No Help

My mother’s narrative was that her mother was a bitch.   Even after I gave the eulogy at my grandmother’s funeral when she died at age 99, my mother still wanted to tell me how angry she was.

Now, that didn’t stop my mother from writing three or four 8 page letters to her mother a week for most of her life, but it was there.

As I started to have to take care of my mother full time, I began to see my grandmother in a different light.  I understood how wilful, ungracious and demanding my mother was, and I began to understand how that was rooted in the way that her mind worked, the patterns first described by Dr. Asperger.

My grandmother had a unique thinking daughter on her hands, one who was hard to satisfy, hard to control, hard to understand.  Is there any surprise that she got frustrated, or that when she tried to use the Victorian parenting techniques she learned in the 1890s in the 1930s that they didn’t work very well?

I began to have compassion for my grandmother and her challenges.

In the 1920s,  my father’s mother spent hard earned money from the farm to take him to a doctor to understand why he was different.   He held up a pocket watch to my fathers ears and asked if he could hear that.  He could, so diagnosis over.  Even as a kid, my father was upset at the waste of scarce cash.

They sent me to a therapist for the trans and other stuff when I was in seventh grade.  I agreed to go if they would help my parents.   They didn’t of course, but the therapist did tell them to stop using my family nickname of “Stupid.”

I am so angry and upset that nobody helped us.    I know that the modern understanding of how minds work was barely coming into focus even when I was young, so there was no textbook to inform or explain, but, damn, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t crushing.

I understand the challenge of Families of Adults Affected by Aspergers Syndrome.  The Aspies can’t give us the support we need, and the Normies can’t understand what we are facing in every minute of our relationships, so we are just SOL.

For me, it was a double-barrelled challenge, where both of my parents minds worked the way Dr. Asperger first described.  I had no place of safety, no refuge except my own mind.  I also knew I had to throw myself on the grenade; my sister got angry at me for trying to help her by  teaching her to fight for herself, because her brain was just more on the spectrum than mine.

I know that the mechanisms I developed to address those childhood wounds are good, useful and even universal.   As a wounded healer, my wounds lie at the core of my healing, and the power of my healing approaches has been valued by many people.   They appreciate how I can go into dark spaces and find words, never really understanding how excruciating it was to have to do that work of understanding the lost.

It became clear to me that it isn’t that some brains are normal and some are broken, rather that each brain offers trade-offs, strengths and weaknesses, that when brought together in a diverse, embracing and compassionate human band can offer the group much more than everyone thinking the same way ever could.   This helped me understand the core of queer theory, helped me value the individual over group identity.

Yet, I didn’t have that rich community experience that would have supported my healthy development even though my parents both had similar brains.  Nobody was there to see and understand my distress, to enter my world and help me grow inside of it.   Add to that my transgender nature — just another way some brains are — and I was slammed.

As I tried to explain through the years, I was just thrown into the too-hard bucket, like so many other people with non-normative minds.  Nobody had the attention to enter our world, nobody had the tools, so it was easier to just drop or silence me.  I was thrown out of lots of relationships and groups in my time.

It’s not hard for me to understand what I am never going to have.  I was adultified early, having to protect myself and my siblings, having to care for my parents, so when my peers were going through a passage, I just missed engaging it.   That lead to so much loss in my life, so much support that I just couldn’t be there for, couldn’t take advantage of.

Much of that loss comes from the way my family kept failing to be able to be there for me.  Events like my sister’s attempts at “emotional manipulation” or her failure to take responsibility for roles she accepted, leaving me broken.  That history, well, it is never going to change.

My sister’s ex-husband once came into the dining room of my parent’s house to find me there alone, finishing a story.   I hadn’t been alone when I started the story, but in the habits of my family, people had just walked out on me instead of listening.   I was just sick of it, so I finished the story to an empty room.

That’s what this blog has been for the past eight and a half years, of course, just me finishing a story to an empty room, assuming that others will not consider me as they follow their own impulses.   That story is constrained by my training to communicate to those with Asperger style brains and by my expectations of how that audience can react.

Look, I know that my parents loved me in the best way they could.   I was never hungry or beaten, always comfortable.    I am grateful for what I got.  And I know that as a grown-up, I have responsibility for my own choices.

And I know that the people who might have reached out and helped me just didn’t know much about Aspergers or what it is like to be held hostage by Aspies during the years that you need to be developing your own tools to succeed in the world.

Ending up a handmaiden to Aspergers wasn’t my plan, but  caring for others and being committed to family was something that I was trained to do and as pure an expression of my loving feminine heart as I can imagine.   My life experience made me who I am, for good and for bad, and as any wounded healer will tell you, humanity isn’t just one thing or the other, it’s the whole megillah.

There was really no help available, partly because no one understood and partly because I was so far slammed that I couldn’t just accept what other people could offer.   I didn’t have the programming.   And staying in a world where I had to connect with Aspies everyday kept me in rigid mental habits that just squeezed out most play, except for what I could squeeze into concierge mode, or what I did in my own little zone.

Today, there is so much more help available, especially people using the internet to share experiences and strategies,  to get educated on the challenges of those living with AS challenges, even challenges in relationship with AS people.

Just like understanding transgender, having language helps, something I didn’t have about AS until about five years ago.   My mother was sure I was just blowing smoke until she saw a programme about a gent with AS on cable, telling my sister with surprise that he was just like my father.

In order to become new, I need to be someone who isn’t locked in by the habits nd expectations that other people will respond like people on the spectrum, will have those limits.

And I have little idea where to find help with that challenge.

My Childhood, Read Out

This is an amazing document from Kristine at AspergerPartner.DK that reads out my childhood.

Except I didn’t have a neuro-typical parent for balance; my parents found each other because both had Aspergers.


Children of a parent with ASD

What can be the effect on a child if a parent has autism spectrum?

That question should ideally be answered by the child, including adult children.

The issue of AS parenting affects thousands of children’s well-being alone in this country. And that affects millions of children’s well-being worldwide.

Still, there is limited information available on the subject.

The concerns of a normal mother or father of a child when the other parent has AS / ASD will raise a number of key questions, such as:

What will be the emotional/social/intellectual outcome for the child when the AS-parent…

• cannot read the child’s emotional state and needs, including an infant who does not yet have a language?
• cannot give an appropriate emotional response?
• cannot switch instantly from one situation to another and respond immediately to the child’s needs?
• has difficulty in appropriate physical contact?
• has sensory difficulties with sounds and noise from playing children and their peers?
• cannot distinguish or check whether the child is in danger, sad, tired, scared, lonely, happy, in crisis?
• cannot foresee contexts and overviews in a situation, but only the details?
• does not have adult impulse control over themselves, including over their own anxiety and meltdowns?
• has difficulty organizing time, planning and carrying out practical tasks?
• cannot do several things at once?
• is extremely preoccupied with their own interests?
• has limited imagination?
• cannot participate in mutual conversations?
• cannot give a response to analytical/emotionally based higher order questions (“why”, “how”)?

By definition of the disorder, those parents on the autism spectrum may obviously have limitations in parenting skills.

Asperger’s expert and psychologist Tony Attwood mentions briefly in his book “The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome” a number of serious limitations on the parenting skills of those with autism spectrum. [1]

Attwood thus mentions the following phenomena:

– The emotional atmosphere at home is characterized by the Asperger’s parent’s negativity and irritability.   Asperger’s puts a damper on the other family members’ enthusiasm.
– Spouse and children living on tiptoe so as not to trigger tantrums and mood swings in Asperger-parent. The family lives in fear of the strong reactions, an outbreak can cause.
– Spouse and children must adapt Asperger-parent’s inflexible routines and their inflexible expectations of others’ behavior.
– Spouse and children are forced to adapt to Asperger-parent’s intolerance to noise, spontaneity, playmates and guests, and they must endure Asperger’s black and white perception of others.
– General children’s needs and behaviour is not understood by Asperger-parent.
– Children and spouses rarely receive positive confirmation from the Asperger-parent.|
– Asperger parent does not show much interest in what has emotional significance for the other family members and often criticizes.
– Praise from an Asperger parent is rare.
– The parent who does not have AS, experiences the reality of effectively being a single parent with sole responsibility for children, home and family.

