Your Expectations

From my exile, I tell you this.

Your expectations are what constrains your own happiness.  Trying to predict what will delight and ennoble you is a pointless task.    The best things that have ever happened to you were beyond your imagination before they unfolded, and the best things that will happen in the future are also unrevealed.

The divine surprise is the joy of life, that moment when the flower opens in front of you and you suddenly see the world in a brand new way.

Expectations, as the Buddha reminds us, are the basis of suffering.  You will always endure pain and hardship, but it is where your expectations are crushed that suffering occurs.

Your grief over things not working out like you want them to poisons you and the people you love.   They cannot reveal possibilities beyond your expectations if they stay chained to your own limited views, bound to those old tapes about how things should be, trapped by your own narrow view of desire.

When people share their stories with me, I have to remember how their understanding is bounded by their fears and assumptions.   They don’t echo back what happened, they reflect their experience of what happened, tainted and tunnelled by their own preconceptions.

Finding the surprise in their limited vision is difficult, but it is only by re-contextualizing, opening to the miracle of new perception, that we can find the growth and healing which comes in the new surprise.

People who really believe that they know perfectly what they need and want baffle me.   How do they participate in process, become open to the world, clear out their blocks and receive the blessing of the divine surprise?  Do they really believe that being a pushy bottom, tricking others to play out the roles we already have in our head, will ever be really opening and satisfying?

Settling for fake edge, a trendy whiff of the current, seems so much less potent than actually being on the cutting edge where the unrevealed is sliced open.  The presence for the surprising is what keeps the heart and brain vital, life’s energy flowing into us with challenging delight.

Holding open the space for your transformation, for you to surprise me beyond expectation and habit, is hard.   While I know the odds are good you will just do the same old thing, I need to be present to sense your changes, to engage and affirm them, to help you come out from behind your old routines.  I need be ready for you to surprise me.

When we don’t get what we expect, that doesn’t mean what we get is bad or wrong.   Just because a computer isn’t running Windows™ doesn’t mean that it is broken.

As weak and emotionally spare as I am, I live for surprises.   I want to see blossoming, metamorphosis and transformation in the world.  Being bashed by the routine, though, shut down because I don’t simply fit into your expectations always has a cost, a deep and crushing cost.   You don’t want me to surprise you, you want me to fit easily into what you already think you understand, slipping into the stereotypes of your life.

Having your old beliefs die to be reborn in a fresh, new way isn’t something that you really want to happen.   Your dogma comforts you, wrapping you in the insulation a consumer culture depends on to keep you functioning as part of the economic machine.   You have been trained to follow the patterns, to respond properly to stimuli, to be a tame member of the masses.   Wild, raw, and vibrant is shunned.

Being present opens you to too much, to overwhelming, to the demands of twist. Trained to resist revelation, you reject surprises, papering them over with your own canned version of reality.  You stay defended, less than vulnerable.

Opening is the transformational moment, not only changing our view of the world, changing our stance to understanding and compassion, but also opening our heart and drive to emerge, to expand, to be more effective and loving in the world.

Your powerlessness is locked in your expectations, not in your essence.  When you fear being exposed, fear opening, fear change, you resist all the possibilities within you.  The old tapes that tell you the limits of who you are, warning of pain beyond the current knowns, keep you small and compliant, playing a game that can never be won.

The world opens up when we open up to it, opening in the moment of the divine surprise.   As your expectations drop, your reality expands, growing along with your heart and your vision.

From my own exile I tell you this, battered as I am from a lifetime of other people’s expectations being imposed on me.

The reality that I experience is not necessarily 
the same reality that others know, 
nor is the reality that they experience anything that I know.  
Knowledge is a search for correlation between all our realities.

Being open to that correlation is being open to divine surprise.  Just add some laughter to help the lubricate the revelation and divine surprise can save you.

Even from yourself.


There are many people in the world who know that they don’t understand much about transpeople and their challenges in the world.

These people feel their own stuff come up when faced with trans.  How can they deal with someone who wears their Eros on their sleeve?

Do they ask us to hide our trans for their comfort, wanting us to stay invisible in the world so they won’t have to feel disquieted at all?

Do they see us as a porno come to life, a real she-male right in front of them and then ask us to meet them behind the mini-mart and suck their dick?

Do they tell others that we are an abomination and shouldn’t be allowed to use the same sanitary facilities that they use?

Well, all that was one recent day for a transperson of my acquaintance.

Negotiating the fears and drama of other people is the hardest thing transpeople do, as I wrote in 2002.

Often, though, just being the target of their unhealed shit isn’t enough for them, though.

They don’t just want us to absorb their own ignorance, crudity and discomfort, they want us to absolve it.

People actually want to confess their panic to us and then have us bless them.

“There, there.   It’s perfectly alright to slight a tranny, to act out your own internalized issues upon us.  You can’t help it, of course.  You are just doing the best you can, I know that.

“You are now totally forgiven for violating the golden rule towards me, and if you do it again, that will be fine.  I am here to absorb whatever shit you want to spray, because, after all, it is I who walked through the abuse and shaming of culture, so it is I who should continue to take whatever blows are left for me.

“I have had to transcend so much that what is one more blow, or a sequence of blows, or even everyday abuse?   I am here for your discomfort.

“Please, don’t feel bad just for acting out against a tranny.   What else could you possibly have done?

“You are absolved my child.  Go in peace.”

There is an old Bert & I joke:

An old guide tells the city fella to go fetch a pail of water from the spring.  He comes back in just a moment, an empty bucket and looking white as a sheet.

“There’s a bear in the spring!” he blurts out.

“Don’t worry about it.” the guide replies.   “That bear is as scared of you as you are of him.”

“Well,” the city fella sputters, “in that case, you don’t want any water from that spring anyway.”

Bears know that humans are much more dangerous to bears than bears will ever be to humans.  Trying to explain that to a human, though, is very difficult.  Shit, it’s a goddamn bear!

Walking into a place and not knowing what gotchas lie in wait is very, very difficult.  All it takes is a couple of drunk redneck women or a fundamentalist crew at a UPS store to make our life difficult and painful.

Having to walk in and be ready to be the bigger person, reaching out to connect and soothe fears of others, ready to absolve their acts and make them comfortable again, well, often that’s just a lift too far.   The very thought can make you want to stay in a basement rather than having to absorb, educate, absolve and then do it all again.

I know why people want absolution, claiming that they are just doing the best that they can, so they deserve to be let off the hook.

I also know, though, how this usually plays out.   The transperson has to do all the work for the whole network, absorbing all the issues as others resist healing.  We have to be the shock absorber, working to make others feel safe in our presence while we feel completely unsafe in theirs.

Gender binaries make people crazy.   We swim in a sea of gender and everyone who is gendered has some strain, some twists, some challenges around how they had to comply with the rules.   The enforced binary keep us suspect of the people around us, keep us having to play gender games to stay effective in the system of desire.  It’s a challenge.

Those of us who felt the deep calling to walk into that no-man’s/no-woman’s land to find a role that fits our own heart seem to be exceptional, able to go where no normal person ever could.   If we can face those stresses in ourselves, then facing those stresses in others can’t be all that big a deal, right?

We are to be held separate, heroes or villains, on a pedestal or in a hole,  not really normal humans but something profound, scary and different.

Transpeople are not here to let you act out your issues around gender and desire.  We don’t stand up as targets for you.   You have to do your own healing.

Taking the blows to be ourselves, well, that’s hard, but we do it because we really, really, really need to.

Absolving your actions, though, based in your own internalized issues around gender, well, that’s just too damn much to ask.

Lost Me Gone

Who the fuck am I?

Oh, I know all the things I think and all the ways I service others.

But right now, who I am just seems to be massively lost.  Somehow, I seem to be invisible to others, just a problem wrapped in an enigma.

I learned to be concierge for over a decade.  Then, in two and a half years of purgatory after my parents died, I learned to be smaller.

Now I am being called upon to manifest again.

And, after all that all that time, all that neglect, all that abuse, I have become without form.    I offer my words and my services, but who I am just seems to pass through others like a grey cloud.

