Not Okay

“Are you okay?” people would sometimes ask me.

“Is there any other choice?” was my reply.

As a kid, I knew that being anything other than standing and functional was a dangerous, dangerous choice.   Weakness was something my mother would see as offensive to her, taking her place in the brokenness spotlight, so she would attack with self-pity, acting out of her own belief that everything was about her.

“You are trying to hurt me and screw up my nice dreams!” she would lash out.  “Why do you always do this!   Why are you such a stupid fuck?”

The father of my sister’s friend, now in his twilight, has been refusing to eat what is put in front of him now and then.   This throws the live-in aide into a tizzy, because she knows that her job is to get him to follow rules, and she can’t easily push medication onto an empty stomach.   His choice is screwing up her job requirements, so he needs to be forced into compliance in her view.

For an old guy who doesn’t have much agency left, he doesn’t want to have to be told that he has to eat because someone else demands he be compliant to make their life easier.

This leaves his daughter in the middle, wanting to honour and value his emotional state, but also knowing that nutrition is one of the keys to giving her father more good days.

Do we have the right to make things tougher for those who would find it easier if we just did what they demanded we do?

Do we have the right to not be okay when called on?

I know that I am often not okay in my own private world.   That always has been my prerogative.  But when someone asks me how I am, do they really have any interest and capacity to accept my non-okay state, or do they really only want to hear that I am “fine?”

If I am not okay, aren’t I just causing them problems and difficulties that they have no interest or capacity to handle?   Isn’t my compliance the only appropriate response to their query?

Doesn’t any other answer just mean they have the right to get upset with my behaviour and attitude, the right to force me into doing what would make their life easier and less troubled?

Aren’t my choices about them and their needs, their expectations and their comfort?

That’s clearly what I have been taught over the years, that whatever emotions I carry, whatever I feel, being not okay, not smart and compliant, not being nice, is just not an acceptable status.   There is no other choice than being okay.

And that leaves me being not okay only when I am alone in the shadows, only in my own broken space, only in my deep loneliness.

That, somehow, really has never been okay.

Performing Monkey

The neighbour lady was laughing, happy to be seen and reflected as she sat outside with her husband.   I knew her pattern and was able to interview her in a way that brought it out, offering some wit and acknowledgement that made her feel good.

I only went out to get the mail from the end of the driveway, but they were there and wanted to check in.

Would they understand anything of what I have been going through for the past three years?   He might, but I knew from many moments, including the moment I rang their doorbell with a case of beer and asked them to share a toast the day before my father died, that she would not.

So I dug deep and pulled out my act, the old concierge shtick, and talked about her and her family instead.

She loved it, but when I closed the door, I drooped.  The cost for doing that is so high nowadays, such a big chunk of the little that I have left, I felt the price immediately after I dropped the smile.

The old performing monkey is exhausted now, too many years gone.  Mustering any kind of focus always comes at a very high cost, demanding recovery time that goes very, very slowly.

I have been emerging as a transperson since 1985, over thirty years now.  Every time I go to explain the struggle I find that I already explained the challenge long ago.

That doesn’t mean people have heard it, doesn’t mean people are ready to hear it, doesn’t mean people are able to hear it.  “Never easy in embodied desire?   What the hell does that mean?  All humans are driven by desire and ego!”

Too much translation with meaning lost, too much performing monkey.

Give Up Point

As a transperson, what was the point where you decided that you had to give up on passing as going through puberty with a conventional body for your gender?

I know that you always had the fantasy of becoming “real,” whatever that meant, dreaming of body change, and that wish is always still there, at least a little tiny bit.

At some point, though, you have to face the practical limits of what is possible for you.   More than likely, your body can’t be made perfect, at least on some level.   Even FTMs for whom hormones do magic, as they have nothing to reverse, still have to face the fact that at some point they will have to drop their pants.

Even if you can get your body into shape, your story will still protrude in some way with things like family ties, reproductive expectations and formative moments cutting into any kind of perfection.

The struggle between immersion, really working as hard as possible to let go of the old so you can assimilate into the new, and ownership, realistically owning your own story, respecting the challenges you and others face, is at the heart of trans emergence.

We need to shed limiting and outdated habits, being willing to embrace new and more effective choices while not just building another wall in an attempt to conceal what we don’t want others to see because it raises too many questions, creates too much noise.

Working to eliminate all the tells that might reveal our trans history and allow someone to gender us on our biology and not our expression is an attempt at drastic concealment.   Passing is a form of lying, creating expectations and assumptions that always have the possibility of shattering in an unpleasant way.

I recently read an OpEd in the NY Times against speed reading, claiming that it is only skimming.   The problem with that argument is that all reading is essentially skimming.  Unless we can take the entire text into our mind in a way that we can retrieve it when required, the best we can ever do is squeeze our some meaning from reading, some anecdotes and add them to our memory store.

Speed is far from the most important criteria in taking meaning from what we see.   A third grader can read a novel very slowly, for example, but will have no context to understand, integrate and store the authors deeper meanings.  The experience and structures of understanding that we have built determine how we can pry out and retain meaning.

This is why great texts reward coming back to them again and again.   They seem to unfold new meaning even though it is only the openness and pliability of our comprehension that has grown, allowing us to engage them in a new way, with previously unsuspected depths.

Living in a world where people skim all the time, we have been taught that simple and expected are the first and easiest level of conveying how we want to be seen in the world.

Trans identities are complex and deep, as much as some want to insist that we are just boring and simple.  Anyone who has a deep enough drive to want to walk away from the conventional expectations written on their reproductive biology and claim a personal gender rejects the normative and claims the individual and queer.

How do we, though, code that in our everyday expression?

The dream is to not have to carry any kind of political burden of sickness, brokenness, deviancy, immorality, or other kind of stigma, instead being able to blend in as just another one of kind of person we dreamed of being.    We want to be able to connect in the way that other people do, without the heavy baggage of negotiating differences that bust other people’s expectations and make them queasy.

Being like other people, though, inoffensive and interchangeable, doesn’t allow us to be the best we can be in the world.   Rather than feeling loose, free, safe and open we end up feeling constrained, bounded, unsafe and defended.

Maybe, if there really was the kind of magic we dreamed of as a child, we would be transformed into our perfect body with our perfect history, allowing us to trust and be seen as we imagined.

The kind of magic that exists in the world, though, doesn’t work that way.  There is no average, no normal, no abstract kind of flawless perfection.  There is only the power of open and present humanity which makes connections and unleashes love.

That’s true for everyone, of course, not just transpeople.   Giving up on images of perfection and revealing the energy flow inside of us is the only way to have people see, understand and value us, no matter who we are.

No matter how much we understand that concept, getting to the point where we want to give up the attempt to pass as more ideal than we are is always a tough road.   Going to the queer side is always a risk, which is why so many of us work so hard to soften the edges, attenuating ourselves, trying to show that we are “just folks.”

When our goal is to just pass by others through keeping our head down and avoiding scrutiny, by striving to be “boring,” we can never shine in the world.

The dream of being perfect still is deep within me, driven by years of people pointing out what they saw as my flaws, my failures and my ugliness.  Those echoes haunt me, telling me that hiding is the answer.

Giving up those fears, though, and letting my truth show through all those tells that reveal that my life, my experience and my viewpoint is not simple seems to be not only the honest thing to do, it also seems to be the only way I can shine in the world.   Rather than trying to hide my differences, I need to trust them, even if they were never part of my nocturnal fantasies.

Working to hide where we cross conventions and expectations may seem to be a way to make people treat us the way we want to be treated, but it leaves us always on the back foot, always ready to hide and always broken when we don’t.

Queer wasn’t my princess dream, but it is my adult reality, authentic, twisted and potent.

It’s still hard to give up a dream, though, even if you always knew it was just a fantasy that can never come true.

Flattery Flat

I was telling TBB about my last phone call from the amazing Kate Bornstein, a few years ago now.  Kate had read some of my work and was telling me how amazing it was, how bold and brilliant my thinking was.

After I thanked her, I explained that it wasn’t just my work, that it had roots in collegiate research, and as I explained, I could hear the air go out of Kate.  She wanted to be sweet and encouraging but I was being pedantic and minimizing.

TBB laughed when she heard the story.

“I know that feeling, because I have tried to compliment you.  You just acknowledge the affirmation and then move on, putting your work in context,” she told me.  “It isn’t very satisfying, but I have learned to understand that you do hear everything, that it does count, so that has to be enough.”

Most people know how to bask in praise, at least a bit.  They may puff up or they may fish for more compliments, but they have a strong emotional response to flattery.

As the child of Aspergers parents, I learned very early to filter and contextualize any emotional response I had to anything.   I knew that my emotions lead me to danger, that they needed to be controlled and managed.

This frustrated bosses of mine who were trained as salespeople, their skill of softening up and leading others through emotional feeding going cold on me.  “I don’t understand what motivates you,” one expert said as he tried to get me on his side.

In the end, though, most of them figured out that I did listen and that my goal was honesty.   I know when I am good and I like it.   I got my first big, improvisational on-stage laughs when I was 13 and they have always been rewarding to me.

People who know me understand that expecting me to melt on the spot is too much to ask, but that seeds planted will come back to bloom.   I hear the positive and will reflect it, but in context and not in a flushed rush.

I am a big fan of Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna’s “Crazy Ex Girlfriend,” where the titular Rebecca spends her life stuck between a whip-smart brain and a dramatically romantic heart.   “If you are deciding who the right guy is for her,” the creators warn, “you are missing the point.   This is about her getting right in the world.”

In the season finale, Lea Salonga, the singing voice behind two Disney Princesses, belts out the syrupy ballad “One Indescribable Instant,” which she goes onto describe.  The music is swelling, romantic and carries everyone away to that moment out of time where all there is to say is “I love you.”

Rachel is swept away too, back to the princess dreams she had as a child, back to the drama camp fantasies that Josh Chan could be her own, very real Prince Charming.

