Love It, Love It, Love It!

Helen Madden, the licensed joyologist played by Molly Shannon on Saturday Night Live, understood the key for moving from shame to joy.

You have to “Love it, love it, love it!

Helen was joyously exuberant in her love,  over the top and unable to sit still as she delighted in very single part of her life.

She is resonant, though, because living with abandon is always resonant.   Something about the size and brilliance compels us to smile.

It doesn’t matter if it is new shoes or an airplane from a kit, loving it connects you to the joy in life.   That love becomes a touchstone you can return to, a spark you can share, something that gives meaning and joy to your life.

When I meet someone new, I often ask them to tell me a story.  I want to hear their voice, understand what they fear and what they value, get a glimpse of the world through their eyes.

It might be better, though, to ask them what or who they love.    Glimpsing the passion inside, the Eros, Agape Philia and Storge that drives them, informing and motivating their choices may be a better way to understand who they are.

I love going deep, creating understanding, creating expression.   That’s great, as far as it goes.

I let go of much other love many, many years ago, starting when I understood that what I loved inside my femme heart would mostly bring me shit, when I got the fact that sharing what I loved with my mother would just get it trashed.

Sure, I loved my family with all my heart and soul, but until I could love who I knew myself to be inside, then opening to real, raw love wasn’t really possible.

Instead, love became about doing, about manipulating, about trying to get someone to give me what I needed.   I believed that showing all of myself was not a path to love, rather it was overwhelming people, scaring and disgusting them, being too queer, too intense, and too smart for the room.

I know why we learn to love things, hoping to find community around that shared love.

Learning to live with profound scarcity, though, in æsthetic denial, means that my relationship with things is very distant and constrained.   Scarcity captures the mind and my mind turned away from comfort in objects a very long time ago.

This makes it almost impossible for me to find that kind of community experience, sharing a relationship around the shared value of special things, from art to cars or motorcycles.

Growing up with a scarcity of love and mirroring but a surfeit of drama and narcissism, I learned to keep my love buried deep inside.   It may have driven me, but it all had to pass through my cerebral filters to get cleaned and rationalized before I could possibly act on it.

Raw love, I knew, was dangerous, no matter how much it formed the basis of emotional sharing between humans.   I learned very, very early that just because you loved someone there was no guarantee of them loving you back, or even if they did, their love would be a rational exercise buried deep under emotional brokeness and needy desperation.

I learned to live with the concept of love, struggling for my own healing, knowing I live in spiritual love even if the hot or warm love of the flesh was denied to me.   With a porcupine mind I was hard to love and my penetrating gorgon eyes often turned others to stone.

Marco Pierre White has fallen in love with his little part of England.   Anthony Bourdain has come to understand that emotionally satisfying food is much more potent than conceptually satisfying food  He seeks a suspension of logic and reason.   Love drives and sustains them.

When I ask people to say “yes,” to me, what I want is for them to say “yes” to my opening my love, yes to opening my joy, yes to opening up and radiating in the world.

What I usually get, though, is people explaining why I am too much, why my love is too queer, too intense and too overwhelming.  I have to attenuate myself, to be what people expect, to keep them comfortable if I want even a whiff of love in return.

Today, I know that loving something or someone that can never love me back on my terms comes with a very high cost.  Even finding community around shared love is very difficult for me.

I will never be as simple and one-note as Licensed Joyologist Helen Madden.   None of us will, no matter how much the character amuses us for a few minutes in a sketch.  That can only be a facet, not a whole person.

My love of rebirth is necessarily a love of tragedy and death, a love of the revelation that comes from being jerked awake like you just spent so much time underwater you started to lose logic and reason.

For me, the love is in the fight, in the smart engagement of another person, helping them to see more clearly, understand more deeply and feel empowered, strong, brilliant & gorgeous.  Cute & sweet, well, I lost the chance of owning that very, very early.

This is a love not easily shared.   It is not just titillating and sensational, a fun rush that leaves you ready to do it again, rather it is profound and life changing, a demand to go deep.   Over my decades my love has become suppressed and subversive, growing beyond expectations and far beyond most peoples easy engagement.

What can I love so much that sharing it will open hearts and return the kind of love I need?   What love is worth risking opening my heart for?

I know that to move beyond where I am now I have to find something that I am able to shout “Love it, love it, love it” about.  It has to be something that people understand, or my own passion will drive others far away, marginalizing me more.

That deep, intense passionate love does exist inside of me.  It always has, the foundation of my gratitude & service in the world.

Finding ways to share that love in a way that gets me love in return, though, has always been elusive for me.

I “love it, love it, love it!”  How, though, do I find a way for it to love me back?

Study Says: Third Gotcha!

When asked about the trans experience, I have often told the story about a top golf pro who takes on a game for a million dollars, where the only handicap is “three gotchas.”   He doesn’t know what that means, but how bad could it be?

On the first tee, just as he swings his opponent reaches between his legs, squeezes hard and yells “Gotcha!” into his ear.  He muffs the drive.

On the second green, just as he swings, his opponent does the same thing.  The putt goes wide.

When he gets into the clubhouse, he has lost by six strokes.

“How could you do that?” a friend asks.  “After all, he could only screw up one more swing.”

“It’s not that easy,” said the pro.  “Did you ever play sixteen holes waiting for the third gotcha?”

Now a researcher has done a study that says just the expectation of rejection, the cost of self-policing has profound effects on trans lives.

Brian Rood: Expectation of rejection makes people who are transgender feel anxious, isolated, depressed

We found overwhelmingly that transgender participants reported that they felt rejection could happen anywhere. As a cisgender person, this reality felt sobering and sad. A transgender person believes, “Anywhere I go I’m worried that something bad could happen to me.” For a cisgender person, that’s not usually the case. Our trans participants said that they felt they could be anywhere and they would be worried about rejection or safety.

The most frequent coping response to expecting rejection was avoidance.  If participants think they might be targeted for their gender identity, their response was often to avoid the situation altogether or escape. That makes for a pretty limited life.
These narratives of fear, anxiety, hypervigilance and constant worry that we collected from our trans participants seem to be parallel to someone who’s had a traumatic history.

The interview is worth a read, or you can find the paper on-line.

At least according to this study, “third gotcha” is real and costly.

Not Even Considered

When you are in the box, it’s not just that other options are out of your reach, it’s that they are out of your vision, not even on your radar.

Blinders are the way you survive.   It doesn’t matter if they come from ignorance, incidental or studied, or if they come from denial, from it being too painful to even engage what you know you can never have, all that matters is that you don’t even get to consider making those choices.

Women are those who make the choices of women.   Most women are assigned as female at birth and placed on the woman track, full of scrutiny and cute and service.  That track bounds their options, sets them in a channel.

The more queer you are the more you know how that channel limits you, how you need to emerge from it and claim something past the conventional.

It is much harder, though, to know what the options are that will fit you, will leverage who you are inside, will let your heart blossom in the world.

The limits of our vision are the limits of our possibilities, no matter how those limits are created.   Imposed barriers, cultural ignorance or wilful blindness, they all leave options that are not even considered.

As I get older, those options that stayed out of sight and only in the back of my mind, beyond my grasp so beyond my sight sometimes come back to haunt me. They are the ghosts of unconsidered dreams, killed without even a hearing, who now dance in the shadows, the pain of their loss held back for so many decades.

Everybody lives in partial light, the bounds of our choices circumscribed by the bounds of our circumstances.   For some of us, though, the darkness hides broken dreams, shards still cutting into our heart.

Time passed is time lost, fogged away in blindness and resistance.   We may have been told that our denial was not only appropriate but that it was also righteous, properly serving our family, our community and our God, but when the haze lifts to reveal the debris of the dreams we couldn’t even allow ourselves to know that we had, loss becomes palpable while the promised social respect feels like so much vapour.

So much emptiness which might have been full of rich possibilities, all bound up in choices that were not even considered.

Scary Out

Halloween is the high holiday for crossdressers.  It isn’t a good day for all other transpeople, though.

Back in the 1990s, I gave a blurb for the local trans groups Halloween party to the gay & lesbian council’s newsletter.

“I fixed your piece,” the president told me.   “You said the event was a kickoff to the Halloween season.  It isn’t a season, it’s only a day!”

He didn’t understand the freedom that Halloween represented in those days of closets and fear.  October was the month they could shop for anything with costume as the cover, the time when they found every possible party, and the moment when they could ask for help with social indulgence.

The best years were when Halloween fell on a Wednesday, because that meant two weekends and a whole week full of events, of excuses, of cover.

The problem with Halloween, though, is one of the key problems that the brilliant Jen Richards pointed out about cis men playing trans women.   Audiences think that trans is the performance, not the character.

It doesn’t matter if you dress like a princess or a witch or an historical character or a rock star, or someone from fiction & fantasy, people identify the costume as being a guy-in-a-dress.   The crossdressing is the point, not the expression.

If you see yourself as a woman everyday, being reduced to a guy-in-a-dress because you choose to wear a costume on Halloween just sucks.  It sucks in the same way seeing an actor get kudos for dressing up as trans sucks to actresses who live their lives as transwomen, who can bring character not just caricature to the role of a transperson.

Vice news did a piece on the Act Out classes run by Brad Calcaterra.   His goal is to help gay, lesbian and transpeople to trust impulse, moving past the strategies of concealment they learned when they were shamed in their formative years.

The New York Times did a piece in 2010, which specifically talks about the challenges Jamie Clayton found as an actress who wasn’t queer looking enough to play trans in a way casting directors found easy for an audience to code, but who was too queer to play cis women.  Like so many of us, she fell into the cracks between neatly coded expectations and became invisible, hidden behind imaginary walls of separation.

Training as actors, though, revolves around shows, not real life, within the bounds of what will thrill and delight an audience, be that a big commercial audience or a small artsy audience.  For most of us, the challenge isn’t playing characters on a stage but mastering the characters we play in everyday life.

When I planned that Halloween party, so many years ago, I asked people not to come in costume but instead in character.   For me the powerful possibilities of masquerade are not about covering up who you are with something big and comfortable but rather about revealing a facet of you that you keep hidden from the world.

“It’s not easy to be in a mixed marriage,” I asked one woman whose husband came as a zombie.  She immediately smiled and played along, offering how when bits fell off of him now rather than bothering sewing them back on she just called the dog.   It was an exercise of imagination and play for her, not just an excuse to look hot or get wasted.

Trying on is mostly how kids see Halloween, a time to make a bold claim and try on the skin of someone or something that they want to invoke in their life.   The costumes may be simple, but they invoke power and possibility.

All this changes, of course, when costumes become more about the audience than the impulse, trying to be attractive rather than be bold, individual and unique.  When they become about fitting in, just about an excuse for getting wasted, hope is lost.

There are moments, though, playful moments I found on Halloween, that live with me.   None of them ever lead to anything past that night, though, to converting revelation into life, but those moments counted, at least to me if not to those who had to be normative again the next day.

For people like me, Halloween never really ends, because we always have to be aware of the power of costume and performance.   Others may drop back to a normative and unconsidered expression the day after, but it is rarely so easy for transpeople who need to convey meaning past expectations every day.

Spaces that offered freedom of expression, encouraging play and experimentation were vital to us as we emerged in the world.  We needed that kind of open affirmation as we tried on new expressions to reveal parts of ourselves that got hidden behind the conventional.

Emerging, though, isn’t something that stops at a certain time.  It’s easy to get stuck at a certain point, easy to get trapped in a comfortable expression that hides much of the special energy that we carry within.

