Resolving Receptive

New Year is a time to think about change, about what we can do differently and better in the year ahead.

For me, the one thing I would like to change is to be more receptive and open to the surprises that the universe offers me.

It is so easy for me to assume that whatever surprise I am going to get from other people is going to be rude, insensitive and degrading.  I have learned to expect the worst, so I close myself down, lock myself in, and hoard my limited energy.

On a logical level, I know this is a mistake.  I have been forcing myself out into the world for the last month or so and I have noted a whole range of little signs that the universe can open to me.   These range from a chicken with an extra markdown to a cashier who liked my hair to a man who I thought was staring at me until I saw his long, white cane.

I have gratitude for these moments, but a lifetime of biting bullets and social poisoning has left me very wary, always waiting for the “third gotcha.”

On an emotional level, though, trust comes hard to me.  I resist, wall myself off, try to hide from view.   Rather than just doing the work and moving on with it, I vapour lock, feeling that others will judge and hurt me.  I just don’t feel that they will say “yes.”

While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.
— Maya Angelou

Those other people in the world are not here to be my enemy.   They are here because our creator put them here to do the best job they can at being humans in community, mixing the profane and divine, the pragmatic and the kind.

I know that unless I give my mother in the sky the opportunity to surprise me, offering the gifts that other people can bring to me, she can’t do it.

Old Joke:

God speaks to Joe.  “Joe, you have been a good and kind and righteous man and I want to help you help others.   I’m going to make sure you win the lottery so you will have the resources to make the world better.”

Joe is thrilled with this promise, but a years go by and he hasn’t won the lottery.  He speaks to God.  “God, why haven’t you kept your promise to me?   I want to believe, want to help, I have been giving all, but I am getting more and more frustrated, more and more downhearted.  What can I do God?”

Joe hears the voice of God once more.  “Joe,” God says, “Joe, please, please buy a freaking lottery ticket.”

Unless we do our part, nothing can happen.

For me, that means giving the universe the opportunity to surprise me, as queasy as that idea makes me.   I burn my energy in resistance rather than doing the work that might bring me a good return.

I ask to have my hand held because it is hard to be both the hard, doubting voice of reason and the soft, trusting voice of hope at the same time.  I know how to say “no” but find it hard to get “yes” to echo back from the world, especially “yes” to me going beyond convention, beyond the comfort level of others, beyond playing small to a bold, queer, smart and elegant energy.

I know that I don’t open to the flow which might lead me to delightful, replenishing and nourishing surprises.  While I know that I should be smart about where I spend my resources, without risk and exposure, I can never get the surprise of a sunny reward.

The joy of life is not in our limited and puny expectations, it is always in the divine surprises which open to us, leading our life in new directions and our heart to new heights.   We follow our bliss not to get what we know we want, but rather to experience what we cannot yet imagine.

I know why I am guarded, defended, protective.   I know why I have left the grid, been very careful with my limited resources, and worked hard to hear my own voice.

I also know, though, that I need to be more receptive and open to the surprises that the universe offers me, the surprises that come from the hearts and minds of other people.

Society knows how to handle fragile, fallible,  flawed humans because, in the end, that is the only kind of humans there are.   Engaging and finding understanding & compassion is not only possible, it is both likely and required.

It seems time to buy a figurative lottery ticket.

And if that was easy, I would have done it before.


I slid into the guest chair in Janet’s office and said “Sometimes, I get confused.”

She had been reporting to me for over a year now.  “You know, at first, I saw you as so sharp and fast that wouldn’t have believed that you ever got confused, but I every now and then, I have seen you get confused.

“I know that you get confused.”

It was comforting to be seen.

Most of the time people talk to me because they are a bit unclear, a bit fuzzy, a bit confused.  They like how I can ask questions that help bring things into focus for them, listening with intent and offering new words and new ways to look at situations.

When I get confused, lost, vapour locked, though, where do I go to find caring and support?

I suspect that when other people see me as being confused they know that there is no simple answer.   Answers are rarely simple for me, it is true.   Those who just want to offer quick solutions resist because they have learned that I will have seen through them. Few are ready to offer solace and focusing questions.

I get confused.  And, just like I had to do in a family where Aspergers was the common theme, I have to struggle to find my own answers, a desperate and herculean struggle indeed.

For me, the cost of not being allowed to be confused, to always have to be the one who understands and explicates is enormously high.   This is the hard work that falls to the scapegoat, to the queer one, to the healer.

My brother rejected the work I was doing to make a good memorial service for my father, saying that “funerals are a time to let other people take care of you.”  Of course, I was taking care of my mother at that point, but when she died a few weeks later, who was the one who could step up to take care of me?  No one.  Who cares for the caregivers?

My slow and halting progress in the world is very much the result of my own confusion and the hard work that I have to do to pick through that confusion and find a way forward.   While I am available for others to call, they make it clear that they are not available for me due to limited time, energy or capacity.   Sure, maybe if I made myself easier to take care of they could help, but isn’t that my problem?

“I have been learning to trust myself,” I told an old partner, “but I need to learn to trust other people.”

“Can’t you learn to do that by yourself?” she suggested, telling me clearly it wasn’t going to be her that helped.

I get confused.   To have to be the one who breaks through the barrier and the one who has to worry about cleaning up the broken bits at the same time is to be put at odds with yourself, to be forced into internal turmoil and confusion.

So much of the pain and struggle I write about is just the outward manifestation of inner confusion.   People have often sneered, putting it down to “analysis paralysis” but just diminishing it with a name doesn’t break the reality of it.

Warmth, kindness and healthy reflection from others can ease the moment, helping me feel safe, supported and cared for even when I get confused, tender and vulnerable.  When I don’t feel that, I have the need to be invulnerable, defended, leaving me to pull back and pull inside my shell.

To put yourself out there and get back discomfort and bafflement, criticism for being too cerebral and complex, does not make you feel supported in basic humanity,   Instead, it seems to ask you to think harder, be disciplined more, to clean up and simplify things for others, because their confusion makes your challenges about them and not about you.

This is one reason I loved meetings, because the give and take would help me work through my own confusion.   Instead, I now write, knowing that while a few will get some insight out of my offerings, almost no one will mirror and contribute back.

