Two Thousand

This is my 2000th public post on this blog.   That number doesn’t include all the drafts that never got published (over 130) or the posts I had to make private because they stepped on some toes.

Over almost ten years, I have posted well over 1,300,000 words of my writing in the attempt to understand and communicate my experience and the knowledge that I have gained.

And for some reason, reciting these facts just makes me feel very, very sad.

Trying to find a way to speak my truth in a manner that other people can hear and engage is a not a task that opens my life to new possibilities. Speaking, however clearly and elegantly, into the void may leave a legacy of smart observation, but it does not offer direct rewards.

Still, I said it, put it out there, and one person even linked to Saying It on their Twitter, allowing four of their followers to find it.

I know that I have grown, kept sane by the discipline of writing.  I understand myself and my world better.

A toast to me on two thousand entries.

I’m pretty used to drinking alone.

Personal Services

I pull order and understanding out of noise and chaos.

It’s just what I do.

I had to learn to do it with my mother very early and it has been my signature move ever since.  It was why I could be the anti-Bob at the software company, pulling apart the tangles of the founder’s whims to try and keep projects on track, why I can spend almost three years decoding and replaying the princess rants of a young transperson.

This weekend, I got hauled down on an intervention to my sister’s oldest friend who is struggling to take care of her aging, ailing father.  We walked into an apartment chockablock with detritus and I did what I have often done in my sister’s house, creating order out of chaos.

My sister did the close support with her friend; walks — visits, explanations — while I dove into the mess to create order.

Many people think the goal is only to erase, to stuff things away so that things look tidy, but I know that imposed solution only creates more lurking problems.

My strategy is to find organic solutions that don’t focus on disappearing challenges but rather on creating pathways, processes and strategies which can help us ride the chaos instead of trying to hide it.   Usually, it is hiding and avoiding chaos which got us into the mess the first time.

I learned early that there was no way to put my mother in a box, to freeze her, and hide her craziness, so instead, I had to find practises which let me live with her, using my discipline to be out in front.

What happened this weekend, from creating order to lessons in more effective strategies to shop or talk to Dad, rested on me.  My sister’s job was to help her friend understand me, to translate and affirm that my solutions tended to work.  She encouraged her friend, and did pitch in on cleaning the kitchen and such, but it was my job to try and build a bridge to the future.

For me, going into concierge mode, being stoic to a fault, was the only way I could enter her world in a positive and effective way.   There was a cost in willpower and energy, one that didn’t offer returns as the friend didn’t engage the lessons I was offering.   I may have modelled new possibilities of wit, compassion, service and love but because she wasn’t ready, my efforts and skills were invisible to her, just ignored or dismissed.

To find the new, we have to let go of the old.  Rebirth requires death.  Embodying that message, though, means always facing the resistance to change, always doing that exhausting swim through the pudding that is the status quo.

Everyone heals in their own time and their own way, and while she took what she could, I saw what she could not take.   I saw how much time and effort she would have to put in to change her choices and I also saw clearly that she may well never get there.

This is frustrating, of course, but even more frustrating is the knowledge that no one has ever done an intervention for me.   Where is the person who sees what I need and works hard to offer me encouragement, affirmation and strategies to get it?  Who listens and mirrors me?   Who encourages me beyond my pain and damage?   Who heals the healers?

I don’t hate being of personal service.  I like helping other people and organizations to reveal the order inside of the chaos, to offer ways to see and choose that may create different results.    I have learned not to expect the level of effort and caring I give to ever come back to me.

Worse, I know that many people love the chaos because they believe it gives them licence.   If no one can pull meaning out and challenge you on it, then all that matters is that what you say sounds good.

Sometimes this is just frustrating, like when my sisters friend told us that her identity is built around being unlovable and with no one to understand or help her, so when we did what we did her belief structure was challenged. In turn this left her reactive, all the comfort of those identity props challenged, all the feelings that the props kept bottle up released.

More often, though, this is actually painful as people ignore, reject or attack me to try and silence my threat to their standing.  They just don’t want me to challenge their identity props, the ones that make them comfortable by rationalizing their own actions.   After all, those props are working for them, so why should they let anyone challenge them?

