Smashed Concrete

Oh, my love
I am here with you
seeing your heart

I am here to release your feet
from the concrete of literalness
suffering as they slog
to move even an inch forward
in the mire of mindlessness
fluttering against the vacuum
of the clueless

How do you fly
while cemented to the ground
of those who can not respond
to the tinkling lilt of beauty and brilliance?

The bulk of your body
is assigned to pull down
the lightness of your heart
as it dances through ideas and feelings
as delicate and delightful
as the sparkling stars

your feet are buried even as
your spirit struggles to soar
lifting you up
until the weight placed on your base
strains and smashes
pulling you down to dull earth
in a thumping smash

Still you try
day after day
your heart so needing to soar
where beauty and evanescence
claims freedom and grace
the shimmering motion
telling all
revelation of incandescence

Crash you go
Crash you break
Crash you deflate
pulled back to the base
by the weight they placed
to fix you down
into their own banality

Shattered you lie
flitting inside yourself
such driven beauty
straining to claim a place
in an open and fresh sky

Respect the fixing
duty and demands
struggle to comply
with leaden anchors

Oh, my love
I am here with you, seeing your heart
here to release your feet
from the concrete of literalness
reflecting and affirming
the fancy of your flights

Sever your ballast
cease the trudging
leading nowhere
assured that lightness & beauty
has always been
your gift from me

Serene Surrender, Courageous Battle

Arizona Abby always used to be upset with the way I quoted the serenity prayer.   Her version was classic.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I start with power to change what I can, serenity to accept and then wisdom.

Reinhold Niebuhr was a nice theologian who wrote a nice prayer.  As a somewhat queerer entity, I’m going to suggest a slightly different incantation.

God, help me surrender to what I cannot change,
help me battle to change what I can
and keep me clear enough to know the difference.

The real challenge in the prayer isn’t having serenity, having courage or strength, rather it is being willing to surrender and being willing to fight.

We each heal in our own time and in our own way.   In that process, the surrender demanded and the battle required is not with some outside force, some external challenge, rather we have to learn how to embrace our nature and how to fight our own fears and pain.

The serenity prayer guides us in that biggest of battles any human ever faces, the battle only they can fight, the grace only they can give, the battle that rages inside.

The struggle with the dragon inside of us, the monster fed with old horrors, broken expectations, unhealed wounds and mounds of hopeful rationalizations, the ego that resists the discomfort required to get over our own damnselves and get clear, is the struggle everyone wishes that they could delegate to another.

We want our mommy to protect us, want her to banish the foes and challenges, want her to do the grown up stuff that we know comes hard to us and that we cannot accept came also very hard to her.   We squeal and whine, wanting the world to change around us, the rules shifting to eliminate a struggle that is easy to call unfair.

Like any struggle, winning that struggle inside requires focus and discipline, keeping our eye on long term benefits over the ease of short term comfort.   It demands that we not get distracted by our own impulses, that we do the hard shit work that clears the way for future benefits.

We need to pick our battles, serenely surrendering those that take us away from the centre and committing our strength and courage to those which can make a real difference in our choices, our life and our happiness.   Keeping goodness in mind, we must defeat the ego and indulgent inside of us, the part who craves the lackadaisical life of a slacker.

It may be easy to always feel the need of another mommy, someone who we want to believe can save us from the hard work of owning our own life, but in the end, no one can do the work to reshape your choices by reshaping your priorities and the way that you see the world.

Healers help not by doing the healing, but only by setting the ground so those needing healing have the courage and serenity, the strength and the surrender, to enter their own inner battles.

Fighting your mommy in an effort to have her change the rules, trying to impose the way you wish the world was over the way that it really is, will never achieve any purpose.   Woe has always been part of the human condition and always will be, though the “woe is me” impulse that hastens self pity will always be a dead end when compared to woe for the people around us who need our strength, our gifts and our help.

Nobody has the energy, focus, time and need to change everything.   You cannot win them all, so you have to choose where you put your limited and precious efforts.

Not struggling with what is important, though, for you and for the people you love and are allied with, is to avoid the work that changes human lives — changes your life — for the better.

The call to surrender, the call to battle and the requirement for smarts to know which is required in any given circumstance is a challenge, but in many ways it is the defining challenge of a human life.  If we do not engage this call, we just carry on old habits, allowing our own unhealed and needy places to drive our choices and to define our life.

The gift of a lifetime is becoming who you are.  That gift is gained by letting go of who you are not and working to strengthen who you are, surrendering to the essential and battling with the ephemeral.

No matter how much you want someone else to fight that battle, or even to give you permission to not have to fight it, the fight within you for better, for clearer, for more righteous, for more enlightened is a fight that only you can make.

Trying to shift that responsibility only puts heavy demands on others around you while not changing your own responsibility to manage your own fears, pain and impulses.  You have to be able to talk yourself off the ledge by focusing on what is important over what is uncomfortable.

Call it strength or courage, serenity or surrender, wisdom or enlightenment, the battle for your own soul is at the heart of the human struggle.  Only you can have the grace, focus and discipline to change your vision, your choices, and the essential happiness and effectiveness of your own life.

The Me Conundrum

At a certain point, you have to acknowledge that some of the things you fantasized about doing are just never going to happen for you in this lifetime.

You are who you are, and while you still have room to grow, going backwards, erasing the past and becoming shiny and new just isn’t going to happen for you.

It’s easy to look at points in our lives where we wish that a different choice had been available to us, where we imagine that somehow, we could have become a different person.   We made the best choice we could at the time, though, even if that choice came out of fear, hurt or broken emotion, and that particular choice can never be made again.

The best we can do is to encourage young people to make better choices than we did, more considered and considerate, and to make better choices now and in the future.

Our history doesn’t limit or define us, but it does reveal us.   Like the figure captured in the stone, we are exposed by the choices we have made up until now, the choices that shaped us.    We have created habits that suit our character in some way, found behaviours that fit at least some part of who we know ourselves to be.

Being who you are is just being who you are, the you revealed through all your explorations of self, through your own exposure.

Being effective, powerful and connected as who you are in the world takes another set of skills.   Being in relationship demands that you take a role, one that meets the needs of other people, one that is appealing and concise, one that fits into the worldview of those around us.

If you really did have it all, where would you put it?   And when the challenge is putting it in the understanding of people around you, how do you convey more than they can fit into their comprehension?

Transpeople want to claim their own truth, their own reality, their own honesty.  I am who I am, as the old Jerry Herman refrain demanded.

What we really mean, most often, is that I am who I claim to be in this moment.  I am my current manifestation of self, the role I perform at this moment.   That is what I want to enter the awareness and understanding of those around me, the impression of myself that I claim as real and true.

Are we who we claim to be or are we who we are revealed to be?

Or are we really who others perceive us to be?

