Questions Open Worlds

Some lawyers in the patent department at Bell Labs decided to study whether there was an organizing principle that could explain why certain individuals at the Labs were more productive than others. They discerned only one common thread: Workers with the most patents often shared lunch or breakfast with a Bell Labs electrical engineer named Harry Nyquist. It wasn’t the case that Nyquist gave them specific ideas. Rather, as one scientist recalled, “he drew people out, got them thinking.” More than anything, Nyquist asked good questions.
— Jon Gertner, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation

Did Nyquist open the way to questions, or did those who felt the pull of good questions end up returning to Nyquist?

Bell Labs was never looking for good ideas.  There are too many good ideas.   What they needed was good problems that opened to good solutions.

It’s really easy to think you are on a quest for answers, but the quest is really for the questions, which open up possibilities you never imagined, choices you never saw.

I know that most people think they are looking for answers and they don’t find many simple answers in me.

But I also know that, like in Harry Nyquist,  they always find good questions.

System Desired

Everyone desires something more than what they have.

It is how we handle that desire that does so very much to define the shape of our lives.

When they take children who have little out Christmas shopping, they often have to strongly remind them to choose something for themselves.  These kids desire most to give something to the people that they love and love them, looking for treasures to give to family.   They desire less for themselves and more for others.

Something happens to us once we hit puberty, though.  Desire changes shape.   It what we desire most shifts.   Maybe the thing we want most is to be desirable, to be acknowledged,  embraced,  wanted.

That desire to be desired is so strong that we don’t just want it, we need it.  It seems to us like the entire weight of our happiness is on that one precarious need, to be desired so much that someone wants to give us what we desire.

This urgency of desire becomes the drive that shapes our life.  It becomes easy to believe that if we get just one more thing, one more object or affirmation to fill the need inside us that our life will finally come together and we will be happy.

It never works that way, but as long as we can be kept believing that happiness is just one more purchase, one more conquest away, we keep scraping up the dosh to grab the next ring.   Marketers love this drive and so do the people who run big institutions, because as long as we are focused on that next golden prize, we will work to comply with the rules they put in place.  Humans used to live in a culture where the thrill of the erotic enervated us and eased the process of building solid pair-bond relationships with a long-term partner, but we have now chosen to chase that thrill for the thrill itself.

To break free of this cycle and follow our heart, we have to break free of the system of desire.   We have to consider what we really need and the price we pay for wanting the next thrill, the next puff, the next hit.   We need, as Clarissa Pinkola Estés reminds us, to return to the handmade life.

To leave the system of desire is to leave the easy and the conventional behind.  It requires us to stop chasing for the quick and empty high that “everyone” wants and instead, focus on what we value.

To leave the system of desire is to step away from what others have learned to take for granted.    We know that when we don’t share desire with other people, we also don’t share a kind of peer connection with them, one based on shared desire.  It becomes hard for us to join in gushing over the next hot person, hard for us to enter the competition to show status, hard for us to stay a part of the group.

To stay in that system, though, to not do the hard, hard work of understanding and owning your own desire, leaves you at the mercy of that desire in every moment.    It gets you pulled this way and that, your own dreamy neediness ready to blind you to pitfalls and consequences as you chase the next thing, the next person that you want to believe will save you.

No matter how smart and disciplined you get, though, desire never leaves you.   Eros, in its most pure and grandest sense, is always a part of any human life, for a life without desire is a life without life.    Humans always have needs and humans always have dreams, even if they are for a better world, for the happiness and protection of those we love.

If you can’t get rid of desire, how do you stop it from controlling you?    The only way is to put desire in context, being willing to delay, defer or deny gratification through willpower, forsaking the the quick thrill in the cause of avoiding distraction or mess, in the goal of achieving something better and higher.

Even if you begin to step away from quick desire,though, those around you will still have needs, will still make choices to get what they desire, which is often simply being desired.

What we do for love has always shaped us, and not in the most gracious or enlightened way.

Healers feel the same needs as anyone else.   The only difference is how they focus those needs to service and compassion rather than to indulgence and manipulation.  Healers maintain good boundaries and work to transcend the base, transforming their passion into something more focused and well bounded.

When we struggle to control our desire rather than letting it control us, we begin to lift ourselves towards our higher nature.   This may be baffling, challenging and mystifying to those who stay in their needs, but it seems to me to be the only way to find a bit of light and claim our own healing beyond the impulse to chase for the next someone or something which magically make us complete and healed.

Still, wouldn’t it be nice if all those magical and romantic stories were actually true?  Isn’t it lovely to imagine them happening to us?

The ultimate romance is with life, service and divinity.  Other humans are just the way we learn those lessons.

#Blessed, #Cursed

My sister thinks she is “a lucky girl” because someone came in to pick up and give order to the mess in her house while she was on vacation.

She is, in the parlance of social media, #Blessed, living in the grace of the universe.

What does this mean for people who don’t get such services, such benefits, for the ones of us who are ignored, betrayed, and damaged by what we get?

Are we #Cursed?

God didn’t come and give structure & accessibility to the dump that was my sister’s house.

I did, even though she is still assuming that her balloon clown boyfriend did because being indebted to me means she has to again see where she has failed me,

It wasn’t a magic blessing.   It was an act of caring, of love, of service, of discipline, of sweat, of pushing past anger and frustration, of doing the right thing beyond pain.   It was an even an act of selfishness, hoping that if I made it easier for her to think and act, taking away the clutter in her house, if not her mind, she would have more resource to consider and act on the needs she committed to resolve for me and for an executors cut of my parent’s estate.

But to her, she is just #Lucky.

The fact that I don’t have such care, such consideration and service, means that I am just #Screwed.  God has favoured her while God has left me to suffer.   The results aren’t about work, they are divine justice.

When people decide that they deserve the #Blessings that they get, they also decide that people without #Blessings must just not deserve them.   They are #Lucky while other people are #Losers.   They are #Entitled and those without #Blessings are just #Godless.

As a queer person, I grew up knowing the deal.   My job was to make sure that normative people were never made uncomfortable by my own deviance.    If I was hurt by the expectations laid onto me, well, didn’t I bring that on to myself by being queer?   Didn’t I deserve what I was getting?

The entitled were entitled and the others were put there to serve them.   Sure, the marginalized didn’t have the #Blessings of the colonizers, but if God hadn’t made them inferior, they wouldn’t be slaves now, would they?

Every person in society pays some price for assimilating.   Transpeople know that because we are often victims of that price, of people acting out their anger and pain against us as they see us mocking the sacrifices they made to be normal.   The homophobic men are the ones who work hardest to deny their own homoerotic desire, a study has shown, internalized denial and rage turned outward at queers.

