maine, to “man up” or get a spanking or exorcism.   She must cut off her heart, slice and chop at it, spend all her energy in denying and destroying it, or society will deem her a sick outlaw, worthy of shunning and abuse.

I spent an evening last year chatting with Nicole’s father after dinner, and his  challenges are clear: how does he honour her heart, encourage her development into the best person she can be, while still keeping her safe in the world?   It’s not easy for a father to see his child attacked, but he knows that his only choice is to help oppress her or to stand up for her, and the right choice was clear to him.

Everyday you doubt yourself you hurt your heart, cutting it back and leaving scars.   Yet, everyday every transperson has to make choices on how to modulate themselves, how to be appropriate & non-threatening in the world while also being true to their heart, open to their emotions and having faith in the song their creator placed in their heart.

This is the essential fight of the transgender experience, between how much we are tame, modulated and controlled, trying to fit in with other people’s comfort, and how much we are wild, bold and energetic, trusting that our hearts are just human, knowing that showing them in the world will be what lets us have the power of following our bliss.

How much do we do what others tell us to try and avoid losing?   How much do we do what we feel called to to try and really be brave and win in this world?    For people who have never really felt challenged by their own queerness, this phoenix fight of self destruction vs rebirth is difficult to comprehend.

The lovely Erin commented on “Hermit Habit” about a text that resonated with her, keeping her distance from it because it seemed a bit “fantastical.”   For me, though, the attempt to divide the brilliant from the crackpot is the attempt to pasteurize truth, killing off all the challenging bits in the name of safety, denying us the sumptuous power of raw cheese.    The power of creativity is never marked by how safe, comprehensible and innocuous it is, but rather how it strikes chords within us that make us resonate with deep knowledge.

Bart Ehrman has written about the analysis of old Biblical texts and how one rule of thumb in that process is that more complicated texts are more likely to be original than simplified texts, because scribes tend to both oversimplify and enforce social prejudices when they copy texts that challenge their conventions.

Society has a structure to enforce the status quo by installing the fear of failure and separation in us, by creating a policeman in our brain that keeps the heart cut down to size.   We don’t have a choice to just ignore what is approved and appropriate, but if all we focus on is how to be tame, we make the choice to deny our nature, our potential, our bliss.

For me, the key strategy to manage this challenge has always been analysis.  First, I wired my brain to my heart to try and control it, to try and figure out how to get under the threat of my mother and the bigger world, but as I matured spiritually, I found I could use those same wires to monitor my own heart.   Rather than controlling it as you would control a nuclear reactor, I started watching my heart like an experiment in fission & fusion, letting it inform my understanding of the world.

I worked to install a heart diode, trusting that the flow could go in the right direction, though I still understood the need to modulate how I reveal my heart in the world, the need to do the work so that others aren’t overwhelmed by the queer mix of brilliant and crackpot that shines within me.    This mindfulness exercise that demands I be the one negotiating the depths of others who stay at level one is difficult and expensive, but it is the technique I have found to balance expression and grace in this world,

You cannot follow your bliss by just using your brain, no matter how smart you think you are being.

The transgender calling isn’t rational.   It’s not something that we choose.   It is a call from inside of us, from the gut, from the soul, from the heart.

For me, mindfulness, a commitment to working the process is the only way to balance the requirement for modulation to engage those who have not yet done the work with the call to follow my own bliss by trusting my own heart.   It is how I seek to find wins while faced with the challenge of limited and diminishing resources, with lessening resilience and nurture from the world.

But I know the call to but very well, the call to sabotage and entomb the beating of our own heart, to stop the queerness and cut off our own growth.   I know it well; if you want to see the scars, just look around you.

Rude and Righteous

So which is worse: expecting to be seen as a freak and then being surprised that no one does look at you strangely, or expecting to be seen as just another woman in the world and then being surprised that people treat you like a freak?