I get confused.   Sure, it is my own kind of confused, complicated and frustrating, but it is confused.  It comes with lots of words, images and concepts, comes with sparks, resistance and pain, but it is confused.   I am cerebral, emotional, confused, all at once.

Sometimes, like all other humans, I just really want to be confused, want to be able to let down my guard, have a few drinks, get loopy and non-cerebral, end up in a party, playful, abandoned way.

Safe space for my confusion, though, escapes me.  Who else can show up, be there, give me some soup and do the driving for a while?   How can I trust that my confusion will be handled with grace and tenderness, not attacks and demands that I be the smart one who modulates themselves for the comfort of others?

I know what living with confusion is, inward confusion that others find baffling and even scary.   I know what it is to reach out and get answers rather than questions, expectations rather than compassionate engagement.

I get confused.   And as long as my confusion is a solitary challenge, there will always be more confusion and less safety.

Learn To See Each Other

“The police, the people who are angry at the police, the people who support us but want us to be better, even a madman who assassinated two men because all he could see was two uniforms, even though they were so much more. We don’t see each other. If we can learn to see each other, to see that our cops are people like Officer Ramos and Officer Liu, to see that our communities are filled with people just like them, too. If we can learn to see each other, then when we see each other, we’ll heal. We’ll heal as a department. We’ll heal as a city. We’ll heal as a country.”
New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton

Feminine Arts

Three of the major feminine roles, mother, caregiver and concubine, take the same skill set.

In all three of them, a wide range of knowledge and talents merge with the power to pay acute attention to another person.

Children, the frail and lovers all tell you what they need if you pay close enough attention.   They probably won’t tell you explicitly, mostly because they don’t even know themselves, but the clues and signs are always there.

Once you discern what they need, what they crave, you can then use your skills to give it to them, starting with the words and symbols they might use to express what they feel inside.

Much of what they need, of course, is emotional support.   They may need to feel strong, feel more courageous, feel more cared for.   They may need someone to fight with them, to help them sharpen their own knowledge, help them externalize and own the fight that is already going on inside of them.  They may need someone to distract them, taking them away from the battle and letting them heal, refresh or renew.

The skill sets to deliver what they need are the key difference between the roles.   Babies needs are simple, but the needs of complex, intense and powerful men are much more complicated, to use one example.  According to the Kama Sutra, a “public woman” should be proficient in 64 arts, including singing, musical instruments, dancing, writing, drawing, magic, tailoring, carpentry, architecture and chemistry.

The real, tricks in the bag are about being present choosing to offer effective delights, challenges and soothing.  These aren’t techniques one is born with, rather they are discovered, created, practised and honed over time, which is one reason that women get better with age.   Being young trades external beauty for internal mastery, which can only come with discipline and practise.

Other people need what the feminine has to give.   They pay attention to what they are working on and the feminine pays attention to what they need, working to make sure they have it.

Of course, today’s woman doesn’t have the luxury of just doing the feminine, of course.   She usually also has to be in the world of work, achieving goals and being part of a team.  Many women wish that they could have a wife, someone to pay attention to them and be there to meet their needs, taking care of them.  In many tribal cultures, one of the roles of the grandmother is to be the wife to the mother, taking care of her so that she can tend to the children.

The power of the feminine, though, threads through everything she does, which is one reason that women are often found to good managers, paying attention to people and details, making sure those around her have what they need to achieve success for the team and for themselves.

The power of focused attention and the ownership of a range of skills (including the skill of looking smashing) are at the heart of the feminine arts, and those arts are at the heart of so many roles, including mother, caretaker and courtesan.

For me, they were skills I worked hard to master.

Bullets Poison

When TBB had to choose what to do about her transgender heart, she had two choices: bullet or poison.

Most people around her though she should bite the bullet and stay presenting as a man with occasional and very discreet time away.  The fact that her marriage was already strained and she was suffering wasn’t the point: if she really loved her family, she would learn to do what they wanted, whatever it cost her.

She knew the alternative, too, the one that came to pass.   If she did come out, people who neither understood or even knew her very well would spread poison about her: an indulgent perverted man who cared more about his own jollies than about his family.

After all, who else would put their dear, loving family through such humiliation and torture?   They didn’t need any more than her actions to assign motives and then judge them as harshly as possible.

Worst, of course, was that this poison was spread even to her children.  “Such poor babies, to have a horrible, horrible, disgusting father like that,” people had no trouble saying.

Bite the bullet, chewing lead, or be sprayed with poison that even tainted your kids.  Even her own brother worked to have her removed from the family home and legally restrained from seeing her children.

Needless to say, being forcibly separated from her kids broke her big, tender, feminine heart.      While she knew what role her kids needed her to play — Daddy — she didn’t emerge to start living as a transwoman because she was a typical man.

It took her a decade to get everyone, including her brother, her ex-wife and her kids together under her roof to celebrate a Christmas together.   Her reflection at that time was about how much work and waiting she had to do to get people to heal and grow enough to get together, and how much their resistance, how much the poison had cost her.

The goal is simple, has always been simple: get past the effects of the poison so that she could create grown up, mature relationships with her family again. That sounds simple, but people on the edges of her world still find the poison useful for their cause, the cause to blame, separate and cause strife for their own benefit.

Like someone who was very damaged by the initial attack, TBB is very sensitive to even a whiff of that old poison coming back into her life.   It reminds her of the pain she suffered having her babies torn away from her and poisoned against her.

The hurt runs very deep so touching it brings back those old defences, the stubborn fight to be a stand-up person, a father to her kids, both an example and a rock.   She worked hard not to let the kids be in the middle of a bitter divorce, never fighting back with poison, because she knew how cruel and unfair those attacks are, to the attacked, but mostly to children who have both parents in their hearts, in their minds and even in their genes.

The path back to a quality relationship with her children has been hard because there was so much poison spread about, but she has worked very hard for a decade or more to make it happen, taking the blows, feeling undermined, but always present.

Her kids know that someone who will fight with you will fight for you, and they know that she has fought for them at every turn, even when she is demanding more and better from them.   She fights for their growth and healing, offering high expectations that they can live up to the legacy of an honourable family.