I am without form.  Whatever reflections return from the world around me seem so much not to be me but rather just a glimpse of nebulous gas, the sight of a bag whose content is gone or at least insubstantial.  I am solely the facets of me that they want to see, never whole, never real.

Looking in the mirrors around me I am without weight and form, even as my corpus gets bigger and more slovenly.  My desires are stripped and I exist only as a figment of others needs, tainted with a wad of sad, sad distance.

Only as legend do I exist, separated from any kind of real human connection.   I weave in an out of the struggles of others, attending even as I become less human, less dimensional.

Existing only in the possibility and vision of others feels like not existing at all.  I feel void, squeezed into some cracks in their lives, just old lubricant for their new and continuing problems.

Rather than gain substance in the world, creating change by accumulating weight, I have left that incarnation to become ephemeral, living only as the flashes of a spirit in the world.    I am a bright light that flashes for a moment, oscillating light, and then instantly subsides again into some limit of perception.

My journey to illumination was crucial for me as I went away to attend to others, a going to ideas and not presence, beyond fleshly presence.  Stripping personal vanity as so much of me became invisible to those who squeeze into their own fears, habits and expectations, nothing changed to make space or reality for me to inhabit.

Beyond trying to force myself into mental structures where I only fit as light between, blinks of illumination that cannot stay in the needs of day after day, I have learned the apparent boundaries of perception existence, the crush between elegance and meat.

The next question to ask comes in a flash, but offered, the answers come with sluggish resistance, mostly rolling backwards into a preconceived demand.  In that retrograde roll, I become erased, as useless as the dreams of a prophet in a world struggling for another bite.

Push back towards normal, fit into the present, become one of us, far from the place where you have flown to.   We are the real, the clobbered, the practical, and your shimmering insight pretty and useful only as much as it serves us.   Taking what we want shows you who you must be, and the rest, beyond our ken or or care, well, nothing there.

Decorative, pretty, engageable, I am not.   More of my light just brings greater darkness as eyes shut down, averted to focus on what is primal and assumed.  Art beyond need or understanding, acknowledged wise but eminently disposable in the face of instant needs.

No mantle for me, no space in the requiem of survival, not propping up the needs.   Demanding beyond is downer negation, erased to maintain the strain, the slender threads that retain carnal stability in a rattling, pelting, pounding world.

All this time pounded back into insubstantial knowledge, existing as a fragment of soul defended by mind in a world where whoever the fuck I am does not, can not exist.    I shape my understanding for sharing, but only tiny specks make it out, instants of insight that illuminate but then need to be slapped out as coals of a fire that cannot be allowed to exist.

Value purged, reduced to known and acceptable needs, the me beyond runs to the vanishing point.   Too far away or too tiny, it makes no difference as the flashes of mental/spiritual reality are just become invisible points of light, sweet stars that make no difference to need and desire around them.

Nuance, context, ritual, joie de vivre held in spirit become foreshortened, only to serve the carnal inertia of expected desire.   Beyond what is wanted the divine surprise cannot exist, just garbage noise of cranks and fools.

World shaped into an audience only for the commercial and canned, sensational and sentimental, harking back to the impulses marketing triggers for control setting, beyond and handmade is trivial, something for the garbage bag.

So long squeezing my flights into rationalized textures, struggling for common ground that makes me manifest in the shared inhabit space, I fail in creating connection, instead always being never enough as too much.   Going there is not here, so I shed like liquid on slick plastic, resistant to the water of life beyond convention.

As much as I thank creation, every step towards insight is a step away from society.   They want a bit of intensity, but no so much that it burns or explodes comfortable belief, arrogant needs where consuming always trumps invocation.  A tiny bit yes, a lovely scent of revelation, only not a real glade dumped into a carefully contrived bathroom environment.

Vision beyond is vision wasted, as only so much may trickle through the pores of everyday existence.   Too much incision becomes terrifying, removing that which we cling to for insulation keeping the shallow past moving.

The search for community with values and vision that can be home is beyond.   Where is one a star for other than supporting existing visions, continuing some sense of identity as it is, rather than as it can be?

Is the goal always becoming tradition, a piece of the known, expected and loved?   That seems impossible for me, so much time and life lived in shadows without manifestation and presence in a wider world.  To be myself, I slid off the normative, up and away to some spirit.

I know that however much I put myself and my truth into this text, there will be no reflection, no return, not even any ripples that make awareness of my presence.   I will be erased, void, invisible, gone, reduced to some kind of Rorschach test.

Someone may get a flash from my words.   Maybe that flash will get caught under another thought and come back to illuminate sometime in the future.  Maybe, but I will never know.  It will never feed back to me.

Who the fuck am I, then?   I understand my service. I understand my connection with a creator who gives me gifts that open visions in my heart.  I understand my quest beyond.

Becoming small enough to pop into the expectations and assumptions of others feels beyond me.   They have no idea what they want beyond the tapes they wrap their lives in.

But who I am or even who I could be in the world I see?

Any sight of that is void, lost.

That means I am insubstantial, that me and my essence doesn’t really exist beyond what others squeeze into their vision.

Without form, only shards that erase me rather than reveal me.  No reflection of heart.

No.  Me.

Spaces We Inhabit

There is an assumption that transpeople inhabit trans spaces.

That is rarely correct, simply because there are very few trans spaces in the world and most of those that do exist are ephemeral — an hour here, a weekend there.

In reviewing a recent reality show one person noted how good it was to see transpeople in a group rather than as solitary individuals walking in a challenging world.

While that image may have been appealing, it was one of the most unreal parts of the show.   Transpeople, especially transpeople of different identifications, different maturity of expression, different classes and even different races very, very rarely gather together.  It took television producers to make that coming together happen for the cameras.

When we do get together there is always a lot of identity politics going on.   This focuses on how other transpeople are doing trans wrong, doing trans in a way that does not reflect how one wants to be seen in the world.

It’s easy to see what scares, annoys, offends or squicks us in others.   It’s very hard to get to the point where you can support other people making choices that you would never, ever make for yourself.   Saying, for example, “I could never wear that but it looks great on you!” takes a great deal of confidence and maturity.

There are very few benefits to identifying as a member of the group “trans.”   If you identify as gay or lesbian you can hook up with other people who have that same identification, but trans does not open a world of interested partners to anyone.

We didn’t grow up wanting to be trans.  We grew up wanting to be a beautiful woman or a handsome man, to be a straight person or a gay person or a lesbian, maybe even just wanting to be ourselves.   Trans is just a means to claiming what we really desire, not something we always wanted.

All of this is most devastating to people who are just beginning to explore their own trans nature.

When these newbies reach out, they don’t find spaces with mature and confident people to support them in possibilities.  Instead, they find spaces filled with other newbies and with the transpeople who have resisted emergence enough to stay stuck in the closet that isolated trans space offers them.

It is those closet dwellers that make mature transpeople resist trans spaces.   We don’t need to go back and fight the battles we worked so hard to move beyond, don’t need to be told how we are doing trans wrong, often by people who often aren’t really living a wider life at all.

Transvestism is about changing your clothes, transsexualism is about changing your body, and transgender is about changing your mind.

To see the possibilities of trans emergence past your own fears, assumptions and expectations, you have to be willing to open your mind to the stories of other transpeople.  These stories, though, will challenge the resistance that is in the mind of every transperson, the beliefs that have kept them closeted for so long.

That resistance, the defenses we made up to protect our trans heart, and the fantasies we created about the way our life, our body and our relationships should be,  are the biggest block we hold to becoming new.  The old patterns and tensions keep us fixed and small.

Every transperson I know dreams of safe trans spaces where we can be open, seen, affirmed and supported (1994).   Many of us have even worked to create those spaces, in local groups, in conferences or even in a town that we could come to.  Most of us, though, have walked away from that dream and learned to take care of ourselves.   The cost of collision of armour is just too high.

We don’t inhabit trans spaces not because we don’t want or need trans spaces, but rather because those spaces are under so much pressure that they quickly become unsafe and very costly.    This leaves us very much alone in navigating the world, defending what we have and husbanding our resources while we stay ragged and unhealed inside.

