Ladies Rooms Make Better Women

The ladies room made me a better woman.

Emerging as transgender always means leaving the peer group you were assigned to at birth, in some way or other.   It means moving into no-man’s/no woman’s land and heading towards a new destination, a new way of being in the world.

Isolated loners don’t contribute much to community.   Humans contribute when they are part of a group, part of a team, a village, a family, a corporation, a network.

Belonging to a group keeps us grounded, balanced and healthy, aware and considerate of the needs, desires and preferences of people around us.

Leaving manhood (or womanhood) is one thing and for some transpeople, that’s all they want to do.  For many of us, though, we have the hope to enter womanhood (or manhood) and that becomes the difficult part, trying to find a way to be gracious, respectful, safe and also become one of the group.

Opening the space for transpeople to become new, to take on a communal identity, is a key part of welcoming transpeople to society, bringing them back into the fold, to both keep them socialized and to get the best from the special gifts they have to offer.

Our allies are not the people who want to keep us pinned in the fiction of binaries or even the ones who want to cut us a little slack.  Our allies are the people who affirm the possibilities which are nascent in us but have not yet bloomed.   Our allies are the people who trust in our futures, beyond the current limits placed onto us.

For many of us, the barrier between who we were and who we can be is the door of the ladies room.

When we resist entering the ladies room, instead seeking solitary loos or ducking the social interaction women actually have in that reserved space, we resist entering womanhood.

This is, of course, exactly what many of those who dismiss, reject or mock trans want to happen.   They want the barriers separating gender roles to be maintained and strengthened, want to maintain the levels of fear which perpetuate the divide that comforts them.    Others want to resist gender itself, believing that gender serves no useful purpose, only oppression, so it needs to be resisted at all costs.

Does that resistance, though, serve transpeople as individuals or society in as a whole?   Does keeping transpeople skittish, afraid and marginalized make life safer other people?   Or does it deny contributions that human cultures in other places and other times have valued, creating instead hurting and stressed people across the gender spectrum?

Integration of transpeople in a more nuanced, more considered, less binary and less heterosexist gender system is the start of making considered gender serve the possibilities of people instead of making compulsory gender, based on simple biology, constrain people into limiting roles.   Our smelly bits are the bits that define us, as these fundamentalists would say, not the bits that drive our choices, be they smelly or transcendent.

A transwoman who doesn’t feel entitled to use the woman’s room, who resists using that space, will also resist entering other women’s spaces.    They won’t easily enter men’s spaces, either, so they will be alienated from and denied use of any gendered spaces.

They also be will be alienated from and denied use of any gendered standing.   This denies a key component of society to them, but it also denies society any components that the transperson may be able to bring to all of us understanding and effectiveness of social institutions and forces.

In very simple and very personal ways, the way we resist being inside gender, except by concealment, harms not only the individual but also the group of gendered people.   Resistance becomes a lose/lose situation, separating the power of diverse views from the the forces that grow, heal and modernize the community.

When we can get past resisting including transpeople who identify as women in the world of women, from access to the women’s room to access to women’s discussions, we can both bring transwomen into the fold of women and bring women into an understanding of gender beyond simple binary heterosexist thought.

That resistance is on both sides, of course.   Many transpeople with a feminine heart don’t want to make that step into the world of women, fearing loss and erasure in the process, and many gender fundamentalists want to resist that step, fearing loss and change in the process.   That resistance itself may be invisible to people who simply take binary separation for granted, not seeing how they shape and limit the worldview we can possess.

For transwomen who have stopped resisting entering the women’s room, stopped keeping their heads down and working to stay concealed, the understanding, growth and healing they have found from being plugged into the network of women is real and awesome.   From the smallest sharing of views to the biggest affirmation of connection, coming in from the cold allows them to release pain and fear, allows the women around them to understand a bigger, broader world.

In my inner life, I have worked hard to enter women’s space, to gain understanding.   In my outer life, though, I have resisted entering that space our of a fear of being attacked as a colonizing and intrusive force.   Understanding I have, but being outstanding escapes me, a smart fly on the wall, but not a force in the conversation.

Open access to the ladies room creates better women, training them in the rules and rituals, giving them ownership to protect the special space from danger, and allowing them to share their special gifts to lift and care for all other women.   This is true not only of sanitary spaces,  but of women’s spaces in a wider way.  As long as they need to identify as women to enter, strengthening and deepening that identification only makes transwomen better partners and more invested in valuing and protecting shared womanhood.

Keeping transwomen out of the women’s room only keeps them hurt, marginalized and angry while maintaining the notion that the most important part about women is what is between their legs, not the bits inside of them that drive their choices.

Only women can teach women to be women, offering shared values and understandings.  I grew as a woman by watching other women close up, and I know that my continuing growth as a woman is directly related to participating with women as one of them and not as some kind of interloper or freak.

If you want transwomen to be better women, they need to be inside the tent.   Keeping them outside just leaves them as a force for fear and revolution.   Isn’t helping make them a force for love and growth a much better plan?


Every time Olivia Wilde came on screen in a not very good movie I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.   Her face rippled with thought and emotion that brought life to a very weak script.

Ms. Wilde has the goods, of course.   She is so astoundingly beautiful that she is featured in Revlon ads, and the characters she plays have always benefited from her acute intelligence.  Her looks are not so much pretty as intriguing, beauty pulled from a surprising place.

Every woman is an actress, of course, at least on some level.   She wants to communicate her emotions, become compelling, be attractive in her own unique way.    In the lovely Jane Wants A Boyfriend, Louisa Krause plays a young woman with autism who watches movies to rehearse her own romantic skills, desiring the kind of luminous appeal her actress sister, played by Eliza Dushku, has already claimed.

Playing our part in the world demands a bit of acting, assisted by the right costumes and great lighting.   It’s the way we invoke emotions, creating moments where sparks pass between us, showing and claiming the best part of us.  We ripple with unspoken communication, drawing people into our presence, using all the tools we have to share experience.

To create a scene, though, you need partners, part audience and part co-performers who mirror you, concentrating the energy, letting you feel it bounce back and invigorate you.

Straight women have had to develop relationships with guys from the earliest days when they first appeared to be sexually maturing.  They naturally had something that straight guys wanted, so they had the attention of those guys.   Not all of that attention was wanted, was gracious or was even healthy, of course, but the challenge was to use that interest to form good and beneficial relationships.

It’s hard for transwomen, especially slim and beautiful transwomen, to explain the very different responses straight guys have to them.

The key word here, of course, is “straight.”

Even rumpy old me has had a guy start loudly declaiming how unattractive I was after he found out that I was trans, which to me was a good indication that he was kind of interested beforehand.   He needed to make clear to himself and the world that he was straight, normal, not queer.  (The phrase “not that there is anything wrong with that” was added a little later.)

Women turn my head, but I have no doubt that if straight guys had paid attention to me in a way that I didn’t think would shatter the moment they found out my birth sex, I would be a very different woman.   My issue was never about being a woman in the world, rather it was always about being busted as being a guy-in-a-dress, or really, just about being busted.

When I saw the stunningly beautiful Candis Cayne play Billy Baldwin’s mistress on “Dirty Sexy Money,” and knew that even she couldn’t easily date straight guys, I knew there was no room for me to encourage and trust that attention, however baffling that may be to women who think they know how men will respond because they know how men respond to them.   That changes some, though, as they age and the responses become different.

I know my gender neutral self to be an introverted theologian.  I am safe, stable, sensible, appropriate and full of service.

My feminine self, though, well, she is an actress.   She performs and captures a room, at least in her dreams.

I have invoked that performance aspect when I hosted the TV show, when I gave presentations, even when TBB and I stood up as “The Drama Queens.”  It never worked, though, when I tried to play a straight guy, a masculine role.   The best I could pull off is a kind of butch lesbian partner, though my eyes gave me away.

(If you want to tell if a lesbian woman is butch or femme, look just at her eyes.   If you can see everything she is feeling flash through them, she is femme.  If they don’t tell a story, butch.  Les Feinberg figured this out after recovering Minnie Bruce Pratt’s sunglasses one too many times, realizing that femmes have trouble communicating if their eyes are covered.)

I have met a few people in my life who can read the feminine in my eyes, but they are advanced queer people who look for heart and soul over bodies.  Most people see the body and make assumptions, and since I never was swish — how many power femmes do you know who are swish? — they miss the codes.   They “can’t hear over my penis.”

Even when I do characteristically femme things, like sailing out of the room in a huff after I have been insulted, people often don’t get it.  “That was such a guy thing you did,” one person told me, ignoring the fact that guys usually stand their ground, while actresses expect you to chase them.

I have long known that I just don’t have the goods, don’t have the basics to make it through an audition call.   Guys just don’t want to pay attention to me in that way and gals don’t see me as competition.

That doesn’t mean I don’t dream of creating a scene.   By that, I don’t mean going ballistic, screaming and throwing a drink, I mean playing with the sparks, throwing lines back and forth, invoking provocative energy that brings out the essence in another person.

Trusting, though, that you have the attention of your partner, that the audience is seeing the details of your expression and not just projecting their fears and assumptions, well, that’s something you have to learn.   There are no small parts, only small women, and small women are the ones who do not trust their power to persuade. (2014)

Kate Mulgrew was interviewed in “The Captains,” telling how she told her father she wanted to go to university in NYC even though she didn’t care at all.  She said that she wanted to be an actress.   I believe that she knew that she was an actress and knew she had to get to where her talent could be seen, polished and valued.  For transpeople, though, we never knew where our inner knowledge could be affirmed and harnessed.

My power of performance — my actress power — is the flame that I have banked much too deeply, burying it deep to stay effective in my role as the sensible concierge playing to a family rooted in Aspergers who needed verbal tricks, not subtle and nuanced emotion.

When you get typecast for long enough, well you lose the flexibility and fire you need to let loose, as TBB reminded me when explaining that her Drama Queen performance was supported by a long stint in community theatre just before, and that now she feels a long way from that heat.

If the director doesn’t realize
what a courageous thing the actor is doing
by touching on some emotionally tender spot,
then the actor will be wary of doing that.
— Arthur Penn, Director

Learning to be wary, well, it’s pretty much all I have seemed to do while waiting for the third gotcha.  No director is around to see, respect and foster my courage.  And that means I have no one to help with feedback, polishing what works when I play it across the “instrument” my creator gave me.  Typecasting is brutal to a tender heart.

I know have long known that I have to write my own role in the world.  I can’t just wait to be cast in someone elses script, playing out what they project onto me.