Festivals of expression allow us to swing the pendulum wide, trying on something so bold, brash and outrageous that it would be scary in everyday life.   By invoking, though, we can claim pieces of ourselves that were always there but got submerged under our mundane self.

“In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.”

Taking time to remember that we are not just the role we are thrust into everyday, the one we wear so diligently, helps us find not only a broader connection to others but also a deeper connection to the hidden parts of us.

The elements of all this power exist in festivals like Halloween, and as a transperson, I teased them out when I needed them.

Today, though, the commercial Halloween has taken the fore, just like the machine made red shoes ready to trap us in a seductive and draining Eros.

I long for playfulness and abandon, for the safe zone to try on something new.

When done well, the Halloween Season can bring us many deep rewards of imagination, moving beyond boundaries and emergence.

Today, though, it mostly feels to be about status and surface.

For me, that’s what makes Halloween scary.


Almost above all else, I want to be credible.

I decided very early that it was more important to be respected than to be liked, partly because my parents didn’t really know how to be charmed by anyone but they did know how to think.

When I first emerged, I was a guy-in-a-dress, not removing body hair, using the name my parents gave me at birth, striving for balance beyond convention, a kind of androgyny (or gynandrony, maybe, with the feminine first.)

I knew this approach was credible, without the claims of womanhood and femaleness that went unconsidered and unsubstantiated in other transpeople, especially the “Now I’m Biff!  Now I’m Suzy!”  Prince style crossdressers, but also the “I have always been a woman, no matter how long I lived as a man!” Benjamin style transsexuals.

Today, their attempt to find ideas & words that rationalized and defended their choices, notions that played into “one or the other” binary belief (1997), is totally comprehensible, even if moving beyond those conventions is the only way I found to tell the truth, even if it is a shimmering and multi-faceted truth which can only be expressed with quantum, Talmudic contradictions.

I honed my language for precision, pushing out sloppiness and codifying meaning in a way that most never take the time to do before pontificating on theory.   That is why my words have discipline, why I can easily connect what I wrote in the late nineteen-eighties with what I share today in the mid twenty-teens.

Around 2000, though, I gave up on trying to argue theory and started to move to poetry, to a much more emotive and personal view of the world we all share.  I realized that the personal narrative often conveyed much more truth than the “logic” of philosophical language, even though my style would continue to alloy the what I see as best parts of both of them.   While this means my work alienates both those who are uncomfortable with deep emotion and those who are uncomfortable with deep thought, it is the only way I found to credibly make myself visible in the world.

The limitations of holding fast to what I worked so hard to know to be credible, though, is that to many people who are immersed in conventional. either/or thinking, it makes just makes my voice incredible.

What I share is just “too much information” (TMI) for them, too much distracting, off-putting and challenging noise.

The irony that my quest to be credible though precision has left me incredible in the world, that struggling for honesty has left me suspect, is not lost on me.   It very much harkens back to the “lie or be called a liar” issue I faced as I emerged, where truth was seen as a lie and lies seen as the truth because they were always filtered by an either/or, one or the other mindset.

If I want to be seen as more credible in the outer world, I have to make assertions that I know to be less than credible,  choosing to obscure parts of me so that they don’t create noise which makes the other parts suspect and incredible.

That communication, though, isn’t just verbal or in manner, it also goes to foundations, to the foundation of my body, the foundation of my history and the foundation of my worldview which is contained in my whole story.    Ripples of my sharp mind, well, they queer the impression, making others wondering what I am trying to hide, what I “really” am.

As legions of hucksters have proven over the centuries, the most credible person isn’t the one with the best grasp of the multi-layered nuances of truth, rather it is the one who most closely matches our expectation of what credibility should look and sound like.

Symbols of status, assertions of power and affirming their longstanding beliefs are what most people use to determine credibility in another. It is a credibility based on emotional cues, not logical veracity.

In fact, they often want to dismiss anyone who challenges their worldview as incredible just to defend their own comfort, choices and rationalizations.

Jumping from my own history of credibility through precision to the assertion of credibility through emotive performance feels almost impossible to me.

One of the most foundational jobs I ever had was a year behind the camera counter.    It was almost a standalone shop inside a department store, where we had a wide range of options and sold the customers individually.

In almost no time I was the top earner in the department because I saw what and how to sell, collecting spiffs left and right.   When they got rid of the technical manager and brought in a sales pro, he wasn’t really happy with me because his plan was to increase numbers over years and I was selling too much, too fast.

He didn’t understand how I made sales without the flash and razzle-dazzle he used, all sharp clothes and winking close.   Instead, I played the credible camera nerd, smart and geeky, looking honest even as I was always aware of the best deal for me, too.

That experience in selling was the basis for anything I did after, performing versions of the same character to close the deal.

What character do I have to perform to pitch my trans nature?   And where do I get the zone and support to practice it, to learn how to reveal another kind of sincere credibility?    I’m not so young and eager anymore and what I have to sell isn’t as simple as chunks of metal and glass (or maybe plastic.)

I know my own credibility.  I know that credibility is based on hard won truths, on the jewels I claimed out of the sewage on my own difficult journey.

What I don’t know is how to translate that credibility into something that is credible just walking through the world, credible to people who find the complex incredible.

Almost above all else, I want to be credible.  Being credible to both myself and to a world which is comforted by the imaginary walls based on faith in either/or, though, seems almost impossible.


Max Klinger is, I suggest, one of TVs most famous transpeople.

When Klinger first appeared on M*A*S*H, he just popped out in a sheath dress and a rifle and said “Halt!  Who goes there?”

Jamie Farr said that they originally tried it with a fey, swishy kind of reading, but it didn’t play funny, so they just went with his own Toledo voice.

Some say that he cameo was a reference to a story in Lenny Bruce’s 1965 autobiography “How To Talk Dirty And Influence People.”   In it, Bruce wants to get discharged so he dresses in women’s clothing, but because he doesn’t want to be seen as unpatriotic, rather than heels and a boa he has a WAVE uniform made up.   In the end, he is given a dishonourable discharge but the Red Cross intercedes and it is changed to a general discharge.

There were always LGBT people in the military a topic well addressed in Allan Bérubé’s “Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War II”  While some commanders felt the need to purge units, most were well accepted as part of diverse units, often in roles of medical staff or assistant clergy where a kind of tenderness was required.

Max Klinger is just a fictional character in a very long running TV show, so his role was first and foremost to serve the production.   That meant getting a laugh, or showing instincts, even to the point where he had to take the role of company clerk when Gary Burghoff left, abandoning his finery.

This obligation to be whatever the production needs is the downfall of every fictional character where any sense of purity gets abandoned for something as simple as a better camera angle or dropping a red herring.   A character is at the whim of the director, so they are not real, not authentic, only game pieces used to forward the story.

For his first years, though, it was made very clear that Klinger cared a great deal about his wardrobe.   He needed to win in the poker game to win a new garter belt, adjusted his outfit to suit the occasion, was always ordering new clothes and even lent his frocks to needy nurses.

Farr notes that his dresses were pulled from the wardrobe vault at 20th Century Fox so he was always amused when the tags inside showed it has previously been assigned to a famous actress in a big 1950s movie.

The amazing thing about Klinger is how in the context of the story and in the context of the television audience of the time, his crossdressing was just no big deal.

The premise of M*A*S*H was astonishing.  These people worked incredibly hard to save the lives of those damaged in war everyday, often losing them, and so when they were off duty, they went a little nuts.  What other show had routine scenes in a canvas operating room and could cut from tragedy to hilarity so quickly with the audience happy to be there?

As long as we believed these people did their horrific jobs with intensity and dedication, well, we could cut them plenty of slack.

We knew Klinger did his job well and while doing it he kept spirits up, entertained the troops and claimed his own love of the fancy, all while rationalizing the whole thing was just to get sent home.    That kind of crazy didn’t seem so bad crazy in the midst of the craziness of armies trying to kill each other.

Klinger wasn’t Milton Berle, broadly playing broads for laughs, or even Peter Kastner stuck in a very stupid premise.   He was, instead just someone trying to stay sane in an insane world, his crossdressing just accepted by the people he worked with everyday.

Even though I know the canonical version of Klinger went on to “After M*A*S*H,”  I like to imagine a very different outcome for him.

In my version, he goes back to Toledo where his clear peddler roots lead him to open a women’s clothing store and spends a lot of time in amateur theatre where he likes to get dressed up, but is willing to take the lead in “Guys & Dolls.”

I mentioned Klinger as a crossdresser to some transpeople recently and they just laid out the rant against CIS people playing trans, and how the character was just some joke.   None of them, though, had spent time at trans support groups in the 1980s where lots of crossdressers came just to have an evening out while always holding tight to their man role, the one they had to wear everyday.

Even I know that by serving the story, Klinger was just a pawn of the writers, directors and producers, but it was my sense that they knew guys in Hollywood who were a lot like Klinger.   In Altman’s 1974 “California Split,” the call girls the guys flirt with have a “date” with a “Helen Brown,” played by Bert Remsen, who wants a night out with the gals but gets more than she bargained for.

When I see Klinger, I hear the cry that is out on some many trans sites: why can’t I just wear whatever I want to work?

That’s just what Klinger did, and in a war zone no less.

This doesn’t make these people comfortable, though, because they don’t want to look like Klinger, no matter how lovely his movie star wardrobe was.   They are more like “Helen Brown” who want to be seen as women, beautiful and feminine, even though they know the limits and don’t want to give up their standing as men.

Klinger was one ballsy crossdresser, doing his part for the soldiers and claiming his own freedom while doing it.  How American is that?

I remember back the 1990s when I was on an escalator in a mall in San Francisco.   There were a troupe of queens shooting a movie scene below, which made me smile.

“Isn’t it great to live in a free country?” I said to no one in particular.

The man on the step behind me said “That’s just what I was thinking!”

His wife said “I want to know where they got that raincoat.”

Klinger was trans, out and proud, even if his character was bent and twisted for the needs of the show.

His coworkers and the audience thought the same thing; do your work and claim your own freedom.  Whatever you want to wear, that’s OK with us.

For those of us who don’t want to be seen as a guy-in-a-dress (1999), there are other challenges that I have covered in profusion.

But Max Klinger, well, I salute you.

And I hope the whole thing with the dress shop and the local theatre worked out great.


I’m really good in the moment.   I stay focused, listen hard, respond clearly, look calm and centred.

It’s afterwards that the stress just pounds me hard, leaving me with symptoms like a huge headache and a need to go into the silence.

I had to call in a complaint to a beverage company today, and while I was fine on the call, the stress after just got me slammed.   The recovery was hard and long, even for something so simple.

It’s an acute awareness of the cost of that aftershock that leads me to avoid getting into situations that it would be better if I just handled in the first place.  The avoidance ripples down, adding to the price and adding to the avoidance.

This isn’t the way that people like to thinks anxiety works.   If you do it and it comes out well, then you should feel more confident, more capable, right?   Learning that success is possible should help ease anxiety, right, rather than just adding to it.

For me, that’s not the way it works.   Open up that deep pool of lived anxiety, the powerful emotions that I had to learn to perform over, and it’s open.  I am alone with my feelings again just like I learned to be so very long ago.

Sharing those feelings is possible, but without effective mirroring of those feelings, well, deep healing is very hard.   No matter how elegantly I explain them, the trauma and stress of my life are not eased until I can feel a human touch of understanding, compassion and love.

