Hoarding

I’m a bit of a hoarder.

Not in the sense of “Oh! I need to keep all my waste in mason jars stacked up to the ceiling” hoarding, building piles to defend me, but rather in the sense of making sure that I have something left.  I don’t want to use up the last block of cheese, for example, so I always keep a kind of running inventory in my mind.

I resist going for broke, just consuming what I have, operating without a margin, even in cases, like games, where going bust has no real cost and is just part of the program.

I scale back my expectations, limiting my desire.  I stick to simple basics, not expecting more than I can afford.   My choices are frugal and constrained.

In part this is about being prepared, having what I need when I need it, but more than that it is part of my deep underlying belief in scarcity.   I just don’t tend to think that I can get what I need when I need it.

The first scarcity I experienced, of course, was attention and love.  My parents, Aspergers both, lived in their own world, so I had to learn to climb into their world very early.

That also meant that I had to take the shit that existed in their worlds.   My mother was always upset that other people didn’t make her happy, always angry at how others caused her nothing but more distress by not doing what she believed she wanted.   My father lived in his own thoughts, so that was the place I could connect with him.

I understand that other people have a much greater sense of abundance and entitlement, a sense that they are worthy of getting rewards from the world and an expectation that more will come their way.    They understand that while things can get tight, they are never really busted as long as they have some faith that they can get another reward soon.

Most people trust that in the give and take of the world, they get to take and not just to give.  They are comfortable being on the economic cycle of life, giving to get, investing for return, betting on wins.

That trust is wicked hard for me.   I resist costs and prices rather than just paying them and moving on, which puts me behind the eight ball.  By playing to close to the vest, I keep myself from just plain winning.

Learning to trust, though, isn’t something easily attained.  There is no simple path to gain that kind of trust we learn as children.   Regaining our sense of shark is impossible if we never built that sense in the first place.  We have to build something that replaces those empty bits even as people around us can’t comprehend how we got to this point without what they take for granted.

Abundance training is always about going back to a time when you can trust.  It is about fitting in and never about standing out.

My own hoarding comes from a deep doubt that what I let go of can be easily replaced.

For example, as a plus size woman on a tiny budget, I know that I can’t just go to the mall and get an outfit off the rack.  Instead, I need to find pieces that work and then assemble them, holding on to what I have.

The first time I met Virginia Prince she wanted to prove that I was just another transvestite like all the ones in her FPE/SSS system.  I didn’t think, though, that I had only two sides, masculine and feminine, didn’t think I followed the model.

“Well,” she said, “what about the times you purged your clothes, trying to get rid of crossdressing?”

I had never purged.   She helped me understand myself when I heard her on the radio at age 13, but even then I knew I wasn’t one of her transvestites.  It was when I was 16 and read Harry Benjamin’s “The Transsexual Phenomenon” that I knew I wasn’t one of his transsexuals, either.

Over the years, I have edited what I own, letting go of what doesn’t fit or doesn’t work, but I still have hampers full what are now vintage clothing.   I know that they are still useful, hard won and impossible to replace.  One of the costs of the neuropathy that came from tending to my parents rather than myself are bins of cute leather shoes I never wore and can never wear, and that loss of footwear can make a gal sad.

I know that I need to move away from scarcity mode, need to limit even the practical kind of hoarding that I do.   I need to have belief that there is better, new and more for me down the line.

Understanding that requirement, though, is very different than feeling differently, especially in a world where there are so many reasons to feel marginalized, unmirrored and unsafe.

Evangelical

When you aren’t directly selling a product or service, but instead selling a concept or a belief system, you are an evangelist.

Evangelism is the everyday version of the old comedy saw “If they buy the premise, they’ll buy the bit.”   First you sell the story, the idea, the notion, and then you can come in behind and sell all the other bits which promise to make the story come true.

There is a newage expo in the area this weekend and I was looking at the blurbs for the exhibitors.   What they are all selling is some kind of holistic energy healing, some belief system about how you can find more peace and power in your own life.

The only one who isn’t selling that is the keynote speaker, who for an extra charge will show you how to sell yourself in the world, creating a business which sells stories that drive the sale of products and services.   The dream of so many is to get out of the rat race and help people, doing what they love in a way that the money will follow.

The best part about seeing your selling as evangelism is that you can really come from the belief that you are pitching for the greater good, only working to help and heal other people by assisting them in finding a true way to balance their own internal essence and energy.

It’s much like casual fortune tellers, who survive by believing that what they offer is truth and not just some kind of wishful manipulation.   People can bring a television back if it doesn’t do what was promised, but an idea, a vision, an intention never is there for a refund of the price paid into it, in cash, in time or in hope.   If it didn’t work for you, well, maybe you did it wrong, not believing enough.

Selling stories, though, is a powerful business.   It’s what authors and workshop leaders have always done, is what religious leaders build their churches on.   By encapsulating truth they can create visions which open new possibilities, giving comfort and courage to others.

What story would I sell if I had a table at the expo this weekend?   What belief system to support healing would I offer to those who spent $7 to enter so they could seek some kind of enlightenment, solace and empowerment?

You may have noticed that I sometimes tend to overthink things.  I suspect that what people are really looking for is not a story or a product, but rather an energy.   They want to sniff the vendors and feel which one can help them.

There is a half forgotten story about a client who had a referral to a new therapist.   When the client got to the visit, she found not the man named on the form, but a transwoman.

“Yes,” the therapist said, “I have recently emerged as trans.  I’m sorry this was a surprise to you.  I’ll be glad to help you find another provider.”