For people who have never had to do the work of walking queer in this world, this is easy to ignore.  Just assign your benefits to #Luck or #Blessings and you are off the hook for #Responsibility and #Justice.

If you write off your privilege to #Blessings or #Luck, you ignore the work of those who slave away to make things better for you.

If you write off your privilege to #Blessings or #Luck, you easily assume that those who don’t get what you have are just getting what they deserve, that God has forsaken them for a reason, rather than society failing them to maintain comfort and status quo.

My work has been a #Blessing to my family.  How #Lucky they were to get such gifts!

And isn’t it just too bad that I wasn’t as #Lucky or as #Blessed, too?

Post Traumatic Distress

I’m really, really good at fighting.   I keep calm, state my case well, give and take, don’t get snippy and hold my ground strongly.

I’m really, really bad at fighting.   It leaves me all jangled for a long time afterwards, distressed and very upset, taking a huge amount out of me.

I picked up my prescription yesterday after two weeks of not being able to get a fax to my doctor until I finally engaged support who found the number was misrouted in their network.   I had resisted engaging them because I just didn’t want to have to fight with them,

The young clerk at Wal-Mart brought out one box of a medicine that I know I the doctor writes for three boxes worth.

That’s a problem I had last time I got a refill, which ended up with me telling the doctor they were wrong, the doctor having to call the pharmacy and call me,then  a second box languishing under the shelf through two pickups, and a twenty minute drama to try and get it corrected and get issued with the other box.  It was a mess.

I didn’t want it to happen again this time, but the clerk was adamant: the doctor only wrote the script for a thirteen day supply, so that’s what I was getting.   Tough.

She was not happy that I was challenging her authority, because she had orders.   I would have to take it up with the doctor, have to just move on.   She knew.

She also decided that my prescriptions were new and I would have to have a pharmacist consultation.

The pharmacist finally came over and I again stated my case.   She offered to print the prescription for me, something I had asked the clerk to do.

She came back after going to it, and decided that, maybe the way the script was written I had a case.  Then there was a whole dance about returning it and reissuing.  The insuarane company only would allow a 26 day supply, two boxes, but that was 100% better than what the clerk wanted to give me in her wisdom, based on a smock and access to the computer.

I stood my ground and got what I needed, but it has been almost twelve hours now and I am still buzzing and upset about the confrontation, my nights sleep being destroyed.

I have the smarts to stand up gracefully for myself.

I don’t have the emotional resilience to do so without enormous cost, without distress and pain.   I have no support system to soothe and replenish me, to calm and affirm me, so I am left raw and ragged.

This is not a good thing in a world where everyday confrontation is just part of the deal.   It means I avoid conflict, which creates more and bigger problems that also nag at me, tear at me, making me even more tender before going into the next fight.

Avoiding conflict because of the emotional cost is a bad, bad thing.  It’s hard, though, to explain the cost to me when they see me challenged, because I appear calm and focused under fire, doing the work.

I fought for my parents all the time, especially during the last eighteen months of their life when they were always and intensely in the medical system.

I never discharged all the distress I saved up during that time, though, never discharged all the distress from a lifetime of taking care of dear, frustrating, Aspergers parents.

“You spoke for your mother.  You spoke for me.  Now you have to speak up for yourself,” my father repeated to me in the last two weeks of his life.

I know that I need to engage the everyday battles of life, standing up for myself with micro petty bureaucrats like those who think they have power because Walmart gave them a smock.

But the cost, the cost, the cost, the cost, the cost.

Avoiding battles just gives me more pain, more tension, more fatigue, more cost.

But I am really, really bad at fighting for myself.


People get to decide who is they think is like them and who is not.   They get to decide who is a member of their group.

They respond to people they see as peers, as one of them, in a different way than they do to outsiders.   Kids, for example, will be more open to another kid than they will to someone they see as a grown-up.

Being excluded from the peer-group doesn’t mean that you aren’t valued, respected, liked or even loved.   It just means that you are seen as different, out of the gang, not one of us.   It means that you are kept a a bit of a distance, viewed with some suspicion, not quite embraced or welcomed.

One of the things that new managers have to come to grips with is that in taking their new position, they slide themselves out of the peer group.   They are no longer one of the gang, they are management.  They have more power and responsibility and can still can be valued, but some level of separation must inevitably happen.

As we learn and grow, taking more responsibility for our own power in the world, we find our peer group shrinking.   People begin to see us as authority figures, representing what they are not yet willing to engage, and they begin to shrink from us.

We have to be prepared to stand on our own in a stronger way, to stand up for a a different set of values than the gang finds easy to hold.

There are rewards in this standing up, of course.   It makes us stronger, more respected, giving us a sense of satisfaction and service.   It brings the benefits of power, including higher status, even as it demands responsibility and separation.

A life spent without maturing, growing and owning our own power may be one where we don’t separate ourselves from the pack, but it is also one where we never get to use the gifts that we are given.

When I am in a group of people,  I often think about how it might be good to be one of the gang.   People would be more open to me, less resistant.   That would be nice, I suspect.

Then I think about all the reasons I chose to be myself and not one of the gang.   I know why I did the work I did, moving past peer pressure and convention to own my own mind and heart.   Sure, I never really had a chance to be normative — my parents took that away from me — but in the end, I knew from a very young age that being boldly yourself was a great goal in a human life.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t long for the comfort and ease of peers   It doesn’t mean  that I don’t feel some twang at being held separate from the group.  It doesn’t mean that I am not reminded of all the times I wanted to belong but ended up standing alone.

I know that I don’t get to pick who sees me as one of them.   I also know that attempting to play along and fit in never really works that well for me, because in the end, I am who I am.

There is a group that I will always belong to.   It is the group of human beings.   I need to be confident that my membership in that group, my fundamental humanity, will always be true and visible.

But yeah, I’d like more peers.

Cold Chick

Truth be told, I never was a hot chick.

I just never had the body or the training for it.

Today, though, when I look in the mirror, It’s pretty clear the best I can achieve is being a cold chick.    Heels are out of the picture, my weight has settled and my skin has seen better days.

I once heard a woman complain that crossdressers were usually too dressed up as women.  She was seeing teenage girls in old male bodies and found the effect a bit over the top.

“Sure,” I agreed, “but who really wants to dress down as a woman?”

Women usually only have two modes, getting dressed up or just getting dressed.

Mostly  we just put on what we need to wear to move through the world and do what needs to be done, starting with comfort and functionality and adding just a bit of style.  We just get dressed.

The older you get, the fewer opportunities you have to dress up; fewer dates, fewer people to impress.  Dressing up just doesn’t work as well without a fresh, young body.