Are we defined not by our assertions or by our history, but rather by the role we play in society, by the many and varied roles we play?

Certainly in the experience of those around us, we are who they see us as being, not who we wish to be or even a summary of who we were in the past.  Certainly those pieces help shape how others see us, but they are not absolute truth that constrains the view of others.

It is our choices that make the most impact on others.   Our choices are the way we express who we are, shaped by our history, our training, our desires and our fears.   What we choose to hide and what we choose to show, all revealed by choices we make mostly out of habit, mix with the understanding of those around us to define who we are in relationship, who we are in the world.

The assertion of authenticity — “This is the real me, because I am ______!” — ends up being only one facet of how others see us in the world, and far from the most important facet.

The most important bit of how they see us is the model of the world, the belief system that they carry in their head.   Who can they imagine us being?   Can they get past the assumptions and stereotypes they hold about people like us — our sex, our age, our weight, our beauty, our class, and everything else — or do they end up pinning us into the pigeonholes that they already hold?

People are used to needing a simple worldview, a simple set of classifications and categories.   They like the boundaries and barriers, the walls that keep challengig things separate inside their own head.

No matter how much we know who we are — and that knowledge is often shaped by who we want to be, by the limits of our own exploration and experience — it is often easier and more effective to be who others need us to be, who they expect us to be.   The complexity and subtleties of who we really are just creates noise that makes us less effective in the world.

We produce ourselves to simplify our message in the intention of making our choices more potent and compelling in the world.  We understand the role we are cast in so we endeavour to play that role, whatever the cost.

Revelation becomes clutter and the choice becomes, as it so often does, what parts of you need to be erased in order to fit into the expectations and assumptions of those around us.   We police our own expression, denying our own vulnerable heart because we know that few people can be trusted to get the message, be trusted to tend tenderly to our most potent revelation.

The skills to play a clean and understandable role in relationship are valued in this culture.   The role I was cast in, as a guru, visionary and healer, dates from very early days for me, even before I was in my teens.   I know how to play that role and people love me for it, being a big rock of a coach, safe space to let it all out and get a different, more clear understanding of the situation and the possibilities.

Those skills, though, don’t erase what has been revealed to me over time.   For example, I know that my defensive skills in my family were emotional understanding and manipulation, which are not really guy skills.  My feminine self came out early, though not stereotypically, not being slight and seductive.

My guru role is powerfully androgynous, beyond the expectations of standardized desire.  I know that I could and can clothe myself across gender boundaries and still be seen as a guru, like so many spiritual figures robed in dress and adornment.

But trying to find space in the world, inside of the understanding that others carry of the world, to show my deep and beautiful femininity, well, that is outside of the roles others carry in their head.

We are who we are revealed to be, yes, but only inside.

In the world, we are who others can see us as being, between our choices and their comforting assumptions.

And “me” is stuck somewhere between.

Battered and Tattered

You have taken so many hits, I told TBB the other day, and have gotten up again after them to continue the good fight.   She just keeps trying to do the work and that work has served her well, especially with her family.   Even after incredible attempts of others to drive a wedge between her and her children, she is close with them.  She struggled through failures and found her own success and happiness, maybe not seen in depth, but with coworkers, friends and projects that amuse and delight her.

“You fight and get up too,” TBB told me.  “It’s one of the things I admire about you.  The big difference is that when I get knocked down, I go and pick a different fight, but you kept fighting the same battle, for your family and for your beliefs.  I don’t know how you survived getting back up and doing it again.  It would have shattered me.”

There were decades of those fights, capped off by two and a half years of compliance, understanding that fighting was not only beyond my means but it would also shatter the very thin lifeline that was left to me.

I understand the need to fight in the world.   One has to stand up for oneself, taking the hits and creating the space for growth.

I am so battered and tattered, though, that the fight has gone out of me.  I am expired.

I watch other transwomen fight in the world and their fights seem so brutal to me, trying to force themselves into a context that feels like they are twisted into a pretzel behind their armour. The ultimate trans surgery is to pull the broomstick out of your own ass, but after enough years, that broomstick becomes embedded, defining your choices forever.

Fitting into the conventional models of trans didn’t  work for me fifteen years ago, and it seems beyond impossible now, even as trans gets trendy.

The world is full of bullies trying to assert themselves in the world.  Instead of letting people merge into the slower lane, they aggressively blow their horn and zoom by, asserting their own entitled privilege over rules and courtesy.   To live in the world you need to be able to face these people, either letting their rude arrogance wash over you because you know it is about them, or boldly claiming your own place in the face of their assaults.

Neither of these choices feel available to me anymore.  I struggle just to take care of other people, using up what limited willpower I have on their demands and getting very little back in return as they turn up their nose at what I offer, needing to reject it, needing me to fight with and for them.

I have no belief in what I am fighting for anymore.  I know how to scrape at small successes and work to make them larger, but even small successes escape me now.  My voice seems to repel and alienate people, my efforts seem to go sour.   All the air in the world seems to be sucked up by others, leaving my breath shallow and ragged.

What are the dreams and possibilities worth me fighting for?   Where are the wins, the delights that make the fight reasonable, that nourish, replenish and motivate?  What the hell is worth getting bombed and bruised, battered and tattered for again?

I know what people want of me.  They want what they have always wanted, me to stand up and be of service to them and to other people.  They can each imagine ways that I can offer the same kind of insight and encouragement to the wider world that they found valuable.   They want me to be there in the world to make their life easier, breaking ground and thought for them to follow behind.

Seeing my strength, they want more strength from me, more fight.   All I need is the willpower, the gumption, the dedication.

Have you ever been to an introvert’s funeral?  No, I didn’t think so.   They tend to be very, very quiet affairs, unmarred by an enormous gaggle of mourners remembering what a social, active and engaging person the deceased was.

I know my job as a coach.  I encourage people to fight for craft, precision and vision, to claim better in the world no matter how much they would rather claim easy and likeable, comfortable and habitual.  They need me to fight with them and they hate the fact I fight with them, knowing that engaging challenge is the only way to grow and heal, but resisting every moment.

When people act out, I know that their choices say much more about them than about me, but I also know that I am the one their own angst is projected upon, the one who ends up battered and tattered.   I don’t get the luxury of kicking back, my own clarity and their fear denying me the luxury of lashing into emotion.

My history as a caretaker starts very very young in a way that few can really engage as they never faced two Aspergers parents.  I had only shattered mirrors to find myself in, especially as a transkid and transadult in a time where trans and sickness were synonymous.   I was smart, a born shaman with x-ray vision who had to learn how to let go of manipulation and open to her own heart.  Tough stuff.

I fought and I fought and I fought.  And now, beaten out and chilled to the bone, feeling lonely,  deserted of affirmation and dreams, getting up one more time feels beyond me.  My body is battered and tattered from neglect, yes, but more from the costs of taking the blows of trauma, keeping the score of getting up again and again and again, only to be knocked down hard.

