You can’t emerge as trans in the world without leaving home.

To become new, moving beyond the expectations your family placed on you from birth,  you have to separate from the old.

For many people, this becoming new means becoming part of a new family, finding a new home, a place where the expectations and patterns are just different.    You can start at an ashram, join the military, find others with your sexual orientation and so on.

Trans, though, is an individual journey.   It is a claiming of self beyond conventions, beyond the big sweep of assumptions that your genitals define the shape of your heart, your reproductive biology essentializes who you are.

As much as we want to move from one home to another, running from one box to another, emerging as trans is never that simple.   Unlearning, learning, trying on the new, discarding what doesn’t work, creating a very personal expression is always required because we don’t fit neatly in any box.

Of course, there will always be travellers who do this, people who choose to move beyond convention and take the big journey, but for transpeople, who don’t have any good models of what maturity and assimilation looks like for us, it’s required.   We may desperately want to fit into the normative, but there is always a part that doesn’t fit, a piece of us that doesn’t neatly slide into the expectations of any given home.   We have crossed through and that makes us transcendent.

A spiritual home, a cultural home, a political home any home always demands assimilation and compromise.   The deal, though, is usually set up for the normative, balanced and understood for the expected, and not for those who have a foot in two worlds, who hold a liminal experience within.

Even when we come together we often push apart, our own internalized pain pushing against the pain of others with whom we both share an experience and have made very different choices.

We can fit in places, but always at a cost of leaving part of us hidden.   This takes enormous willpower on our part to stay connected, stay a part while staying concealed and compartmentalized.

Somewhere, inside of us, we are always alone.   We hold experiences and feelings that are almost impossible to share, no matter how hard we try.

Every human has a bit of this — we are all in this alone, as Jane Wagner said — but for queer people, that knowledge of what we cannot share because there doesn’t exist language or context, because it is taboo or heretical, because  because it is baffling or disquieting, because it challenges comforting assumptions is a profound burden, isolating us from finding home.

Our stories transcend, moving between, full of twists and transformations, which is why we even have trouble finding a home in in media, where they are oversimplified to the point of erasure.  We get back straightened versions of ourselves, and even when we are present, we are usually freaks or victims.

For me, this lifelong experience of homelessness, having no place I can share myself fully, has meant that my life is shaped not by support or safety, but rather only by my own personal willpower.  I couldn’t expect others to do the work of being there for me, of entering my world, so I had to do all the work of being there for them. (2012)

No matter how much willpower I put in, it was never enough.   People wanted more from me, more perfection, more taking care of them, more erasure, all that, even when I was performing the concierge role to the best of my ability.   They not only couldn’t see the price I was paying, they couldn’t imagine it, because who I really am was invisible to them.

I recently saw a meme “Family is where they love you unconditionally” and I snorted.    That feeling is just not in my realm of experience; I have lived a life homeless, other than inside my own heart.   I have had to carry my home with me, not even having family that shares my culture or experience of life.

Today, the cost of this homelessness is my limits of endurance.   With no clear and desirable outcomes left as I wander through people who live in their own bubbles, I can perform any role, but no longer can I keep it up for very long.

Instead, I get stupid, swamped by my feelings, brought down by my own pain.   I know that this is stupid because from a very early age when I expressed my own emotions or beliefs in a way that challenged my family, I was told that I was “Stupid.”   It was my common name in the family until the shrink told them to cut it out when I was thirteen.  When people call you by the name they hold for you, they tell you who they think that you are.

This fractured momentum, this broken motivation, this shattered hope frustrates me.   I used to have the willpower to overcome, but it is gone now, leeched away from a lifetime of overuse.   There is no place to refill the fount, no home where nurture, succour and mirroring can refresh and replenish me.

I know why Sabrina dreamed of building a trans home town, and I know why she failed.   In a culture where there are no models for what grown-up trans looks like, how can we come together as adults, as the parents who build structures of home to create safe spaces?