“No,” the client said, after thinking a moment. “No, I think that you might be able to help me.”

The client was looking for a guide to transformation, and for whatever wordless reason, she saw a possible helper.

It’s not a story I’m selling, it’s my story, the way my journey has taught me a thing or two.   All that means I can listen to your stories and reflect them back in surprising and powerful ways.

Could I just dress in full regalia as a trans shaman, sit at a bare table at the expo, and draw seekers into my vision?  After hearing their story, I can offer them questions for $1 each.  Sure, they will be koans, designed to stimulate thought, but that’s good too, right?

My experience has been that people find me to be like fire, fascinating to watch, but too hot to get close to.   It’s a kind of a rock star thing

Do I have the charisma, the charm that can attract people who believe I can help them? Or am I just an object of curiosity, one to be observed but not really engaged?

How much do I need to polish my products and services?   How much do I need to shape my story into something that is accessible and relevant to other people?

How do I stand as a useful healer to those who are still seeking around the edges?

Destroy, Kill, Exterminate!

The film ultimately suggests that the deeply unpleasant behavior of people in the tech industry may be worth putting up with because of what they sometimes manage to create, often in spite of themselves.
— Farhad Manjoo,”In ‘Steve Jobs,’ Tolerating Tech’s Unpleasant Visionaries“, New York Times, 9 October 2015

To create we must destroy.  We have to smash the status quo, shatter expectations, exterminate bugs and terminate complacency.

The good always stands in the way of the excellent.   We must kill the merely capable to make room for the transcendent.

How can you be a creator without also being a destroyer?

“I have become Cali, destroyer of worlds,” as they say.

Beyond Callan

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.

Passing And Failing

One of the reasons I love “You’re The Worst” on FXX is because it is so furiously meta.  These are self aware people struggling in a world that tends to banality, their intensity forcing them into more and more convoluted interactions.

In last night’s show, Gretchen and Lindsay become aware that they fail the Bechdel Test because all of their conversations are about relationships, which means that they are about guys.   They then strive to change this.

The Bechdel-Wallace test for films is passed when two women (preferably named) have a conversation about something other than a man.  It was first discussed in Alison Bechdel‘s comic “Dykes To Watch Out For.”   It has become a widely used marker for how women are used in media.

Kether Donohue, the actress who plays Lindsay, “[The fact they have such a hard time talking about anything other than guys is] part of the humor. It speaks to the truth of what I think a lot of women go through. Because when you sit down to brunch with your girlfriends… whether you’re single or in a relationship, you’re going to be talking about your love life.”

As a transwoman who identifies as a femme lesbian, my love life never went anywhere worth talking about.  As a guru who is abstinant, it just doesn’t exist.

Emerging as trans means you have to reconfigure your relationship with the system of desire.   What worked for romance when you appeared normative doesn’t work in the same way when you appear queer, so a new approach has to be negotiated, whatever that turns out to be.

For me, though, my experience denies to me the easy bonding experience of women, the one they go to to define themselves, talking about guys.

I haven’t lived in a world where my identity is based on the simple assertion that there is us and them and we are the ones who are not guys.

This doesn’t mean that I understand the experience of being one of the guys, either.  I never succeeded at that challenge.

Just like I told the therapist who wanted to diagnose me when I was 13, my goal has always to be myself.

While some gay men who write about the Bechdel test say it involves two female characters, the original says it involves at least two women.   I know why those two definitions are different.

My life passes the Bechdel test.   My conversations are almost never about guys.

Passing the Bechdel test that way, though, means that I fail the test of passing.  I don’t easily slot in as one of the gals, using gender divisions to create unity through conversations which focus on us vs. them.

I understand the challenging and confusing gendered expectations that men grow up with, the demand to be strong, silent and fearless and the requirement to be sensitive, considerate and flexible.   Being cast as the other and having to play that role well to get feminine attention is always a challenge, because, as I also know from my own emotions, chicks are crazy.

Women love the shorthand binary of gender roles, except when they find them constraining and oppressive.  That conundrum is at the heart of almost all the discussion about feminism in the last century.

For me, though, passing is failing, and that leaves me on the sidelines, again.

My Son Loves Lingerie!

To a mother who posted on a trans support list trying to find understanding about discovering that her son uses feminine lingerie for sexual pleasure:

I’ve been out and watching transpeople since the mid-1980s.

The big challenge each of us has is how we combine some form of inner transgender desire/knowledge/identification with being functional and effective in the world.

Do we need to be boldly, bravely, out and trans, shifting genders? Or are our trans feelings something we keep very private, feeling very comfortable showing ourselves as normative in the world?

I assume your son is in school and in the mix of peer pressure there, he knows how to be one of the guys. He also knows how to relate to the girls.

How does he mix his own inner trans feelings with that outer life? How does he get any benefit from being visible as trans?

Teenagers, in my experience, are mostly still figuring things out. They don’t know who they are and what they want yet. Their life is about surviving in a social world, not about deep exploration.

It is when they emerge into a wider world, one with more possibilities than their school provides, that they can finally start exploring the more complicated parts of their own psyche, their own character.

The first thing we know as transpeople is who we are not. For example, we might know that we aren’t gay because attractive men just don’t make us turn our head or catch our breath, while women do.

Your child knows that they are not one of the queer people they see in their school. They don’t want to be that kind of person. Are there other people out there who model roles that they may want to be? I bet they don’t see any real, possible roles for themselves now, at least not in the context of the world they live in everyday.

What happens in their future? What are the possibilities?