For me, walking through the mall, it’s the first scenario that I carry.   I’m waiting for the third gotcha, and when the guy selling skincare from the cart flirts a bit, I get a bit disquieted.

For TBB, driving her motorcycle back from the ship through coastal North Carolina, it is the second, and when the women at the UPS store start talking behind her back and the clerk feels the need to slap her with a very puncuated “Thank you, SIR!” at the end of their transaction, she feels dismayed and upset.

TBB knew she had passed by Tea Party billboards, saying that America should be for true Americans, knew that the woman in front of her was jabbering on about how Chris Christie was sabotaged with the bridge scandal by those who need to destroy him to make room for that Hillary, but her expectation was for simple southern hospitality.

When she became a Fox News story plopped into the regular lives of these biddys, that felt really unfair and distressing to her.   She was an object of curiosity and derision to these women, one of “them” dropped into their off the beaten track homeland.

“What can I do?” she asked me on the phone from the parking lot.  “How can I tell them how rude they are, how unfair and un-American their behaviour is?   How can I stand up for myself without just making things worse?”

We work so hard to be appropriate and gracious, knowing that we are pushing the boundaries even as we see other women wearing curlers or ratty clothes, showing their own messy edges because they know that no one can take their identity away from them.

Once you get treated like a freak, though, all those choices you make to assimilate suddenly seem like just a burden that you carry with no benefit.   If people are going to marginalize and mock you, well, then, why not just be fucking nuts all the time, be in their faces with no work to attempt to fit in?

We do work to fit in, though, because we do want to fit in.  We want to be seen, understood and valued for what we share in the world, want to give our gifts and have them accepted in the world.   When we are reminded that much of the world feels it is perfectly acceptable to reject our presence, to dismiss and mock us as a freak just because we want to mail a package, that just hits us like an out-of-control Mack Truck.

There were a number of young women scientists on the last cruise and one of them caught TBB’s eye.  “She was really beautiful, not drop-dead-gorgeous, but pretty, and when she smiled and you saw her warm eyes dance, then you saw how gorgeous she really was.”

TBB wanted to connect with this gal, to bring her close.  “I really wanted to introduce her to my son.   She just struck me as the kind of woman you would want as a daughter-in-law.   I could imagine her coming to visit and handing their baby to me, smiling all the time.”

I understand that my body was assigned as male at birth, understand that we do not yet have the tools to resex a human body.

My gender, though, my knowledge of my own heart, my understanding of the world, my long journey to get clear of the behaviours imposed on me to find some real clarity and truth, well, that is honest and very hard one.   When you choose to be rude enough to reduce me to my biology so I won’t challenge your divisive and self-righteous worldview, that feels bad.

For those women in the UPS store, common sense meant knee-jerk belief, staying at the first level of reaction and not questioning the world, at the second level of performer or the third level of observer.  Their faith absolves them from any obligation of doubt or acceptance, never having to do the work to understand the world through the experience of someone they denigrate as an outsider.

No, it’s the freak who has to do all the work, who has to negotiate the unprocessed assumption and fears of those so grounded in their own brand of normalcy that all they have to do is satisfy each other and never care about the wider world.   Their own human freakishness is gone in the shared judgment of their peers, all agreeing that people who make the choice to be different, to stand out, to stand up, well, they deserve whatever they get from nice, good, holy people.

TBB wasn’t expecting this kind of experience when she stopped into the UPS store.   She was expecting to just be treated with professional courtesy as long as she stayed appropriate, not pushing the edges with her choices, staying normative and unthreatening, not demanding to be indulged but rather being grown-up.

Instead, she was cast as the freak of the day and then slapped for her choices by someone who was getting paid to offer customer service to the public.

It felt bad for her, reminded her of how unsafe it can feel to be a transperson in a world where discrimination based on biology is not only authorized by some, but is also venerated by many.

As she hung up from talking things through with me on the phone, one of the women from the store spoke to her in the parking lot.