The trans journey is a very individual one beyond home and family to claim our own hearts.  Coming home again, transformed and the same, to return the gift is always our dream, but so many of us only end up building our own bubbles, relying on our willpower to keep surviving in a world that does its best to erase us, killing off our hearts in the process.

What happens, though, when that willpower fades, when the home in our heart is no longer enough?   Too much suffering without support and we succumb to the stupid pain, knowing that simple faces and politicized assertions are no longer enough for us.

Home, other than the home we feel in the ethereal venues of our creator, feels lost to us.   Even the dream of it becomes cold and barren, unable to support our own energy, our own willpower.

May you value the homes you find, but never pay too much of yourself to stay there.   If you do, in the end, you won’t have enough of yourself left to claim another bright day.


I haven’t been publishing much this month.

Starting a draft, I’ll pretty quickly decide that I have said this before and no one heard it, so why bother doing it again?

People heal in their own time and in their own way.   They mostly hold onto their fears, their rationalizations, their separations, their survival structures until they don’t work anymore and they have to turn to love, to vulnerability, to connection, and to transformative growth to move to another level.

This means that I have to love them fears and all until they can get to the point that they are able to open up and be present for me.   One of my greatest challenges is to be like Shaw’s tailor, measuring people anew every time that I meet them and holding open the space for their transformation.

Most of the time, of course, people are not going to have changed, not going to have opened and blossomed, not going to accept the miracle of seeing the world in a new way, not going to have moved away from their old habits, but sometimes, yes, sometimes, they might see a bit of light and then it’s my job to say “yes,” to encourage them to own the new possibilities that crack of  illumination holds.

It can take a long, long time, take many interactions for this to happen, and during that time, they still can act out of fear, anger and frustration.   When they act out against me, I need to be able to turn the other cheek, need to be able to respond with grace and with love, rather than reacting from my own unhealed places.

They last out and I need to be able to take the hit and move on, holding them tenderly as they give the call for love.  This often leaves me bruised and isolated, needing my own healing, but as a transperson on a very individual path, that is just one more thing I have to do on my own.

All of this is codified in “What You Need To Know About My Transgender” from 2002, it exists in my writing before that, and has been elaborated on in great detail over the past fourteen years.

Will saying it again make a difference?   Can I now find a way to package it up so it people can understand and mirror me, be present for me in a way that serves me with love and compassion?

Every communication expert will tell me that sharing demands work both on the part of the sender and the receiver.

I have, ever since I needed to understand why my Aspergers parents couldn’t be present for me when I was very, very young, striven to become a better receiver, a better listener, really being able to engage the meaning of what other people are sending, to mirror it back to them, to care for and about them.

Finding receivers who are ready to return the service, the love, well, not so easy.    I am too stupid, overwhelming, queer, intense, difficult, complex, complicated, sharp, challenging, demanding, sensitive, visceral and a whole mess of other words for people who we just have decided to put into the “too hard” basket.

Why bother spending the time, the effort, and yes, the hope to say it again with the desire to really break through this time, really offer a kind of sharing that opens minds and hearts, really gives people an access point and motivation into being present with and for me?

So I start and end, keeping notes on what I want to say, what I need to share, but then not doing the work to finish up and publish anything.   Who is going to hear?  What impact will I have?  Isn’t it all just pointless?

Plenty of me out there to go through, though I know that few people will find time, energy, desire or need to go back and engage what I have shared over the last eleven years of this blog, the past twenty five years of my writing.   They want new and simple, easy and fresh, because that’s easier to get and ignore.  It’s like all those therapists who want to start from a new beginning because it’s their model of me that counts, not the real and rich history of my own. Linking back, well isn’t that just the past, and we need to work in the present?

I know why people don’t hear, why they can’t hear, why they are consumed by their own challenges, their own stages of their own growth.   I know that because I listen, like a mother, and I have been doing that from a very young age when my mother had no capacity to listen to me, and for a very long time even as people looked at my body and wrote me off as another guy, because how could I possibly have the heart of a mom?