Maybe it is as simple as meeting a gal who likes gender play in the bedroom, who enjoys integrating sensual dress up into life. Since girls are much like boys, though, I suspect that most girls around him are still trying to play out their normative fantasies, trying to impress their friends. They will eventually get to a more mature and open view of sexuality, but not until they get to explore their own desire past standard issue imaginings.

Maybe something else comes down the line, some way to express his nature in a different way. Will he perform, be gender playful, or even transition? Who knows?

I know that the one person who doesn’t know is him. He has no safe space to explore his trans feelings, so sexy things that lead to personal sexual pleasure is all he has gotten to, all he has needed to get to, done.

Halloween is a great indicator. Does he want to dress up for Halloween? He may not want to, may feel too exposed. I know that for me, even wearing shorts felt too revealing for a long time. I didn’t have any way to safely explore my own desires, so putting my unresolved stuff on display was just too damn much.

We live in a world today where there are a wide range of ways to explore our own identity. Letting kids do that at their own pace, in their own time and in their own way seems to me to be the best plan.

He knows what he knows about himself, but the rest, well, he doesn’t yet understand in any context, and certainly not in a way that he can explain it to others, not a therapist and not his mother.

He isn’t burning to come out. That feels unsafe, and besides, he doesn’t have a model that looks appealing to him in his world.

Addictions start not when we desire but when those desires overwhelm our ability to be functional and effective in life.

Kids who explore sensuality are just starting to understand themselves. They want answers, not immediately, but over the time that they can live their life.

Don’t rush your kid. They will figure out how to combine some form of inner transgender desire/knowledge/identification with being functional and effective in the world.

Like anything else they have learned to this point, they will learn how to be effective through play and experimentation. That’s always how kids find new ways to grow.

Trans isn’t easy or simple, but it can lead to a life where we are open, aware and compassionate beyond the limits of gender. I have no idea what the path of your kid’s life will be, but if it means he ends up with a woman who loves how he can listen and engage her with sensitivity, that would be a good thing.

“What is the most beautiful in virile men is something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine.”
— Susan Sontag

There are good possibilities for living just a bit beyond conventional gender. And there are good possibilities for moving across gender too.

And, in the fullness of time, your child will figure out where they need to live.

Especially if they have a compassionate, supportive and loving mother who lets her seeds grow.

Written

Fucking writers.  To them, everything is about the goddamn story.

“You talk like a writer,” I have been told and I know instantly that they are hearing yarns from me, not just words.

You make a yarn by taking some facts or actions and then adding a whole crapload of point of view.   It’s all about the voice and the voice is all about the perch where you stand in the world, how you observe the movements and linkages from a very particular vantage.

Anyone can put facts on paper.  Most people can even string out some kind of narrative.  It takes an asshole writer to bind all together with the chopped glue of an observer who has learned to polish their own turds with oblique and cut edge turns of phrase.

Writing is collecting the fragments of smart and sharp then lacing them together into some kind of beaded necklace, telling a tale from end to end while still looking like a shimmering whole.

Some are better at collecting, some better at finishing, but the goal is always the same, a ride through a subject that holds attention.   Forcing people to turn their head and see what you see, you crystallize vision, offering others sight beyond sight.

Authors, well, they are writers who know how to make writing into product, maybe slabs of saleable cold cuts, maybe recreational excursions, or maybe even transcendent tellings of breathtaking detail.   Those last don’t come along all that often.

Mixing facts or plots with voice, a rancorous point of view, becomes in the end, a foul habit.    Writers mine the very details of others lives for fragments all while striving to essentialize a stance which can be engaging and distinctive.   We don’t have to be nice or balanced, we just have to be compelling.  If you haven’t got anything nice to say about people, then come over here and sit by to me, as Alice Roosevelt Longworth is supposed to have said.

Those who write on outhouse walls
Roll their shit into little balls.
Those who read these lines of wit
Eat these little balls of shit.

The best revenge is writing well.   The one who tells the tale owns the story, as those who read my after-meeting memoranda soon found out.  It can be useful to be quick and engaging on the keyboard, fixing a view of history in print.

Writing is hard.  That means everything you put into it has to be there for some bit of meaning, either intended, obscured or unconsidered.  We write for intention, loading text with meanings, but we read for consideration, searching the glimpse of purity that has slipped hot from the teller into the story.   Those blips code pure energy slipping a spark from our eyes to our tongue, a shock to our own speech.

Mastery of writing not only comes with much toil and focus, it also comes with a high price.  Only in the void can writing be exact, entering an empty chamber where words can be spun into simulacra.   We stay at a distance in the world, note recorder at the ready, storing up observations, and then we withdraw from the world to construct our work, details mortared in with voice.

Always hearing the possibility of illumination and decoration keeps us in our page more than with the grunt.   One ear out all the time leaves us not there and there, seeing and essentializing in complex bounces through the panes.

New voices always have to come with new audiences.   Even as you write for yourself, you must become new as you shift the voice, for without remade ears, everything ends up running to shrill.

Without deadlines, would there ever be an end to writing?

Without the fickleness of audiences, would there ever be a new voice demanded?

Damn writers.   Consumed by process, their creation laced with hope and laden with clay.

Trapped in a voice, terrorized in a tale.

The Personal Is Political

The root of my own torn and broken heart is, as one would expect with me, lies deep under some sharp thinking.

The key feminist complaint about transpeople, specifically about transpeople assigned male at birth and asserting womanhood, is that growing up male bodied they can never, ever have the experience of being female in the world.

This means that they colonize and mock women, that they have no standing to be women, that unless they surrender their voice to the group, as people who went through puberty as female, anything they say reeks of male privilege and is inherently oppressive to women.