From before the moment that TBB chose to break down the compartment walls, to stop biting the bullet and getting lead poisoning in the process, she always fought hard to be a good parent to her babies.   Her coming to herself, finding a kind of peace and awareness, a maturity past denial, has helped her be there even more fully for those children.

Fighting the poison, though, getting past the toxic effects from the words that small and myopic people used to demonize and dehumanize another person who challenged their binary conventions, casting them out, well, that can still be a challenge.   When she sees others being asked to bite the bullet, others being manipulated with the poison that seeks to control and limit them from real connection with their own heart, those tender places get touched again.

TBB still holds herself proud for her children, still working to be the father she knows that they both need.  Her big, tender, feminine heart is obvious though, to anyone who cares to look, to anyone who sees that her scars are the same shape as any mother who had her children estranged from her.

Maybe the world is changing.  Maybe it’s not quite choosing between the bullet and the poison anymore.   Maybe respect, the golden rule and grace are helping society move past fear and separation to love and connection.  For that to happen, though, people have to let go of the poison that has been spread around them in their lives and not pass it on, creating space for growth and healing.

You know, like TBB does.

Artist Ears

“I think I just might be an artist,” I whispered to my sister as we drove down to Denny’s — the same Denny’s we went to after my parents died — to be with the other odds and ends who were having Christmas dinner there.

“I think you might just be one too,” she told me.   She knows that every time she talks about her art studio and her job at a big retailer, I am always, always, always affirming of her art.

“You cannot be an artist and a concierge at the same time,” I offered.   Serving others and serving your art come from different places.   One is designed to soothe, the other to stimulate, but they both demand that you be paying attention.   I may have done concierge/caretaking as an art form, informed by my training, but it was definitely decorative art, art for hire, art that served the tastes of others, and not personally expressive art.

Mozart In The Jungle (MITS), the new series from Amazon is very much about the intersection of art and commerce as seen in a major New York Symphony Orchestra.

It reminds me that art is always, always, always about conflict, about responding to the multitude of pressures on artists.   Because of the need for an audience, every art form is collaborative in some sense, and while the bigger the collaborations are (and a major symphony has major collaborations in real time) the bigger the conflict, even the smallest and quietest art always comes out of struggle.

Art is about precision.  In MITS, that precision is about sound, about creating it and, of course, about hearing it.   You cannot do one without the other, and the better you get at either skill, the better you get at the other, to the limits of your instrument.

Art demands a sensitivity to something or other, whatever your medium is.  For me, my sensitivity is to strong thought and delicate poetry, identifying connections by modelling systems and honouring emotion by hearing the nuance in poetry,   I “see” the world in a unique way by having dismantled the filters most people use to keep themselves safe, disciplining myself to discriminate more effectively.

Art is, in the end, in the way that you shape yourself as an artist, the places where you peel yourself away to get at the sensitive and get at the childlike, playful creativity, and the places where you layer yourself up, adding layers of technique and nuance to master crafting the new.   This, of course, is the challenge of observer and participant, of beginner and expert, of wild and tamed that is the core conflict of any artist.   How are you both exquisitely raw and sublimely cooked at the same time?

The enemy of art, of course, is the mediocre.   Good enough rarely is, because once you settle too much, you stop growing.  No one can grow in every direction at once, of course, so we have to pick our battles, but without those battles, without engaging in some kind of conflict, we do not develop.   If you cannot kill your darlings, you can never move beyond them.

It is the call to create art that is the heart of my journey.   It is easy to find someone to help you smooth out, set goals, fit in, but finding some who can help you become strong and bold entering the darkness of art, well, that is tough duty.   I may have talked about transgender emergence as art in 1995, but that doesn’t mean that anyone else got the joke, even if the seeds of my struggle are there for all to see.

The legendary Justin Vivian Bond sat for an big interview with Jarret Earnest to talk about their artistic life. It uncovers a rich vein of truth, talking about the hard choices involved in making queer art. V took a much different path than I did, working in performance, shaped by a live audience as I went all dusty and theological, but I love reading about the meta bits of their development, the sources, origins, thoughts and techniques which guided their sublime and queer expression.   It takes us a while to find our own voice.

(As an aside, I particularly resonate like the discussion of the old bat Kiki as a youthful expression, echoing the the lines of a song from the finale Carnegie Hall performance, "we were young and sure to have our way," a song I made them play at an eighth grade dance.  Having your own way is different as you mature, because you understand the context is just not going to change. As you get older, know that when you are driven to your knees, you might not get up again.)

I know that my creative experience, my art, both connects and separates me from other people.   When we talk, I take them though artistic flights, allowing them to see their own life in a new way, but I also ask them to come with me, which is neither easy or comfortable for them.   Their precision and passion, their own creativity and sensitivity, are placed in different areas.

Contrary to general belief,
an artist is never ahead of his time
but most people are far behind theirs.
— Edgard Varese, in NY Herald Tribune

I think that I might be an artist.

Pin Point

I was thinking that it was good I am not one of those theologians who gets into academic discussions about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.    My work is practical, down to earth, an allow of my personal experience and my reading of wider stories which reveal shared truth.

I didn’t stay smug for very long, though.   While I am no angel, I realized that my own story is very much about dancing on the point of a pin, about trying to keep balanced in the liminal space between man and woman.

I never really took the place of a man, not fitting in no matter my biology.   And now, my biology keeps me from easily taking the place of a woman, not simply able to enact a fully feminine role.

It’s just not that simple waling as trans in the world.   Go too far one way or the other and you fall into the pit, but if you don’t go far enough you stay stuck in your own abjection and compartmentalization.     For transpeople,  the key question about t being “full time” is really always a question about how your compartments are currently configured.

I watch Saffron Burrows as Cynthia in “Mozart In The Jungle” and see someone who owns her own womanly power.  In Cynthia’s sleek grace and assurance Ms Burrows shows us a woman who has learned to embody her own knowledge and skills in the world, negotiating Eros through potent and magical spaces, in contrast to the young Hayley, who is just learning her power, is still timid and deferential.  (I am probably more like Debra Monk’s “Betty,” although she also had a life.)