I am powerful in battle, appearing above the fray, acting with grace and almost instant deliberation, but only I know what kind of a cost that presence costs me.  Other people just can’t imagine the work I do inside and when I try to explain, they quickly shut down and move away, not wanting to engage depths I go to.

Compartmentalizing is something I can do, performing the leader, but not feeling the powerful and buried emotions that flow through my own femme heart is beyond my capabilities.  That energy looks scary on me, big and bright and sharp and queer, so people step back, believing that I should just be left to handle it on my own, be left to be the tough and durable guy.

Inside though, I know how tender I am, how tender I have had to be to care with compassion for those who are not able to manage their own healing.   They are having enough challenge engaging their own emotions, so adding mine to their burden would be just counterproductive.

There was never a time when I could rely on anyone else to be safe and understanding, giving me space and kindness to just let me be, feeling my own gut.   Instead, I had to learn to deny my instincts so as not to inflame or engage others, had to use internalized shame & discipline to keep my heart under almost absolute control.

I know that I am not allowed to show my hurt or disappointment because others will see me as being judgmental and nasty.  Instead, as concierge, I have to turn the other cheek and patch up any damage when I am finally alone.

People often feel entitled to act out against the smart, the queer, the men, projecting their own pain, fear, rage and frustration onto the phobogenic objects they identify as causing their pain.   They have an expectation that somehow, we are supposed to manage their feelings, even though those feelings are only inside of them, only rooted in their own unhealed spaces.

Without networks to discharge and heal the traumatic effects of being acted out upon, to understand, encourage and affirm, those injuries tend to add up.  Getting only the response of “Well, you screwed up by asking too much, by being too big and too queer, by not being normal,” only adds to insult, deepening the pain.

It’s lovely to think that just getting out, facing tough situations and surviving them will somehow make me stronger, getting over the profound anxiety in my heart.

My anxiety, though doesn’t come from some nice rational place where I can just get a more clear understanding to get over it.   Rather, it comes from a lifetime of emotional trauma, comes from someplace far below smart logic.

Learning how to use the force of willpower to overcome those feelings was very much a triumph for me.   My intellect was able to keep me going in situations when others would have crumpled.

Having other people understand and value that enormous effort, though, was almost impossible.  Instead, they just told me that I should have done more, that whatever I could muster was not enough and I failed by not coming closer to their idea of perfection.  If I could do what I did, they thought, then surely I could do more, right?

My skills though, like everyone’s skills, are jagged.  Just because I can do something you find hard doesn’t mean that I can do something you find easy.   Holding me to that kind of standard is erasing my humanity in the cause of you finding an easy way to avoid doing the hard work of being there for me.

I know how use willpower to keep down my feelings, but I also know that willpower is a finite resource.   Use it up and it is gone.

Even if it isn’t totally gone, the thought of having to climb back into that suit of mental armour at my age, well, it sounds like entering another realm of hell.   Maybe, if doing it lead me to success and then objective rationality helped ease my anxiety by easing the toxic aftereffects of engagement in hard situations, doing that exposure work would have benefits, but in my experience, even success doesn’t help me avoid the deep pain after anxiety.

It’s not failure that I fear, rather it is the cost after having to get in another fight with people who don’t understand or respect me that is what I so want to avoid. Win or lose, the fight has a price on my skin.

I am battered and tattered after a lifetime of battles, mostly sacred battles that I poured my love into.  Healing has been almost impossible to find, no matter how much I do the therapy to understand, to share myself and my journey.

People want me to get over this anxiety, to go back and engage the world.  They hope if I understand success is possible if I am just willing to fight harder for it, I will come out and enter the bigger world.

They are right, of course.   If I just fight for it, I have the smarts and skills to win, maybe not what I want, but some of what I need.

The cost of a lifetime of fights informs my deep, anxious desire to fight anymore, though.   I don’t see a win worth fighting for that is as important as giving my parents one more good day, just don’t see a place where I others will stand beside me and we can fight together.

I tried to learn new ways to approach the world without armour, depending on charm and grace instead, but my performance coach saw himself as a life coach and decided that he wanted to teach me to stand up and fight for myself.  This was highly counterproductive.  Learning to trust new ways of being public at my age and my size without benefit of effective support and feedback is well neigh impossible.   Conscious vulnerability is much harder to teach than a bit of deeper analysis.

Now, though, my headache from just battling with the courteous soda rep still tightens my skull, and that was an easy & simple battle, I know.    How or why should I endure bigger ones?

Life may not be life without a fight, but the cost of a lifetime of battles is high.   It’s after the trauma that the costs, at least for me, come due.

I started early and fought alone.

That took a toll.

Performing Past Tragedy

“The neighbour says that we just have to keep moving,” my sister announced to me after making me wait over a half hour to show up so I could give her the food I had made for her.

“I’m not sure that’s true,” I mumbled.

“Yes,” she sneered back.  “I didn’t think you would be.”

In my experience contemplative people value action, those who get things done and even times when they themselves take action.

Action oriented people, though, often don’t value contemplation, the power of reflection and thought.

For them, action isn’t just an end in itself but also a way to avoid having to engage the loss and tragedy, the spiritual questions which speak to our values.   The results of action are visible and immediate, but the results of contemplation slow us down, demanding we live a considered life.

While I value action and its results, I often also see where living a life with only action leads us to a disconnect between our outer and inner worlds, leaving us able to put our head down and do the work but unable to really understand our deeper priorities, to be really present and open to the world around us.

“I don’t want to have to dress up for Halloween at work!” my sister railed to me yesterday.  “How can they force me to be creative and be a heads down go getting robot team player 60 hours a week?   I don’t want to give them any more of myself!  I want to stay concealed, not letting them steal my inner essence, just like I had to stay concealed to stop my narcissistic, Aspergers mother from making my personal stories about her!”

As my parents caretaker, I worked for them over twelve hours a day, seven days a week for months and months on end.   Action was always required.

I couldn’t, though, take a robotic approach to my duties.  My most important job was to help them through the tragedy they were experiencing,  interpreting the outside world to them and helping them negotiate their own feelings, making them feel safe, heard, cared for and mirrored.

My time of contemplation gave me the structures to help them.   I had done the work to unwire my own buttons so much that when my mother made me her therapist, saying things like “my husband sometimes put the children agead of me and that hurt me deeply,” I could respond with wisdom and grace rather than screaming at her that I was one of those children and we needed much more than we ever got because of her shit.

After she prayed over my mothers body, still in the recliner where she died, the deacon from hospice noted that she had never seen someone sob silently before.  It was a technique I had to develop to process my own feelings while not upsetting my parents, a way to keep the action moving while I was still emotionally present, open and vulnerable.

According to one trainer, my character makeup should not exist, because I cross between slow and fast, between thinking and emotion, making a slash on his four quadrant graph.  To me, though, that is just another way I am a bridge, passing through the walls his chart identified as real.

Fast performer and slow analyst together, I value emotion, speed & action while I also value thought, contemplation & depth.   There is a reason I can snap to being present for others, getting the work done, while also offering them a reflection of what they have compartmentalized off, have put aside to let them grunt into the demands of serving the machine.

Awareness is hard, which is why we so often wall our own emotions off, leaving us free to do the dirty work that is needed.   When our emotions do come up, we don’t want to engage them, to feel and understand what the deeper messages are, but instead want to fix them, discharge them, get over them so we can go back to normative again.

When men get into therapy, an old saw goes, they need the first year to acknowledge that they do indeed have feelings and the second year to understand that they they won’t die if they actually feel them.   Opening up those pits of suppressed feelings just seems to be more dangerous than keeping them buried, even if it means stuffing their emotional holes with whatever is at hand.  A drink rather than a deep conversation?   Don’t mind if I do!

For many, it seems incredibly obvious that if my feelings, my experience of tragedy is swamping me, then I should just put them away, take action and get over my damn self.  After all, don’t they have pills that will do that today, fixing depression and allowing you to be normal again?

The idea that I have never been normative just isn’t on their radar.  I worked very hard for every action I took, doing what other people needed in the hope they would see me, reflect me and support me being who I am, even if that was too queer for their taste.

For me, small talk has always been hard work, demanding the discipline of æsthetic denial, putting my own feelings away.  Instead, I had to become deeply self aware just to survive as a child in my mother’s home.  That early adultification did not serve me well in connecting with my peers, one of the foundational elements that pushed me into theology rather than action.  Love in my home was theoretical much more than it was embodied, so understanding it on a conceptual level was my only choice.

I know how that affected me, but I also see how it affected my siblings, isolating them from their own feelings, actualization and empowerment.   They satisfy others because they don’t know how to satisfy themselves.

In my life, I had to learn to perform past tragedy, to put up the shields, get my head down and just perform the persona I had to be in that moment, invulnerable and tough.  I can still do that when required, but as I get older I have less energy to put on a front and more awareness that doing that won’t really get me much closer to what I desperately need.

If I choose to be who and what other people want me to be, I can satisfy them, yes, but how will that every help me satisfy myself?

Some will say that action is an end in itself, that the work is what is important.  They don’t see or value, however, the work that I do, the reflective, contemplative work that leads me to creation almost every day.   While they like it when a bit of that helps them through, too much is just overwhelming and challenging, because they need to keep active, not stopping to be present in away that might reveal real tragedy.

How can my blah-blah-blah ever compare to real success, the kind people pay you for?   How can my complicated gibberish ever balance the feeling when you git ‘er done?

Action is vital, no doubt.

I just don’t believe action is all that gives the human experience meaning.

Tragedy, Rage & Ritual

After my parents died, I went to grief support sessions at a local cancer support centre.

The people in the room understood a bit of heartbreak, but they also understood the goal: to get their nice, normal little lives back.  They chatted about events they went to and reminders, but all in a sweet, small way

“I am so upset when people tell me that I am on a journey,” one woman said, “because journeys are supposed to be fun!”

The only woman I connected to was a mother who had lost a teenager to leukemia and in the end, c.diff.   She stood out from the mostly older crowd who had lost a partner because both her deep investment in caregiving and her profound sense of loss had to inform the way she related to her family, partner and other children.

I knew I didn’t fit.   After all, by this time I had been thrown out of two senior caregiver support groups because no matter how I helped others, my challenges and energy were too big for the group, who, according to the facilitator, should have the dream of things getting back to normal.

Death was coming, I said, and we better be prepared for it.   Offer one more good day and help the people we loved find whatever peace and meaning they could manage as they faced this next transformation.

If  we can’t talk about death, we can’t really talk about life.   We stay on the surface, not understanding things like what it really means to die on the cross with meaning, grace, tragedy and transcendence.

I was at a session the legendary Rachel Pollack was doing when one tarot reader asked about something that puzzled her.   She was doing a reading for someone she knew was close to death, but the cards showed good omens.   What was wrong?   Why were the cards lying?

She couldn’t imagine that there was anything after that terrifying transition that could be positive.   It wasn’t in her awareness that anything but what she knew, understood and clung to could have value.

Religious belief helped people who lived much closer to the earth, lived a much more precarious and exposed life than we do today, deal with tragedy.   They knew how life could turn, knew about famines and floods and disease and war and death, but their understanding of the forces at play were not wrapped in scientific terms.

Instead, they looked to gods, to a belief system that threaded through family and community.

The elements of the theatrical were first the elements of the religious.   For a big relationship with tragedy they needed big rituals, enormous and powerful, consuming and transcendent.

When we see some of the remnants of the awesome and majestic theatricality that expressed huge beliefs — the terra cotta warriors, the pyramids, Stonehenge, medieval cathedrals and so on —  today they seem outsized to us.