The challenge is that I have to be my own star, too, playing the lead role with bravado and gumption.   I need to bring the actress out, seeking the spotlight and learning how to cultivate a coterie of fans.  I need to shine, letting my inner self play across my body and inviting the gaze of an audience.

I have known this for a long time, of course, and I have been stymied in my attempt to claim my inner actress for all that time.   Instead, she just informs my concierge role in a way that is all but invisible.

But I need her, need her to take the lead soon.  Acting “as if” is an old human trick, faking it until you make it, and I need some of that.

More actress, please, though, well that isn’t what most are expecting to hear, nor is it what they feel comfortable supporting.

Outer Life

My inner life is rich, full, nuanced, packed with thought and growth, finding the joy in exploration.

My outer life, though, is a total fucking shambles.

As a young child, my outer life was dominated by my Aspergers parents, my sweet and distant father, my upset and controlling mother.

I learned to read before I was three.   I was reading Time magazine at age four.  I completely stunned my kindergarten teacher by reading out the label on some paste she was trying to introduce to us.

Reading, you see, fed my inner life.  Give me a book, preferably non-fiction, and there was a safe place for me to enter.

In my outer life the pain, frustration and self-pity of my mother were spewed everywhere.   Very early I learned to protect myself, and, not so soon after, learned to protect my sister and my father.

In school, I was always out of synch with my peers.   They played, were physical, had parents who nurtured their dreams, learned how to be part of a family, a group, a community.

I learned to have a rich and powerful inner life.

The opportunities for relationships with the kids around me went cold as we moved around the northeast.   My father was brilliant, but his Aspergers meant he could never really master the rules and relationships of the workplace, so we moved on.

My mother was angry that I kept blowing my next chance in a new school, thinking that somehow, I should be someone other than the person she had raised this time.   After all, my choices were about her, and my failures fed her own self-pity.   It wasn’t easy.

How did I survive this stuff?   Simple.   I survived because I had a rich inner life that I could return to.

My outer life, though, has always been a mess.   It’s not because I am bad or acting out; never did drugs and any criminality was very petty.  It’s because I just had no idea how to be one of the group, how to trust the people around me, developing healthy, lasting and enduring relationships.

I lived within shell after shell, from my family to my intensity to my transgender heart.   I was trained to think like an Aspie, learned to be an introvert.  Every difference became a barrier between me and the norm, teaching me to keep what is inside inside, finding ways to explore and live with myself in a rich inner life.

Living inside, within the meta, it was easy for me to make quick maps of other people’s interiors.   That was a skill I had to develop early, because if my parents weren’t going to understand and polish themselves, getting better, then I had to hold the guide to the pitfalls, have tools to predict what would cause which explosion.

Living inside, within the meta, it was hard for me to express myself in the world, to assert my ego and create external spaces which others found inviting.   Coming together with people who don’t have the inner discipline and awareness I have is very difficult because I don’t have the skills and habits they expect for someone participating in “good” outside relationships.

It turns out that it is hard to build a strong outer life as you get older.   Outer lives depend on bridges between people and as you mature, developing a richer inner life, the separation between you and those who are focused on outer lives becomes greater, not less.    The gap becomes harder to cross when you are more aware of the patterns and when outer people have turned their beliefs and practices into habits which serve them.

People who have focused on their outer life often can’t understand that anyone could lack the skills and habits that they have developed.   They see failure and damage in those who don’t know how to fit in, how to be successful as outgoing “normal” humans.   They don’t cherish links to their own inner lives, often finding the inner dark, scary, difficult and impeding on their outer lives, so they find it hard to value your mastery of the inner.

They find my stunted, service-driven outer life incomprehensible in their understanding, find the messages from deep within as just so much blah-blah, noise keeping me away from the fun of rubbing up against other people.

The inner material I handle so easily can trigger their own inner feelings.  It’s easy to believe that I somehow caused those feelings and therefore I am responsible for their feelings.   I know that others own their own feelings, that they heal only in their own time and own way, but that doesn’t stop them acting out against stimuli which bring up their fears and prejudices, doesn’t stop them acting out against me.

My inner life, lost and lonely, is getting very threadbare nowadays.   I feel the need for more outer connections, more people to share with, more give and take, more rewards and challenges.

That doesn’t mean, though, that I want to give up my hard-won and rich inner life, doesn’t mean that I want to have to freeze it out to play someone’s elses game, to enter a more shallow worldview.    I own my depth and intensity and I paid dearly for that wisdom.

My own performance, much like the immersion in television that shaped my inner life as a youth and lead me to do a half-hour daily talk show for a year and a half, is very managed.   I know how to take the stage when that red tally light comes on, focusing my energy.  For me, these essays are also very TV style,  fast, fresh and improvisational, like host-chat jazz, but not a routine to be pulled out at any time.

I am not the only broadcaster type with a deep inner life and a considered performance, though my show and audience are much, much, much smaller.

My rich, full inner life has saved me time after time, even though I had to develop it first, while the kids around me were exploring, learning and delighting in the bigger, outer, shared world.

Right now, though, I need more connections to an outer world.   That seems simple enough until I demand that outer world reflect and support my inner world rather than forcing me to seal my rich inner life away in order to not scare the bears.

My lifemyth is clear: people just don’t get the joke.  Is that because it is too much of an inside joke?   Probably.   How can I be in relationships that develop insiders and connections rather than just push them away?   Where are the venues in which that tally light goes on and my performance can be met with affirmation and value?

I love my inner life.   I just wish that my outer life wasn’t as difficult and limited.

Your Back

You know, I have never really cared about what you wore. I think you should have permission to wear whatever you want, and I have tried to support that.

What I cared about is who you are.  And who you have always been is my big brother.  You took care of my parents, you took care of me, you always listened and always supported.  

I'm just not sure, anymore, that is all you are. Maybe it's not about the person I know, the one who takes care of me,  wearing a dress.   Maybe it's about the person who has been inside of you all this time.

You are so good at leading, at protecting, at encouraging, that I never had to learn to fight the way that you did.  You fought for the family, fought for me and my brother and my father from a very young age.   You fought for us.

I dunno.   Maybe it's time that someone fought for you.  Maybe it's time that someone fought for that tender soul who has always lived inside of you.

Maybe the point isn't making you free to wear whatever you want.   Maybe, finally, the point is helping you be free to be whoever you want, knowing that the people who love you have your back. Heaven knows you didn't get much of that in our family.

That just seems so hard, though.  If someone as smart and as tough as you haven't found a way to emerge, to be visible and potent in the world, how can someone like me ever even think that they can help?   I struggle with my own stuff.

You go to places I find terrifying.   I know that you do that when you are in pain, and that scares me.  It's why I handle you gently, giving you space and distance, so that I don't have to take the brunt of your distress.  I duck you to save myself, and when you see that, well, you help save me.  

I will never know what it feels like to be trans in the world, to have such a tender heart that you have to learn to keep locked away, hidden.   I got to like pink and demand pretty and cry and all that, while you got trained to take the load, to be strong, to take the blows.   That shaped you, I know, into the person I came to know, but it didn't change that heartbeat inside of you.

The world has changed, and maybe there is space now not just for fashion freedom but for understanding hearts.   It's not about your choices in clothing, it is about what you are trying to reveal with those choices.   

You are trying to show what lies inside of you, under that training and below those callouses.  That, I suspect is very hard to show because it is so sensitive and tortured from having to be beaten down for so, so long.  You can hide in an instant, drawing yourself in, turning into an observer and a concierge, taking care of us.

How can anyone help you keep your sweet neck out for longer, getting used to being exposed and moving forward rather than following your habit of pulling inside, storing up the feelings and then writing them out in a sweet and sharp revelation of what you hold inside.

There aren't many people who can meet you where you are, can go those places that your mind and your life have taken you.   They are used to smaller, used to more conventional, used to less meaning packed in with less intensity added.   Those people are frustrating for you, I know.  

I never will understand your experience of being a transperson, but that doesn't mean that I shouldn't find a way to support you in the kinds of ways you have supported me and my visions for so many decades.   

I don't know the risk and the stress you feel in being exposed, especially when you see the rewards as being small. It has to hurt, has to wear you down, has to keep you small and weak. 

What I want, though, is for you to be beautiful in the world.   I want it for me, yes, because I want to see you smile, want to see you engaged, want to see you revealed, but most of all, I want it for you.  I want you to be able to let loose, be yourself all the time and all the way, showing your self so brightly that the right people will be attracted to you, will connect with you and find you to be as smart and loving and awesome as I have for so many years now.

I need you around.  I have learned to trust you, to value you, to depend on you. 

And I think if the world sees more of you, if you feel safe, like someone has your back, well, the world will know why it needs more of you too.   

This isn't easy.  I struggle with my own stuff, my own silences that happen when I should fight for myself.   I feel the cost everyday, in my body and in my heart.  Maybe, though, if I am fighting for you, I can be braver, like you were when you fought for our parents, for me, for our family.  

It isn't what you do or what you wear that defines you.  It is who you are.   And you are, as you have shown me over the decades, a transperson.  

You should be that in the world, bold bright and beautiful.  Your desire for pretty isn't trivial, something to be denied, it is something that reveals the sweetness under that craggy, curmudgeon exterior you have bolted on forever.  Showing that sweetness is scary, as you were taught early, but a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and you have some amazing damn shaman medicine to share, you wounded healer, you.

Help me have your back.  Help me learn to be as powerful as you are at encouraging and empowering other people. 

I really want you to shine in the world.  I need you to shine in the world, beautiful, potent, saying brilliant things that make everyone see things in a little bit smarter way. 

It's not about what you wear.   It's about who you are.  Showing that person, both brain and heart in the world, through creativity and physicality, well, that seems like an amazing goal to me. 

I have your back.  You can count on me when you get scared, when you want to duck and run, turning observer and leaving only cold words.  When the shit goes down, together we can handle it.  We can take care of each other, clean up and rise again.  You showed me that time after time.  Thank you for taking care of me.

"What happens after the prince rescues the beautiful princess?" Richard Gere asks at the end of "Pretty Woman."   "She rescues him right back," says Julia Roberts.  

Thanks for rescuing me so many times.  Now, I suspect it's my turn to take care of you, my sister.  It's time.

Forsaken Rebirth

Jesus Loves You, but everyone else thinks that you’re an asshole.
Schoolyard Taunt

If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.
Gloom, Despair and Agony On Me

When you feel forsaken by a world that seems to want to find any reason to slap people like you, losing sight of the blessings, possibilities and gifts that you actually do have in the world is very, very easy.