As recently as a few months ago, this argument made it into an oped piece in the New York Times.

Running into this argument is another belief set of feminism, that history and biology shouldn’t define and limit anyone.  We are defined by our choices, not by the assumptions and expectations written onto our sexualized body.    The goal is to empower everyone to move beyond gendered rules, to be people first, with a full range of choices.

Clearly, this is the premise I need to grasp politically, the one I fight for, that we are defined by the content of our character and not by the shape of our reproductive organs.

The collision between these two deeply held beliefs has always been difficult.

Is there a strong, fixed and unbreakable line between those who went through puberty as a female and those who went through puberty as a male?   The intersexed would say no, of course.

Should we be fighting for liberation of gender beyond biology, or should we hold to our binary view of humans, only allowing movement inside of man & woman and never, ever between them?

In the 1990s I suggested that with images on drivers licences, there was no need for a sex marker on them.   This would free us from sex based divisions.

A woman’s studies professor from the local university balked.  “I couldn’t support that until sexual oppression ended,” she intoned.

To her, we need to keep the divisions up until they are meaningless, but how can they become meaningless unless we are willing to move beyond them and view humans as individuals and not separated into a binary by birth sex?

For those invested in identity politics, promulgating us vs them distinctions is at the heart of their power in the world.   They have power in their own caste by accusing other castes of oppressing them.   By selling a vision that it is others who have to change they consolidate their own authority within their sect.

The twisted thinking behind identity politics is clear.   When we impose group identities on people we can never transcend the oppressing limits of group identities.

But the appeal of identity politics is strong and compelling.  Identity politics attempts to speak for our experience of being separated and erased in the world.  It venerates the shared experience of being reduced to group identification and the trauma and bangs that identification leaves on us.

I was attacked with the question “Are you so anti-essentialist that lived experience counts for nothing?” in 1998. My answer was clear: I value both essence and lived experience, but I don’t confuse them for being the same thing.

The questioner, immersed in identity politics, believed that their lived experience was a direct result of their essence.   To me, though, essence is often hidden under group identification.   As a transperson, that truth was clear to me.   My essence wasn’t shaping my experience, the identification of my body was.

The argument that we are shaped by our lived experience and that lived experience is very much shaped by the sexing of our body in the world holds an enormous amount of truth, though.   This defines sexism, just as how our experience of the world is shaped by the assignment of our race in the world defines racism.

Does holding onto those divisions serve us, or should feminism be about moving beyond those sexist separations to claim some other kind of essence?

People who celebrate identity politics don’t celebrate it because it moves those identity groupings to the side, rather their intent is to make sure their group gets its due in the world.   They want to hold onto and honor their experience of separation by identifying blame, demanding reparations, and claiming their groups own piece of the pie.

There is great emotional resonance to pronouncing and sharing our shared experience in the world.   We know what it felt like be treated like one of our group, knew how that hurt on our skin.  That resonance may not get us to a world that transcends boundaries and binaries, but it keeps us connected, tied to a group identity.

Our experience of oppression in the world may be a less then helpful basis to create a new politics which transcends that kind of separation which can easily become oppressive, but it is a comforting and affirming basis for political effectiveness, as ward heelers in every ethnic neighborhood of Chicago would have been very happy to tell you.

And this is where my heart hits the road and bounces hard.

As much as those women who wanted to make the argument that feminism should maintain identity boundaries based on sexist separations and the lived experience of the group were wrong about the politics, the were right about one thing.

In a sexist, binary world, the experience of going through puberty identified as male is very, very different than the experience of being identified as female.    As I wrote in 2002, I know that I will never be female in the world, never have the pure experience of a life that is profoundly shaped by my female body.

That has always been very tough for me, causing me stress and pain. I went to sleep praying that I would wake up a girl, but that was never, ever to be.  And once I went through puberty, I knew that I didn’t have the kind of body that could be easily femaled in the world, taking on the appearance of someone who went through puberty as a female.

When I came to follow the tenets of first wave feminism, though, the notion that we are not defined and limited by our biology and history, I quickly ran into the identity politics of second wave feminism, venerating the sexist experience to consolidate a political base which identified me as always the oppressor, out of bounds unless I surrendered to political correctness.

The line I ran into is The Guy-In-A-Dress Line (1999) that boundary which polices sexual identity in this culture. It was this line that cut right through me and it is this line that stops me.

If the best I can ever be is a guy in a dress, some kind of odd, individualistic man who has a feminine wardrobe, then I am forever erased and destroyed.

Worse, I live that experience without a group of peers who are present to mirror and affirm that experience.  No functional and comforting identity politics for me, or at least none I have found in the last thirty years.

When I got asked “Are you so anti-essentialist that lived experience counts for nothing?”   I knew that the asker was both dismissing the essence I worked so hard to show in the world and the lived experience I had not a simply a male, but as a transperson with a feminine heart and a male body.

They were reducing me to a group identity that they assigned me, one that flattened and erased my essence and my lived experience.

It is theoretically possible for me to keep fighting for possibilities outside of identity politics, to try to squeeze into some tiny crack of eccentric freedom beyond binaries, but practically I know the limits of those possibilities very well.

I know how few people will come along with me on my train of thought.   Most just don’t have time or attention to follow along, so they just write me off as noise.  Asking me to simplify just demands that I erase myself, allowing me to serve others but not to serve my own needs.

It isn’t depression that leads me to the thought of erasure, rather it is erasure.  I scream into the void almost everyday and the void just sucks down my energy without return.