Revealing that the emperor has no clothing is not a very effective strategy for making friends, even if decades of living in the margins has made you such an effective observer people fear that you have x-ray vision.

Pulling order out of noise and chaos is what I do, though.  That work is what allowed me to save my own life.  I know that some people, whatever they claim, like noise and chaos because it supports blowhard rationalizing, keeping truth hidden, but it is my personal service, the service I needed in the world, the service I offer to others.

Practice, discipline and precision are at the heart of what I do.  They aren’t, though, at the heart of everyone’s approach.  That makes many uncomfortable, rejecting me, and certainly seeing me as unfeminine, no matter how much compassion and caring I offer up.

I know how to be of service.  I know that is a gift I can offer.

I just also know that giving alone, especially giving what people find hard to engage, well, it won’t save you.

Straight Acting

If I ever thought I could have gotten away with playing straight, I certainly would have tried it.

An actress I love for being smart & elegant, playing doctors and such, is taking a turn as a kind of working class gal in a sitcom.   She looks like she is having fun.

Smart actresses play dumb and gay ones play straight.  It’s part of the skill set of performance, a bit of which every woman has to learn to be successful.  Putting on a face isn’t just about the makeup.

I just never, ever believed that I had the equipment to play straight, at least as a woman.   My body went through puberty as a male, and I have hockey player legs.  I have never been slight.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t gotten into situations where some guy starts to chatter and I get to switch into girl mode.  I was, and I suspect that this is no surprise, very good at it.

I know how to listen with compassion and wit, know how to encourage and flirt, and know how to ask questions that reveal without having to put someone down. It’s the same reason I would make a great coach; I know how to make the time all about you.

That moment when things get to be all about me, though, that’s when it gets a little hairy.  I’m not nearly so good at conventional woman, at home making and being pussy in the bedroom.  Yeah, well, in fact, I’m kinda crap at those things.

I went to a micro church sponsored chat tonight.  The pastor thought it must be great being a theologian, but as I asked more incisive questions and offered more surprising connections she just went back to her old stories, sharing the tales she loved.  One guy thought I was smart, liking the conversation, but somehow in referring to what I said, he just couldn’t quite get to “she.”

It was brutally clear to me that I even though I looked pretty good, I had no chance in hell of anyone ever possibly mistaking me for a straight gal.

That doesn’t mean I don’t miss, it though.  I’d love to smile at a bunch of guys changing tables in a speed dating event, even if I knew that I couldn’t make a life with any of them.  I want that little zip of connection, the kind of flirt that makes people feel good about themselves.

I was taught early that I just had no chance of being the cute one.  If I told a rambling well honed story, I would just look indulgent, so I learned how to do tight and pithy, getting to the point fast and clear.

There are an enormous range of pragmatic choices I have made over my life all just based in the belief — a not unreasonable belief — that I just don’t have the equipment to make the choices that feel better to me, the ones that feel, well, “natural.”

People who evaluate my choices often make the assumption that they reveal me when actually, many of them reveal the constraints put on me by gendered typecasting and family demands.  They don’t have any understanding of how constrained I was.

Maybe that’s not so surprising, because I only have a vague idea of what possibilities I would have pursued if I had the equipment.   Who can talk about the road not taken?   How can we know where it might have lead?  You make enough choices and your story becomes pretty fixed, stories accruing as possibilities diminish.

People are shaped by their experiences.   Those experiences are shaped by their desires, their training and what they have the goods to pull off.  What we can’t play, we can’t be, and what when we can’t be what we know ourselves to be, well, then, we just aren’t.  Poof.

My sister has asked me to help with her friend this weekend.   That’s seven hours in the car with her and then another 36 hours or so deep in concierge mode, serving her and her aging, ailing father.

I’m surprised that she wants me to use up what little willpower I have been able to scrape up in this way, using up the whiff left in my batteries to enter the worlds of other people in a very, very costly way.

It’s what she thinks I can do, though, because it is what she likes to see me do.

What’s in my heart, well, that’s as invisible as the choices I never made because I learned so early I couldn’t play out my own calls.  She knows I am broken, but can’t imagine being any other way than the way that was set up to break me, just like other people, even trained pastors, prefer their own words and habits to seeing the queer in front of them.