When you have spent a lifetime being told that you are stupid, that you are an offence to God, on some level you begin to believe it.

The best reason I know to emerge as transgender in the world is because you believe that it gets you right with your creation, revealing the truth of how your heart, your essence was created.   It shows people who you have always been deep inside at your core.

Trying to get an “amen” on this view of creation, though, may be the toughest part of emerging as trans.   Everyone, it seems, wants to tell you what you are doing wrong, but almost none one wants to say “Amen!”   “Hello, I’m trans and I am here to help,” just isn’t something greeted with joy and approval.

As much as you believe you are trying to show yourself as your creator made you, here to help open minds and hearts, revealing continuous common humanity, many people will tell you that you are deluded, sick, perverted and sinning against their God.   To them you threaten their children, pollute their communities and promote the spread of evil in the world.

For others, the notion that you speak with any authority from God must be rejected.   They have been hurt by believers in the past, have come to reject any invocation of a creator, have come to a strong anti-theist stance.  They understand the concept of a creator as an imaginary fallacy, stuck in archaic superstition and ignorance, so they have the power to mock and dismiss any claims made on that basis.

“Your creation is just a load of genes and chemicals,” they say.  “How dare you claim spirit!”

That’s a damn heavy load when all you want to do is find a presentation that lets you smile in the world, coming from the best and most authentic place you can.

Transpeople hear the call very early in our lives, but we have been taught, by any means necessary, to resist it.  Most of us have resisted calling to the point of self destruction (2003), only emerging when there was no other choice left.

When you feel forsaken in the world,  by those around you,  by your creator, or both, losing sight of of the blessings, possibilities and gifts that you actually do have in the world is very, very easy.

Feeling forsaken keeps you walking with your head down, always ready for the next blow.   We just aren’t ready for someone to be nice to us (2001),  just have trouble seeing the care that is possible if we can only open to it, only feel safe enough to let it in.

Dropping those defensive walls, though, is hard and terrifying after you have been taught that another crushing blow can come from anywhere at any time. “Jesus loves you, but everyone else thinks that you’re an asshole.”

When being forsaken becomes an identity, we tend to cling to events and stories which affirm that belief, rejecting or erasing that which might reminds us that good things can and do happen to us.   We take a pessimistic view of the world, which colours our choices and limits our possibilities.

Every year, the coming of spring asks us to consider, though, the possibility of rebirth.   Can the world really be reborn, new, fresh and colourful, with good things happening again?

As transpeople, unless we believe in rebirth we are stuck believing that we are doomed to continue an assigned life which constrains and crushes us. (1995)

No dream can possibly come true until we are willing to imagine it, to tenderly place it in the world and have it grow, changing the limits of the past to the new modes of the future.   As long as we cling to our defences, we can change our clothes or change our body, but we cannot change our mind, seeing & embracing the world in a new way.

Transvestism is about changing your clothes.
Transsexualism is about changing your body.
Transgender is about changing your mind.

I know that whenever I speak to other transpeople, I try to give them context about the choices that they are making, often making them unconsciously out of old, stooped and crouching habits.   Most of that effort is encouraging them to see and claim the blessings around them rather than staying obsessed with the negative attacks which drove them to hide their trans nature in the first place.

We know how to see the threats, how to take them to heart, how to stay convinced that we are forsaken.  We don’t know how to see the blessings, how to take them to heart, how to become convinced that we are worthy recipients of all the good things this world has to offer.

If the struggles of one transperson are the struggles of us all, aren’t the successes of one transperson the successes of us all?   Can we support and affirm both the effects of facing injustice and of receiving gifts & rewards inside of trans spaces?

In the way scarcity captures the mind, it is easy for me to believe that I am forsaken, separated and denied.  It is easy for me to approach situations with the assumption that pattern will continue, that I will be forsaken again, that bad things happen to people like me and will happen again, and soon.

If I want rebirth, though, I must be willing to cast off that belief and accept that no matter my challenges, I am a worthy human, child of my creator.

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
— (Matt. 27:46, KJV).

Without opening to the blessings, bounty and abundance available to us, we will always be forsaken.   If we do not lift our vision, we will always stay stuck in the same limited worldview.

The history of abjection is written on our skin.  Our pain is real and legitimate. Finding support for transcendence is very hard while finding reasons to stay defended and small come along everyday.

Yet, spring comes. Rebirth abounds.  Plants blossom.  Eggs reveal new life.

Do I want to stay stuck in an eternal winter?

Do you?

Better Is Important

What you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it.
— Gandhi

Doing the insignificant, the indulgent, the beyond the rules & expectations, the whatever the hell it is is important, not because it is perfect and big but because it provides a ripple which contributes you to the world.

This is hard for me to remember, but then it is hard for anyone to remember.

My sister’s friend has an 88 year old father who has been in and out of the hospital in the last year.   Finally back at home, with full time live in care, he fell and went to the hospital where they found a brain bleed.  He is stable and at his age they are not going to do any big interventions, but it makes his daughter a bit crazy.

She knows that all they can do is delay the inevitable, knows how every human life has an ending.   She knows that she doesn’t have the control to make everything better or even make it good.   Nothing she achieves will ever be perfect, nothing will ever come without a cost and a downside.   He will never be young, fit and independent again, you know, like when he was 85.

But everyday for a year now, she has fought to for his quality of life, fought to give him one more good day.    He isn’t ready to go, even if he does chafe at the limits he now faces, the help he needs to do even simple things.

It was important for me to affirm to her that she what she is doing may seem insignificant or even futile, but it is most important that she do it.   This is how we face our own fears and blocks so we can move beyond them.

Human lives are defined by the fights we choose to engage.

The most essential of those fights are contained in our relationships: how do we struggle to make those we love better people?   And how does that goal demand that we ourselves become a better person in the process?

What we do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that we do it, even if it means entering a fight that we know we cannot finally win.   It is the battles that count, the seeds we sow, the moments we give to other people, the way that our energy adds to the ripples.

The true meaning of life is to plant trees,
under whose shade you do not expect to sit.
— Nelson Henderson

There are so many reasons to decide that our contribution just isn’t that important, that doing the hard work of helping create better just has no real payoff, so it isn’t worth the effort.    We live in a world that finds it hard to value anything that seems detailed, hard and without a simple benefit, a world that believes shiny results are more important than the effort to do the right thing.

Holding on to the reasons that what we do, even the small things we do, are important can be very hard.   The way you do anything is the way you do everything, so becoming integrated, consistent and authentic is becoming better, even when those details seem like too much work for the benefit.

I know how hard it is to be affirmed in the hard choices we make to do what we believe to be right.   That’s why I deliberately and actively validated and venerated the work my sister’s friend is doing, work that I know from experience is hard for others to value.   Taking care of an elder is not something most people want to talk about, the presence of death being all too close, but being there to elevate life, even the end of it, is powerfully important.

When you have danced with the demons, well, it becomes hard to ever be innocent again.   It makes you a better person, but it also makes you a different person, holding knowledge and experience that others are still keeping at a distance.

The significance of our choices makes them important, even when others don’t understand or value them.   They may seem unimportant in the social conventions, but we do them because, on some level, we understand the power of them, even in the face of being diminished,  erased and cast aside.

Someone has to be the crackpot, the shit cleaner, the carer, and we know that work falls to us, that it is our damn calling.

I was happy to be able to affirm someone doing this impossible work, just the way I did with others in my caregivers support group, the one the facilitator barred me from because I wasn’t letting people believe that somehow, it all would be okay.

Somebody had to be the power femme/drag mom/trans theologian, and I guess it was me.   What I have done may seem insignificant, but I knew that it was most important that I do it, even if nobody got the joke.   Better is important, both in being there to help others do better for one more day and in me finding a way to be better in walking a path just a little bit closer to righteousness, in squeezing the growth and learning out of this human walk.

There are moments, sure, when I wish I could be light enough to have simple chats with people around me, but more often there are moments when I wish other people could meet me where I am, seeing and valuing what the work that I knew to be important.

I know what people want and it is me taking care of them.  So many people need so much, so much that they never paid forward.   Their commitment to better is weak, choosing comfort over struggle.

Better is important.

I honour those who fight for better, even if other people think that their work is insignificant.   I know that they, bless their hearts, are important.

Rules For Blessings

Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel” by Kate Bowler stems from her Duke Divinity School thesis, which explains its extreme neutrality, even down to not pulling together threads that run through what have been the fastest growing churches in America since after WWII.

The core belief has always been that God wants to bless you, to privilege you, to deliver you what you desire in terms of wealth, health and victory, but in order to obtain this blessing, you have to follow the rules.

It is your pastor who lays out the rules, of course, and they always start with disciplined obedience to group expectations and richly giving to the church, both in time and money.   It is these gifts which are your seed, which will be returned to you manifold.

The stories of what the asks and the promises made to stimulate that giving have clearly been beyond the literal text of the Bible.

Jim Bakker, head of PTL ministries, even admitted that once he read the Bible cover to cover, he finally understood that he had been preaching mistaken beliefs about prosperity.   His opportunity to finally do this complete Bible study came while serving a prison sentence after being found guilty of fraudulent overselling of his Heritage USA community.   Somehow, as a pastor, I would have thought he would have gotten to the Bible earlier in his career.

The blessings you deserve are there for the taking, goes much of the thinking, but you can only reach out and claim them by complying with the rules and traditions of your church.

Isn’t the joy of any church to be in the company of others who believe in the same way that you do?    By getting your beliefs mirrored, becoming one of a flock of believers who comply with the teachings of God as handed down in your tradition, you get the assurance that you are not alone.

Bower notes that the attraction of megachurches is that they can provide a level of service that smaller churches can’t.   I suspect, though, that one of the key attractions is having your beliefs subsumed into the crowd and the bigger the crowd, the righter you must be.

Sophie Tucker had a hit song with “Fifty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong,” though when I was a kid, that had permuted to the joke “Eat Shit!  Fifty million flies can’t be wrong!”

Humans want to be on the winning side, and it might seem that there is no better way to do that than to side with the majority.   Strength in numbers, people coo.

The Pareto Principle says that the last 20% takes as much effort as the first 80%, so why not just get the 80% right and leave the rest?

For believers, their following closely to the rules, beliefs and traditions of their church is following God.   It then becomes easy to think that those who violate those rules, beliefs and traditions are rejecting God and mocking the Godly in the world.   Those heathens are not right with God, so if you are following closely to get what you deserve from God, they should get what they deserve too, even if you have to give God a hand in teaching the unbelievers a lesson.