Where is the acknowledgement of my essence and of my lived experience?  How do I find comforting affirmation of how I am just one of other people like me?

The goal in the world is not letting what you want bury you in sadness, but in being smart enough to make the most of what you have.

For transpeople, though, a lifetime of trying often just leaves you steamrollered.

Embodied

“Now is the time for you,” the chiropractor said.   “It’s time for you to take care of yourself.”

His answer, of course, was that I should take care of myself the same way he takes care of himself, by taking care of my body.   Follow the guidelines for proper eating, exercise, take supplements and have all the treatments that can help.

I do know that most people lead an embodied life.   They ran and jumped and played, they followed their physical desire, worked to stay fit, polished their appearance and even picked a fight now and then.

That’s not my experience.   Between my disembodied parents, my need to retreat into my big brain, and my transgender nature, my body always followed along, a practical requirement rather than defining me.   From my earliest days, I was clear that I was spirit living a human life.

Is this my time now?   Is now, a time in life when so many others are starting to understand that they are not their body, time for me to enter my body, reshape my body, experience my body?

I always seem to have lived life out of order.   I was adultified early, needing to TP take care of my parents, being the one who brought context to the family.  I was scapegoated for that, “Stupid” becoming my name, but I knew someone had to do the work.

Are old souls just a way some kids are born, or is that phenomenon a way some kids need to survive?  Do our very early relations with our parents change the way we think, demanding that we come out of skin based mode and find strength somewhere else?

My kindergarten teacher wanted me to skip a grade, mostly because I had at least third grade reading skills.   The principal asked me to stand on one foot and I almost fell over, or so the story goes, showing that I didn’t have the physical maturity to move forward.  Studies show, though, that kids can’t read until they have body control; how did I accomplish such a feat?

In high school, I was without training and with a concealed heart, so dating was always strained and strange.  Looking back, I see the patterns of a femme, but at the time, I was just lost betwixt and between.   I just wasn’t cocky enough to be a guy, but being a girl was always beyond the realm of possibility, no matter how I listened to Harry Benjamin and Virginia Prince.

My trans path has also been unembodied.  I knew early that my passing distance would always be close, that my puberty is writ very large in my bones.   I decided on a “transnatural” way, not using hormones or surgery to try and female my body to some extent, not imagining that I could hide away my biology and history.

This is an unusual path, as most transpeople want to assign magic to hormones and modifications.   I had to trust the magic in my heart.

I know that many people are particular about what they eat — vegan, organic, gluten free and all that — and love their exercise/fitness classes, everything from spinning to yoga.

For them, I suspect, part of this is reclaiming and regaining the vitality of their youth.  They know what being embodied felt like and want to regain some of that power.

For me, that historical record, that feeling in my bones just isn’t there.   I don’t have it to call back, don’t have it to trust, don’t have it to support and lift me.   There is nothing to reclaim; anything has to be made new.   I may have dreamed of being a dancer, but between denial and a few moments on stage, that was as hollow as most of my wishes.

To become embodied, with whatever benefits that can bring at my age, I need to embrace a whole different paradigm, a new way of being in the world.  I know that can’t just be being hidden and healthy, rather I need to be more exposed.   And if I am more revealed, I need to be more rewarded, which has always been the challenge for me.

I have the need to have the feeling that it is good to be alive,” a banner of Charles Schulz’s Linus said in my high school bedroom.

In the end, it is a sense of joie de vivre that makes humans appealing.   We want to be around people who are exuberant and positive.

How does becoming more embodied peel away barriers to delight?

I was told years ago that the first place you lose weight is in the face, allowing people to see at a glance that you are more revealed, more present.

Does becoming more embodied allow you to stop focusing on the demons around you, the people whose fear leads them to act out, and let you start celebrating the angels around you, those whose love embraces and illuminates others?  Does it allow you to attract those smart, open and aware people in a new and better way?

I certainly use my words to express myself, to pursue my own therapy.   My Jonathan Winters energy, though, all those voices and manifestations have to be freeze dried to be captured in text, removing almost all the vitality.   People who even talk to me on the phone, experiencing me as an interactive radio show, know that I am more sly, more funny and more vibrant by voice.

Beyond that, in image and in person, there is even more, more that I don’t share because I am used to people finding me overwhelming, baffling, off-putting, too much and just plain weird.

Going back to reclaim the embodiment I missed and gaining the benefits that accrue from that seems like a lovely idea.  I question, though, if it is a practical or achievable idea, wondering what the cost for even trying it might be.  Is the support there now for me to overcome blocks that stopped me when I faced them at the time most people gained embodiment, a time when I was young and fit?   Does anyone really get my challenges in a way that lets them help?

Focusing on maintaining and using my body is far from a bad idea.   Doing so has certainly helped many, many people get vigor and focus back into their lives.

For someone who never really achieved embodiment, though, somehow it is hard to imagine it coming now.

Claptrap

Incantations are magical.  There have always been magic words spoken by healers that invoke the power of the mystical to prompt and promote the belief that healing is within our grasp.

Today those words mostly appear scientific.   When we see an actor playing a doctor on television, we expect them to pump out barely comprehensible jargon laced with drama to invoke the power of healing.   Our belief in God is spoken of as our belief in science (1999).

The creation myths healers spin today take old concepts and wrap them in medical jibberty dash.   Rather than looking at the tea leaves in left in the cup, for example, we untwist DNA to reveal the deeply coded messages of our creator.  Rattling off phrases that start with science and seamlessly segue into belief makes the belief much more digestible to people who want to believe they are logical while they still crave the magic that healed their ancestors.