The second verse of lyric, though, has a bit of smart doubt creeping in:

In one indescribable instant,
There is no time or space.
In one indescribable instant,
It all falls into place.
In one indescribable instant,
Your dreams will all come true.
'Cause in that one indescribable,
Magical, mystical,
Endless, incredible,
Barely believable,
Truly unlikely,
But not inconceivable,
What? Are you kidding me?
No, it's for-real-able instant,
The only words you need are "I love you!"

The heart wants what it wants, but the head, well, the head is always there to help.  As much as we love the simple, romantic emotional rush that Ms. Salonga and the music creates, well, the third gotcha is always there.

Life is a lot more nuanced than that, as the saying goes.

Never having been one of the girls or one of the boys, I never learned to trade in that sexual commerce where women are ready to do what he wants in return for hearing what they want to hear.

The trade in flattery always seemed scary to me because I understood that people were manipulative, trying to enforce gender roles by giving or denying affirmation.   Being who I am, I just couldn’t afford to be pounded by that game, so my filters had to be strong.

My days to be swept away by the fantasy that someone else can save me are long gone.

Although, I do suspect that if I looked like I was delighting in compliments more, people would me more likely to share them with me.

Political Dump

There is a “Trans Open Mic” coming up this next week, a cunning activist plan to try and make people feel heard and empowered so they will sign up to participate in the kind of process towards political change I have done for so long.

What would I say?


I am sick and tired, battered and exhausted with the truth that just to emerge and be visibly trans in the world, I have to take on a political position.

Every time I walk out the door, I am told that my political stance is on display.   I am offending Christians and other people of faith, I am expressing my own arrogant privilege in the world, I am one of the abject and oppressed classes, I am not worthy of respect and dignity, I am indulging my own self-deceptions, I am really whatever someone else thinks that I am.

Having all this political garbage heaped onto me when all I want to do is get on with my life and make the choices which reflect the contents of my trans heart is bullshit.

I get why people who fear change beyond their comforting beliefs want to politicize me, creating reasons why I should be shunned, dehumanized and even criminalized.

What I don’t get is why people who face the same challenges of having to carry this heinous political burden every time they want to reveal themselves, why the people who should be my allies, have decided that the only proper response to this politicization of what is real and proper is to create more politicization,  judging others and demanding that they be politically correct or suffer the consequences.

Why is the second priority for volunteer leaders at our locally funded trans-pride program to use teaching moments to help transpeople understand a political belief system that venerates shared group oppressions, like sexism, racism ageism and so on?

My life as a transperson is politicized by my enemies and it is politicized by those who claim to be fighting for people like me.   When I enter trans spaces, instead of getting affirmation, understanding and warmth instead I get explanations of what I am doing wrong, I am told the right way to be trans in the world and shamed if I do not comply with that group think.

My transgender journey, the emergence of my wild trans heart beyond the social, political and economic pressures to stay tame and compliant in the world had only one goal: to claim the privilege of being more integrated, more actualized, more authentic, more empowered and more honest about who I have always known myself to be.

Nobody emerges as trans to join a political group, rather we emerge to claim our own damn heart in the world.

When anyone politicizes who I am and who I should be without my consent, they break that heart, demanding that I follow along with their vision of how things should be in the world, insisting that their view of reality is more real than mine.

Feeling the pounding of those who demand political compliance is enough for me to want to duck the damn process altogether and just get on with creating a life.  Wearing the label transgender only seems to set me up for political attacks from both sides, from those who want to keep queer invisible and from those who want to demand compliance to some kind of identity politics.

I am sick of pounding that comes from people in the world thinking that they have the political right to define what can be real for me, that they have the political power to demand my compliance in their own political beliefs and goals.

For me, opening to the immensely powerful individual stories and challenges of trans people is at the foundation of empowering them to be all they can be in the world.   We are not abject, for in our own queerness lies the truths that can free us, moving us beyond the pain and abuse of a life-long political pounding into compliance.

Politics will not save me.  Those who demand my political compliance as the price of admission to their own myopic reality, their own fundamentalist belief structure, be it the erasure that comes from imposed political & economic biological determinism or the erasure that comes from imposed identity politics only add to my burden.

It is blossoming that I see required in transpeople, beyond convention and expectation into the freedom to harmonize their choices beyond defence and attack.

I want transpeople to feel the power and beauty of their own heart in the world beyond any political burden others want to harness onto them.  I understand why so many transpeople strive to walk away from being identified as trans, striving to just be themselves in the world.  We have felt the political sting of those who want to erase us and we have also have felt the political sting of those who claim to be allies working to tell us how we are doing trans wrong, how we are not being politically correct enough.    There is so much judgment in the world; why open ourselves up to more?

I am sick and tired, battered and exhausted with the truth that just to emerge and be visibly trans in the world, I have to take on a political position.  My trans is about the truth of my heart and my striving to manifest that meaning in the world.

My trans is not a political stance and anyone who wants to force me into believing that it is is someone who wants to diminish and hurt me for their own purposes.

I reject the oppression of denial and the oppression of group think to claim my own possibilities, looking instead to find ways to listen to, honour and cherish other transpeople and their own powerful stories in the world.

Thank you.

Present, Engaged, Enthusiastic, Caring

“Ask for what you want,” people tell you.  “Be clear and precise about your needs,” they explain.

It seems a good plan, until you get to the important stuff.

“I need you to be present for me, engaged, enthusiastic and caring.”

It turns out you cannot ask people to get out of themselves and heal on anything other than their own schedule.

My sister spent her big birthday away last Sunday.   This week we discussed when it would be good for me to deliver a birthday dinner.  She was on vacation and promised me time, maybe a day trip, definitely a restaurant, all that.

We agreed on Sunday and I spent all day making a big batch of boiled dinner to share with her and the balloon clown.   I plumped for a special cake she would like and everything.

When I didn’t hear from her, though, I knew that she was probably blown.   I packed everything up and found her sacked out on her couch, stuffing herself with TJs cashews.

Right then I knew that she wasn’t going to accept the gifts I had brought for her, wasn’t going to be present.   This wasn’t unexpected — it is writ large in our history — but it was heartbreaking.  I wanted dinner too, but that wasn’t going to happen.

She has an interview this week for a job she very much wants, but when I am too exuberant and enthusiastic, affirming her power and desirability, she backs off, pushes me down.

As I stowed dinner in her refrigerator and washed a sink full of dishes, her friend called.   Friend’s dad is home after hospital, with a live in aide, and the struggle around the needs of a very elderly person are real.

“How can he get the aide to be present for him, to be engaged, enthusiastic and caring?” my sister was saying to her friend on he phone.  “Of course he just chooses to stay in bed rather than try and get her activated.”

I knew that I couldn’t make my parents ask for me to be present, engaged, enthusiastic and caring.   With the Aspergers they couldn’t anyway, but even if they could ask for what they need, you can’t really ask  someone to be present, to be engaged, enthusiastic and caring.   They either show up or they don’t.

I spent so long showing up for the people around me.   I was always ready to rumble, to reflect back what they were sharing, bouncing them back in away that amplified and affirmed them.   It was crucial that I put my own stuff to the side and affirm their attempt to claim life, to be there, to have one more good day.

What do I want in the world?   What do I need in the world?  I need people to be present, engaged, enthusiastic and caring, mirroring me and affirming me in ways that empower and energize me.

That, though, is something you can’t ask for.   No matter how much I modelled that behaviour, how much I gave people the kind of attention and love that I need in the world, asking them to get over their damn selves and be there is never really a functional or reasonable ask.

All they can give is all they can give, so you need to be grateful for it.  I get that.

Often, though, it isn’t enough.   That old guy who feels his life and agency slipping away doesn’t have the fight to try and get someone to engage the sparks he has left and turn it into a flame.   Trying to ask for what he knows he can’t get will just wear him out and break his heart.   His daughter can only give what she can give, even if he needs, needs, needs more.

You can’t ask for someone to be present, engaged, enthusiastic and caring about what you bring, no matter how much you try to make it your best, no matter how many times in the past they have promised to do so.

You end up having to meet them where they are, feeling the cold and knowing the darkness.

I told my parents what I needed when I was two.  They couldn’t be there for me.  When it became clear I was queer & challenging, scapegoating me as the target patient, trying to pound me down just seemed easier.

We give what we give, but we cannot tell people how to be present, engaged, enthusiastic and caring.

So we learn to stop expecting different and just stay in our own world.

Reality Wars

The big war for transpeople is over being real.

Some of us fight hard to make it clear that our trans expression is unreal, is a costume, just drag or cross dressing.   We are really who we were told we were when people first saw our birth genitals and nothing will ever change that.

Some of us fight hard to make it clear that whoever we were before wasn’t the real us, that only now are we authentic and real.   Our past is as much as an offensive lie as our “dead name,” just an artifact of an oppressive culture, unreal and warped.

Sometimes we want to make clear that we aren’t performing, we are expressing reality and other times we want to make clear that our performance is our reality, revealing who we are beyond everyday assumptions.

In all of these situations, reality becomes defined by declaring unreality, by claiming to reveal the false.  “Transpeople are really defined by their birth identification, so any other claim they make is false, fraudulent, idol and dangerous!”

When you feel like people are always looking for some crack, some factor, some facet that they can use to declare your identity false you end up living a life of concealment, defence and terror.   In other words, you learn to keep a stick up your ass to stay as constrained and protected as possible.

This is not a strategy for becoming true, authentic and potent in the world.  Feeling like you have to hide your truth because others might find them contradictory and challenging and end up dismissing and dehumanizing you because of them just leads to a shit life.

I want to say to transpeople everywhere “Be proud of your reality, no matter how curvy and fluid it has been.”

This is not an easy thing for most transpeople to hear.   Their history is laced with shame, first the shame they were dished up over showing a “corrupt” heart, the shame designed to keep them normative, and second the shame over what they did to try and keep themselves small and “proper,” including both self-sabotage and acting out against others who triggered our internal pain.