Tony Attwood also describes how normal children may react to the parenting style by feeling:

– not loved and not accepted,
– feeling invisible,
– learning not to show emotion nor expect mutual sympathy in joy and sorrow,
– not permitted to show sadness
– learning that to attempt conversation with their AS-parent results in a monologue about the adult’s own problems
– their parent has no real interest in them and their lives,
– may find that peers are not welcome in the home, limiting relationship skill building.

Tony Attwood writes that a father or mother with Asperger’s syndrome can learn to be a good parent. However, a precondition for this is that the AS-parent recognizes their need for ongoing guidance.

The neuro-typical parent’s central role

Professor Tony Attwood does not mention in his book the important role that the normal (neuro-typical) parent has in their children’s emotional, social and intellectual development.

He also does not mention the importance of the psychological and educational efforts, the normal (neuro-typical) parent performs to train and motivate the Asperger-parent to function optimally in parenting.

Finally, he does not mention the special problems that arise around the kids, if the adult relationship is dissolved by separation and divorce.

[1] The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome, chapter 13. Tony Attwood, 2007

 © Aspergerhustru


Aspergers Family

The lovely thing about dysfunctional families, John Bradshaw reminds us, is how easy they are to recreate in any moment of our life.

We can always find new people to play the old roles that we are familiar with, always find someone who will treat us like our parents did, always reenact and affirm those old patterns and challenges.

I was telling a good support group facilitator about my doctor, one I have seen since the mid 1980s, talking about how he gets over focused on one thing, missing the point, and needs to be managed.  “A bit on the autism scale, it seems to me,” I told her.

She grinned.  “So he feels like family?” she asked.

I’m really, really good at managing people with brains that would be classified as autistic.  This is a great and loving skill I have mastered over the past six decades.

To do that, I have wired my own brain to model autistic responses in others.  My model of how other people approach the world is a model of Aspergers style behaviour.

It’s not that my brain came working that way, it is that my brain has been trained to work that way.   When I went to an Aspergers support group last year, running into a fellow who not only looked like my father down to his Ukrainian blue eyes and style of dress, but who thought like him so much that I could help him easily, I understood how my life was shaped by my family.

When I walk in the world and approach other people with the expectations and tools I have learned to manage Aspergers, not only is my view skewed, but I also attract people who respond well to that kind of approach.   I recreate my own dysfunctional family.

I was programmed to live in an Aspergers centred world, so it is within an Aspergers centred world in which I live.

And that hurts my heart.   Processing everything through my head, always being the interpreter, understanding that change is either glacially slow or just impossible, well, those expectations lock me down and make me feel stuck.

[NeuroTypical]family members, over time, begin to reflect the persona of [Apergers Syndrome] behaviors we live with, 24/7. We are isolated, no one validates us, we lose friends and family, and we feel like ‘hostages’ in our own homes.

The key point made here is how difficult it is to explain the affects of living with Aspergers to anyone who doesn’t understand it, to the “neurotypical.”   The vast majority of support boards are filled with the cries of parents who are frustrated by their autism spectrum (AS) children, so the challenges of children who have been shaped by AS parents don’t come close to breaking through the noise level.

There are no instructions for how to clear your brain of AS training and open to a wider, more responsive world.   It is a very lonely challenge, one that can easily leave you feeling lost.

To live in a world where the figurative is hidden and the literal becomes routinized has been crushing for me.   One of the diagnostic criteria for Aspergers is if people have trouble getting jokes because they have difficulty with the context, nuance and wordplay that underlie humour.

I have been programmed for a world where others don’t get the joke.  It has shaped me profoundly in ways that isolate me and keep me hostage.  I have no time before living in this world where emotional understanding is disconnected that I can go back to.

The limits of my choices are the limits of what my Aspergers Family can understand, because those are the limits of my world.

And that feels impossible to change at this late date.

Love Counts

Lying on the stretcher, waiting for an angiogram after a horrendously bumpy two week ride, her father was clearly in distress.   We had been communicating for a week now, since he had been in the Emergency Room four days before.   That followed a week of a diagnosis of congestive heart failure with fluid buildup that caused him great pain, made breathing laboured and took away his sleep.

In her mind, she knew what she expected.   Her father is old and had had health challenges before, including stents in his heart.   The outcome she expected was simple; he would survive the procedure, but the doctor would come out and tell her that the heart was damaged and there was nothing they could do.

Watching him suffer there, she was emotional.  And in the chain of text messages we had going, she asked if she could call me for the second time that day.

I took care of my parents full time for a decade, and the last 18 months were very challenging with medical difficulties.

“He looks so frail, so fragile,” she told me.  “It stirs up my feelings.”

“Does he know you are there?”  I asked.

“Yup. He was even bragging to the attendants in the ambulance that transferred him that I got there before them because I had good apps.”

“Does he know you love him?”  I asked.

“Yeah.  When the nurse asked him a question about his health, he told her that I could probably answer it better.”

“Great, so he knows you are working hard to care for him,” I said.

“Then you are doing all you can do,” I continued.  “I don’t know if he has another day or another decade — no one does, not even the doctor — but I know that you are giving him one more good day of feeling loved and cared for.  That’s all you can do.  None of us can control nature, can make everything right.  We can only be there as fully as we can.”

“But,” she asked me, “but, does it count?  I know you remember all the things that went wrong with your parents, all the struggles, but do you remember anything else?”

“Yes,” I told her.  “Definitely yes.  I have so many memories of one more good day with them, one more smile, one more laugh, one more warm touch.  Those stories are always with me, stories of being there and sharing love.

“Love counts.   Love always counts,” I assured her.  “It costs, too, sure, because you have to put yourself aside for service and giving, but it counts.”

“Thanks,” she told me.   “Thanks.”

The crew at this hospital were great, staying late to get him in after a messed up transfer, letting him keep his glasses and his Kokopelli necklace on.

And when the doctor came out, the news was far from bleak.  He had found an 80% blockage which he was able to clear, and while he was in there, he upgraded the stents he had put in previously.  He understood how her father had been mismanaged and promised a better team to watch his atrial fibrillation, his blood thinners, and his general health, cardiology and family practice together.

Her father looked good, in other words.   She had struggled and fought and found one more ally to help her, coming out of nowhere, like the ex-coworker of his she ran into that morning, who, when told of the struggle to get a power of attorney done, announced that she was a notary public and would be happy to help.

I well understood her struggle, understood how challenging and futile she felt, how hard it was to endure the million screw ups knowing that in the end, she would only end up losing her father anyway.   I understood her heart break, the shattering of a caregiver fighting the world.

Out of that breaking heart, though, came her love and her presence.   She wasn’t staying away to avoid the hard parts, she was right there, doing the impossible work, offering a laugh, holding a hand, giving what she could far beyond her own comfort level.

That love, well, it counts.   And it endures.   And that’s what she needed to hear from me yesterday.

Even in the face of inevitable loss, love counts.   Yes, yes it does.

Trans Practice

You know, you would think that normies would be able to help you learn how to act normally, offering constructive tips about how to fit in and all that.

They can’t do that, though.  They are mostly useless at that kind of assistance.

The reason is, I suspect, that they don’t really understand what doing normie means.  They have never really thought about it, never tried to analyze it or perfect it.   They just do it.

Of course, they learned it somehow, but that learning wasn’t conscious or deliberate.   The normative and conventional was just always around them, seeping into them.   And when they got it wrong, when they needed correction, nobody ever explained why what they were doing was wrong, explained the conceptual structures behind acting like us.   They just yelled, told them the right way and moved on.

I was told by an old teacher that I am what educators call a “concept former.”   I need to understand the concept first, then I can apply it.   Most students don’t approach learning that way, they learn by repetition and modelling, learning the keystrokes, not the ideas.

