System Desire

Who are you and what do you want?

Can those two questions ever really be separated?  Aren’t we, as humans, defined by our Eros, our desire?

Transgender is an expression of desire.   We desire what is considered inappropriate for people who have the reproductive biology that we were born with.

We desire what those of the “other” gender, the one not associated with our genital configuration, desire, desire to make the choices of and to be seen as a gender other than the one assigned to us by dint of our birth and puberty.

Transpeople see the social expectations of gender as so wrong and constraining for them that we cross gendered conventions, claiming gender based on our mind and heart, not based on our sex organs and how those bits got us treated and acculturated growing up.

The notion that our bodies don’t define who we are, rather the deeper knowledge of self which informs our choices defines us is both very challenging to a system which separates humans into a simple binary by body parts and very liberating from the cultural pressure which layers constructed gendered expectations onto everyone’s body.

The challenge of transgender (1999), then, is to find a way to express that wild inner truth while also tamely respecting the social conventions which bind communities together.  How can we both be boldly individual, beyond oppressive limits, and graciously appropriate, playing our part in the cultural expectations of our family, our village and our tribe?

Who are you and what do you want?

Everyone has desires that are contradictory and at cross purposes.  We want to be seen as unique and special while also being seen as one of the gang, accepted as part of the community at the same time, for example.  We want to be liberated and also to be connected, want to be loved and also to be independent, want to be respected and also to be liked, and so on.

To balance these desires, choices must be made.  We have to set priorities, have to make trade-offs, have to create balances, have to make compromises and figure out solutions that work over time.  We can have it all, but we can’t have it all at once.

For transpeople, we have to make choices and speak truths that the binary system has purged, has marked as sick and impure.  We have to communicate and embody that which has been marked as anti-social (1998).

So much of the trans experience becomes about denial, about finding ways to renounce our desire, the desire we learned so early was so shameful it had to be hidden and isolated in the closet.  Finding ways to claim what is filthy and perverted is a challenge.

We found lots of strategies to rationalize our trans desire, from compartmentalization (crossdressing) to medicalization (birth defect) to performance (drag) to erotic (fetish) and so on.  We needed to find ways to show our desire as something that could fit into the context of a rigidly bi-polar and heterosexist gender model.

Who are you and what do you want?

My personal understanding comes through a very psycho-spiritual model.   My trans desire comes from a calling, from a service, from an integrative and disciplined approach.

I chose to be trans-natural, not changing my body to fit binary notions of sex/gender linkages.

I chose to deny the ego and renounce desire to come to a more intellectual understanding of the forces at play.

I chose to be of service to my very challenging family, a spinster child executing their social duty.

Now, though, I have to choose again.  And I have to choose again in a world where desire and ego are known to be the drivers of life, revealing vitality that makes human connections.   People often feel free acting out from their emotions and unconsidered places, which can feel very dangerous to me as I challenge their testy boundaries.

After years of a disciplined and integrative approach based around denial, one that is sharp as a tack but is also dry and lifeless, I need to claim my desire again.

In dissociative identity disorder, the patient is often encouraged to think of themselves as a “system,” the various separated pieces of their psyche each holding an important part of themselves.  By choosing which alter to lead them in any moment, they can find approaches to life that make the best of their possibilities.

My approach has been the opposite of dissociative, working to be integrated and holding together the bits with discipline.  I have always rejected the notion that somehow, I am multiple, compartmentalized, a group of disconnected parts.

Leading with conscious denial, though, the path of a guru, may be a spiritually sound approach but it has limits.  Disconnecting from the ego is also disconnecting from our own human beauty (2006).   While the approach may provide balance to those who have found it easy to get lost in the ego, for transpeople who had to disconnect from our desire very early, it is just more blockage.

Society demanded that we disconnected from the knowledge inside us from a very young age.  We don’t need more disconnection to come into balance, more techniques to temper emotion and desire, we need more connection.

Who are you and what do you want?

I want to be affirmed and supported in claiming my desire in the world.

I want to be seen, respected, understood and valued for the unique gifts I bring to the group.

I want to be able to act from my heart and be embraced rather than being forced to act from my head to negotiate the fears and unhealed places of others.

I want to not have to do all the damn, bloody trans work alone as I have had to do for so many challenging decades.

My knowledge of a conscious, considered approach to trans hasn’t really changed in twenty years.  My ability to execute on that approach in this challenging world without being caught up in a bubble of defense, denial and erasure, well, that still sucks.

How does my system lead with the personae who speak my heart and my desire rather than with the personae who represent my mind and my aesthetic denial?

The simple injunction to “Just Be Callan!” doesn’t take into account all of who I have had to be in my life, the depth, breath and size of the system that I am.  Still, the ability to lead with desire rather than denial seems to be the only way out of my enforced hermetic existence.

Who are you and what do you want?

Or, for me, who are you and what do you feel you can pull off in the world that might lead you forward and not into more denial, separation and erasure?

How does my system go back to owning desire?