My first question at my first conference was about power shift, how you accompany transgender emergence with changing the way we take power in the world.   My question today is about power shift, how I change the way that I take power in the world.

The exquisite and acute experience of dancing on the point of a pin has left me with a rich legacy of insight into the challenges of lived gender in the world.   Those old theologians discussed the theoretical in obsessive detail, but I examine the practical, based in real life stories, like any good queer.   Instead of dancing on the head of the pin, I dance on the point.

When I look in the mirror, I sometimes see a well put together, smart mature woman who is capable of taking charge of a key role in an organization.  I sometimes see the power that can touch people, opening them to new seeing.   I know that I am, thanks to my creator and my hard work, amazing.

Then, though, I remember that I am dancing on a pin point, precariously balanced and without the ease of gender.    My history is tattered and my future is full of craters, places I just cannot go without being involved in the war to enforce gender conventions.   Whistling a happy tune and acting “as if” really only goes so far, at least in my experience.

The vapor lock in my head feels normal now, but breaking it free is my only chance of chances.

Religion (& Prayer) Without God

“Another part of the answer is that rituals change the way we pay attention as much as — perhaps more than — they express belief.”

“Moreover, these rituals work, if by “work” we mean that they change people’s sense of their lives. It turns out that saying that you are grateful makes you feel grateful. Saying that you are thankful makes you feel thankful. To a world so familiar with the general unreliability of language, that may seem strange. But it is true.”

“Religion is fundamentally a practice that helps people to look at the world as it is and yet to experience it — to some extent, in some way — as it should be.”

T. M. Luhrmann, “Religion Without God,” New York Times, 14 December 2014

The Presents Of Presence

On this Christmas, I wish for you the gift of having someone be present for you, engaged and aware of what you offer, receiving the gifts you give with reverence and gratitude.

Giving may be at the heart of Christmas, but giving without having what you offer valued is a very wearing and hollow experience.

The gift of gracious receiving is one of the greatest gifts we can give anyone.
—   Mister Fred Rogers

Being present for another person is an amazing present to them and to yourself.

If Christmas really is for children, especially the child inside of us, I suppose that we could do much worse than listening to Mr. Rogers.

You know, I think everybody longs to be loved, and longs to know that he or she is lovable. And consequently, the greatest thing we can do is to help somebody know that they are loved and capable of loving.

Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.

When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong with the fearful, the true mixed in with the façade, and of course, the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way.

I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather than what he will be.

It’s really easy to fall into the trap of believing that what we do is more important than what we are. Of course, it’s the opposite that’s true: What we are ultimately determines what we do.
— Mister Fred Rogers

The presents of presence are innumerable.   Life: You must be present to win.

I hope that you get to be present for someone on this holiday, and more than that, that other people are really present for you.

That’s the best present ever.

Praying To You

When you pray, are you speaking so that God will listen to you, or are you speaking so that you can listen to God?

If you believe in an omniscient, all-knowing God, then they already know what is in your mind and in your heart.   They may even know what is best for you on a bigger scale than you can imagine.   Why would God need to hear you tell them what you want?

As humans, most of the time it is we who don’t know what we want.   We know what we think would feel good right now, we know what we believe we should want, we know what attracts us, but usually all those layers just keep us confused rather than making us clear about what we want.

Prayer is an act of expressing what we value most.   Prayer lets us hear that still small voice inside of us more clearly.   Prayer lets us set our priorities in the world.

This means that prayer can be the way that we listen to the voice of God inside of us, formed into language we can share and hold on to.

I don’t know one transperson who didn’t pray to have their body changed so they would find it easier to follow their heart in this binary, heterosexist society.   Those secret prayers weren’t a demand or an expectation, they were the voice of our creation coming from deep inside of us.

We learn prayers as ritual, repeating beliefs and invocations, not so that we can placate God but rather so that we can be clear about what we value, what we hold on to, and what we want to invoke in our own choices.    Those prayers are reminders to us about the way we can shape ourselves to be the best that we can be, releasing the momentary and sensational so we can get back to the foundational and enduring.

Praying to demand that God listen to us is indulgent and selfish.

Praying to remember that we need to listen to God is powerful and transformative.

If the only prayer you say in your life is “Thank You” that would suffice.
— Meister Eckhart (1260-1327)

A prayer of thanksgiving reminds us to be humble, open, grateful and in the moment.   It is the foundation for the miracle of shifted perception, learning to make new choices which respect creation rather than fight it, allowing us to be shaped by greater awareness.

Some churches believe in an direct, interventionist, intercessory God, one who makes every choice in the universe down to every biological change that scientists assign to evolution.   It is this kind of God who punishes, this kind of God that rewards, this kind of God we wail to when we ask “Why me?” this kind of God we pray to when we want a new car or another driver to be smote.

It is this kind of God we identify when we claim every word in the Bible is absolutely true, this kind of God who we use to justify our own behaviour to destroy those who we see as sinners.  It is this kind of God that lets churches assert ultimate power as the only arbiters of the true intention of God.

An intercessory God is the God of preachy preachers, those who focus on separation, on how we are saved and others are sinners, creating enclaves and consolidating power in the pastor.

Believing, on the other hand, that God created a system that contains free will, a universe that operates on principles, leads you to a different point of view.  In this view, your goal isn’t to satisfy a vengeful and capricious God, but rather to find ways that you can be more in harmony, in sync with the divine creation around you.

This is the God of teachy preachers, those who focus on connection, on how we become more clear by removing the blocks and separations that we hold, becoming more open and more in harmony with the world.   In this view, we can’t rail or wail at God, demanding change, rather we have to go within ourselves and change to be more grateful, more receptive and more giving.

Praying to an external God is asking the universe to favour you, to change to meet your will and your expectations.

Praying to an internal God is asking yourself to get more clear, make better choices, invoke what you have and manifest your own possibilities.    God, give me the strength to change what I can change, the serenity to accept what I can not change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

When you pray, are you speaking so that God will listen to you, or are you speaking so that you can listen to God?


No one likes feeling bullied.

Somewhere, deep in our memory, we all have an experience of feeling threatened, attacked, humiliated and hurt by someone who called us names, who took our lunch, someone who made us feel small and broken.