When I bought my own domain name, years ago, I selected

Trans is obvious.   And to me, Practice is obvious too.   My trans expression is deeply rooted in my practice, in my own disciplined behaviours of understanding and embodying basic principles.

Transvestism is about changing your clothes.
Transsexualism is about changing your body.
Transgender is about changing your mind.

For me, getting my understanding and choices clear were always at the core of my growth, healing and development.

Professions that have a practice demand disciplined thought.   I remember in The Paper Chase where Professor Kingsfield told his contracts class  “You teach yourselves the law, but I train your minds. You come in here with a skull full of mush; you leave thinking like a lawyer.”

I learned to survive by learning mental discipline.   I knew that I needed something, and a big brain seemed to be my best tool to understand better, to choose better.

What I share with other people, it turns out, is the skill of thinking in a different and more considered way.   This is the essence of mindfulness,of the process of deconstruction, analysis and reconstruction, of learning the discipline to stay in the moment and respond with conscious presence rather than unconscious reaction.

All who offer healing work to put your experiences in a new context.   For some, this healing is focused on teaching, on developing your own discipline and approach to understanding, while for others this healing is focused on faith, on developing reliance on shared principles of belief and behaviour.

I am focused on practice, on spiritual discipline, on personal understanding, on individual responsibility.  This has not proven to be the most comforting offer for most people, nor is it the offer that allows people to build followers who come back again and again to look for understanding and comfort.

Seekers are on a journey, learning what they can and then moving on to learn more, building their own practice, not returning again and again for the routine of comforting ritual.  We choose and then choose again, always aware of the ripples of our choices, always focused on understanding and doing better, achieving some kind of mastery that leaves us wiser, more open-hearted, and more centred than when we started.

To do this, our evolving practice must support us in letting go of the past,  in transcending the pain, in moving beyond comfort to start again in every moment, to becoming new.   That’s a much harder ask than just following some sort of dogma or doctrine.

Only those who are working to build their own practice can help us learn how to be conscious and growing in the world.   That’s one reason southern gals are often so good at feminine expression; there are masters in finishing schools who teach the performance of womanhood as a discipline to be honed because practice makes perfect.

Practice isn’t easy.   To me, though, practice is what gives human life meaning, revealing connection and offering the mindful & aware discipline that leads to mastery.

Tourist walks up to a musician on the streets of Manhattan and asks “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Practice, practice, practice,” is their reply.

How do you get to a full and meaningful life?

I’d give the same answer.


Maybe, the best way to know any given transperson is to know where they are stuck.

It’s what we can’t seem to get away from of that defines us.

There are many reasons why we can’t move forward.

One important reason is because we love other people and want to stay connected to them, even if they can’t move forward with us.   Family is vital.

We may need to hold onto things we value, like our skills, our learning, our history and our stories.  Those are valuable things we earned at a cost, things that shaped us and marked us.

But a huge amount of where we get stuck is around the fear that whatever we let go of, the things we need and love, we will never be able to replace.   We don’t leap because there doesn’t seem to be anyplace to land on the other side that will be fulfilling and nourishing for us.

The world tells transpeople that there is no future in their trans expression, that they will always be stuck to their history and biology so any leap, any letting go is just a sheer drop into the void.

Every transperson has experienced that moment where our gender changed in someone else’s eyes,  when our own truth was ripped away and replaced with the fears, assumptions and expectations of another.  This is the moment of the third gotcha, and it doesn’t matter what direction it comes in, it’s always a blow.

 A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.
—Winston Churchill

By this definition, we live in a world of gender fanatics, where gender is always the subject, identifying people quickly into one category or another, evaluating them against gendered stereotypes and standards, and where changing their mind about the importance of gender separation just isn’t something that can or even should be done.

Heterosexist, binary conventions form the basis of gender policing, and stigma is the tool to enforce those conventions, empowering people to judge others gender performance and discriminate on how it strikes us,

Every transperson knows the structures of that stigma and knows that they are just a step or two away from having it come down onto them.   We have each learned to modulate ourselves, to edit ourselves in ways that work to avoid being clobbered by stigma.

These expectations and the enforcement of them leave us stuck, knowing that we can’t simply go forward or even go back because we are living in a minefield of people who feel the stress of the gendered expectations placed onto them pulling at their own hearts.  They have sacrificed to follow the gender rules, so why shouldn’t we be expected to do the same?

Humans learn early how to avoid discomfort, how to minimize risk, because they feel the shame of being called a failure, the shame of being devalued and abused for their own non-conformity with the expectations of others.

We learn gender appropriateness in the cruellest way possible, being shamed by other adolescents for our differences.   We are taught to follow the gang, to fit in, or to pay the price in abuse and isolation.


We are stuck with the gendered expectations of those around us, told to obey or we will deserve whatever crap we get, won’t be entitled to whatever others choose to deny us.

There are almost no models of what a mature, graceful transperson looks like today and when I was growing up there were absolutely no models.   How can we imagine being centred and potent in the world if that is so unimaginable that it is invisible?

Transpeople get stuck in their process of growth, change and transformation.   We get stuck because we are tied to our past in ways that we are told will break if we move too far away and we are denied a future  by those who demand their binary model of opposites constrained by bits of biology always be enforced.

We look to others to support change but mostly we get back conventional thinking, people who don’t see the need to encourage hearts to flourish beyond expectations of walls that seem to offer comfortable separations.

Every transperson I know is stuck, for noble reasons of love and commitment, for practical reasons of gender enforcement, for fearful reasons of learned shame, of for some other reason.   We all face a world that has embraced binary gender and gets uncomfortable with people who can’t easily be pinned as one or the other.

Blocking queer expression to maintain the status quo — “to protect the children” — is standard and reasonable enforcement of standards in this culture.

Supporting queer expression lets others claim you are responsible for it,  responsible for whatever extreme behaviour they choose to blame your liberality for, which is just another reason to block our own expression.   Having to take on not just your own expression but also the expression of others beyond your control can really be a block.

Getting stuck starts early for transpeople, from the moment we learn that choices we want to make will get a negative reaction from those around us.  We become forced to make hard choices, training ourselves to deny and hide our own desires to avoid stigma and abuse.

That process of compartmentalization and closeting becomes a spiral.   We are blocked from exploring our nature so we lose touch with our heart, which blocks us even more.  We spend precious time and resources making sure we have blocked off the parts of us that we are taught are too different, too challenging, too queer.

We are stuck when the way forward is blocked, so the longer we block ourselves, the more stuck we become.   Just fighting to move forward when you are stuck has a high cost, using up resources at a frenetic rate.   Like quicksand, the more you try and become unstuck, the more stuck you get.

Where we are stuck, what stops us from moving forward, defines much of our life.

In a society where gender is rigidly bi-polar, moving to express the content of our hearts rather than just complying with the assignment laid onto us by dint of our genitals means we face all the social pressure that can be brought to bear to keep us stuck.   We are trained to internalize that pressure, and if we ever slip, we know that other people feel free to mine our environment to keep us scared and compliant to heterosexist gender conventions.

I look back and see how clear I was on these challenges 15 years ago.

But I also see how I am stuck, see how other transpeople I know are stuck.

And I know that being stuck defines us.

First Love

I was reading the testament of a Christian pastor who attends Gay Pride events so they can help carry the gospel to lost LGBT people and I was struck by this quote

Whom you would change, you must first love, and they must know that you love them.
— Martin Luther King Jr

This is a statement of empathy, of vulnerability, of openness, of love.

For me, more a teachy preacher than a preachy preacher, the big message here isn’t a kind of trick to offer the good news of the lord to the unchurched.

The big message here is reflexive, about how we treat ourselves: whom you would change you must first love, and if you want to change yourself — the essential and righteous change in my eyes — then first you have to love yourself.  You have to love the big, messy, fraught, imperfect, error prone, flawed you.

After all, if Christian evangelists can show love that draws people like you to them, surely, moving to love yourself is possible, right?

