On The Gifts Of Transgender

Some correspondence:

I hear that you are looking for anecdotes and examples of the gifts that come with a trans nature.

Here is a piece I wrote in 1994, which I wrote because I needed to hear someone say it out loud:


Here is a piece from 2006:


For me, the benefits of a trans heart are in being connective tissue in the human community, the flexible bits who, as my mission statement goes “remind us of our continuous common humanity.”

It was an anthropologist who said that out loud, and it is the role of the shaman in many human cultures that informs my view of how transpeople have always offered benefits to the tribe.

Loved hearing this paper presented: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/nlmcatalog/100915830  Here is me talking about it in 1998: http://callan.transpractice.com/trans-theory/1998-05/0093.html

I hope you find what you are looking for. The speaking of trans power to a society not ready to hear it is a real challenge, but I have always found it worth the effort.

playing devil's advocate for a moment....do we bring anything unique to society....anything that say gays, lesbians or conscientious objectors do not bring? They all bring challenges too to the status quo...ok, our challenge is around the binary nature of gender....but other than that, what do we have to say that is unique?

The question for me is “Who are we?” What is our essential grouping?While I understand that gay people would like to see transgender as a kind of sexual orientation, that misses the point.

Same gender love is rather a kind of gender difference.

In the classic binary gender model, men love women and women love men so anything different than that is breaking gender rules.

In the gay and lesbian community this has lead to a great deal of gender policing, enforcing norms, so that they can stay gay and still be identified as men or women. They do not want any sense of gender variance to deny them gender normativity, so they sell themselves as the same as any other couple on the block, normative as hell, the only difference being that they like a bit of sodomy on Saturday night.

Of course, many transpeople also strive to identify as normative, be they heterosexual crossdressers who just dress for fun or transsexual women who were always women and just had a little birth defect fixed up.

I wrote about this in 1999: http://callan.transpractice.com/text/GIAD.html

For me, the unique gift of transgender is embodied in the gift of queer, of claiming individuality across conventional borders. Transpeople who choose to reject that gift reject any special gift that they bring to the world, instead trying to be just one of the crowd.

The unique gift is in embodying queerness, that kind of connection and transcendence of the conventional.

At least that’s all I have been able to find.

If we had a good friend who was the father of a 17 year old boy who had decided to become a girl, what would you say to him that would help ease his pain/disappointment etc. I doubt if we would talk about the Trandgedered GIft (if such a thing exists).....I think he would be hard pushed to see it as anything more than a curse.

f you see no benefit, you see no benefit. Does that mean that there isn’t one, or does it reflect more on the conventional viewpoint which you hold?

To me, the power of queer is not just about gender but about empowerment past many conventions. It is claiming power on a spiritual level.

If you don’t see that power as valuable, or you see the cost of walking away from conventional success to so high as to be not worth the effort, then you won’t see any benefit.

Your hypothetical question contains many such internal assumptions that work to sabotage any positive answer.

First, you talk about “a boy who has decided to become a girl.” Why not ask about a male child who knows their nature to be feminine and feels a compelling need to express that nature in the world by making the choices of a woman?

What is a boy? Is it a male child, or someone who inhabits the gender role of a young man?

Does he decide to “be a girl” or do they decide to act from a deep inner knowledge rather than to fight that nature and continue to try and portray the compulsory gender role assigned to their genitalia as “young man?”

How many parents are heartbroken when a child doesn’t follow the path that the parents expect? What if the child decided not to be a plumber as Dad wanted, or not to play sports like Dad, or even decided to follow their heart and date other men rather than the women their parents see as the only “Biblical” choice?

To assess the child’s decision to break out of gendered expectations only in the light of a parent’s fear, disappointment and heartbreak that the child didn’t follow comfortable, normative expectations is to ignore the real person who has to live with the imposed gender expectations: the child.

When the child decides to claim their own heart and express themselves in the gender that is not conventional for their reproductive sex, I can only see them as working to empower themselves, using their energy to become present in the world, rather than burning energy in trying to create a socially expected facade to hide behind. I hope that they can explore their own love and presence in the world rather than having to hide in the closet, possibly coming out years later, destroying a marriage and family, causing themselves psychological harm, and losing the energy and exuberance of youth.

I have worked with many families in PFLAG to help them let go of their fears and expectations around their children, trying to reveal the wisdom that kids will always break your heart and shatter your dreams for them, but that when you support their own deep dreams for themselves, they can reward you with unimagined delights.

And yes, I have been in a PFLAG meeting where the moderator announced that it could be worse, her gay son could be trans, and other women in the room, knowing who I am, waited for the revelation.

There have been cultures where two-spirit people were seen as a connection between this world and the spirit world, where we were valued in bringing gifts to the tribe. That doesn’t happen in heterosexist cultures, though, especially paternalistic ones that devalue the feminine.

The gift of a lifetime is becoming who you are, as Joseph Campbell said. To have to lock that self away always has a cost, even if that cost is invisible to a society that can’t imagine anything other than male/man-female/woman split, or that gift is invisible to someone who has been fighting to stay fixed in their assigned gender role for a long, long time.

If getting the gifts of transgender will shake your worldview and force you to question the denial and choices you have made for a lifetime, then no, those gifts may well stay invisible to you. The conventional must be venerated,

For me, the curse is people trapped in using their life force to hide rather than blossom.

But that’s just me.

Some cultures may value the tooth fairy; does that make them holy?

Much of your writing can be ignored as simply playing with semantics. 

You have not enumerated any gifts that are trans specific.

Your basic point is true.

Trans is just another form of human expression, one that has been seen across cultures and history, and as such is not completely different from any other form of human expression.

“Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto” as Terence said. I am human, and nothing human is foreign to me. There is only one human nature and we all share it.

As to benefits to tribes of gynemimetic shamans, I refer you to the Dragoin article I offered in my first note. He is very specific.

I find line by line retorts less than effective at creating discussion. Any father who rejects the expression of their child as just meaning what the father thinks it means, dismissing difference as semantic, is not open to real engagement.

You are correct. Trans is just another way humans are and always have been, and as such, there is nothing distinct and unique that only trans can bring to the human community.

Is your point proven now?