Some of the dresses were great at the Emmys, but I understood Kathy Bates; a long black tunic & trousers topped with a boldly painted monochromatic loose silk jacket.  Sure, she received an award and dressed up, but she avoided being mutton dressed as lamb.

I know that for many transpeople, the opportunity to regularly dress up very exciting and is a real motivation in their expression.   While they still have a trans heart, there is still a big part that is about the clothes.

At my age and size, though, not so much.

And it’s not like I can look back and remember when I was a hot young chick, desired and in demand, with my share of suitors.

I don’t have the experience of being a hot chick.   I can’t imagine truth that ever changing, which is not, shall we say, motivational.  The incentive to be pulled together is much less when you believe that there is a clear and finite limit to how hot you ever, ever can be.

The point of even trying to be hot escapes me.

Not trying, though, tends to make you invisible, irrelevant and powerless.

Heat is reflexive.   You feel hot when people respond to you as if you are hot.   That’s why so many women (and men) work so hard to look hot, so they can get the reception that hot people get in the world, can feel the heat reflecting back onto them.

My experience in the world is that I am a cold chick, beyond heat.

That understanding makes it difficult to heat up my life.


I like explicit.

I like explicit probably a bit too much.   Well, maybe more than a bit.    I write pretty much everyday, working to be explicit about what I think and what I feel, explicit about what I understand and my experience.

Explicit is good.  Communicating in detail is a very useful skill, allowing people to find ways to come to shared language and intentions.   It is a very theologian thing, being explicit.

Explicit, though, can also be a problem.  Explicit puts a huge burden on other people to understand what you are communicating.   They want to get out of your communication just what they need to get out of it, not too much.   If your explicit contradicts their expectations and assumptions, you set up barriers to communication that might be circumvented if you just let understanding progress.

People like to understand the world by exploring it, by sensing it in their own way, rather than by having a manual or manifesto handed to them.   Kids always learn more when they work to understand rather than just hearing a lecture that lays things out in a nice, organized and explicit way.

As a transperson, a lack of explicit scares me.   I’m a manager, wanting to get people on the same page to create safe and shared space.  I have experienced what happens when people’s understanding slips and they feel unfooted, comfortable assumptions shattered in a way that demands they assert their own worldview.

I may love the moving language of poetry, but the notion that an author means whatever the hell you think they mean scares me.  My words may resonate with you emotionally, but it is my view I am trying to share, not just trying to give you an emotional ride through your own experience.

Walking in the world, though, it’s just impossible to have an explicit and clear understanding with everyone you meet.   In an information economy, attention is our most scarce resource and most people just don’t have the attention to engage what I offer.   They have other needs for their own focus.

Beyond that, most haven’t done the groundwork to get to a place where they can build an understanding.  Most probably don’t even know what they think or feel, not having to have done the work of building an explicit and deep understanding of who they are.

I really like explicit.   I bet that even people who have tried to read one post on this blog and found it overly detailed and dry have figured that much out, as I am way too explicit for them.  They want the simple version if they want what I have to say at all,

There are joys in being less than explicit.   People can surprise you with what they see in you that isn’t already covered in your own explicit and biased understanding.   You can find connections and solutions in the give and take that wouldn’t have come if you started by being too explicit.    Playfulness doesn’t come out of explicit, it comes out of open interaction.

I don’t know what I am communicating when I am less than explicit.   What the hell are people seeing in me, getting from me?   Is it good and clean, or is it unpleasant projection?

Appearing as a transwoman, I don’t have a good understanding of how people read me, what they get from my general, non-explicit presence.   I just don’t have the years of experience in knowing how people respond.   More than that, their response is so variable, based on their own unprocessed expectations and beliefs that it is hard to get a picture.

My way in the world has been the way of explicit.   I can do that when I am only seen by the symbols that I share.

To move forward, though, I have to trust something other than explicit expression of what I know.  I have to trust subjective, emotional, messy and real responses to the contradictions and crossings that are me.

That is one of the key things I crave hearing someone say “yes” to, that I can be seen as real, true, feminine, potent, authentic, attractive and charming.

I do know that I can be seen as explicit.  I do know that I can be seen as way too damn explicit, that my habit of being explicit can be seen as boring, pedantic, intellectual, demanding and just stupid.

I love explicit.   Being explicit is a real gift, something special that I offer.

Like any gift, though, it is also a curse.

And it is not easy to find balance on your own.

Listening To Shaman

We know how to listen to shame.

The bear in the closet speaks with the voice of shame all the time, loaded up with a list of our failings and our limits, programmed with tapes of every time we have been hurt, telling us to keep up the armour, to stuff our empty places, to do anything we can do to avoid discomfort.

I am very clear on how dangerous the world is, how others have failed or hurt me, how I have been taught to modulate myself.

For me, though, the challenge has been to be able to listen to shaman.

I have worked to listen to the voice of connection that speaks of how we are all a part of the same firmament, how a human life is something to be grateful for.   That voice reminds me that the journey is the reward, that moving beyond comfort is the only way to open to new experiences, new understandings and new rewards, transforming the hell of other people’s rejection to the heaven of other people’s love.

The shame voice is easy to believe because shaming is threaded so much through my experience of the world.   Every attack or missed understanding left scars that reinforced the social pressure to play small.

The shaman voice is harder to believe because it seems like a small voice against the tide of social pressure.  To keep control, society has worked to undermine and discredit that voice that calls the beat of our own different drummer.

Neither our wisdom nor our shame directly controls our actions.   They inform our choices as we struggle to neither pander to our deepest fears nor get mislead by our own dreams.

A human life is always about choices in a finite world, choices which can never be perfect, choices that always come at a cost.   We have limited attention, limited endurance, limited tolerance, limited energy and limited time. We are human.

The voice of shame asks us to surrender to our limits, to create barriers that isolate us in comfortable habits.

The voice of shaman as us to transcend our limits, to create openings that let us make divinely touched choices, reminding us that we are not humans living a spiritual life, we are spirits living a human life.

I hear my shaman voice most clearly when I am encouraging others.  It is easy to ask them to come from their higher selves, easy to encourage them to make hard choices that are the best choices, easy to hear the longing to do good beyond fear and exhaustion in their stories.

My inner voices are human, though, sad and hurt, wounded and tired, needy and lonely.  Long embodied experience has created my own context.

Learning to pick out the lessons to myself that are in the messages I give to others is the hardest part of integrating that shaman knowledge into my own choices.   I only have so much, even if I know that being crushed might be the easy way, but it wouldn’t be the shaman way, to paraphrase Riders In The Sky.