From an early age we are taught to police our own choices by being told that parts of us are shameful, corrupt, sick, disgusting.   We are told that we have to suppress those parts in order to get what we need from other humans, that love and connection will only come if we lock that ugliness away from view, putting it off limits forever.

It’s easy to understand why we can come to the belief that the best way to heal our pain, to get what we are starving for, is to become better at this compartmentalization, this locking away of the bad inside of us, this cutting off of the challenging.

We have been taught to play the game of opposites where separation is the grail, separating good from bad, rather than the came of integration where connection is the goal, knowing that it is balance which holds the power of the divine.

It’s not what we are running away from, not what we fear, that ultimately defines us, rather it is what we are running towards, is what we love, that casts away the synthetic to reveal the authentic.

I see so many transpeople whose internalized heterosexism — the veneration of opposites — and transphobia — the fear and loathing of queer & different — drive their choices.   This leads them to a belief that better sanitation will get them the love they need rather than believing that only love, including self-love, can ever bring love.

Whom you would change, you must first love.  And that desired change must be rooted in love, not in prescriptive thinking, understanding that change follows the nature of our hearts rather than erasing it.   Everyone heals in their own time and their own way, even you.

The transgender calling is a calling of love.  We are drawn to what we love, but are told that love is mistaken, twisted, corrupt.   We should really love what we should really love, not what we do really love, for what we do love should be seen as unlovable.

How can we ever accept love into our lives if we know our hearts to be unlovable?  What kind of knots do we twist ourselves into as we try to cut what we hate from ourselves?   Isn’t it better to find a way to have centred, disciplined and open love, removing the twists, than to try to compartmentalize out what we don’t love?

Whom you would change, you must first love.

And that, like so much of spiritual teaching, starts with you.

Move In To Stay

The living wander away, we don’t hear from them for months, years—but the dead move in with us to stay.
— Garrison Keillor, The Keillor Reader, 2014

Was up very late last night keeping electronic company with my sister’s friend in Long Island as her father was in the Emergency Room and eventually admitted because his breathing was impaired by excess fluid build up because of congestive heart failure.

Been there, done that with my mother in what turned into a two week stay in hospital with three Rapid Response events including one that took her to the Intensive Care Unit.  And near the end of my father’s six months in hospital the next year, as she was with Hospice for lung cancer, he had similar problems.

I’m not sure that what Mr. Keillor says is correct for everyone, but I know that as a writer, it’s clearly true for me.   The parents were with me last night as I offered the support and entertainment that I wished I had all those long tough nights in the ER.

They move in with us to stay, indeed.


The kitchen sink works.   It’s been six months of it being blocked and totally unusable. but somehow, it started draining a week ago, after many months of heroic and failed attempts to clear it.

Now, it’s still not right, because the sink disposal has a broken out blade assembly, so it doesn’t pulverize food properly+ and therefore is unusable, but a least I can run the water until it runs hot, can rinse every plate.

Still, though, I have the dishpan in the sink and I find myself using it like I did for the last half-year, dumping it into the toilet.   It has become a habit over time, deeply ingrained.

I’m just not sure that whatever happened last time won’t happen again, so I work gingerly around the sink, wary that  it could block up again.

My experience have shaped my habits, and my lack of resource to control leaves me tender and wary.

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it and stop there lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove lid again and that is well but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore.
— Mark Twain

I know that my life is shaped by hot stove lids from my past, not by the temperature of stove lids today.   My fight, freeze or flee habits are deeply ingrained, just like my approach to that beat up kitchen sink with the broken disposal and the leaky faucet.

I use my rationality to push past my experiences, but always at a cost.   Will in the human mind is limited and finite, which is why habits are so compelling; brain routines cost a lot less to operate than engaging the new and challenging.    There is a significant price to always having to fight the past so you are willing, able and present to become new.

Those sunk experiences have the power to sink you if you don’t have the wherewithal to fight them everyday.

The past, especially for me, doesn’t just drain away, rather it pools and ripples, revealing patterns, yes, but also blocking the way to the future.    I have low levels of latent inhibition so the past doesn’t slough.   This is my blessing and is my curse.

Mindfulness has a cost, and that poor cat knows it in the pads of her feet, scorched and still echoing with the past searing pain of a burning hot stove.

There are so many reminders of the hot stoves of my life, of the blocked sinks, everyday echoes of the reasons I learned to stifle my heart and attenuate my life in the first place.

I know the importance of only getting the wisdom that is in an experience, the requirement of trying again and again and again, of being open to change in every moment.  I understand the importance of detachment, even as my lifelong chronic deficit of attachment gnaws at me.    Been there, done that, ate the t-shirt, as Lindsay used to say.

Still, I bear the scars of many hot stove lids.  All I can do is work to be in the moment, to move past history and biology, transcending expectations to find a bit of new. Change requires change.

Day by day.

Change Requires Change

Change requires change.

It’s a lovely fantasy that somehow we can only change the things we don’t like and keep everything with which we are currently comfortable.

Change doesn’t work that way, though.  Change changes everything.

Sure, some things are essential and unchangeable.  Madeline L’Engle said that the lovely thing about getting older is that you remain all the ages you have ever been.  Upon hearing that, Kate Bornstein added that you remain all the genders you have ever been, too.   Your acorn, as James Hillman calls it in The Soul’s Code remains the same, but the tree you grow from it keeps changing with your choices.

The status quo is maintained by thwarting change.  That’s not simply a bad thing, as there are lots of well polished bits in society that do required functions and need to be conserved.    Progress is important, of course, but only where it improves things in an effective way instead of simply offering novelty and untested solutions that bring their own hidden downsides.

This tension between conserving the status quo and breaking free of old limits is very much at the heart of growth.    We need to become new, but we also need to keep connected to who and what we value.

For transgender people, the cost of the change we need in our lives is the core of our challenge.   We need to change past convention and comfort, especially the comfort of others who don’t feel the same call for change that we do.  They wonder why we can’t just go along and get along and often feel entitled to do whatever they can to inhibit the change we feel we need.

The struggle in every translife is to maintain connections to the people and traditions we need and we love, while moving beyond the expectations and assumptions that crush our own creative hearts.    Of course, this is a very human struggle, shared by every person, though rarely in as profound a way as transpeople.

To change a relationship, both sides have to engage change.  Each person grows and heals in their own time, even us, which is one of the most frustrating truths when we want or even need them to heal on our schedule.    We can’t change anyone else, we can only change our own choices and hope that others we care for come along with us, or that, if they don’t we find new relationships that give us what we need.

I need change.   Change, though, always comes at a price, for the simple reason that change requires change.   This requirement is coded into maxims like “It takes money to make money,” acknowledging that engaging change is engaging risk, demanding investment that we believe will pay off in the future but that must be funded now.

Class structures are built upon this demand for capital investment.   People who have little resource have little power to make the investment that change requires.  It is extremely difficult to get out of poverty when all your money and energy are used up in the costs of daily living, leaving none to fund the possibilities of change.   One golden rule is that he who has the gold makes the rules, and usually in human culture, that meant enforcing the status quo.

Defeating change to maintain the status quo is something that human societies are very good at.   This is why the return of the gifts from our journey, as Joseph Campbell talks about, is so hard because if society wanted the gift, they would already have it.

How do we create change when we don’t feel that we have the wherewithal, the agency to create the change we require?    How do we push out the barriers to change when we are spent and broke?  How do we not just let stasis overwhelm us, losing both the power and hope we need for change?

I require change.   Change requires change, though.   People around me need to be willing to change, to move beyond current comfort to engage the new, the challenging and hopefully, the better.  When I believe that they can’t change, I end up believing that change for me is impossible.

Holding open the space for others to change is one of the hardest things I have to do everyday, especially because I know that their change is hard for them and far from guaranteed.

Change requires change, though, and if I need change in my life, I need to believe that change is possible, not just for me, but for other people, for my community, for my world.   I don’t get to pick just the change I desire, rather I have to engage the change that I get.

And engagement, over the course of my life, has been a hell of a lot of taxing work, leaving me quite spent.