If someone doesn’t get the results they were expecting when following the rules, the problem must be in the way they didn’t bring enough faith and obedience rather than any flaw in the rules.

Conversely, people who do get rich must inherently be holy because of the blessings that they have received.  Their very success is proof of their blessed relationship with God.   “A cheap church speaks of a cheap God,” said Jerry Falwell, explaining why pastors should live a rich and aspirational life to demonstrate that they are in tight relationship with God.

This notion, that success is proof of Godliness, means we are judged by our results, that the ends justify the means.   If it works for you, it is because God is on your side, and if you fail, well, then you are wrong with God, so that’s your fault.

The prosperity gospel demands belief in an interventional God, one who is ready and willing to intervene in the details of this world to fulfill the claims of his followers.   Your goal is not to get in harmony with God, working to play your part in a greater plan, but rather your goal is to get God in harmony with you, filling the personal needs and desires you expound to him.

To tell God what you want you limit God to desire within your current range of understanding.  I don’t know anyone whose best moments could have been predicted and scripted before they occurred.

It is the moment when we are surprised, when we move from the conventional to the transcendent when we really feel the presence of God in our lives, or at least that is my experience.

A correspondent of mine — we will call her Spiritus Transitum, or just Spiritus for short — tells me that she has a much more difficult time talking about her experience of spirit than about her experience of transgender.   People resist the mystical because of the power it holds, because somewhere, they believe that the only safe religious experience is the conventional experience, vetted by success.

Spiritus knows that her real connection is with others who have sought the divine, finding it in the deep believers of the church, those who have contributed and consolidated the transformative teaching of ritual and practice in a deep relationship with God.

For me, the signs of Gods affirmation are odd and fleeting,  like another woman dressed like me in the grocery or an unopened envelope that moves a traffic court date I was unable to face.   They aren’t me telling God what to do, but they are tiny moments, easily written off as coincidence, that appear to me as symbol, offering me challenge, insight or affirmation.

It is easy to see these flashes as just köans, events that offer me reason to meditate, but more more difficult to see them as signs that I should believe I am walking in a path that is toward God, no matter how unconventional it is or how much it transgresses convention.

Where do I go to have others be joyful in the knowledge which flashes before me, reminding me to continue to leap, continue to be bold and true in my pursuit of the better, the transformational, the challenging, the godly?

If God only lives in the teachings of the church and wide mainstream commercial success is the only way to judge and value the divine, how can humans ever find the transcendence which takes us beyond the normative and into a true expression and relationship with spirit?

Following the rules of the church will create a stronger church, no doubt, giving comfort to those who desire to put their own moral and spiritual responsibility onto the group and the preacher, but will it create stronger individuals?   Will it empower us to enter into the surprises of God, taking those flashes as both insight and encouragement?

I know why my search for a church has had almost no success; churches feel the need to live within the comfort and bounds of those at the core of them.   Whatever their gospel, they want what they know to bound what they affirm.

For searchers of knowledge and transcendence, though, we need revelation and opening, living in the liminality of the question rather than in the fixed space of the answer.

Finding a group of believers who want to share in that, though, is almost impossible, which can leave you, lonely, lost, and resisting calling to the point of self destruction.


What would a full size, full bore, full energy Callan look like?

I will tell you one thing: she would be ferocious.

Fierce is the one thing I was unable to do with my Aspergers laced family.   They were tender, needing attention and care, requiring that I shape every communication with their boundaries in mind.    That’s still true with my sister who is terrified of the fierceness she has seen in me in the past, scared she will get a blast that will drop her as it comes on top of the wearing and marginalized work she has taken as her job.

Ferocity, though, is one of the two things that can save me.   The other is being welcomed into loving and understanding relationships where I feel seen, understood and valued.

I can’t create those relationships by myself, though.   My life is a tale of being too queer, too intense, too smart, too hip for the room.   When I ask people to be present for me, entering my world as I enter theirs, they find the idea overwhelming, just as they find me overwhelming.

The alternate path, though, is one that I can control.   I own my own ferocity; it comes from inside of me. I can point out failure, sickness and weak thinking, can rail against amateur bullshit, can demand more.

My ferocity, though, comes at the cost of being more overwhelming, more off-putting, more challenging to everyone.    It doesn’t get me the kind of warm, loving, tender relationships that my feminine heart craves, the ones I have struggled to build for decades.

Trying to hide, deny or minimize my ferocity, though, has not gotten me the kind of response that I need in the world.   My playing small and gracious, serving others has left me weak, bereft and wasting the energy I might have, including almost three years of futzing after my parents died.

No one is going to give you permission and affirmation to be ferocious, though.   They want to help you fit in, be nice and considerate, playing well with others.   They don’t want to come up against fierce and brilliant people, don’t want to have to take responsibility and lift their game, so they are happy to work to keep others in their own comfort zone.

I am a wounded healer.  I am brilliant, yes, I am broken, yes. I am both brilliant and broken. (2006)   My history makes me powerful and ferocious yes, but it also makes me vulnerable and tender.   Maybe it is this binary that more than anything else shapes my experience of the world, sharp mind and tender heart, and everyone around me wants one or the other, not both.

“Switch on the fierce, honey, and do your worst!  Be smart and funny and cutting and just own the awesome power you have inside of you!” isn’t something that one hears.  “You go girl, but don’t make too big a fuss or make other people feel bad,” is more like it, a request to fit in rather than to stand out.

I know how to be a team player.  I just also know that I am much more value to the team when allowed to run hot, powerful and sharp.   That doesn’t make sense to many people; valuing my ferocity is not something that they want to engage. They want me to be fierce in the ways that are useful to them but not fierce in the ways that challenge them, calling others out but being slack with them.

Being fierce is always part of me.   I know, for example, that my writing is often so fierce and provocative that it knocks people down, saying things they are not ready to hear, things that disquiet them so much they need to marginalize me and remove my standing.   My mother didn’t have the family call me “stupid” as a nickname for years because I was sweet, rather she did it because I was fierce.

Being empathic and compassionate, though is also always a part of me.   It’s that tender part which lets me meet people where they are, working hard to be gracious and accepting that they are doing their best even when they are failing.   They don’t mean to hurt me in the process, they just don’t have the capability to be more present, more precise, more aware, more considerate.

I am scary enough to know that scaring people more does not make them engage and do better, rather it usually only pushes them away.  Ferocity only opens hearts and makes connections if it is directed at a shared goal, not at the actions those who considers themselves allies make towards that goal.

Attenuation is a reasonable strategy, but when you cut yourself down too much you lose the ferocity you need to claim space and service in the world.

I have never been very good at making friends, at being one of the gang, but that doesn’t mean I want to have enemies either.   My energy to fight in the world has been attenuated along with my ferocity, so I am very cautious about what fights I don’t want to get into.  I even hate reading e-mail replies when someone needs to tell me no because my ferocity is depleted in the face of scarcity capturing my mind, in the cause of grace.

Ferocity denied, though, is ferocity turned inward, tearing apart your self confidence rather than bolstering it.

Does ferocity turned outward offer wins, though, or just more destruction and separation?    Is the energy expended returned in renewal, replenishment and joy, or is it just left to be a fireball, all damn and fury, changing nothing?

What would a full size, full bore, full energy Callan look like?

I know that is the Callan that many of my friends want to see, a battler standing up for what she knows to be right, smart, strong and fighting for herself at least. Fighting everything, though, well, that’s not something that they look forward to, as tender as they are.

I need to find a fight that I can win, need to bring myself to bear, need to be supported in ownership.   I need “yes,” but that’s not new; I have been saying that for decades now.

“Yes” to big, queer, brilliant and sharp feels like a way out of scarcity, of attenuation, of playing small.

But that means, you know, “yes” to ferocious.

One Person Parade

Walking in the world as a visible transperson often feels like you are a one person parade.

In a sea of other people, you know that you are the one who is concerned about standing out, about concealing what might set off other people, about keeping everything in place as you move through your life.

The experience of being the centre of attention, a curiosity, a freak that looky-loos feel free to gawk at, that is something you know about from the early days when your appearance wasn’t polished or seamless.

Does every waitress in the joint come over to refill your iced tea just so they can get a close up look?   That just reminds you that you are fair game, marked as a parade balloon that is asking for whatever attention they get, good, neutral or bad.

You may have worked hard not to look like a drag queen, painted and plastered to draw eyeballs, but once that slide starts, you get the same kind of stares, though often accompanied by scowls rather than tips.  “Not in front of the children!” they seem to say.

To be a visible transperson is to be trapped in performance, trapped in a one person parade.   It is not the performance of gender that dominates our capture, that collage expression that everyone in the world does to express who they know themselves to be in the context of a gendered system, rather it is the assault of scrutiny that drives our performance.

When you are a one person parade, a visible transperson, you know that you are in the spotlight.   You cannot simply look to blend into the crowd of other transpeople in the corner, disappearing into a knot of humans, blending away the way we stand out, so alone.  You don’t have a bunch of pals who can rally around, give affirmation, keep each other safe.

Instead, you have the sense of always being examined, always being judged, always being on display.  People see you as strange, odd, weird enough to be fascinating but too weird to be entirely safe, leaving you in a kind of inhuman limbo.

When you are conscious of the scrutiny, you are conscious of your performance.   You edit, compress and police yourself, trying to only show the best of you, only the bits that reveal you in your best light.

You end up concealing as much of your raw humanity as possible, trying to convey what you want others to see and not the twists that have gotten you in trouble in the past.    You want to try and put off that moment when your gender shifts in the eyes of another, that moment of the third gotcha.

This performance, the performance that comes from feeling like you are a one person parade, is the reason we get stiff and defended, the reason we feel like we have to have a stick up our bum to stay stable.    We know that if we want to be out as a visible transperson we have to bear the scrutiny until we can return to someplace safe, someplace we can lock the door behind us and let our raw, human and complex self out.

Continuing to be a one person parade after performing that ultimate trans surgery, pulling the stick out of our own ass, takes a commitment to living in the flow, being able to move smoothly from openness to defence and back again.  It’s one thing to be able to do that when we are in a safe space, surrounded by people who know all of us and will have our back, and another thing altogether to do that as a solo effort.

We each have to find that space where we can let down our guard, release our performance and feel able to explore the parts of us which have threaded through our lives, the ones that challenge and confront even us.   For me, writing has been my salvation, a place to be all of myself in a way that is both public and protected.