As we get older, that old feeling comes up when the old patterns of bullying are played out again.   We feel the impotence, the rage, the hurt and we want to get even, want to put that damn bully in their place.

It is in this moment we have to make a decision.

Are we so overwhelmed by emotion that we get sucked into the bullies game, feeling the need to get bellicose and bully them back?    Does the old fight flight or freeze reflex kick in, letting our gut make choices for us?

Or do we come to the modern bully from a more considered place, taking a stance that lets us play our own game, execute our own solutions, being the person we want to be rather than the scared, angry child that we were?

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
—  Eleanor Roosevelt

Going down into that reservoir of emotion would be the easy way, but it wouldn’t be the cowboy way.

I saw an Anglican churchman from Africa explaining why his church was so much more restrictive on issues of gender than the wider Anglican communion, especially the US, where the Episcopal church not only ordains women and gay people, but even has a woman as presiding bishop.

He wanted people to know that the culture was different in Africa because, as he said, the church there was in a battle with Islam and native religion, who use the moral openness of the wider Anglican church to say that the church is weak, corrupt, broken.

The argument, in other words, was that the churchmen feel like they are getting bullied, so they have to let the bully set the agenda, have to play the bullies game by showing they are tougher and more bellicose than any other church.   They surrender their own values to show they have a bigger stick.

This bellicose response to bullies is a very guy thing.  Women have never been easily able to play the same game because they just don’t have the stick or the culture for it.   Sadly, this is one reason women politicians often feel the need to be even more bellicose than men, to establish their “big stick” bona fides.

The African churches response to bullying is to man up, to be tougher, often keeping women out of the ministry altogether and always keeping them out of leadership.    This creates a self-perpetuating model, where there are no voices to challenge the bellicose stand, leaving the most bellicose to define the actions of the church.

Women are bullied, of course, fighting power games, feeling hurt and belittled, but their response is different.   Rather than pulling out a stick, they pull out their wit and charm to build networks, build consensus, build teams to gather and share power.   Weak women are the ones who cannot charm others to stand with them.

For transwomen, who not only grew up being bullied as boys, but also, even more than women politicians felt the pressure to prove their “big stick” bona fides, moving beyond a bellicose approach to the world is often very difficult.   We don’t have the training, don’t believe that flowing will work for us, and we have an enormous reservoir of pain, anger and shame, placed in us to try and get us to “man up.”    We have a big, big, big chip on our shoulder.

Bellicose perpetuates bellicose, just as bullying usually perpetuates bullying.  It takes a lot to break the cycle of pain and attack, of raising the stakes, getting more and more nasty.   Even for men, though, being bellicose becomes less and less effective over time, as more young, angry bucks come up to challenge you, so they need to learn to come from a more mature and measured place, finding new ways to have power in the world.

No one likes to feel like they are being bullied, likes to feel powerless and hurt in the world.  Those emotions, like so many others, can be overwhelming.

The fight, flight or freeze reaction doesn’t serve us well, though.  It doesn’t let us play our own considered game, doesn’t play to our strengths, doesn’t leave us feeling empowered and content.  Responding to bellicose with bellicose just lets the bullies win my making us feel small and reactionary.

We have the wit, charm, smarts and kindness to find new ways to take power in the world, power that bullies can attack but that they cannot smash unless we give them our consent.    That takes a new attitude, though, one that isn’t jerked to the sensations of our emotions, one that doesn’t just leave us pulling out our “big stick.”

It takes draining that reservoir of shame and hurt so it doesn’t flood our choices, becoming open minded and open hearted.

Bellicose sometimes wins a battle or two, but it never wins the peace that creates blossoming lives.   If that peace is what we really want, then we have to become new and become kind, not reactionary.

Meeting Moment

I give good meeting.

My meetings are interactive, dynamic, energetic and fun.   My goal is to stimulate thinking, creating shared goals and consensus through a good balance of work and play.

To me, meetings are only useful if they are transformative.  If you don’t feel stimulated to think in a new, creative and connected way, the meeting has just been a briefing.   Briefings are great, of course, a moment to catch people up, to get them up to speed on the current situation, but they are not, at least to me, meetings.

To make a great meeting, there needs to be energy, momentum, flow.   If your mind isn’t caught in the continuing story, isn’t participating in thought, then you are just barely there. If you aren’t surprised or challenged regularly, you may as well not be in the room.

I believe in the divine surprise, that moment when scales drop away and we see things in a fresh, new way.   Being present really counts and if the person who has the floor doesn’t understand that, chasing minds away with boredom, then they waste the most powerful energy you can ever have in the room.

It is the tussle, the back and forth, the vitality that makes a good meeting.   I once told a boss that meetings brought out the best in me and she was a little taken aback because she was used to me being sharp in meetings, but when she thought about it, she understood why that sharpness was exactly what engaged my creativity.

You can’t really have a meeting with just one person because it is very difficult to surprise yourself.   Connections don’t really pop when you have been there before.

I suppose that to me, writing is the closest thing I can have to a one person meeting because the very process of having to clothe your beliefs in symbols, to wrap them in language, allows you to see and understand them in ways you didn’t before.    I write to discover what is inside me, write for revelation and clarity.

I would be a liar, a hypocrite, or a fool – and I’m not any of those – to say that I don’t write for the reader. I do. But for the reader who hears, who really will work at it, going behind what I seem to say. So I write for myself and that reader who will pay the dues.
— Maya Angelou

That commitment to process which lets us be present in the moment, rather than wishing we were someplace else, is at the heart of flow.

Once we start looking for reasons why we are not good enough, why this moment is not good enough, why this world is not good enough we will easily find them.   We live in a world of trade-offs and compromises where perfection is impossible.

If we look for reasons to engage, though, look for divine surprises that we can gain in this moment, delightful challenges that stimulate our thinking and open our eyes, we can usually easily find them, too.    It is finding what we weren’t looking for that makes our lives fresh and compelling, not just seeing what we expect to see.

Mothers, when they are paying attention, are continually surprised by their children.   The surprises may not always be pleasant, but the a life of being open to surprise is a life of being open to delight.