I believe in the power of shamans to motivate change by using the power of perception.   I know that unless we commit to healing on an emotional level, we cannot really use the full power of transcendence in our own lives.

Merely poking holes in the practice of a healer does not prove that they can not and do not provide powerful healing with their tools.   Their tools may have some intrinsic power, even if it is not magical, but the use of those tools may well invoke extrinsic power, the power of our mind to move beyond sickness and claim new ways of being.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.  Belief has always been at the root of healing.

Healers project their own power and authority because that projection is at the centre of taking others to scary places beyond their current state.  The more we believe their capacity to invoke healing the more we can give ourselves over to their prescriptions,  letting go of the old and making room for the new.   When we see them as powerful we trust them to take us beyond our own fears.

To be effective as a healer, you have to believe in what you are selling, be it snake oil or science.   Every healing technique is a blend of the two, a heady mix of proven effectiveness and hopeful belief.  It is the balance in that mix which divides fakirs from doctors.

For the supplicant, trying to separate the mumbo jumbo from the practical magic is almost a pointless exercise.  That may be the goal of double blind studies, looking for real effects beyond placebo, but it doesn’t play well in actual healing.

In a new show on Fox, “The Grinder,” an actor who played an unbeatable lawyer on TV (Rob Lowe) comes home to work with his real lawyer brother (Fred Savage).    Together they try and find the balance between emotional theatrics and solid legal principle in creating success, with much tension and hilarity.

The joy of the show, of course, is how these approaches compliment and support each other.   No either/or binary can be as effective as a blend between thought and emotion, between fact and belief.

Hard, repeatable science is good stuff.   The process of science lets us separate the good from the bad in approaches.

Magic, however, even the magic of incantation, is good stuff too.   Getting high levels of compliance with best practices always takes commitment and that commitment requires belief.

The art is always at least as important as the science, for the huge mass that is still intangible and unquantified can only be affected by art.

For someone who has always been a doubter, looking for the intention and techniques behind the surface — the smoke and mirrors — has always been part of my process.  I needed to understand what was going on.

Watching closely let me understand the tricks, adding many of them to my own tool bag.  Owning the claptrap means that I own my own response to it.   Rather than being swept in by the pitch, swayed by the assertion of power and authority, I feel the sway while remaining an observer, always with an eye for what is just behind the curtain.

The simple delight of being swept away by belief, of surrendering my own agency for someone who announces belief with force, wrapped in beautiful claptrap isn’t something I have ever been able to partake.  This creates a barrier between me and so many new age practitioners, who, while believing deeply in their practice, need others to also believe for maximum effectiveness.

This has challenged many healers who find me fascinating as I reflect them in a very different way from run of the mill clients, but also find me very difficult to pull in.   I pose very interesting questions that show I am listening closely, but I don’t accept pat answers.

A comedy rule is “If they buy the premise, they will buy the bit.”   IF the audience doesn’t enter into the reality offered, accepting the idea, there is no way they will ever get to the payoff.

We use our incantations — our claptrap — to sell the premise, to get others on side, to have them embrace the mindset.   It’s a powerful tool of persuasion, of leadership, of healing.

And it usually works even if the words don’t have real, deep verifiable meaning. A bit of misdirection often helps people fake it until they make it, giving them the strength to make dreams become possible.

We all need a bit of magic, a bit of belief in our life, even if it is belief in our own hard boiled skepticism, calling out others on their bullshit.

Examine magic too closely, though, and it tends to disappear, taking with it the emotional energy to commit to transformation.  Don’t examine it enough and you are left with sensation without consideration, thoughtless commitment.

Unspeakable Terror

Lives there any human who doesn’t hold somewhere inside unspeakable terror?

To whom do we speak the unspeakable?

I speak a great deal.   I write and I write and I write, detailing the horrors and the hope that I hold.

Mostly I speak into a void.   I know that no one is listening, no one is engaging what I say.   I know that people shy from my words, sky from the meaning I try to convey with them.

But somewhere, beyond all that I reveal, there are places inside of me of unspeakable terror.

These places are not rational.   They are not subject to logical elucidation, to sensible addressing.  They are places of unspeakable terror.

Much of this terror is of bits that most people take for granted, the terror of being exposed to a system where functionaries hold your choices in their hands.   This is the system of compliance which most people accept and submit to.

I can tell my stories, lead you through my experience.  I know, though, that you will only get shards of those tales, will only be able to understand what you can comprehend, and not everything that I share.    This is frustrating but true.

The stories I can’t tell, though, the ones that hold my dread, the unspeakable terror of erasure of my inner core, well, those I can’t even give breath to so they will never pass my lips.   Just saying them out loud invites them inside me where they can wreak wordless and violent damage on the parts of my soul which are so primal that they are without language.

Mothers often understand these terrors in their children, seeing the breathlessness in their eyes.   Helping their loved ones find language for these deep, bogie man fears is the first step to overcoming them.

I know how much I help others when I bring their fears up into the light, letting them see the monsters are not invincible.   By revealing the dragons I have faced, they can start to imagine moving beyond their own demons.

The terrors which still are unspeakable to me, though, are not wraiths that most other people have knowledge of, let alone the language to make them exposed and surmountable.

I code my own fears in symbols, asking for the kind of vision which can help me face and handle them.   Finding any, though, who go deep enough to understand and cradle my terrors, well, that always feels like an impossible task.

“If you can do what is very hard for me,” people seem to say, “then obviously you can do what is easy for me.”    This is false and twisted thinking, the extension of their own mindset into me rather than the willingness and ability to enter my own presence of mind.