I look in the mirror and see how easy it is for me to reveal my feminine truth.

Other people, though, can’t hear over my biology and history, needing me to be about them.   It’s not time or language that can break through their tunnel vision because they have no need or drive to get it.

I did the work, and then, one just has to move on.

It would have been nice, though, at some point. to have been able to try and play it straight.

So Normal

On “Transcendent,” one of the gals is thinking about “bottom surgery,”  although if she gets it, they will have to make it big,  because she is a bit of a size queen.  Man-made vaginas have serious limitations, though.

Her therapist asks her how she sees herself.   She says that even after so much cosmetic work that it maxes out her credit cards, she still sees herself as a boy.

“Surgery won’t change who you know yourself to be,” says the therapist.  “Every woman knows where their body isn’t perfect, but changing that body won’t change their mind.”

“I just want to be normal,” the gal tells her therapist, starting to understand that maybe, that’s not going to be possible for her.

I am normal, somewhere on the bell curve of how humans are.   I’m not abnormal; people like me have always existed in the population of humans.

But I am far from normative, far from someone other humans consider smack dab average.

Normative is all about the expectations we have for people we meet, the assumptions we make about what a regular “normal” human is.  What do they look like, what do they believe, what do they love, how do they respond, what choices do they make.

“There was a time when being a Christian was normal,” one pastor starts a message to his flock about a new sermon series examining the life of David for lessons about how to be the only Christian in the room.

In a country where 70% of people identify as Christian, how abnormal is it to be Christian now?   And what are the odds you will be the only Christian in any room?

This pastor longs for a day when church membership was at the top of people’s identity list, a day when it was normative to think of your religion as a primary identifier.   The social pressure towards normative membership in that day would make it easier for him to plant a church, letting the community do the work with their expectations.

Normativity is about expectations which create social pressure to fit in, to be compliant and average.   And by calling the normative “normal,” we add to that pressure, allowing others to be shocked and upset when we apparently just refuse to “act normal.”

That gal in “Transcendent” just wants to fit in better, wants to not have to negotiate queerness every time she meets a new attractive man.

Her therapist, though, makes the point that changing your body won’t really change who you know yourself to be.   Your history and biology won’t change at all.

The only thing you can really change are your choices, and that involves changing your mind, letting the miracle of seeing the world in a new way allow you to become new and better.

As a transwoman, I live in the space between normal and normative.

I am not abnormal, sick, perverted, broken, degraded, or otherwise less than human.

I am also not normative, not easily fitting into social expectations of how proper humans should act to be respectable.  I don’t fit easily into groupings, don’t find it simple to just be one of the gang, can’t just be tame and compliant

My sister has known me longer than anyone else on earth, so I asked her the simple question “Am I being contrary and ornery to piss off the world, or is who I am just who I have always been?”

There is a construction in the trans world that somehow, there is one “real me” who needs to be released and embodied.   This is a follow on notion from Virginia Prince’s notion, taken from Jung, that there are two “real me” a masculine and a feminine one in everybody.

The first time I met The Prince, she chided me for not accepting my feminine side.  I chided her for not accepting all the sides that humans have in the world, the whole range of normal.  FPE/SSS worked hard to define what was “normal” for transpeople, denying queerness in the process.

My reality is normal but far from normative, claiming space away from social pressure to fit into some group identity by doing only what others expect of you.  Using the denial of “Normal” as a threat just never worked to keep me banal and compliant.

I am who I am.   I am not now and never have been two people, but I have always a wide range of viewpoints and concerns inside me.

The real me is complex, nuanced, and maybe even contradictory, holding divergent needs in an active tension.

My authenticity does not come from some kind of external consistency, some way that I am easily pinnable and therefore “real.”   My authenticity comes from the textured diffraction of a lively human mind which experienced many pulls in the course of a human life.

People who want me to put all that shit down and just “act normal” have no idea of the true diversity and value of the beautiful human nature that we, as species share.   What is normal for humans is an amazing range of cultures, fashions, tastes, beliefs, and choices.   We are an astoundingly adaptable species.