I can share this all again and again and again and again, knowing that service takes persistence, takes commitment, takes investment.   Try, try, try again, take the blows and get back up, keep going, because where there is life there is hope.

This month, though, it all feels rather pointless to keep paying the price and getting back bubkes.

Winter comes, you know?

Money, Status & Pussy

As long as people believe that they understand what you desire, they think they know you.

That means they think they can predict what you do and can manipulate your choices for their own ends.  They think that understanding what you desire gives them power over you.

The lead character in Carl Hiaasen’s “Razor Girl,” Merry, is always rolling her eyes at men, declaring them as kind of stupid.   She is a shapely, vivacious redhead who learned that men want pussy, so she comes up with a scheme to put hers on display in a critical situation — she is found shaving her “bikini area” after she smashed into the back of their car, claiming she is late for a date — to get the control she needs.

Straight white men have pretty simple desires.  It’s all about money, status and pussy, though not necessarily in that order, so women like Merry find them easy to understand and to manipulate.

This is why, I suspect, that when a presidential candidate appears to have lived a life obsessed with money, status and pussy, we are able to give him a pass.   After all, boys will be boys, so his desires make sense to us, are simple and easy to understand.

It’s when desire gets slightly more complicated that the system gets fuzzy.

Selling systems to tell men what women desire and how to use those desires to get what you want from them are all over the internet.   Straight men whose desires are simple often find the desires of women complicated and even baffling to understand, which they feel puts them at a disadvantage.

What do women want, anyway?   And how can we get them to give us what we want?   For many men, this is an unanswerable conundrum.

The more mature we get, the more we understand ourselves, the less we are easily manipulated by simple, one note desire.   We see the price of desire, live inside the ambiguity of what we want and need, making more considered decisions about what we want.

Marketers understand this as a challenge.   That’s why they want to get to customers early in their lives when their desires are simple, hoping to set brand choice patterns that will continue though an entire life.   The more obsessed we are with having what others have, having status in the group and attracting partners the more we can be manipulated with those primal urges.

As women mature, their desires become much more complex.  They have to consider their family and their community,  often doing so even before considering their own needs.   A woman who is still just out for money, status and sex after a certain age just seems pathetic, even if a man can continue to be a hound dog, following his basic urges, for life.

That’s why Merry never has to worry how old the guys she bumps are; they all get a little woozy when faced with the possibility of fresh, young cooch.   And it’s why an old boss of mine was baffled when I wasn’t motivated by money or social status; how could he manipulate me if I didn’t follow the pattern?

Transgender is about nothing if not about desire.   Transpeople have desires that cross gendered expectations assigned to their birth sex, that come out of the simple assumptions.   This is why trans and gay have always fit together, because the desire to be with people of your own sex/gender is just beyond the comprehension of a purely heterosexist mind which projects trained norms.

As a culture we have dealt with this by setting up another binary, declaring people to be straight or gay, fitting into one set of expectations or another.  In this political model, bisexuality doesn’t exist as a “real” position, rather it is always about play, experiment, and denial, just like crossdressing was categorized in the Virginia Prince era.  People “really” fit into nice, simple roles, just sometimes they goof around.

The first question I was often asked at gay bars was “So who do you want to meet anyway?”   Until they understood my desire, they couldn’t understand me.   They constructed a gender presentation to attract the people who they were interested in, so they assumed I did the same.   When I tried to explain that my presentation was about expression, not attraction, people felt I was too weird to engage.

 To have another language is to possess a second soul.

The more marginalized we are in the world, the more off the normative, the more we have to understand multiple worlds.

Straight white men can get away with just understanding their world, for example, but women have to understand the world of women and the world of men in a way that men don’t have to do.   Gays have to understand the world of gays too, while straight white men got a pass.

Add to that racial, religious, cultural, language, class and other differences and the amount of variation of needs & desires gets complicated in a way that can baffle and frustrate people.   They want a simple world with simple rules, not some complicated network where they have to consider lots of connections before they get the simple things they want, which may well be just money, status and pussy.