Making my own experience explicit, working so hard for so long to reveal the shadows which haunt me, had not made the unspeakable terrors inside me visible to others.    I strive to explicate them and they just keep tormenting me.

The terrors that I can lay bare are horrors that I have slain, ones that I own, although at a significant cost to me.

It is the unspeakable terrors that still trounce me, terrors which may seem banal to most but which reach down into the deepest pits of my existence.

Asking me to simply tell you about them is missing the depth of them.   To me, to me, to me, they are unspeakable.

How do we engage and transcend the unspeakable?   I know that I have spent decades finding words for what I face, what I see other people face, so their terrors will no longer be without words and unexaminable.  I bring out the experience so it can be owned and put in place.

For me, though, there are still terrors I cannot speak.   These terrors are around being invisible, voiceless, without power, unseen and unheard.   They reach into a very, very deep place where I know that I have no language to defend myself and no loved one to hold, protect and guide me.

They are unspeakable.

Every human has unspeakable terror.   We all look for others to recognize and assist with those terrors.

Even, I struggle to tell you, me.

Success From Failure

How would you define a successful emergence into the world as transgender?

What are the things you want out of announcing you are trans and changing your own gender identification and expression in the world?

Sure, having the power to wear what you want to work is a fine thing.    We can be much more free, assured and emotionally comfortable when we believe that we look good and feel congruent in the world.

Is just being able to wear certain clothes all you want, though?  Is there more?

Do you want to be able to be seen as something other than a guy-in-a-dress (1999)?  Do you want to feel affirmed in making the choices of a woman?   Do you want to connect with women as another woman?

Do you want to be a hot chick, a powerful businesswoman, a tender mom?

In other words, do you want to shift the way people see your gender, not just the way that they see your clothes?

What does success look like to you?   Is it being able to wear what you want and demand that people use the pronouns of your choice?   Or do you want something different than that, something more than that?

You can’t tell people how to properly see and think about you.  Would you let other people tell you the only correct way to think about them?     Do people just get to claim to be whoever they want and you have to believe them, or do you require something to back up their assertions, some kind of substantiation (1997)?

People see what you show them.  What you show them is the sum total of your choices in the world.   Humans have come to understand that the essence of other people are revealed by their choices, especially the choices that we don’t consciously make.

Your choices, even the choices you make by habit, expose your thoughts, your feelings, your concerns and your priorities in the world.

It’s not the big sweep of an outfit that tells us who you are, for example, it is how the details come together, the fit and finish, the quirks and counterpoints.   Are you wearing the outfit, beauty coming from the inside out, or is it wearing you, a kind of costume that attempts to conceal parts of you but that may reveal much more than you expect?

Women learn how to be women by observing other women, by cribbing choices to build their own unique feminine expression.  Until you can see the tricks and techniques other women use to build their expression, you don’t have the tools to build your own.

Women learn to be women in a sea of social pressure.   They get feedback from everyone around them, formal comments and informal views of how others react to them depending on their choices.   Going through high school can be brutal for girls who learn early the costs and benefits of facing the judgements of those around them.

What would make your emergence as trans in the world successful for you?

Do you want to be seen as queer, boldly claiming a role past gender?    Or do you want to be seen as something other than that?   What is it?

If you want to be seen and accepted as a woman, understanding how the choices of a woman are shaped and seen in the world is vital.  Those are the cues you need to take to shape your expression in the world.

Our gender expression advertises who we are to the world, what roles we are trained and willing to accept (1999). What do you want to advertise with your new gender expression?   What roles are you trained to play, what roles are you willing to play?

“It is truly a lifetime job, this learning to be a woman,” as May Sarton said.   You will never have mastery of every womanly art you need on your first day.   It takes years of practice to become centered and powerful.

Taking the time to do some of this work, polishing your act so it begins to get you the results you want before you emerge as “full-time” can be important.   It’s much better to fail in front of wise, forgiving, transient audiences before you tke your show on the road in front of paying crowds, like your current workplace.

Girls learn early that you have to try on a lot of different looks, attitudes and choices before you can consistently be a winner.   Trying and failing leads them to wisdom and mastery.

What kind of success do you want to have from your transgender emergence?   Where you you want to fail first to begin to own the skills you need for that success?

Is it enough for you to wear what you want and demand people use appropriate pronouns?

Or do you want something more to mark success?   If you do, what are you willing to polish to make that success happen?

When we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail.   Don’t do the work and you set yourself up for failure.

What do you want?   What will make you satisfied enough, make your emergence successful?

Once you know that, you can start to do the work to prepare for the success you desire.

Marginalized Margins

The most important thing to know and understand about the marginalized in this culture is that we have much narrower margins than normative people who live in the lap of comfort.

The fact of our narrower margins is simple: we have to be much more circumspect, play our lives much more close to the vest, take smaller risks and always make sure we have what is vital to us protected.

People who live in the middle, deep in the heart of average, have plenty of room on each side to miss the mark, to take the blows.  They can get hit, swerve a little and have lots of space to recover stability, to get back to baseline.

Those of us who have been pushed to the margins, though, know that one or two swift hits and we are in the ditch, beyond recovery. We used up our margin of safety just to get where we need to be, so from here on out, it is a delicate and tender operation.

Trust is the first thing to go.   We can’t just let people in, make ourselves vulnerable to other people and then be sideswiped by them.   We have had that happen before and know how it almost pushed us over the edge.

It’s very hard to explain to mainstream people why we protect ourselves from taking what they see as just a mild and ordinary tap.  Why do we avoid the everyday thumps of life, the ones they take so easily and without any loss of footing?