“Your hair is so beautiful,” she said.  “Is that a wig?   I mean, because it doesn’t look like a w wig, but, well, it is just so beautiful. . .”

Who needs to respect a freak, a clown, when they walk into your safe zone?   Who?

Isn’t It Pedantic?

Sometimes I think of myself as a columnist, someone telling stories and calling attention to bits of life that tend to slip by in nice, compact packages.

Sometimes, I wonder if I might be a preacher, throwing out sermons, offering a worldview that helps people be more conscious of their everyday choices in a bigger context, thumping the drum and offering a path.

Sometimes I wonder if I might be a businesswoman, using the techniques of marketing to create organizations that help people come together to create shared products and services which add value to the community.

In vino vertas, it is said, and I have always known what comes up when I drink too much.  I don’t tend to brawl or flirt, don’t tend to dance or get bolder.   No, when I drink, I tend to get more pedantic.  I tell stories, make connections, explain how I see the world as a network, lots of threads bound together,  where truth and energy jump between nodes to make a vibrant interplay of life force.

I love embodying people and ideas in a way that concentrate them, in a way that lets us see them in a new, connected way, revealing how another perspective can take us deeper, can help us see the world more clearly, can help us see our own choices in a context away from the mundane.

My model of religion looks at the axis between preachy preachers, those who tell you a constructed idea how the world should be, who tell you the difference between good & bad, between the holy & the profane, and teachy preachers, who ask you to look for organic connections in the world, reflecting on how these connections are revealed in you, how you can become more clear, integrated, actualized and righteous when your choices reflect a broader view, a cosmic view, a divine view.

Preachy preachers seek to venerate group identity and create organization structures, while teachy preachers seek to help clarify individual identity and facilitate personal clarification and personal responsibility.

I suspect that I am, at the core, a teacher, Miss Callan as the lovely Erin called me, someone who wants to take you on a journey that expands your horizons and develops your mind so that you can move farther on your own.  I am thrilled when others come back and share what they have discovered, how they have expanded their own mind in a way that informs and delights the rest of us.

The healing that I offer is the healing of education, of growing beyond your current vision to see how you are as connected and potent in the world as your own choices.  My goal is always to enlighten, turning the dim into the brilliant, a guru offering light to those who are seeking for it.

My satisfaction is to see and clarify, while my desire is always to be seen and affirmed, to become more grounded in light of others.   For me, the erotic is the intimate, probing deeper to increase the flow between hearts, minds, creative spirits and bodies, feeling the external slip away to create more intense and more pure connection.   I want to move beyond the cheap Eros of quick sensation to the deep Eros of transformation, passing sparks between us in a way that magnifies and sanctifies connection.

In the end, each human has the requirement to become a teacher, a responsibility to consolidate and own their own gifts by passing those gifts on to those who need them.   We take the knowledge we have received & integrated and offer it to others, becoming mature as we help others grow beyond their own current limits by seeing new and more sophisticated choices.

My own pedantry isn’t a distraction from the present, rather it is a call to help hone understanding and skills so that we can be better in the next choice that we make.   It isn’t  quest for perfection, rather it is a quest towards perfection, striving for excellence by achieving more mastery over our own creation.

Transpeople are faced with the challenge to create themselves again and again, past convention and expectation.    For the last twenty years I have understood myself to be the grad course, obtuse and arcane until you are ready to go beyond the standard curriculum to your own journey of ownership.

I love learning.  To me, the details are where the magic is, so diving deeper is always the way to going broader.   Connection doesn’t exist at the theoretical, arm-waving level, rather it exists in the very humanity of our lives where the fundamental lives in the root structure which connects all.  To me, we are merely the fruiting bodies of a much larger system which includes humans come before and after us, humans across the globe.

Today, pedant is mostly seen as an insult, referring to someone who is annoyingly focused on detail and knowledge.   Just one more slur to reclaim, one more challenge to own, one more cross to carry.  Nothing new to me there.