The way to regain power, they can easily believe, is by just purging all this bullshit complex desire and just making America great again by reimposing the simple rules they learned from marketers growing up.

As long as people believe that they understand what you desire, they think they know you.

That means they think they can predict what you do and can manipulate your choices for their own ends.  They think that understanding what you desire gives them power over you.

If they don’t understand what you desire, though, if it is too complicated to fit in their current assumptions and expectations,  is out of their cultural realm, well, then they feel can feel powerless.

We are moving towards a society where desire is much more complicated than the simple, old binary heterosexual model.    Enhancing the speed of connection in the world broadens the network, linking us far outside of the parochial notions we may have grown up with.   Diversity is no longer a concept taught in college, rather it is part of the flow of everyday life.

People are different, make different choices because what they value and what they desire are different.  Beyond cultural assumptions lies individual choice with people synthesizing their own expression and priorities with the best from across a full spectrum of humanity (1994).

A world where the simplicity of just desiring money, status & pussy may be scary to some, but I don’t see us going back towards that capitalist, sexist notion anytime soon.

Sabrina Wept

Sabrina is a tough old bird.   She has to be.   As a big, bold transwoman, she takes the lead in so many ways, from being chief engineer on a ship to being a father to her children, to being out and about across the country as herself.

It’s been a tough thirteen years since she emerged as a transsexual woman, getting fired from her dream job at a NASA contractor as a result.   Her family had tolerated her actions as a crossdresser, where she not only created a local support group but also founded Southern Comfort Conference, still one of the largest trans conferences in the country, but this was different.

Suddenly doors slammed shut for Sabrina, her own families rejecting her choice and doing everything they could to separate her from her two beautiful children.  They threw every block imaginable in her way, legal, logistical and emotional.

Since then, Sabrina has rebuilt her life from the bottom up.   After striving to create one of the first aftercare facilities for transsexuals in the country, as documented in “Trinidad: The Movie,”  she came back to Florida, regained her maritime licence and patiently worked her way up to the status and position of chief engineer, taking many blows in the process.

More than her life, she has rebuilt her family, starting with her children.   Having them with her for summers, going on expansive voyages in “Marguerita,” an old Jeep fitted out with custom made sleeping bunks, and just being present as their father, she rebuilt her relationship with them in the face of continuing resistance from the families.

It took a decade of hard work to get to the point where she could achieve a simple goal, hosting everyone including her brother and the kids mom for a big, festive Sabrina made Christmas.  Over the years, Sabrina stood fast, strong, stable and resilient while those around her came to terms with her choices, with her reality, and with her truth, while they came to the point where they could see that living authentically and without denial allowed Sabrina to bring her full heart & soul to all facets of her life.

Through all that time, there has been one constant.   Sabrina’s mother, Anna, never turned away from her child and Sabrina never turned away from Anna. Keeping a promise to her late father to always watch out for Mom, Sabrina was there even as the fashionable and bright Anna started to slip into the fog of dementia.

Living only a few miles apart, Sabrina was the daily caretaker for Anna whenever she was home. Starting by bringing Anna along on all her jaunts, recently, that turned into sharing her own big bed with Anna, into being the one Anna let help her shower, taking care on the most intimate basis.

Dementia is a one way journey, though, and recently, after enduring Hurricane Matthew, it became clear to Sabrina that the system she created, including an in-home carer for when Sabrina was at sea, just wasn’t going to work anymore.   Anna needed dedicated, full time help, and that meant a memory care facility.

The plan that was in place involved moving Anna 1300 miles north to a facility near her brother’s home in western New York.

Sabrina discussed it over the phone with her brother and sister-in-law.    Her brother has been managing the fiances, trying to keep up with flying visits to Florida.

The call was tough.   As much the care Anna needed grew, Sabrina had done everything in her power to give it to her, being as tough and tender as she needed to be.   Taking Anna out of the lovely beachfront condo she created for her husband in retirement felt like an awesome disruption, removing her from a home built with love.