Rituals, though, are always meant to connect us with forces bigger and more powerful than can carry alone.    They are dramatic and stylized, full of nuance and coded meaning because they have to be to allow us to move beyond.  Nice and small isn’t the point; only awesome and huge will do the job.

Today we want comfortable rituals, being able to pick and choose only the good bits like we can when holding a TIVO remote.  Having to suffer a bit, to surrender to something which might demand our transcendence is not really what we signed up for, because, after all, the mall is open and we have brunch plans.

Ritual confirms our connection to God and community.    They challenge us to open up wide and feel the power of the universe throb through us, engage in big, dramatic displays of emotion and belief which acknowledge tragedy and affirm transcendence.   They are mystical and profound, full of poetry and rage, demanding our own tenderness be treasured.

When we live in an age where that kind of religious fervour is not accepted unless it falls under normative nomenclature, how can the essential fever dance that trans emergence required ever be respected and valued?

Trying to replace the cosmic energy of revelation that has always fuelled trans expression with nice, small, pseudo-scientific creation myths may allow us a bubble in this world, but it never touches our deep tragedy and deeper transcendence.

The notion of sickness creating having a mind-body mismatch lead us to medicalization, with the sacrament of exogenous hormones and the ritual of genital reshaping.

The notion of sweet and fun hobbies honouring women lead us to a system of rationalization where being a woman for a night was fun but needing to be one for more than that got us kicked to the street where we could join the other cult.

We have come up with many creation myths to rationalize transgender expression, from the oppressive structures of gender to the playful performance of cocky abandon.

All of these offer apparently rational cover for being trans in the world, sure, but do they really provide the deep spiritual resonance, the big and awesome drama which allows us to know our creation is essential and our expression is sacred? Do they really connect us with the forces humans have always turned to to transcend the fact of tragedy, the religious and dramatic?

Playing small, the obligation to be demure & tame, denies us the awesome scope & breadth of the knowledge that compels us to emerge as queer, connective, and transcendent in the world.   Having to fit into structures designed for a kind of comfort that maintains the economic status quo means that our own intensity and connection can never really be mirrored or valued.

In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.   I knew that was my mission statement the moment I heard anthropologist Anne Bolin say it.

Those rituals need to be powerful, transformative and outrageous to really get to the fundamental power which has always and will always flow through humans, our connection to each other and to our Gods who carry the stories of the eternal.

Nice and small and normative and easy will never do.   Transcendence, and the emergence of the soul that comes with it, are always about moving beyond the little, the expected, the imposed.   Always.

The ambiguous, the questioning, the shimmering, the acknowledgement of truth beyond simple divisions is at the heart of trans knowledge in the world.    Trying to cut it down to a medical problem, a hobby, or a political movement does not change that, does not simply contextualize the truth we hold that the spirit is always, always, always more important than the body which hold it.

As transpeople, most of us don’t want this burden of revelation to be placed on us, not because we don’t understand it but because we understand the price of speaking up for transcendence, the cost of being a voice of connection in the world.   We dream of fitting in, not standing out, so it feels like the best we can do is try to trim ourselves down to fit expectations, attempting to kill off the challenging bits of our nature.

The lesson, though, is one that humans who worshipped spirit creatures would understand: we are not to be valued for what we are on the outside, on how we fit nicely into the economic values marketers cherish, rather we are to be valued for who we are on the inside, for how we bring connection to the group.

It is our hearts which tie us together, not how we meet standards and expectations of appearance and status.  The social demand to be the same on the outside erases the spiritual imperative to honour our creation by being powerfully who we are on the inside, using our uniqueness and not simple compliance to give the best of us to our tribe.

This is a big truth, one that the religious experience can only express through big ritual, events that tie us to the spirit world all around and through us.

Profound trans expression is not about brokenness or abjection, nor is it simply a goof about wearing a bit of costume.   It is not a political statement about patriarchy nor is it an attempt to be sexually attractive, although it has facets of all of those things.

Instead the core of trans expression is about going with deep and personal revelation, about following our heart and trusting our spirit over the machine made expectations of culture.

And that is a big, big, big deal, full of rage and fury, signifying everything.

Tragedy And Triumph

My triumph is inseparable from my tragedy.   They are two sides of the same coin.

Any rebirth I have achieved came at the price of death, letting go of the past to claim the future.

Transcendence always requires a leap, losing something — comfort, safety, defences, youth, ignorance — to claim something more.  “Normal” must be shattered to allow the new to emerge.

Miracles exist in the way my perception shifts, seeing beyond the fear I held to embrace the love that I need.

Until my heart breaks and my mind opens, they cannot grow and expand to take in a bigger vision of how I am connected to the universe through pain and joy.

This is the lesson in every trans story, the ones people write off as “brave” and the ones they write off as “demented,” that to claim who we are deep inside we need to be willing to journey beyond comfort and convention to reveal our spirit beyond being trapped in the expectations and assumptions of others.   We have to own our own power, our own individuality, our own queerness.

As we tell the heartbreaking stories of what we lost, the personal tragedy of how people dehumanized us, marking us as freaks, as suspect, we also tell the transformational stories of how we moved beyond and followed the deep inner knowledge of our personal creation over the projections and fears of those around us.

Trans expression is the triumph of the soul truth, of considered and creative emergence over the limiting presumptions imposed on us.  Society was set up to protect the status quo, to only accept a kind of determinism based on reproductive biology that enforced a heterosexist, breeding metaphor, using sexism to break apart humanity so we could only have what we need when we came together in heterosexual pair bonded relationships.

We had to break the rules to be more fully ourselves and the price we paid for that was tragic, yes, isolated by the fears and determined ignorance around us, but the gifts we received, the truth we claimed is transcendent.

As individuals, though, being able to claim our own jewels, to get over the tragedy we know that being trans in this world has cost us, the alienation, abuse and shaming, is a very hard thing to do.   We live very alone in our closets, seeing a vast sea of people who are ready to tell us who we really are and very few who are willing to see inside, trust our soul and support us through the bruising path towards emergence.

The mines and attacks we face are very clear to us, a third gotcha waiting around every corner, planted deep within our head, the fears driving an authoritarian self policing which keeps us small, keeps us broken and often keeps us lashing out at those who make choices we have denied to ourself out of a sense of implanted furor.

Our tragedy and our triumphs are so interwoven, together so incredibly provocative to those who want to stay in their comfort zone, that they can not be separated.

We depend on those who engage us to understand that the tragedy we have endured always holds the seeds of our triumph and the triumphs we proclaim have always come at the cost of profound tragedy.   They are two sides of the coin we paid to find a way to be true to our heart and a part of culture, to be both loving, tame members of society and bold, wild respecters of our inner truth.

Sharing our very human stories demands those who care about us open their very human hearts, understanding that the walls we want to place between men and women, between good and evil, between tragedy and triumph are only illusions.    Nothing is one or the other, and in this finite world, every victory comes with a cost.

Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.   The price of rebirth is always death, just as the price of spring is always winter.  Choices must be made, repercussions must be endured, loss must be accepted before the new and better can emerge.

As individual transpeople in the throes of change we cannot always speak for the full circle of terror and transcendence, of tragedy and triumph.  We tell our stories, open our experience, needing to trust that others will be able to see the jewels in the sewage, value our fight for both the costs and the joys it brings.

To ask transpeople to only share the happy parts, the nice parts, the clean parts, to try and force our stories into binaries, casting us as holy victims and others as evil oppressors, to demand that we respect your own fears & fundamentalism by following the political correctness that keeps you comfortable, well, that is to deny us our rich and full humanity.   It is to require us to keep self policing just to keep you unchallenged because you reserve the right to lash out against that which challenges your own rationalizations by exposing your own fears.

I know why our stories are too trans or not trans enough for directors to put in their projects, because our lives are full of the nuance and ambiguity which comes from exposing deep and profound humanity.    We are never just tragic or triumphant, never just one or the other, never just simple and surfaced, even if that would make the story easier to tell, make it go down better by serving the audiences assumptions and expectations.

Trans reveals that nothing is just one or the other, including revealing that triumph never comes without the price of tragedy, that tragedy never comes without the seeds of triumph.     To go there demands that we go there, not just trying for some desired or expected outcome but instead being open to the divine surprises that will change everything, demolishing our assumptions and opening us to connection.

Any demand to separate triumph from tragedy ends up with us not being able to comprehend the scope and power of either of those fundamental human forces.

Trusting Instinct

Self policing, particularly policing done when you believe your safety & security depends on it, is always over policing.

You check every choice, always staying well within the boundaries you see.  Not only do you want to stay on the right side, you even want to avoid being suspect, because being suspect feels too very close to being belted.

People who grew up with a trans heart were taught early that there would be blowback and repercussions if we didn’t keep our nature hidden.   We were told that it would just get worse, told that we deserved whatever we got because we brought it on ourselves by breaking the rules of polite society.

A few of us turned rebel, learning to take joy and satisfaction in the “in your face” moments when we challenged restricted thinking, but most of us learned to keep our head down, stay inside the lines, avoid any sign that we were somehow queer.

How could we trust our own instincts, our own heart, when it so loudly called for us to cross sex/gender lines and show ourselves in a way that others called perverted, sick, indulgent and depraved?

Learning not to trust our instincts, to not open up and take a risk because we were terrified that the cost of failing may be more than we could possibly bear, has a very high cost.

Breaking from our instincts is putting a brake on our heart, clamping down on the desires and callings that might lead us into danger.

Put a break on your heart for long enough, alienating yourself from your instincts, and you will end up breaking your own heart.

At SCC the barman overheard me say that the ultimate trans surgery is pulling the broomstick out of your own ass.

“Oooh, that sounds painful!” he opined.

“It is,” I agreed, “but imagine how much worse it is to just leave it in forever.”

As transpeople, we learn early that our heart is going to be broken one way or the other, by others who want to “correct” us or by our own actions, so we learn to take the disciplined choice.  It is the same as the choice between learning to lie or accepting being called a liar (1997), a no win situation that leaves us profoundly alienated from our own human nature.

Bounding our own choices to those which we believe will not cause unwanted attention is always hard.   It means that other people read us as less than relaxed and authentic, suspecting that we are trying to hide something and sometimes thinking the worst about what that thing might be.

Not trusting our instincts cuts us off from the playful energy that connects us easily with other people.   Trusting our instincts and falling flat, though, having other people look at us with separation & disgust, is even more painful.  When people don’t get the joke, we end up just looking shit.

If the goal is to satisfy our audience, to stay within their comfort zone and cultural references, then we need to attenuate and modulate our expression to what they will approve.

If our goal is to be authentic and present in the world, expressing a deep truth, though, we need to be able to speak from the heart without invasive, iron fisted self-editing.

How do we learn to trust the instincts we were taught early to fear, believing they would take us beyond social approval, beyond love?

But how do we ever find approval and love if we can’t find a way to love ourselves, including our heart and our better, beautiful instincts?

What scares me is how much more I may be able to go on trusting my instincts than I once thought!

Maybe I really do exist.
I used to be afraid of that.


My life has very much been a struggle towards the notion of trusting my instincts.

The still, small voice needs to be heard and acted on, not just ignored, compartmentalized, twisted, rationalized, policed or analyzed.

In my inner world, I very much trust that inner voice. I fight to express it — to express them, as my Jonathan Winters energy told me so long ago — in my own space.

Finding a way to trust that instinct in the outer world is harder, simply because it has lived so long in the darkness, has gone so far away from where the audience is.