I don’t need someone to explain the world to me, giving me techniques and strategies, don’t need skittish helpers who fear my energy and possibility, trying to teach me how to fit in better.  That work I did, and while I know how much I stand out, I also know that fitting into the expectations and contexts of others is beyond me.

Where do i exist in a world where attention and respect are stretched so thinly? How do I feel mirrored, reflected and seen for anything other than how I could take care of others if only I would stand up and fight for them?

I see the fights I need to make to claim a future.   They are not exceptional, they are just the everyday battles every human in this culture has to engage in, the challenges of a human life.

Being so battered and tattered, though, they seem like trials that I have very little will or incentive to endure.  Where is the strength, what is the point?

Beautiful Exposition

Beauty is created by craft, by striving for precision in executing a vision.  We make beautiful clothes, beautiful timber frames, beautiful equations, beautiful plates of food and so on, when we use our skills to create a vision in a precise way.

Fashion is a form of imitation, of following trends.   Fashion usually starts with beautiful things, but ends up with effective copies of those things becoming more widespread.

Everyone has the opportunity to create beauty in their own life by what becoming very clear about they value and then executing on that vision with precise skills.

For me, beauty lies in the stories humans tell each other.  This is the heart of theology, how our belief systems influence our choices.   By examining stories, I examine the relationship between belief and action, and by telling stories, I work to clarify belief.

“Tell me a story,” is often my greeting to someone new, and “You look like you have interesting stories” is how I ask people who might be queer to feel safe sharing them with me.

Very, very early, I found the value in honesty and explicitness.    With two Aspergers parents the charms of figurative language and emotional performances did not count for much.  I learned to comb the meaning out of narrative, working to model structures of belief that shaped actions.

The tone and musicality of language was always compelling to me but I found the need to strip it bare, moving past symbol to meaning.  My passion was for exposing the bones of communication, the meta meanings that drove and shaped expression.

Whenever I have something to offer to the group it always comes from my vision of that exposed meaning which I then connect to other truths to give a clearer and more useful understanding of the choices facing us.

I quickly remove noise to extract content then mirror that content back in a way that makes the underlying beliefs much more explicit and exposed.   By understanding what lies beneath we can become more aware in the moment between stimulus and response, clarifying and concentrating our choices.

To me, this exposition is truly beautiful.    By looking inside stories instead of just looking at them, I see their intricate function, see the friction at the point between our individual, wild self, full of pain and Eros, and our human urge to be tame, to be assimilated and effective at being successful in influencing other people.

Connections are the jewels I find in the sewage, revealed in the moments when what we share spotlights continuous common humanity through bold unique expression.   By looking at the beauty other people make, I see what they value and how they shape their choices to execute on their own precise vision.

Most people, I have found, are not looking to examine and reshape their own belief systems.  They have enough challenge, enough demands on their limited attention, energy and time just getting through what is in front of them in the world.   Meta examination is not high on the list.

We are comfortable with our own belief systems.   They have become part of us, wired deeply into who we know ourselves to be.   We know that questioning them is challenging not just our present but also our past; could we really have been doing things better?  Have our choices become counterproductive and limiting?

Being willing to engage the possibility of different beliefs which would reshape the way we see the world and the choices we make in it is not comfortable or calming, even if it is invigorating and transformative.  Being willing to become new always requires the willingness to let go of the old.   Rebirth requires death.

Is the examined life worth living?   Or does examination only lead to analysis paralysis, stealing our momentum, creating friction in our relationships with those who don’t want to question beliefs, and stopping us from “just doing it?”

Anyone who is committed to creating beauty in the world knows the importance of contemplative and focused work.    They know that they can’t let the easy get in the way of the excellent.  They know that determination and precision leads them closer to perfection, and that perfection leads them closer to the divine.

Mastery leads to fluid action, a point where we become one with the work, in harmony with creation.   This is when we create breathtaking and lasting beauty in the world.

Many people find it easier to make fashionable choices rather than making beautiful choices.   They imitate what they see and get the power of symbol without having to struggle over meaning, the benefits of imitation over the struggle of creation.

These people are comfortable with what they know, comfortable with following the trends, taking the wisdom of crowds over the sharpness of personal creation. They are not queer, choosing to value the normative and conventional over the quirky and individual.    They want to act out of old habits, following the trends, and making the easy choices of imitation.

It makes me crazy that so many transpeople only consider why they do what they do when asked questions by a class of human sexuality students.  Even then, what they usually offer is the rationalizations that they have picked up while imitating other comforting people.

I am aware that by venerating the process rather than the method, by offering the tools of questions rather than the comfort of canned solutions, I am challenging to others.  People prefer having their beliefs affirmed rather than threatened, prefer simple rules to excoriating questions.   (And no one likes the word “excoriating.”)

Committing to the craft, precision and vision that creates beauty requires discipline and focus.  While mediocrity can try to take a little bit of everything, quality demands the elimination of noise and distraction.

The choices we make define who we are.   We all know how to make more appropriate choices, the abstractly “right” choices that are in the textbook, the ones our parents want to keep reminding us about, but instead we make the best choices we can within the bounds of our human will and beliefs.

Understanding the stories that contain those beliefs is important to me.   I don’t shape stories for the ease, entertainment and comfort of other people, rather I shape them in a way that makes what is beneath them honest and explicit.

The intensity of precision demands leaving the common to claim the better.   Write that better off as just “abstractions” and you deny the only tools which can take you to better.

I realized a long time ago that I am, sadly, a guru, a theologian, and the most beautiful and appealing parts of me are locked in my mind.   I find beauty in the narratives of humans, not just in their poetry but in their meaning, meta and exposed.

Where do you strive for leadership, for beauty in your life?   Where do you use your craft, precision and vision to move towards perfection, towards the ownership of practice which allows you fast and fluid creation?

What is beautiful to you?

More than that, what is beautiful from you?

Beyond Survey

I know that many people want what we call Trans 101, the old style lecture that sought to cut trans up into neat little slices, creating categories and definitions.

There was a time when I believed that Trans 101 was a useful way to talk about transgender in the world, a time when many people did.  But as the New York Times has realized in their Transgender Today oped series — — those separations not only are difficult to make, they get in the way of really understanding trans.

In the Trans 101 model, surgery status is a big deal.  I assure you that in everyday life, it isn’t  Only my doctors and my lovers need to know what is in my panties.   Others who ask about it are seen as prurient, rude and intrusive with some belief that they are entitled to pry into my life because I am somehow sick or abject.

In my everyday life, trans is a big issue only to me and to other people who get queasy and uncomfortable when facing a world where clear lines are somehow violated.  When someone has a very negative response to trans, feel they deserve to know, to pry, to pass judgment, that tells me much more about their stress around gender enforcement than about me.