I miss meetings.   I miss the energy that they release, focus and harness.   I miss the life.

Get Away

If I thought I could get away with it, would I?

You know, I probably would.

I would go and be a cougar at the local meat market, I would sashay like a tech entrepreneur,  bang on like a transcendent pastor.

I recently read a post where a transwoman my age was pleased that some guys checked her out at the mall.   I am impressed with her belief system, with her lack of doubt, with her confidence that she is getting away with it.   When someone checks me out in the mall, I find it impossible to assume that they are interested in romancing me.

I have no idea what people think when they see me.   “What an amazon!” has come up in the past, maybe “She has such pretty eyes!”  or even the more conventional “She would be so attractive if she just lost some weight.”   On my best days I can try to imagine “In her prime she must have been a real hottie,”  but on most days “What the fuck is that?” is all the imaginary monologue that I can muster.

My life is not camera ready, which seems to be the goal of those who offer makeup videos on YouTube, showing you how to spend an hour getting ready not for life but for some internal stardom.

It’s amazing how much of life is about political identities.   Rather than being about effectiveness, competence and feelings, it is about shoulda, woulda, coulda, the enforcement of clear boundaries that we hope keep us anchored and walled in.   Are we straight or gay, spiritual or commercial, professional or compassionate?   Those are all false binaries of course, but we love to hang onto them.

It is those political boundaries people hold which convince me that I can’t.    I may know how to be very good at what they need, but what I don’t know how to be is politically correct in what they expect.    That’s the part I can’t get away with, the single mindedness, the separations, the political ease.    They will see I am more than what I am asserting in the moment and get freaked.

Even transgender is a political identity for many who hold onto beliefs about how transpeople should be, act and think.   I know that these people usually find me politically incorrect when I show my own independent, individual thoughts, claiming my own queerness rather than assimilating into the group think.

Revelation comes easy to me.   Concealment, though, comes very hard, and concealment is what helps you get through the political filters people put up.

Bob Hope trained his first woman partner to do the Dumb Dora role in vaudeville routines, the kind of role that Gracie Allen played so well.    He was clear that she was a smart cookie, but on stage she could hide her intelligence, play to stereotypes and pull off a kind of wicked innocence.   With his help, she could get away with it, so she did, and she got laughs, applause and a paycheck.

If I thought I could get away with it, I probably would.

It’s that kind of support and assurance that I was looking for in a performance coach, someone who could help me both shape and trust my performance enough to believe that I am able to get away with it.

I know how to package up just what you want to show people and hide the rest.   I know that is the key to effective marketing, a kind of wholesale oversimplification.  I just also know that I can’t get away with those tricks, know that my integrity and sharpness are not something I am really willing to hide.

Conceptually, I know that most people aren’t quite as sharp as I am, didn’t have to learn to be as an acute observer as I did, that they take things at face value rather than examining the meta, but it is hard for me to really understand that viewpoint.

Who would you be if you didn’t have to carry the baggage you have now?   Or maybe, more to the point, what would you do if you thought that you were attractive and compelling enough to get away with it?

Dreaming In Darkness

We are back again to solstice, to the longest night of the year, at least in the part of the Earth where I am.

Waiting through the darkness for the birth of the light has been a big deal to people for thousands of years.     Humans have gathered together, made special foods, and celebrated the connections that got us through the darkness.

Part of that celebration, always, was dramatic.   We sang, played instruments, read poems, told stories, put on plays, created tableaux, dressed to the nines and generally offered up ritual performances that symbolically offered what we believed and what we knew about how we connect with the world around us.

In the darkest time, we always go inside of ourselves to turn to something outside ourselves for strength and affirmation that others have faced darkness and found light, knowing that if they have, then we can too.

Our magical creativity is a way that we have always gotten closer to the divine and magical.    We invoke a world not as it is but as we dream it would be if spirit and connection overcame the routine and selfish.   We celebrate majesty and miracles, those moments when our vision changes and we see with newly opened eyes.  We dream out loud.

When we share our creativity, we share our dreams, those visions that come from deep inside of us, from that place where our knowledge touches our imagination.  To create a new possibility we first have to see a new possibility, then share it, embodying it and making it manifest in the world.   We see miracles which allows us to believe that miracles, changes beyond expectation, can happen.

For queer people, of course, this creativity has always been the way we unlocked our own magic in the world.   When fairies and sprites are part of the season, our opportunities open up to open hearts and minds.    By playing out dreams and rituals, we break out of our habits and conventions and discover parts of us long buried in darkness under dreary and sunny expectations.

As we spend the long, dark night together, turning inward and depending on each other for care and invigoration, we share our dreams, threading together all that we have experienced or taken in and all that we created in our own imagination.

May you have someone to share your dreams with in the darkness, taking care of your basic needs and holding open space for the creative performances and rituals which allow the magic in our hearts to come and dance at this special time.

Blessings to you, not just for health and prosperity, but also for imagination beyond expectation, for possibilities laced with magic.   Art holds the key to unlock what you learned to bury deep so you could fit in, to unlock the real bliss that has always been in your heart.

In this darkest time, be a creative artist, manifesting your own dreams, and be an engaged audience, gratefully receiving and engaging the dreams of others, sharing them together in a way that affirms the magic that is with us every day but shines brightest when the world around us is dark.

In the darkness, go dream out loud.  Your dreams are the gift your creation gives to the world.

Continue reading Dreaming In Darkness


The Space Shuttle was both designed to be reusable and only to return from low earth orbit so, as TBB (Yes, she is a rocket scientist) can tell you, NASA chose a ceramic tile system as a heat shield to shed the energy from the friction of entry into the atmosphere.

The new Orion crew capsule is designed for higher orbits and deep space, returning at much higher speeds and therefore much higher temperatures than the Shuttle.  In addition, Orion is not reusable, so the heat shield only needs to work once and can be lower cost.

It must work or the heat caused by atmospheric resistance will destroy the structural integrity of the vehicle, as happened as  on Columbia when the shield was damaged by debris.

NASA has gone back to the Apollo style heat shield, made of a honeycomb structure filled with resin that burns away in layers to take heat away from the vehicle, keeping the inhabitants and cargo safe.