We all have both the shame voice and the shaman voice, the voice of our inner demons and the voice of our inner angels.  We know that following that demon voice is distracting, indulgent and comfortable, but following that angel voice is transcendent, rewarding and challenging.   The ego calls us to our lower, base nature, but the holy spirit calls us to our higher, better nature.

I thank those who reflect and affirm my shaman voice and the choices I make from that space.   I need those “yes” to have the power to act on my own better nature beyond the limits of human frailty.

I just hope that I have been able to affirm your shaman voice over you shame voice, too.

Out Past Pain

There is a difference between being visible and being out.

Transpeople, especially transwomen, are almost always visible in the world, even if we don’t want to be.

Read and clocked used to have different meanings in the queer world.

Getting clocked, having someone see that you are queer and acknowledge it was a good thing, a kind of insider visibility in the world.

Getting read out, having someone call you faggot or give you a dirty look, or worse, was a terrifying thing, a kind of reminder of how unsafe the world can be.

For transpeople, the first thing we had to learn was how to survive getting read out in the world.   It was that fear of being read out that taught us how to hide in the closet, that fear that fed the bear in the closet who keeps reminding us how terrifying it is to be exposed in the world.

By their armour you shall know them.    That fear of being read out means that the first thing that defined our trans in the world is not how we expressed it, but how we hid it.

To emerge as transgender, to surface it in the world, we had to find strategies to protect our scared and tender heart from the social pressure and abuse that comes when we are read out.   We had to defend our nascent inner self from pain, have rationalizations and deflections that kept us from being even more shattered.

We had to build a suit of armour to defend our heart.

The process of coming out is the process of removing that armour and showing ourselves in the world.   The ultimate trans surgery is pulling the stick out of your own ass, letting yourself be exposed and tender in the world.

This process of coming out isn’t something that is unique to queer people.

Every human carries their own armour, their own defences, their own shell.   The process of dropping that carapace is the process of opening your heart, expressing your own vulnerability in the world, of moving beyond the shame that binds you is hard for everyone, as people like Brené Brown remind us.

This process of coming out and claiming the jewels of your own inner nature, of slaying the dragon with “Thou Shalt” on every scale, is  the Hero’s Journey, as Joseph Campbell reminded us.

I made a decision when I first emerged as queer in the mid-1980s that my goal was to heal and come out, to be integrated, actualized, balanced, more righteous, healed, centred, and all those other terms that mean you move beyond barriers and towards connection.

My early struggle was about finding ways to express truth in a world that didn’t want to hear it.

I chose not to use the armour that other transpeople around me were choosing, be it the compartmentalization of a crossdresser, a transsexual,  a drag, or a genderqueer identity.

I knew why people were grabbing onto those identities.   I knew how much pain they had, how much being shamed and abused into the closet hurt you, because I also had that pain.   I had so much awe and admiration for transpeople who struggled out of the closet to show their own fabulous selves that I collected their stories, their triumphs and their tragedies.   I had so much compassion and empathy for their journeys through hell that I needed to give those stories voice and context.

For transpeople, visibility comes with the territory.  What that usually means, though, is that we have created ourselves a portable closet, a lucite egg, that we use when we walk through the world.  Inside that shell, our hearts are still torn and tender, raw and ragged, slashed and shattered, as we listen to the bear in the closet who wants to keep them from being exposed even as we are visible.

One of the cardinal rules of trans etiquette is never to out a transperson even if you have clocked them.   They may need the protection of not knowing their trans nature is so visible.   For many transpeople, their pride is in how effectively their “femulate,” emulating a female and hiding their own trans nature.  To be read out is failure to them, a reason to be ashamed.  We work so hard to perfect the package that what is inside goes neglected.

When our “success” is measured by how well we conceal the “contradictions” of our nature, is there any surprise that we have an incentive to play small and hide our heart, and that we feel shame when we seem to fail to make our nature invisible?

As transpeople, we see how easily other transpeople can be clocked, see how visible they are.   Rather than recognizing that reflects how visible we are, we often look on them as failures and attempt to shame those people into adapting a more stealthy attitude or just staying away from being seen with them altogether.

This is the fundamental block to creating trans community, knowing that we cannot imagine we are invisible when we are out in numbers, rejecting the reflections of our own struggles, history and limits we see in other transpeople, feeling they don’t honour the shame that drives us into the work of maintaining our own portable closet.   We have become defined and bound by our armour, trapped by our own defences.

I know the challenge of living in a world where it feels unsafe to be out, exposed and open and vulnerable.  I have felt that challenge on my skin for lo these many decades.   The pain of all the delicate feminine and bold masculine hearts scarred into the closet saddens me every single day.

Coming out, though, is a very, very difficult process.  Nobody seals themselves into a closet, training a big bear to keep them defended, on a whim or a caprice.  It takes a lifetime of real pain and abuse to build those callouses, to thicken those walls.

Is it possible to offer transpeople the safety to come out from the thick barriers they have built up to protect them from what they have learned is the awful cost of visibility in a world where others don’t understand or value them, a world where others often feel it is not just permitted to reject,  shame and abuse transpeople, but that it is even a holy, just and moral duty to enforce good and valuable heterosexist norms?

It is easy to offer tools that provide more ways of compartmentalization, more ways to submerge and deny feelings, but offering the tools to integrate a life, that is a much more difficult sell.   We are legitimately skittish, ready to fly into stored pain at the drop of a challenge.   We each heal in our own time and our own way, carrying both our healing and our hurt along with us.

Coming out in a world that doesn’t get the joke, a world where others believe that their pain and discomfort is your fault, where comfort is valued over the obligation to growth and healing, well, that is a massive challenge indeed.

The joys and rewards of being out are rich and deep, but the costs of being exposed and vulnerable in the world are sharp and everywhere.   There is a reason we don’t walk around naked and undefended all the time.

There is a difference between being visible and being out.

For transpeople, it is our omnipresent  and fearsome visibility that forms the biggest barrier to us coming out from behind our armour, leaving us terrified to tell our story or show our hearts just to have our hard won gender and tender heart torn up and stomped on.   We build our amour to protect ourselves and then, like a crustacean who cannot moult in an unsafe sea, we become entombed in our closet, trapped by our own defences.  Our heart becomes isolated, even to us, and the loneliness becomes crushing unless satiated by action.

I have awesome admiration for every person who has claimed life after emerging to claim their own trans heart in the world.  I also have utter sadness for every transperson who suffered and continues to suffer the kind of fear that drives their heart into a compartment, untouched and starved of love & connection.    I know why their caged heart sings.

How do we help hold the hearts of transpeople so they can keep up the never ending process of moving beyond pain to emergence, pulling the stick out of their own ass, coming out, and blossoming beautifully in the world?

