If You Knew

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

That’s an old self-help motto, a köan for the new age types.

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

This is more the challenge that transpeople face.   Our failures come not because we want to achieve some goal but because we want reveal our gifts by taking a role in society.

If you knew you weren’t going to be sabotaged by other people’s view of what is real, by their stiff assumptions & expectations, by their refusal to look beyond physicality, who would you be?

It may well be true that there are more people supporting open expression out there than ever before.   Even the people who have the intent of doing that, though, tend to live in a binary, sexist world where the reproductive biology assigned at birth is absolutely defining.   Sure, you can be a guy-in-a-dress or a manly woman, but beyond that, well, tough.

Stereotyping is tough stuff.

“You’re the fat girl!” a crossdresser yelled at me during a photo shoot “You have to smile and be the funny one!”

The assumptions written on our physicality are daunting and oppressive.

It makes me crazy when a author of history describes a vintage portrait, reading psychological traits into the set of the eyes or the shape of the jaw line.  Are these people really saying that physiognomy and its offshoots like phrenology are good and reasonable ways to understand people even today? Do they want to support eugenics?

Is who we can possibly be in society written by the shape of our body?

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

It may well be that people with shared body types also have shared characteristics.   Acculturation is a powerful force, so when from an early age you are taught what role people like you have been assigned to play, when you get the same kind of responses from people who make the same assumptions about you, you learn fast.

Is it our biology or the shared cultural experience others apply to that biology which most shapes our choices, our life?

Even Germaine Greer seems to indicate it is socialization which is the key, arguing not that the smelly vagina shapes “real” woman but the attention and behaviours that organ attracts defines and constrains the experience of “being a woman.”    The biology shapes the experience and the experience shapes the person.

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

Who would you be if you hadn’t been taught that being that person wasn’t really for people like you, that it would be silly & stupid to even try being that person?

Who would you be if people weren’t going to try and shame you, trying to block your way to being on the outside who you know, on the inside, you can be?

Who would you be if people stopped trying to reduce you to the assumptions & expectations they have saddled onto your body?

You probably can’t even imagine who you would be.   Part of that is because the experience of being that person, making those choices would teach & temper you, helping you grow in unexpected ways.

More of that, though, is that we can’t imagine what we are denied imagining.  Instead of having realistic, balanced dreams, instead we have closeted, furtive ones, going to extremes and being cloaked in shame.

The hidden imagination of transwomen has been savaged by people like Ray Blanchard and John Money, the twists of our silenced dreams diagnosed as mental aberration.

If we can’t even dream of who we would be, how can we ever get on the road to becoming it?

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

Your family decided early who you would be.   After all, you were little copies of your parents, ready to take on the family honour and family obligations.   It is an expensive investment to raise a child, in money, time & effort, so training them well is an important part of the process.

After all, who you would be is a reflection of your parents, and you didn’t want them to be ashamed, did you?   Every kids wants to please their parents, but more than that, they don’t want to upset their parents because that can be dangerous and painful.

The rules about what your family would and would not support emerged early.  Listening to how they talked about people with the same dreams & drives you had was a revelation.   Their lack of support became clear before you ever asked for it as they worked to curb your “inappropriate behaviour” and channel you into who you should be, into who you had to be.

Being taught that you would not only not be supported in being the person you knew yourself to be but that you would also take a hit just for asking, well, that can dry up your dreams & possibilities pretty quickly.

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

In this culture, we let kids pound other kids into fitting in, shaming and blaming with an intense level of peer pressure.   They make it clear where you belong, who you are, what your status is.

School reinforces biases in a way that seems intended to burn them deeply into our consciousness, making them a lasting part of how we know our place in the world.    It may be less that way today, but the tradition continues, moulding malleable young minds with an understanding of their obligations, their limits and their role.

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

Much of what the corporate world wants are soldiers, people to carry out the corporate wars at the cost of putting their own individuality aside.   We are asked to become cogs in the machine, buying into the culture and following the rules, offering obedience and fealty to those above us in the hierarchy.

Succeeding demands becoming who the business needs, taking on the characteristics and mindset which serve our assigned role.   Smart people learn how to pattern themselves after the bosses, offering a way up, but many just are willing to do the rote work, toiling at the coal face and living in the expectations of others.

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

When someone tells us that we are special, that we should be the best we can be, it is vital to understand the limits of what they mean.   Do they really want us to take a flyer, to go beyond their imaginings, to challenge, threaten and surpass them, or do they just mean that we should be the best us that fits into their expectations of appropriateness in the world?