If I had one thing to tell the younger me it would be to trust that inner voice, to take a fling on it, boldly sing it out while you are still young and vital and have the chance of being cute.

Don’t fear the song God put in your heart, the nature she gave you. Trust it, because she made you for this world.

My chasing instinct beyond ornery has been very constrained, leading to dried parchments of what I can offer. It is my life, but the juice of human exchange, the fluids of the body are needed to sustain you and help you grow beyond the mind and into the blossom of life.

You definitely do really exist. Opening yourself and trusting your instincts is trusting your creation, both the work you have done and the spark your mother in the sky kissed into you.

When you find a choice between love and fear, always choose love.

Even when it means trusting the messy, audacious, vulnerable, awesome human you are inside.

Love is in your heart.



Essential Tragedy

Every human life is a dance with tragedy.

Heartbreaking things happen all the time.   The challenge each of us has is finding a way to heal, to learn, to move on from tragedy, making the most of what we do have rather than being sunk by our pain and our losses.

“The Loneliness Of A Long-Lost Tranny.”

That’s been the tagline on this blog since the beginning, eleven years next month.

And that is, I now understand, a cogent expression of my own personal tragedy, the one that has sunk me.

The essential tragedy of being trans in the world is not related to body issues or mental instability.  Rather it is located in the alienation, the isolation of not having a network of people who mirror us effectively, seeing, understanding and valuing us in a way that helps us move tragedy from something shameful we carry within to something human which connects us with others.

A history of being marginalized and shamed makes it very hard for transpeople to move beyond the pain of tragedy to the revelation of fundamental humanity and essential beauty.  We learn to police ourselves viciously, trying to keep our tragedy hidden and away while all the time it devours us, always ready to seep out.

Compartmentalizing our own experience of tragedy is useful, but when the emotional tank gets full, we need some way to vent, some way to act out.

I knew about tragedy and denial very early.

Sure, we are all born to suffer and die,” I wrote on a card I had printed up when I was seventeen.

But before you go,” it continued on the inside, “try the pâté.  It’s wonderful.

Tragedy, I knew was guaranteed.

Having someone to understand and mirror the feelings it brought up, to stand with compassion and kindness, well, there was no guarantee of that.

Growing up with two Aspergers parents who were trapped in their own mind with no way to understand or communicate their own experience of tragedy.

My mother was sure everything was about her, an attempt to hurt her, a denial of happiness.

My father was sweet, loving and oblivious, looking to my mother to handle emotions in the loving way that his dear mother did.   That was not going to happen.

The tragedy of growing up with Aspergers parents just wasn’t something any adult could help me with.   We had no extended family around, as my mother never connected to networks, and the clinical professionals they sent me to just couldn’t get what was wrong with my parents, what I needed.  After all, I sounded so smart and clear, which for me was just a symptom of the early adultification I had to have to care for my parents, my siblings and protect myself.

I tried to share the struggles of being trans, but at that time, in that place, well, not only did nobody get it, they also saw it as something disgusting, sick, broken and nasty to be suppressed and erased, not held tenderly.  I knew I was trans, and when I tried to talk about it, I found that people, even those who claimed to be open, compassionate and caring just froze right up.

When transpeople come out, they usually want to share the tragedy of having to negotiate being trans in the world that they have endured all their life.   When they share that tragedy, though, others want to agree with them, identifying trans as a tragedy and urging them to deny it and put it away.

Today we know that it isn’t being born with a trans nature that is an essential tragedy, rather it is the demand that we stay silent, hidden and kill off part of our heart that breaks us.  We learn that trying to share our truth, to have it heard & mirrored just opens us to abuse “for our own good,”  others who feel entitled to tell us just how sick and perverted we are, tragic wastes of a human life.

Living in a pool of unmitigated and unbalanced tragedy was enormously costly to me.  When I reached for more and better I was quickly immersed again in the pain and fear of those around me. I had so little happiness capacity left that I could not struggle on to land long enough to learn to breathe, instead being pulled back into the little chamber of safety kept open by the force of my own will.

My response was learning to cloister myself, turning to the religious instinct.

From the moment we are born we live with the constant presence of death, death of our dreams, death of those we love, death as a result of almost every choice we make, from animals we consume to relationships we end, to eventually the final death of our body.

The essence of religion has always been revealing the meaning in death, from the death of the son to the death of the sun as winter comes?   Religious thought puts death in context, using some kind of received wisdom.

My shaman nature strove to put my own personal experience of tragedy in some kind of model, some kind of discipline & practice.   Trust me, this was not what the other ten year olds around me were doing.   There was no church, though, that was ready to help me understand and value the way I was created; trust me, I looked.

I knew that because I was trans.  I knew that my heart wasn’t standard issue for my body, that my body would never be the one I needed.

Worse, though, I knew that tragedy was something I could not share, could not get help with, could not find a way to transform into a gift.

My tragedy was mine alone.   Worse, it was a sign that something horrible was wrong with me, something I had to fight with all my might or be met with nasty effects.

The models in the trans world, the ones I declared needed to be thrown out in my 1995 keynote, were about sickness and hobbies.   Either I was dysphoric or I was just playing.   Even at age seventeen, I that knew neither of those fit me.

Once I came out in the mid 1980s, though, I found that if you weren’t willing to fit in one of those boxes, transsexual or crossdresser, there was no safe space for you in set of the interlocking communities around trans.   People just wanted to tell you what you were doing wrong, wanted to project the way they managed their essential tragedy onto you.

As transpeople, one of the most difficult bits is being unable to share our tragedy.   Our heartache is seen as our own fault, something we brought on ourselves, punishment for not following the simple rules that society offers.

Our personal tragedy is sharp and clear to us particularly because it is not a tragedy we can really share.   And because we can’t share it, we cannot be affirmed in transcending it, in having others find ways to affirm and lift the parts of us that are still whole and maybe even strengthened by your tragic losses.

The great longing for connection with something beyond the bounds of our own frail bodies is always at the heart of religion.  It one of the great shared experiences of the spirit.

Your alienation, the alienation that can only be addressed by a deeper and more profound connection with meaning, whatever the verbiage that story of meaning is wrapped in, is part of the experience of every human.

Our biggest tragedy as transpeople is the way we are dehumanized and scorned for placing the longing in our heart over the social realms of power structures others find comforting and useful, like the structures and strictures of a church.

Our mission as transpeople is to boldly reveal the continuous common humanity which exists at a level much deeper than the conventions of gender and the separations which those conventions try to promulgate as real.

We are profoundly aware of our personal tragedies, but in the end, suffering tragedy binds humans together much more than sharing joys.    Every life contains tragedy so every human has the challenge to find ways to both honour that tragedy and to rise above it, claiming what is revealed when our expectations and assumptions are removed through the the experience of living fleshly, human life.

One of the common beliefs about why people are created is that we are here to learn, the obligation to suffer, to try and fail and try again helping us clarify the deeper understandings, getting us closer to a divine stance, one where we value the eternal over the ephemeral, where we approach others with compassion and cooperation.

Experiencing the tragic is how we learn, how we break down beliefs about separation and let our bleeding hearts come together and bind us.  Unless we enter and engage our own tragedy, we cannot really transcend it, finding the  essentials of spirit beneath the fleshly desire and pain.   Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional, as the Buddha reminded us.

Tragedy plus time equals comedy; when the pain is gone the revelation remains and beyond fear we finally get the joke Voltaire understood.

Sharing the beauty, though, the joys, the divine surprise was the only way we humans have to tolerate that relentless tragedy, the connection of love is the only way to bear up.   When we cannot share, we cannot heal; mirroring is vital.

“The Loneliness Of A Long-Lost Tranny.”

I created this blog to offer my own personal tragedy & the knowledge that entering it lead me towards.   I knew I needed to share, to expose my own explorations, to offer mirroring to others and perhaps to get mirroring returned.

Now, though, I know that like so many transpeople, the tragedy of alienation which leads to isolation and pain has swamped me.   I cannot imagine being out there without having a way to share my experience and I cannot imagine that others will engage my tragedy and value the jewels contained within it.

I’m not the first transperson who is lost like this, though, and sadly, I know that I will not be the last.


Continue reading Essential Tragedy

Saving Souls

“The eyes are the window to the soul.”

Grown up transpeople know this well.   Instead of looking at someone, they have learned to look into another person, evaluating their choices, including the emotions that flicker across their eyes, to understand who they are.

When you understand that the essence of gender lies in the heart and soul of people, rather than in their crotch, looking inside is the only way to know who people are.

Trying to make and enforce any kind of rules based on the content of someone’s soul, though, isn’t something that is easily done in law or in the comments of a Facebook post.   It is much easier to categorize people by their externals, by some apparently “objective” criteria, a nice finite cut across the continuum to sever a spectrum into a binary that can then be codified, contained and controlled.

If transgender expression it is about anything it is about the desire of the heart, the call of the soul, overriding the conventions and constrictions of imposed social order.   We express who we know ourselves to be inside over the constraints and codicils written on to our body, moving beyond what others see as compulsory gender roles to rich and determined personal expression.

Some may say this is just the sickness of our brain, the brokenness of dysphoria emerging, but transpeople have always existed in society; sociobiologists would suggest that we add some sort of survival value to the group, because we sure don’t breed easily.

If transgender expression is the triumph of soul expression over social convention, then it is our souls which hold the value we bring, not our political force.   In the same way that we are not numerous enough to have a strong breeding influence, we are not numerous enough to gather together become a bloc.  Instead, we offer our value as individuals salted through the population, bringing our trans force to add just a bit of tang to the mix.

The most profound need that transpeople have, I believe, is not political action, being rolled up together as a protected class, but rather deep healing of our battered and scarred souls.

Emerging in a determinedly binary society has an enormous cost for each of us.   We fight a personal and intense battle to claim ourselves beyond social pressures, without the support of peers or those around us.   We have to batter through stigma & fear that wants to keep us in our place, in a nice manageable box, feeding us into being fixed in the status quo.

In coming out we are forced to decide what parts of us to cut off to fit into the networks we need to support our basic humanity.   If we don’t want to be rejected by family, if we want to get a good job, if we want to have lovers, if we don’t want to be harassed in public, how do we need to hide parts of us that others find challenging and offensive, triggering their fear and judgment?

All of this takes a very high toll on our very soul.   Our soul may be eternal, unable to be destroyed, but it can certainly be battered, and the frail human who carries that soul can always feel the pain, frustration, rage and erasure that comes from our own heart being hammered down to try and suit other people.

This is the reason, I suggest, that narratives of trans murder are so resonant with us (2006), not because we are being killed at statistically high rates or that our own lives are directly under threat, but because we acutely feel the soul murder that we had to go through, the destruction that we had to be complicitous with.

What do transpeople need?   We need our souls healed and saved.  We need our souls to be seen, touched and valued, need to be able to drop our defences, open our spirits and be gently and reverently held, respecting the beauty that lies within, the power that so scared us we tried to break our own hearts.

This is very hard magic.  Until we can hold ourselves with compassion rather than with rationalization, can drop the fierce policing we do to make sure we do things  “the right way,”  how can we ever really open to another soul that is called to make bold individual choices we would never make for ourselves?

As long as we believe that it is what is on the outside that counts, believe that people can easily be categorized and judged, we will hold ourselves defended.   We will impose those rules onto us and to everyone we meet, looking not for what divine surprise they can share with us but instead for why we can dismiss them as messy and broken, without standing or status.