Was Sabrina giving up on the promise she made to take care of Anna, a promise that always involved keeping her close, so close that they went everywhere together, so close that the touch of skin on skin always comforted and reassured her mother as Anna lost the other touchstones in her life?

The discussion with her brother was technical, but his wife could hear the emotion in Sabrina’s voice as they talked about the potential move.

“I don’t think you understand,” she said to her husband.

“Sabrina went through a tough time when everyone turned on her.  But through all that time, there was always Anna, standing by her side.

“Sabrina and Anna stood by each other for well over a decade after the rest of the family froze Sabrina out.   Anna always saw Sabrina for who she was, a loving child and dedicated parent, someone strong and loving who was doing their best to support and extend family in the world.

“We turned away, but Anna stayed committed to Sabrina and Sabrina stayed committed to Anna, so letting her go, losing her presence has to be very emotional for Sabrina.”

It was in that moment that Sabrina lost it, starting to weep openly.

Finally, someone else, someone who had stood firm in the wall against her, acknowledged that she saw Sabrina as the woman she is, saw and spoke of  the cost and the pain that their decade of resistance had cost Sabrina.

Someone opened their heart to Sabrina, no longer seeing her as a wilful man challenging their family, but rather as committed and dedicated to family even as that family had turned on her.

What made the change?   Maybe it was spending time with Sabrina’s children over the years, hearing their stories and learning how much they were loved.   Maybe it is the fact that now trans is much more out in the open, no longer something to be ashamed of and hidden away.

Whatever it was, it was the absolutely the result of over a decade of astoundingly tough work on Sabrina’s part, work that kept her big loving heart ahead of her rational brain and of her personal experience of pain and rejection.

In that moment, Sabrina felt seen, understood and valued, mirrored in a way that she had long felt she never would be.

And in that moment, Sabrina knew that even as she was losing part of her family, she was gaining another piece of her family back again.   Instead of Anna being the only connection between siblings, with her loss being the end of the relationship, their shared love for Anna and the way each other loved her could bring them together again.

Sabrina wept.   And in those tears flowed a decade of pain, bridged by an acknowledgement of love, of commitment, of value.

There were more tears as Sabrina packed Anna into the car, driving her north, staying in hotels to give a sense of moving to new places.   They picked up Sabrina’s daughter for the last leg of the journey, keeping family together.

“You are always welcome here,” she was told when she entered her brother’s home and for the first time she felt it was true.   Rather than just grudging toleration there was respect and love from a couple who had spent a long time hiding Sabrina’s choices from their own growing children.

Sabrina gave Anna a last shower in the hotel, making sure she was clean and sweet to meet her new gang, the friends she would make in her new home.  So many things needed to be washed away, lost for the moment, but creating a clean slate to start new chapters with new relationships.

Sabrina wept when someone finally opened their heart to her, taking her not on some logical or political thesis but rather acknowledging her choices and deep, deep emotions as powerful evidence of a huge femme heart that beats inside a big trans body.

And isn’t touching skin to skin, heart to heart, what really makes a family?

Kali’s Daughter

Follow your bliss, Joseph Campbell said.  Be exuberant, feçund and prolific in the world, trusting your gifts and making the most of them.   Do what you are called to do and the power will flow through you.

So many of us work hard to play small, to deny who we are inside, to try and not be scary to others around us.   We look at our family, the people we need to stay connected with and work to make them comfortable, attenuating our power to not be threatening or challenging.

There is a long list of things that other people think I should be blissful about, the things that they find attractive.   Nature and small talk and family friendly improv comedy, just to name a few.

At this advanced point in my life, though, it is clear what really brings me bliss, what feeds my own exuberant nature.

I love, love, love destruction.  To me, tearing apart human stories is what can wake me up in the morning with a sense of purpose and value.

This isn’t, I know well, a drive that easily endears me to other people.   Most people like their stories the way that they are, unconsidered and apparently functional, working to keep them stable and in stasis with the world.   They find my habit of tearing stories apart rude, threatening, invasive and rather demented.   They don’t want difficult questions that may expose twists in their thinking.