Even after having that transcendent and safe space, though, we still have to be able to walk into the world as a visible transperson, as a one person parade once more, just out to do what we need to do, but still having some people see our expression as political, as inappropriate, as sick.   They assume we want to be a bloody parade, want to stand out, want to be in their face, want to be marginalized and misunderstood rather than just wanting our hearts to be seen.

Trans is a very personal, very individual and very lonely path, one that claims our gnosis,  expressing our inner knowledge on the outside.  Walking it in the spotlight, in the judgment,  with a target on our back and everybody staring, well, that is the reason so many of us stay stuck, sad and broken.

There may be moments in life when anyone would want to be in a parade, standing up, smiling, dancing, entertaining and drawing attention to your cause.  It’s easy to see the fun in that, even if you have never the considered the cost of carrying that separation and clownishness in every exposed moment of your life.

Being a one person parade, though, even when you are just stopping at the market to grab some toilet paper, though, is very different.

The cost to transpeople to try and remain invisible, small and hidden, is very high.   We need to be able to be truthful, authentic and open about who we are, even about the places where we have walked through walls others want to see as real and fixed.

No parade float is ever fully human, and we know that.   Trying to hide ourselves to not be seen as a one person parade has a cost, but so does being visible, trans and being a one person parade.

That’s an experience, though, that every transperson has experienced, at least once, and a reason why so many of us work so hard to stay hidden and small.

We just want the parade to pass us by, want to choose when we are in the parade, want to have space to be safe, seen and valued.

Somehow, that doesn’t seem so much to ask.

Always Trans

Is the ultimate goal of any approach to managing transgender feelings to make them go away?

Is success defined by the effectiveness in not having your trans knowledge and experience intrude into your day to day activities?

Is trans like some kind of addiction, some kind of behaviour pattern that can be effectively suppressed with proper treatment, tamped down enough to let sufferers live a “normal” life?

For observers, it often seems this way.   If you know a person who tells you that have some predilection to trans behaviours — cross-dressing and some such — as long as they do it in their private life, keeping it where others can’t see it so it doesn’t get in the way of real, everyday life, so what?

Even doctors seem to hold this belief.   If a patient reports they are trans, but they don’t end up needing medical support for emergence, well, then, why is it something to be considered in their health care?     As long as you don’t see it, they must be managing it in an effective way, so it can go unspoken and stay invisible.   After all, why embarrass them by bringing up private issues that they themselves are uncomfortable bringing into the light?

And if a patient has transitioned medically, don’t they just deserve to be treated like their trans is not an issue?   They are, after all, just who they always were, just with some new medical considerations.

In the workplace, there are things that are inappropriate, contentious and provocative to bring up, so as long as employees do their work, keeping their own personal problems minimized, what does it matter what they wear?

From this perspective, the goal of any intervention with a transperson should be helping them get over their trans issues, moving them into a stabilized and normal role so they can take their place as one of the conventional members of society.

Transpeople are best, healthiest and happiest, when their transgender nature is put into the background, wen they can move past any trans issues to become an effective team mate.

I don’t see transgender ideation as a mental defect, though, something that can and should be treated by minimizing it and making it as small and unobtrusive as possible.   Any goal to get people over their trans issues is a goal to erase their history, their unique view of the world, their special gifts, a goal to tamp down and erase diversity in the cause of homogenized “normal” behaviour.

Even when I put my trans nature into the background, focusing on service, on fitting in, on doing what others expect and are comfortable with, it is still always there.   I pay the cost of transgender even when I get no benefits from it; in fact, the cost of denying, erasing and compartmentalizing my trans nature is high and destructive to me, especially over a lifetime.

That’s not something causal observers see, though.   They only see how facing blocks on transgender expression, facing the erasure of others who cling to binary assumptions hurts me when I show that pain to them.

The problem is, though, that when I show that pain, they often see it as my problem, another indication that transgender issues are blocking my happiness, and that I just need to get over them with some kind of effective treatment or management techniques.

In other words, when I pay the internal price of not responding outwardly to trans challenges they assume that I am healthy, but when I effectively let those issues surface rather than holding them inside, they assume I am sick.   This is just another reflection of the lie or be called a liar bind that transpeople face from their earliest days.

If the goal is to make our trans nature as invisible as possible to show people that we are healthy and not mired in some kind of mental defect, then we will always be managing the internal tearing which can magnify our own mental challenges.

“When she came out as trans, my daughter let go of all her ambiguity,” one mother said, “and she dumped it all onto us!”

The notion that somehow, there is a post transgender life for trans identified people, or even the notion that there is a pre transgender life for us, is just silly.   Sure, we aren’t all professional trannys, wearing trans on the outside and fighting trans battles in every moment of our lives, but that doesn’t mean somewhere on the inside, the trans truth bounces around and affects our feelings, our understandings and our choices.

Getting trans in balance is a wicked hard thing in a world where trans is usually written off as a bit of behaviour or something some people have to work through.

“Surely it is a lifetime thing, this learning to be a woman,” May Sarton said, and learning to be an effective, balanced transperson is no different; we have to find ways to fit in and stand with others, find ways to claim our own truth and stand for ourselves, find ways to claim our unique and common humanity.

It always surprises me when people close to me don’t get how my trans heart and trans experience are always, always a part of my view of the world, no matter how much I put them in the background to do the work in front of me.

Others may be able to see me as someone who fits into their binary and self-centred assumptions,  but I am who I am.   The raw and tender person who writes these intense queer essays is not a different person from the stable and caring one who makes them dinner and fixes their computers.

Learning to live with a trans heart, to celebrate and own it, rather than learning to box it up and put it where the sun don’t shine, seems to me to be the only way to create a long and healthy life for people like me.

And that’s true even if everyone around me really wished my shimmering ambiguity would just go away.

Go Along, Get Along

You are a smart person.   We know that.   You can figure out what people want, what people like.  I just have one question for you: Why don't you just give the people what they expect?   Wouldn't that make your life much easier?   Wouldn't you get the kind of affirmation and value that you want when people really want to hear what you have to say because it lines up well with what they already know?

You spend so much damn time and energy fighting the tide, trying to get people to hear you, and it's just not working.   Aren't you sick of that?   Isn't that what's making you sick?    Did you ever think that you are the one causing trouble for yourself, you are the one keeping yourself down?   Are you trying to self-sabotage? Do you like failure?   Because if you didn't, well, you would have learned how to satisfy an audience by now, learned how to make them happy, learned how to make them like you.

I know you can do it if you put your mind to it.   You are likeable, you know, funny and smart.   You can charm the punters if you want.   You don't have to start with the intellectual, the challenging, the highfalutin; you can start with the kind of stuff that gets them on your side.   Then, when they like you, you can slip in some of that edgy stuff, the kind that makes them think they are really thinking too.

Face it: the key reason you are lonely and lost is because of you.  You get what you put out.   People return that same bristling crap you give them, walking away from you because you just choose to be so damn ornery.   You are your own worst enemy, you know, choosing to push people away with your own wall of toxic emotions and negative words.   Nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to take the time and effort to push through that, and even if they tried, you would just make up some new crap to keep them away.

I swear that I believe you want to be alone and hurting.   The law of attraction says we get back what we give, and you give a poisoned kind of vibe.   Sure, you have some good stuff in what you write, but you coat with with all that emotional crap, all the pain and hurt that just makes people turn away and write you off as an old, sick, loser.

Isn't it just stupid to continue the same game that alienated your family, making them turn away from you?   They wanted to love you, they did, but you just made it too hard for them, pushing them away at every turn.   You say you want people to understand what you say, but how can that be true when what you say just angers and offends them, upsets and disgusts them, making them not want to hear anymore?

You have to go along to get along.  You know that.  You are smart enough to figure that out.   But somehow, that's not the choice you make, is it?  Instead, you choose to be prickly like a porcupine, just so you can be all smug and self-satisfied when people reject you like you know that they will.  It's a self-fulfilling prophecy, my friend, a loop of shame, a downward spiral, a plunge into an abyss of your own making.

Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?   Do you want to stay miserable, or do you want to use your smarts to bring people to you, to let them see the best in you?   How hard can it be to close up some doors, to not parade all your dirty laundry, to actually be attractive, being in the moment rather than bringing up all the same old shit time and time and time again?

You can bitch and moan and try to blame everyone else for not getting what you put out, but do you ever even think that you are responsible for how you are in the world?   When you choose to be a downer, a kvetch, always looking to the dark side, well, maybe that tells you what you are going to get back.   Did you ever think about that?  Did you?

Look, I like you.   I see how you can be a good person, taking care of others, meeting them where they are, giving them what they want and need.   But I also see how you choose not to do that, not to just be likeable, fitting into the crowd, being one of us.   You stand outside you are going to be outside, outside in the cold and dark, just asking for the shit you get. You know that.   I'm sure I'm not the first person to tell you this, that this isn't the first time you are hearing it.

Why, why, why do you make your own life so miserable?   Give the people what they want, do what they expect, and they will be happy to embrace you and let you be there to take care of them, to entertain and service them.   They just want someone to say what they are thinking, someone to put their own understandings and desires into words, and you can do that, I know that you can.

What is the point of telling people what they obviously don't want to hear over and over again?  Do you think that repeating the same junk will make people care?  One definition of insanity, you know, is doing the same think over and over again, expecting different results.  Insane. 

Stop being a chump, a whiner, a loser.  You don't have to be stupid, you really don't, but somehow you keep making stupid choices that make other people move away from you and then complaining you are alone and lost. You own your life and your choices, you know.   You make your own future.

Smarts you seem to have, it's just that you don't want to use them.   People want to like you, they really do, but how can they do that unless you give them what they want, what they know that they need?  Be who they like and the will like you.  It's that simple.

Unless, of course, you are just too damn stupid to do something that simple.

In A Box

Whatever you do, don’t ooze.

Don’t flow, don’t wiggle, don’t shimmer.

Motion, you see, even the rippling of light or the shifting of colour just makes them a bit crazy.

They like their perspective fixed, their expectations solid, their boundaries unchallenged.

Transformation, transcendence, trans anything isn’t in their vision.   It makes you too intense, too impossible, too incredible for them to grasp.

And that, well, that will just get you hurt.

When your parents have Aspergers, the flicker of emotion is almost invisible to them.   To show that scintillation is to have them lose sight of you, so you watch them be afraid and confused as you pop up in places where they didn’t expect you to be.