What they really want is for me to “act normative,”  making the choices which they believe other people are “supposed” to make in order to be respected, valued and accepted.    They want me to fit in better, doing what they would do, making them comfortable and confirming that they make the right choices when they choose to assimilate and fit in.

I understand the desire to fit in, to be seen as normative, without having to explain every difference and face the fear, scorn and disdain that “normal” people reserve for those whose choices they find weird and wrong.

Normal, in the way that it is casually used, is fake and bullshit.  Lines like “And when the doctor said I had cancer, I knew that nothing would ever be normal again” ignores the fact that having cancer is a terrifically normal thing to happen to humans.  Live long enough and almost everyone has some kind of cancer.

Our understanding of what is usual, conventional, expected and normative changes all the time, but change doesn’t ever redefine the range of what what is normal for humans.

I’ve been well in the range of normal for a human since I was born, even on the days when other people told me I was not “normal” and that I should “act normal” or I would deserve whatever shit I got from other people.

Trying to fit into someone else’s “normal,” well, that seems to ask us to lose part of our beautiful, diverse normal humanity to fit into what other people define as normative.

And it’s something that I could never really do, anyway.

Saying It

Sometimes, you know what needs to be said.

And you know that it needs to be said even if no one is quite ready to hear it.

Unless you say it, it won’t be out there in the world.  It won’t escape your brain and start reverberating in the minds of others.

No good message jumps full blown from one mind to another.

Any message that seems to do that doesn’t really jump, it just triggers another mind to recall previous knowledge which affirms the current message.

“Yes,” we think, “that makes perfect sense when I use it to organize what I already know and believe.  That message speaks a truth that is already inside me, just bringing it to the top again in a clear and effective way.”

Many messages, though, don’t act to coalesce what we already know.  Instead, they are seeds, fragments, bits that we take in as fodder.  They are interesting enough to store, but we don’t yet have a place to use them in constructing thoughts.

These messages live inside of us, just waiting for moments when they can connect with other messages to make a notion, an idea, a belief, a message that we know that we need to share with the world.

The creative always have a trunkful of interesting and disconnected notions rolling around in their heads.   We know that they are there when we need to craft a new message, connecting them into ideas which we can share and get feedback about.

People who purge the messes in their mind rarely make lovely serendipitous insights.  They rarely create new ideas that pull together knowledge in a powerful way.

I am a magpie.  I have long said that my brain is like dropped chewing gum in August; things just kind of stick to it.  My skill is in taking those bits I accumulate and putting them together in ways that value connections.   When I do this well, others take those connections and say “Yes, I see the relationships.”

When I talk to people, I use lots of these bits to share my vision in an attempt to illuminate how things tie together.   Often, I will use bits of a persons own story, offering a different angle on it that shows it in a new light.   I walk around the back, showing the known from an unexpected viewpoint.

This is how I try to create messages that resonate, rooting them in what someone already knows.

Often, though, I know that’s impossible.   When I am not in conversation but rather doing a monologue, as happens when I write, I can’t monitor my audience, finding bits that we share and building on them.

Instead, I just have to say what I see in the best way that I can and hope that somehow, somewhere, some bit of what I offer is potent and sticky enough to get stored in someone’s mind.

I would love to just have my message appear full blown in their vision, but I know that rarely happens.  Instead, seeds are offered, bits of thoughts that may come together later when needed, growing as ideas in another mind, fed by observations and reinforced with similar notions.

“If you have something that you honestly need to say, there is someone, somewhere who honestly needs to hear it.”    That’s my motivation for saying out loud bits that I know that there is no ready audience for.   The challenge is speaking the classic truths in modern language; they still resonate if they can get through the marketing noise.

I know that lots of people love to please an audience by saying things the crowd is already primed to hear and believe.   By preaching to the choir, affirming what the people around you already know and believe, you can get them to respond easily and positively.

Saying what you feel needs to be said, even if nobody is really thinking that at the moment has a different kind of reward.   It is like planting trees under which you know you will never sit, a kind of devotion to a better and smarter future.  It is teaching not for today, but for tomorrow, knowing that everyone grows and heals in their own time and in their own way.

There are good reasons to say what we know needs to be said, even if we know that others aren’t quite ready to hear it.