One of the big breakthroughs around the acceptance of gay and lesbian people is how much their gender variation is terrifically unimportant.  In the vast majority of interactions, it really makes no consequential difference if someone is gay.  You don’t have any need to know unless they want to disclose, and even if they do, unless you are interested in sleeping with them, it just doesn’t matter.

Is the police officer you are speaking to going home to a wife or a husband. to a boyfriend or a girlfriend or even one of both?  Do they like to be a top or a bottom?  It really is irrelevant to your interaction with them because it really doesn’t matter.

The stories the share will be different on the surface, the issues that concern them are different, but in the end, that is true of every human.  Our ethnicity, family situation, class and a whole mess of different factors colour our stories, and I think for the better.

This is very different from the days when homosexuality was seen as a sickness or a sin, where people felt that vigorously policing homosexuals, that enforcing gender normativity was vital to keep society and the family pure and virtuous.

Today, when someone is obsessed with explaining why homosexuality and homosexuals are evil, when they are filled with the need to dissect and judge homosexual behaviour, we know that says more about them and their beliefs than about the realities of gay and lesbian people.

Gays and lesbians are no longer freaks in a show put on to intrigue, entertain and titillate us.  They are just other people with other stories.  Engaging those stories is seeing more of humanity reflected.  That is why, in a time when we are moving beyond clear boundaries around race and sexuality, media like the New York Times have moved to sharing stories and away from Trans 101.

I can, of course, answer the standard questions.

What is transgender?   Transgender is the deep knowledge that compulsory gender roles assigned by dint of your reproductive biology don’t fit and that you have to move beyond convention to claim full, healthy and empowering gender expression.

That answer, I suspect, will not pass muster because it doesn’t fit the Trans 101 guidelines of clear separations that are comprehensible in a clean, binary and heterosexist view of either/or sex/gender boundaries.

Transpeople work hard to be come integrated, going on a very personal journey of discovery.  We free ourselves from boxes and separations to find integrity and authenticity.  The key thing we need to learn is that gender isn’t what defines people, that gender separations, in the world or in the mind, don’t have to be enforced with a vengeance, any more than strictures against homosexuality ever really needed to be enforced.  While every one has their own unique flavor, their own special essence, fundamentally, humans just aren’t that different.

Trans 101 is the opposite of engaging the real life experiences of people who have flowed through gender, seeking a place where they are safe, connected and unique, at least to me.  Trans 101 is not only not part of my life, but that I and many others seeing liberation for transgender people and expression find it trying to create simplistic definitions which pander to those who still crave neat gender boundaries to be counterproductive.

Alone, I would be lost.

No one works in a vacuum.  My characters would never be the way they are if I didn’t work with my fellow performer characters.  That’s when one finds a character, when one plays off another character.  If I was just alone, I would be lost.  I couldn’t create a character as lasting.
— Frank Oz

Mr Oz talks about character creation in his kind of theatre, but what he says goes right to the heart of character creation in the world.

It takes someone to believe in you, someone to engage you, to create a strong, durable and potent character.

We each need our own Mark Hamill, who is creating Luke Skywalker, to believe in our Yoda for nuanced character to emerge and endure.

I spent a long time yesterday talking with a twenty year old gal who was just busted for drugs.  She needs to believe that she was more than a minimum wage worker who everyone looks down on, needed someone to believe that there are bigger and more potent things inside her.

Accurate mirroring gives us the power to believe we know what we know and that we feel what we feel, as Bessel Van Der Kolk says.  A therapist is some who sees something in you that you do not yet see in yourself.   Mothers speak not to the child in front of them, but to the person that child can become.

In the struggle to create a lasting character, if I was just alone, I would be lost, says Mr Oz.

And I very, very clearly understand what he means.

Troubled People, Troubled You

The world today is full of troubled people, clinging onto their fear, resistance and anxiety, barely holding on while blaming other people for making the world a horrible place.    They make choices we can see are bad, driven by old habits, that bring them the same results they have always gotten.   It frustrates us that they can’t see, that they won’t change, that they refuse to heal in a timely a proper fashion.

We want those people to change to make our life better, want them to clean up their act and support us rather than be a drain on us.

The best way we can help these people, these messy, broken people, these people who cause us such struggle is to engage our own healing.

“What the fuck?” I hear you say.  “They are the screwed up ones, the drain on me, the bane of my  existence.  Don’t they need to heal?”

Sure.   But the best way you can help them heal, help them find their own new ways to be centred and happy, is to work very hard on your own healing.  To help them, you have to lead, have to find ways to not let them push your buttons, to model new ways to be, rather than just trying to pound them into change, which will always just create resistance and blame, not healing.

No one will listen to you until they believe that you have heard them.   They see and experience your unhealed parts.  They know that you are broken too, that you get all crazy and make bad choices.   Why should they do as you say and not as you do?

Deciding that your healing can only happen after the people you are in relationship with heal makes other people responsible for your happiness.   It leaves you demanding rather than growing, leaves you unsafe and angry rather than someone who can offer strength, calm and empathy for the wounds of others.

We don’t forgive others for them, we do it for ourselves.  We can only move forward with healing if we don’t hold resentment and fury, only learn to forgive our own trespasses by learning to forgive others.   Staying bitter and angry leaves us in the role of victim, always stalled and suffering at the bad choices of another person.

Our healing is the only healing we are directly responsible for, the only healing that we have direct control over, no matter how hard we find it to exert that control.

It is only by our healing that we learn to make better choices, make compassionate, smart and considered choices that not only keep us more stable, but also allow us to assist in the healing of those we love, breaking the old and destructive habits that keep relationships broken.

The only way to deal with troubled people around us is to take responsibility for addressing our own troubles, doing the work of personal change.

If we look to find fault in others, look to find someone to blame, we will always be able to identify someone human, flawed, corrupt and broken around us — we live in a world of humans, after all — but that identification will only let us justify our own bad choices, justifying the choices where we avoid our healing rather than to engage it.

It doesn’t matter how “unfair” you think it is that you have to do the work of healing yourself while they get to be stuck in their own issues and drama.   When you realize the cost of not changing, even when they haven’t yet found reason to change their behaviours, you have the need to heal yourself.

If you need healing, if you want healing in the world, being distressed about the level of sickness, stagnation and fear that others around you hold will never create what you need.

Your only choice is to focus on your own growth, knowing that your work will not only help you but it will also help those you love and are in relationship with to see and feel new possibilities for moving past their own blocks to love and healing.

This can be tough stuff.   Many people will test your healing, wanting you to take care of them rather than working to heal themselves.   They are stressed, overloaded, challenged, so if healing is so easy for you, why don’t you do the healing for them, too?  As transpeople, we often know the cost of having to do the healing work for those who resist their own transformation.  This blog is full of the price of that that obligation.