Newly out transpeople rarely find space where they can see themselves tenderly mirrored and have their unique possibilities affirmed in a mature and compassionate way.  Instead, they usually get a dump of fear and rules from others, telling them so many different and shallow right ways to be trans in the world.

The trans spaces we inhabit aren’t in the world.  That means that they have to be inside of us.   We have to create our own safe space and always carry it with us.

When you have no good model for safe space in the world, this is a very, very difficult challenge.  We know that other people need to feel safe around us, need to sense us as being comfortable in our own skin, but we have few places to practice that practice, few places to recoup and repair own own frayed safety.

The spaces we inhabit are almost totally spaces that are not built by or for transpeople.   They are spaces where we tend to get forced to the edges, keeping our nature hidden and small so as to not create too much of a stir.

That lack of trans spaces, well, it keeps so many of us lonely and defended, unable to mature and feel safe.

And that continues to be a problem.

Really Interested

Furthermore, unlike Kanner’s patients, they had no delays in acquiring language and did not speak in surreal aphorisms, opaque neologisms, or echolalic references to themselves in the third person. In fact, they tended to be precociously articulate—particularly when they were expounding on the subjects that fascinated them. (“One 13-year-old boy, after a brief acquaintance, wanted to talk about mortgages,” they reported.) These children only decisively withdrew from interactions with adults at the center when they figured out that they weren’t really interested in what they were saying.
-- "NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity" by Steve Silberman

“…only decisively withdrew from interactions…when they figured out that [others] weren’t really interested in what they were saying.”

Yeah, I get that.

The way I managed my parents for so many years was to stay engaged with what they were saying.

For my mother, this was easy.  You just had to feed her curiosity, give her something else to chew on, and she would know you are present for her.

For my father, it was much harder.   He was fixated on unique vibrational events in turbine operation, especially jet engines, which he designed.   He would go over the same ground again and again, never taking yes for an answer, always ready to re-litigate the point.

He wrote and submitted papers to his professional organization into his eighties, well after the review organizers had written him off as a total crackpot.   I had to help with these papers, not only rewriting them only to have him slosh them up again, but also being engaged in continuous arguments about the content and structure.

When he was last home from the hospital, I had to print out copies of his papers in large print for his review.   He was fixated.

Aspergers people who succeed in finding a place in the world have family that are interested and engaged in their own areas of focus.   When parents use and harness those interests, the child can connect and grow in using them.

When people around them aren’t interested, though, they decisively withdraw.   The choice to only engage in what other people like is not really useful.

I know how to engage other people on the subjects of their fascination.   That makes me not really Aspergers.

As someone raised by Aspergers people, though, I understand the power of fascination.   I have my own fierce areas of interest.

And I very much have the experience that people are not really interested or engaged in what I am saying.   So, obviously, I withdraw.

You can argue that I should judge my audience, focus on their interests, finding common ground, easing up and being satisfied with whatever I get.   I do scrape for feedback, of course; my writing is always informed and enlarged by scraps of information I get from others.

I really, really, really need immersion in my areas of fascination.   I really, really, really need people to engage me in those areas, not just listen, nod their heads, and not chomp down on my content.

It is hard for others to be credible when they tell me that they aren’t really interested in what I have to say, but they are sure that others will be, if I just keep talking.   My talking too much is what puts people off of what I have to say, as I have found   Too much information is daunting and kinda weird, you know?

I knew how to engage my parents, to be really interested in what they valued.  I still do that with other people, there and engaged with their struggles and concerns.

Figuring out that others aren’t really interested in what I am saying does not feel like a cue to say what others are already interested in.

Rather, that dismissal and erasure feels like a cue to withdraw in big and dramatic ways.

Sabrina Taraboletti, A Personal Pride

Sabrina Taraboletti, Space Coast Pride 2015 Grand MarshallTBB was delighted to be one of the Grand Marshalls of the first Space Coast Pride Parade in Melbourne Florida this weekend.

Her three top moments?

3) Speaking with a woman who had to choose between the strictures of her fundamentalist church and being present for her gay child.  This woman was grateful for the support she had from PFLAG and other groups.   TBB spoke about the gratitude she has towards all the people who helped her find comfort and centering over the years and how she feels the need to pass those gifts on, taking leadership.  To keep the gifts, you give them away.

2) One person who felt some urge to get involved with the trans community because they needed to do some exploration of moving beyond gender expectations felt safe enough to engage TBB.  They are having dinner together on Monday.

1) When the festival was over, cleanup had to be done.  Being informed that the bathrooms needed cleaning, people looked at each other, but TBB stepped right up to do the work, rolling up her sleeves and scrubbing away.  The group saw why TBB has change so many lives by putting herself out front, whatever needs to be done.

For TBB, the power wasn’t in being in the spotlight but in doing the mature work to empower others, offering leadership that helped those around her to find their own strength, power and possibility.

With the support of many companies that would never have fielded connection to the LGBT community, the event was a huge success.   The huge pride flag became the symbol of a new and better day, something to gather under and around, a banner to wave with great and expansive pride.

TBB felt the old roles surface, facets of her that are often hidden in her everyday work.   She brought more of herself out, down to the black Mustang named Angolina that she bounded across the country in to get back for this event.  Even her Italian roots were honoured with coffee and pastries in a group of leaders who celebrated their Italian-American heritage after the parade.

Remembering the bittersweet energy that would surge through her after every Southern Comfort Conference, TBB offered support and guidance to the leaders of this event, as she remembered her own proud heritage and glimpsed a shared proud future.

Grand Marshalls Barney Frank & Sabrina Marcus Taraboletti at Space Coast Pride 2015

Sabrina Taraboletti, Space Coast Proud

Sabrina Taraboletti & Barney Frank at Space Coast Pride 2015
Sabrina Taraboletti & Barney Frank at Space Coast Pride 2015

Today, in the beautiful Eau Gallie Arts District in Melbourne Florida, Space Coast Pride is holding their 2015 Pride Festival and Parade.

Three Grand Marshalls will grace the event.   Barney Frank will represent Gay Men, Mary Meeks and Vicki Nantz will represent the Lesbian community,  and our own Sabina Marcus Taraboletti will represent Trans Pride.

Sabrina Taraboletti, Rose Rubino and Gia Heller at Space Coast Pride 2015
Sabrina Taraboletti, Rose Rubino and Gia Heller at Space Coast Pride 2015

Sabrina came out in Brevard county in the mid 1980s, looking for shared support.   Since there was no local organization to support crossdressers and other transpeople, she started one.

Her trip to an IFGE conference opened her eyes to the power of diverse transpeople coming together to share, encourage and empower each other.  This sparked her to bring together people from across the south to found the Southern Comfort Conference in 1991, serving on the board and chairing the event for years.

After emerging as a transwoman in the workplace, she was let go from her job as a Space Shuttle contractor for NASA.   Working with the National Center for Transgender Equality, she later testified about her experience at the first hearing on transgender discrimination held by Congress.

As documented in Trinidad: The Film, Sabrina Taraboletti in Sabrina was a founder of an care facility that supported transwomen through their surgery.   With her open manner, including an interview in a bubble bath, she became the breakout star of that film, appearing at festivals across the USA.

Through all of this, Sabrina worked to repair stresses in her family resulting from her emergence by always being a father to her two children.  Together they travelled the country, even to Prudhoe Bay Alaska.   She is very proud of her daughter, a chemical engineer, and her son, a Naval aviator.

Returning to her roots, Sabrina reestablished her licence as a marine engineer and is now Chief Engineer for a NOAA fisheries ship.   By developing and managing a crew and all systems, she maintains safe and effective operation for all.

Readers of this blog, though, will know Sabrina as TBB, with many of her stories shared here.    They are tales of a truly big and bold transwoman, a talented busty blonde with a sharp mind and an enormous heart.

We met in 1993 and were onstage together hosting in front of the entire conference that evening, the first incarnation of The Drama Queens, eventually hosting the Virginia Prince Lifetime Achievement awards three times.

Sabrina has always focused on creating family around her.   By drawing people in, giving them the chance to share and gleefully encouraging their contributions, she has empowered many, many people to move beyond their comfort zone and discover all that they can be.