On Community & Adolescence

Ms Combs

Thank you for your reporting on transgender challenges in Minnesota as seen by people who are on the ground, facing those challenges and helping others with them.

I had a couple of thoughts, which I write here so I can keep them.

First, the premise you start with — that some how there is a trans community — limits the view.

People do not emerge as transgender, needing to reveal their heart rather than the gender expression they were assigned, because they want to join a community. Lesbian and gay people may need other lesbian and gay people to explore and engage their sexuality, coming together in mating rituals and forming some kind of community, but transpeople don’t have that same drive.

The trans journey is very individual, very personal. It is not a drive to join a group identity, it is a push to claim a very personal expression of individuality. This makes it very hard to find the shared values beyond a kind of activism that really support and grow community structures. There are many interlocking communities around transgender, and transgender people exist in every human community, even if their trans nature is invisible there.

Second, all transpeople are, to some degree or other, trans youth.

Even the transperson who emerges from a lifetime of living in the gender role they were assigned has to relearn all the things that adolescents have to learn in this world because they were denied the experience of adolescence in a gender role that reflects their heart. You may be 50 and divorced as a man, but when you emerge as a woman, you are, on some level, still 12.

There are few models for what being a grown up transperson looks like in our culture, and even in there were, the path to getting there after emerging from the dark closet of denial would never be simple or standard.

Transgender activists are most often those who are still coming out, who still are struggling with identity, because transpeople who emerged some time ago have learned to keep their head down. Mature trans stories are complicated and nuanced, not simple and easily understandable. Even Janet Mock says that while most writing in this culture is at a seventh grade level, trans issues have to be discussed at a third grade level.

Thank you again for your reporting. I hope you get a chance to come back to trans issues again in the future, maybe to find some long emerged transpeople and share their experiences.


Insufficent Dancing

To dance is to live.

It doesn’t matter if you dance with a partner, with a brush, with a keyboard or with anything else as long as you feel the energy and joy of life flow through you, creative and nurturing, opening you to joy and possibility.

Happy people dance.  Their days have  playful and loose energy that lubricates every moment, letting them feel light as they go through the everyday, routine struggles of a human existence.

Insufficient dancing, though, and you have no nourishment, no replenishment of the cost of the daily human fight.

People only have so much willpower, so much pure push.  Use that up and you feel worn, frayed, decayed, shattered, broken.  Unless the reservoir is refilled, the tank runs dry.

Like an engine without oil, a life without the lubrication of dancing, is just a grind, wearing out the moving parts quickly, adding stress, strain and breakdowns to an already compromised system.

When life is almost all fight,  the life drains from you quickly.   You cling to whatever lets you dance, even if the return is limited, even if it still means a net loss.

For me, writing is where I dance, where I let myself out to flow.   While the return from it is very meagre, there is no other place in my life that feels like I get more back that I have to put in.  Everything is a cost, nothing a joy.

Running on fumes is hard, so when people tell you that all you have to do is make one more leap, use one more burst of energy, one shot of willpower, to get someplace new and rewarding, it feels like too much work.  More than that, it sounds like a lie, because if you have been human for long enough, you know that there is never just one more challenge, there is always a string of them coming your way.

When life is all fight and no dancing, well, that’s not a situation which can last forever.   The cycle becomes chicken and egg; how can you find affirming space to dance without fighting to seek for it?

I know how to fight.   I have a long history of fighting for other people, and a long history of other people choosing to fight with me, wanting me to be silent and only challenging in ways they desire.

I’m not unhappy, nor am I unable to affirm and amplify the happiness of others.  I can still dance in my own sheltered space, alone.  Everything hurts, not least of all my feet.  I’m tired of fighting and am not hopeful of finding anywhere I can still dance and feel beautiful.

But you have to try again, don’t you?

Locked In

Last week, at around 4:45 AM on the morning of my birthday, I went to open the front door to be ready for my sister to drop off a few groceries, as I hadn’t been out in almost two weeks.

The door handle was stuck, though.   I could hear the clunk of breaking metal as I tried to force it.

I had installed that hardware on the door and the hardware before that.   I remembered the rush as I had to make a quick run to Wally to get it closed as my mother was squawking about being chilly.

With a screwdriver I pulled the handle off and saw the latch mechanism was seized up somehow.   I pulled and twisted at it, but it never moved.

By the time my sister showed up, just after 5 AM, I was already trying a hacksaw blade in the frame of the door, but the steel core on the latch made that a real challenge.

It’s a week and a half now, and I have pulled the hinge pins, used stiff wire and putty knives, but the front door is still frozen shut.   I can get out through the garage, like I have when I had to take care of my sister, but I am still locked in.

The symbolism of  physically having to fight my way out of this edifice and failing to do so is not lost on me.    The scene was out of a film, laden with pathos, frustration and irony, with me locked in and with my sister outside, pulling my father’s tools to try and solve a problem,

I was told last night that “sometimes the teacher is not a good student.”  Teachers learn from their own failures, their own suffering, taking things that came hard for them, that they learned the hard way, and share them.

Success isn’t the best teacher.   If we could just succeed from the original lessons we had, we would have no reason to go beyond that original teaching.

Teachers, it is true, often tend to share the same things over and over again, missionaries in the classroom, preparing students for routine.

Gurus, on the other hand, want to teach how to learn, offering not just help desk answers but rather sharing concepts and structures that bring tools which transform the thinking of another.   Turning on the light means revealing the bigger picture, not just learning to follow the answer key.

My struggles are my path and my process.

Apparently, now I have to struggle to open the door and get out of here.




Decaying Orbits

There comes a point where you have to accept that whatever get up and go you used to have has got up and went.

Somehow I missed two alarms for my five am call, but was woken by my sister’s text.  I had to get the car back, the one she has had for about six weeks now, locking me down.  The neon coloured sheet that reported my father’s “recovery” from dysphagia is gone, and my collection of bags all crumpled up by a clown who didn’t respect them or me, but there is a car in the driveway, changed without thought to warranty because no one asked me.

It was so hard to get up this morning, so much pain in my feet, so much slop, that  I started to cry, remembering the way I would spend all hours taking care of my parents, with preparation and hospital drives and more.

it’s my 21st month in purgatory since my parents died, cut off from resources and possibility.   I knew my sister wouldn’t notice my quiet sobbing and she did not.

I try to get up and do something, but I know that I am just seriously out of shape. Everything hurts and I don’t have even the endurance I which was my drive.

Just the other day I got the dreaded Santa Claus identification. It’s not the first time after I haven’t had the energy, the intent or the need to shave in a while that I have gotten it, but I don’t like it.