But what is the alternative?   Is it staying angry and brittle, furious and pained that the people around us won’t engage the work of moving past their old patterns to find connection and transformation?   To me, at least, that doesn’t sound like a useful strategy.   Better to pay the costs of healing than of staying sick to stay stuck, I believe.

There are troubled people all around you, yes.  But the only troubled person you can really change is you.  Your healing can become a beacon and an inspiration to the people you love, sure, but they have to heal by themselves, in their own time and their own way.

Find the connections, between your heart and your mind, between your choices and your outcomes, between your blockages and your possibilities.  Get clear, actualized and integrated, doing your own hard work of seeing and feeling more clearly, of making better, smarter and more loving choices.

And, if you work hard enough, you can open some space for healing in the world, creating room for others to come along with you.   You help them, encouraging and supporting them in doing the healing work that you know they need to do.

If it is to be, it starts with me.  Your healing and success is a gift to the world, especially to the people you love the most.

You’ve got your troubles, I’ve got mine.  Please don’t wait for me; find your own path to healing, happiness and enlightenment.

I’d love to see you do that.

Edits, Audience and Challenge

“Go Set A Watchman,” an early incarnation of Harper Lee’s “To Tell A Mockingbird” is causing an enormous amount of chatter in the literary world.

We all know “Mockingbird” from school or from the movie, a redemptive tale of a proud lawyer who stands to do the right thing for black man accused of raping a white woman.   The Atticus Finch in “Watchman,” though, is a man steeped in the culture of segregation, stranding with community values that say people of colour are less than.

Indications of this are in “Mockingbird,” but we choose not to read them, instead projecting our own modern mores and expectations onto Atticus. We liked it simple and sweet.

The transformation of the challenging “Watchman” into the attractive “Mockingbird” was overseen by Harper Lee’s editor at Lippincott.   She did what an editor does, taking raw work from a strong artist and shaping it into something that the audience will engage and value.

This meant cleaning “Mockingbird” up, getting it to the level where the country wanted to be around civil rights at the time of publication.   It meant making the book a huge hit, still loved today, a kind and warm look at those who transcended racism rather than being mired in it.

The release of  the earlier “Watchman,” 50 years later, is challenging our vision of that clean and easy tale we engaged in “Mockingbird.”   The rawness and nuance that was inherent in Ms. Lee’s original creation is now again visible and we are forced to look again at what being mired in something and transcending it really means.

Janet Mock has said that her editor instructed her that while we should write at a seventh grade reading level for most things, when talking about trans, we should be writing at a third grade level.

Is this what Harper Lee’s editor told her about writing on racism in the late 1950s?   That people weren’t yet ready to engage it on a mature level and that they would much more easily take a sweet and sanitized fable to their hearts than they would a more realistic view?

Clearly, the strategy worked for Ms. Lee.  “Mockingbird” is huge and very well loved.

This blog contains over 1.1 million words of my writing, all raw and none elegantly edited to be easy for an audience to love.  We don’t live in a culture where even “Mockingbird” would be so gracefully transformed and accepted.   Today, product has to be product, designed for short attention spans and clear expectations.

I am certainly not “on trend” or “influential,”  not speaking for where people are now in a way that marks me as a voice people want to follow.  I search to understand the world around me, to say what I see, not to shape a story that others will embrace.

“What will happen if you never find what you need?” asked TBB, in a voice tinged with fear and a bit of sadness.

What if nobody every really engages my work, mirroring me in a way that is affirming, let alone no magical editor ever hears me and wants to help my story reach an audience who can be moved & touched by it?

Good question.

I watch transpeople who stayed in the closet for years get fêted as heroes because they have producers who make their story and their appearance easy to engage and affirm.   They know how to make product that works the audience.

And I get more and more alone, working so hard to speak up.   I know that my work ripples out there, not because I have followers, but because people have picked up splinters I have created that pierced their armour and made them see themselves in a new way.   I am not aspirational, a role model, but I am stimulating, a spreader of thought.

What will happen if I never find what I need?

What indeed?


When it comes to trans, we live in a world of party poopers.

As we try to capture our own energy, our own intensity, our own passion we share our dreams with the people around us, with our family, with the people we love.

And then they poop on our dreams.

They just can’t get excited about what we imagine.  They find lots and lots of reasons why our dreams are impractical or silly or just not possible.  They can’t see why we would want to put scarce energy into them, so they just work to burst our balloons, shoot down our hopes, and just generally be party poopers.

Sometimes, they do this because they have other priorities, are stuck in their own struggles. Many times, though, they tell us that they are pooping on us for our own good, that they are just being realistic and practical, that shattering our illusions is the kindest thing that they can do for us.

Our excitement goes out into the world and then it goes dead.  Instead of getting our energy reflected back, getting mirrored, affirmed and reinforced, we get it dulled down, absorbed, diminished, and dismissed.

The trans party is just somewhere people are uncomfortable going, so when we try and get the party going, try and build momentum, try and get loose and dance, others just poop.

Stigma always works this way.   The boundaries of proper, right, cool and valuable are taught, so when someone wants to move beyond them, they get resistance rather than encouragement.  They get no-no and pooh-pooh and then either have to go along with the group or go it alone.

When we face stigma the amount of energy to achieve escape velocity,  to get to take off is so much that we get pooped trying to achieve it.   We give up, give out, ending up suppressed and depressed, our dreams blunted.

Revolution is exhausting, living in a world where we have to try and press for change, for new, for innovative every time, a world where habit, convention and the status quo become a blanket to oppress and resist any change.

Why bother trying something new, people tell us, when what we have now is so comfortable and change will just lead to frustration, exhaustion and failure anyway?

Pooping is the art of finding reasons to say no.   Saying no to the different, the scary, the unknown is easy, and that means saying no to the tender dreams in our heart is easy too.

Is there any wonder we struggle for yes, struggle to feel our transformational energy coming back to us, reflected in encouragement and affirmation?

Is there any wonder why, when we get resistance, stigma, shaming, dismissal, and mocking the party inside of us gets wet, broken and fading?

Is there any wonder why, after a lifetime of facing party poopers we just feel totally pooped?


There has been a flurry of trans visibility in the last year.

On “UnReal,” when the find a moving story about a closeted lesbian, the executive producer grumbles “Fine, but it is transgender that is trendy now!”

The problem with trans visibility in many ways is that it masks the truth about transpeople: mostly, we are invisible.  And we like it that way.

My sister reports that there are a few people she takes to have a trans history working at the large department store where she is a senior manager.  Does she know that they are trans?  Nope.  And she won’t bring the subject up, because to her, they are just good employees doing their job.

These are not the people who go to trans events in the area, standing up and being visible to support political causes.   They have their lives and they just can’t see how being more visible, more labelled as trans helps them in any way.  It doesn’t bring lovers or promotions or anything concrete.