Am I a challenging pedant?   So I am.  So be it.   So what?

It’s just so me.

Habit Bound

First we make our habits,
then our habits make us.
— Charles C. Noble

It is impossible to make every choice anew everyday.

If we don’t have the bandwidth to really see everything in front of us, only seeing outlines and differences, how can we possibly have the bandwidth to make every choice consciously everyday?

If you are a theoretical physicist, modelling quantum phenomena in your head everyday to try and see it in a new way, why would you want to waste valuable mindshare thinking about lunch?   A habitual cup of tomato soup and a cheese sandwich will do fine, thank you very much.

I have habits to change, habits that do not serve me anymore.  I need to reallocate the energy that I burn off into more productive habits, starting with more focus on being fit.

I have changed my habits before and will again.    This is what change is about, not so much rejiggering the big things in our lives but instead, altering the small, habitual things that don’t serve us.

How can we be ready for new challenges without new attitudes?   We may habitually look for the worst case scenario, look for the signs that justify a bleak worldview, searching for the the views that satisfy our own internal critic and set us up to play small, but how does that serve us when we try and get the best we can out of the world?

It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one
than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.
— Whitney Young, Jr.

We prepare for opportunities by reprogramming our habits.   Waiting until the crisis hits to engage change means we will end up woefully unprepared.  We may know this, but if our habits — our practices — are without discipline and sloppy, they may be very difficult to change.   We have no history of change that we can go to to find old models that might get us ready for new times.

Habits are notoriously hard to change, though, because those habits wouldn’t be habits if they didn’t work.  We live in a network of other people whose habits connect with ours, because if our habits didn’t work in our environment, we would have much more impetus to change.   There is a reason that the first thing in-patient rehabs do is demand people change their habits, a reason why external support is required.

To change our habits, we need to change the rewards and losses in our environment so they support and encourage new behaviours.  If we stay altogether too comfortable with our routines in the world, we just guarantee that change will hit us harder, coming with a crash rather than in waves.

The easiest thing in the world is to carry on with old, comfortable habits.   When those habits stop serving us, though, they become liabilities rather than benefits.   One definition of insanity, the old saw goes, is making the same choices over & over again and expecting different results.

The cry “I want to my life to be better” followed by the refusal to change your comfortable habits is not a credible statement.   Change requires change, so resistance to change is resistance to change; if you don’t work to change your choices, especially your habitual choices, you don’t really want to change your life.   You only want grounds to be comfortable in your own abjection and self-pity.

To change our outcomes we need to change our choices.   Until we have coded those changes into changed habits, every change will be a struggle.  We become better at change by becoming better at changing not just our conscious choices but also our unconscious choices, changing our habits.

Otherwise, we are bound by our habits, calling for help because we are unable to help ourselves.   Making a habit out of complaining about the results of your own habitual behaviours, well, that’s not a practice which will get you to serenity or satisfaction anytime soon.

Weak Roots

On the TV show “Who Do You Think You Are?”  they posit that you don’t have to answer questions to understand your identity, rather the key to your identity is buried deep in your genælogy.   You are who your genes make you, they assert, and the way to understand that truth is by understanding the history of your ancestors, because their stories are what inform yours.

I do love watching the show, because I love history and connection, but I often laugh when I see the celebrities interpret what they are given.  They are offered a whole boatload of symbols tied up in the stories and seem to assume that the meaning that they assign to those stories is the real meaning that exists in them.

The process of assigning meaning is usually seen as the process of discovering absolute external truth, rather than the chance to discover their own relative internal truth in the way they identify connections with their relatives.

Seeing smart celebrities weave their own stories with their heritage, though, is a satisfying process for me to watch, though, because it reveals the seekers truth more than it does the history.    The participants who know themselves and what they value take much more from the process than those who are not yet fully formed, which may be why those who research their family trees tend to be older and more settled people.