If you want healing, I can be very helpful.   If you want to resist change, though, well, then I am just an amazing pain in the ass, someone to be avoided or silenced.    What I do isn’t nice or easy, it’s raw and rough, exposing what most people keep hidden away from the light of day, away from the eyes of others, away from their own manicured self-image.

When I pull stories apart I find meaning, deep and powerful meaning.   The meaning is in the truths we tell and in the lies we weave, in the places where we understand clearly and the areas where we rationalize to beat the band.  Looking inside is so relevatory to me that it keeps me thrilled, immersed in the meta of our lives.

Some would say that this drive to pull away the covers of stories, finding connection and intensity just isn’t a womanly thing.   Women in this culture are supposed to be cute, nice, inoffensive, not nasty, muckraking and questioning.

My mother, though, the goddess Kali, would disagree.   She is the Hindu god of empowerment & change, and as such she is the destroyer, tearing open worlds which, when rent apart give birth to the new and better.

This is a powerfully feminine calling, though it is the call of a crone, one who has learned from a lifetime of nurturing and caretaking the need to enter her goddess period, the time she serves a bigger vision of the universe and not the smaller demands of individual comfort.

To me, destruction is revelation and in revelation comes the gift of creation, the blessing of the divine surprise that lets us see ourselves and our relationships in a new way, connected and threaded through with the love that binds all things.

When I remember not to whine and feel sorry for myself, any value I share comes from the power of my x-ray vision.    After decades of using myself as a laboratory, tearing apart what I was handed and rebuilding my self, I can see connections and twists pretty quickly and pretty clearly.

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

The gifts of my mother Kali are hard to return to the world.   People heal in their own way and in their own time.   They cannot be rushed any more than you can hasten the gestation of a baby in her mother’s womb.  We, like every mother, can only work the process, planting seeds that we hope will nourish the future.

My own art is in finding new ways to communicate the old truths that we humans have always placed into myths, sharing the experience god through sharing story as we always have.   Sometimes that happens one on one, sometimes in writing, but the goal is always to offer ways to see deeper, to understand values, to connect with continuous common humanity.

For me, this takes a balance between a sharp mind and a tender heart, between cutting thought and generous empowerment.  That is where I live.

The existence of Kali as archetype, as goddess, heartens me, showing me that there were always people like me in the world, daughters of Kali, and that there have been times and places in human cultures where we have not only been seen but have also been valued for the spark of the divine that we carry within.

Transformation, moving beyond our current understanding, is the only path to transcendence.   The hardest part about seeing the new is almost always letting go of the old, releasing the noise and clutter that holds us in the place we are stuck right now.  Being open to healing & growth demands being open to the divine surprise, to the miracle of seeing what we thought we understood in a new light of love & connection.

My mother Kali holds the understanding of that process, of the need for smashing expectations and letting go of convention before building the new, the better and the more respectful.

That’s the passion she breathed into me, the energy that motivates me and that has always been hard to share with those I love in the world.  I fight with them and for them, all out of the love Kali placed in my heart.

I am, like so many others who came before me and who still exist in the world, Kali’s daughter.  She is, as much as you would rather not believe it, the locus of my pride.

Not that it is easy to share.

KISS It Goodbye

To be a woman is something so strange, so confusing and so complicated
that only a woman would put up with it.
— Søren Kierkegaard

In FemmeStruggle (2007), the challenge of being a queer woman in a complicated world is made very difficult by how the social conventions work to make complex choices invisible, devalued and even stigmatized.

American culture values KISS, the injunction to Keep It Simple, Stupid!   History, nuance, context and connections are all erased.   If a choice isn’t simple, it must be crooked, twisted, evil or subversive.

We just saw America make a choice between a woman who has lead a complicated, intricate, nuanced life, full of tough decisions based on a huge volume of internal communications and a man who always strove to keep his choices simple enough for a television audience to grasp between commercials.

Simple, uncomplicated and venal choices were dismissed as just boys being boys, but the complex, thoughtful and very difficult process of finding balance and struggling with impossible compromises was seen as somehow disgusting, corrupt and anti-American.