We may never be there when they are ready to hear it.   If we don’t say it now, we won’t get another chance.

But more than that, just saying something and letting people hear it helps create the possibility that they will be able to accept our gift and engage what we value sometime in the future.   We add another stone to their pile, another bit to their understanding.

Eventually, what we share may add to the weight that tips the balance for them, ready for the moment when their heart and their mind opens and they need new understandings to contextualize new possibilities beyond where they were stuck.

It is even possible that what we offered in the past will form building blocks for what they create in the future.  We all stand on the shoulders of giants, the bits we have collected from others forming the foundation of what we can become, what we can offer the world.

There are good reasons to share the truths you see now, even if those around you are not currently ready to engage that truth.

Any offering of truth is a hopeful gift to the future.   Sharing what you know people can not yet see takes the will of a teacher investing in the future possibilities of those they are committed to.

Sharing without a direct attempt to control the outcome, without a desire to pander to or manipulate others, is a testament without ego.

And I thank all the teachers of the past who shared so graciously in a way that offered me a chance to use their understandings to facilitate my own growth and healing.


Bruised, Not Playful

If I had to identify the saddest thing about where I am now, it is the fact that I am so bruised I am unable to be playful.

The best things that have ever happened to me happened because of my willingness and ability to be playful.   Like so many transpeople, it was my wit that helped me survive, a sharpness tempered with humour that made the cuts feel loving and positive.

Satire came naturally to me, assuming a voice and speaking the absurdities that reveal truth.   I would speak in tongues and open minds, all the while amusing hearts.

The problem with playful, though, is that doing it alone is particularly pointless. Working up satire alone is like taking yourself out to dinner before you masturbate; you are going to get the same action whatever you do.

I could imagine myself, for example, being playful with Halloween this year, approaching parties full of young people in the character of a sixty-something ex-athlete transwoman.   Maybe in earlier years I could have killed it, but right now imagining where the funny bits are in that kind of a situation are beyond me; the very thought of it kind of freezes me up inside.

It’s what people want, I know, the kind of resilience that comes from knowing how to give and take a joke, offering a kind of ease that takes flops and twists with a grin.  If transpeople can’t laugh at themselves, well, then, they will be stuck in a rut of abject sorrow and political correctness which ends up being a morass of death.

Self-pity in its early stages is as snug as a feather mattress.
Only when it hardens does it become uncomfortable.
— Maya Angelou

In the past years, the crevasse between funny sassy drag queens and serious, earnest transpeople has become bigger and bigger.  In my day, we had to stick together, and yes, I have hosted drag shows, even pulling my out vinyl copy of A Christmas Gift For You to make one work.

The Drama Queens knew where to find the funny, bringing awareness in a playful and sharp way to trans events.  That became more of a struggle, though, as the pressures of the real world impinged and things got harder.

Playing without a playmate, though, is just wearing and self-limiting, spiralling in on itself.   The joy of making someone else laugh with novelty and wit is the only way to expand your own humor, of that I am sure.

We need, in the end, people to back our joy.  Go too long without that and things just dry up and start growing mold, having spent too long in the icebox.  Just too long.

Play is fragile.  It keeps us childlike and growing, but as we age, our possibilities harden up and imagination becomes much harder to access. We feel the need to be professional, and that means hardening up, becoming consistent, enforcing rules rather than transcending them.

Play is communal.  If the people around you aren’t playful, well, that means there isn’t much space for you to be playful.

Play is possible.   If you can’t imagine a different, better or funnier world to inhabit, you can’t enter that space and play in it.  Play brings alternate realities to the fore, letting us explore possibilities.  Play is where we try on what we haven’t yet become, the parts of us that still exist only in our imagination.

Play is celebration.  Play revels in hope, in the awareness that we can make our own realities if we just start with a dream.

To me, though, play feels lost.  The bruises, well, they seem to have won.

And that’s a problem.

Transgender Day Of Remembrance 2015

It’s November.  Time to get a draft prepared. . .

On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, what memories are we here to share?

There is a list of transpeople who we know were murdered this year, the tip of an iceberg globally.