We were taught to be ashamed of who we are and then we are ashamed of what we did to try and cut ourselves and our world down to size, stuffing and slashing.   There have been so few models of what a grown-up transperson can look like that it is easier to know what we don’t want to be than what we can imagine ourselves becoming.

To cope with this we created narratives, stories with heroes and villains that we told to explain and rationalize our choices.   I have always been fascinated by the way we follow the expeditious in creating these tales, trying to purge anything that might make people get squicked and call us unreal.   We follow templates of trans explanations, leaving our narratives parrotlike.

For example, the clubs FPE and SSS asserted that there was no sexual component to crossdressing, that it was just about “femiphilia” where we loved women so much we wanted to pay tribute to them by “femulating” them.   Transsexuals and homosexuals were purged from these groups to maintain a story intended to comfort wives, even though they always really knew the erotic charge crossdressing revealed.

“Where there is smoke there is fire,” the old adage goes, and I asserted where there are symbols of gender crossing there is also meaning.   There are many costumes men have worn though the ages, so when a man picks a costume that females him, even only for a night, they are revealing something inside themselves.

This was not something easy to hear, either for those who wanted to assert it was only a meaningless hobby or for those who needed a clear diagnosis between real transsexuals and gynandrophiles, a separation that made them and their stories real while dismissing any tales from false transpeople. (1999)

The core belief behind this battle is simple: only one of us can have the real story.   If my version is true, then yours is false.   Your narrative challenges mine, so you are trying to challenge me.

When our identity is built on a story that other people are doing their darnedest to declare false, they are working to declare us as false, untrue, a liar, a fraudster, as someone who can be dismissed and who deserves whatever they get.

Lie, erasing any twists in your story, or be called a liar, someone who is just blowing smoke, we are told.

The truth of transpeople, though, as sinuous, faceted, shimmering and challenging as it may be, is the truth of trans lives.   Having to cut off our stories to try and maintain our standing in the world is devastating and heinous.

When we believe that the only way we can assert our own truth is by denial, denying the twists in our story or denying the assertions of others about us, we live a small, defensive and tragic life.   We are always looking over our shoulder, waiting for the third gotcha, trying to keep within our shell.

Trusting in our wild and expansive truth, though, as laced as it is with shame and as triggering as we have learned it can be to others, is very hard work.   We don’t have people who say yes to our frayed, tattered and glorious life, as they instead want simple, easy-to-digest stories which fit neatly into their own expectations and affirm their own beliefs.  If we don’t do that, we demand they confront what they believe to be real, and that is always a difficult moment, an instant when they often feel they have to decide between what they already know or supporting you.   You lose.

The war for transpeople is becoming real, authentic, true.

The truth, though, is that we have always been real, authentic, true.   We may have denied or attacked parts of ourselves, tried to stuff and run, struck out trying to hurt what we saw as too queer, but somewhere, in that mammoth, lifetime battle, the truth ran through it.

We aren’t just this or that and never have been.   Our emergence, though, the revelation that comes from struggle, isn’t about true vs false, it is always about true vs true.

The opposite of a fact is falsehood,
but the opposite of one profound truth
may very well be another profound truth.
— Niels Bohr

That is a very queer idea to wrap your head around, it is true, but one that transpeople have always spoken for in the world.   We bring context to the world, honouring a circle of truth beyond the simple either/or.

In a world where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.
— Anne Bolin, anthropologist

We aren’t one or the other, rather our truth is liminal, crossing assumptions and expectations.

Our truths is real, even if other people don’t get the joke and want to silence & destroy us because of it.

Playing small to try and hide that truth does not make it less real.

Showing more than people are comfortable with does not make us less real.

Attacking other people who challenge our truth does not make us more real.

Our reality becomes more shining and more potent the more that we own it.   Denying it leaves it mixed up, inaccessible and tainted with shame, but owning our rich and complex truth in a brave and bold way gives us power and light.

Every time you fear that somehow, someone is ready to smash and destroy your truth, remember that truth endures.  It is only the expectations and rationalizations we applied to it which can be broken, clearing the way to see flickering truth more clearly and more honestly.

Your comforting wishes and illusions may need to go, but revelation has to be worth that price.   Revealing truth is the force, beyond ease and into durable, robust and resilient wisdom.

Working to hide part of you so you can be seen as real is fraud, no matter how much you believe it will make dealing with others easier.

Owning your own truth is empowering, glistening and beautiful.  The gift of a lifetime is becoming who you are.

And that’s true.

Somebody Has To Be The Star

Try and take your eyes off of Ms. Sutton Foster when you watch this.  Just try.  I dare you.

There aren’t any costumes or wigs, no theatrical lighting cues, no orchestra, no camera cuts, and not even any amplification.   There is just precision, energy and immense talent.

Some people weren’t meant for the chorus.  Some people were meant to be stars.  Everyone has someplace where they are excellent, but when you can grab all the eyeballs in the house, well, that’s star power.

Big and bold and brazen, stars are larger than life.  They hold the story and carry us through it, bing, bang, bong.

The hardest part about star power, though, is finding people who are happy that we have it.   Star power sets us apart, makes us a focus, challenges others who also want and need attention.  Being a star, in other words, is a lonely place, full of responsibility.

As much as some transpeople demand their right to be boring, I am not sure that there is any other way to do trans than to let out our inner star.   We need to go against the crowd, make our own choices, claim our own power.

Once we do that, though, we are immediately deluged by the pressure to get back in line, to settle down, not to challenge people.

This struggle, in which we have to claim our own star while really desiring to just be one of the cast, blending in and shying from the spotlight, is one of the key challenges thrown upon us when we realize that being transgender is the only way to be true, whole and healthy in the world.

We never dreamed of being trans, we dreamed of being one of the girls, one of the guys.  And now, somehow, we are thrown out front, an object of difference that others feel free to judge, usually harshly.

Sure, that nastiness may well come from the “crabs in a barrel” thinking that the world will be better if we just stop other people from being big rather than having to do the hard-ass work of claiming our own uniqueness, our own power, our own bigness, but it still hurts.

When the only way out into the world is to claim your own star power and you live in a world of people who resist claiming theirs, who supports and affirms you?

The only way out is claiming your own star power.   You need to do it smart, like Drama Queens In Recovery, who let other people shine, letting themselves be supporting players until their solo moment when they bring down the house, but starring is the fate of those who are just a bit too big to be held in the assigned and normative expectations assigned early.

For many of us, that moment when our trans expression is no longer just performance, just crossdressing or drag, and becomes real is the toughest time.  How do we both be appropriate and powerful at the same time?  How do we carry out our dream of fitting in even while we know there are always reasons that we will stand out?

How do we satisfy the people around us that we understand, respect and value their choice to be one of the crowd while also having to support our own need to stand proud, to walk out of normativity and enact who we know ourselves to be, to embody who we have always known ourselves to be?

When our authenticity demands that we own our own unique stardom but being seen as authentic demands we deny that uniqueness and be like other members of the group we want to assimilate into, how do we negotiate that paradox?

My trans expression has always been about my work.   It communicates something vital and important that I need to show in the world.   I just, however, don’t need to show it every time I go to the mini-mart, just like Ms. Foster doesn’t have to put on eyelashes to get milk.

As much as I want to stay in the shadows, doing my cloistered work, I am aware that part of me is a star.

As a transperson, though, I sabotaged my own energy to avoid the spotlight, played it down in the process of serving others.  Living in the public eye just seemed too difficult for me, without support systems and with the damage from being raised by Aspergers parents.

I love doing television, knowing early that was my medium (I will never be a musical theatre diva!) People were surprised by how compelling I made cheap, 1980s B&W TV.

There was no way, though, that I could succeed in conventional expectations of broadcast TV.   They were looking for interchangeable players, not diverse and intense voices.  I wasn’t going to play the role required because it would demand more compartmentalization and denial.

My own star power, though, doesn’t really go away.   And the only thing that will get me out of here is what got me here; being the best me that I can be, only in a visible way that creates connection, understanding and attraction.

Stars grab the energy and focus it back into the space.  They are compelling and they are terrifying.  We want more of them and we want them to stand aside so we can get some more attention.

But dammnit, they are stars.   Watch the video again.  Ms Foster and even Mr. Grey, compel you.  They own their own power.

You cannot both be invisible and be seen at the same time.  Performance is required, even if it always hides some very hard work and messy humanity behind its sheen.

Producing that, though, is hard, especially if you aren’t what people expect.

That energy, though, is a crystalline gift to the world.

Appropriately Disagreeable

When someone tells you “I am an idiot!” what do you do?

Do you go all Rogerian on them, saying “Tell me more. Why do you think you are an idiot?”

Or do you try and shut them down, saying “Don’t talk that way!   I never wan to hear that from you again!”

Somewhere in between those two responses is where I stand.   It is important to use that opening to explore and understand their self image, to get deeper into what worries them, but it is also important to go on record as not agreeing with their view.

When someone tells you why their life sucks, they are very rarely wrong.  It is their life, after all, and they have spent a long time assembling facts that support their view.    There is truth backing up their position.

It is, however, a selective truth.   Once they took up that position — that lifemyth — they started collecting evidence to back it up.   Evidence that contradicted their view, well, that hasn’t been so prominently featured.

To engage their self-view, you have to really be present.   You have to listen hard and do the tough work of affirming and challenging in measured parts.   If you just dismiss the truth the way that they see it, they will stop listening, but if you don’t offer a strong view, they will just stay in their own limited vision.

In other words, you have to be appropriately disagreeable, respectful and confrontational at the same time.   If you just fight you shut them down, but if you just listen, you do not help them move beyond.   Doing both is the hard work.

A very smart person said of a trans celebrity that she really believes that if you know her you will like her, that she can charm anyone.   She does that, though, by telling other people what they want to hear, compartmentalizing her own feelings and letting them out behind others backs.