What do I have left to create change?  What do I have left to engage change?

I don’t really know.

But I do know that change requires change.

Reprogram Journey

TBB is on her own journey, and this week it’s a literal one.   She has a new posting in the Pacific Northwest, a great promotion, and that means driving across the country diagonally  in just four days, eight or nine hundred miles a day on her own.

In  Loneliness and Time: The Story of British Travel Writing, Mark Cocker elegantly shows how travel reveals the observer as much as more more than it reveals the observed.   We express our experiences using our own yardstick, which is usually invisible when everyone around us uses the same conventions to mark out their world.

From taking valuable time to help a hotel worker who burned herself while putting out breakfast in Nebraska because it was the right thing to do to putting on makeup and keeping her voice silent in a Georgia restaurant that loudly proclaims its Christian heritage, drawing senior couples in huge F250 & F350 dually trucks,  TBB shows her caring and her fears as she faces a range of America.

Using her cell phone she has brought me on some of her adventures, from passing the Bonnaroo Festival to leaving her mark at the Kitfox hanger in Idaho to the hip restaurant in Bend.  As long as she is on the move, feeling the motion, she feels good.

TBB spent some time in the car with Brené Brown, or at least with the podcast of Dr. Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability.

Upon leaving her last post, many people came up to TBB and told her how she had made them feel welcome and included when they joined the ship.  TBB knows what it feels like to be the outsider, so she always reaches out.  This served her well as the founding chair of Southern Comfort Conference where she reached out, welcomed new ideas and empowered their creators to make them happen.   Her big, open heart is always searching for the new and potent to learn and grow, to help others learn and grow.

“I didn’t always agree with you,” she told me, “but I always listened to you.  When you said something that made sense, I tried it.   When it worked, I started to do it more.”

Mostly, what I said to her was that the classic transgender strategies of playing small, of trying to edit ones self  to try and tuck any ambiguities away, would never work for her.  She is most compelling when she opens her heart and shows it to people.   When she does that, her heart is open to others, open to learning and open to growth.

Being willing to be vulnerable, to be reprogrammed by an open heart is something special to find in these days when openness is often replaced by cynicism.    I’ve worked for a long time to slowly help the ones I love reprogram themselves by seeing the world in a new, integrated and open way, so I know how special that work is.

I’ve been playing a bit of Mission Control for her as she crosses the country, finding good hotels, special restaurants and cheap gas in the places between.  One night I screwed up, booking a room in Marion Arkansas rather than Marion Illinois.

The hotel chain support said that only the hotel could cancel the booking after the deadline and I would have to call them.  I knew that they had nothing to gain from cancelling, but I called anyway.

A sweet woman in Arkansas chuckled when I explained my mistake and immediately cancelled the reservation.   For me, who always is looking at the downside risk, it was a lovely surprise, a puff of kindness that I wasn’t expecting.     I had made an error and been given a gift, the very human gift of grace from another.

My computer is ill, with some liquid frying half the video circuits.  I can still use it by going to safe mode, resetting the driver to standard VGA and using the VGA vs the DVI interface, but the frame rates are very low and clunky, with no DX drivers.  I need a new video card and I do have the slot for it, but that takes an order from the internet.

TBB knows this and is feeling flush with her promotion so she offered to get me a new computer.    I started to shop, but with my standard model of scarcity; what was the best I could do with the suggested budget, looking at refurbished models, component parts that could be integrated, patch ups and sales?

This is not the way TBB does things, so she just went to the Dell site and suggested a computer that was 40% more than the original budget she offered.   It’s a big performance gaming system, more than I need.

“I want you to have more than you need,” she told me.  “I want you to have something you touch everyday that reminds you that there is possibility in the world, that there is someone who values you for your special gifts.”

“You always seem to know what others need, but we often don’t know what you need to hear,” she said.   “It is important for me, especially now that things are going well in my life, to be there for you in a way that I can.”

It’s been a tough few weeks for me, with family pressures and creeping distance.   I have stayed in my dark basement— this week, my Vitamin D was found to be only one tenth of the recommended level — but seeing the country through TBB’s eyes, through TBB’s enormous heart has been a joy.

TBB is starting a new adventure, one where she is the leading a team to get a big iron baby back in top shape.    Her journey continues as she takes charge, builds a team and creates more success.

As for me, I need to be big enough to take her gifts on board, to try something new, opening my heart and reprogramming myself, trusting that between showing my own gifts and the kindness of strangers, I can build a new life.

Step Step

The longest journey starts with a single step.

A human life is a journey.   You are going to spend the rest of your life in the future, which is an unmapped land.

You can spend today indulging your desire for control and gratification, trying to get something that will give you pleasure in the moment, even if that pleasure comes from pissing or moaning about the past and how screwed up the world is.

You can spend today creating something that will move you towards the future.   Maybe that is honing a skill or creating something new, or learning something, or even just finding nourishment in doing work that brings value.

In other words, do you take another step or do you you just take pleasure in chasing your own tail?

All you can bring to the future is what you have ownership of today.   Increasing your own ownership — owning it — is the way you end up playing the long game, is the way you end up making the most possible out of a human life.

A step is just a step.   It seems small, almost insignificant in the context of a huge, challenging, scary, world.

Yet a step is all we can make in one moment.   Our lives are built one tiny choice at a time, each decision shaping who we are and what we have to bring to our future.

When we don’t own our own steps, we don’t own our own power, our own life, our own responsibility to others and to our world.   If we look for indulgence rather than searching for building blocks, we don’t just fail to own our own life, we demand that others do the work that we are responsible for owning.

I have often had to explain to transpeople that there is no “they,” as in “they should change the world in this way so that transpeople have more opportunity.”    There is no staff, no cadre that is waiting for orders on how to make the world better for us.

In the end, they is us, and what will happen is what you make happen, what I make happen, what we join together to make happen.  Just railing about what is wrong may be satisfying in the moment, but it does very little to actually create the change.   You must be the change you desire.

A human life is the longest game we can play.   It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish. That journey is almost completely done in small steps which shape the course of our lives and affect the choices of the people with whom we come into contact.

When you make a choice, it becomes part of the long game that you play.   If that choice doesn’t consider the possibilities, instead only considers immediate gratification and control, then your choice is to surrender your power for change in return for indulging your own fears.

When you look at other people and consider where they are and where you are not, unless you consider the steps they took to get there, the disciplined steps they took away from the instant and towards the creation, you miss the point and the cost of their journeys.  They played the long game to get where they are, and they only got there by making the many steps required to build a new future.

Being mindful of the long game and using that mindfulness to make disciplined choices helps us create a future that reflects us rather than just having to accept a future that is forced on us because we haven’t worked to get out and shape it.  Moving beyond our comfort zone today will give us the tools to become transcendent tomorrow.

Accepting the organic nature of life is important.  We can’t control every variable and have to make the best of what we are given.  We do control our own choices, though, not the cards we are dealt but how we play them, and it is in owning the moment of those choices that we have power to own our own life.

Play and exploration is vital to creating a good life.  We have no idea what is around the curves on the road ahead, so not only the willingness to be surprised, but even the delight in heading off in new and unanticipated directions is vital.   I know of no one who could imagine in advance the most wonderful moments of their lives.   Surprise and our willingness to embrace what we had not previously considered opens us up to the gifts of the universe beyond our limited imagining.

The longest journey starts with a single step.   If you are not working to integrate your life, you are working to disintegrate it.    If you are not playing the long game you are just short sighted.

You are going to spend the rest of your life in the future.   Shouldn’t you do what you can to be ready for that eventuality in the steps you take today?

Dirty Secret

The “Law Of Attraction,” celebrated in the book The Secret,  says that whatever we attract into our life whatever we put out.   If we put out pure positive energy, practitioners say, we will attract happiness and success into our lives.

This is a very popular idea in “new thought,” part of a whole bundle of prosperity thinking concepts that become a trendy  get rich quick scheme.  After all,  how can being more positive and attractive ever be a bad thing?