The power is not having others come to the fundamental beliefs we hold about the right way to be in the world, rather the power is in being open to the beautiful and battered soul that lies within every human, their connection to the godhead which threads through us all.

The eyes may be the window to the soul, but who in this culture has the time, the energy and the openness to really look inside someone, see their soul and value who they are in this moment?

Grown up transpeople know how important this is because they know how important it is to them.   They own their own mature and centred presence because they have made peace with their own soul, even the dark and scary parts where they were told their ugliness lived.   They have entered their own hell (1996), collected their own jewels, and learned to move beyond the programmed fear of society, instead moving to love.

Getting transpeople together to take political action will always have limited attraction.   Most of us don’t desperately need political help, rather what we need, even when we boil with activist rage, is visible affirmation and tender caring for our own incredibly tortured soul.

I know that many will reject this notion, claiming that the spiritual is crap and all they need is to affirm their own doctrine and use whatever is available to get the assholes out of their way.    They are stuck in a sick world, full of idiots, and nothing good can happen until they wake up, even if that takes pounding them with a stick.   It isn’t their healing and salvation that is required, it is calling out offenders and demanding that they change.

We defend our soul in any way that we can, for we need it to feed our own happiness and satisfaction.   For many, that means armouring it up, creating walls of separation between us and the bad people, those who don’t get it.

Those walls, though, end up running right through our heart, trying to wall off the parts of who we are that we feel we need to reject and destroy to become right in the world.

Healing the soul is the first step to healing the world.  It is the first step to becoming powerful in the culture, confident and centred in our own skin.  Instead of being burdened with reactionary choices we can open ourselves to tend to others who also feel erased, hurt and betrayed by the social demands placed on them.

When we come to peace with our own soul we can come to take power in the world, finding our voice and our presence and offering the magic that those who have crossed sex/gender expectations always have.

The eyes are the window to the soul.   When we can see that, see the beautiful and wounded unique individual inside ourselves and inside those we come in contact with, we will see how healing and helping the soul is always the basis of healing and helping the world.

Activism Period

The biggest problem facing transgender activists is that for most transpeople their activism period is quite short.   They aren’t activists until they emerge as trans, not fighting from the closet, and they only stay activists until they find a way to assimilate, blending into a full life.

While gay & lesbian are lifetime identities — you are always with a partner or looking for a new one — in many ways trans is traditionally a transitive identity.   You emerge as trans, do the work of finding yourself and then you take on a more normative identity again, still trans but moving that bit to the background where it won’t get in the way of doing other work.

The people in this activity period are therefore quite raw, unformed and undependable.   They are in the process of change, so they can change at any time, resetting priorities and acting out against former allies.

As a mature person who happens to be trans, why do we want to be identified with these raw people?   We know that they are likely to bite the hand that reaches out to help them, acting out of pain, aggression and rebellion.   Their rawness is obvious to us even as they try to claim a voice, so we know to keep out of their way.

So many trans activists are in their raw activity period that as a group they have trouble respecting or even understanding those transpeople who have chosen a measure of assimilation for themselves.   They come from “call out culture,” the pattern of slamming and shaming people who don’t play along, who don’t surrender their voice to the will of the mob.

Since these raw activists reject any aspiration of assimilating, they reject people who carry those values, even if those values are crucial to transpeople taking their part in mature political action.

For most mature transpeople, they did their work in the mess and drama of the interlocking communities around trans and have little interest in going back there.

Besides, what does being big, bold and trans gain them, anyway?   For gay & lesbian folks their identification gains them access to a network of potential partners, but since transgender isn’t an orientation, there is no such benefit built in.

Transpeople out of their activism period have had to learn to live within the society as it is, figuring out how to keep their heads down, stay invisible enough and get what they need without additional legislation or the demand that everyone wear a pin with their chosen pronoun on it.    They learned how to show themselves in the world, learned how to make peace with the limits of their expression, learned, at least to some degree to have the courage to change what they can change, the serenity to accept what they cannot change and the wisdom to know the difference.

Activists want transpeople to make political choices, throwing themselves against the status quo.  Transpeople outside of their activity period, though, want to make life choices, fitting in where they can, claiming a full life and only pushing for change where it is possible and really needed.

Personally, I don’t need my life to be more politicized, by people who want to erase people like me or by people who want people like me to be tools to be thrown against the establishment.

So many tools that activists use, like the overblown fear of murder (2006) or the rage around bathroom policing are based around promoting a mindset of fear, abjection and victimization in transpeople.   While this may be effective for those in the activist period, mature transpeople have had to work hard to let go of their shame and fear to claim effectiveness in the organizations and communities they belong to.

In the long term, political effectiveness has to be built around possibility and hope, the idea that if we build communal structures that we can get behind we can lift up all of us, offering a kind of integration which allows the benefits of belonging flow even to the least among us.

As long as emerging transpeople have the loudest voice, though, as long as their flaming rebellion setting the agenda, attempts to build structures of inclusion will always be the targets of bomb throwers who have the arrogance and ignorance to reject compromise and destroy the good.   The perfect is the enemy of the good, because perfect is impossible, no matter how much you want to pick apart rather than build up.

Activists often grab the spotlight to inflame anger, believing that is the way to get cohesion and action in the mob.   They like being the point of the spear, focusing their own rage against any who don’t fall into line and do what they define as “the right thing.”

Expanding the activism period for transpeople can never be about getting more people more upset, rather it has to be about offering a mature, considered, attentive and responsive movement that feels inclusive & valuable rather than just feeling demanding & sensational.

This is not easy.   I spent a decade leading a trans group in the area and I know well the experience of putting together events and then being alone at them as I waited to support and encourage other transpeople.   If they were in a closet, either the closet before emergence or the closet at the end of the rainbow, shrunken to assimilate, they weren’t ready to maturely engage with other raw transpeople in a mature way.

There may be few benefits to being a visible transperson, but making being less than visible intolerable by those who are still raw and raging will never change the benefits, never expand the base.

We need something clear and gracious to fight for, not some bogeyman to fight against.   And we need to believe that if we show up we will not be shamed by some raw and raging transpeople.

Pride has long been the focus of gay & lesbian political action, but it is hard to join a movement full of those we do not feel proud of standing with.   No matter how much activists tell us we need to surrender our voice to victims, to the weakest of us, those taking responsibility and acting with grace towards people who aren’t like them are much easier to support.

If the pain of one of us is the pain of all of us, then the joy of one of is is also the joy of all of us.  When support groups can affirm the transperson who just got the promotion at work, now able to buy a better car rather than shaming that sharing, asking us to consider the weakest and most broken of us and how that sharing makes them feel, then we start to have the basis for healthy, inclusive community and effective political action.

It would be great for transpeople to have a more powerful voice in society.

I just don’t think we get that by striving to keep them raw and raging for more time.

Without Ears

For me, the most important question at the regional Trans/Gender Non-Conforming town hall was why so few people showed up.   We had only four at the start time, only seven for most of the event, though a couple more showed up in the last half hour.

When I tried to raise this question with the local organizer, though, she didn’t want to engage my “negativity.”   She wanted to talk about why everyone should be here, what they should have read in the on-line notices, why it is so important that they be out.

In my experience, pronouncing that things “should” be different rarely creates a difference.  Instead, only putting yourself in the mindset of those you want to serve and attract can help you shape event which make them feel welcome, valued and heard.

I can’t count how many times this organizer explained that it wasn’t her responsibility to consider how other people think, how they respond to her choices.

“My grandfather told me when I was nine that it ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to, so if they have a problem with me, well, their problem,” was a line we heard over and over and over again.

While that may be valid path to a bold trans life, walking strong in your own skin, it doesn’t help you understand what other people need and how you can be more effective in drawing them in.

The pattern, though, happened over and over again, when someone would share their experience or tales from another only to be told that they were doing it wrong, taking too much on themselves, engaging what others called them.

This, of course, was the reason I had suggested that few people came to the event, because they didn’t want to hear others pontificate and tell them they were doing trans wrong, that their feelings were wrong and they should come with a political strength that claimed space in the world.

The state leader was well versed in corporate culture, so she did get notes up on the five different boards, the five different categories set up.

To end the evening, though, she snapped into trainer mode — her seat at the front of the room always marked her status — and lectured us on privilege.  She told us that we had to own our own story in a way that would be effective with legislators, 3-5 minute elevator speeches which were earnest and persuasive.

The intent of the leaders was good, creating a space where others could be heard, but at the farm, some animals are more equal than others.

How do we get transpeople who don’t want to have to have their life turned into a brick in the road towards change, politicized and consistent with the common narrative, back into the room?

To me, it’s the big question, and the big answer is simple: make them feel seen, heard and valued for their unique contribution to the group.

When the leaders have trouble hearing, though, encouraging even a pushy loud-mouthed language user like me to drop out of the conversation, well, it is doubtful that those still struggling will find much value in investing their time and energy into the meeting.

Like so very many trans events, the logistics were weak, everyone scrambling to pack up before closing, even if the intentions were good and kindly.

Learning to listen, to ask questions to evoke stories, is at the heart of my own personal understanding of the broader trans experience.  Even if I see someone making choices that I would not make for myself, having feelings that need healing, or offering rationalizations that I know wont serve in the long run, I know they need to feel heard before they can ever hear me.

Why aren’t transpeople coming together to support each other?

I just don’t believe telling them why they should will ever make much of a change in their behaviour.  If what you offer doesn’t seem valuable and empowering, well, then you have to change what you offer.

First, though, you have to actually understand what the punters do want, do need and will give up precious time, focus and resources for.

In my experience, that takes a real willingness to listen, not just to preach the old chestnuts, recite the current doctrine.

Listening and caring what others think and feel is essential to being a good marketer, and more importantly, to being a good mom.


Every teenager believes they created the world from scratch.   No one has ever felt like they do, for their first times, first challenges, first feelings are the first that ever existed in their own world.

Adolescents have to create themselves, assembling a new identity.   They don’t have the time, intention or capacity to wonder where the components they assemble into their own collage came from, where the strategies that they see as original & innovative were tried before.

Consciousness is not a big factor in the adolescent brain.   Transpeople, though, often emerge later in life, with mature adult brains, able to do the work of considered awareness in creating a new persona for themselves, a new approach to the world.

What most of us want when we emerge, though, is to chase that childhood dream, the one we have had since we were very, very, very small.   That dream isn’t rational or sensible, it’s not grown up or well reasoned, it’s just massively powerful, pulling at our heart in a way that we knew we had to swallow and deny.

If we had to do a literature review before we leapt, run our dream through sharp thought, well, then we probably wouldn’t leap at all.

Once we emerge, though, how long should it take us before we are ready, willing, able and needing to learn not just from our own experience but also from the experience of others?

The need to invent the world for ourselves, though, often creates barriers to engaging the narratives of others that we never overcome.   We fear engaging a broader reality against our dream, so our dream becomes not one of understanding and wise creation but rather one of rejection and indulgence.

The rebellion it takes to claim visible trans identity in the world is often the end of the road for us.   Our identity becomes rooted in the negative; we are damn sure what we are not, but have much less idea of what we are.   Instead of standing for something, we stand against, attacking and dismissing anything that seems to challenge us, that doesn’t look attractive to us, doesn’t fit in our deepest dreams.

To be a grown-up transperson, for which there have always been very few role models visible, is to be a compromised transperson.   Considering the needs of others, of how we are effective, taking power in the world always requires that we be less than ideal, less than radical, less than pristine, less than demanding.

From the first moment I came out, over three decades ago now, I deeply understood that the benefits of balance and maturity were longer lasting and more valuable than the rages of idealistic youth.

