I really like Callan. What she does is amazing, exposing the strings that bind up trans in this world using really fine language. I love her clear, sharp thinking, her x-ray vision and the way she tells the truth in a compelling way.
I just don’t think Callan is built for the world. She is an incredible contemplative writer, always taking in new stories, processing them and putting them in a web. That kind of skill is great, but it isn’t an approach that people who are successful at communicating their message and making allies in the world take.
No, the world needs someone more confident, more polished and more directed. Rather than laid back, iconoclastic doubt which keeps many at observer distance, what is needed is someone who can greet the world with a smile, who can affirm and engage, letting smarts show with wit and grace.
Callan is not a winner. Cali, well, she is the winner, much more pleasant and assertive, with some ego and some game. Callan is intellectual and gender neutral, away from long ago abandoned “birth name wacko” and from still useful “just initials concierge,” always ready to service others.
The experience of transpeople in the world is rarely seamless. We tend to have transition points where we drop one persona and struggle into another, always staying the same at the core, but shifting our exterior to become newly effective in the world.
Knowing transpeople for long periods means knowing them as they go through facets of emergence, exploring and owning parts of themselves. We quickly learn that there is no way to get all of ourselves explicit or even visible in one invocation, so we submerge some parts and bring others to the top.
Powerful women do this kind of performance all the time. While today it is hard for a man to be dressed wrong — jeans, khakis and a suit covers almost all — women still know the requirement of calibrating expression for event. We change outfits all the time, showing off the part of us that we judge will work for the audience and the occasion.
It is important, though, that we own the presentation. It has to look polished and authentic, coming from inside and not just some costume slapped onto the surface.
Owning something other than smart, reserved, gender neutral Callan isn’t simple for me. I love and respect Callan, deeply admiring her depth and feeling her profoundly expressed emotion. She deserves her place in the world, she does, even if I understand how limited her power is, how much she is an acquired taste.
Getting out front as Cali, much more glamorous and assertive almost seems like a betrayal of Callan, who has kept us sane and grounded for so long with her aesthetic denial and deliberate thought. Cali can’t put those same values forward; she needs to want what she wants, going forward to get it in an impulsive or at least an instinctive manner.
I know that nothing is ever really lost, that I will always have what I have owned, but still, backgrounding Callan feels just rude and disrespectful, even if it does also seem useful and effective.
Maybe my concerns aren’t really about losing Callan, though. Maybe it is about the price of invoking Cali.
Callan has her blog, a space where she at least gets to be present, and does some guru work on the side. “Just initials concierge” is still there for family, for sister and her friend with the ailing father, and even for the world, putting others first.
Cali, though, she doesn’t have an audience, at least not yet. She won’t get one, either, until I immerse into her, actually committing to keeping her out front in the world, using resources to support her emergence. I have kept her in the background so long that I don’t trust that she can be present.
Cali and “just initials concierge,” you see, aren’t an easy flip from each other. They have completely different values systems, which Callan bridges.
Callan and Concierge can easily be trans in the world, acknowledging the nuances and apparent contradictions of trans, but Cali can’t really do that. She demands belief, assertion and presence, not giving way to the fears of others.
Cali has to want the other two put away for a while, or else they will come out to question and defer, to contextualize and observe. Cali just can’t afford to be overly reasonable; she has to be assertive and charming. She can’t let people off just by backing down, she has to push on, finding the audience in the world.
Doing all this alone, without any support, is the hardest thing. Because Cali has to be big and out there, she is challenging to other people who either do not invoke that energy in their life, or who want to be at the center of the world, not competing for shine. Finding people who believe that challenge lifts all, rather than just those who want followers, well, that is very difficult.
Somehow cracks in Cali are much more corrosive and deflating than cracks in Callan or Concierge. Those personae are designed for defense, not for assertion.
Concierge services others, Callan asks brilliant and incisive questions, but Cali, well, she is a selling woman, out to persuade and connect. Cali needs to grow her network, expand her reach, always believing she has something of value to offer, no matter how resistant others are.
Sales without real confidence is a self-defeating game. It takes belief to create belief, always.
Callan isn’t built for the world. She needs a partner who can sell, someone who believes in what she has to share.
Because transgender is always such an individual and lonely journey, that partner, it seems, has to be within me.
Her name is Cali, and I know she is there. I have seen and felt flashes of her. Coming from emotion, though, and not from pure thought, she needs to transcend her own feelings to assert herself in the world.
The salesman’s greatest block, I was taught in the summer I prospected for a coffee machine company, is the parking lot. You have to leave your car and get out there, believing in yourself and your product in a way that engages and delights people.
And the persona who can do that?
Well, she is beyond Callan.