For me, doing the work means even engaging the unpleasant and challenging bits of our lives.   Many people who work to stay “positive” do that by compartmentalizing off what they find as “negative” and difficult.

If our pure positive energy brings positive things into our lives, then do people who have negative things happening in their lives, like diseases or family problems, bring those things into their lives with their negative energy?

Are people facing challenges that we find distasteful to blame for their own problems?   If we believe that we can solve problems by becoming positive, it isn’t much of a leap at all to decide that others have created whatever problems they have by being negative.

Thinking like this gives many a reason to put up a barrier between themselves and people who are facing challenges.   It’s their own fault, they brought it on themselves, they must be toxic, unwilling to accept that we hold the true secret of happiness and success.  They don’t deserve our empathy, they deserve our judgment and scorn until they get positive and clear of all their nasty, sick shit.

Much of the newage movement is concerned, as are so many other doctrines, with holiness markers, signs of where you are holier than the world.

Is a vegan more holy than a vegetarian, and is a raw vegan even holier than a regular vegan, for example?   Is a rabbit holier than a tiger, because the rabbit is a vegan?

Is someone who gets arrested in a protest holier than someone who just goes, and are both of them holier than someone who stays at home caring for a sick aunt?

The Dirty Secret says this: It’s perfectly fine to judge people by their sickness, because whatever it is, they brought it on themselves.    If you want to stay positive to attract positive, then putting up barriers between you and the negative isn’t only acceptable, it’s the holy choice.

The only way I know how to connect with other people is with an open heart.  When I start by blaming them for their own challenges, their own sickness, that becomes almost impossible.   When I define them by their sickness, saying that it shows their spiritual impurity, their rejection of the holy and blessed, then I put myself apart from them.

Everyone’s story is complex and nuanced.   They are a product of their environment, their history, their biology, their choices.   I have no idea how to separate those bits apart.   They all just seem human to me.

Other people don’t make the choices that you make.   Even if you make the choices that you make out of some spiritual belief system, their choices don’t make them less holy than you are.

Your choices may be the ones you see as holy, but imposing those choices on someone else makes you holier-than-thou, doctrinaire and judgmental.   It celebrates separation and compartmentalization over connection and empathy.   If you wouldn’t feel okay with others judging you unclean, sick and unholy, then it violates the Golden Rule.

There are few belief systems that show their teeth on the exterior.   They are all expressed in positive and sanctified language, all shining with good intentions and promises of sweet salvation.

The Secret is no different, externally positive and nice.   It’s just the flip side of saying that we deserve whatever we get where the dirty underbelly shows.

Audience Motivation

The motivational speaker business is good these days.   Or, at least, lots of people seem to think so and want to get into the game.   I know this because three speakers I have seen recently are offering their services to help other people achieve the success, acclaim and power that they have found in being a motivational speaker.

I’ve been around MLM (multi-level marketing) schemes for long enough to know that often, selling your own products is less rewarding than selling success, offering others an opportunity to take a crack at your success.   It’s a great trick, a reason to live a luxurious, aspirational lifestyle that you seem to offer to others.

In my experience, lots of people want to be authors, celebrities with audiences that hang on every word, able to spin money as they teach others how to live their lives.   The fantasy of having Oprah asking you to explain the world to her viewers seems irresistible to many.

The real work of being a writer, a sage, a shaman or a guru, though, is much less appealing.   Who actually wants to lock themselves in a basement with a blank screen to fill, creating works for others to judge, and then to have to sweat and scrape to begin to build an audience?

The actuality of being a writer is far less glamorous than the image of being one, which is why so many people say “I want to write a book someday because I have something important to share,” and then so few people actually do write a book, let alone one that finds an audience.

To do, for example, a TED talk that really creates ripples in the world means you have to have done the work to achieve mastery, both at understanding your subject and knowing how to communicate it to an audience in an exciting and compelling way.   That’s a lot of mastery, a lot of work, a lot of choices.

I have known for decades now that my role in the interlocking communities around trans is to be part of the grad course.   I have the smarts and the skills to push beyond conventions, to search far, go deep and express with intelligence and passion.

The following disclaimer was on my first site, 17 years ago:

Guarantee: If you don’t find something on this site
that challenges your thinking or your identity
within 20 minutes,

we’ll give you double your money back!

Translation?  I know that I am a porcupine.

People find this blog for whatever reason, then they go to the front page and read the most recent post and usually, they find the content less than accessible and useful.

Should I try to make sure that my work is accessible even to newbies, so that when they find my stuff, going back to the kind of intro stuff that I wrote in the 1990s, or should I do the kind of work that I need to do now, the searching and thoughtful stuff that even I find challenging?

One of the most fundamental questions for any woman is who you are willing to be the queen for.   Does it make you happy to be queen of the bar, queen of the break room, queen of the board room, queen of the stage or something else?

To be attractive, we need have some idea of who we want to attract.   To perform well, we need to be in relationship with our audience, finding the balance between who we can credibly play and who we want to play.     Audiences shape us as we let them, rewarding certain choices with attention and moving away from other choices, so that to become their queen we have to satisfy their desires and needs.

On this blog, I have deliberately chosen not focus on being inviting and attractive to an audience.   This is where I do my own creative work, just screaming into the darkness and trying to express what I need to understand more clearly.   Often, my posts will be triggered by interactions I have had, but they don’t seek to convey or replace that interaction, rather they more deeply explore and express what came out of my mouth so that I can own those thoughts and feelings in a more clear and full way.

Still, the question comes up: if you can play the guru, why don’t you do that?   Why don’t you share with a wider audience, why don’t you clean your act up and be more attractive (the echo of “You’d be so pretty if you just lost some weight”), why don’t you package up a few of your gifts and take them on the road?

I know that other people have the job to be missionaries, to take the word to the people in a slick, consistent, well-packaged way.  And I know that when they are good at that, selling the aspiration of being a motivational speaker, an author, is a good way to appease the desires of many for fame and clout while picking up some nice coin.

For me, though, the challenge is creation.  That’s why I loved live TV; something new every day.   I create without consideration of being attractive to other people.  Now, this does mean that I end up believing that I am not attractive, that I am a porcupine and people who get close will eventually get stung and move away, but that’s the best I can do while I am on my own.

I sort of understand why it is attractive to be attractive, why people think they want to be the kind of people who they find attractive in the world, even if those people are motivational speakers.

There is a reason, though, why most people don’t actually end up doing the work to be the queen for people who are needy and looking for healing.  It might be the audience expectations or it might be the work required, but the idea always seems better than the actuality.

As for me, I never learned to have the adoration and attention of others, so I never had to be concerned about keeping it.   I knew that respect was more important, especially self-respect, the only thing that kept me propped up in a family full of differently wired iconoclasts.   I had to work hard for what emotional nourishment I got, so I learned to play alone, to think alone, to explore alone.

I don’t understand wanting to be an attractive celebrity with a rapt audience.   I do understand ink-stained wretch, or, more likely today, carpal tunnel suffering wretch.    It was all I could hope for.

And it was all I got, too.

Listening Close

From the earliest I can remember, I have had a calling in my heart, pulling me towards the feminine.

From the earliest I can remember, other people have told me that the calling I have in my heart, pulling me towards the feminine, is sick, corrupt, perverse, disordered, rude, offensive, demonic, evil and just plain wrong.

My struggle was to be able to separate the voice of my heart and the voice of my ego.  What was good and godly, what was bad and indulgent?

This is, of course, the challenge for every human.

Often, we look for outside affirmation to determine the correct.   What does our family, our church, our peers, say about how to be right?

The people around us support the status quo, the tame, the compliant.    They want us to do what supports them, even if that means buying into their drama and secrets.

Our heart, though, supports the unique, the wild, the passionate.   It calls us to be brave and bold, singing our own song.

The world understands this, so they provide commercial substitutes for authentic, handmade Eros.   These substitutes, though, are designed to take over our desire and control it, often driving us to madness.

So how do we discern between ego and heart voices?

Here is what I have used my sharp brain to learn.