We don’t do that because we are marginalized.   Society has told us that we have already given up seven lives just to be who we are, and the next one that we lose feels like it will be our last.   We feel, well, extraordinarily marginalized.

Even the most robust and celebrated among us understand the price of their marginalization.  The fact that they have fans and followers does not change the reality of marginalization.  Rather it just reminds us that it only takes one or two angry people to push us over a final edge.

The explicit training that tells you you are beyond the bounds, that you are overwhelming to most people, tends to stick with you for your entire lifetime.  You always have it in mind that you are just one step from disaster and destruction.

The sensation of swirling around the rim, just an instant from being flushed away, is one that very much sticks with you. Trying to explain it to someone who has never experienced it, well, that just seems to be impossible, which just intensifies the awareness that trying to find allies is far from possible.

We know what it is like to be so overwhelming, so intense, and so outside expectations that we are shut down before we even start.   It shouldn’t be surprising that knowledge affects our choices.   Being marginalized by those around us has an affect, a long term and profound affect.

The marginalized have the experience of being on the margins, away from the safety of the centre.   This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but for people in the mainstream, this truth is well outside their stream of consciousness.  The truth of our experience is well and truly on the margins of their awareness, you might say.

The marginalized feel pushed to the margins, without any space for grace or safety.   We learn to stay circumspect and protected, even the most beautiful and capable of us.

Is that any surprise?

Infighting

The book “NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity” by Steve Silberman has gotten some very bad reviews on Amazon.

They are from people who just completely disagree with the author’s take that we shouldn’t work to make people on the autistic spectrum “normal” but rather to see their differences as just a way some people are, focusing on ways to open society to be more diverse and supportive.

The reviewers think this is just an asshole position, that autism means broken, that a cure is required or nothing but suffering will occur.

In the book, there is a telling line.   The wife of one of the original neurodiversity advocates chooses not to talk to the author because she is “sick of the infighting” in the communities around autism.

Infighting, it seems to me, is what humans love to do.   I have been reading some spaces on the internet discussing Christian belief and they are filled with infighting.

It has been ever thus, from the early pre-canon days of Christianity to Martin Luther and well beyond, different sects have different beliefs, splintering off on the basis of what can seem to an outsider to be small and irrelevant differences.

Even if the underlying reason for the fracture is personal power grabs, individuals wanting to assert power, even slight differences in doctrine allow for identification of an in group and an out group, setting up an us versus them battle line that feeds on identity politics and separating right from wrong, good from evil.

Infighting is powerful because those who don’t really want what we claim to have just don’t care about our assertions.   Nobody outside of the communities around autism really care much about how it is defined, but those inside have a fierce need to be correct and powerful within that space.

The victims of identity politics are mostly not the people we see as needing to understand what we are saying, they are the people we see as those who should be our allies but who are sabotaging the cause by their wrongheaded actions.   We become crabs in a barrel, not working together but rather infighting, using our energy to make sure others don’t get ahead of us in any way.

It’s easy to become sick of the infighting.   In fact, this is one of the premises of infighting, to clear the power field of those without the will and the bottle to battle for control of our structures.  Sure, this may, in the end, weaken our structures, damaging them so much they are ineffective, but for the winners of the infighting, they don’t care about the size of the heap, they only care that they are on top of it.

Infighting is by definition separating rather than connecting.  It paints those who want to be our allies as enemies, traitors to the cause who have to be re-educated or be purged.    It enforces doctrine over inclusion, detail over intention, fractionating power to let small people hold on tightly to their own small pieces of it.

Preachy Preachers find infighting a great path to status and power, assuring their followers that they are the virtuous ones and the more they are attacked, the more right they are. They carve out a space not by converting those they attack but by drawing in those who agree with their attacks.

I saw self-posted video of a “street preacher” standing in a parking lot haranguing a gay pride event, appearing to shout through a bullhorn to tell the gays and lesbians inside that they were going to hell and damnation unless they repented and followed his version of Biblical behaviour.

Needless to say, this harangue didn’t call one person to come to Jesus, renouncing their hard won pride and the love they had found for the harsh judgement of a raving preacher.   What it did do, of course, is let him cast the gays as sinners and himself as virtue incarnate, giving them what for.

Even as people cried out from their cars telling him to shut the fuck up, he could identify himself as martyred by those who refused to see the light, proving their essential wickedness and his saintliness.

His actions were to show him as a powerful infighter, willing to expose himself for the status of his church, facing down powerful sinners with only a bullhorn.   Huzzah and Hallelujah, our brother boldly preached the gospel to those horrible gays and survived!

When people gain status from infighting, from separating the right from the wrong and purging evil, they live in negative identity.   Instead of leading by example, drawing people to them with positive energy, they lead by decimation, separating out challenge and living in the negative, declaiming where others are wrong and sick rather than where they themselves are right and whole.

In the interlocking communities around trans, infighting has pushed more good people out from standing as allies than anything else.

If all we are going to get when we try to connect with other transpeople is being caught up in the infighting, being told where we are wrong and having to surrender our voice to the group, why bother?

Nobody goes through all the shit about emerging as trans in the world to simply fall in as the member of one sect or another.   We want to claim our own power, even if that means we end up becoming the leader of a sect of one, infighting our way in the world by railing about how everyone else is doing it wrong.

It’s very, very easy to be sick of the infighting.   Unless you want to be a part of it, tying your identity to declaiming other as evil, infighting is horribly wearing and alienating, removing benefit from being present.

Infighting keeps us small, weak and divided.  And that’s just sad.