Standing Beside

Colin Mochrie has come out as a trans advocate after his 26 year old child emerged as a transwoman.

Mochrie says his daughter came up with the name Kinley after consulting him and McGrath.

"We had a bit of a bump at the beginning where she picked a name and it didn't seem to go with her and we were all kind of pussyfooting around it. Finally, Deb said, 'That name says nothing. All it reminds me of is my best friend's dog.' And so, again, Kinley went away and thought about that for a long time and came back and said, 'You know what, I should have had you as part of this process because we're all going through this together.'"

McGrath suggested the Irish name Kinley to reflect her Irish heritage, and it stuck.

"So we now have a Kinley," says Mochrie.

In gay pride parades, the delegation that gets the biggest ovation is always PFLAG, Parents & Friends of Lesbians And Gays.     We know that people who choose to stand beside us are precious and to be celebrated.

The hardest thing about trans is doing it alone. (2002)  That’s why for the past eleven years the cut line of this blog has been “The Loneliness Of A Long Lost Tranny.”

When I am overwhelmed, I am overwhelmed by loneliness.   I learned a long time ago how to stand by others as they go through tough times, helping to affirm and focus them, offering encouragement and support, but the experience of having someone who understands stand by me, well, that’s not something in my accessible experience.

I love the fact that Kinley’s mother fought with her a bit about the name.   People who will fight with you will also fight for you, engaging in the conflict required to find common ground and strong solutions.   When someone has your back, your best interests in mind, working to understand, listening to their feedback, engaging their loving mirroring is vital to growth & healing.

“I have begun learning to trust myself,” I said to a partner decades ago.  “Now I need to learn how to trust other people.”

“Can’t you do that by yourself?” she replied.  Eventually I understood her fear; she didn’t want to catch my loneliness by entering my world.

I spent decades trying to figure out what was wrong with me, how I was broken in a way that lead me to transgender expression.   I engaged every theory about development, struggling hard to find an honest, balanced way to not be consumed by closeted trans fantasies about magic & sickness.

When I emerged, thirty years ago now, I was clear that my journey was to wholeness, integration, actualization and wisdom.   The Eros in my trans needed to be part of my life, not something I closeted and partitioned off.

This was possible for me because of the skills I had to develop as a child of my Aspergers parents.   They didn’t form a emotional, bonded network with me, so instead I had to become self-reliant.   This meant I became self-contained, with all of the benefits and costs that entails.

As masterful as my skills are, contained in my practice of aesthetic discipline, and as much as people find them both useful in a crisis and annoying in everyday life, they constrain and limit me.

Why am I bothering to write up this experience when I have written the same thing up so very many times in the past?   Why do I have any expectation that this time my poetry and precision will break through, open a heart & mind, create a connection?

I drove 150 miles, roundtrip, to a writers event, hoping to find someone who got the story.   Instead, I found an hippy audience waiting to have their stereotypes confirmed, to have their current beliefs reinforced.   This was a comfortable place for them, a gathering of peers, a congregation of the devotees.

As I watched them from a corner, my own loneliness consumed me.   Rather than meeting them where they are, assimilating and agreeing, my differences swept me up, moving me farther away and back onto the road for a lonely ride on a sunny January Sunday.

If my exposure can’t lead to being seen, understood and valued, can’t lead to mirroring, then why do it?   If no one will get the joke, why endure the flak?

The counter argument is clear: while there is no guarantee that my exposure will lead to connection, there is no doubt that my lack of exposure will not lead to connection.   Only showing myself holds any hope of being seen, understood and valued.

The armour that so many transwomen end up carrying around, be that the visible bubble of the unpassable or the internalized denial of those who can look like they went though puberty as a female is all about the potential cost of the “third gotcha.” What happens when our gender changes in someone’s eyes or when someone decides we are a horrific affront to decency in the world?  Who will stand with us, defend us, protect us, comfort us, affirm us, help heal us?

Today, the awareness of trans as authentic expression is much broader than it was when I emerged.   The limits to that awareness, though, are still profound and the negative reaction can almost be worse because many feel an more open obligation to confront and denounce transgender expression.

People want transgender expression to be simple, which is why the newly emerged are so easy to grasp.   We old hands, though, with rich and complex stories full of lessons learned in the liminal space between the borders, well, we tend to challenge everyone.

(In Neil Patrick Harris’s foreword to Willam Belli’s “Suck Less” he credits William for teaching him how to be a woman to play Hedwig on Broadway. Problem is that in the book, William never, ever, identifies as a woman, only as a drag queen.  Does NPH believe they are the same thing, just “not man”?)

What would it have been like to have people who stood by me, as a child, as a human, as an emerging transperson?  Would I have been able to avoid being consumed in a world of my own profound loneliness?  Would I have been able to believe that showing myself would bring connection & rewards?

It’s a only a hypothetical exercise.   I am who I am, formed by a lifetime of experience & practice.  I have exposed myself an immense amount, writing for my life.

I am extraordinarily happy for Kinley who has a loving family to stand beside of her as she emerges into a new form, people who will feed her dinner, answer her calls and tell her when her butt looks wrong in that outfit.   Thank you to Ms. McGrath and Mr. Mochrie for standing up in support of people like me.

And I am happy to have stood beside so many people over the years, being there for them.   It is a gift to me as they claim their own brilliance & gorgeousness in the world beyond fear and old habits.

As for me, though, well, the loneliness seems to consume me.  A history of attenuation and denial has not left me confident and powerful.

It seems, though, that I have mentioned that before.