If the voice calls for staying firmly  in our comfort zone, for separation, for judgment, for control, for avoiding error, for being seen as cool, for instant gratification, for following the rules, for acting out, for creating walls between us and others, for rationalization, for fear, then the voice is from the ego.

If the voice calls for opening to challenge, for connection, for empathy & vulnerability, for surrender, for trying the new, for being seen as warm, for playing the long game, for doing the right thing, for healing, for opening our heart to the connections between us and others, for clarity, for love, then the voice is from the heart.

There is no one without ego.   You can’t walk in the world without defences.  Every one of us has to have the skills to be tame, to fit in, to be seen as appropriate.   To be human is to be social, and to be social is to be compliant with community standards.   The ego, playing for status and acceptance, isn’t inherently a bad thing.

There is no one without heart.  You can’t be human without having an individual vision.  Every one of us has a unique essence, some special calling to stand apart from the crowd.  to be human is to be special, and to be special is to have gifts that no one else can simply offer to the community.   The heart, playing for individual expression, isn’t inherently a bad thing.

A life without connecting with the group is lonely and difficult.

A life without connecting with our own heart is erasing and difficult.

Our life is built not of our words but rather it is built of our choices.   When someone expresses an intent that is not reflected in the choices that they are making, it is easy to take those words as just blather.

It is through our choices that we learn to separate the good from the bad, learn to know what fills our heart and what merely tries to stuff the holes.  Facing our own demons — slaying the dragon with “Thou Shalt” on every scale — is hard damn work, but in the long term of a human life, it is the world we are called to do.   They are, in the end, our demons, and if we want to grow up. only we can wrestle with them, no matter how much we want parental surrogates to do that work for us.

Cynicism and judgment may feel easy and cool, but they not only separate us from others, they also separate us from our own tender, beautiful and human heart.

The only way I could learn to identify the profane and the holy inside of me was to learn to listen close to my own babble so I could learn to break through the noise and find the meaning.

One of the first steps in this process was to learn to listen to others, to be smart enough to learn from their mistakes.  Their choices may have pushed my own emotional buttons, but not nearly as powerfully as my own choices, wrapped in my own pain and rationalizations, pushed those buttons.  By starting with others lessons, I learned how to approach my own maelstrom, to pick through my own hells.

As long as I searched for affirmation from others, I had to focus on what I needed to hide or eliminate to get their acceptance.  I had a negative identity, centred on what was wrong with me that demanded rejection even of others.

When started to search for what is authentically me, I could then focus on what I could show to others, on what I found within myself, on choices based on integrity that I was proud of.  I have a positive identity, secure in my own heart, that lets me stay centred in acceptance, even of others who make choices that I would never make for myself.

That change is the real revelation, the true transition to a vibrant and open identity that allows me to heal and grow in the world.   I love it when others show graceful respect for my choices, but I don’t need to think about what I failed to hide or chop off when I don’t get their affirmation.

Life is, in the end, always beyond our control.   None of us can see around the curves ahead in our journey, and none of us can control the environment, the variables, other people or the outcomes.

The only thing we can control is our own choices.  The best way to do that, I have found, is by listening close to the chatter inside of me, separating out the fear from the love, and doing the best I can do in any given moment.   My choice will never be perfect, always be human and wrong, but it will come from the best I can muster rather than from the craven and controlling.

Tomorrow is, as Scarlett O’Hara reminds us, another day.  The future is, after all, where we are going to spend the rest of our lives.

For me, the long game requires believing in tomorrow even when today seems almost intolerable. That means believing in something, having confidence in something.

If I can’t believe that if I follow my heart and use my brain I can learn something, grow, heal and make better choices tomorrow by listening closer to the universe, then what can I believe in?   How can I trade the call for instant gratification of my passing desires for a long game in growth of my best self in the world?

I’m just human,  but to me, that means I have a bit of spiritual spark inside, something that can be honoured and developed past the weakness of flesh, but only if I am willing to listen closely and discern which choices open me to challenge, to connection, to empathy & vulnerability, to surrender, to trying the new, to being seen as warm, to playing the long game, to doing the right thing, to healing, to opening my heart to the connections between us and others, to clarity and to love.

That’s what I have learned.   And so endeth the sermon.

A Lady, Boy.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown was in Chiang Mai province of Thailand this week.  A night of food and drink ended up at the local ladyboy cabaret.

The jokes were simple: these were all really guys in dresses, trying to fool people. Oooh.

There was no attempt to understand the culture or background, how these people lived their lives, why they made the choices they made.   There was no social context, no understanding.

No, the joke was simple: born with a penis or not,  that’s all we need to know to know who you really are.   One of us or one of them, a joke to see as a cartoon, some cosmic goofy guy in a dress.

I recently saw the film “I Am Divine,” about the famous star,  Amidst everyone calling Divine “he,”  I fell for Fayette Hauser, a one of the fabulous Cockettes   who talked of Divine falling in love and having their heart broken.

“She would come over to my house and we would watch movies and eat ice cream and cry,” Fayette says, talking about Divine from the heart rather than from the genitals.    Such a moving moment.

I know the choices that face transwomen, the demands of the binary to be one or the other, with altered body and an erased narrative passing in the world, or to be pinned down by our birth sex assignment and only be allowed to be an oddity, a freak.   This is “The Guy-In-A-Dress Line” and it deliberately devalues trans hearts in favour of heterosexist enforcement of compulsory gendering.

The cost of being trans in the world is very high, and no one does it for fun.  You just don’t walk in the world as visibly trans just to fool people, to get some kind of gendered advantage.

In my experience, all trans expression, no matter how silly and performative it may be, expresses some kind of inner truth.   For those who dress as clowns and mock women, this may be some kind of internalized misogyny, but for those who strive to be attractive and engaging, the truth is centred around a trans nature.

The “ones with breastes” were especially attractive to Bourdain.  If these gals aren’t committed to expressing their feminine hearts, then their surgery is just baffling.

Bourdain, who in another part of the episode says that some food is so good that he would eat it out of a jockstrap, knows how to be cocky.    To him, the penis is central and defining, balls to the wall truth.  Quotes from the episode are here.

This phallocentric, binary attitude, though, does not serve him well in being respectful, being the “good guest” he prides himself on being, in a lady boy cabaret.

I understand the homophobic joking and disrespect can just be dismissed as part of the blokey party tone of this show, which featured prodigious eating and drinking, but it was very disrespectful to the trans-women just trying to make a life and support their need for self-expression.

These transwomen  may be marked as boys when they are born, but they know themselves to be ladies.

And when a CNN host chooses to disrepect them, he deserves to be called on it.

Reiteration Mostly

Men get their opinions as boys learn to spell,
by reiteration mostly.
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Because most people have a limited number of tapes that they keep in their head, put in there by rote, they tend to be easily modelled.

it’s usually not hard for me to predict what they will say to most given circumstances by just extrapolating what they have regularly said in the past, by knowing what their habitual responses are.

With a good memory, then, a blessing and a curse, I can hear them in my head, knowing the probability of repeat is very high and the possibility of surprise is very low.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t get surprised sometimes, so I need to be able to hear that change and shift in the moment, adapting to new information.   For me, being locked into reiteration is just wrong and not useful.   I need to be able to take the new as new.

But it does mean that the slams they put on me are written on my skin or at least in my memory, and when they go after those scars again, trying the same trope and expecting different results, well, it just hurts.

Classic tapes comfort people, making life as seem easy as hitting the familiar cue on the cart deck, no new work, thought or compassion involved.

And if that continues old patterns, well, why the hell don’t other people just change?  Can’t be my tapes that are the problem.

Where’s the Messy?

Talking to my sister about internet presence for artists yesterday.

“I know what they want,” I told her.  “They want me to explain the internet and software in a way that they understand, using what they already know.   They want me to simplify it enough that they don’t have to stretch and think in new ways.

“The problem is that software works in its own context.  It’s a context that is deliberately made easy to understand, but it is very specific.  As the gal said at the end of her Computer 101 class, ‘Oh!  I see!  Computers don’t do what you want them to do, they do what you tell them to do.’