TBB and I were discussing the days when ethnic roots provided a big chunk of our identity in this country.   You knew who you were, often, by first knowing your ethnic heritage, which gave you a kind of confidence.

Today, though, in our mushy, suburban lives, we don’t know who we are, rather we know who we aren’t.   Our identities aren’t firmly rooted, rather they are reactive, always moving around based on what we reject in the moment, what squicks us right now.

We don’t know who we are, rather we know who we aren’t, which makes us dangerous, always ready to lash out at people and ideas we want to keep ourselves separate from.

We are who the marketers want us to be, always in flux and always malleable, ready to jump on the next big trend, grabbing the next trendy identity prop, the next fashion, whatever comes hip in the next tweet or instagram.

Disconnecting with the social sways of fashion to connect with the individual solidity of personal style requires us to move from the gusts of the tabloids to the bricks of history, no longer blowing in the winds but instead rooted in some kind of solid truth.

We need deep anchors for that truth, so tracing our personal stories back to the genes and history of those who passed their blood and heritage to us gives us the strength to stand strong in our own identity.  Living in a world where only the trendiest is venerated means that we have to separate ourselves from that instant affirmation to own our own deep truths, to stand for our own rooted identity.

How do we learn to trust our roots in a society that doesn’t really value rootedness, a culture that no longer seems to understand that identity can’t be changed in 140 characters?

That may seem an odd question for someone who identifies as trans, an identity that many claim to be against solidity, but for me, my trans journey has always been about connecting to and affirming the fundamental against the social pressure of trendy fashion.  My goal has been to be deeply rooted in what connects humans over time and across cultures so that we can then also celebrate what makes each one of us essentially exceptional.

Without strong roots, we become convinced that we have to work to fit in on the surface in order to be connected with other humans rather than trusting that our humanity is fundamental to us and that we are never separate from others.

Without strong roots, we only know what to reject and mock, not what gives us the grace to embrace the humanity in others, even challenging others with unique and queer expression.

Until you know and embrace who you are, until you grow strong roots, you cannot stand up for others, delighting in differences that offer new views of our shared world.   Style over fashion, substance over trends: that’s what builds the classic and the connected.

A reactionary life is a life controlled by others, for if you want to be seen as one of them or seen as not one of them, they shape your choices.   Being yourself, centred, actualized and integral, requires strong roots that connect you to who you really are.

Monday Mourning

“I understand,” I said to her.  “You don’t think the world is fair.   You want a different deal, one that considers and honours why your circumstances are special.   You want to negotiate changes in the way that the universe works.  I get it.

“The problem is that bargaining with me won’t help at all.  I have no power to change the way that the world is.   If you want changes, you have to get God to agree.

“Why don’t you take your complaints up with her?   When she agrees to change the way things are for you, then call me back and I’ll congratulate you.   You can tell me how you made God change everything for you.”

“If I try that, you’ll never hear from me again!” she bleated.

Yeah.   I recognized her cry as the third stage in Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief.

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.    She wanted a bargain that avoided her having to engage loss.  Such a deal.

I have been living with loss for so long that I don’t even think about the steps anymore.  I know how to accept loss quickly, so quickly that people often feel like I don’t try to claim life at all.

I happened to be listening to a biography of Bob Fosse by Sam Wasson this week.  If anyone took that line of loss and life into popular art, it was Bob Fosse, in all his works.

The centre of surrender in life is to that which we cannot change, no matter how much we struggle.

The core of what we cannot change in this world is the truth of loss.   Everything dies, even our comforting illusions.  Holding on to that which is ephemeral and not eternal, well, that is only holding on to loss as the temporal slips away from us.

Time is the great knife, separating that which will endure from that which will pass.  Time guarantees loss and demands surrender, which we can only offer by working through our own grief, by mourning our own losses.