I’m afraid to shave, though, afraid to see myself plainly, to see how I am decayed.   I feel the decay in my mouth, my chest, my feet, my eyes, but after months of not even washing often, looking into the mirror and knowing that I don’t have the resource to array a feminine arsenal of care products to bolster my own view of my self, my own esteem, well, that is a stopper

“The only remedy for decondtioning is conditioning. ”  I scripted that line for my mother’s physical therapist, to try and motivate her.  The PT agreed completely, but every time my mother heard it she heard my voice and vision, admonishment she shirked from, just as my sister shirks from facing me.

Living in a palace of ghosts has not been good for me, because life flows away from me and not towards me.     The weakness grows into deep weariness as I become more and more flabby and decayed everyday, enough so that the thought of facing what I have degraded into is a burden.

As long as there is life, there is hope, people will tell me, just as I have told others.

When one feels the life slipping away, though, it becomes hard to be infected by the romance of existence,  the open hearted quest for connection and energy.

I know that I have to try again, muster what I can and put one more surge of energy in, scraping from the bottom of the life force batteries my creator gifted to me.  I need to take another bold shot to show myself.

A flickering candle, though, does not generate much light and is easily extinguished.   I feel myself guttering and don’t know if I can handle being gutted again.

Resistance is futile, I know.

But what else is also futile?

Rewriting A Life

Writing is rewriting.

Just dumping the contents of your brain into text does not constitute writing.   Writing is the conscious shaping of story, using considered language to add structure to your understanding so that you can access and share it more effectively.

Like any skill, the more you learn to rewrite the faster and the better you can do it.  You learn to rewrite on the fly, without getting blocked by your editor voice, that bear in the closet who is afraid of making a mistake.  Rewriters know that the delete key is just a finger press away, making all text plastic and malleable, not something that commands you but something you mould and remould into what you want.

Throwing away text and starting again is often bliss for me, although I know that for people who find writing excruciating in the first place it is painful to lose any hard churned text.   The process of taking up a blank page again mirrors the process of building a new life; now that  I know what I know from my previous experience, how can I start on a new footing and make better choices?

Human lives are usually built higgledy-piggledy, thrown together out of what is at hand.   We take up the plans and patterns of our family, build to resist the storms we understand with the tools we have at hand.

Deconstructing those jerry-built lives is a real challenge because it means tearing apart what we have already struggled to create and become comfortable with. We see what we have as real and fixed, not plastic and malleable.

Most often, we end up burying the lead in our lives, leaving what is most important hidden deep in the mundane and routine.   This loss leaves us struggling to find a through-line, something that can make the strong parts come forward to help us and readers stay connected to the ideas and images.

Trying to tell people that they need to learn to destroy what they have created, to then pick through the ashes for what was strong enough to survive, using those bits to start again is not usually a well received message.  Mastery, though, depends on just that ruthlessness, that willingness to sacrifice the mediocre and serviceable in the quest for the excellent and essential.

Killing your art, though, to help train your creative power, is one of the most cost-effective ways to rebuild a life.  Plans are useless, generals say, because they fall apart when they first meet the enemy, but planning is essential because it gives you the understanding, agility and power to create new plans on the spot using the learning and skills you now own.  It is much better to have your plans torn apart than to have your forces torn apart.

Construction, deconstruction, reconstruction, making mistakes, identifying them and then trying again is the way we gain a bit of mastery in the world.

Writing is rewriting, creation is recreation, and lives come from where we choose again, better, smarter and more actualized, spiralling though the same challenges, addressing them in a deeper, more fluid and more integrated way that lifts us higher in achieving a kind of purity that we know will never be perfection.

All the wisdom I have I owe to rewriting what I thought I knew into more cogent and more graceful texts.   This gives me the skills to listen, understand and integrate my knowledge of other stories, seeing the connections and the blockages, the meaning mixed in with the symbols.

If you aren’t willing to start again, trusting that you will always carry forward the best of what you did before, you can never become new, transcending the old shit.  Using the same thinking to make the same choices will get you the same results.

Process is process.

Better writing requires rewriting, creating change that selects and values the best in the message.

Better living requires reliving, creating change that selects and values the best in us.

Just dumping what you feel doesn’t constitute really living.   Getting more open, more connected and wiser by making new choices and learning from them is what empowers a life.

Start over from where you are now.  Throw away your darlings, kill the Buddha, and trash your good work to see what rises next, to quest for your best.

Ritual Mother

Maybe it’s because so many rituals revolve around food that women often become the keepers of tradition and the purveyors of the sacraments.

While the rituals of the church were mostly owned by men, women owned the ceremonies of the home, usually played out at the table.   We marked the passings, of years and events, of success and of loss, of the new and the venerable.

My family wasn’t big on ritual.    There were always a hoard of objects to be put out, but I became responsible for ceremonial meals even before I became full time caretaker for my parents.  The sharing of words and emotions, though, of meaningful conventions, well, that wasn’t something my parents really engaged.  The whole family around one table was good enough for my father, and my mother just wanted to make sure her tastes were satisfied.

I would often write tablegraces for holidays, even though I knew my parents wouldn’t accept them, instead just giving one copy to my sister who would just accept it.

I went through a big birthday this week and all I got was one bag of groceries from my sister who knows that I have had limited transport for the last five weeks while being stuck with her bum car.  I did cook my own traditional birthday dinner, an old marked down corned beef boiled dinner and a frozen pie, but I ate it alone.

This is one cost of never being a mother in the world, never being able to create rituals that support, affirm and celebrate my family.

The truth is that, like most women, I need the emotional impact, cleansing and affirmation of ritual.   There is a reason why women buy crystals, oils, tapes and dvds to try and bring some of the sacred into their life.    Doing the hard, mundane, routine work of being the mommy demands context, a connection to something bigger.

The people at mega-churches know that it’s easy to get women into the door, but it’s hard to get men.   The reason women and families don’t go to church is because men resist going, so they make those churches as man friendly as possible, entertaining and non-threatening.

Sadly, I’m a damn theologian.   I find it hard to celebrate badly thought through beliefs, hard to assent to sloppy doctrine.  Just because it sounds good on the surface doesn’t mean that it is the kind of understanding that can help bring clarity to your life.  It only takes a little twist added to a good tenet to make it turn bad.   Just good feeling doesn’t really make it good ritual.

I know the elements of good ritual.  It doesn’t don’t use much theology, just enough for context.  It does include, though, good food, stories, tradition, humour, and as much good company as can be found.

Participating in the elements of good ritual, though, isn’t something I do enough of.

And, as a woman, it is something that I need.