We many need to move past convention and comfort, but finding people who support us in boldly becoming the best we can be past social barriers, well, that is very difficult.

Who would you be if you knew that other people would support you?

Or maybe the more important question, who are you within the limits of support that bound your choices, your dreams, your training and your world?

It’s lovely to ponder what we could be if we knew failure was prohibited and support was guaranteed, but the the simple truth is that we know what we know and lots of people spent lots of years pounding that knowledge, that fear and those limits into us.

The best we can be exists only within the bounds of what others can tolerate, permit and accept for us.   Without support, we as social animals will be left alone and lost.

How can we dream beyond the realm of the social pressures we are always under?

How can we be the person we know ourselves to be without support?

All Right

Am I doing all right?

From where I sit, seeing the world through my own senses, it is often very difficult to know.

When we get off kilter the systems we use to monitor ourselves also go off kilter.  We don’t have any objective ways of understanding who we are, only subjective ones, filtered through our own mind.

Objectivity is a canard anyway; it is only a goal that can be attempted by comparing our own observations with how others have seen the same thing, calibrating what we experience using the techniques, references and benchmarks that exist as standards.   That’s why in science, repeatability of experiments is valued as a way to eliminate bias, a way to agree on what is objectively true.

Flying by the seat of our pants, without either well calibrated instruments or clear reference points, can often lead us very much astray, into dangers we just are unable to perceive.  Our senses fool us all the time, limited by our perceptions, assumptions and lack of processing bandwidth.

I know today where it feels like I am, but I also know that my awareness is constrained and I can easily be fooled.   How far off the track am I?   What does my sliding lack of capacity mean?   Am I offering anything valuable to the world or just pontificating from a place of erratic self-delusion?

Thinking well is useful, but the limits of effective thought have always been undercut by the way the mind can start to fade, leading to error and deficits.

Trying to get an objective external assessment of those failures is very hard because others can only come from their own subjectivity and they would have seen me as baffling, mislead and crazy in my most competent times because I challenged the assumptions they believed to be fundamentally true.   Wasn’t that a mark of insanity?

I know that I am stuck, declining in function and agency.   I try to imagine what kind of conversations would be worth the effort to find, appealing, affirming and nourishing, but the more I scan what I have found before the less I can imagine what would be useful.   Even examining the media and other trans narratives for what they have found that would be beneficial in my life leads me to naught; even the best of interactions just seem fraught with unhealed fears.

I don’t need anyone else to try and tell me how doing it their way was good for them and so would be good for me.   Drugs and faith and rationality and simplifying and attenuating and playing smaller games and on and on are all good answers if they work for you, but they are not outside of my experience.  Shouldn’t I lose my ego by becoming embodied with exercise and vegan discipline, all yoga and meditation?   If it doesn’t work for me, isn’t that just proof that I don’t understand anything, that I don’t have the sense to embrace the real, healing practices?

Questioning is what I early learned to do to calibrate my own internal gyroscopes.  I knew that just taking inputs from my parents left me with a skewed and less than useful view of the world around me. I needed more and that more came through all the media I could consume, first television, then magazines (I read Time at age four) and then books, so many books.

Without a wider family or anyone who understood my situation, teachers, ministers or such, internal guidance was all I had to go on.  The risks that came with that were always clear to me; after all, how could I trust a heart that called me to cross gender bounds, leaving me with dreams of the feminine?

My wariness, my questioning about finding my own references, defined my own path, shaping my resistance and my exploration rather than juicing up my boldness and performativity.  I clung to my own self-correcting algorithms, always searching the skies for reference stars rather than striking out to trust the winds and the kindness of others, rather than trusting that my creator had given me the goods to make good wherever I landed.

The limits of that approach are clear to me now, even as I wonder how far off the rails I have gone, how much I have lost my edge and my way.   How would I know how much capacity is gone, how my own perceptions are skewed and dulled, leaving me lost and in precipitous decline?

Going back to denial is not feasible to me, but going towards a place that feels full of the rocks of social interaction feels terrifying.   I have been bounced and breached in that place many times before, scraped and scuppered, left broken and hurting to repair myself by learning to live without expecting love and loving care.

Am I so broken and off course that I cannot see the destinations which lie right in front of me?   If I need new vision, corrective inputs, who can I trust to understand & value the needs of someone like me rather than just simplifying me to be just another version of them?

How can I know and trust what in this mental state I cannot know or trust?   Am I doing all right, just riding the ridges of fate until another turning point becomes obvious or am I so far down, so far off course that no correctives can ever find me?