Sabrina has always reflected pride to transpeople, from the 1980s to today.   Many leaders remember her unconditional support as helping them go out and do the work that needed to be done.

She will tell you, though, that her own pride emerged with the help of others.   People reflected her as they saw her, not as she feared she was, and slowly, she learned to flow, moving beyond old models to authenticity.

“It’s ass!” Sabrina will rail at me, “The ultimate trans surgery is pulling the stick out of your own ass, not out of your backside or your bum!”   Sabrina is absolutely sure of this because she knows firsthand how a contrived life can come crashing down and then, with commitment, persistence and patience be built back up in a better, more authentic way.

As I have said in the past, Sabrina has always been a catalyst, bringing out the energy of those around her.   She’s platinum, that TBB, and today the folks at Space Coast Pride get to share in a bit of that proud magic Sabrina has been bringing to transgender communities for almost 30 years now.

That’s definitely something to be proud about.

Thank you for being visible this weekend to represent all the people who have strengthened your pride in the last 30 years.  And thank you for being one of those proud people for so many of us over that time.  Thank you, Sabrina, and congratulations!

Here are some links to great TBB stories on this blog:

Continue reading Sabrina Taraboletti, Space Coast Proud

Cross Trained

Among the things he learned was that trying to leverage peer pressure in the classroom didn’t work with these children, because they were already alienated from their peers. Flattery was equally ineffective, as they were curiously immune to it. What kids like Harro did care passionately about, however, was logic. They had an innate desire — almost a compulsion — to seek out universal laws and objective principles.
The primary motivation for learning in typical children was their emotional (“affective”) identification with the teacher. But autistic children sought learning for its own sake in the course of pursuing their passionate interests. They didn’t care how their teachers felt about them; they just wanted to know the facts.
-- "NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity" by Steve Silberman

Kids on the spectrum grow up feeling challenged because the people around them all think in a normative way, so they try and teach those techniques to their children.

I grew up feeling challenged because my parents thought in a Aspergers way, so they tried to teach those techniques to their children.

When I grew up, there wasn’t the awareness of neurodiversity, as Mr. Silberman explains in his fine book.  To me, the book is rather frustrating because the history is rather frustrating; some people got it, most didn’t, the medicos looked for a cure to make kids normative, lots of hucksters wanted to sell snake oil  cures, all that.

For me, though, I recognize the patterns, not because they are the way my brain works, but because they describe the way I was trained by my parents.

My fifth grade teacher couldn’t imagine how peer pressure wouldn’t stop me, my VP of Sales couldn’t imagine how flattery wouldn’t motivate me, and everyone has been baffled by my quest for universal laws and objective principles, even to this day.

I trained in the school of neurodiversity from my first moments on earth.   That education kept me both an outsider and an autodidact, and it most certainly affected my approach to finding balance as a transperson in a binary obsessed world.  I couldn’t just assert my beliefs, couldn’t surrender to medicalization, and needed to find good understanding to work with.

The best teachers for these children, Asperger observed, were willing to meet the children halfway, instead of insisting that they act like everybody else.
"The teacher must at all costs be calm and collected and must remain in control. He should give his instructions in a cool and objective manner, without being intrusive. A lesson with such a child may look easy and appear to run along in a calm, self-evident manner. It may even seem that the child is simply allowed to get away with everything, any teaching being merely incidental. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, the guidance of these children requires a high degree of effort and concentration."
He put it even more succinctly in a 1953 textbook that has never been translated into English. “In short,” Asperger wrote, “the teacher has to become somehow ‘autistic.’”
-- "NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity" by Steve Silberman

To survive in my family, I had to become somehow ‘autistic.’ I had to be the teacher of my parents, so they first had to teach me to be like them, as hard and as frustrating as that was when it erased the emotional self I did hold.

I had to be able to walk into their world because I knew they weren’t going to walk into mine.

And as to my teachers,  how did they offer a “high degree of effort and concentration” to help a kid whose home life was full of terrors?  Best not dwell, eh?

I know why I have the skills to reflect others, asking the questions that can help move them away from their old habits.   I have been cross trained — across gender, across mindsets, across cultures and more.

Our strength always comes from where we bridge worlds, from the liminal spaces we inhabit.  I had to start learning that very early.

Why Christian?

I have been pondering the question of “Why Christianity?”

There is no doubt that you can be Christian and fundamentalist, using the Bible to justify and impose your sect’s beliefs on the world, much like the clerk who claimed her belief made it impossible to do her civic duty of issuing marriage licences under the law.

This kind of legalistic Christianity leads some denominations to mix belief and science in a way that feel helps smash “transgender confusion.”  It appears to give permission to individuals to deny, mock and harass trans people because the concept of anything outside of clear binaries is purged from their belief system.

It is the very power which allows this abusive use of Christian belief, though, that makes Christianity so compelling.

There are also many Christian believers who are working to be more inclusive, more open, more compassionate and more tender.    They see their Christian beliefs as orthodox and unapologetic while being diametrically opposed to fundamentalist belief.

I have many times about the difference between preachy preachers, those who stand for separation between us and them, explaining why followers are aligned against evil people, and teachy preachers, those who stand for connection between all, explaining why we have to do the hard work of letting go of the fear and evil inside of us.

Preachy preachers preach about enforcing rules that draw boundaries while teachy preachers teach about a path to become more open and engaged with those who struggle by getting connected with our own wounds.

Both of these groups, it seems to me, are drawn to the power of the same Christian texts because they provide a shared set of metaphors which are hard to challenge in this country.   While they read the stories quite differently, the absolute centrality of the stories over so very many centuries have made them a shared ground.

Even the challenge of the anti-theists strengthens the power of Christianity, which has always been bolstered by tales of martyrdom, no matter what the facts are.

It is a joy to be able to stand up and preach to an energized choir, to a group of people who come together under a shared rubric.

Christianity is easy to assert in this country.  Come out as Ba’hai or Hindu or Muslim or Buddhist and you can hear the sniffs of others who immediately reduce you to something foreign, something less than American.

Christianity, though, ripples with the flag, no matter how twisted the beliefs you apply to the Bible are.  As long as you call yourself Christian, you are mainstream, with some obligation for others to accept you.

Anyone who has studied the centuries of Christianity before the canon was imposed, before the Bible was codified, understands that there has never been only one set of beliefs under the rubric of Christianity.   Christian identity started in conflict and that conflict has always been hot and heavy with the challenge of who holds the real and true beliefs.

While this means that there will always be battles between people who identify as Christian, it also means that simply identifying as Christian will always make you more beliefs more protected easily accepted than any other label, at least in the English speaking world.

For me, it is this wide berth, this protected status that answers the question “Why Christian?”

Beliefs are just beliefs.   They can exist in many, many different kinds of stories, as Joseph Campbell showed us in his comparisons of mythologies around the world.   Would the tenets of Christianity under any other name still be as potent?

The key question here is powerful.   Are we transformed simply because we believe Jesus Christ died for our sins, that Jesus is the one and only true son of God who brought salvation to the world?   Or are we transformed because we walk in the steps of Jesus, working to follow our understanding of what he taught will save us?

Do we believe that our belief in the divinity of Jesus lets us draw lines between good and evil behavior, lines we can enforce through our churches?

For every Christian, on some level, their belief in the divinity of Jesus is the foundation of their authority to assert their beliefs in the world.   “Jesus said this and I believe it meant what I believe is true!” they proclaim.

Having an unassailable pillar of authority to assert faith allows a kind of actualization and empowerment that is impossible when we just speak for our own experience.

Using a shared set of metaphors that people learned early adds credibility to your own assertions, even if you use those stories to defend your own parochial beliefs.

All of this cover makes the very term “Christian” very ambiguous; what does it stand for anyway?   Sure, you are Christian, but are you the kind of Christian who believes that any who don’t follow your tenets are evil and worthy of smiting, or are you the kind of Christian who believes that you have a personal obligation to find the divinity in everyone?

Do you believe that everyone is saved, or do you believe that only hard compliance on earth can make you worthy of better?