To make them feel safe, you learn to slow down your oscillation, drop your vibratory frequency, staying in the space and time that they can see and understand.

As a smart, intense, queer transperson, though, your inner resonance never drops.  Inside you are always humming through a world where walls seem imaginary, mere illusions you can vibrate straight through.   The wavelengths of your vision reveal interiors, emotions glowing in spectrum, a universe of transparent colour and form.

Whatever is inside of you, though, in order to be present in the world others think is real, you have to create a boundary condition, a field of presence that can make you appear, leave you protected where lumbering is the norm.

The box is about attenuation, a guard cage that discharges your energy around the edges to help you look tame, regular, fitting into a world that contains the love and nurturing you need.

Not depression but suppression becomes your fate, burning down and bleeding off as much magic intensity as possible to operate where emotional energy is invisible and terrifying.  They call you stupid, broken, sick, perverted.

How small can you go, how little can you make yourself?   How far into the closet do you have to hide before you disappear, or will the hum of your zipping soul always give you away?

Choosing between fitting in and being yourself, freezing your heart or running hot and lively, full of momentum, becomes a Hobson’s choice.  There is no right answer.

With a sharp enough mind, though, finding ways to shut down, control, manipulate, go cold may be possible, even at the cost of internal frostbite.

“It looks like depression,” the counsellors say, “but not really.”

“If you don’t release the tension with BioEnergetics, you will crack up permanently.”

The suppression has a killing cost, but none of them will stand up for liberation, affirming your fire inside, saying yes to the hot, queer transcendent flame that got the ice water poured over you at such a tender age.

They want normalcy, want fitting in, want what they know and expect.  They don’t care about the beautiful range of human possibility, don’t want to have to move beyond binaries and compartments, don’t want to have to stand with the queer. They want what they have been told is normal.

The box, boxing a shield where you fix the interface between their cold and your heat, becomes tighter, harder, more constraining, and much, much much more fragile.

No one can touch your heart, reach though the barrier, move though the divine ambiguity to embrace all of you.   The force of will to keep the ceramic heat shield in place becomes more and more, driving the air out of your heart and leaving it to twist in dark and unnatural ways.

And still, those parents, that family, the normies and their expectations, well they leave you in a zone of thermal shock, gradients increasing, meltdown approaching, attenuation battling intensity, surface fighting the inner blossom.

The cracks appear, the negotiation starts.   How can lava meet ice, how can passion meet pleasant, how can real meet polite?

Ruptures spread, shattering shell.  Coming out becomes required, even in the face of those who need to live cold.

And as temperatures equalize, you find a truth.  What was inside there was just human after all, threaded with cultural lineage and laced with heart.   Continuous common humanity indeed.

The deep freeze keeps us locked in the box, attenuated and suppressed.

Only the fire inside can thaw us, but not until we don’t fear it anymore.

The only way out of hell, it seems, is through.

Ooze, flow, wiggle, shimmer.   Human iridescence is transcendent truth,  spirit and body together, more than the sum of the parts.

In the end, we have to pull our own magic out of the freezer, out of the icy box.

Or at least, that is what I have learned.


(Written as a prospective piece for performance
in a show on “depression, suicide and feeling blue.”)

Goose, Gander

Women are often amused by the presence of a guy in a dress because they feel that, finally, some man is understanding how the other half lives.

“Oooh!” they say “he’s wearing a bra!  Don’t you hate bras?   And now you know what it is like to have to wear those shoes!  Did you have to remove hair!  Don’t complain; we have to do that everyday!

“See,” they say, “we suffer for gender expectations in a way that men don’t understand, so it’s good you got a little taste of it!”

Does changing into women’s clothes, even in a very detailed way, really let men understand the experience of being a woman in the world?   Many crossdressers would say yes, but from where I stand, the expectations and social pressures put on women are only slightly on appearance.

Women are “marked” more than men, as Deborah Tannen would tell us, showing their content in their expression, but it is that content, the expectations that define their lives, not the packaging.   Even in cultures where dress is restricted — think China during the cultural revolution where everyone wore Mao suits — the obligations of women did not change.

The gendered demands laid on men may not be as visible on their surface – a polo shirt and jeans can cover a lot of territory — but that doesn’t mean that they are any less fierce than the obligations of women.  The simple requirement to deny weakness is vast and can be crushing, as Brené Brown reminds us.

Women enforce this system of gender-based shame as much as they feel controlled by it.  The expectations colour the standard view of the world, though most of us understand how those expectations cost us while ignoring how much they cost those with whom we are in relationship.   We like other people being required to follow our expectations and desires, even if we resent those social demands for ourselves.

Many women love historical fiction, from Downton Abbey to Game of Thrones, imagining a time when gender divides were much more dramatic than today; men were men and women were excited.

That doesn’t mean that they would want to live in that time before women’s suffrage and liberation, just that they find the enforced binary thrilling.   In fact, much of today’s historical fiction includes women characters who are stronger and more free than actual women of that time were, creating a kind of fantasy hybrid of rigidly structured gender and modern ideas of freedom.

The warmth of sameness is comforting in a relationship, but the heat of difference can create a kind of sizzle that is often driving and compelling.  Gender, a system of communication which has the core value of enforcing codes about reproduction and child rearing, can often be used to drive economic growth which can come from population growth.    In this heterosexist model, breeding for queen and country is our highest calling.   Close your eyes and think of England, honey.

When I once suggested that women’s magazines should care about gender issues, a friend corrected me.   Women’s magazines have a direct interest in maintaining clear gender boundaries, selling the idea of a real difference, because if there isn’t, why should there be separate magazines to affirm the role of woman?

Desire is a powerful driver.   We all want to be desired, want to capture who or what we desire.   Being able to place our surrender to desire on the polarities of gender gives us the power to use those polarities to try and get what we want.   By tearing gender into a clear binary, we have to come together to get everything we need in the world, giving us a reason to place our own weakness on the intense power of the “opposite sex.”

I understand why women take comfort in gender divisions, finding comfort, frustration and desire in seeing themselves in the shadow of manhood.  This narrative gives cohesion and meaning to their lives.   It reflects a real history of economic separation, a real model in place for thousands of years.

As much as compulsory gendering has placed limits on humans, it has also delivered real benefits that align with the desires and knowledge of most people.  Most gender themselves willingly, a bit upset with the demands but earnestly looking forward to the promised benefits.

Finding new ways to do gender, ways that don’t start with a simple, compulsory division of humans by apparent reproductive anatomy, is hard.   Any queer person who has claimed their own desire past convention and expectation can tell you that.   People who identify as straight, though, don’t really want to face that truth, don’t want the rules to change.

We know how we suffer a bit for gender, love to poke at the cost we pay, but most of us don’t get how much gender costs everyone of us; our lovers, our friends, our family, our children.

In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.   That has been my mission statement since I first heard anthropologist Anne Bolin say so many decades ago.

To me, that means that seeing people cross gender isn’t about reminding them of the price you pay but is about seeing them reveal who they are beyond conventional, binary expectations.   They show their humanity, the heart that beats beyond any kind of gendered projection.   We are all just humans, living in the world.

If your identity is centred around us vs. them, around binary and shadow, though, this can be hard to accept.

I wear my own clothes, trying to reveal my own essence.   I pay the cost, own the truth, search for the understanding.  I want my heart to be seen.

That is hard, though, when people can’t hear over my body, assigning my going through puberty as a male to be more important than who I am inside.   Simple binaries miss the power of the human spirit over the limits of the human flesh.

Wasn’t that essential revelation what feminism was supposed to be all about?

In The No

Transpeople, well, we grow up living in the “no.”

We know who we are inside.  And from an early age, we learn that we are expected to say “no” to that knowledge.

We reach for things that our heart desires and are told “no,” those things are not for people like us, that the shape of our body means we must be wrong, mistaken, deluded, broken if we want things like that.

Tell a child “no” enough and they will internalize that message.   They will start to believe that something is wrong with them if the call of their heart leads them to correction, to punishment, to denial, to stigma, to marginalization, to the idea that they deserve whatever shit they get if they follow that desire.

Hearing “no” when all we want to do is make choices we see others make, others are policed by different standards, leads us to believe that something is desperately wrong with us, that we are broken, corrupt, perverted.

We internalize that “no” voice, ramping the inner policing that helps keep most people in balance between appropriate and empowered, into a harsh and cruel jailer.    We learn to harshly incarcerate our own heart, working to keep it deep in the closet so those around us will accept and embrace us, seeing us in the light of their binary, enforced expectations.

The choice must be made: lie about the contents of our heart, about the callings we feel powerfully inside or be called a liar (1997), trying to deny the “truth” of what our biology tells others we “must” be.

To be “appropriate” we are taught to live in the “no,” saying no to the parts of us that cross the boundaries of cultural propriety, the queer bits that transcend the simple boxes of male/man, female/woman.

The challenge of transgender is this: How do we be true to both our heart and our family/society when they conflict? (1999)

At some point, to get healthy, integrated and true, we have to start learning how to say “yes” to who we have always been inside.  Instead of struggling to stay in the closet we have to figure our how to come out, negotiating that space between authentic and appropriate.

This line, though, is important and powerful to many of those around us.   They have learned to like clear and rigid sex/gender boundaries, often paying the price to deny their own hearts to fit more neatly into the box of “man” or “woman.”   These divisions are like gospel to them, real and fundamental, so valued that when they see someone else flaunt them, their own comfort and security feels threatened.

After all, they were taught that people do fit neatly into the binary, taught that people who violate the rules deserve whatever they get in resistance, in punishment.   Those people are gender outlaws, challenging truth and righteousness.

It is this binary assumption that makes negotiating the line between saying “no” and expressing what we know so hard.   What do we have to conceal so that others can accept and understand what we have to reveal?

Learning to have pride in the way our creator made us is a challenge for every person who has been pounded into the closet because others found them too queer, too challenging to the conventional gender boundaries.  When we start to emerge we hear much more about what we are doing wrong than getting encouragement, hear no much more than yes.

“Sure,” others say, “I want you to be true to yourself, but not so much that it offends, disrupts or disquiets others.  Be out, but be respectful and appropriate to social norms and the beliefs of others too.  Can you do that?”

That injunction, though, asks us to respect the fears and limits of others while they have limited responsibility to respect us.   It is that demand that left us living in the “no” in the first place, staying small and hidden so as not to inflame or trigger others to try and force us back into their expected norms.