Humans are subjective creatures, so only the diligent and open use of our minds can move us toward rational, objective thought (as millions of voters are ready to prove.)   Personal objectivity, though, can only get us so far; we need reference points and effective calibration to keep us grounded and connected.

Am I doing all right?

How the hell should I know?

Opaque & Obtuse

David Letterman recently spoke to the New York Times about Donald Trump.   He was incensed that someone who treated other people, especially those less fortunate than he is, in such a reprehensible way has any credibility left whatsoever. 

The secret to Dave is simple. Underneath that cranky, curmudgeon façade, the old cuss is just a kind hearted man with solid & deep Midwestern values. Jay Leno was the good bad boy, all sweet on the outside but ready to twist the knife, while Dave was the bad good boy, a layer of piss & vinegar barely concealing a respectful and gracious commitment.

Lots of women figured this out fast.   Dave would fight with you, play with you, banter with you, but when push came to shove, he would be solidly there for you.   He liked women, liked the sparks and respected the person.

I liked Dave because very early I figured out that cuss-pose was my best approach to creating a shell.   I saw Bogart films when I was in high school, playing at revue cinemas in Cambridge, thinking that if people like him could hide their mushy heart, well, maybe the technique had a chance for me.

Communicating what I was thinking and feeling has always been a crucial part of my growth and healing, but I don’t do it an earnest, flatfooted or saccharine way.  I’m crusty with a twinkle, all the life just under the surface.

Many who have read my work over the years understand this approach.  The logical thought and sharp wit are obvious, but they contain a real emotional depth.   How could I just lay the pain on the table without something to lighten in, some technique to keep the emotion away from those who aren’t ready to engage it?

It’s mostly women who get the emotion, of course.   When you live a scrutinized life you learn to scrutinize, learn to look closely at the meaning behind the puffery.

If you are a mom, network with other women,  or are just in relationship with men, keeping sly tabs on the emotional state is a key to success and safety.   What are people really saying to you, what do they mean by it, and how can you be present for them, helping them find what they need?

Partners who own their own emotions, are comfortable in their own skin are useful, but that doesn’t mean they should be sloppy or unreliable.   They need to be able to fight, with you and for you and your kids, playing their part.

The traditional courting model is there for that reason: men shouldn’t get what they want too easy.   Don’t let them slip in the door.  Instead, have them fight for what they want, fighting to show that they are going to be there, persistent, determined and considerate, in for the long haul and not just for the quick thrill.

Being a bit opaque & obtuse helps with that model, keeping the kimono closed until someone shows us what they have got, what they are willing to put on the line.

I learned early that one of my jobs was to play the breeches role, to be the one who played the man when required.  I had the body, I had the training, so I had the role.

“I’m solid, right?” I asked a partner.

“Well, yes,” she answered.  “But you are solid like an iceberg; you move around quite a bit.”

One reason I identify as a woman and I prefer to be identified as a woman is because my choices just make a whole lot more sense when you see me as a woman.   No matter how rational and stable I have learned to appear on the outside — my concierge role — on the inside, I am as empathic, emotional and intense as a woman.

Women are, most of us have discovered, a bit crazy.  Our feelings carry us away, lead us to fights, tap into our passion.

I learned to cover this with curmudgeon, but that same partner understood the limits to that role.

“I don’t want to end up as a curmudgene!” she cried, using the feminine form we playfully created.   She didn’t want to have to stay behind the damn crust.

When people see me as a tough, mature and rational, they are blind to the deep rivers of emotion that run just underneath the carefully manicured ice.

This blindness often leads them to be frustrated when any emotion shows, not understanding where it comes from.  To them, I am opaque and obtuse because I am not able to rationally detail everything that I need or want.   Most of the time, of course, what they want is to take a woman for granted.

“Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Henry Higgins moans, craving a kind of simplicity that fits into his own rigid worldview.   We know the answer and we suspect that Professor Higgins does too; women need to be the bendy bits, the ones who wiggle, the soft and strong connecting sinews which tie together families and communities.   Out intuitive gifts are vital to strong children, strong men and strong societies.

I know how to play the role, to be the concierge, understanding, interpreting and assisting in the lives of others.

I also, know, though, the pain of people not understanding me, their weak Theory Of Mind and limited emotional range keeping me boxed up.   If only I was simpler and more clear, more rational and less visceral, I would make it so much easier for them to understand and we wouldn’t get caught in emotional flareups.

To them, it’s my opaque obtuseness which is the problem, me not accepting help, not letting them in.

To me, though, it is the experience of too many muddy boots trouncing on my carpet of dreams, my rich inner life, making the assumption that what is inside of me is some utilitarian man cave and not a precious feminine salon that is the key problem.