The lovely thing about the term Christian, though, is that from a social perspective, it doesn’t matter.   You have the cover of the Bible to wrap your beliefs, the standing of Christianity to give you authority to expound and evangelize your beliefs.

To me, that’s the best answer to “Why Christian?”   Christian lets you stand under the shelter of normativity to assert whatever your reading of Biblical meaning is.  It gives you and your followers a kind of respectable veneer, a social sheen that lets them dismiss critics with a wave of the phrase “Well, I am Christian, so….”

Good preaching — which, of course, to me, means good teaching, or at least the encouragement of learning, growth and healing — is empowering and transformative.  I like powerful and deep preaching.

And if living under the banner marked “Christian” helps you do that in this culture, well, there is something to be said for that licence.


Small Talk

My whole life, until I was like 22 or so, before I was diagnosed [with Aspergers Syndrome], I thought that the reason people made small talk -- you know like standing in line at the grocery store and "Oh! It's a nice day today!"  -- was because they had nothing interesting to think about inside their heads.  

I thought that most of the rest of the world were a bunch of idiots with no thoughts.  

If somebody was friendly and said like "Oh, nice day!" I didn't really, sometimes I'd be like "Oh, yeah," because I just didn't see the point in carrying on a conversation when this person was being really rude. They are interrupting my thought process - I had interesting things going on up here and you know, they want to talk to me about the weather?  What?   

My dad explained to me people get little positive vibes from interacting with other people, even strangers and even on really benign things.  He said it's like when you play "The Sims" and they get little plus signs above their head when they talk to each other.   

I was like "Huhhh! So that was why people did that."  

I don't feel like I get little plus signs over my head when I talk to people and I still don't, but I understand that other people do, so now I engage in small talk more because I respect other people more because I'm understanding their behaviour, and I no longer think that people are idiots.
-- Katie Miller ( in the film "Neurotypical" (2013)


Glory Of Imitation

One of the very best things we can do is imitate others.

Every child knows this.   After their own exploration, imitation is their most powerful tool.   The see someone do something and they imitate that choice, working to assert a kind of ownership of the skill and flavour behind it.  By having some mastery they can integrate it into their own behaviour using it when appropriate.

What starts as imitation always becomes revelatory and unique.   As we copy others we put our own spin on the choices, showing our character and intent by the slight differences we put on the choice.

As we integrate these learned routines into our own manner we use them as building blocks to create our own expression, mixing and matching them with other choices we have acquired and developed from other sources.  It is through this pastiche we create our own unique texture and content, taking the pieces and assembling them into something completely new, something greater than the sum of its parts.

Imitation is always the starting point for creativity.

Observation is always the starting point for imitation.   For example, if we don’t ever read novels, how can we ever learn to write a novel?

We need to take in both experiences and styles in order to find ways that we can collect, synthesize and express ourself with style and wit.

Art is about the process of making art, not the product created.   Art is the process of imitating some thing or some style in a bold, precise, twisted and very unique way.

If we aren’t open to observing and engaging the world, open to the input side of creation, how can we ever be effective in the output side of creation, making powerful and personal contributions to the world?

If we resist imitating what we see — something children do with eager ease — how can we ever find new ways of expressing, new ways of creating?   Risking looking foolish is required to swing the pendulum wide, going beyond our current comfort zone to find a new and more effective centre.

To become new we have to find new ways to be.

Isn’t it great that we see so many possible ways to all around us, if we just look?  But how will we ever know which ones fit us unless we try them on?  Once we do that, we can find ways to make them beautifully our own.

Creation always starts with imitation.

Every child — and every creative adult — knows that.

My Us Is Me

"You're not a real anything!   You're not a boy, you're not a girl!"

"You're right.  I'm not a real anything."

"So Ricky, neither are any of us.  That doesn't give you the right to be unkind.  You know, you think you have the market cornered on feeling alienated?  I mean, shit, no matter what we look like or who we are, we're all just stumbling through life, trying to figure this shit out, just like you."

"Yeah, but you know, unlike me, you all have an us to figure it out with.  My us is just me, Robbie.  Try that sometime.  Let me know how it works for you."

"No No, No!  See, there you go again!  It's all about you, isn't it?  It's always all about you.  Have you forgotten that I have been on your side, always on your side, without condition, since we were six years old?"

"Of course, I've never forgotten that, Robbie.  That's why I have always trusted that you were the only person in this world who didn't secretly feel this way about me.  So now I guess that my "we" just got even smaller, huh?   No big deal, though.  I'm used to it.  Really, it's fine."

-- Boy Meets Girl, Eric Schaeffer, 2014

This one is worth a watch.

Ergo Ego

Half of motherhood is shutting up.
— Erica Jong, “Fear Of Dying”

The human struggle is with the ego.

The ego prompts us to speak, marking our space in the world.

Letting go of the ego prompts us to listen, connecting us to the world.

Ms. Jong understands this.   To lead, she has to listen much more than she speaks.  She has to engage the world the way it is rather than the way she thinks it should be.   She has to give those around her their own heads, their own room to grow and develop their own style and their own power.

Many, many years ago a therapist told me that I did something unique and surprising. “You tell me that someone did something stupid or hurtful, but then you tell me why they did that, why their choices are understandable in context.”

I grew up with parents who had real challenges.   Instead of just acting out against them, just asserting my own ego, I also had to take care of them.   I knew how tender, lost and hurting they were.  Without context, I couldn’t have survived, so I had put all my effort into reducing my ego and becoming compassionate and supportive.

Living with a severely reduced ego has challenges, though.  While it very much supports being a visionary, one of those pain in the ass people who are committed to truth over popularity, it makes being a missionary intolerable.   You just don’t have the concentrated belief that supports swagger and repetition.

Ego isn’t evil.   The challenge is simply, like so many other things in a human life, to keep it in balance.   Ms. Jong knows that half of motherhood is learning to get over yourself, to serve something more than your ego, and that demands that you check your own self-centrism and have the world in context, learning to shut up and listen.

For humans who are used to being self-centered, who believe that their life would be better if they are more self-centered, the ideas of letting go of the ego to spend time listening, to the world around us and to the voice of the universe, is just pretty damn weird.   Sure, you should do it in meditation, maybe, at a church service or when saying your prayers, but more than that?   Why?

I shut up, quieting the ego, so I can listen more closely.   Much like Jaye in Wonderfalls who asks the inanimate animals why they speak to her, the answer is because she listens.

Sure, I share what I understand, but I don’t have the ego to assume that anyone cares about what I am saying.   More than that, I am aware that in trying to satisfy an audience one’s ego can grow, becoming full of itself and choosing to pander to keep getting the same affirmation.

The way to be a visionary is to listen more than you speak, clearing out your old assumptions and letting the new patterns emerge and become clear to you.

It is possible to have glimpses of connection in the spaces between ego, those moments between sleep and wake, those times when you gather for worship, but you will only get fragments that way, returning to everyday quickly after.

While, for many reasons, my own ego has been incredibly shrunk down, I know that I live in a society that values the ego highly.   There were times in human culture when too much ego was seen as indulgent and sacrifice for the good of the community was valued, but this is not one of those times.

Marketers understand that affirming indulgence in pleasure, in status, in convenience and such can sell more goods.   You do not help people buy more things they don’t really need by appealing to their sensibility, restraint and maturity.

This world is full of stimuli, mostly designed to get an emotional response out of us.  Others have to scream louder and louder to get even a tiny piece of our strained attention and once they have got it, they have to offer something easy and very desirable to keep that attention.

In this ego festival world, standing without an ego leaves one bare and jangled.   Instead of asserting my ego in the face of others, I back off, avoiding confrontation.    I will fight for what I value, fight in service, but I will not fight for the cause of fighting.   I don’t have the armour of ego that just lets blows bounce off.

Half of motherhood is shutting up.   It is learning to listen, allowing those we love to grow and heal in their own time and their own way.   We need to let others be themselves so they can unfold their own wings and, after lots of failure, make strong and beautiful flights.

Maybe the hardest part, though, is knowing what the hell half is.  How do we find that balance between vulnerability and ego, between assertion and acceptance, between creativity and receptivity?

Who is there to help us maintain that balance?