The people revealed that they wanted a nice, KISS leader, one who appeared uncompromising, no matter how much their past was compromised by the questionable ethics of fame and fortune,  to fill a massively complicated job that is all about finding compromises that serve the country and the people.

To Make America Great Again, they chose to make it simple again, simple enough that they could understand it in quick slogans and appeals to fear.   They took back their country by choosing someone who promised to purify it, purging out challenges rather than working to create new, innovative, complex and challenging solutions for the future.

KISS.   It’s good enough for them, shouldn’t it be good enough for the country that they love?   Isn’t the point to stop the slide into a connected and complicated world, to impose our own fundamental answers?    Isn’t simple and pure always the right choice?   Can’t we just build a wall to separate us from them, keeping we good people from those with problems we don’t want to understand, and then have them pay for it?

For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.
– H. L. Mencken

My personal challenge has always been to expose the connections that exist under the surface, to use context to expose nuance, offering a deeper way of thinking about the challenges we face everyday.

To me, this illumination is the essence of a good sermon, one that holds insight which helps us make better choices when we return to our everyday life.

Everyday, I struggle to find a way to connect with an audience that lives in a world where they are bombarded with stimuli, where their attention is consumed just in trying to get through their day.

I know that it is a huge ask to have them slow down and take the time to consider a more complex view of the world.   It’s almost impossible for someone to read one of my pieces and understand it, because the context emerges over a wider engagement, links upon links, folded symbol to reveal deeper meaning.

Most people don’t want to do that very hard work, the work I talk about in FemmeStruggle (2007) that lets us own our own complex nature beyond the invisibility created by limited cultural references.

Instead, they want KISS, simple sayings that echo what they already believe, bits they can share with others to express and validate something simple that they feel.

Complicated and nuanced, ideas and notions that you have to work to get, pieces that illuminate the tough compromises the world demands, well, it’s much easier to just dismiss them as too intellectual, too complicated, too queer and too crooked.

KISS won.   It was no surprise to me.  Even as others couldn’t imagine how a boor could take the prize, I understood the appeal of the simple and the fundamentalist because I have faced a wider audience who has demanded that from the moment I tried to explain my experience of life to a school teacher.

The world, though, isn’t simple.   It is layered, magical, deeply connected with the action of a butterfly able to set in motion huge currents and vast effects.   Trying to cut it down to a size that you already grasp is just asking for surprises and costs that will swamp you.

I know why people like the idea of KISS, why they want the universe to run to their expectations and limits.  Engaging the divine surprise is always hard work.

As a woman, a complicated femme trans woman, I also know the cost of that approach to the world.

And, as always, I fear and dread having to pay that horrible price.

Broken Up

Michael Burlingame’s “Lincoln: A Life,”  particularly in its coverage of Mr. Lincoln’s years as president, is a tale about how incredibly hard it is to do the right thing in the world.

While Shelby Foote’s “The Civil War: A Narrative” shows the war in overview, Burlingame shows the war from the political perspective.

Abraham Lincoln makes incredibly hard choices to balance the demands of those in the South, those in the border states and those in the north, leading the country through loss and slowly towards the understanding that the war was a mighty cause, not something to take shortcuts on.

Lincoln was attacked from every corner, for not being fast enough, for not being conciliatory enough, for not being smart enough, for being a dictator, everything.

Leadership, real leadership, is the hardest thing we can do.  It is so much easier to not do the hard, wonky work of keeping balance and forming change.

What would he have done if his work product was torn open and picked apart in a twenty-four hour news cycle?   How could he have lead if his image was picked apart on-screens in every moment?

Reactionary choices are reactionary, even if they demand change from the hard path of thoughtful leadership.

And as for someone who identifies as smart, as a woman, as diverse, and who saw the traps long ago, my heart is easily broken.

It would hearten me if leaders took more lessons from the hard war of President Lincoln, but I doubt that will happen for a long time now.

That leaves me quite broken up.