Everything Changed

Truth is always stranger than fiction because nobody will publish fiction unless it makes sense.

When we try and make stories our of lives, it’s always tempting to have a moment when everything changes.   Tie your life to one clear turning point where things were never the same again, where you hit bottom and had to start coming back up again and people will be able to buy the change, accept that transformation really happened on the road to Damascus.

Amazing Grace
How sweet the sound
To save a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now am found
Was blind
But now I see.

It’s the way our culture likes its magical stories, with a bang and a puff of smoke and a flourish, now you see it, now you don’t!

Change, though, doesn’t happen in a blinding flash.  Change is an ongoing process of facing old stimuli, facing cultural convention, facing habit and training, facing social pressure and making new choices.  Change is hard work, moving beyond comfort, and never one simple moment.

Alcoholics Anonymous knows this.  You don’t stop being an alcoholic.   You choose new behaviours today, then again tomorrow, one day at a time.

This is the same for everyone.  Coming out isn’t something you do once.  Being more open, more truthful, more authentic and less defended, rationalizing and compartmentalized is something you have to do every day, opening in new ways that push past fear, facing down the bear in the closet.

The traditional trans narrative, though, follows the transformation convention.  I lived a bad and sad life being forced to follow the gendered expectations laid on my heart, then the doctors helped me change my sex and now everything is good.   I am cured, so my current assertions are credible because the medical profession says so.

A real trans life, however, isn’t nearly as neat and simple, with an easy transformation story that any third grader can grasp.  Instead, like any other human life, it is a struggle to become better, more whole and more authentic everyday, facing the same ideas and pressures that shamed us into the closet in the first place.

Of course, this is why my trans narrative is both so potent and so challenging, because it details that daily journey with such acute observation.   I stay in the struggle, a struggle that most want to leave behind because it complicates and contradicts their narrative of a moment of transformation rather than a lifetime of change.

“You can change your life in 21 days!” goes the self help huckster, selling what the public want to hear.

For it is surely a lifetime work, this learning to be a woman.
—  May Sarton

The truth of a trans life — the truth of every human life — is that every life is more complicated and more nuanced than any simple and easily comprehensible story can ever convey.   Because we make new story everyday, that complexity continues to grow rather than diminish, especially on days we face challenges that are not routine.

Transpeople cross boundaries others see as solid all the time, so we are always faced with the discomfort of others whose conventional narratives about themselves are challenged by our very existence.   We remind others of connection, of continuous common humanity in ways that stimulate their own understanding, sometimes helping them grow and sometimes causing them to act out to silence and erase us, trying to “put us in our place,” the place we belong in their comforting taxonomy of the world.

It is impossible to know how we exist in the stories of others, memorable even after years for how we speak a different truth, but we always end up queering their stories, making them more rich, nuanced and complex.

I know why we try to simplify our narratives to make them fit with normative assumptions about transformation and correction.

I also know why a trans life is always complex, always evolving, and always at least a little bit queer.   We live in truth, not in constructed fictions, and truth is strange.

Strange, true and wonderful.

Pull The Trigger

There is a common phrase used to describe making an irreversible decision, going ahead with a bold choice.

“Well,” people might say, “you are just going to have to pull the trigger on that one.”

For many, pulling the trigger is a highly satisfying experience.  It is a moment of judgment, creating a clear separation between the moment before and the moment after you fire.

I enjoy watching Karen Walker on “Will & Grace” let fly with sharp quips and witticisms, cutting other people down to size.  Maybe it’s her Oklahoma upbringing or her ballet training, but Ms. Mullally really knows how to pull the trigger on a sharp wisecrack.

“Shoot first and ask questions later,” has been the credo for many who believe it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.  Just shoot it out and clean up the mess later.

Observers are right about me, though.  I just don’t tend to pull the trigger.

My experience of the world lets me see connections, ramifications, complications.  I learned early the costs of pulling the trigger every time I saw an easy target, something that would be fun to take a pot shot at.

As I did my work, opening my vision, getting beyond my desires and impulses, moving more towards the good, I embraced empathy and compassion.  I understood how vulnerable people are, how much they need safe space to explore their own space, and I got how taking shots at them did not help them grow and heal.

I knew how to cut people with my tongue, knew how to make quick and clean decisions, knew how to pull the trigger.   I knew how to act out of impulse and how to play to the crowd, going for the quick hit.

As I became a primary caregiver, though, I learned to be more tender, more conscious, more considerate, more balanced, more kind.   I learned how to bear with people and situations rather than just pulling the trigger.

Being centred and gracious is a wonderful thing. To live life, though, to be vital rather than just virtuous, sometimes you have to get off balance, jump and just pull the trigger.  Balance, when it becomes cyclic, can deprive you of the inertia needed to get the most out of a messy, human life.

My not being able to easily “pull the trigger” and act on impulse is, of course, a consequence of learning to modulate, to be a guru, to try and be appropriate in relationships.   It is the habit of someone forced into “concierge mode,” always being their for aging and challenged parents.   It is the training of someone who learned not to trust their impulses and desires.

I know how to turn the other cheek.  I know how to let fear and acting out end with me.

I am not so good, however, at engaging the possibilities of whatever days of human life I have left, not so good at dreams and hopes and aspirations, not so good at exuberance and passion.

Learning how not to be quick on the trigger, not to be trigger happy and overly sensitive has been valuable, important, laudable and appropriate.

Never being able to pull the trigger, even on the possibility of joy, well, that can be put down to analysis paralysis, and it doesn’t really serve me.

And as an old gunslinger, I know that to be true.

No Balls, Pussy

So it was my first question in my first session at my first day of my first big trans conference.

“Men and women take power in different ways.  As you shift your gender expression, how do you shift the way you take power in the world?”

That question of power shift, that one question, has been at the heart of my own transgender journey.

Power is relational and the way someone sees you has a great deal to do with how they see your expression in the world.  A big guy tearing up or a petite woman trying to be physically intimidating just doesn’t work well, for example.

Brené Brown says we teach men to be ashamed of just one thing, but that one thing is so big that it shapes every choice they make.  Men should never be weak.  They gotta shoulder the load.

Men, in other words, should always show their balls, announcing their presence with authority, and never be a pussy.

The rules for women aren’t the same.   They have to fit in, make connections, and show vulnerability.    Being pussy actually turns out to be an asset and being too ballsy can be a complication.

Transvestism is about changing your clothes, transsexualism is about changing your body and transgender is about changing your mind.  A huge part of my message in the world is about the need to drop your old armour, let go of your defences and find new ways to open yourself to the world.

I find it quite trying when others try to tell me that I am being too much of a pussy and not being ballsy enough in demanding my place in the world.