Finding someone who can help me rationally think more clearly about my choices in the world sounds like hell.   I need someone who can share womanly exuberance and and girlish glee, the excitement over the frivolous, the potent and the so very important signifiers of femme energy.

Do many men see women as opaque & obtuse?   Of course.   The difference with me, though, is that they don’t see me as a woman, so my choices, my language, my emotions just aren’t fair or reasonable.   I should be the man that they expect.

This expectation is crazymaking to many transwomen. It starts with men who see us as sex toys and can’t imagine why anyone born with a penis wouldn’t want to use it all the time and continues to women who expect us to take the blows they have saved up for the men in their life.  We have to explain, defend and justify when we just want to be, as Kate Bornstein so clearly says, pretty. (2006)

The gap in my background isn’t rationality or theology or discipline or precision.   Instead, it is my missing a girlhood, a belief in my own beauty, my own feelings and my ability to be seen as pretty.    I am fine on the basics, but the ephemeral, the indulgent and the passionate, well, there are only holes and scars there.

Am I tender when I go to those places that still hurt?  You betcha.   Do I make it easy, or do I put up a bit of resistance, keeping myself protected?   Whatever else you can say, I wasn’t reborn yesterday.

Getting slapped because I am opaque & obtuse always tells me more about the emotional sensitivity of whoever is upset than it illuminates a problem I have.   Did they get the emotional cue that I was upset and they should leave me alone, or did they push on, their own neediness trumping respect and grace?    Do they want me to be simpler because I am not being clear or because to be present for me emotionally would take them someplace they are not ready, able or willing to go?

I learned early how to save myself by being opaque & obtuse, and I am not the only woman who did that.   It’s that kind of woman who easily appreciates the choices men like David Letterman make, staying considerate & aware even under a gloss of sharp, insightful wit.

Am I obtuse & opaque?   Only to those who do not listen closely enough to value what I share, instead hearing only the bits they want to understand.

Can I get upset when other people don’t get the joke?   Well, yeah.

After all, I’m just such a damn woman about it.

Self-Ordained

A friend of mine compared [transgender emergence] to jumping out of a plane without a parachute, only to discover that you have wings. Because, you really don’t know until you take that leap, and then, you know what? You’ve got to learn to fly.
— Amanda Simpson, Refinery 29, March 2015

A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.
― Joseph Campbell, “Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion

The fuckin’ hardest thing about being a goddamn prophet is that you have to be self ordained.   John the Baptist blessed Jesus, but who ordained John the Baptist?  An angel, sure, but that is not of the flesh.

I have had, in my life, the goal of not being seen as nuts, as some crazy whack job who just spouts off whatever the hell they want.

This goal, though, stands between me and flight.    As long as I keep my head down, stay in the shadows, be appropriate, comforting and of service that people already understand, I swallow my own energy, my own mission, my own divinity.

No one, and I mean no one, is going to stand up and tell you to speak a truth that makes them uncomfortable, that feels like it challenges their beliefs and goes against their expectations of society.   They want others to affirm them and their beliefs rather than to bless wild voices of unchecked revelation, even if they know that it is the outliers who move the boundaries.

I recently added a comment here to someone who felt like a freak and wanted to die, though, they felt incapable of suicide.

I just want you to know that being a freak isn’t the worst thing in the world.

In fact, some of the most beautiful, potent and kindest people in the world were written off as freaks.

When someone uses the word freak to try and label you as worthless, broken or worse, they are just projecting their own need to appear normal.

That’s true even when you do that. If you believe that you can only be worthy of life if you are not a freak then you denigrate the millions and millions of people who have been both freaks and amazing, beautiful people.

You have a trans heart. You want to kill it off, want someone else to kill your body because you believe that nothing good, nothing happy, nothing positive, nothing beautiful can ever come to a freak.

Millions of people who were written off as freaks by their family, their church, their community, their friends and who then went on to show themselves, to find a place where people could not only see past their freakness to a human heart but also understood that in our freak we claim beauty would disagree.

Running from your freak factor, trying to destroy it, trying to destroy the heart which you fear is too freaky for the world is a waste of this human life that you have been given.

Your creator made you as you are. Ask any little person, Siamese twin, gay or transperson: we know that this is just the way we are, no matter how much others fear our differences, how much they castigate us as freaks.

There is possibility for you in the world, but not until you trust your heart rather than try to destroy it. Take the leap, trust your creation, and, as they say in Austin TX, “Let your freak flag fly!”

Your sadness and desire to be destroyed, to declare “game over” is completely understandable. All of us who have felt the stigma of being trans in the world have felt it.