For me, that approach has never been possible.   Even though I fear that if I tell my truth people will fear me, try to silence, erase and hurt me,  I know that telling my truth is the only way I can be true to myself and move the zeitgeist along.  That leaves me in a crack between performance and audience, speaking up but avoiding the spotlight.

My job is to tell the truth as I see it, confronting sloppy, amateur thinking, in as gracious a way as I can muster.   I need to be appropriately disagreeable.

This does not make me conventionally charming.   I don’t play along, tell people what they want to hear, be sweet and bland.

When I offer myself up, I sound smart because I am smart.   I have thought through my positions as much as I am able to.

I know, though, that my view of myself is biased by my experience and by the incredible lack of effective mirroring that is available for people like me in the world.   When I say “My life sucks,” I need someone to fight me, to be appropriately disagreeable as much as anyone else does.

In season two of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” Tina Fey plays a smart therapist and a broken drunk.   Kimmy wants to fix her by getting rid of the bad her, but Fey’s character explains that she is not two people, that she is both brilliant and fucked up.   A wounded healer.  I get that.

I know why people don’t want to fight me, even if they have discovered the value of having me be appropriately disagreeable in their life.   They know that being listened to and challenged at the same time is a sacred fight which offers them the possibility of wisdom and growth.

To stand for me, though, they would have to face their own fears.   My sister recently got a report back from an arts marketing seminar that said “Use video, video, video to make a connection with your audience.”

“I heard your voice,” she told me, remembering six years ago when I encouraged her to show herself and shine in the world.   That wasn’t something she was ready to do, even if I was there to help.

Is there any wonder then that she can’t reflect back to me a sense that only showing myself more fully in the world can possibly return the respect, value and connections that I need?

The path to growth is the path past fear.   As a shaman, I know that.  I am much more interventional than any clinical professional should be, barracking for change more like a life coach who really understands transcendence.  I am not charming and separate, letting the hours tick by, rather I am appropriately disagreeable, challenging with smarts and humour.

The limits of any helper are the limits of their fears.   Dying and being reborn enough times can make you a bit fearless, though, even if you don’t believe that people will get the joke or even really like you.

We have to fight for the future, but fight in a respectful, engaged and vulnerable way.   When our heart is as open as our mind, we can really be present for others who need our care, need our love.

Being appropriately disagreeable, though, is not on Dale Carnegie’s list of how to make friends and influence people.   It is just the calling that queer prophets are saddled with in the world.

I see truth in a different way than someone who has just taken up the conventions and bought into the beliefs.  My journey has demanded a kind of vision and understanding that moves beyond.   Every journey, though, demands trying to bring those gifts back into where we live now.

Striving to be appropriately disagreeable is hard, because most see that phrase as an oxymoron.  It is easy to miss the mark, being too attenuated and appropriate or too challenging and disagreeable.

I just have never been able to imagine any other struggle for me.

Revolution Beyond Fear

After a book on the “Gay Revolution” which laid out a narrative version of the fight for LGbt rights since WWII, I was struck by how it wasn’t the stories that told the tale.

While the individual events are a key part of the process, the power of change was not in the specific fights and accomplishments of individuals but rather in the changes in knowledge, attitude and understanding which grew out of the process.

The change would never happen without the events, of course, but just retelling the events only hints at the wide and deep shifts that are the change.   Change builds on change in a cascading way, rippling out to shift perception which in turn creates opening for more perception.

Consciousness raising is in the stories, of course, but between the lines, as people, for example claim separatism to demolish old assumptions but then find reasons to come back together and share the work.   The process to claim change demands change, changes in approach, in immersion, in reclaiming.   Dependence to independence to interdependence, finding ways to cut loose from convention, to understand on our own, and then to come back in alliance to create community.

How queer is too queer?   How queer is not queer enough?   This has always been the struggle around LGbt issues.    We need to shed old ways, to stop being constrained, but we also need to respect the foundations of what we share.    No matter how much we stand alone and determined, in some way we have to stand together and compromising, being bold and radical while being compliant and agreeable at the same time.

That social change, the stuff that happens in the heads and hearts of the people around us, doesn’t from rejection or acceptance, but rather from the conflict between the two.   We go through the dance, moving this way and that, and eventually find some kind of rhythmic synchronization where we agree on what we agree on, within tolerances, and then move on together to the next challenge.

What is the big lesson, the big breakthrough, the big connection that underlies social change?

The things that we were taught to fear turn out to be, when handled well, not so very scary after all.

Change is resisted because it is a slippery slope to hell and damnation, to a society where everything we value is destroyed, but then, approached with some kind of consensus, that inevitable change turns out to be just one more step.

This move from raw fear to considered acceptance happens both on the big social level and on the personal level simultaneously.  We see glimmers of new possible ways to be from those around us, then as we change, they see new possibilities from our choices.

Those idiots who were doing it wrong turn out to have been laying the foundation for our next move, and the people who thought we were wrong and off base end up accepting and building on bits of change that we create.

The future has always been in front of us, scary in the shadows of how it challenges our assumptions but eventually comforting in how, after the tumult, it becomes normal, livable and meeting our needs.   The pendulum finds its centre, but the more it has been held out of balance, the more stored up stress & trauma in coming to the next stability.

We have to move forward.   While our fear can lead us to resist the inevitability of change, that very resistance stores friction that has to be processed, a bit at a time or in huge, disconcerting bursts.  The more we fear, the more we block, the bigger the bang that is coming.

We each grow by facing our fears, dropping our resistance and finding a way through which works in harmony with those other fools we were sure were barracking for the wrong thing.

The story of change isn’t in any individual moment of struggle, in any one decision or agreement, rather it is in how we come together, past our entrenched fears, to find new and shared ways to be in the world.

The mainstream moves for so many reasons, from legal to media to politics to awareness and all of them are about raising consciousness, finding new ways to be beyond the old fear and denial.   Some of it is people moving the bleeding edge and some of it is people coming up behind to consolidate gains, but all of it is the process of struggling to claim better, more integrated and more caring.

The battle between separation and connection is continuous.   We look at where there is suffering and limits, trying to find another answer.   Inclusion wins, an acknowledgement of continuous common humanity beyond the myopic isolation some try to impose to maintain the status quo.

Whatever the story, love has to triumph over fear in order to let us find more excellent and dynamic ways to be human.

The things that we were taught to fear turn out to be, when handled well, not so very scary after all.

Change is resisted because it is a slippery slope to hell and damnation, to a society where everything we value is destroyed, but then, approached with some kind of consensus, that inevitable change turns out to be just one more step towards love.

Love Drives

It’s easy to write about smart.   Smart is verbal, cerebral, all about manipulating ideas and symbols.

It’s hard to write about love.  Love is feeling translated into action, all about making choices on an understanding that exists somewhere deeper than words can reach.

Writing about love takes the power out of it, turning it into something banal, trite and formulaic.  It is like dissecting a cat; the minute you cut it open, you lose the essential energy that makes it so catlike.

Love is at the heart of trans.   We know what we love, what calls us, what triggers our Eros, our love.    Like gays and lesbians it is love that makes us who we are, the desire we have for something that the normative find as queer, though not a simple love of partners, but a sense of self that is informed by what we love, what we have always loved.

It’s spring and love songs are going through my head.  “I Will,”  “All The Way,” “I Wish I Were In Love Again,” “Someone To Love,” “Love Can Build A Bridge,” whatever

What the hell good is a woman who isn’t in love?

Love is what drives us.   There is no reason to open up, to show yourself,  to get hot and bothered, to fiercely protect your family without love.   Without love, how could we ever negotiate the messes that other people make all around us?

Love makes you strong and love makes you stupid.

Love gives you hope and love tears you open.

Love melts us and makes us a sucker, opening our heart and letting it flow.

There is a reason we feed ourselves on love stories.  We need to feed ourselves on love and there is never enough of that directly around us.

I need to feed on love.  I knew that as a hidden woman, I couldn’t get people to see and admire the woman in me, but that I could care for them from the depths of my feminine heart.

I gave love, gave and gave and gave.  Sure, I would have rather built my own family, but spinsters can’t be choosers, so I loved the people who needed my love the most.

Today, though, I’m having trouble accessing my love.   What do I love enough to fight for anymore?

The idea that I should love something again that doesn’t love me back, though isn’t going to play.  As much as I need love, loving people who are unable or unwilling to love me, well, I just don’t have the power left to do that.

I need to melt and reform, feel the heat inside, the power of my love incarnate in the world.

The world around me, though, feels frozen, pulling the fire out of me and leaving only a damp, weak chill.

Reflections of the power of love, love coming back to me rather than just going out, creates the chain reaction which lets women consume their fears, transforming it into the energy of love which has always kept the world warm and safe.

Too much smarts mixed with the love makes people crazy, no matter how much those smarts are useful when they serve them.

I learned early that my love was corrupt, perverted and sick, that I needed to attenuate and modulate it so as not to burn into the fears of others.  Love denied is love twisted and wasted rather than love focused, polished and honed.

The sin isn’t loving, the sin is sabotaging love.

Love, love, love.   Love is all you need.

What the hell good is a woman who isn’t in love?

 

Courage To Change

The devil you know is the devil you own.

There is a reason you cling to what you have now, even if it is not serving you.

Change is change, away from the familiar and into the unknown.

That’s why Reinhold Niebuhr’s original “Serenity Prayer” asks for the courage to change and not for the strength to change.

When change looms before us we get scared, pull back, no matter how much we know we need change.

Resisting change, trying to defang change, trying to squeeze change down so it can only occur on our terms, trying to keep change limited to what we already know and want, well, these are all ways to thwart change.

Everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die.   We all want new and better, but we don’t want to have to pay the price of letting go of what we have now, releasing our grip on our assumptions and expectations, the price of a leap into an unknown future.