The obvious answer is that someone who listens to us can help with that, someone who knows how to parent the parent, how to help heal the healer.

The modest proposal behind “The Intern” is that for both men and women, the sexiest thing in the world is to be heard.

Who hears?   Who mirrors?  Who mothers the motherless child?

Ego development is often seen as evil in this over-ego world.  Most people need to learn to shut up, shut up their ego voice to become present for themselves and those they love.

But everyone, yes everyone, still needs to be heard.

Start With Wrong

The one question I would ask at a trans consciousness raising group is this:

“Since your emergence, which of your former beliefs have you discovered that you were wrong about?”

To create change first you have to create doubt.   Doubt lets you question your assumptions and expectations, your beliefs and your dogma in a way that helps clear the old, defensive and obstructive ideas away to make room for new and more effective understandings.

There is no room for growth or transformation without first dismantling what is currently occupying the mental space you need to create new.

For many people, this removal is the hardest part of the process.

We didn’t fill our brain just casually.  We took on board what our family, our community and our teachers gave us, knowing those bits would connect us to them.

We built defenses that let us hide the parts of us that we believed were sick, ugly, indulgent and offensive.   We did this to appear to fit in, to be who others expected us to be rather than showing what they seemed to disdain.

Because we are tied to our beliefs for good reasons, knowing that they let us connect with others who also hold those beliefs or that they protect us from looking weird and being a target, we don’t want to let go.

Instead, we try to compromise, holding onto the new without letting go of the old.

This compromise seems a lovely idea until push meets shove and we become trapped in the contradictions and twists between our old, comfortable binary habits and our need to be free from those assumptions and become new.  What starts as compromise can become “Block/Punch,”  an attempt to be everything to everyone, to avoid loss rather than to find a way to win.

For me, it is people on a journey who I connect with, those who want to discover and claim new knowledge, new visions and new possibilities.   I want travellers rather than tourists, those who want to be exposed to different and be forever changed, living a hero’s journey.

One way I can identify these people is just by having them talk about where they let go of the old to claim something better.  Just imagining that you are still the same, unpurged and holding onto what you always held does not make room for open, vulnerable connection with the future.

For fundamentalists who really need to believe that things were always this way, admitting transformation and change is very hard.   They would rather just purge any contradictory history rather than engaging the process of doubt that underlay the change which occurred.

You cannot change until you can first humbly say “I was wrong.”   Being explicit on what you held and needed to let go of, even if those ideas, beliefs and positions were dear to you at the time, lets you see where change is still needed.

I know that this is hard for people.  I know many of them would rather just sweep the contradictions between then and now under the table, believing that denial makes change easier to swallow.

I believe that it instead makes change harder to consolidate and harder to build upon.  Instead of having a solid foundation to continue we have a trunk load of old stuff that can come up at any time, twisting us about and toppling us over.   Those buried beliefs become sore spots that we have to defend and rationalize, twisting our own growth to avoid their tenderness, armouring ourselves to keep them hidden.

There is a reason that the tradition in recovery involves first admitting your truth, acknowledging yourself as an alcoholic, for example.   Without that base of truth you can’t do the work that needs to be done, admitting powerlessness and stinking thinking before finding new, better and more wholesome ways to be in the world.

Opening your eyes, seeing beyond former blindness, is the way to own your own growth, your own transformation, your own rebirth.

Since your emergence, which of your former beliefs have you discovered that you were wrong about?   What comforting notions have you had to let go of so that you can move forward?

How did you engage loss so that you can become new?

Trans Like Me

I am trans like me.

I am not trans like them or like some other person, or trans in a good way or trans in a bad way. I am trans like me.

To me, the entire premise of trans emergence is to be yourself beyond social expectations and conventions.   Trans says that you are not out to join a group, rather you are our to be more powerfully and authentically yourself.  Trans is a journey to integration and truth.

I want — no, I need support for being trans like me.  I have found that difficult to find in this world.

People want to put me in some kind of box or other.  They want me to be like them, be like someone they know.   They want me to fit neatly into assumptions, into constraints that fit the organization of the world inside of their head.

These people include those who claim to want to support other transpeople.  They are struggling to effect trans in the world in a way that negotiates their needs and fears, finding some way to be effective in constructing their trans expression.

Because of this challenge, they have an acute sense of what expression, what truth, what assertion is wrong and wrong headed.    They know the forms of trans that they reject for themselves.   They know what they desire and they know what they fear.

They know when others are doing trans wrong.  Hell, everyone claims to know when others are doing trans wrong.   They easily offer advice on how we need to get over our history, how we need to just assert the gender we claim, how we need to work to look more invisible, how we need to be more gender fluid.

Everybody has an opinion how to be trans like me and each one of them starts with how I should change to be less like me.

My consistent supportive recommendation to people is simple: Be more like yourself.   Be more you.

Everyone in the world knows where fears and bad habits hold them back.  They just don’t get past those bits because they need to feel defended, need to feel safe, need to not be too exposed and vulnerable.

Inside of them they have a whole range of tapes made in their younger days that tell them that they are not enough, that they are broken, that they need to play along and fit in, that no one else will get the joke.

These are the tapes they use to guide their own behaviour.  Worse, these are the tapes they are amazingly willing to share with other people, offering them a free blast of the sticks that shape their behaviour.   They know the wrong way to do things, the way they fight, so they are ready to tell others where they are wrong.

Those tapes, though, mostly don’t include bits that tell people how great they actually are already, how if they can lose the fear and defences, removing the broom stick from their own butt and becoming more comfortable in their own skin people will find them compelling and engaging.

I don’t need to learn how to fix someone trans like me, how to become more trans (or human) like them.   I need to be more confident in being trans like me, less rigid, afraid and defended, more open, adaptable and confident.

I don’t need to be challenged, I need to be encouraged.

Instead, I often find that people want to harness me with keeping them comfortable, want to demand that I speak not only for myself but also for them.   They want me to be the kind of trans that they would be, because that’s the right kind of trans.

The problem, though, is that I am trans like me.

I didn’t fight to explore and confront my own demons so I could take on yours.

It may not be easy being me, but I know that it would be profoundly harder to be anyone else.  That’s not really an option for me.

I need to believe that being trans like me is enough, if I just do it well enough.   I need to learn how to be the best me possible, not to learn how to be more like you.

It isn’t a makeover I need, rather it is good editing that brings out the very best in me in a way that makes me more confident in the world.   I need to let go of bits I cling to that are not me, that are just defensive armour, and trust that me, just me will not only be enough, but that it will be amazing.

I don’t need to be more politically correct, don’t need to speak more with shared voices, don’t need to make myself smaller, don’t need to pander to other people’s fears.    I don’t need to eliminate my unique differences, becoming more homogeneous, more following guidelines.

I need to be even more trans like me.  Being more trans like me, more confident and assured in being trans like me means I will be less shy, less prickly, less retiring, less sad, less broken.

Respecting that others are human like themselves is vital to me.   I strive to approach others with respect and honour, working to find common ground.  That’s a key part of who I am, not me to invalidate you, me to offer the golden rule and not treat you as I wouldn’t want to be treated.

It doesn’t matter that there is no one exactly like me succeeding in the world.   That just means that there is room for someone who is like me.

It doesn’t matter that some people say they hate people who are trans like me.  They have never met someone who is trans exactly like me, and besides, you can’t win them all.   More than that, you can’t be someone else that they will like and still be yourself, either.

It doesn’t matter that when asked for advice most people say that to succeed, I should be more like them.   Do I really want to trust their tapes?   How can I know where those tapes have been?

It just would be nice to feel supported and affirmed when I feel like being me is not enough or is too much in the world.

I am trans like me.

And if that’s too much or not enough for you, well, I just don’t know how to be someone else.

Macro, Micro

For some of us, dreaming big is dreaming small.

Instead of wanting to build castles in the air, we want to build families and communities.  A small circle of well attended and well cared for people seems like a great and challenging enterprise.

It’s fine if those people are doing big things and we can help them achieve their dreams, but we want to attend to the details that we know count for so very much.

For us, attending to the little things is the only way to support doing big things.   We know that within every grandiose stroke are millions of tiny challenges, people having to do small things to make the magic happen.