So very many of us, though, have pushed into that pain and found the light within us, found people who can see, mirror and value us.

Hitting rock bottom is hard. Sometimes you just need to do something bold, crazy and insane.

Getting on a bus to go someplace queerer, though, is a good fuck-it-all move, and if that doesn’t work, well, your options are still open.

I just want you to know that being a freak isn’t the worst thing in the world.

In fact, some of the most beautiful, potent and kindest people in the world were written off as freaks.

And I believe there is beauty and brilliance in that heart you feel like you have to destroy.

Before you throw away your life, terminating your body, throw away your life in this world and start over, taking a rip at trusting that freak heart of yours.

You are love, and I know that you can be loved, if you start by loving yourself for the beautiful freak that you are.

This is hard to hear if you just want the pain to end, if you have your mind set, but you know that your heart really isn’t in it.

Your heart, well, it’s ready to fly.

Blessings.

Always listen close to the advice you give others, because it probably contains something that you need to hear, I have found.

It is possible to argue that the biggest failure I had as a transsexual was not the limits of my body but rather my resistance to leap.   Just doing it would teach me more about how to fly than wisely resisting.

Instead of leaping, I have explored the chasm, going deep.  Valuable work, maybe, but it has limits.

People find a few valuable tidbits in what I have to offer, but what they don’t do is get very engaged in my work.

Campbell might say that a reason for this is because I don’t put all my life force behind that work, don’t use everything my creator gave me, from my breath & voice to my energetic physical presence.   I only offer some text, not my entire being.   I don’t leap, and that means people don’t see my humanity and feel my heart before engaging the text which holds my dried voice.

Leaping to crazy, though, feels crazy to someone who found her safety and divinity in rational thought.   It was my head that kept me stable in the face of a torrent of unprocessed emotion, energy that I just didn’t have the latent inhibition, the power to slough off.

I cry for mirroring, but my mirror has always been cerebral, a virtual reflection processed out of millions of shards I picked up along the way.

Can I be present in the world?   It is clear that I cannot exist on the terms of others.  Instead, my only chance is to be boldly myself, to claim my own knowledge, to self-ordain my role in the world.

Does the very act of self-ordination put me too far out there, too queer and too big, so that others will want to destroy me?   That is certainly my fear.

That fear, though, has blocked me from leaping and understanding what my full presence, my insight, my wit, my kindness, my sinuous voice and even maybe, just maybe my beauty can do to open hearts and minds.

Hello, I’m Callan, and I am here to help.   Terrifying words, especially to those who are not yet ready for help, for those who need to cling to their beliefs structure so hard that they feel entitled to destroy anyone who challenges it.

In my experience it is a solitary and lonely life, this transgender journey, so it is no wonder we so often twist ourselves into pretzels trying to stay in relationship, diminishing our queerness to gain embrace. (2006)   We stay who our family needs us to be or we end up lost in our own ego, self-pity & rationalizations.

My message is not one of doctrine or dogma, rather it is one of shimmering liminality, of transcendence, of living in the question.  The divine surprise doesn’t offer the comfort of clear demarcations and promises kept of you follow the rules, rather it offers the kind of growth & healing which leads to living in the light of righteousness.   This may well be at odds with social comfort, because being right with creation doesn’t always mean being right with the people you want to like you.

So much content, so little form.

The life of a prophet is always full of denial and alienation.   We stand aside of our time, not in it, a bridge to something bigger, more profound and more lasting.   None of us speaks the entire truth, whole and perfect, because we are only human, only playing our part in the tapestry of voices which models and surrounds the broader, ineffable and transcendent truth which threads beyond mortal dissection.

Leaping, well, leaping, ah, leaping, does seem to be required.

L’chaim.


More?  Resisting Calling To the Point Of Self Destruction  (2003)

Failed Transsexual

What constitutes a failed transsexual?

I’m not sure that there is anything like a failed transvestite; unless you are following someone’s rules, like FPE/SSS how can you fail.

And I don’t think that transgender is something you can fail; it’s a process to claim yourself in the world beyond gendered boundaries.   This may or may not include body modifications, but it is about authenticity.

Transsexual, though, has always felt like something that you can fail at.   The goal is to re-sex your body well enough to seem like like you went through puberty in the sex typically assigned to your new gender role.

A range of interventions are used in that process, from voice retraining, hair removal, body sculpturing, facial surgery, hormones, genital surgery and more.