Trusting that divine surprise, well, it is terrifying.  It takes courage.

Two-thirds of help is to give courage.
— Irish proverb

One of the most important things I do on a one-to-one basis is to encourage change.   I reflect the limits and challenges that others speak and remind them of the moments where they felt a glimmer of light, reminding them of the glow change can offer.

This is hard work.

We have constructed strategies and rationalizations that help us resist change, that hold change isn’t really possible for us.   We know the lessons of our past in the way we have learned them, the feedback we have gotten from those who support us.   That is usually a sharing of fear, a explanation of futility, an assertion that it has always been this way and so will always be this way.

If we are convinced change is impossible, then why waste our precious life force and risk our safety, comfort and scarce resources on a futile gesture?

Why even try?

I believe in the power of change, which is why I speak what I do, encouraging others.

Like most humans, though, I have trouble believing that change is possible for me.   I live in my own mind, trained by my own experiences of the world, and I am as clear as anyone else is of how hard and scary change is.  I know where I have been sabotaged in change by those around me and I know how I have internalized those beliefs.

A coach read my blog entries and his instant summary was “better is possible, there are smarter choices, but in closing, let me tell you why they won’t work for me.”

I found that reductive, but the most frustrating thing was how I had been begging him for encouragement.   Instead, he wanted to fight me, in his mind helping make me clear on my understanding.  I went to sharpen my performance, to learn to trust the spirit of “Yes!  And…”, to learn to take the risk and leap, knowing that there would be others to help me up if I fell, and instead I got reflections of his own fear of change.

I have often called on people just to say “Yes, yes, yes, yes” to me, to affirm my possibilities.

“A therapist is someone who sees in you something that you do not yet see in yourself,” goes one definition.

An encourager is someone who believes in something that you are having trouble believing in yourself.   They support you in taking a leap. even if they know that the results will never lead to a perfect outcome, may end up in lessons rather than satisfaction.   Learning is the only way to reshape our understanding and make better choices.  If we never try, we never grow, although that growth will always take us to new and unexpected places.

Change takes the courage to trust in the unknown.   We all have strength, can find a way to muster it to gain a guaranteed outcome, but there are no guarantees in life.   It takes courage to risk what we have for the chance at a better future, to leave our comfort zone and open to growth which takes us into uncharted possibilities.

Giving smart and compassionate encouragement to others is one of the most important things I can ever do.  I say “Yes!” and affirm what I see as the best in other people, knowing that even if they fall, they have the power to break that fall, find new stability and move forward with grace lies deep within them at their core.

I work to give them permission to change and grow, even when that takes years of fighting their own internalized fears and assumptions.   It is a slog, hard and difficult work to engage their fear and resistance, because everyone heals in their own time and their own way, but supporting new and better is the most important thing any change agent can do in this world.

Healing requires letting go of old patterns that do not serve us well and having the courage to become new.

Giving that encouragement,  helping people find their own courage to change, is a great calling.   Mix that offering with a bit of wisdom and serenity and people can become the change they need to see in the world.

I’m so good at it though because I have felt the need for it on my own skin so acutely.  I give what I need, what I crave.   I understand what others should hear because I am a wounded healer, my own damage informing my service to others.

Change is possible.  Knowing that, though, even as strongly as I know it down in my essence, is different from believing that for myself.   We all need reflections, mirroring which gives us permission to know what we know and feel what we feel.   For me, that mirroring has been very fractured.

Change, exposure, leaps take courage.

Courage requires encouragement.

Joy of Smarts, Joy Of Love

Pope Francis recently issued a new teaching on the “Joy Of Love.”

In it, he didn’t seek to change the thoughts, the doctrine of his church, didn’t seek to offer new rules that would change the intellectual stance that is held by conservative minds.

Rather, he sought to speak of the value, importance and joy of treating other humans with love, compassion and grace.

The way I see it, doctrine is a masculine approach to life, trying to codify, separate, define, quibble and apply imposed structure onto the mess of pain and suffering we call life, while love is the feminine approach to life, trying to approach others with an open heart to help them find their own power and footing in the community.

The heart without the head can get lost, certainly, becoming too soft and forgiving, not demanding the discipline of understanding and structure.

But Francis leads a church which has shown that the head without the heard can get lost, becoming too bean counting, too legalistic, addressing problems by playing the angles and cogent denial rather than opening to the big picture and using our heart to do the loving thing rather than the pragmatic thing.

This tension, a strong between hard rules and tender hearts, has always been where the best in human behaviour.   We need people to follow the building codes, putting up the structures we live within with discipline and formality, but we need to occupy those structures with human compassion and love, working to make the best out of each community member.

Every faith system faces the same challenge: the world is a place full of pain and suffering where too much emphasis on selfish motives can leave others exploited and abused.  The world can suck, so what do we do about it?

We can demand compliance, obedience to a structure of rules that work to codify ethical and compliant behaviour as defined by our society.

We can express love, helping others see the beauty and grace of acting with humility, understanding and compassion towards each member of society.

Both of those approaches have benefits, real good reasons to follow them, but they also both have weaknesses, ways that the system can be played and perverted by those who believe that their personal gain is the best and correct outcome.

The tension between head enforcement and heart inclusion has long been the theme of conflict in human societies.   I don’t think it is going away anytime soon, because it is precisely in that ongoing struggle that the power and grace of humanity lies.   Without smart rules and enforcement, we cannot come together to do big and fair things, but without open caring and inclusion, we cannot come together to do small and loving things.

Anyone who has ever gone to church will understand this.   There are leaders who preach about the structures, doing the proper things and enforcing the rules and there are leaders who act with compassion, doing the loving things and making safe space for the messy, human power of our hearts.

This apparent division, between the masculine enforcers and the feminine includers, though, has always lead to healthy and vibrant communities when we approach each other with respect, knowing that the whole circle of humanity is required to keep rolling forward.

There is a reason that the coming together of the masculine and the feminine, the yin and the yang of humanity with respect has always been at the centre of healthy families and communities.

Pope Francis knows this and sees the need to bring the joy of love back into his family, his community to create a healthy and vibrant balance.   He doesn’t want to turn his back on the teachings of his church, but he also needs to curb the excesses of those who used those rules to act in a self-serving, organization-centric way rather than with love.

When I watch other transwomen, one of the first things I do is see how they are trying to find the balance between their own masculine training and their own feminine heart.

Those who come out at a somewhat older age have had to try and create a masculine front, using masculine tools to keep their feminine knowledge hidden from view.  They have developed structures which help them deny their own queerness, trying to fit in among the rules of men.

Trying to use these masculine habits and traditions to own the feminine often creates a real struggle.   Being a woman isn’t primarily an intellectual exercise. full of defence and rule codifying, no matter how much spaces on the internet seem to demand and validate that battling behaviour.

The strategies we used to try and make change impossible when we needed to maintain our socially assigned role are not really useful when we need to become the change we need to see in the world.

Effective change, most people find, doesn’t come from quibbling the rules, rather it comes from opening our hearts.   Leaving the masculine requires entering the feminine, finding a new balance between love and thought.   We need to claim the joy of love, as it has been called.

“In societies where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.”   I knew that was my mission statement when I heard anthropologist Anne Bolin say it so long ago.

Finding a balance between structured discipline and open compassion has long been the challenge of every human culture.   When that gets out of whack, we lose the safety of being ourselves, be that by masculine organizations that manipulate by legalistically slicing the salami or by feminine organizations which value group compliance over sharp thought.

The world can suck, no doubt.   We are all born to suffer and die.   What gives us hope though, what empowers the real ability to be the change we need to see in the world?   Is it muscular discipline or tender vulnerability?

In my experience, the power comes from a considered and conscious blend and balance of both of those approaches.   It comes from the power of tapping into continuous common humanity, not from one bit or another.

In a finite world, tension brings out the best in us, but only if approached with respect and grace.   We may stand one way or another, but when we come together we help each other find the best.

Joy of Smarts or Joy Of Love?

For me, Joy of Balance.

Know Nothing

“You didn’t tell me anything about what your intentions were!   If you had told me, I would remember, you just bet that I would.  All of this came out of nowhere, with no warning.   You totally blindsided me, and not only is that unfair, it is completely on you!”

It is impossible to underestimate the wilful blindness of some people.

We try to communicate what is going on inside of us — and trans is all about internal drives, knowledge and pressures — and somehow the message never gets through.

Sure, we don’t have great words to express ourselves, coming out of our own struggle with denial and identity.   We have tried to obfuscate and minimize ourselves for so long, creating facades and rationalizations, compartmentalizing off our own heart, that we don’t have a clear, shame-free and potent way to tell our story.

Communication, though, is a two way street.   Without someone willing to listen, it can never happen.

Maybe people don’t hear because they have no context or understanding of transgender.   There are a couple of plays in New York now that deal with the challenges parents face in dealing with an intersex child.   Much of that drama comes from the fact that the idea that a kid can be M, F or O isn’t out there.   They never imagined the possibility.

Maybe they don’t hear, though, because they don’t want to hear.    This can’t be happening in their world.   It happens to other people.   Sure, there might have been mumblings, but only low ones; nothing that couldn’t be ignored.

“If you really loved me, you would shut up about this shit and never mention it again!” we are told when it finally surfaces.  Instead of finding accommodation and balance, we are told it is our damn problem and therefore our responsibility to pack it away where it will never challenge the professed status and normativity of the family.

And maybe, they did hear but they need someone to blame, someone to be the betrayer, the liar, the bad guy.   Maybe they need to save face and maintain their own denial by dumping the blame on us.

I know the limits of communicating truths that others are not yet ready to hear, know that everyone heals, everyone hears in their own time and their own way.

I recently commented on a post about “CIS People! I am not required to educate you!

For me, the worst part of “educating” people is being blamed for their inability to get over the notions in their head and understand what I am saying. They often find my words triggering their fears, bringing up their own issues or just baffling them and then they believe that I have failed to teach properly, not that they have blocks to learning.