This approach, though, didn’t make me popular with those who just wanted to play out the old dream for a night (“Hello, I’m Biff!  Hello, I’m Suzy!) or those who wanted to cure their dysphoria by disappearing into the world as their dream persona.

People heal in their own time and in their own way.   For all too many transpeople, trapped in the pressure of a solitary life, facing the demands of carrying their own bubble of mental force with them all the time, this healing never really comes.

To heal and grow we must be vulnerable, dropping our armour to connect with other hearts and receive the divine surprise, but after a lifetime of being taught that letting people in is allowing them to hurt us “for our own good,” well, we just don’t do that.   We acutely know that the mirroring we need will be denied to us as others just want to tell us why and where we are wrong.

Even other transpeople are unsafe.   Their negative identities, based in rebellion and rejection, give them the perceived entitlement to slam anyone who makes life harder for them by not following the same set of rules that they use to rationalize and justify their existence.    They can’t hear others voices until they believe we heard them first, yet if we hear them without complying with their fundamental rules, we can’t really have heard them, at least in their view.

Transpeople challenge the hell out of each other because we reveal where dream and reality depart, a departure that can deflate the mental armour we need to continue to impose our worldview in every moment.   The shame is always close at hand for those who have to transgress big social taboos just to follow their heart.

Everyone has to figure out their own understanding of the world they live in.   We have to create our own mental model, be that a model based on separation, on creating walls between us and the bad people, or on connection, on finding the continuous common humanity that links us with something larger.   The balance of asserting, imposing & belief and opening, listening & doubt is always difficult but if you feel you are always under attack and threat, always living in fear of the third gotcha, well, choosing vulnerability is very hard.

I have spent decades sharing my view of the world, a view that is defined by being open to the narratives of other transpeople.    My commitment to queer is a commitment to valuing the divine surprise of what others share rather than trying to impose my own schema on the world and trying to silence anything that challenges it.

It is frustrating, though, that more transpeople don’t look around, don’t hear stories, don’t go to the history and the literature to understand the lessons others have shared, to see where and how those tales from the front might inform their own choices, their own creation of self.

Today there is such an emphasis on the newly out, the adolescent and just forming, that the wisdom which exists deep in the experience of mature transpeople is devalued.  Instead, rebellion, negation and rage is valued, putting the fury of claiming well ahead of the challenges of thriving.

I stand on the shoulders of others, all those transpeople who have given back by sharing the jewels of their lives, the moments of insight and revelation which both deeply brought up their pain and intensely revealed their beauty.

Others, though, don’t seem to hold this value for the gifts of those who have come before, changing the world and preparing the ground for further flowering.   Rejection is the game, creating a new from scratch, without any care for the hard, hard, hard choices which got us to today, even as they now appear less than perfect, less than idea, a little bit ugly, twisted and flawed.

As much as we want to claim our dreams, in the end we are creatures of the flesh, living within the limits and possibilities of the social network that we live within.  Rebellion alone will not create the new; any idiot can burn down a barn, but it takes pragmatic work to build one.

Becoming the parent, the one who puts their own dreams on the back burner to facilitate growth and community is hard, for it demands including even that we don’t idealize, demands compromise and grace.

The stories which enlighten those choices exist, but as long as we think we are building from scratch, our identity based on silencing & erasing the old and only creating what we think is new, we will never walk in the wisdom offered to us.  The teacher will stay invisible.

For who have struggled to share, connect and teach, I will note, that is a frustrating and painful outcome.


My life has been profoundly shaped by my experience of my family because that experience shaped my expectations of the will, my coping techniques, and, at least to some degree, my character.

We are formed by our developmental experiences and that formation shapes the direction of our life.

I was just looking at a link from Mark Hutten, Parents With Asperger Syndrome, that was just too much for me to engage earlier.  It appears to be a paper written for clinical professionals to help assess the impact of Aspergers parents in family interventions.

The “big three issues” as Hutten describes them, are:

  1. Poor Cognitive Shifting, which leads to them getting overwhelmed by stimuli, causing withdrawal or acting out
  2. Limited Theory Of Mind which often causes “mind-blind” parents to misread intentions, identifying the accidental as intentional and therefore scapegoating children
  3. Weak Central Coherence which interferes with their ability to identify & rank priorities and importance of the events around them, to use and convey that meta information

Hutten goes on to identify anxiety, emotional disorders, executive function deficits and obsessive behaviour as important secondary issues.

It is easy, Hutten says, for children of Aspergers parents to feel like there is a lack of love for them, not because the parents don’t hold love but because they are unable to do the loving things the child needs to develop solid self-esteem.   It is this failure of emotional understanding and mirroring which creates lifelong challenges.

Hutten, like so many, note that the requirement to help the child falls to the non-Aspergers parent, however, in my case, I didn’t have one of those.

Characteristics of an Aspergers Parent—

• Perfectionism
• Regimentation
• Anger
• Abuse

Child’s Perception—

• Criticism not compliments
• Desire to leave home
• Disagreements between parents
• Egocentric priorities
• Embarrassment in public
• Favoritism
• Fear of the ‘cold’ touch of affection
• Fear of the parent’s mood and not to antagonize
• Feeling a nuisance
• Intolerance of noise and friendships
• Lack of affection, understanding and support
• Parent has a monologue on their own problems

Child’s Reaction—

• Escape using imagination, solitude, alternative family
• Hatred
• Seeking affection and approval

All of Hutten’s points deeply resonate with me, bringing up emotional issues that I continue to have great difficulty finding mirroring about.   Very, very few people have done the work to understand and validate those of us who have the experience being raised by Aspergers parents, the deep and early emotional damage.

What Hutten misses, though, is the way that our own continuing interactions with other people are shaped by the way we learned to be functional and effective in our Aspergers bounded birth families.

To survive, we had to learn how to keep a model of Aspergers style behaviour in our heads.   There was no way to be successful in communicating with or helping our parents unless we adapted our communication to meet their capabilities; after all, there was no way that they were going to adapt to meet us.

We were trained to think like someone with Aspergers, using that mindset as a filter to process and bound our communication with the world.

To care for my parents, who I knew had love but were always able to do incredibly hurtful things to me, full of neglect based in ignorance and abuse based in personal frustration, giving love as concept and not as experience, I had to learn to be their concierge.

Those with Aspergers can learn new ways to understand the world, beyond the bounds of their innate tunnel vision, but they cannot do it quickly or easily.  The Aspergers programming is very reactive, quick and simple, so learning to open up their consideration demands conscious awareness and what seems like infinite repetition to make change a part of their habits.

Just the first step of helping them understand where they are missing the joke is very hard because any problem or limit with their own boundaries are just outside of their realm of comprehension.   Things are simple for them, right or wrong, so seeing the world as a layered, nuanced, contradictory and mystical place, full of shadows and hidden meanings, just doesn’t really compute.

To understand a broader picture they have to see through the eyes of another, have to mentally take on a different viewpoint and set of values, which easily overwhelmed people who are mind-blind and don’t have good mental coherence have an enormous trouble doing, even if they can understand the benefits of trying.

My father just couldn’t take “yes” for an answer.  Even if you agreed with him, he would just keep replaying the same argument, caught in the same mental loop.   If he couldn’t hear yes, how could he possibly ever hear “no,”  engaging my suggestion that his position had big flaws and gaps that would limit the way other people accepted it?

Very few people have the patience and the tenacity to spend years and years fighting the same fight with the same people, trying again, over and over and over again, coming up with new and innovative ways to explain the point while the person you are trying to help just seems to chase their own tail.   We expect that suggestions we make will be ignored or dismissed while the other person just follows their own worn patterns, living in their own comfortable tunnel.

I’m not much of a law of attraction person, but I do believe that your training shapes your choices and your choices shape your results.   I was trained to engage people on the spectrum, so I make choices that work in that context.

This means that people who don’t have that spectrum experience find my approach rather odd & off-putting, while those who are on the spectrum can grasp what I say.  They are, though, on the spectrum, so just grasping what I say doesn’t mean they can really engage it, really open to the emotions and experiences I share, really be moved to grow and actualize quickly and easily.

I don’t want to spend what is left of my life as a handmaiden to those on the spectrum.  I know how terrifically difficult and unrewarding that job is, how much self denial and frustration come with the approach.

On the other hand, though, I have been profoundly shaped by my experience of engaging with those on the spectrum, so I don’t have the ego, the colours, the motion, the warmth, the poetry and the playfulness that allows me to easily engage the “neurotypical.”

I have been shaped by my experience of being assigned as caregiver to my family, the “target patient” and that shaping has put bounds on my life.   The better I got as concierge, the farther away I got from my own swaying humanity, the kind I had to freeze to not overwhelm those around me.

All those scars of my childhood have been identified and healed, but the way taking that abuse shaped me still deeply affects my relationships in the world.

We are formed by our developmental experiences and that formation shapes the direction of our life, and often, not for the better.

Falling Away

It’s beautiful here in these crisp October days in a way that no one who hasn’t lived with deep seasonality can understand.

The leaves drop their green frosting to reveal their natural colours as the sun drops in the sky to illuminate them with magical, dappled, oblique light.   Shadows lengthen, rewarding you with flashes of brilliance, spotlighted trees like perfect paintings, shapes bursting with reds and yellows, heartbreaking beauty around every turn.

In these days I have even left my basement to be in outside, my joy mixed with the pain from my ankles and a quickly dropping gasoline gauge.  I sit on benches and watch the people, clambering to take in these last days, soaking up the final external delights of the year before the world is turned white and better seen from though a window near a warm fire.

Autumn is the burst of glory, all fecund squash and heady aromas, before the freeze of winter comes.   It is so beautiful, so poignant, so intense a reminder of the cycles of life that it finally can bring my tears.   I am in harmony with the world, as I have been for all my life, the cusp of maturation, the edge of dying.

Rebirth is not possible without death and rebirth has always been the energy I placed my hope on, an incarnation beyond the obligations & indignities of scarcity.

My inner life has always been full of rebirth in the way any spiritual life must include the quest for emergence, for moving beyond the fleshly and closer to the infinite.  Instead of clinging to life we cling to the fact of new life, beyond and blessed, terrifying and transcendent, crystalline and consuming.

Leaves turn, the green of youth falling away, showing the beauty underneath just for a few last, languid days.

The closing years of life are like the end of a masquerade party, when the masks are dropped.
— Arthur Schopenauer

Outside I take a moment, the scent of a far away fire which burns up the debris caught on the breeze, to look back.   Looking back is my habit, collating lessons and collecting memories which offer wisdom & insight.   Ahead of me was always terrifying so my chest full of mirror shards has always been my personal talisman, captured moments of what lies beneath the scars of the present.

Winter comes, evoking sadness.  In winter, all we have to keep us warm is the glow of other people, nests & networks which sustain us through the dark and frigid times.   That glow is dim for me, weak and thin, as it has always been.

The fall is so beautiful, not as something to peep at but rather as something to live through.   We change as the earth seems to meet our frail mortality, showing herself to be as vulnerable as we tiny humans are.   Her energy will come back as it has for millennia, but not quite as we know it, for our eyes will have been tempered by another fall.

If you can’t love the revelation of fall then you can’t embrace all of life.  The stripping away comes to each of us, demanding we survive another winter and requiring us to be reborn again, creating the new out of our own older mortality. We are asked to trade vigour for wisdom, sensation for sensibility, trade open promise for being more present, more stripped away.