This destructive process is called ablation.  It is designed to burn off energy that is turned into heat on deceleration.

The spacecraft is going as fast as it needs to go to do what it needs to do in space, but that speed is just too high for earth’s atmosphere, at least with the materials we have today.  The heat limits of materials is one of the key reasons we won’t be seeing hypersonic flight anytime soon.

My brain, I have found, tends to run fast and to run hot.

This blog reveals that I have a relentless, fierce, and driven creativity, grounded in both deep thought and passionate emotion, enough to offer new day after day after day after day.   It also reveals an odd capacity to keep standing up even when battered and lonely, a kind of toughness that keeps my spine intact even as my organs start to fail.    I am what I am, as TBB as affirmed.

This intensity means that when I attempt to enter conventional human space, I have to struggle to slow down, to match my energy to the group.

I was never very good at that process.   Small talk escaped me. What I offered instead often overloaded other people’s circuits and blew out their fuses.

There is always a cost in to me in shedding energy, burning off my essence in appropriately directed heat in order to try and sync up with others who have no interest or capability to match my speed.

This is one reason I often resist relationships, not because of the work involved but rather because of the cost of the waiting involved, the requirement to trip myself up, modulate myself down, attenuate my energy to keep pace with the group.    There is always a cost in heat and waste to burn off that energy.

There is only so much ablation one person can stand.   You lose too much momentum, the shields get too thin and pretty soon you have the structural damage which allows that destruction to reach into vital places.

I have already lost so much energy that losing more feels impossible.   Instead of replenishing my protection, I continue to burn it away, to ablate it, layer by layer.

The thought of having to start over with a new team, to patiently offer myself in tiny spoonfuls, waiting between drops to let them heal, catch up, or just do what they need to do, seems like an interminable and ultimately futile game.   Do I search for medications that offer some anæsthesia, or do I just miss the point, staying away from the price?

I have spent a lifetime burning away energy, possibility and heat in order to stay connected to the other people around me.    That may not have been the optimum way to use that energy, but it made sense at the time, in a challenged family and a world full of stigma.  Now, my shields are ablated, scorched, parched and thin.

Going slow to make connections just doesn’t feel like good or possible advice right at the moment.   Ablation has just gone too far.

Good Day

My goal when taking care of my parents for the last decade of their lives was to give them one more good day.   That meant many things, but mostly it was about keeping them safe, cared for and engaged, their lives full of interaction and stimulation.

It is hard for me to remember the last time I had a good day.

Sure, there are moments, like finding the weird red wieners marked down to .99 for a pound, and the satisfaction I get from writing well, but the days aren’t really good no matter how hard I struggle to find delight.

An old joke:

A woman is travelling on a plane that flies into a thunderstorm.   They are being violently bounced around, the emergency lights are on, and people are terrified.

“No!  I can’t die!” she wails.   “I can’t die before a man has made me feel like a real woman!”

Her screams cut through the plane and a man stands up in front of her.   He is beautiful, all tanned and rippling muscles, ripped right from the cover of a romance novel.

As he struggles down the aisle, holding on for dear life, he removes his shirt, his broad chest and olive skin glowing in the darkened plane.

The intensity in his eyes once he gets to her seat cuts right through her.   Her heart beats faster and she knows as he reached out to her, she will finally feel like a real, full and complete woman.

With baited breath she looked up at him.   In his extended hand is his crumpled shirt.

“Here,” he says to her in a deep voice.  “Here.  Wash my shirt.”

Crossdressers and Sissies who think that being a woman is about what you wear or about being humped miss the point that women live with every day.  Being a woman is much more about who you take care of.

One of the hardest things after my parents died was simply grocery shopping.  I saw things that they would enjoy, but there was no reason and no money to buy them.  That feeling comes back a bit at the holidays.   In 2011 I got my mother out of hospital on Christmas Eve after two weeks, and in 2012, they both had died within the last 8 weeks.   Christmas 2013 is just a blank to me.

In my life, I may never have been seen as a woman in romance, never been seen as a woman in fashion, but I was very clear that I saw myself as a woman when taking care of my family.

Do I wish that I had been able to make a family of my own rather than being a spinster?   Sure, but two of my mother’s best friends were spinsters, one still soldiering on, so I knew I wasn’t the only spinster in the world.

Like many chicks, I like a Christmas flick, especially one that includes a big dollop of magic that opens hearts and makes connections in the darkest of days.   I am, it should surprise no one, in favour of rituals and stories which remind us of possibilities outside of the mundane and everyday.

Actually having moments which take me out of the mundane, everyday and wearing, though, having good days, seems to come hard nowadays.

Women want good partners, want someone to stand beside them and make the magic better, whatever that means.  It may mean telling you when your skirt is caught in your tights, may mean helping to sell the joke, or may mean being there to help you get through the emotions in a tough moment.  That camaraderie and connection really counts in having a good day, whoever it comes from.

I knew how to partner my parents, how to keep them safe and sunny side up, whatever that meant.   Often that meant engaging them, arguing with them, keeping them energized and aware.    That partnering helped may the day good for them.

It was the gift I gave them, day after day, messy and silly.   They learned to trust me as a partner, trust that I would help them have another good day.

I know how to be a good partner, know how to help make the magic better.

That means, of course, I also know what I am missing.

Worthy Resonance

My voice is unimportant.

I am unimportant.

While it is good that I speak up, say my piece, asking for people to listen to me, to engage me, is a futile demand.   Shouting louder at them doesn’t make anyone understand more.

My voice can only be heard when it resonates with something bigger than I am.   If other people don’t feel the power that I invoke, the connections that I make, then they can’t engage what I share.

I know that my voice is not simple, not easy, not conventional.    That makes it less than accessible for many.

When you find it difficult to make yourself heard, you have a few choices.    One is to constrain your voice, to work hard to only say that which others can engage.   One is to let go of the expectation of an audience and just say what you need to say, what you feel called to say with the sense that those who need to hear it will.

Living in an anechoic space, without the power of editors who can bridge the gap between work and audience, helping to shape expression so that more resonates, so that it seems less like noise, is a tough space for me.  ‘

People heal and grow in their own way and their own time.   You cannot make them what they are not, cannot change or transform them to your will or your needs.