People who value the small tend to value the interior, the heart of things, while people who value the big tend to value the exterior, the sweep of things.   Those are two very different but very complimentary orientations.

I know lots of people who want to jump into the spotlight, who want to be seen making a difference, who care more about having their name on the top of the press release than about what actually gets done.

These people can’t imagine why everyone doesn’t want this kind of attention, why some would rather stay close to the nuance and subtleties rather than just making the show.   They are not wonks even if they need wonks to help make the details work.

For some of us, the tiny, detailed and meta appears large and fascinating, compelling us much more do than the broad strokes of convention and arm waving.  We focus on deep precision and insight rather than on generalities and swagging.

Dreaming big for us is dreaming small because we see the universe inside of every drop.

And that’s true even if my world is too tiny for you to see.

Art Salvation

It’s not art that can save you.

It’s making art that can save you.

The process of creating beautiful, potent, precise and intense work, whatever the medium, is the process of owning your own creative force.   No force, no struggle, no quest means no salvation.

If making art was easy, like crafting, it wouldn’t be transformative.   It wouldn’t demand total engagement, wouldn’t require you to see in new way, wouldn’t demand rigor to create expression.   It wouldn’t make you think more deeply, wouldn’t make you question your choices, wouldn’t expose so many bits of your soul.

Making art is always messy and inconvenient.  While it can become fast and fluid, that only happens with mastery, after a great deal of experience and struggle.  How do you get to Carnegie Hall?   Practice, practice, practice.

Art without discipline is art without polish or nuance.   Delicate control lets add depth to work, capturing the tension between freedom and precision.

All art thrives on captured energy.  The more energy you pack in — mental energy, emotional energy, physical energy, creative energy — the more art mesmerizes and compels our attention.

Our art is the lifeline we hold onto as we explore the inner territory of our deepest emotions.   Art is the map we make which can take us back home when we need to escape, the journal we create that can let us relive and consider those spaces in the contemplative comfort of a reverie.

Because art is so personal, we have only ourself to answer to.   While we can complain that art is hard, no one else has responsibility for our art, so we have no one to blame but ourselves for the outcome.

There can be a point where art meets commerce, where we want to create work that satisfies an audience, dreaming of fame and fortune.   We imagine that somehow if we just follow the expectations of others that we can make art that will sell.

It is, however, our personal spark, our unique energy that makes our work different, true and compelling.   There is always a space for generic and imitation, but without the revelatory process of art, it will never achieve greatness.

We must first master our own technique, our own process, owning our own practice before we can ever transfer our artistry to the cause of delighting audiences.   Even after we do engage the audience, we must still push our own development, creating new beyond the comfortable so we can lead the audience to the new, the novel and the potent.

Even after you make art that others engage, you have to keep making art that challenges you to stay fresh, stay moving, stay alive.   If you don’t keep growing and challenging yourself, the limits of your audience will be the limits of your own salvation.

It’s not art that can save you.  It’s making art that can save you.

That’s simply because making art — real art, art that takes depth and discipline — changes you profoundly.

Making art changes the way you see the world, especially the world inside of you.

Making art changes the way you make choices, demanding conscious attention and the willingness to acknowledge when a choice doesn’t quite work and you need to choose again.

Making art turns you into an active participant in the creation of your own life, teaching you to own the process of living rather than just to be driven by habit and impulse.

Owning your own life in a way you can reshape it lets you save yourself.

To me, anyway, that’s a very good reason to make art.

I don’t want life to imitate art.
I want life to be art.
— Carrie Fisher

Softly, Softly

I have always been a software gal.

In the days when Lee’s Mardi Gras Boutique had a sign that said “All NASA Missions Went Through The Hands Of A Crossdresser,” there was an adage that engineers are transsexuals and programmers are transvestites.   Engineers, you see, wanted to fix the hardware and programmers wanted to fix the software.

While I am not a programmer, I was a product manager in the early days of integrated software.   Integration was my driving force from when I came out in the 1980s, which is why I didn’t fall into the transsexual or transvestite model, instead standing behind the just emerging transgender model.

Calling for the end of the Benjamin/Prince models in a keynote at IFGE in 1995, I have spent the last twenty years working on a different model that leaves the binary behind.

One of the big changes over that time is a much deeper understanding of the neuroplasticity of the brain.   Researchers have found that our neural patterns aren’t hard and fixed, instead being coded in what they call “wetware” that can change and adapt over a lifetime.

The old origin myth for transsexual women was that they had a “female brain” and needed to correct their body to fix that mismatch.  I always wondered why they didn’t want to reprogram their brain to fix their body, but that software approach wasn’t what they wanted.    They wanted to see their brain as fixed and their body as plastic and changeable, since they liked the OS they were running.

My origin myth is based on the “acorn” that James Hillman writes about, about the contents of our heart that we were created with.  For me, the modular software wraps around that essence which makes each human unique.   It is the software we change, not the heart.

Being aware of software, of thought and emotion, is a very femme thing.   We are used to looking at choices, even unconscious ones, to understand what is happening inside, under the surface.   It has always been a great treat for me when another woman can see, just by the flash of my eyes, my functioning femme heart.

Men tend not to show themselves as obviously on the outside, working to maintain a consistent smooth exterior.  Men’s context switching is much less visible than women’s switches, shown through wardrobe, voice and intention.   That means to get to understand and engage men you have to pay detailed attention to their software as revealed by their choices.

As mothers, we have to help those around us find better programs.   We teach children language, catch the earliest flickers of essence in them, and then give them the models and feedback to help them create their own routines and solutions.

We have to believe in growth, change and transformation, knowing that the only way that can happen is by changing our choices.   We change our choices not by changing the hardware by by changing the software, the decision trees that drive our behaviour.   Debugging those trees is the only way to get better, more considered and more elegant results.

When you believe that humans are their software, you believe that humans are capable of change, capable of growth and transformation.

You know that hardware always changes — humans age, get ill, suffer injuries — but that software driven by the inner essence defines how people respond to those physical challenges.

It is my sense that the younger generation, their pockets full of programmable devices, understands the power of software over hardware in a way that their parents never really will.   This is one reason they accept transgender more readily, knowing that simply understanding the hardware tells you little, it’s the software that makes the system what it is.

I’ve always been a software gal, though.   Show me the meta, let me understand the data structures, finding patterns, and the current algorithms will become evident.

And once you know the routines, well, you can change them.

Beyond Convenient

We live in a convenience culture.   Marketers want us to buy on emotion, looking for easy, quick and cheap fulfillment of our desires.  Go to the store, watch TV and be saturated with stimuli asking you to just reach out and grab what you want, telling you that will give you satisfaction right now.

It can become quite easy to believe that relationships should be as easy as buying products.    They should satisfy instantly, without any hard work or confusion.   If we don’t get what we want, we can complain, throw the relationship away and quickly move on to the next product to try.

There is a name for these quintessential consumers, those looking for satisfaction without having to do hard work.

We call them slackers.

Slackers are clear on what they want, on what they deserve, and when they don’t get it, they always find someone to blame.   This could be the idiot behind the counter, their family, management, or the entire global system.   The only thing they are absolutely sure about is that their failure to be satisfied isn’t their fault.

As consumers, slackers know that other people have the responsibility, the obligation to satisfy their desires and whims, so when they feel anything other than satiated, someone else is to blame for their sad dissatisfaction.

This sure knowledge that they live in the midst of idiots and losers relieves slackers from having to do any hard work, to do anything at all that moves them out of their comfortable zone of blame and indulgence.  After all, if the world won’t work hard enough to even satisfy them, why should they have to work any harder than others?

Slackers understand that they are the victims of a system that does not satisfy them, a system that only makes idiotic demands that won’t make them happy.  Their victimhood relieves them of any responsibility to move out of their comfort zone to create change, any requirement to lead.

Slacking is, in the end, an imbalance of the satisfaction system.   If you don’t know what is really satisfying, instead replacing it with products and thrills you can buy over the counter, how can you ever break the cycle of slack?