Instead, being visible as trans just marks them as curiosities, as abject, as freaks, as broken. Being visible and identified as trans sets them apart lumps them in a weird group and has no real benefits.

They are able to make their way in the world in the best way that they know how, just doing the work in front of them.  Sure, intimates know their story, and others may have some suspicion, but as long as it is rude to out someone, they can just stay focused on their lives and not let their history or biology get in the way.

Support groups are mostly a quagmire of people who are still wrestling with their own trans issues, places more of sickness and struggle more than healing and affirmation, so they have learned not to bother with them.   When you have your own issues to deal with, becoming a target of those who are still thrashing about may be service, but at a cost and not at a real benefit.

For every transperson who has emerged and chosen to not be a transgender flag bearer, not wear that label, staying away from trans groups and public trans identification. there are many more who have trans feelings but choose to manage them in a less than public way.

They may have an intermittent transgender expression, weekends, church, conferences or whatever, balancing family, work and freedom.  They may only have a virtual trans life, on the internet and in their sexual fantasies.  They may eve have a denied trans life, fighting their damnedest to keep their trans nature locked away, sealed and out of sight.

This legion of those with a  trans nature who choose to remain less than visible, just doing their work, not being a “professional tranny,” an activist, a standard bearer, are the real majority of transpeople in the world.

If you are gay or lesbian, you usually need to identify as such to find a partner, need to be able to have a public identity to meet potential mates.  If you are trans, there is no such drive, no such component.  Often your very transness gets in the way of developing relationships rather than fosters it.

Nobody is only trans in the moments they choose to be visible as trans.  We are all trans through our lifetimes, no matter how much we expose that nature, how much we choose to lead and be explicit about our transness.

Ari Istar Lev talks about transgender emergence rather than transgender transition, trying to explain that while our expression may change over time, our nature doesn’t.  We were trans as kids, as teens, in these clothes or that, trans until we die.

That does not mean that we want our primary identification to be as trans.

Most of us adamantly and vehemently want to be seen as full humans first, want to be marked by our passions, our precision, our love, our accomplishments, seen as complete and nuanced, not just to be surfaced as “a transgender.”   We are people first, and trans is just one of the many, many things we are.

This is hard to explain to people who believe that transgender is something about what clothes you wear, what surgery you have, what you call yourself and so on.  Those are ways we express ourselves, yes, but they are NOT our transgender.

Our trans is something deep inside of us, something that pulls us to what we love, even if that means crossing boundaries others see as hard and fast, transgressing convention and expectation to claim all of us.

How do we want to talk about trans?  Like it is a normal part of the human experience (1997).

The language to do that doesn’t exist yet because trans is still seen as a red flag, weird, freaky thing only done by people who deserve pity.    These people think it makes sense to try and cut trans down to size, putting nice boundaries on it, only having to deal with it when it is visible, when it becomes a curiosity.

Transgender is not the visible choices we make as we struggle to express our nature in a binary, heterosexist world.

No matter how we struggle to keep our trans nature visible, often even to ourselves, our transgender threads through our experience from the first moment when we are told that people with our biology and history are not allowed to make that choice our heart wants to the last day we share our shimmering story with someone who cares for us.

Pointing to a visible transperson is never pointing to transgender.  That person was trans from when they knew themselves to be, and is trans when they are made invisible by age and polish.

The translucent people, the ones for whom trans isn’t everything but is for whom trans is still an important, underlying bit of their lives really reveal the scope and power of transgender in the world.

You just have to look close, with respect and openness, to see that glow.


In the territory of the mind, reason is the foundation.  It was my mind that became my most important survival tool, working to apply good reasoning to understand the chaos around and inside of me.

Being reasonable, with clear thoughts bounding and constraining everything else in the world became my grail.  In my twenties, I even had friends note how often I asked the question “Is that reasonable?” to confirm and validate my own choices.

Transgender, though, is an unreasonable force.  It is Eros, deep and powerful, a drive of essential desire which usually is revealed at a very young age, long before sexual attractions.   It is a force inside of us that pulls us to choices as simple as the kind of birthday cake we want — pink lemonade when I was 7 — to what we know will destroy and injure us.

It is reasonable to account for the unreasonable forces of human nature in constructing a life and a world. It is reasonable to not make demands which don’t directly matter, picking your battles and allowing discretion and choice where it doesn’t violate decorum and respect.

Wrapping transgender knowledge inside of reasonable bounds, though, does not make it reasonable.  Reasonable arguments for supporting personal freedom may support transgender expression, but the demand for apparent reason may also create a culture of rationalization, of legalistic arguments that seek to use salami slicing tricks to sway the conventions.

I spent decades and decades trying to apply reason to transgender in the world.  I got very good at it, and some of that discipline and reason carries on today in my quest to find and share understanding.

There came a point, though, when I realized that the most powerful and beautiful thing about transgender nature is its very unreason.  Trans does not come from logic, science, law or reason, but rather from the deep, potent knowledge that lies deep within every human, knowledge humans have always held in mythical stories.

Forcing humans to be forced to be reasonable is taking away much of their power, beauty and majesty.   Many of the empowerment programmes for women are specifically based on breaking out of the imposed demand to be boxed up and seen as reasonable in a corporate world, one created by men, and instead to trust their own intuitive powers.

Reasonable is always in the eye of the beholder.  Others see you as reasonable when they are swayed by your logic and facts, which usually happens when you agree with them, when you come from the same cultural bias they hold.   It wasn’t reasonable for darkies to complain about their slavery, wasn’t reasonable that the weaker sex would want the vote.

Stories of people being unreasonable and creating breakthroughs abound.  One doctor was told it wasn’t reasonable to give children with cancers huge doses of chemotherapy that would harm them, but he countered that it wasn’t reasonable to just let them die without trying what we have.  In his unreasonableness, he saved children, changing the paradigm and practice of how we treat childhood cancer today.

The reason of the other doctors turned out not to be based in rational thought but rather in long held conventional beliefs.   They measured reasonable not by reason but by their own biases and assumptions.

It took me a long time to understand that trying to satisfy other people with my own reasonableness was just an attempt to keep others comfortable, trying to use the appearance of reason as cover for my own deeper choices.  I was using reason to find explanations that I could use to convince others, rather than trying to figure out what was going on.  I was, on some level or other, just creating rationalizations for my own choices.

Accepting that my desires didn’t need justification was crucial.   I started to work on finding deep and true desire rather than just trying to rationalize my acting out, whatever it was.   Using reason to get clear, integrated and actualized was very different than attempting to be seen as reasonable in the eyes of another.

If my trans nature was accepted and engaged when I was young and supposed to be unreasonable, my worldview would be very different.  I would have been able to balance my desires and my reason in a more mature way than I was able to do while being required to deny, hide and demonize my own true and deep desires.