“If you aren’t willing to see things in a new way and attend to new details, aren’t willing to open your mind, computers will never open themselves to you.   Mastery will escape you.

“In that frustration it’s easy to blame the teacher for failing to make the process understandable at your current level of knowledge, to make it accessible without you working to understand new systems and ways of thinking.”

I can show you how I think, express how I feel, can explain how everything makes sense to me.   But if you don’t choose to open to that, well, then I just look messy and inconsiderate and crazy and weird and deliberately off-putting and nasty and all sorts of other bad things.

All I have to do to get you to understand is to put it in terms that you get.   Is that an unreasonable thing to ask, people say.    After all, they are smart enough to understand everything that they have grasped to this point, so if they don’t understand what I am offering, well, whose fault is that?

This is when I start to pound my head hard in frustration.   I slam my mind to try and stop the feelings, thrash my noggin to try to regain the mental discipline to just do what others ask to understand me, to make myself simple enough to be lovable rather than a porcupine.

Can I ask other people to understand, to feel, to grow, to heal, to grok on my schedule?   Is that a reasonable expectation?   Or do I need to let them come to opening in their own time and own way?

That chasm between their understanding and my expression is their identification of where I am overly complicated, overly emotional, overly cerebral, overly rude, overly demanding, overly messy.

So I pound my head more as my heart breaks and end up in a pool of my own mess.

It’s so simple.  But not if you aren’t ready for it.

Whiny & Resentful

I got told a few days ago that some people saw me as whiny and resentful.  I talked about that and put it in context, and I think I was right to do that.

The truth is that I am whiny and resentful.   Now, I am a whole lot more than that, a whole circle of understanding from transcendent to wise to smart to gracious and whole mess of other things too, but damn it, yes, I have emotions and just two of those emotions are feeling resentful of others and feeling sorry for myself.

What I am most resentful about?   Easy.  I’m most resentful about having to be the one who has to negotiate other people’s unhealed bits, to be the one who turns the other cheek, being the bigger person while they get to act out.

And what’s the biggest area in which I feel sorry for myself?   It’s not being able to expect other people to handle being in relationship with me, being there for me, which leaves me lonely and lost.

I hate the fact that because I am the smart one, the queer one, the big one, that my emotions are deemed too much, too damaging, unreasonable, beyond the pale, bullying and way too challenging.   When I speak up I am able to cut to the core, illuminating the compartments that other people want to keep in the darkness.  My emotional responses are alloyed with sharp thought and therefore are cast as bullying, nasty and sick.

I’m watching an 2012 USA mini-series, Political Animals.  Sigourney Weaver plays an ex-first lady with a philandering ex-husband who becomes a Governor, then loses at her run for President and is now Secretary Of State.    The big hook in this series?   She is a very powerful woman, a self-admitted bitch, but she is also a woman, a mother and a wife (well, ex-wife) who has emotions and needs to manage them as she walks through fire fights.

Yeah.   Powerful, wicked smart and also emotional, feeling and needing love.   Big brain, big heart.  I get the premise.

Am I emotional?   Hell yeah.   And if that’s all you see of me, you miss the point, stuck in your own compartments.

But is the solution for me to not be emotional, to use my big brain to compartmentalize more, to stay hidden and benign enough so no one feels upset in my presence?

That idea of demanded compartmentalizing off my emotions as if I don’t really have them, to “man up,”  well, it makes me feel whiny and resentful.

And really, really, really, that just has to be OK.   Or else.

Dried Pain

The problem with emotions is that they are so, well, emotional.

When we try to communicate emotion, we end up communicating is our own distress or happiness or some other emotional response that is true and important, but not rational.

We understand thought through thinking, but the only way to engage emotion is through empathy.  Empathy allows our feelings to resonate in harmony with someone else’s emotions, to feel a bit of what they feel.   If we choose to, we can then help the understand their feelings, help them find words and thought that allow thoughtful ownership of emotion.

If the only way to understand emotion is through empathy, and the only way to have empathy is to have access to our own feelings, when emotions are raised that ask us to access feelings we have deliberately suppressed or compartmentalized, we are faced with the choice of having our own stuff come up or not being empathetic.

This separation from empathy leaves us to try and assign rational motivations to the emotions of other people, leads us to try and rationalize them within our own context, not theirs.

For transpeople, whose essential choices are not based on rational thinking but on the emotions coming from our trans hearts, this is a continuing challenge.    We believe that we are being true to our hearts, while other people see our motivations as selfish, perverted, depraved, sick, disordered, indulgent and a host of other rationalizations operating in their own minds.

The transgender calling cannot be understood without empathy, no matter how many rational explanations we try to apply, the most common today being an “birth defect” explanations that supports a sickness model.

For me, the struggle to express my emotions in text is always difficult.   I try to create the image of a circle of understanding, of the 360 degree view from where I stand, acknowledging both the sensible and the emotional.   Often, though, the outcome of this attempt is people sorting my expression into opposites and choosing to see my views as illogical, claiming that “It does not compute!  It does not compute!”

I know, for example, that many see my emotional expression as whining, just an example of me being resentful of others.    When they apply these rationalizations to me, rather than being compassionate, they feel the need to demand I take responsibility for my choices, feel entitled to treat me with “tough love.”

They find my emotional expressions wearing and challenging to their own limited empathy, so they want me to do what they have done, packing away the “weakness” of emotion in favour of rationalization. Think better, they tell me, slower or more clearly, or whatever, and you can take like by the balls and not get tripped up by all those silly emotions.

Compartmentalization is the most basic of these rationalizations.   While compartmentalization is at the core of the classic crossdresser identity, it is present in many areas.   The new age movement, for example, usually chooses to purge the messy and challenging, only allowing the sweet and pretty in the room, “pouring pink paint over everything,” as Marianne Williamson said.

I have always stood for connection and integration over separation and opposites, so compartmentalization has always been distasteful to me.   My mother even told me that my problem was that I didn’t compartmentalize well enough.   She was correct in telling me how society expected me to operate, but was wrong in telling me my way to approach the world.   In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.

Give me empathy or give me death, because without empathy, I cannot get the emotional connection and nourishment that I desperately need.   Asking for empathy, though, is asking for people to enter their own emotions and feel the resonance with mine, my big, intense, smart, queer emotions.

There aren’t a lot of people in the world who have had the need, the time, or the attention to work through their own emotions in a way that they can really own them.  They haven’t taken the journey through their own hell, instead walling it off into nice compartments with walls they shouldn’t like being shown as only illusions.

When others try to connect with the emotional by using the techniques they used to constrain and manage their own emotions, they end up imposing their own rationalizations onto others.  They are unable to engage the beauty, strength and majesty of emotion, instead working to stay separate from it in the name of rationality and reason.

I love the power of thought.   I had to master the power of clear thinking early to give me mindfulness tools to keep an eye on context so I would be able to not be washed away in the unkempt emotions of my mother and father, by the emotional calling I felt inside of me that others told me was sick and corrupt.  I’m damn good at thought.

Emotions, though, are vital to the human experience.  Our passions, empathy and love connect us, gracing us with the spark of creativity and abandon that surges with the force of life.

Emotions are just so damn emotional and that is the blessing they give to us.   Sharing them makes us vulnerable not just to feelings but also to growth and transcendence, moving beyond the rational and conventional to the magical and divine.

I work hard to forge thought and emotion into effective text, but I know that people often get an emotional hit from my expression that they end up seeing as lazy, sloppy, indulgent or crackpot.   They then feel entitled to demand I rationalize more, at least enough to make them not feel disquieted by my too intense sharing.

To move beyond, though, emotion is required.  We need to own our own passions, not just try to prune them back to fit neatly in other people’s expectations of us.   And I need to feel those emotions being understood, respected, supported and valued, no matter how queerly human I am.

So I keep trying to dry my pain, mix it with wit and sharp thought, then share it for others to connect and learn from.

It’s the best I know how to do.