“Dammnit,” they seem to tell me,  “you don’t have the balls to stop being an unreasonable emotional pussy and just grab hold of your own damn life!”

Yup.  I just don’t have the balls to stop being a pussy.  No doubt.

Hell, I spent decades trying to act cocky and failing.  It never really worked for me, was always just too much damn stress.

I understand why a manly form of motivation is to encourage putting aside weakness and claiming what you are entitled to.

I also understand why that kind of masculine approach isn’t really used by those teaching feminine motivation.   It’s a different kind of empowerment that resonates with women.

There is plenty on this blog about these modes of feminine empowerment.  There is, however, very little in my life and connections that actually puts these modes into practice.

I don’t actually believe that they will work for me because I don’t believe that I have the experience, history or biology to effectively use them in the world.  Nor do I believe that I can attempt masculine modes again.  Stuck in the middle, I feel.

This is, of course, enormously frustrating for those who care about me and want to see me happy.  They offer their best advice, offering suggestions that have worked for them in the past.

It turns out that being reasonable and compliant, passing my choices through a kind of forensic test, as if those who never met me will stand in judgment of me, is not an effective way to take action.

As someone who has been trained to distrust my gut, to put aside my own sense and feelings so that I can be seen as balanced and reasonable in the the world, my own dreams, vision and imagination have been corroded so much, my desire so attenuated, that any impulse to leap is dulled to passivity.

It turns out not to be easy or simple to find support for learning to trust your own instincts after learning to suppress them for decades.   When your instincts fall into the great gender divide, well, even more difficult.

I understand why many think I am a pussy.   It’s because I am pussy.

I just don’t think not being a pussy is the solution for my  being stuck, though that notion isn’t always easy to communicate.   I think it’s probable that the solution is to be more feminine, more visible, more intuitive, more shiny, more pussy.

Will I ever have the balls to take charge and change my life?

Will I ever open up and be receptive enough to create new relationships, new possibilities new chapters?

Or am I just another trans cliché?

Show Yourself

So, if I had a girlfriend in the area, here’s one thing I would want her to say to me, over and over and over again.

“Show yourself.

“Show your smile, show your style, show your charm, show your wit, show your smarts, show your warmth, show your caring, show everything.

“Do things that show yourself.  Do the podcast, talk to people at events, ask questions at seminars, schedule to do workshops, attend conferences, go to meetings, volunteer and contribute.

“Show yourself.   Don’t get antsy and down and grumpy, just show yourself.

“People will see what I see when they see you if you just show yourself.

“Dress nice, smile pretty, and let those great blue eyes sparkle.

“Show yourself.”

Showing yourself is the essence of feminine power, even the power that so many women resist by trying to meld into the crowd.

Show yourself is the message I give to women I care about, be that my sister and her studio, ShamanGal and more first dates or TBB and being a star.

Showing yourself is hard to do.   I know that because I see how hard it is for other women to show themselves when they would feel more comfortable staying in the shadows.

Every woman keeps a long list of all her imperfections, all the things others could judge her about, all the places she falls short of her ideals, a list of things she doesn’t want to show.

The other list, the list of small, surprising and beautiful bits that are unique to her, well, that is most often kept by her friends, the ones who keep telling her to show herself.

It’s not easy to show yourself.  There are many times when you just don’t want to be seen, want to hide behind some kind of generic façade, want to disappear.  Just don’t look at me!

As transwomen, we are taught early that the only appropriate, safe and gracious thing we can do is to not show ourselves.   The pressure to pass, or at least to remain invisible is intense, and when we fail, when our trans nature gets read, often we feel as if our gender is denied to us as people strip us to our birth biology, denying the truth of our hearts.

Hiding, though, really doesn’t allow us to be present, to contribute our best, to get affirmation, to be supported.  For that, we have to show ourselves.

The more we have to show, the harder it is to show ourselves.   There is a conventional pattern for attractiveness and being too much, too big, too intense, too smart, too anything doesn’t fit those expectations.

If I had a girlfriend in the area, the one thing I would want her to say to me, over and over and over again, is “Show yourself.”

I would fight her and resist, telling her why showing myself is hard, pointless and counterproductive.

But because she knows from her own feminine experience the struggle to be big, brilliant, visible, and vulnerable, knows how hard it is to show yourself, she would just keep telling me the same thing.

“Nobody’s perfect, honey, but you are amazing.  Show yourself.”

There is a reason women gather in groups.   We inhabit a complex and nuanced world where many points of view need to be respected at all times.   We don’t act as bold individuals, we act as nodes in a network, parts of a community.  Our confidence comes not from narcissism but from shared views, asserting and affirming that it always takes a village to raise our children.  The hive mind is the mothers mind, alloying the best in each of us to make a better place to live.

That’s why we support each other and need the support of each other, especially when we want to do something as bold and risky as showing ourselves.   We need to have each others eyes to see more, each others shoulders to cry on and each others backs to stay safe.

This is a mother’s message “You are so pretty!  Get your hair off your face and show yourself!”  It is even the message we give to girls flaunting their bodies : “Don’t just show your skin, show yourself!”

For me, showing myself is a big deal.  It means I have to push past fears far beyond what most women have to do and have to do it without the early training that girls are given.  In fact, my training comes from a mother who knew how to act out and tear down, rather than support, encourage and build up.

Beyond that, I am a big person in many ways, so it takes someone who has learned to own their own big presence to be affirming of bold and brilliant sparkling.  Many just see me being big and want me to affirm them, or want me to stay at their level, but doing that means I cannot really show myself.

I know what I think I need to hear.   It is a message that all women need to hear, all through their lives, but especially when they are healing and coming back from a challenge.

“Show yourself.  Lift your chin and let them see your stuff.  You really have something to share, something beautiful.   Show yourself.”

Show yourself.

Belong Compliment

“I heard the bear who tries to keep me in the closet  telling me that because I wasn’t all made up that I was unsafe, telling me that I had to fight, freeze or flee.

“‘Bear,’ I said, “I’m going to show you that I belong here.’

“I went right up to one of the clerks and told her that I loved her nails.

“She was so sweet, saying that she thought they might be too much, that she was thinking about changing them.   She opened right up to me.

“I showed that bear that I belong in the world.  He shut right up.

“It was great.”
— ShamanGal, 9/10/2014

“It’s so easy to just dismiss a compliment, so I knew I had to sit with it.  Just spending 10 seconds or a minute with a complement gives you time to open to it, so I did that, just letting it in.   It mus have worked, because soon enough one of the other gals told me that I was glowing.   I really did feel good, seen and valued.”
— ShamanGal 9/10/2014