The closing years of life are like
the end of a masquerade party,
when the masks are dropped.
— Arthur Schopenauer

We assert our own intentions into the world, struggling to pose as we would like to be, but hour by hour, that façade corrodes away, revealing who we are.   We are who we have always been, but more so, which is why we need to be very careful who we pretend to be.

Without dropping our masks, though, authenticity will always escape us.   We will always be in the world surrounded by our armour, that slick suit we built which we really want to believe will get us what we desire while leaving our heart unscathed and unscarred.

“But these two were dancers.  Pain was negotiable,” Wasson writes of Fosse and Ann Reinking entering the cold while the hospital after his cardiac bypass.   The ego wants to help us avoid discomfort, but only by entering the pain can we find the pure, the essential and the excellent.

Dancers may learn that body first while I learned it mind first, pushing through my own emotional swirl to exist in my mother’s world, where everything was about her, to exist in the world of school, where I stood out as the nail to be pounded down, to exist in the wider world, were books were my only way to go where I needed to go.   Somehow, the experience of being snuck into my Grandfather’s hospital room when I was underage was just the first training for being in my father’s ICU room as I helped keep him safe as he surrendered his life.

Pushing through loss to find the essential and eternal is at the heart of creation.   If we want to create our own life beyond convention, want to own our own authenticity, want to free ourselves, we need to go through the stages, work through our loss, and claim what we find surviving in the ashes.

For Fosse it may have been the extension of a hip, for me one more perfect word, but the process always involves pushing through pain to find essence, allowing the weak to die for the strong to come forward.  Pushing past death to shape the remaining shards of our life towards perfection is the only thing we can do to create lasting form in the void.

Rebirth requires death.   The cycle of life requires loss to clear the field and make ground for the new.    Loss requires grieving: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance.

No matter how much we feel that the universe is unfair, unreasonable or even cruel, our negotiations with God to avoid loss will never succeed, because the clock cannot be turned back or even stopped.

That’s why we call it the serenity prayer, not the strength payer or the wisdom prayer; we know that surrender is the hard part.  “God grant me the strength to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.”  The prayer says amen, says that no matter what it does to us, we are blessed to have life and to have passion.

Creating our own best self beyond the natural loss of a human life requires surrender, because our own best self isn’t in our fancies, rather it is in our undeniable and enduring truth.  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance are the steps in the dance we need to make to go deeper, to go past conventions to get to uncommon sense.

Slowly waking up from the dream where everything is possible, facing the struggle and doing the mourning is the work we do to own the truth that beyond illusory opposites, beyond loss, love endures.

Now if you can figure out a way to bargain with the universe to find different deal that doesn’t require loss to achieve gain, that doesn’t require death to create life, well, call me after you make the deal, so I can congratulate you and get some tips.

But no, I’m not expecting the call.

Authentically Funny

I read Alessandra Stanley’s peice in the New York Times, Blending Genders, for Some Laughs at the Golden Globes: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler Celebrate Gender Equality where she makes the point that it was when the women spoke in their own voices that they were at their funniest.

I saw Lake Bell’s film “In A World. . .” where her character struggles to make a place in the world of voice acting as a woman, leading her to help other women find their own voices.

All of these come together in Gina Barreca’s TEDx Talk at the University of Connecticut that summarizes her twenty years of work on women and humour.

It’s worth a watch:

Her message is simple: We are funny when we speak with authority and brilliance in our own voice.

And herone of her jobs as a feminist is helping girls learn to trust and to own their own woman’s voices in the world.

TBB understands this concept, but she uses the world “authentic.”  It’s the idea we used as “The Drama Queens,” hosting transgender conferences; be bold, be authentic, be funny.  We were safe in that space, but even there, the limits of our audience’s engagement were the limits of their engagement in their own transgender nature.  Novices and compartmentalizers were less likely to find us funny.

How do we help people trust an authentic voice that challenges convention?

Finding the funny is one way, of course.