It’s hard for them to grasp that they have no right to understand and judge my choices. Because they live a privileged, normative life, they assume that anything beyond their own comprehension is noise, warped and wrong.

As a queer person, I know that I will never understand the drives of every human in the world. I just have to let them have their individuality unless what they do uses others without consent.

When people assume that their failure to understand is my failure to properly explain, or worse, indication that my beliefs and choices are corrupt and wrongheaded, I know that understanding was never their goal. Instead, they just wanted to judge me by their limited view of the world.

They have no obligation to details of my difference, treating me like I am an abject freak with an obligation to perform for the normal people. More than that, though, their obligation to learn is much more than my obligation to disclose, and when they fail to “get it,” blaming me just is their own myopia showing.

The author found my comment very strong, more than they intended to stimulate.  It turns out that they were trying to educate anyway, but isn’t that the struggle we all face, to be seen, understood and valued for our unique contributions to the group?

When I watch ex-spouses say that “You never told me that this was coming,” I feel the effects of that slap on my own skin.

For decades now, I have been talking about the importance of letting transpeople find their own nature and desire early, rather than closeting it.   This is the only way we can create relationships with honesty & dignity, rather than with walls & darkness.  Relationships where we need to twist ourselves into pretzels to try and be who others demand that we be (2006) will always fail.

But there is no way we can tell the truth about ourselves if others are unable or unwilling to listen.

When we get blamed for their stubborn erasure of what we tried to express, nobody wins.

Fun, Fun, Fun

One of the things I like on this blog is having people, apparently randomly, find old posts so I have a reason to reread them.   It feels like serendipity to me, the universe offering a bit of a memory jog, a koan for today.

The post today was from 2008, reminding me that while the bleak is found in the broad strokes of human life, the joyous is only found in the details of any moment.

I have been working hard at finding connections and truths threaded through the strokes of lives, but what I have been missing is the flashes of fun which give life sparkle.

When I page through the calendars of local events, I wish I had more shared interests with others.   Airplanes or cars or music or fashion or whatever; something that allows a bit of playful sharing.   Too many years of scarcity, though, have captured my mind.

I have never believed that dressing up is fun in and of itself.  I express my transgender to communicate my truth, not to get a thrill.   Fooling people or feeling self aroused are not things I want to do, rather I want to find a way to have a deeper conversation about what is important to me, finding ways to connect with other people with more bandwidth, nuance and power.

Spending four hours alone in a hospital waiting room while someone undergoes surgery, for example, is not significantly more fun while wearing a cocktail dress.  To me, it is the cocktail party chatter and related flirting that makes glamming up worthwhile.

My silliest and most relaxed moments always come when I am alone, amusing myself with somewhat absurd flights of fancy played out in silly voices.   These are the best jokes that I have no expectation that anyone else will ever get.

Today I was considering a book of poetry written by David Venable expounding on the costs of a love of food, including a literary tale of the pain of spending every Monday stuck on the crapper.  Yes,  I know.  You don’t get the joke.  Sad dance, sad dance.

Fun is such a human thing.   Having your fun turned into a private and isolated activity, though, takes most of the human connection out of it.   It turns us rather squirrley.

As we get older, fun becomes a more and more complicated thing.   Nothing is as simple and easy as it was when we were younger and innocent enough to believe our life was carefree, full of sensation and novelty that we could enjoy forever.  The pain and responsibility hadn’t yet caught up with us.

Being adultified early takes childhood away and along with it goes our youthful sense of fun and abandon.   When you don’t have a history of being indulged and supported in fun, coming together to play while others took charge of safety, it’s hard to claim that experience in later life.

I need fun, though.   I need it desperately.   And not the kind of cerebral in-joke that leaves me another step towards isolation, although the kind of fun that expects me to drop my smarts won’t work either, as I have found over time.   It’s fun that affirms and empowers that I need, not fun that distracts and erases.

In that moment when we become blissful in a shared way, we create connections that affirm our moving outside the generic woe and entering the transcendent dance of joy.

Doesn’t that sound nice?

 

 

Certainly Angry

Anger demands certainty.

If you want to fly into a rage and shout about everything that is wrong, you have to be very sure of yourself.

You need to believe that you are the one who understands the situation and everyone else has it wrong.   You need to know where blame should be laid, who the failure belongs to, who screwed up, who made a mess, who the enemy is.

Doubt and anger are not compatible.   If you don’t exactly know what happened, if there is some area of crossed purposes or difficult trade offs, being furious will not help the situation.

“You cannot hate someone if you know their story.”   Once you understand the hard choices someone faced, have an awareness of the context of their life, see their struggle and their humanity, it is difficult to rage at them.   You have to be callous or very reactionary to approach them with only anger, even if their choices upset you.

Building an identity on anger is building an identity on the fundamental perfection of your beliefs.   You are right and they are wrong and that is all there is to it.   Until they give up their corrupting ways, they deserve whatever fierce lashing that you can dole out.

One of the most common rationalizations for anger is “Well, they started it.  If they hadn’t come in ferocious anger, I wouldn’t have had to respond with my own pure and absolute rage.”  Your anger is their fault, is all about those horrible people who do horrible things.

Does anger confronting anger make anything other than a war?

As a transperson, I know there are people in this country who are very angry with people like me.   They see my emergence as trans in society as massively destructive, a horrible affront to their traditions, beliefs and sacrifices.   They believe that just by being visible I am endangering their children and the society their ancestors have fought so hard to purify.

These angry people feel entitled to hate people like me because they are absolutely certain that I am corrupt, sinful and wicked.   They defend purity by trying to purge people like me from their sight and from their environs.

I have to decide how I respond to these people.   I completely disagree with their understanding of what makes a healthy society, with their bullying and oppressive tactics and with the arrogance of their certainty that they know evil and it is not them.

But does that mean I should be angry at them, blaming them and targeting them as the true evil in the world?   Do I have the luxury of my own certainty that I know the absolute truth and these people should be flamed, pounded and driven into compliance with what I know to be politically correct?

If I respond to them with anger then I become the same as they are.   I commit to the war and we both are ready to lose.

If I come with the compassion, understanding and grace that I would want them to approach me with, I take the higher ground.  I stand for better choices, turning the other cheek and applying the golden rule in what used to be called a good Christian stance.

My anger is my responsibility.   I have the choice of how to respond, and I respond with the sadness, doubt, curiosity and compassion that might just allow me to build bridges with other allies.

Without anger, I don’t have to demand that people respect and honour my anger and the righteous pain that undergirds it,  don’t have to demand that others comply with my certain beliefs before we can find common ground.

Every chronically angry person comes from a position of certainty.   The belief system that has become their identity makes its own logic.   We have to stay angry to stay pure so any reduction in that anger is a betrayal of all that we hold dear.   Our anger is our virtue, so anger itself becomes virtuous.  Holding rage becomes the way we are a warrior for our cause, even if it never attains us the goals we hold of bringing others to understand our position.

A preacher railed against the homosexual sinners from the street outside the pride event that featured TBB.  He changed no minds, opened no hearts, but the video of his raging rant got many positive comments from others who need to believe that the very act of charging the demons is holy in itself.

The same kind of behaviour has come from radicals who feel the need to shout down and drive away anyone who doesn’t prioritize their own anger at an oppressive society.  Demanding purity is an end in itself and if that means they are reduced to a clique of only passionate believers, well, they are the more righteous for it.

I know how much I have been hurt.  I know how much pain and abuse is threaded through my history.   I know how easy it would have been to declare everyone who injured me as toxic, raging at them and demanding that they comply with what I am absolutely sure to be true.

I also know that to do that would have not let me hold them in the love and caring which allowed us to create change together.

Holding a wall of anger based in some kind of fundamental certainty would have trapped me in my own self built cage, allowing my angry imp to blame others, blame the system for everything that is wrong, demanding that I stay angry or be a sucker, blind to their stupid and vile ways.

Angry demands certainty.   Love demands doubt and the willing to give others the benefit of that doubt.

Do I like it when fundamentalists are angry at me and people like me, being so certain of their own beliefs that they can create barriers to my fundamental human rights?   No.   That sucks.

But I don’t like it when their anger gets me trapped in my own anger, either.  I need to be who I feel my creator wants me to be, need to take my identity and my actions from a view of righteousness that starts with humility, compassion, service and vulnerability.

I need change in the world.   I just know that buying into a war some fundamentalist wants to start is not the way to create a better, more considerate, more loving community for all of us.

The golden rule tells me that.

Needing Likes

It is much easier to feel free to do what you want in the world if you don’t give  shit if anyone likes you or not.   As long as you believe you are playing for the authoritative audience, like a vengeful God or a manipulative boss, you feel covered in acting large and pissing off the little, stupid people.

For most of us, though, we find it important to be liked.   Not only does it feel better, it provides us with the human networks that can give us what we need, from love to money.

According to the people around us, trying to be liked starts with the apparently simple injunction to not do things that piss them off.    We shouldn’t irritate them, shouldn’t scare them, shouldn’t embarrass them, shouldn’t challenge them, shouldn’t show them up, shouldn’t be too queer, all that.

People are more than happy to tell us what they don’t like about us, what we are doing wrong.    If we want to be liked, they tell us, the first thing we have to do is police ourselves so that any bit that might be offensive or too big is modulated, cut down and erased.

When we want to be liked, no, when we need to be liked, in a family, in a peer group, in the work place, we start to desperately police our own choices, working hard to tamp down parts of us that others have found too strong over the years.

It is at this time many of us adopt an imp into our life, an inner pet we feed whose job is to chew away at our ego, to remind us of the dangers around us, to suck up the energy which might make us stand out too much and be unlikable.   Our imp is the voice of our training, mixed with our fears, the toxic blend we keep around to eat our own life force so we stay sweet, small and welcomed.