Learning to say “yes” to our own knowledge means moving beyond the “no” that was imbued into us as children.  We need to claim the “what the fuck” and the “fuck you” pieces (2006), being able to move past our own fear and the disapproval of others to own our own knowledge in the world.

Even if we don’t want to be in somebody’s face, we know that we will be just by coming from what we know rather than from “no.” That is the lesson we were taught so early, the lesson that strengthened our inner jailer, the lesson that drove us into the concealment of the closet in the first place.

Finding a way to be both appropriate to the standards of the group and true to ourselves is hard, and is getting even harder in shame based value systems, as David Brooks writes in the New York Times.

Moving beyond living in the “no” to living in the know is going to challenge people who just don’t want to be confronted with knowledge they have already written off as offensive, sick, perverted and destructive to their values and identity.

The world doesn’t want the deep knowledge we gain from our journey, as Joseph Campbell reminds us, because if they did, they would already have it.   Our truth is erased for a reason, constrained by walls seen as real & solid, maintaining a comfortable status quo.

We need to move beyond a simple no to claim what we know.  Doing that while being a valued and respected member of the group is tricky.   We need to move the boundaries, open the possibilities, transcend the assumptions to offer our own heart in the world.

There is no transperson who did not grow up in the “no,” who is not struggling to find a way to be affirmed and affirmative, saying “yes” to what they know. We need to move from living in the “no” to living in the now, coming from the best our creator gave us, not just cutting ourselves back to be “appropriate.”

What we know, what we have always known is powerful.  That’s why people worked so hard to train us in “no.”

Over Transcendent

They were putting me through the standard mental health screening, asking about eating, sleeping, staying in, all that.   I was clearly in the at risk side on these questions, as a alone as I am in the world.

“Do you feel like you have let down your friends and family?   Do you feel like you haven’t done your part?” they asked.

I laughed, big and loud.

Nope.  No, my problem isn’t that I haven’t done enough, that I have been a disappointment to those who I cared about.

Far from it, I have gone above and beyond to be there for everyone else.

It’s they who let me down, who haven’t done their part.   That’s very clear to me and always has been.

My job has always been to be the transcendent one, the one who overcomes their own feelings and pain to offer context and grace to the situation.

I’m the smart, queer one, you see, having had to learn to process my own noise and turmoil just to be able to stand in the world, so others who don’t want to have to do that work leave it to me, dumping the obligation to be above the human fray onto me.

The cost of having to be the one who negotiates other people’s pain, frustration, weak amateur thinking, unhealed places, and so on, though, well, it consumes my own power to be free and loose in the world. (2002)

Other people feel entitled to project their fear and distress onto me, make me their scapegoat, their phobogenic object (2006) because they are normative and I am queer.   I am mature and they are flailing, so others feel free to try and dump their own healing work onto me.

Being in the world as a visible transperson demands a kind of political presence that is wearing and costly.  Doing that alone, with no real support system, well, the cost is dear.   Even people who should be my allies, helping me find and concentrate my strength become my obligations, taking advantage of what I have to offer without returning the gift.

All that leaves me worn down enough that the obligation to be robust, resilient and ready to take on the ignorance and fear of people in a new space seems like much more cost that can possibly be gained.

Living in the infinite, the liminal and the transcendent is a wonderful thing, but as long as we also live in the flesh, we also live in the present, the limited and the finite.   We are both observer and participant, holding divine context and embodied life at the same time.

I love being transcendent, I do, but some days, some times, transcendent in the midst of a human life isn’t just hard work but it is also not bloody enough.   I am proud of being the connection between, one who is a bridge, of doing the work, but, yeah, it is possible to be too damn transcendent.

My will, my effort, my mastery, my hard graft lets me put my own stuff aside and be the vessel.  I enter into situations and help find healing in them, healing that others can take or leave in their own time and their own way.

Do I feel pushed to the side, marginalized, unsupported, fried?  Sure.

But do I feel like I am somehow a failure, letting down the people I love?

No.   No, I do not.   I am not worthless, even if I am seen as valueless.

Sometimes, though, I feel like I am a bit over transcendent, just too theological to get the most out of this human life.

I know, though, that lots of people like it that way, no matter how hard it is for me.  It keeps me small, less challenging and taking care of them.

It’s just that, well, it’s a bit costly for me, you know?

Weak Aspirations

“Who do you want to be when you grow up?” was the only diagnostic question the therapist knew to determine my gender identity back in the day.

She knew that we create who we are in the world by making a kind of collage, taking behaviours, choices and attitudes from other people we see in the world and assembling them to create an expression to fit us.   All of our hopes, our dreams, our knowledge, our fears and our constraints get pieced together into an identity we hope gets us what we want in the world, a mixture of acceptance, individuality and understanding.

We look for people who embody something we find compelling in the world, for whatever reason, and we aspire to own a bit of what they have, integrating it into our own presence in the world.

Knowing what attracts us, what we find aspirational (2008) is one way we shape our own choices and control the direction of our lives.   We see something we want to invoke and try to claim it.

Reality shows claim us with their drama, but more than that, they offer aspirational viewing, letting us see worlds beyond our own, rich and luxe, see people who we love to love and people we love to hate.  We imagine ourselves in that world and are taken away, at least for a moment.

It’s hard for me to imagine that I will ever be an aspirational figure in the world, to imagine that people would want to emulate my choices.

Then again, it’s hard for me to imagine that any mature transperson will catch the aspirations of the young, even someone who, say, was a well known Olympic athlete, a recurring character on a “reality” show and who spent millions of dollars to female their body and wardrobe.

Sure, they may be seen as courageous and ballsy, especially if they hold on tight to crusty political views which served them well as an old rich guy on the golf course, but will people really want to enter their world and spend time with them?   Will others dream of being like them?

The trans journey is, in the end, a very personal one.   We emerge to be boldly ourselves, not to easily fit into some stereotype or role.   By crossing gender expectations we embody beyond conventional divisions, always challenging in the way a transcendent being moves beyond simple expectations.

No trans person ever dreamed of being trans when they grew up.

It just wasn’t our aspiration to be stuck in between, baffling those around us who can’t even imagine how weird we must be if we don’t understand the fixed and firm boundaries between the sex/gender lines.

We never wanted to play our rounds just waiting for the third gotcha, that moment when our gender assignment slips and people remove our standing by regendering us.

Having to map our colourful view of life onto the black and white expectations and archetypes of others is not what we wanted to do.   We want to be seen, understood and valued for our unique contributions to the group, not be an object of fear, ridicule and marginalization by people who can’t afford to see through our liminal eyes.

We dreamed, instead, of being strong or beautiful, shining and loved, a member of the community held as precious.   There were human cultures where the gift of transcendence was respected and needed, but this is not yet one of them.

So we end up fighting to squeeze in between, to play within the lines as much as we can, working to choose the ways we are erased, struggling to emerge as healthy and mature while being confronted with a society that always makes choices feel dangerous and damaging.

When we see images of people like us, they are never simply aspirational.  Our inner police ego immediately comes into play, asking the key question: How queer is too queer?  How queer is not queer enough?

We want to be authentic, yes, but not at the cost of being unattractive, whatever we have internalized that to mean.  Being outside of conventional beauty is a hard place, but it is one we have to navigate, often at the cost of amazing amounts of judgment and loathing.

We aspire to be just the right amount of queer, authentically ourselves, while still being desirable.   Knowing the costs of a reduced Potential Partner Pool (PPP) we will often bend ourselves into knots just to remain connected (2006).

What we want to be when we grow up and what we know is actually available to us is usually very, very different.  As much as we ask for the serenity to accept what we can not change, we know that our courage has limits, the boundaries of what those around us can understand, grasp and accept.

I understand why many reality shows are aspirational, offering a glimpse into a world we would like to inhabit,  a reflection of people we want to be more like.

For transpeople, though, images that we want to embody are rarely queer ones.   What we want to be when we grow up, well, I was smart enough by 13 to know that my dreams weren’t going to be available to me and I had to make the best out of who I am.

The gift of a lifetime is becoming who you are, even when you aren’t someone who easily fits into the expectations of others.  Being not just in the present, a participant, but also in the understanding, an observer, is something you have to learn to own.

Who do you want to be if you grow up?   What do you want to pursue, to claim ownership of, to chase?   What are your aspirations?

I bet, if you are any kind of mature at all, you don’t aspire to being a character on a TV show.

There has to be something bigger than that.


Every queer person has parents.  Every one of us is, or at least was, somebody’s baby.

On The Prancing Elites Project, at least three of the Elites are having challenges with their parents.  Tim’s mom won’t see her as anything other than her son, while Jerell and Cantrell are trying to get back in touch with fathers who did bad things in the name of gender enforcement.

When you hear the story of a 12 year old thrown to the ground and having a gun held to their head, or a father who takes a kid on drug deals to teach them how to be a man, well, it breaks your heart.   And when those kids come back to try and reconnect with their fathers, you know that takes an amazing amount of transcendence on their part.

Sometimes fathers are still chickenshit and sometimes they are able to acknowledge their past failings, but they always struggle.   I know personally about how hard it is to help parents who will not or can not understand how they hurt you as a child, demanding that you take care of them when they should have been taking care of you.

These Elites are growing up strong, though, even if they still have a hurt child inside, so when they are asked to perform at a Homecoming for queer kids, they know how to show up as big siblings and take care of the kids, with energy and encouragement.

There are two new probationary Elites in this episode, gay dancers with energy and a desire to be seen, but it is clear that what they don’t have is ownership of their own queer power.   While they show up in nice, neat clothes, the Elites show up in bold, beautiful finery, shining with heels and makeup, claiming style in the face of a world that wants to keep them small and boring.

Even Tim, the most timid of the Elites, feels called to speak as she wants to give all the support she can to her younger family members.   And when Jerel hugs a queer kid in a bow tie, you can hear the heartbeat that connects them through a body mic and maybe the tightest hug ever.

It’s great that we have such an awareness of queer kids nowadays, but it seems important to me that every queer person is somebody’s baby, that we all have a queer kid inside of us who took a battering because others felt entitled to enforce gender normativity with a vengeance.

When I see queer babies transcend that experience and reach out to others, taking care of them as tenderly as they should have been taken care of, it gladdens my heart.   We don’t claim queerness in the world just for us, we claim it as a gift we can give to those who follow us, making their options just a little bit bigger, their choices just a little bit easier.

That doesn’t mean babies always understand that choice.  After all, a huge part of claiming your own power in the world is learning to fight for yourself, even with people who love and cherish you.   Young people, at least, understand that.   They don’t want to give into their parents, at least not today, but they also know that there are worse things than growing up to be as strong, smart and loving as they are.