Appealing to reason, conveying compelling and thoughtful arguments doesn’t demand that you be reasonable, listening to the reason that others want to impose on you.  Being considerate of others views and respecting decorum doesn’t demand that you be reasonable, surrendering your challenging pint of view for their comfort.

Some, I know, dismiss transgender views with pity, projecting abjection and disease over our experience.   They choose to see us as broken rather than questioning the system that pounded us down, a system they see as real and reasonable.   We are the ones with the flaws, not their simple system that divides the world into either/or groups, binaries with clear and crisp boundaries that transpeople clearly don’t understand.

We are, in our claims, demands, assertions and expressions, unreasonable in their eyes.   We offend what they know to be reasonable and proper based on their own worldview.

I love reason.  I love decorum and grace, love respecting and engaging the views of others.   Reason saved me and it still provides me an important tool to help me understand myself, others, the world and my relationships in it.

I don’t value being seen as reasonable very much, though.  My feminine heart knows what it knows and feels what it feels, and while reason may help me examine, clarify and communicate that, the expectation of being reasonable, of not demanding more than others feel comfortable giving, often feels like a prison.  Attenuating myself to be seen as reasonable by the afraid has always had a high cost for me.

My rage, the power than makes me outraged and outrageous isn’t wrong, sick, broken or abject.   My queerness, the character that moves me beyond normative, isn’t a medical issue, something to be fixed or palliated with a sop and a pat on the head, something to be dismissed with a doctor’s signature verifying a pathology.

We all struggle between wild and tame, standing proud and fitting in, fighting for our uniqueness and assimilating nicely into the group.  Respect is vital for people to connect, both ways.

Unreasonable people need love and respect too as they work to claim themselves in the world.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world;
the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.
Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
— George Bernard Shaw

I’m often unreasonable.  And I am proud of it.


“Congratulations!” I told the cashier in the dollar store.

“Why are you congratulating me?” she asked.

“You just told me that you were doing pretty well,” I said.  “That’s a lot better than you could be doing!  Congratulations!”

“I’ve never had anyone congratulate me for doing pretty well before,” she replied, “but yes, it is something to be grateful for.”

We live in a culture where people like to bond either about where they see their life falling short of their dreams or about big belief systems they carry.   “Isn’t this waitress slow?” they will say, or “Namaste!  God is Great!”

We don’t tend to take time to see, value and be grateful for the little daily things that make our life a bit better.  Great weather, good service, an interesting question to ponder, some food, whatever, most people just rarely celebrate the good.

It’s really hard to drive out darkness.   It is much easier to expand brilliance, lighting up one square foot and then expanding that light to a square meter.

Find something wonderful that lasts a minute, then try to double it and make it last two minutes.  Pretty soon, you can go for longer.

Instead of focusing on eliminating failure, focus on increasing success.  Keep making better choices and pretty soon bad ones won’t take up as much room.

To change the world, we have to first believe that change for the better is possible.   We have to have real hope.  If we keep focusing on the crushing problems rather than on the small, cumulative solutions, we will see ourselves as victims rather than as empowered to make change.

“Where are the wins?” I used to ask, knowing that while cutting losses can be useful, no organization ever thrives because they only have small losses.  There have to be wins in the mix too, reasons for congratulation.  We have to have heart to get better everyday.

I’m good at being a theologian, yes, and have done the pastoral work of service to others.

I have resisted becoming a missionary, resisted going out and pounding some belief structure, evangelism embedded in entertainment to reinforce the believers again and again.

My life has been about guerrilla actions.   I never just took the spotlight, rather I stayed a bit off to the side, taking my own power by oblique moves that let me slide back into my own introvert safe space.

The first audience we are all issued, those parents and extended family who think that we are just fascinating and adorable, the ones who pay such rapt attention that we learn to amuse and entertain them, wasn’t so kind, indulgent and playful with me.

As the first born of two Aspergers parents, being smart was the only way I found to get attention.   I read from Time magazine when I was four, followed politics and more.

Becoming invisible was the only way I found to feel safe, to absorb the blame and rage of a mother who made it very, very clear that we just were sent to make her unhappy and upset.  I learned to fear and resist attention, especially from authority figures, rather than learning to value and crave it.

Having a corrupt relationship with that formative audience was expensive.  It meant that when I needed the skills to engage an audience of my peers or of others parents and teachers, I just didn’t have the skills.  And I certainly didn’t have the confidence that people would be a safe audience for my own sharing.

There are moments where I did have power over an audience, like my improvised comedy in junior high school plays, but those possibilities soon evaporated, as a shop teacher with no drama experience lead the high school performance group.  Still, I knew I was different in a way that others found weird and corrupt, knew that I lived in a family where failure and self-pity held the highest value.

Instead I found my audience as a stealthy and witty manager of a program for high schools students at MIT, taking on a role that was usually filled by ‘tute students.  Even getting my degree, finally, came because I ended up managing part of academic computing for the college.  I was not a good academic, but I was a good manager, skills I had to learn to support my parents and to save myself.

An entrepreneur who resists the spotlight, though, is a failed entrepreneur.   Taking visible responsibility is a key part of building vigorous organizations.   Instead, I stayed enmeshed with my parents, even as I worked to understand the world, worked to manage issues around my own trans nature and the needs of the trans community.

The trans community and my local community never supported growing leadership.  Instead, they fought leaders, lashing out with anger and blame, playing the old “crabs in a barrel” game.   Working to claim individual power and being stigmatized and abused in the world does not make you an engaged member in human organizational structures.

I learned how to be a theologian and even how to do pastoral work.   I watched as others did the missionary work.

What I didn’t do, what I was to hard for me to do, was to do the ritual work, the liturgical work that creates a safe, energizing and affirming place for people to come together, sharing and reinforcing values, supporting each other in the hard, hard work of making better choices everyday of their lives.

I didn’t take the spotlight.  Instead, I did that work as I had learned to do, as a guerrilla,   making and hurling bombs of enlightenment and caring.  Facing the kind of institutional and reactionary resistance that comes from people resisting change, instead of creating a cadre, organizing a movement, coming together with others and shaping a church, I did my work in stealth, sharing the best that I could offer.

I was good at the work I did.

I was good at caring for my parents by staying in their shadows, even driving from the back seat.  By playing small, I learned to not threaten or scare them, instead keeping them feeling cared for.

I was good at sharing ideas and structures that could help those who wanted healing, even as I stayed hidden from those who wanted to resist and silence their own inner voices by acting out against those kinds of voices in the world.

I suspect, though, I was also good at building organizations, at managing change.  At least those who heard me engage their own struggles to do so found me a source of insight and inspiration.

I stayed in the shadows, though, never taking that leadership role, instead sidelining myself as an individual contributor.

There is an clerical name for those who stand up to lead a ritual or a rite, those who take the spotlight to open spaces where people come together in respect and grace to open themselves to a connection with the divine.

