So, what does a Power Femme Drag Mom Trans Theologian act like, anyway?
This is the challenge that every actor has when they take on a role, trying to cobble together a pastiche of choices to create a performance which reads like the character they are assigned to play.
It is, of course, also the challenge that every human has, though we don’t approach it in the same way. We aren’t trained in the talent of slipping in and out of character, don’t have a team of writers, directors, coaches and stylists behind us to help shape our performance to be most effective.
More than that, what every human has to convey is always more complex and more nuanced than any actor has to play. We carry a lifetime into every moment, not just the heavily crafted and delicately edited intent of the scene.
Sometimes I wonder what someone who had to play me in a movie would choose to do.
I know that I would find their performance lacking because it would be so oversimplified, but I wonder if I might find it moving because they can polish the choices to be touching and potent in a way that escapes me with all my damn baggage.
They could be all focused energy and considered choices, going over and over their scenes until they mastered the moment. I, on the other hand, would be pulled in all directions at once, trying to be my own crew, directing and playing the scene, managing my own costume and continuity and everything else.
Although people around me know that I am on my own, they also expect a polished and perfected performance. They judge me on my focus, on how they read my presence, on the power I project, while everything they don’t get is noise and clutter that just makes me more confusing.
The notion that wounded healers are powerful because of their wounds, because their heart has been torn open, because they are sensitive enough to see what others find invisible is hard for people to grasp.
They prefer people who seem to know all the answers rather than people who live actively in the questions. To them, healing should look like the kind of healing they imagine for themselves, being above feelings, challenges and hurt. Smooth missionaries who can charm people are the support they want, offering instant assurance over the messy challenge of doing the hard work of becoming themselves.
In other words, they have been taught to want preachy preachers, ones who offer clear boundaries, rather than teachy preachers, ones who offer questions that focus on connection.
In my experience, there are no shortcuts to healing and growth. You have to do the work, personally, not just give your problems to someone who is comforting and solid, another parent to take care of you. Hand holding and hugs may be appealing, but someone with high expectations of your capacity to become better will usually help more.
I am the kind of person who can offer useful reflections for others, both of their possibilities and of their blockages. I have compassion, wit and insight offering both encouragement and kind, useful criticism.
What, though, is the performance which conveys this message? How do I show a persona for which there are no easy archetypes, no simple and well understood codes?
If Meryl Streep was playing me in the movie, how would she carry off communicating the essence of the character? How does she be both potent and endearing, both cutting and tender?
More than that, do I even have the chops to be as good as she would be when being me? Let’s face it; there is a reason why Ms. Streep earns the big bucks.
I sometimes joke when I enter a new space that I will just go over and sit with the other trannies. Of course, there are very rarely other transpeople in the space and even if there are, it is doubtful I will easily blend in with them.
There is no conventional way for transpeople to act. There are some stereotypical bits, but those often feel more like clownish, marginalizing behaviours rather than useful ways to express a trans soul.
Recently, the winner of a transgender beauty pageant had her title revoked, her prizes withdrawn because the organizer decided she looked too much like a gay man in a film about the event. She was deemed insufficiently trans to carry the flag because she didn’t always present a perfectly femaled image.
Considering that the prize included cash towards genital reconstruction surgery in India, would any of the contestants be perfectly femaled? Would any transwoman ever be perfectly femaled? Isn’t that what makes us trans, the way our bodies cross pure expectations?
In “A Billion Wicked Thoughts,” Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam found that the primary consumers of shemale porn are straight guys get aroused by boobs AND cocks. Images of the mixture just gets them all heated up in much the same way stories of brilliant and dangerous vampires do it for straight gals because straight guys, well, they just love cocks. Apparently, in eye-line studies, straight guys check out men’s crotch areas more than straight women do.
I have had my kids in the neighborhood chase my car hoping to catch a glimpse of a wacky, glamorous drag queen, only to be disappointed to find a boring old tranny. I would love to think they saw a woman of trans experience, but I suspect in their mind, they saw a guy-in-a-dress.
The archetypes for trans expression in this binary, heterosexist culture are limited, mostly to cheap stereotypes. Transpeople who don’t fit into those boxes are scary, especially when they show the power of moving beyond expected and comfortable ranges to pose questions that disquiet people, squicking them.
So what does a Power Femme Drag Mom Trans Theologian act like, anyway?
How does she navigate taking power in the world without just making “everybody” feel queasy and threatened?
Does she try and hide parts of who she is?
Does she assume that she doesn’t need to give people room for their own feelings and just plow on?
Does she take responsibility for the emotional stuff she stirs up in others, where they are triggered?
Does she live inside her own defenses, holding fast to her own belief stories no matter what shit comes?
Does she reach out or does she let people come to her?
The only thing I am sure of is that if Meryl Streep played her she would always get the right response because the people around her would also follow the script. It doesn’t work that way for me with people getting antsy and going cold on me.
How do I act like who I am in a world where people don’t know anyone else like me?