Growing up in a family where being liked was just impossible, I struck my claim early on being respected.  We were iconoclastic individualists, with no extended family or local community, no visitors, just the wail of a mother who was sure everyone was out to ruin her life.

Her problem was that she wanted to be liked, but as a Aspie, she didn’t know how to do that.  That broke her heart and she wanted people to know it, so she took her pain out on everyone around her.

Like her, though, as a woman, I want to be liked.   I don’t want to have to be the big, bold, brave, ballsy one, not caring what anyone else thinks of my choices in the world.   I did that, thank you very much, and it never got me seen and valued for who I knew myself to be inside.

In the end, it turns out that people like us for who we are rather than for who we aren’t.    As much as we feel battered, suppressed and humiliated by our imp trying to keep us nice, sweet and appropriate, that suffering can never make us likeable, successful or happy.    It doesn’t matter that we conspire with our imp to stay small for reasons that seemed to make sense at some time, we can never claim our power and grace in the world by cutting ourselves back.

Even through we may know that truth, telling it to our imp is almost impossible.  There is always someone around who doesn’t like us, who isn’t happy with our choices, so by focusing on those negative people we can get instant emotional proof that we need to be slammed down in order to be liked.  I get slammed by anxiety, others get slammed by feeling like they are a sucker, working below themselves and there are plenty more ways the imp finds to sabotage us, to keep us small and broken, abject enough to be harmless and cute, or at least that’s the pitch our imp makes.

Following the rules only helps us avoid losing.   It is in going beyond the rules where we claim winning, showing our individuality, creativity and excellence.  It is in going beyond the rules that we reveal ourselves.

As transpeople, we know that we we are already breaking rules big time.  We were shamed into the closet early, understanding that our heart broke the rules of the binary system all by itself.  It feels like in just being visibly trans our margin of safety is used up, that we deserve whatever shit we get.

Our imp knows this well.   It was there to help drive us into the closet, there to warn us about being visible, there to justify & rationalize what we do to stay small and hidden.

When we try to get support for emerging as trans in the world, what we most often get is other people feeding our imp.   They warn us, they worry for us, they tell us scary anecdotes they have heard, they tell us all the possible ways to fail, they explain how we are doing it wrong, they tell us that we can never win, that we will remain abject, lonely and freakish.

To be big in the world we have to confront our own fears, which is tough.   To support us being big, other people have to confront their own fears, which is much tougher because they don’t feel the price of our playing small on their skin like we do.    It’s easy for them to urge caution and restraint because they don’t have to pay the price.

When the ones we love hold fears for us we learn early that we cannot afford to alienate them because we need what they have for us, the connections, the sharing and the love.   We need them to like us because if they don’t, we are out there shooting the moon.

“If you are bold enough to transcend gender, then you must be bold enough to not worry about people liking you!” others say, thinking of how they have listened to their imp, have played by the rules, have stayed small.

But we want and need people to like us.   We feel like we have used up our quota of wildness because that’s what our imp tells us all the time.

If only we didn’t want people to like us, we wouldn’t be human.

And human is what we are.

Listen, Please

Watching a show about a family dealing with a five year old who has just be diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum.

They have a tough session with a speech and language pathologist who calls out the family’s communication issues; the interruptions, the diverting with humour, the self-focus, the blaming and on and on.

Her point is that the autistic kid has trouble with communication in the first place and all this battle of words going on makes communication even harder for him to enter.   He knows he is in a minefield so he retreats into his headphones.

It is a communication style that squeezes out meaning and nuance, she tells them.  The family has to get better at communicating if they want to help him learn to communicate effectively past his different thinking.

I’m watching this and crying.   Why couldn’t anybody ever have helped the world learn to listen to me?   Why do I struggle so hard to be heard, but still feel so un-mirrored?

The most important thing I ever did is learn how to listen.   Listening is the basis of all my communication skills, because by listening I learned techniques to express myself clearly and precisely.

People learn to heal in their own time and their own way, even you.   Anyone who has read much of my work has heard that truth before.   But at the moment I am thinking a deeper truth may be that people learn to hear in their own time and their own way, even you.

Until we are ready and able to hear the truths around us, we are unable to integrate them.   Until we can hear we can not heal.

We have to hear ourselves to start to understand where we are blocking communication, where we hold barriers that project pain, defence and wishful assertions over the powerful truths which exist all around us.

When we really listen to other voices, really work to understanding the meaning and nuance, our own twists and truths come to the top.    We find styles and syntax which help us express our truth, find where our own noise is hampering the connection we crave.

In my father’s last year we worked a great deal with a speech and language pathologist who was treating him for dysphagia, a swallowing disorder that it turned out to be a misdiagnosis.  (His reactive cardiomyopathy was missed, not that much could have been done about it.)

Seeing this TV show, I realize why she worked so effectively with us.   She watched us communicate and understood that I was really listening and translating very closely and effectively.

Actually listening closely is a rare, powerful and almost scary trait in this world.  I learned to do it because I really, really needed someone to listen to me and I found out very early it wasn’t going to be my family or my teachers.

How I would have loved someone to come in and help them communicate more effectively, learning to listen, to be open and engaged with what others were working to share, to approach sharing with compassion, empathy and grace.

I didn’t get that, of course.   And the older I got, the more I was unable to get people to listen and understand me.

As a good communicator, my job was seen as listening to others and then finding strategies to communicate through their limits.   I had to create messages that would get though to them and manipulate them properly, getting them to do what we wanted them to do.

So much of what I did end up doing, though, was mirroring other people, playing their own communication back to them so they could start to hear their own twists for themselves.   This, though, was often not appreciated.

The death and rebirth cycle of the heroes journey is the destruction of the way we saw the world before, the smashing of our old identity props, and the construction of new ways to understand the world which give us more context, more understanding and more power.

That the essential message of myth is that myth matters should hardly be surprising.   Our old worldview is shattered and we become new, full of new stories about a new normal that allows us to approach what is in a new way.   Transforming our stories is transforming our choices is transforming our lives, and the seed of all that transformation is opening to listening in a new way, understanding in a new context.

I know that I am who I am because of my struggles with communication.   My lifemyth, that I am too hip for the room, is about the failure of communication, and that failure started early for me.

In a documentary shown on PBS Independent Lens, “Autism In Love”  I laughed sweetly when I saw a couple, both with autism embrace after a marriage proposal.   They were so incredibly awkward and so incredibly sweet at the same time, having worked so hard for the past eight years to learn to communicate with each other, knowing that communicating is caring.

In their coming together, I saw my parents, never graceful, but always caring.  I watched my parents walk hand in hand to the elevator before my mother’s knee replacement and in their gawky stroll, I knew there was love.

That kind of unspoken communication was probably what kept me connected with them, but their massive failure at other kinds of communication left me pounded down and abused, trapped in my own inner life.  There wasn’t anyone who could understand the price a child of Aspergers parents paid for their parents own limits and unprocessed frustration with the world.

No matter how I have tried to move beyond my formation, my family, I have found desperately few resources, desperately little understanding and desperately sparse lack of resources to help me build the trust and confidence we are supposed to learn as babies.

When I see the language lady call out a family, a neurotypical family who have the power to do better, so that they can enter the world of a child who needs help, I tear up.   She wants to help the kid be a kid, to do the work he needs to do, gain the healing and growth he can only own by learning to listen.

The only way he can learn to listen, she knows, is to be listened to.   He needs the modelling and the mirroring that can strengthen his skills, can give him the foundation for life.

It has been so long that I have struggled to be heard.  Sure, that struggle has taught me how to listen, how to grow and how to heal, but it hasn’t given me the comfort and foundation I still need.

People learn to hear in their own way and their own time.   That learning to hear is the basis of learning to heal, not just heal our own life, but also our own relationships, which is the start of helping to heal the world.

And when I see some trying to help a scapegoated kid be heard by their family, well, I still cry.

Gender Squeezed

“I would cry every night thinking I had to get up and be a man again the next morning,” said an acquaintance in a biographical article.

Many transwomen use this feeling to explain why they needed to be able to present as a woman in their life.   If they aren’t going to be a man, they must be a woman, the thinking goes, one side or the other.

For me, though, from the first time I went to a trans support group, so long ago, my goal was clear: be an integrated person with the best possible choices for me.  I used the word androgyny then, which I might not today, but the plan was to engage in genderplay and drop any façades.

The place I went was from trying to be man, which I was really crappy at anyway, to trying to be whole.   This meant being willing to be not man, whatever that meant, engaging in the feminine beyond the posturing and measuring that came with manhood.

I never was in a playground fight, didn’t lose my virginity until I was 20, and then to a woman I now know to be a soft butch, never was cocky enough to use the factory equipment very well, and just didn’t feel the need to prove my manhood when challenged.   Any success I had was in nerd world, where gender for geeks was a much more malleable thing than in other, more gendered areas of endeavour.  I was “psychologically un-castratable” as one woman who tried to manipulate me complained, because my identity was never, ever between my legs.

There is a reason I chose a gender neutral name and a reason I always had deeper conversations with the wives of crossdresser than with the CDs themselves.  I had moved to not man, which baffled those who bought into the “Now I’m Biff! Now I’m Suzy!” model that Virginia Prince sold.  Sooner or later you would see most of them coming from a masculine space and making man’s choices, playing against their gender presentation to remain a man in the system of desire.

Having been an abject failure as a straight guy, immersing myself in the lesbian community made sense of my teenage years, even as I knew that simply being a lesbian would never be possible for me, for many reasons.

I walked away from manhood as an identity twenty years ago, into not man.

When I think about having to play a man again, it upsets me.

I just left the system of desire because I knew I couldn’t play the part of a straight guy in a dress, couldn’t play the part of a lesbian, couldn’t be the character who potential partners wanted me to be.

When my mother pressed me to dress nicer, thinking about slacks and ties, the notion made my skin crawl.   Playing the man she envisioned just felt like hell.