These are lives brutally cut short which are worthy of remembering.  They struggled in a world where trans has long been erased.   They wanted what every other human wanted, to be productive, to be loved, to be valued in the world, but they had the added burden of being what society erased, people with a heart that wasn’t standard for their body.

They lived the best life they could, but they caught the attention of someone who wanted to act out against them, of someone who wanted them erased, or maybe, they were just so much in the shadows they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

These transpeople, working to claim a life between limited expectations and great possibilities, got in the path of violence and were slaughtered.   Their life was taken from them, their story brutally ended.

We remember these transpeople whose voices were stilled this year by raising our voices so their names can still inhabit the world we share.  By saying their names out loud, we offer honor upon them, proclaiming them as another human, worthy of dignity and remembrance.

These are the names we read with dignity and ceremony this year.   But like any year, there are many many transpeople who also suffered and died in darkness, away from any remembrance.

For transpeople who took their own lives, this year, we remember them.   They saw a world that looked bleak and cold, saw struggle they feared was beyond them, without hope of meaningful change.   They saw the fight ahead of them and felt crushed by it, so they found a way to end their suffering.

They stepped in front of traffic, they took too many pills, they cut at themselves, or did anything they could think of to avoid the doom and gloom that they were told that a trans life promised.   They just decided that they couldn’t take it anymore.

For transpeople who work so hard everyday to kill off their own nature, we remember them.   They deny, play small, hide and die a little bit to try and keep their own bold and brave hearts hidden, working to fit into a world where they have been taught that they don’t belong.

Somewhere inside, they know people see them as an abomination, a crime against god, a deluded liar, a freak or a pervert.   Over their lifetime, they have taken these lessons in so that they know their sickness more than they know their own lovely power, know their brokenness more than they know their tender humanity.

The world held that teaching these transpeople about their own shameful nature would help them avoid sin, help them be normative, help them fit in.  Parents didn’t want to have to feel the stigma of raising a queer child, so they piled that stigma onto their babies, the ones they had an obligation to help blossom in the world.

The system of gender pounds all of us towards fitting in as a sweet girl or tough boy.   While that pounding denies the fullness of their hearts to every child, to trans kids, whose nature crosses those arbitrary lines, it smashes them down, down to the point where a life lived at risk or the death of a martyr can feel like the only way out.

For centuries transpeople have been erased, thrown into the trash to keep our towns, our communities and our lives nice and neat.

Today, we remember those who were murdered this year, the brothers, sisters, siblings and partners of all of those transgender people who were killed in the past to silence and erase them.

We also remember those who took themselves out of a world they found cruel and impossible, a world where they couldn’t get the affirmation, support and love that they knew they needed.

And we remember all the transpeople who experience the call to destruction in a world where they feel they have a target painted on their back, a place where they believe they have to twist and break themselves to fit in, communities where a kind of binary compliance is demanded that their trans nature just finds oppressive and crushing.

We stand together as allies, coming together in the memory of the lost and destroyed transpeople and in the awareness of the lost and destroyed parts of transpeople who are in the world today.

We stand together with concern and love for the beautiful and precious humanity these people can bring to a world that needs wholeness, a world where we need to connect with each other across lines of class, race and gender.   Transpeople know the horrible price of those lines first hand because crossing those lines can get them destroyed.

We remember the lovely people who carried the truth of our continuous common humanity in their hearts and we remember how they suffered when those who would enforce boundaries destroyed and silenced them.

As long as those memories are with us, we can each stand and offer safe space for those who cross the lines out of the simple and beautiful love inside of them.  We can stand to support and protect them, speaking up when we hear others try to dehumanize and vilify them, reaching out when we see someone who needs loving affirmation rather than just brutal correction.

The memories of those lost souls can give us the strength to reach out to families who have to choose to submit to community pressure or to celebrate the unique and beautiful humanity of even the queerest child.

We stand today in memory of all the precious humanity destroyed in the name of removing the challenge of those who cross the lines of gender, those who speak for continuous common humanity.

Remembering those who struggle, those who were killed and those who felt the pressure to kill themselves or part of themselves to ease the pain, gives us the awareness and strength to stand with compassion and love, working to make sure that each and every life matters.

And one more from this year:  No Way Out