Fall demands that we claim what we treasure, what we will put up and preserve to hold with us through the darkness of winter.  What will help us get through the frozen days of infertility, the long nights which try our soul?

Delighting in the fall is delighting in gratitude even for the evanescent and ephemeral, the moments of delight the year has given us.   With time and context we can understand the blessings of the gifts which seemed two sided when we first opened them.   With the insight of another year passed we can offer thanksgiving for what we took for granted, for all the effort and love that was given to us.

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth is an ungrateful child, as Shakespeare wrote in King Lear, but no one can stay a child through autumn after autumn.   The sword of time will pierce our skin, it doesn’t hurt when it begins, but as it works its way on in, the pain gets stronger, watch it grin.  Autumn comes to each of us.

Staying ungrateful autumn after autumn can only reveal a hole in our heart, a break in our compassion.  The fall always winnows the grain from the chaff, the valuable from the insignificant, reminding us of the sweetness of what we took for granted at the time.  Why else would so many take the autumn to use Facebook to look up old lovers, those who offered warmth in the past?

Rationality pales in the face of fall.   You can’t argue nature out of her cycles, just as you cannot use facts to try and paper over what a woman feels inside.   Presence is all that counts, laced with smarts maybe, but full of respect for mother nature’s eternal patterns.

When nights get longer and the air fills with the spices of pumpkin pie, we know winter is coming for us once more.    The reflective time increases, shaping the hard choices we know are coming in the season of darkness.  Where will we use what we have left and what will we leave behind, only holding as memories, stories sweet, testing and profound?

The fall is so beautiful as the living concentrate their sweetness and energy, no longer profligate and exuberant, instead focused on bearing fruit, setting seed and preparing for a long, cold sleep.

The fall is in my nature, yes, but it is in the nature of every human who lives on the earth.   The fall comes and then maybe the rebirth, the awakening, after a inside gestation where we draw what we value and what we love close to us.

Winter isn’t far away now, my body tells me, so I must savour each day.  This is always the deepest lesson of death, this need to cherish each moment, adding one more good day to our inventory of memories.   The callous will drop away, losing some but leaving us open and tender again, ready for another chance at life.

The world is falling away out there and it is beautiful.

That is, I guess, why I so need to cry.


I know why I don’t show myself.

My expectation is that I am too much for the room and nobody will get the joke, as in “God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh,” as Voltaire put it.

This is my lifemyth and it contains truth.  My soundly reasoned explanation of it, laced with huge lashings of anecdotes from my experience easily convinces people of its veracity.  They feel my intensity, my “too person” nature (2010),  my overwhelming bits (1998), my sharp vision and voice enough that they believe what I came to believe that I am just too much for the room so nobody would get the joke.

Since most of the people who are attracted to my work also feel the same kind of isolation, of difference, of loneliness, they are not a hard group to convince.  We are the ones who didn’t learn to pack away our own queerness to fit in, or if we did, we felt the cost of that attenuation on our skin.

In an information economy, attention is the ultimate currency.   In today’s world we can barely keep up with our own stimuli let alone find impetus and mindshare to engage someone else’s depths.   The biggest burden I carry (2006) is holding open space for others to change around me while they want to freeze me into stereotype, needing to enter their world to cut through noise while they are unable to enter mine.

Like any lifemyth, though, the belief that I am too much for the room contains both truth and the seeds of my own destruction.

If I don’t emerge I never open the space for divine surprise in my life, that moment of flash when pretense drops away and deep connections are revealed. Hearts open in that moment, touching each other in nourishing and profound ways.

How can you be in the right place at the right time if you are never anywhere at all?

I know why I have learned to attenuate, to play small, to be appropriate, but unless I reveal myself how can joyous & touching revelation ever happen?  I know why I expect people to respond to my externals and not see who I reveal myself to be, but without showing my heart, how can it ever be embraced?

Text is lovely, but my creator in the sky gave me a much wider bandwidth to use for connection than just my dried voice.  My humour, my eyes, my wit, my compassion all get desiccated when left as text, where nobody can see any of my choices other than the words I leave behind.

It feels, however, like an either/or conundrum, either people responding to my presence or people engaging my inner life.   Most people haven’t had to plumb their own depths in the way that I have, so going deep is foreign to them; they don’t have the chops to dive down without quickly getting the bends.

I am not ashamed of my depth.  In fact, it is the only thing that let me survive a challenging life.

Finding affirmation, though, for the process of mature revelation, of going deep and then surfacing again, of returning the gift (2006) in a way that gets us the touch we need, is very hard.

Many want to tell us how to package, to simplify, to fit into others expectations, and many want support on their journey through their own personal hell (1996), but very few know how to not fear depth while also trusting exposure.  They want to avoid areas they fear rather than moving beyond their own feelings to the needs and feelings of another.

The revelation I need is the affirmation that my lifemyth — too hip for the room — is not always true, not always a barrier to the kind of human connection that I need.   It has to be that revealing myself can lead to the revelation that others will see, hear and value me for who I am rather than for what I can do for them right now.

Being surfaced or reduced to canned expectations has always been hard for me.   Probably the most regular effect of fundamentalism is engaging the world with a preexisting model of how the world is that you use to evaluate the evidence you see.   Things which challenge that model end up getting thrown away, dismissed as fraudulent or aberrant,  marked as noise that needs to be silenced, erased.

How do I stand visible in the world while people try to fit me into their expectations rather than allowing their assumptions to be challenged by my very presence?   Who the hell has the time, energy and skills to measure people again, opening their mind and heart to grow into deeper understanding & compassion?

If I don’t show myself I don’t get the divine surprise I so desperately need, but if I do show myself I get the kind of reductive erasure that has always caused me deep pain.

I so much want to be part of something bigger than myself, but I am no longer able to deny my own self to serve others.   My years of æsthetic denial and sacrifice cost me very dearly and I no longer have the will or the reserves to do that anymore.

Revelation about revelation is hard to come by in a world where being revealed feels unsafe, just something that trolls can use to beat us down unless we carefully sanitize what we reveal, packaging it so it is nice, expected and palatable to an audience who only wants affirmation of what they already believe.

Living in the question, well, that still feels too hip for the room, still feels like jokes that are too revelatory for people to get.   God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh, and when I speak of my relationship with her, well, things get cold fast.

I know why I don’t show myself.  My lifemyth is true.

I also know why not showing myself cuts me off from the divine surprises I so need.   Lifemyths, well, they will do that to you.

Service Bots

In the new HBO series “Westworld,” Thandie Newton plays an android whose role is to serve the guests in a futuristic theme park, playing her part in an interactive story that contains a lot of fucking & fighting, including shootouts.

She was asked by Vulture about the challenges of playing a robot whore, the madam in a frontier saloon who services guests with a quick kind of intimacy.

How do you convey a sense of robotic-ness without being clichéd?

What they wanted more than anything was for us to be human, but to be minimal with what we do so that everything that we do is deliberate. It was like playing a really chilled-out, focused, well-adjusted person. It would be like me after an amazing meditation session. They don't have ten thoughts going on at once. There's none of the static in their heads that we have. They wouldn't know what insomnia was, unless they've been programmed to be an insomniac. It was actually a kind of ideal head space. As humans, it’s what we only dream of reaching, which is clarity of mind. 

That's how I played her, and it gives an amazing charisma and power to the character. There's just that single storyline going on in their heads. 

When the nightmares start, that's when the robot become more human, because that's more reflective of what we're like. Memories, bad dreams, things that we've forgotten, programs that were given to us as children, which we can't remember. That's exactly what happens. As an adult, you come to question stuff that went on. Just because the voice in your head sounds like you doesn't mean that it's actually information in your head that you agree with.

Being created to only be of service to the story, to satisfy the needs of guests, she is programmed without the distractions that create internal noise in humans.   With only canned memories, her own feelings cannot get in the way, though the arc of the series is about the bots starting to remember the feelings they have when they were abused by guests for pleasure.

I was fascinated by Ms. Newton’s description of playing a “really chilled out, focused well-adjusted person” because I understand that mindset completely.

It is the basis of my own concierge role, the one where I put the needs and concerns of other people before mine, the role where I am of service to other people’s story.

Learning to suppress the “static in my head” was a key part of achieving that role.   When I care for or fight with people in that role, I am following an internal script that is based on very close listening which results in very conscious, considered and calculated responses from me.

Sure, the responses are laced with humanity, well written and full of amusing twists — it is the details which draw the punters in, as Westworld’s Dr Ford reminds us — but they are all of service to bigger goals, goals of encouragement, entertainment and enlightenment.

Like any good wounded healer (2006), I use my wounds to inform my choices but my focus is always healing, mirroring people, fighting with them so they can see their own challenges in a new and empowering way.

I am not just the performer in this scenario, though, I am also the producer & director, always working on many levels.   Unlike the automatons of Westworld, the static still exists in my head,  just beneath the performance of concierge.  I have spent decades, though, processing that static so it doesn’t trigger and overwhelm me, un-wiring my own emotional responses so I can remain safe and on script.

Ms. Newton notes that she finds a kind of powerful charisma in coming from this space of service.   The focus, the clarity, the singular intentions are engaging and comforting to her clients who can relax in her simple expressions of duty, being the best whore she can be.

When people come to a healer operating on that level they do find charisma.  They are attracted by the lack of static and so want us to help clear the static in their head, giving them focus and peace.   They get that for a moment in healing space and they like it.

What they like much less, though, is the reminder that we each have to heal ourselves, that to have that centring in our own life, we have to do the personal work of digging in and processing our own shit.   Only cult members can live inside the mind of another forever, and when that happens, bad things usually ensue.

Doing the internal work, the therapy, is hard, and it does not eliminate our own conflicting inner story lines and voices, instead only giving us the power not to be unconsciously controlled by them.   We can quiet them for a moment to be of service to others, but they are very much always with us.

Having those conflicting emotions suppressed, though, can sometimes make us seem robotic.    Becoming so present, so of service to the story can seem to suppress our humanity, make our responses look rote and trite rather than compassionate and intense.  How can a human be so cerebral, so considered, so in the meta and still be human?

A concierge has to have charm, yes, some flavour of individuality, but in the the end, she is there to serve, not to have her own noise get in the way.   We are still humans, though, no matter how much our history & feelings are modulated and packaged to serve the story.

As the child of Aspergers parents, as a transperson, as a smart & sensitive human, as a femme, I learned early the importance of not letting my own feelings get in the way of the service I render.   It is easy for parts of me to be seen as too much, too big, triggering the unhealed responses of others.

It is my job to be “fine,” thank you,  not expecting others will be able to be present for me.   I walk into their world, they don’t walk into mine.  When people try to enter my inner world while still making their responses all about them and their emotions, it usually creates a kind of destruction that is very painful and very costly to me.

Westworld’s bots can get patched up overnight, but for humans, the price of a lifetime of servicing those who act out continues to add up. (Well, actually, from the arc of the story it seems the costs are staring to add up for them, too.)  I am neither sick nor invulnerable (2006), just battered.

There is more in the interview about how the characters are created as product, honed to seductive perfection by the producers, which is fascinating to read.

In Westworld and in my world we were taught early that its all about other people and not about us.   We exist to serve, human doings and not human beings.

Having what Ms. Newton calls an “ideal head space,” a clarity most humans only dream of reaching does have rewards and delights.

Having lived the dream, though, learning to be the concierge who holds a wounded healer inside, well, not having the heart space to feel agency, feel mirroring and feel affirmed in our own emotions, well, that has a cost.