For people committed to succeeding in this transsexual dream, the process almost becomes an end in itself.  The goal to erase all vestiges of your birth biology and cultural training so well that you can become seamless in your new role, to apparently really change your sex, takes intense work, pain, money and drive.

Like so many trans kids (and every trans adult was once a trans kid, even if we were invisible and abused in those days), I regularly dreamed of waking up transformed.   I wanted the transsexual dream, wanted it badly.

By the time I came out in the late 1980s, though, that transsexual dream appeared unavailable to me.    I had seen enough failed transsexuals and had enough understanding about my own big bones to have my own heart broken as those dreams were crushed under my own feet.

If I believed that I would fail as a transsexual, I needed another choice that might be effective with the body I had to work with.

Beyond that, I knew that women turned my head, not men.  While I knew many other transwomen who would be effective as straight girls, as a transsexual I would be double queer, a woman with a trans history who loved women.

To me, that choice had to be transgender.   I needed a way to express my own femme nature in the world, a way that would work for me in the world that I lived in.    Everything I have done since then has been on that peg, focused on how to show my heart rather than on how to hide my history & biology.

My choices were my choice.   I always supported other transpeople as they chased their dreams, affirming their choices to change their bodies or whatever else they needed.   Some found me a balloon burster, but I was striving to mirror them in the best way that I could.   Does believing in a dream when other people don’t really get it empower or limit you?

Over the decades, transsexual separatists have assaulted my transgender stand, claiming that it doesn’t respect their truth.   They are, they would tell anyone who would listen, true transsexuals, unlike those dilettante transgenders, tied together by the blood sacrifice they made to reveal their transsexual truth.  Anyone who didn’t have the fire in the belly, the will to mould themselves into passing, well, they were just wannabes colonizing the hard earned preserve of true transsexuals.

A differential diagnosis was the holy grail, some proof of who was real.   Surgery used to be that until too many people who chose it realized they wouldn’t achieve their transsexual dream and started to claim transgender status.

For some who could not get surgery due to health or cost issues, other diagnoses had to be brewed up, couched in manifestos that allowed them to slam and marginalize others who weren’t true women, true transsexuals, true of heart and mind.

Speaking for transgender, I was clearly one of those people who weren’t true in their book and they acted out against me, getting invitations rescinded and other indignities applied.   I didn’t buy into the binary, didn’t hold for one or the other existentialism, so I needed to be silenced as much as possible.

The transsexual separatists were failed transsexuals, angry and needing to externalize the blame they felt over not finding the normativity that they believed genital surgery should include.  Someone had bled away the magic they were promised and those trans freaks who wouldn’t play along were the easy targets.   Successful transsexuals just faded into the woodwork, blending into society, so while they may have had inner pain over erasure, they had no need to attack anyone.

Many people have stories about being bullied in school, about being denied entrance and status.   I don’t have those stories, though, because with the defences and denial I had to develop to endure my mother, no simple school kid could break through the shell.   You couldn’t get me to cry and I always found a way around, which frustrated bullies, but what the hell.

The bullying of the transsexual separatists amused me much more than it hurt me.  I worked very hard to get a clear understanding of what I believed and what they believed, so I knew where I was right and where they were just rationalizing.   Their technique was usually to try to upset others by removing woman standing, but that didn’t work on me.

What they seemed not to understand was that I had exactly the same transsexual dream that they had, the same aching desire to be transformed into someone beautiful, feminine and valued.   I just understood that dream was just fantasy, that it could never come true for me, that if I chased it I would just end up another failed transsexual, living inside a lucite bubble.

So many people carry their own fantasy beliefs to try and deflect the challenges and truth that reality always imposes on us.    They rationalize and imagine that if they just get the next object of their dreams that their life will be perfect.    Looking at people who have claimed that object and are still struggling is something that they don’t want to do; they need to hold tight to fragile dreams.

I still hold my transsexual dream inside, imagining the magic which will give me the body and the status to easily make the choices that reflect my heart.   (Today that dream includes the youth to start over too.)

Being a failed transsexual, though, is unappealing for me.  Instead, I chose to be the best transperson I knew how to be, exploring the territory where my history and my heart could come together, the liminal space which would resonate with my own unique voice.

Follow your dream, but if that dream is a reach too far, find a better way to claim your truth & power.   God, grant me the courage to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Claim the success you can claim, revealing the best of you, even if you always will be living on top of your failed, beautiful dreams.

War Against Sexism

The Pope is right.

Transpeople are part of a bigger war against sexism.

On his flight back from Azerbaijan, the Pope called teaching about trans possibilities part of a war against marriage, but it’s the same thing.   His marriage model is the heterosexist model of a human race divided by reproductive biology, who can each become whole only by coming together and making families.  That’s my sexist model.