That name is “celebrant.”   They lead a shared celebration, by a few or by a multitude, that brings people together outside of self focus, instead participating in a moment that reminds them of their connection to the past and the future, their connection to other people and to all living things.

Celebration wasn’t something I did in the spotlight.  Instead, I celebrated small, human moments, for example, by congratulating the cashier at a dollar store on having a good day, offering a moment of sly humour and gratitude.

As I have looked for shared celebrations that I can sign up for, I found people celebrating things that I didn’t value.  They often celebrated group identity over individual possibility, celebrated separation over connection.   Leaders were preachy preachers, comforting the believers with the differences between good us and bad them instead of teachy preachers, asking us to go deep and engage the divine surprise growing by opening, by revelation, by empathy and vulnerability.

I haven’t been able to find a celebration that I find affirming and energizing to me.

And I haven’t tried to stand in the light and create that space, asking others to join me in that gathering.

Instead, I got more and more hermetic, depleted resources keeping me off the grid, a place where most of them could never be replaced or renewed.

To have the celebrant we want and need, it occurs to me, we first have to be the celebrant, ready and willing to come together in celebration of what we value.

As a transwoman, there are lots of reasons to want to stay invisible.  We know we don’t have the training and confidence in our womanhood that people raised as women do.   We know how easily we can be slammed and how hard it can be to recover from those hits as they shake us to the depths of our experience.  Our struggle against resistance is hard and wearing, depleting our confidence and vitality.

The reasons for transpeople to be very visible, to stand up and lead, to be change agents in the world are even more compelling, but they are not written into our fears and our experience.   We get very little affirmation or support in modelling and encouraging change when we challenge the neat lines and boxes that others believe give them safety and comfort.

We are not used to giving each other support, in coming together to celebrate the power and the possibility that is in our gifts.  We don’t get the values of respect and diversity reinforced in our lives.   We feel the threats more than we feel the potency of connection and shared caring.

Too often we celebrate the trivial, the sensational, the destructive and the separating.   These are the kind of celebrations that serve marketers and politicians who know how to use emotional pulls to manipulate us.   The values are hidden under easy entertainment, going unquestioned in scary ways.   They don’t ask us to step up and be better, rather they ask us to surrender to popular biases and expectations.

Standing up, calling out and working to gather those who need to celebrate values that we consciously want to share, values around the power of the divine surprise to open our hearts, challenge our minds and transform our perceptions, is a good thing.

Standing as celebrant is the first thing that feels affirming and delightful to me.  It also seems, however, beyond my resources.

I know how to celebrate the small things that make our life better, the choices we make to be more present and more open, to heal and grow through engagement and gratitude.

Standing up to lead others in that celebration, creating spaces and rites that allow us to share that power, well, that is more problematic for me.

Celebration, though — always a key part of trans expression through time and around the world — feels important to me, important to follow.   You just have to get the values and the energy right.


I was watching “The Blues Brothers” and a show on Westminster Abbey, where English royalty is crowned.

The connection between the moment, hidden from viewers, where the incoming monarch is anointed with oil from the holy land, and the moment where Elwood is touched by a beam of light through a stained glass window, struck me.  They are both moments of transfiguration, where the human and the divine meet, creating a synthesis of both.

While I don’t believe that Queen Elizabeth II ever announced that she is on a mission from God, or that Elwood ever wore a crown, they both had work to do for the good of others.

In the last weeks of my parents lives my mother saw a blurb in the local shopper for a session of grief workshops at a local church.  This was at a new church where two of her former pastors were assigned.  My sister went to the session and in doing so, brought the pastors back into my parents realm.  My father died soon after, but for the month that my mother lived, they were superb, visiting and hosting my father’s funeral.

The deacon, a former hospice chaplain herself, was brilliant with my mother.  She was even available the afternoon my mother died, holding a service as our family circled round her body, still in the recliner.

“Maybe you want the reverend to come,” she had offered.  For whatever reason she thought we might need him, either rank or her gender, I assured her that she would be great.

“You have been an exemplary representative of the church to our family,” I told her.

“I’m just doing the work of the lord,” she averred.

“The lord needs humans who are willing to hear the call and offer their own corporeal presence, their own kindness and care in the world,” I said.  “Thank you for being the one who did the work so well.”

She had heard her calling and done the work.  It was a gift to my mother and to my family, a sign of some kind of harmony in the universe for which I will always be grateful.

There is very little doubt that in another time and another place, my nature would have been spotted and my transcendent nature put into harness.  Joining an order, being trained as a shaman, whatever the role was in that culture.   I was spotted in this culture too, of course, being cooed over in my fifth grade confirmation class, giving homilies in eighth grade, finding out in vocational tests at college that my interests matched those of clergy and so on, but in my time, queer and devout were deemed to be a horrible contradiction.

My first goal in college was to find some way to merge elementary education and television, both of which I had worked in in high school.  Today, I see Mister Fred Rogers as someone who did that masterfully and who we all understand to have been a minister tending to his flock, now spread far and wide.

I have long understood myself to be a theologian, searching for the connecting threads between stories, and I have always had a number of people to which I provided pastoral support.  My biggest gap is that of a celebrant, never seeming to get to the point where I could create resonant ritual.   I have always seen my trans expression as vestments, as an expression of my work to promote connection based on continuous common humanity.

The Church Of Divine Surprise” has been my little imagining for years, getting people to come together to honour and celebrate the sparks of magic which change the way we see the world, opening up our hearts and changing our perception from fear to love. The idea of gathering together to let the smarts and the energy flow in playful ways, laughing with exuberant delight at the diversity and commonality of the human spirit feels both wonderful and impossible.

Asking other people to vet, affirm and support your calling is a kind of hopeless thing.   Calling is something inside and you cannot expect people to get it.

“Mom, I’m going to get together a gang, wander around doing magic, then threaten the authorities so much that they execute me, and in doing that, I’ll save millions of souls!”

“Oh Jesus,” I imagine Mary saying, “why won;t you just join your stepfather’s business as a carpenter?  Why cause me this agita?”

It is a crackpot thing to claim a calling, especially a calling that doesn’t fit neatly into some already structured order.

While good crackpot can attract people, theoretical crackpot is just scary.   Ask any transperson who called to ask if a store accepts transpeople; the answer was almost always no, just to protect against crackpots.  Walk into the same store, though, terrified but ready to put on a brave smile, and the answer will usually be yes, as they see you as a real, human person.

If you bring forth what is within you,
what you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you,
what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
— Jesus Christ (Gnostic Gospel Of Thomas, Saying 70)

What got you here will get you out of here.
— Joe Garagiola

Your calling — your mission from God, your transmogrification to one who stands in service, divinely connected —  is just taking the gifts you have been given and using them in a selfless way.

What got me here is the only thing that can get me out of here.  That demands trusting it, following the calling.