It’s hard to convince slackers, though, that any fault might lie within their own understanding of what a satisfying human life should include.   If they aren’t being satisfied, it’s because someone else screwed up or deliberately tried to hurt them, not because their own settings for satisfaction are out of whack.

Slacking is so taken for granted in our consumer culture that many find it impossible to believe that their feelings are about what is inside of them rather than about the external stimuli that triggers those feelings.   It is much easier to blame the stimuli than to do the hard work of understanding and unwiring our own feelings, struggling to own that moment of conscious freedom between stimulus and response.

The satisfactions of a hand made life are often incomprehensible to a dedicated slacker.    From tuning an engine to ritual loading of a weapon to mending your own clothes, those can seem much more trouble than they are worth.

The delights of creation, of minimalism, of precision and detail have always been a crucial part of the joy of living a human life. There is deep satisfaction in doing something hard with quality, which was well known to those who lived before the age of easy, machine made abundance.

It is very difficult to engage gratitude when you don’t directly understand the value of satisfaction with process rather than with product.   When you see things as disposable, always looking for newer, better and more sensational, you miss the details of work and thought that go into the best of what humans can create.

If you have a very strong idea of the way that you believe things should be stuck in your mind, you will find it hard to see the delights in the way that things are.  It doesn’t matter how you got your ideas — from romance novels, reality shows, magazines or even porn sites — they all act the same when stuck in the slacker mind, turning even the best surprises into disappointment that the world isn’t the way you want it to be.

Education is what we get when we don’t get what we expect.   Only by opening ourselves to divine surprises can we develop the awareness and discipline to see how we can better approach the next challenge we face in the world.   Moving out of our comfort zone is the only way to mature and grow, not stuck in assumptions and demands but engaged in possibilities beyond our limited imagination.

The slacker mind finds the idea that something beyond their current view of the world may be better and more satisfying.   Instead of opening to the stories and views that challenge theirs, they are drawn to those who reflect their own biases and assumptions.    Their cognitive bias lets them see what affirms their current beliefs and rejects what challenges and makes them uncomfortable.

A convenient life is not a rich, surprising, textured life that will create character and growing awareness.   A convenient life is a small life, a closed in life, a life that is only one step away from a tragedy to be ripped open.   There is a reason few people can get to the end of a life and still be a slacker, because most humans experience a real broken heart, most humans find something that they have to get outside of themselves and really fight for.

People who complain that the world is not delivering on what they deserve, who are waiting for others to make them satisfied and happy, are living in a world of blame rather than a world of responsibility.   As they stay externally focused, they cannot look inward and see where they hold unhealed bits that block the kind of joy and satisfaction that has always taken good, vigorous, healthy work.

It’s great to want spiritual growth, but if you only want it if it comes in your favourite flavour off the shelf at Whole Foods, you are not going to find it spiritually satisfying.

The fault, as someone once said, is not in our stars, rather it is in ourselves, however inconvenient that is to acknowledge.

Really Invalidated

The moment that is traumatizing for transpeople is the moment our hard fought for present gets invalidated by someone else’s assumption about what our past “really” means.

We work hard to claim our own truth and  our own grace by fighting to move past the social conventions and assumptions that are written on our bodies.   This is very hard to do because it challenges the essentialism that claims biological sex is absolutely defining to what any given person can be.  To challenge that, we have to fight hard.

Once we gain some success in showing the contents of our character rather than the shape of our genital skin, having people see us based on our choices of expression rather than our biology, we know that any moment that dastardly essentialism can come to smash us down.

The codeword for this is usually “really,” as in “What is really your name?” or “You know that they are really a guy, right?”    This is realness based on binary limits; if I can find a reason to disprove anything you say, you are really the other.

So much of the experience of being trans in the world, especially when one is navigating between gender roles to a more fitting place, is the fight against invalidation.   It feels like crap to have everything you know and have worked so hard to express and manifest in the world invalidated.

As transpeople, we know that we have a passing distance, that at some point, our biology and our history is revealed.  That may be very close up or very far away, but we know it exists.   And we know that when someone hits that point, they can see us challenge their simple binary classification of people by birth biology.   Boom.

People who have entered that space, by our own invitation or by happenstance, have to find a way to hold our gender in their heads.    They have to make some kind of decision about who we “really” are.  They get fixed in their expectations and can’t understand the experience of who we know ourselves to be being instantly invalidated in the world.

That experience, seeing your gender identification shift in the eyes of another, is unique to transpeople.   Most people understand themselves to be firmly fixed in the binary, so deeply rooted in their biology and training that who they “really” are can never shift.

If reality stayed so frozen for transpeople, we would all end up crushed.   We first learn to leave our assigned role in dreams, seeing ourself outside of the strictures that are meant to bind us.  Over time we learn to make manifest that transmigration, first by wearing masks and making cartoons and then, slowly, as we come to engage and own our own nature by slipping beyond old bounds into creation that comes from the heart and not the body.

For me, watching transpeople slip between expressions with the shimmer of a thought is revelatory and breathtaking, though I know that I am seeing expression that someone who still sees gender as rigid and fixed will miss or mistake.  I catch a glimpse of who someone really is, deep below their canonical identity and it feels like the brilliance of a soul flashing a radiant internal light.

My first experience of going to a trans gathering was an attempt for me to channel the feminine inside of me, playing towards more integration past gender.  Most people I met, though, were desperately trying to maintain a boundary between inside and outside, claiming their expression was only outfit deep, a tribute to women bolted onto their masculine truth.

I often saw, though, the laminate of girl over guy over human over girl, sparks of connection and truth that they were trying to manage and keep compartmentalized by a few weekends of release.   Many wanted to believe that their desire was just transient, something that went away after expression, wanted to believe that their passion was just a kind of dirty secret, sexy and fun, but not deeply rooted in them.

To me, trans expression always revealed trans meaning, something real and potent buried under layers of socialization, rationalization, defense and denial.  This wasn’t something that people who were committed to lives as husbands and fathers could easily accept.   Was there really life beyond the guy-in-a-dress line?

Validating the real, deep truth in their hearts, the truth they first knew as a very small child was important to me, even if we all struggled mightily to find ways to embody in a world where anything beyond simple binary was easily labelled unreal, marked as sick and invalid.

Our drive to limit any stray fact that binary believing people can use to remove our standing, to declare our truth and the work we have put into rebuilding a gender invalid has long been a key survival strategy for transpeople.

Like politicians who choose not to admit mistakes and show weakness because they know that their binary based opponents will not accept the idea of learning and growth, instead using those admissions to show who we “really” are, we ask our allies to understand the experience of binary invalidation and how it crushes our possibilities, our energy, and our very breath.

Every transperson has had to understand who others think that they “really” are and then use every ounce of their energy to push past those binary limits.   We have the price of the struggle written deeply in our experience.

That’s why we learn to let our past be quiet so that people can judge us by our choices now, the choices that they have in front of them.

The biggest challenge I hold as a transperson is holding open the space for transformation in the world.  If I need to believe that I can change beyond some kind of binary essentialism, I have to believe that others can change too.   I need to be in the world as Shaw’s tailor, always measuring people anew when I meet them, even if I know that most people will live on inertia and resistance to change.

The moment that is traumatizing for transpeople is the moment our hard fought for present gets invalidated by someone else’s assumption about what our past “really” means.  We have each experienced that invalidation and each been stopped by it, needing to regain our momentum and start again.

Reality isn’t simple or binary.   It isn’t based in some easily dissected biology or a fact from the past.   Transformation is possible, most amazing transformations beyond boundaries and assumptions that many see as fixed and permanent.

If it isn’t, then we are all puppets of fate, locked down by our history and biology, with no hope of moving beyond, of moving to better.    That’s not a world I want to live in.

Show me who you really are, right now, by your choices, and I will accept your standing as valid to engage.  Even your lies and rationalizations will reveal what you love and what you fear, showing a kind of truth that shapes your defenses.

I dream of a day when people are judged by the content of their character, and not on whatever the color or shape of their skin “really” means. I dream of a day when who we are is valid and who we were forced to be doesn’t make us broken or sick.

Until that day, though, I know why we might not have to put out stories binary essentialists will use to invalidate our gender, our standing to speak, or even our very humanity.