Everybody knows this, even the gay and lesbian people who have learned to depend on a very clear separation of humans by sex.   Bisexuals narratives are regularly purged from their political movements as undercutting the “really one or the other” story line.   If desire isn’t fixed — a world of just Kinsey 1 or 6s — then it is a choice, and can be challenged.

Identity must be binary, and whatever we did before was just some kind of falsehood, some kind of cover or defence.   That’s the story and they stick to it.

The Roman Catholic church power structure is highly patriarchal.   Only those who are male can go beyond a certain point, can be ordained as priests.   It’s been that way forever and the men at the top want it to stay that way, no matter how much women are challenging the edges.

They do this, they tell us, because they know what is best for women and children.   By following the dictates of their belief, they take a paternal view towards women, protecting the angels who God has made for a special purpose which is not standing with real power in the church.

This argument has always been made by those assert they who keep people down out of kindness because they just aren’t capable of more, due to their skin colour, their heathen beliefs, their reproductive biology or their queer leanings.

When it is pointed out that this position allows them to consolidate power and economic benefits, well, they just coo and say that it’s too complicated for us to understand and we shouldn’t worry  our pretty little heads about things like that.   There is a reason men vote for the family and women are protected from such tawdry and difficult things, they said.

The women’s movement, the gay and lesbian liberation movement, well, it’s all been part of what many call a “war on marriage.”   God made us in a certain way, so when those in power impose structures that respect that way, they are just doing it out of respect, kindness, godliness and protection.

Those other movements, though, accepted that humans were easy to categorize into two boxes based on reproductive biology.

Transpeople and bisexuals , though, well, we say that reproductive biology doesn’t define and limit us, that who we really are is beyond that.

What happens when human reproductive biology becomes even more aided by medical technology?   Can males gestate babies, are there possibilities for ex-vitro development, or will we really be able to change the sex, the reproductive biology of a body?

It’s easy to imagine all of this coming.   And it’s easy to understand how that will rip apart power structures based on sexual binaries lead by people who claim to “protect marriage.”

"This is against nature," he said. "It is one thing when someone has this tendency ... and it is another matter to teach this in school."
 "To change the mentality -- I call this ideological colonization," the Pope said.
 The Pope said he still spends time with transgender people, leading them closer to God.

Are we against nature, or are we against the social structures, the power structures, that are based on some kind of reading of nature?

Transpeople claim that we express our nature in a society where that expression is very challenging because rather than understanding nature as a linked system, full of continuums, we want to impose constructed binaries on nature.   With such ideas deeply embedded in language, how to we find a way to express where we are beyond?

Nature made some weaker, less capable, more needing of being cared for by the strong and smart.    As much as our hearts may flutter at the thought of being cared for and protected, we know that to give our destiny to someone else is just abandoning our own agency, our power to speak and advocate for people like us.

Is it possible to be trans in the world, claiming that our nature lies in our knowledge, our heart rather than in our reproductive biology, and not be part of a war against sexism, against heterosexism?   Is claiming that war is a a war against “marriage” an essential difference, or is it just a political messaging ploy to marginalize and impeach our actions?

The road to equality is a road to equality.   Separate but equal never is, at least according to the US Supreme Court.    Trying to defend the things we like about separation is trying to resist equality, trying to keep the walls up to keep out any challenge to our traditional choices.

Does “closer to God” or “closer to nature” mean that we need to accept not only the way we are are born but also the social conventions traditionally written onto that biology, the meaning others assign to the externals?

Or does “closer to God” or “closer to nature” mean we need to go inside and explore beyond traditions, believing that spirit is the essence, not the body?

Personally, I have always been  in favour of gender but against compulsory gendering.   I find defining the boundaries of social roles by dint of reproductive biology to be sexist, in the same way that I find defining the boundaries of social roles by dint of skin colour & appearance to be racist.

There was a time when we wanted to assert that trans was sickness, a birth defect to be cured, that once we were fixed we could just take our place in the binary.   That assertion, though, was not inclusive or empowering, instead leaving us abject and denied a voice that encompassed all of who we are.

Transpeople tell the world that who we are and who we need to be in the world is defined by something other than our reproductive biology.    We say that the compulsory gender roles placed on us are crippling, destructive and deny us the ability to connect with our creation in a profound way.

That is a position against sexism, against separating humans by reproductive biology, even if some choose, for their own reasons, to call it a position against marriage, against family.

I don’t want to be at war with anyone, but if they choose to see me as an enemy of all that is right, holy and virtuous, well, that’s a battle they chose to pick.

