Gendershift Archive

Well, I have made it into the Digital Transgender Archive,

There are two pieces from 1995 (and at least two earlier pieces which were re-published without authorization.)

One is my IFGE keynote speech that was picked up by Dallas Denny, quite literally as she came up to me after I gave it and demanded my typescript for the archive, and put in Chrysalis Quarterly.    That was the first time I met Kate Bornstein, who performed her amazing “Voice Lesson” just before me.

My message has stayed quite consistent for the last two decades.

The other is from the July 1995 Renaissance News & Views.  Angela Gardner picked it up from Holly Boswell’s Gender Quest newsletter, which my work appeared in quite regularly, second only to TGIC’s The Transgenderist.

It’s not up in any searchable text form, like much of my early work, so I share it here.

help, i'm gendershifting & i can't get up
Callan Williams Copyright © 1995

You wake up in the morning, and you know who you are.  You do the rituals to start your day, whatever they are.  You've been doing them so long that they feel a part of you, who you are.
But one day, those rituals just seem wrong and unfullfilling.  You wake up, and they lie there on the floor like an old set of clothes that don't fit.

I have been gender slipping for years.  We all do, in ways we don't verbalize.  Gender is about the cues we carry that give us our personal power in this world, the cues of connection, of dominance, of expression, of who we are and why you should want to work with us.

As we change, those cues change.  We aren't the cocky or seductive people we were at 18.  That paunch in the middle means that we have to dress differently.  Our hairstyle is different.  All these things, and much more change the way that we see the world and the way that people see us, two visions locked in the dance of reflection that is this world.

When we change, when people respond to us in a new way because we have changed, our gender status slips.  Usually this is a slow and clear process, following the outlines of a life that are the norm.  Only in looking back over a period of years do we see how much we have changed, and how much people have changed in relationship to us.

I was speaking about this gender slip to a therapist who had spent the early part of her life as a stewardess in those Coffee, Tea or Me? days of the seventies.  Her eyes brightened as she talked about how her life had changed because she was no longer a sweet young thing, no more the flavor of the month.  Was this what genderslip was about?  Exactly.  We all genderslip.

The issue comes when you hit the walls that divide the genders in this heterosexist, bi-polar gender world.  At that point, genderslip becomes gender shift and that is not something we all experience.  This is the hallmark of the profoundly transgendered.

I was talking to a woman I have known for over 10 years who just went to have her SRS.  We have seen each other grow for a long time.  When we met, I was in my Guy-In-A-Dress period, a time when I wanted simply to experiment with being a guy in a dress.  Glittery clothes, big hair, bright makeup, a hint of chest hair and a dedication to finding out how to integrate my femininity into being a whole person.  I rejected the "Now I'm Biff, Now I'm Suzy," disintegrative model of The Prince, and worked to become integrated.

I have continued that path, trusting and understanding more of my feminine urges.  I have been profoundly genderslipping for the past four years, trying to discover all my potential as a human.  I know that others see my feminine energy, even in boy clothes.  I have also become more comfortable with creating myself as a unique person with a unique name and my own sense of style.  My taste in clothes has matured, and women tell me that I act and dress like a woman.

My friend asked what that old Guy-In-A-Dress would say if he could see me now.

"I think he'd understand.  I just wanted to find a point of comfort, and I have done that by trying to integrate in the man's role.  I did genderslips -- maybe dressing once a month, maybe group, maybe feeling freer, maybe just a bit more.  But I took every step, one at a time, and I got here, to the edge of the gendershift.  I really wanted to avoid going this far if I could, find a way to be comfortable without jumping the barrier," I replied.
"Me too," she agreed.  We both had worked hard to stay effective as men, but the limits got to us.  Gendershift seems to be the only solution.

My gendershift is getting more pronounced, at least to me.  Everyday I see myself more and more as a woman, the old male rituals of girding for the world more confining and silly.  I identify with the women on TV shows, listen to women's radio, watch other women in a new way.

I want to talk about how this feels, this sliding faster and faster on a slippery slope, but I don't know who else can talk with me about it.

The problem seems to be that everyone wants to be on one side of the shift or another, and they want me to be on one side too.  One woman around the gender community says I should go do boy stuff again, go and get a good butch power job that will remind me of the masculine effectiveness.  One CD friend says that gendershift is just a separation, and we can't really do it, that it's undesirable.  Many TS simply say "What are you waiting for?  Just jump!"

To be in the midst of gendershift is a frightening thing.  It is to be on the precipice of a leap, knowing that you have explored behind you and found it lacking, but still full of fear about surviving the leap -- and finding peace on the other side.  Frying pan or fire?

Garth Brooks: Life is not tried, it is merely survived, if you're standing outside the fire.  Uh huh.

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