Sure, if one is highly focused, young, enthusiastic, exuberant and resilient,  one can just start the missionary process of saying the same thing over and over again to break their message to a wider audience.    Once you get a beachhead, make people accustomed to your voice, you may be able to build your brand, expanding your message with more detail, nuance and breadth.

That is not me, though.   It doesn’t describe the resources I have left to muster.  It doesn’t describe the content I have to share.

Looking for a contact point, an opening, a handle which lets me create a connection between what I have to share and what others are ready to engage, between my voice and their accessibility, has been a constant struggle for me.   One on one I can focus what I offer to their needs, but once they get a glimpse of my wider vision, they tend to shrink back, focusing on their own priorities and needs, and who can blame them for that?

Being out of synchronization with society, having the right content at the wrong time, is a very common challenge for visionaries.   You become a tiny part of the swell for change and understanding, but not the face of it.   If you are lucky, you become a footnote, if not, you are just one of the billions of humans who passed this way unremembered.   That is not at all a bad or unreasonable fate.

I do believe that there are many people whose life has been affected by what I have shared.   I will never know the impact of my voice, as it offers just one more small pebble that makes a tiny change in the flow of the life of another, directing them somewhere new.  It is unreasonable to think that I should have awareness or rewards for the power of my presence, just as those who helped shape me just gave of themselves without expectation or demand.

The world is not about me, is not about my voice.   I am just a tiny part of the world, one spark, one photon, one iota of a much bigger universe.

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.
― Mahatma Gandhi

I say my piece and get more and more chilled, but such is life.

You know?

Praying For Coal

I really hope that I get some coal in my stocking this year.

What I need in my life is more warmth for my soul.  Without that, it’s difficult to have any hot desires for something new and sparkly.

Learning to be of service, to let go of habits of control and immediate gratification, are good and powerful practises.

Doing that, though, erodes any façade, removes any mask, cuts away any pretense.   You learn to focus on the deep stuff, not on the expectations, the assumed entitlement, the privilege.

From a very early age I learned to negotiate without conventional social contact, learned to take care of my parents rather than have them take care of me.  I was never an extrovert, never one of the gang.  That pattern did nothing but continue.

Do you tell people that you are different right away, letting those who can’t or won’t handle it drop away fast, or do you pretend to be smaller than you are so they aren’t scared off and can get to know you over time, then only dropping away later?

After you have done the loss work, the second option falls away too.   It’s impossible to just play dumb and sweet, if it ever was.

“I’ve known you for over 20 years,” TBB said to me today.  “I know that you are who you are.”   That meant a great deal to me.

I try and search for warmth, but get minimal results.  For example,  I went to a holiday screening party tonight but there was no party, so I just ended up leaving.  The $5 went to better use on clearance groceries.   It reminds me why I stopped pushing myself out there,  not paying the price to just find more chill.

I am cholled to the bone, like one of those children whose heartbeat and respiration slow to a crawl after falling into an icy lake.   The hypothermia sets into my joints, freezing the motion out of them and putting my emotional well being into slow motion.  I know that I have always lived a chilled life, away from the warmth of emotional connection, subsisting on cold reason and wit, but now, without people who know me and will fight with me, the frigid feels unstoppable.

We get what we give.   I know that I have never had the emotional chops to attract emotional people, know that my analytical thought feels to them like a cold wind which steals their life force.   Learning how to share hot and cold is something that usually only happens in cartoon fantasies, not in real life.

I may hope for coal in my stocking, but I am aware that the odds are it will be empty again.  Trust me, being forgotten by Santa is always worse than being given the permission to be naughty.

It doesn’t look like things are going to get any warmer around here, nor do I have any tricks left that I haven’t tried to warm things up.  My defence was learning to be chill, but too chill is just frostbitten.

May you have some warmth wherever you are in this dark season.   It is something to be grateful for.

Substance Over Style

“I don’t like your style, so I’m not going to listen to what you have to say.”

Finding reason to dismiss what someone else has to say is, to me at least, an arrogant choice based in bogus entitlement.

Deciding that someone else has no standing to speak, has nothing valuable to offer, just because something they express rubs you the wrong way, is a dismissive defence of your own weak ideas.

What most people are saying when they reject the offerings of others based on style is that something is pushing their emotional buttons, making them uncomfortable.   They sense risk and find it easier to just dismiss the other person rather than risk engaging them.

5 ) The most painful thing about trans is not being able to give your gifts and have them accepted.

I know that if I want people to engage past their own discomfort, I have to be willing to engage what they have to say past my own discomfort.   I need to be able to unwire my own emotional buttons, get past my first negative response, and really work to hear what their message is, both what they say and the meaning behind what they say.

There are so many reasons that other people might offer what they have in a less than pleasant or elegant way.   They may be in pain, may expect rejection, may not have worked through their own emotions, may have different cultural traditions or have a million other reasons that their message isn’t packed in a way I consider nice.   Does that make their content any less human, less real, or less potent?   No, it does not.

To ask someone to establish their standing to speak before engaging what they offer is to try and maintain the status quo, to try and place convention over revelation.

To ask someone to establish their standing to speak before engaging what they offer is to try and place your comfort and ease above the attempt to build a bridge, make a connection, or create a shared view.

People are communicating all the time.   That doesn’t mean that they are always aware of what they are sharing, doesn’t mean that they want to be disclosing what they are.   Often when they reject things they reveal where they are defended, which reveals where they are unhealed and still hold pain.  They just don’t want to go there, so instead they work to silence others who challenge the worldview they want.

For me, engaging the substance of what people offer even when the style is off-putting is key to finding connection and to engaging where I need to be healing.

But yeah, it is hard.

There’s A Study On That…

People who often felt lonely were much more likely to have had recent severe depression and also to have the milder form of depressive symptoms.
. . .
When looking at mild depression, we found that almost all of the other social relationship characteristics were predictive. That is, having someone to help around the house, having more contact with other people and having someone to talk to about problems were all linked to fewer depressive symptoms.
— Stephen Barger. Academic Minute