Humans moving beyond the constructed social oppression around reproductive biology just seems to be a quest against sexism.

At least it does to me.

Movie Moments

Our life only really exists for us in the way that we remember it.

We are the story that we shape from our memories.   They carry the values we choose to express, the beliefs & understandings which shape our choices in the moment.

Reshaping our actions requires reshaping our stories, applying a new context to them.  Was what we did then a good choice, a bad choice or a lesson?   Were the thoughts that led us to what we did signs of some deeper truth or were they a result of twisted thinking?

The transformation of our stories is the transformation of who we are in the world, as Mary Catherine Bateson explains in the excellent  “Peripheral Visions: Learning Along The Way.”

We don’t just live a life, we relive it, applying new meaning to it as we go along.  This is what “Transgender is about changing your mind,” is all about, peeling back what we have wrapped in shame, fear and denial, deconstructing a life so we can get rid of the junk that blocked our heart, emerging as more authentic and present in the world.

Movie moments are the memories that we go back to time and time again, the ones that give us emotional recall.    They may be times of laughter & warmth, times of passion & love, times of connection & understanding, times of triumph or failure, times of pride or shame, times of heartbreak or embarrassment, times of insight & revelation.

Whatever the event, it is the emotion wrapped in it that makes it a movie moment.   The stories we remember without this potent kick of emotion are just facts, just details, just fodder.   They are important and useful, maybe even becoming movie moments as we go back to examine the emotion that underlies them, but they don’t feed our feelings.

As a human, we crave feelings.   We want to feel amused, satisfied, valued, understood, proud, and more.   We need those feelings to feel loved and connected in the world, which is why we are willing to go through all sorts of bad feelings, feelings we know we don’t want, to try to get to them.   Our willingness to engage and learn from even difficult encounters very much shapes how we grow and heal, becoming better and becoming new.

Mirroring is vital in finding a way to own those movie moments in our own life.  We cannot process them without retelling them, either to ourselves or more likely to others who can offer their understanding, support and context to those emotional events.

We respect and renew our stories by retelling them. When we do that with reflection we can also reshape those stories, letting them help move us forward.  Emotion passed through insight creates a new foundation.

In my life, I am scraping for movie moments, for touchstones of emotion, that energize and empower me.    When I cry for lack of mirroring, it is reflection of these moments I need, reminding me that good, beautiful, fun, delightful and triumphant is possible for me.

I love doing this mirroring for other people, adding context, making connections and reminding them time and time again that they are gorgeous and brilliant.   Hearing my stories and the meaning I apply to them can be useful in giving context, but it is when I mirror their stories back to them that they really catch a glimpse of the powerful person they can be if they just let go of ego and trust their higher self.

My writer’s ear helps them reshape their own movie moments, seeing meaning in them that they lost, hid or ignored, changing their mind by changing their vision of their own stories.   They own their own vitality and possibility by owning their stories again, in a new way.

The lack of movie moments leads me to a lack of hope, a deficit of belief that it is possible for me to get the emotional connections which will nourish me.   The scarcity of emotional mirroring that I learned to live with, using my big mind to scrape up all the tiny bits of warmth & affirmation so I could extract every molecule has grown to consume my resources, emptying the reserves.

I know why I gave what I gave and I know why I was plunged into scarcity for the last years, but today, that dearth of movie moments feels more like death of the soul.

Scrutinizing every possible moment before engaging in them, weighing the risk versus reward, looking at how the cost weighs against the possible upside, has put a big void between me and any possibility of a divine surprise, an affirming and encouraging movie moment I couldn’t possibly have imagined before it happened.    I try, I don’t get what I need, usually instead getting affirmation of what I fear, and then I have less to try again.

In searching through my own movie moments to get the hope and encouragement I need to go out there and expose myself again, I come up drastically short.   Instead, I get moments of frustration denial and real, profound & deep pain.

We are reborn when our movie moments are reborn, when we come to see our life as having the dramatic possibilities of a great film.    The genre of film is our choice, usually getting more meaningful as we mature.

My movie moments, though, no matter how much I write them out, have become dry and stale, though, truth be told, they weren’t all that juicy to begin with.   Living a life backwards, starting with mental discipline and then struggling to open up into passion, an unembodied life, well, the moments are scarce and less less than full of vitality & joy.

Making life is making memories and transforming life is transforming those memories into meaningful touchstones, movie moments we can play back to help us return to what is important and powerful.

No matter how many biographies of Buster Keaton I read, though, my own movie moments have escaped me.   The lamp is not lit.