All this, though, didn’t mean that I had to be seen as a woman.   I wore my gender neutral clothes, dungarees or cargo pants and a polo shirt, covered with a fleece, and walked in my own space.

I knew that people read me as a man, but as we say in Transland, you can’t care what people think of you.   Sometimes people would try and figure out what kind of a man I was, try to ping me, and the responses they got were so fuzzy that they were baffled.  Gay?   Straight?  Who knew?   I had a sharp mind they saw as masculine, great emotional understanding, which they saw as feminine, and seemed to be able to walk past the stuff that stopped most men, like personal care of my parents.

I didn’t really care if I was man enough for them or woman enough, I just cared that I was human enough, integrated enough, actualized enough.  I knew this dropped me out of the system of desire, but that was the price I knew that I had to pay.  My relationship with me was more important than being what others expected and were ready to find attractive.

At this point, where I have to go back onto the grid in some way, any sense that I have to regender myself, wrapping myself in a gender role people expect in order to be easy for them to figure out feels really difficult.

Yes, getting up in the morning and putting on man face, starting with a good haircut and a willingness to pretend I am one of the guys feels like crap, would make me cry.

But then again, putting on some kind of woman face, trying as best I can to conceal my trans nature to keep people from feeling disquieted feels like an impossible to maintain challenge.  Paper cannot wrap fire, so my truth will out.

I may believe that seeing me as woman hearted is the most sensible and effective way to be in relationship with me,  because my choices are much more on the sensitive and wiggle side, but I also know that seeing me as a man is easier for many people because they want to believe our bodies define us.

For me, the thought of having to try and squeeze into any binary, compulsory gender role makes me shudder, and actually having to do it, cut myself down to fit the expectations of others everyday would make me cry.

Breaking the bounds of binary gender was damn hard.   Like almost every trans kid, I prayed to become female, dreamed of waking up transformed.   I knew these hopes were fantastic by the time I was 13, though, telling a therapist who pushed me to tell her who I wanted to be when I grew up that I wanted to be me, just me.

This frustrated her, blunting her already crude diagnostic test, but I even by that age knew it was unsafe to reveal trans dreams, knew that there was no magic.   The gift of a lifetime is becoming who you are, Joseph Campbell said, and I knew that even then.

I understand why so many transwomen find being forced into performing manhood so incredibly soul crushing.   I understand why they dream of becoming women.   I feel both of those things on my body.

For me, though, from a very early age, I understood that the first step away from being a “man” is becoming “not man.”   That is the role I have owned for two decades now, stepping off the grid into distance.  It has been the foundation for my learning, my growth, and my own expression.

“Why do crossdressers always dress so fancy?” one woman asked me.

“Well, I explained, they tend to want to dress up as women, not to dress down as women.”

When I dress down, my gender neutral clothing will do.   When I want to dress up, though, men’s clothes just don’t do it.  I feel trapped and like a liar.

Dressing up, though, is a important part of expressing our status and authority in the world.

Clothes make the man.
Naked people have little or no influence on society.
— Mark Twain

I am a better in the world when I am not resisting who I am, not policing myself in a mine field.   The more anyone feels squeezed down, having to police their choices to stay small and inoffensive, the less they have to give to the group.

When we feel the need to resist who we are rather than celebrate it,  the shame, fear and anxiety are killers, taking an all to big chunk of our potential.

I know why lots of transwomen just can’t hack being men anymore.  That happened to me decades ago.

I also know why they want to be seen and affirmed for making feminine choices in the world, want to be able to effectively live in a woman’s role.  That is what we dreamed of, what more easily fits into the binary notions of either/or.

Does that claiming always work, or do many of us who do emerge as transwomen get lost in our own defences, our own protection, our own attempt to squeeze into a gender rather than flow freely and gracefully in the world?  We know that many do.

Jennifer Finney-Boylan recently talked about the differences between herself and Kate Bornstein.  Finney-Boylan identifies as female, while Kate identifies as something other.  Is one identification more real than the other, more valued, or is one just more objective and one more asserted?

I broke free of gender a long time ago, even though it meant breaking out of the system of desire and other gendered obligations.  That’s not something most people feel comfortable doing.

Right now, I feel an urge to squeeze back into gender, want and need the kind of connection and affirmation that doesn’t come to an iconoclast pigeonholed as a guy in a dress.  I need my possibilities affirmed, not just my history.

But I am far from sure I have the will and the wherewithal to squeeze back into anything anymore.

Anxiety Imp

To me, he’s like a wombat, long claws, ratty fur, close to the ground and as dense as iron.   From a distance he is cuddly, but up close, his nocturnal habits and marsupial face are truly fearsome.

Everyone needs a pet, someone to be with them in the dark times, and he is mine.  Because they can’t see him, everyone assumes he is imaginary, but I assure you that to me he is very real, always there in the crepuscular shadows when I need a companion.

He is my Anxiety Imp, able to stir my dread of leaving the burrow with just a whispered call.   “Really?” he seems to ask, “Do you really want to face what can happen to you out there?”

When you are taught that the world is a place of failure and pain, that you are doomed to embarrass your family if you show yourself in it, you need to learn how to keep yourself small.   Fear and trepidation are your safety forces, reminding you to keep your head down, to avoid facing authority, to stay hidden.

When you never know where the next blow-up is going to be, from parents or peers, anxiety starts to feel like your best friend.    At least you and your anxiety can curl up together as he whispers to you how smart you are staying away from the fray, soothing you with the pain and frustration you know rather than risking the possibility of much, much, much worse.

When I feel like I am living in scarcity, which I certainly have been for the past three years and before, my anxiety imp is my only companion.   To be with me, though, he demands to be fed, to be given his due.   Paying him with my resistance and trepidation, he has gotten almost as fat as I am, nibbling away at whatever scraps of faith, confidence and hope I had left.

Whenever I am facing the need or opportunity to go out, I know the best thing I can do is not think about it.  If I do, I know the Imp will smell it, getting very active and agitated.   He doesn’t want me to go, I know, doesn’t want me to leave, doesn’t want me to get hurt.  Instead, he wants me to feed him with my own growing pool of anxiety, wants to drag me back under the covers, the two of us isolated and alone.

I haven’t taken many drugs in my life, but the few diazepam I have had were blissful.  Somehow, they loosened me up enough to break the connection with that feral Anxiety Imp my mother gifted me with so long ago, letting me move beyond agitated doubt into torpid relaxation.

When I have to move beyond the zone of my anxiety, I do it with willpower, using the call of duty to do the right thing rather than the emotional thing.

Duty, though, is satisfying on a political level, not an emotional one.  Warmth, happiness, loose flow don’t come from duty, even if there is gratification in doing the right, proper and virtuous thing.    Duty is the reward of a human doing rather than a human being.

My emotions and my anxiety are tightly interlocked.   They have grown together since I was a very, very young child.   I learned not to expect love or even safety in the world, faced a barrage of being demeaned and humiliated whenever I showed part of me that was challenging to authority.   Getting hurt and erased was just a fact of life.

Without effective mirroring, without affirmation, the idea of revealing my emotional self became entangle with anxiety.   If you are going to live with anxiety, best to become comfortable with it, no matter how repulsive it may be.

Facing exposure stimulates anxiety, and my Anxiety Imp is always around to tell me stories of how exposure can leave me even more exhausted, battered and in pain.

As a “too person,” (2005), I was taught very early that what was inside me was always too much; too intense, too intellectual, too queer, too unclean, too hip, too stupid, too everything.  I was taught that I had to be circumspect about letting it out because people would find me sick and broken after I showed myself worthy of ostracism and marginalization.

I now know that much of this learning reflected my mothers response to being Aspergers, her experience of being judged and found broken by others.  There was no way, though, that with my big mind, my trans heart and my isolated raising that I was ever going to easily slip by as normative, just one of the gang.

Being an effective woman requires being able to connect emotionally with networks of people.   Women who seem to come from their smarts more than their emotion are seen as suspect and dangerous; just ask Hillary Clinton.

I have no interest or capacity to emerge as trans in the world just as an political, intellectual exercise.  I need my trans heart and the emotions which have always filled it to be seen, understood and valued rather than being reduced to a guy-in-a-dress. (1998)

Wrapping my expression of emotion with anxiety, letting the anxiety imp — that wombat or warthog or wildebeest — keep me scared and small, reluctant to show myself in the world, unable to trust that my emotions would be seen and respected, well, that just was the only way I had to feel safe from more pain and damage.

Now, my anxiety around revealing myself, around showing my heart, is so seamlessly merged with my emotions themselves that they seem inseparable.  How many times do you have to be brutally told that you are too much before the lesson is so internalized that it is welded into you?

I have created a safe space for both thought and emotion inside of me and over the years I have extended that space to others who ask for my help in finding new understanding and choices for themselves (1994).

Finding an outer safe space for my own inner person, though, has been beyond my abilities.   I have tried and tried, getting back mirroring which affirmed my anxiety rather than my own tenderness.

My anxiety imp has grown even as there has been a broader understanding and acceptance of trans in the world. Over the decades, my own thoughts and feelings on the subject have gotten more focused and deeper over the years, keeping me away from easy access and acceptance.

I curl up with my pet, the funk of anxiety comforting me as I slump into my own, safe inner world.   I don’t even know where to look for a sacred rite which affirms my transcendence rather than just my compliance, which supports my blooming into possibilities rather than just being told that I need to play by the rules & expectations of others, honouring their fears and limits.

Every time I think about trying to get my emotions expressed and mirrored in the world, I feel the anxiety swell in my gorge.  The smell of that anxiety brings my Anxiety Imp running, ready to affirm and comfort me in my own tight breathing panic session, helping to play back all the times when I have tried and failed to break though.

Doing my duty is always possible, but even though I continue to seek safe spaces for expression, claiming my inner self in community has never been.

And that leaves me to fall back into the deep and enduring bond my Anxiety Imp and I have shared for so very long.