It takes a lot of time and effort to claim your own unique expression in the world, to find that queer balance between being tame enough to be a valued member of the group and being wild enough to be powerfully yourself.   If you do it well, though, you serve a world where everyone needs a little help to get their hurting inner baby into a more copacetic future.

But the Elites?   They know that very well, sweet babies that they are.

Vocal Revelation

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool man than to speak out and remove all doubt.
— Abraham Lincoln

When I let it, my voice cascades.   It dances and twinkles, swoops and soars, echoes the world around me, is playful and compelling.   People have described it as a kind of radio play, full of inflection and interest, carrying information wrapped in wit, humor and compassion.

I know that the content of my voice is the content of a woman.

I just don’t trust that the tones involved are also heard as feminine.   My body went though puberty as a male, and that truth is written all over it.

Because of that, I do what so many transwomen do with their voice, putting it into a tight corset to try and constrain it down to the best I can do.   I try to stay breathy, smiling, in the upper registers with good resonance and appropriate mommy-ese kind of sing song, and if that seems hard, I just don’t speak at all.

I’m never going to be the cutest, youngest, slightest woman in the room, I know that.   Without full use of my voice, though, the most attractive and compelling parts of me are concealed rather than revealed, leaving me a huge silent lump in the corner.

“Is there any doubt that if I was born female, I would have been a mouthy broad?” I once asked a crossdresser.   As much as they imagined women to be dainty and reserved, they immediately understood the kind of woman I am, a hearty gal with a big voice.

Like every other part of my trans journey, though, I have had to struggle through invoking on my own.   When people do mirror me, I get back much more of their assumptions, beliefs and fear than I get encouragement and helpful comments.  They are habituated to their own view of gender, so they want to keep the walls up, keep the compartments clear, which just puts up barriers against my possibility.

The amount of myself I reveal and the amount I conceal is always a complex formula.   I want to look pretty, but I trying to do that by wearing a thick mask ends up making me look more fake.  Corsets can be marvellous, but if you cannot walk, move or breathe in them, they rob you of human connection rather than enhance it.

I resist using my voice in the world, instead freeze drying it and offering it in text form.   This leads to people not getting the humanity laced through my words, missing all the cues of tone, texture and nuance that are contained in the colours of a human voice, of my human voice.

Dreaming of having a perfect voice is a block to actually using the voice that I do have, and not using my voice is means I am not using the life force that I have been given.

We were given two ears and one mouth and should use them in that proportion.  I have never used my voice just to broadcast my beliefs, rather I have used it as a form of interactive communication, tightly tied in with the feedback I am getting in any situation.   I don’t preach, I teach, working very hard to meet people where they are.

I do have something to say, though, something that could use more warmth and emphasis than is available in long winded blog posts.  If I believe that people will understand, respond and connect with me, I can open up my expression, allowing the playfulness and depth of emotion to be revealed in the breath of my voice.

Being too concerned about connecting with the audience can mean that you don’t open them up to what you have to offer, your own unique style and content.   Sometimes we just have to be boldly, loudly ourselves and let the attraction come where it may.   Cute, well, it’s usually about abandon and sparkle, not about scrupulously hiding the bits of you that you think people will find erratic and jarring.

I resist speaking when I am not at all clear that I have something to add.   That’s the way I learned to look smart, being quite confident of the few bits I choose to add to any conversation.  Smalltalk has never been for me.

It may be time, though, to use my voice with more profligacy, to let loose and let fly, though ShamanGal just told me that she now gets why her early suggestions about me just being a star were naive.  My offerings aren’t simple, easily digestible notes, though being lightened with a chiming voice can’t hurt.

I had the joy of hearing a transwoman fall for her own voice, listening to what she usually says in private and realizing that she has something beautiful to share with a world she usually stays very quiet in.  I am thrilled to hear her share because she has something very different and very powerful to offer, a transcendent, queer view which takes the words of Catholic thinkers and illuminates the Gnostic that threads through lives.  Amazing.

It is hard to get a queer voice mirrored in an affirming, encouraging way.  We open our mouths and things change in front of us, often, though, in a repulsed,  negative way.

Yet it is only by opening our mouths that what we hold inside becomes present in the world, that people can hear, value and connect with what we share.

I am a mouthy broad.   People who take the time and the effort to read what I have shared know that.

Maybe it is time, though, to share that voice with a world that might just need to hear what I have to say in a human, vocal way.

Ego Blank

“Guys pay attention to my friends at Hamburger Mary’s,” she told me.  “Why don’t they pay attention to me?”

“Are you interested in what they have to offer?” I asked.

“Well, they all want the same thing,” she said.  “They just want me to stroke their ego, to play along with their sexual fantasies.”

“Is that so bad?”

“Well, they are just such guys and kinda icky.   Any guy who is hot for me must have something wrong with them.”

“Do you think that they can tell there is no chance of you buying what they are selling?”

“Yeah,” she admitted.   “They may be guys, but they can figure that out.”

“So why are you complaining about how they behave?”

“Well, my friends get attention and I get jealous.”

“So you want some guy to flirt with you, to tell you you look great, to pay close attention to you, hanging on your words like you are brilliant and beautiful?”

“Yeah!   That would be great!”

“So you want them to stroke your ego and play along with your own romantic fantasies?”

“Well, yeah.   I guess so.”

“Isn’t that just what they want in their own way, just what you refuse to do?”

“Yeah,” she admitted.  “I guess it’s not just guys who need their ego stroked.  It’s humans. ”

The traditional path to enlightenment requires getting control of the ego.

Finding a humility and a presence that isn’t focused on what would satisfy our ego in the moment is vital to having the context to understand our shared space in a new and more spiritual way.

The ego desires what it desires: comfort, convenience and control.   It demands to be satisfied, putting our own wants first, lashing out at those who challenge our view of the world.

For me, there was never a time when my own ego was supported.   I was never anyone’s darling, never the brilliant one.   I was the scapegoat in the family, the target patient, being called “Stupid” as a nickname, without any parent to cherish me beyond my service.

While this may be excellent training for a theologian, it is hard duty for a heart.  I had to learn to not let my ego run amok, knowing that the things I desired were deemed corrupt and could lead me to pain.

When I see transwomen being bold and visible in the world, I usually see quite a bit of ego behind their expression.   They believe their own hype, gleefully taking the spotlight with an assurance that people will buy into their own shining vision of themselves.

My name is Zoey Tur. I’m a helicopter pilot, reporter, fire chief, transgender warrior princess.

That kind of cocky confidence can be attractive, playing to the conventional expectations of the world.

It’s not something I was able to manage, though.   Instead, I had the freedom to speak a kind of truth, basing my value not on how people liked and affirmed me but rather on the smarts and the service I could bring to the conversation.

I came to know myself as a femme lesbian, but one who never when through a hot period where she and her curvy young body was the toast of the party.   Learning how to get my ego needs met by satisfying the ego needs of others wasn’t a game I learned.   When I told people that I missed the ego lessons being a teenage girl, though, they usually pooh-poohed me and told me to detach, even if ego detachment was something that I mastered early.

Being very aware of the needs, thoughts and feelings of those around me, I didn’t have the ego force to impose my own beliefs on others.  I never had the cocky assertion of presence, so the power shift that comes with gender shift was easier for me as I had less of that defense to lose.

Today, though, I see the need to have more ego, more belief, more assertion in the world.

Learning to do ego later in life, especially with a lifetime of habits built to suppress desire, is tough.   Learning to do ego when you don’t have the stability of gender expression that most people take for granted, when your gendered role tends to slip around based on the assumptions of others, well, that’s really hard.

I have learned that people find me challenging because what I offer doesn’t easily fit into their expectations.   I am big, bright and sharp, funny and insightful, and while that can be delightful from a distance, many people resist getting close up.   Maybe it would be better if I could move beyond my own emotional needs, but I don’t know how to do that; decades of trying to hide them hasn’t worked.

Being entertaining, having the ego of a drag queen, claiming laughter and appreciation, is often suggested as a key skill for transgender women.  Why can’t we just have the boldness, the bravado, the ego to stand at the front of the room in the spotlight and do what people who have always resisted crossing through the well guarded minefields of gender can never do?

While every transperson has to navigate their own path through gender, facing our own fears to get to that ultimate trans surgery, pulling the broomstick out of our own ass, we don’t have the same obligation to be the ones who deal with others internalized gender fear, their own struggle with the expectations binary gender puts on each of us.   We can’t heal them; they have to do that work.   We can’t even agree not to trigger them; they own their own feelings, not us.

I knew a bunch of things soon after I came out.  One was that my body would never read as having gone through puberty as a female and the another was that I didn’t have the ego to assert my own bubble in the world.   I always was a guerilla fighter, making change one question at a time rather than with a bombastic presence.

Now, though, I look for ego support and have trouble finding it.  I am as alone as I have every been, maybe more, no one to support my possibilities and presence.  I know life doesn’t have to be this way, but learning by myself how to be in trusting and empowering relationship has never really worked for me.

I learned to let go of the ego.  I just wish, often, that I could find a bit of it back.

Service Satisfaction and Loss

When you become the parent, unless you learn how to take satisfaction from service to others, you will feel trapped and wasted.

Expecting those we serve in the best way we can to give us compliments, affirmation and unadulterated praise about what we do for them is a setup for heart break.   They are going to give what they can back, which will include a huge amount of their own crap, a overwhelming load of take it for granted and a big old wad of downright resentment and resistance.

Other people heal in their own time and in their own way, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need you to be there, to be constant, to be always fighting with and for them.    Their job isn’t to take care of you, no matter how much you give them, their job is to take care of themselves and then to be of service to others later, in their own time and their own way.

There is no one who serves who hasn’t broken down at some point, frustrated to give and give and give and then feel like we are not valued, not understood, not appreciated, not respected.    We know the cost.

Still, if you are ready, it is easy to get habituated to service.   Giving is satisfying, even when you get crap back.   You learn to take pleasure from what you do for others, learn to find yourself in the way you push past comfort and offer up all of yourself.

Losing yourself in service, though, well, that can be devastating.  If you have been in service too long — and for some of us, with the demands of our family, our entrance into service comes when we are very, very young — it becomes hard to claim yourself beyond the bounds of a human doing, valued only for the way that you satisfy others needs and expectations.

Like anything else good in this life, service demands balance.  Not enough and you have an empty life, too much and you lose your own dreams.