Animating Force

Being in the moment, being present in a way that moves beyond expectations, assumptions and projections, is the key to finding the divine surprises which life can offer you.   Engaging these surprises offers the miracle of shifting perceptions, seeing our shared world in a new way which can lead us to integrated and actualized choices which honour love and connection rather than imposing our own fears and prejudices.

Being in the moment, though, does not mean rejecting or forgetting all the moments which have come before.   Our rich array of experiences and knowledge inform our understanding, offering context, even as the feelings and inputs of the moment illuminate our history, making sense of our path in a new and insightful way.

I am the outcome of my journey,  yes.   My family dynamics, the demands of the culture I grew up in, the defences and strategies I formed to operate inside the challenges of my life shaped me in profound and permanent ways, no doubt.

I am also, though, shaped my the spark my creator put inside me.   Call it genetics or spirit or acorn or essence, like every human, I was born with a unique heart.  Infants bring key elements of personality with them, a nature that can only be honed by nurture, never erased or lost.

We don’t have great words for these essential characteristics because they exist before voice and culture touch us.   Much of life is a struggle to balance the wild strains of our nature with the tame assimilation of our days, discovering ways to use and control that essence in a way that society will value or at least tolerate.

I may reject phrases like “I was always a woman,” because I know womanhood to be very much a cultural construction, laid on top of biology, drives and cultural artifacts, something one must be trained in, but I do understand what transwomen mean when they use that structure.

Feeling the pull of a feminine heart, a womanly essence, even as one is compulsorily pressed into the role of man because of a few bits of binarized anatomy is painful and destructive.   It forces us to grow layers of defence and rationalization around our primal spark, denying our heart to get what we need and to avoid being clobbered.

My experience has been profoundly reactive.   I learned to be hyper-vigilant, to escape into my own mind, to lead with my smarts though deeply perceiving what was going on around me so I could shape strategies for effective defence and power taking.     Coming in as a guerrilla fighter, keeping my head down, exploiting my apparent weirdness gave me freedom of action beyond the taming demands of others.   Not being one of the gang allowed me to stay in my own strengths, though always at the cost of isolation & loneliness.

It’s easy for me to think that my defences are who I am, as they have always been created to allow me to both conceal and integrate my essence into a social role of eccentric, idiosyncratic iconoclast.    That role was deliberately constructed to give me cover in working with others, in presenting myself to the society that I had to swim in.

My essence, though, the animating force which has always been in my heart, has never been destroyed, even if also has never really been publicly exposed and valued.    It may only be part of me, along with my biology and my history, but it is the part of me which came first, the part I learned to fear, doubt and hide, the part which has always come to the surface in my needs & desires, the part I could never rationally explain or justify.

Between all the bits, the projections of who I “really” am, the acting out of my needs, the flights of creativity, the sharp edges of my mental model, and all the other assessments of me, from “stupid” failure to care taking savant, flows the blood that pumps through my original heart, endowed with the spark of creation, of essential essence.

That animating force has always been feminine, no matter how much I have fought it.   It took joining a butch/femme community to discover that my teenage search for love was quintessentially lesbionic, even if the shape of my body and the demands of gender resulted in regular failures.   Ah, Tweety.

Trusting that force, though, has always been difficult.

My choices, as complex and nuanced and shimmering as they may have appeared from the outside, were driven by my animating force.   I knew that I had to both honour and protect my tender heart.

I was smart enough to know that any assertion which challenged gendered presumptions would mark me out as a trouble maker, as broken, as sick, perverted and such.   Knowing that I had a big bulk of a body and a love for women meant I knew I could never become invisible as a transsexual woman.   My only choice was queer.

Queer I did well, always defended by a pragmatic knowledge, a sharp ear and a compassionate vision.  Those aspects may have felt as womanly to me as my gender neutral jeans and polo shirt, but I also knew they didn’t totally shut others down, didn’t create walls between myself and them.

My message in expressing transgender has always been to show a part of myself which is hidden by normative assumptions, to tell the truth that there is a part of me which is more feminine than masculine.

That essential piece, though, is deep in my animating force, in the spark of life with which I came into this world.   To know me, to understand me, to make sense of me, it is more useful to see me as feminine hearted, and now, after purging shame and finding my voice, to see me as a woman.   A queer woman, certainly, but a woman.

Like any transperson, I have spent an enormous amount of energy and effort to de-noise my presentation, to conceal bits of me which others find jarring, challenging, twisted and wrong according to the conventions of their belief.    When I reveal my heart, having it dismissed, denied and degraded is very painful, which is why transwomen often get very good at staying in a bubble, letting the crap slough off with high levels of latent inhibition, an approach I deliberately resisted.

Resisting my animating force, though, is resisting the energy of life that comes from my centre and courses within me.  Resisting the spark keeps me small, decorous and lonely, but somehow, it can seem better than the stigma & flak one gets from claiming that force which leaves deep and profound damage I need to retreat to heal.

Finding a way to claim that animating force, even in a society which doesn’t hold space for other than expected binaries seems vital to owning my own life, to respecting my own heart, to revelling in my own energy.

I know all the ifs, ands and buts.   I know my biology, my history, the taunts of all the people who claim that the walls between male and female can never be broached, be they religious fundamentalists or TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists.)

I also know that many of the bits of my character which people write off as masculine, from my engaging in creative & caring conflict to a memory full with human moments of story come from my deep and feminine animating force.   As I have been trying to say for decades, it’s not the package that defines humans, it is the content of our character, even if that baffles people who like simple and rude sorting & dismissal.

We live in a world where we are asked to deny our animating force, to remove the handmade red shoes of our soul and replace them with machine made pumps that will dance the will of those who market the status quo.

I learned how to handle that challenge by staying in my own world, sharing my soul only in a subtle and dry way.

To come back into myself, though, to create the connections which I want & need, I must go back to my animating force, beyond the fears and assumptions of a society steeped in binary thinking.  The world operates on “and,” not “or,” so the separations we create to comfort us are just blocking illusions, as any true shaman knows.

May this coming year help me a find a project which puts my fear & hurt behind me and helps me return to trusting & exposing my own animating force.

And I wish the same blessing for you.

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Complicated

On a recent BBC TV drama, a transwoman is told by her wife that if they “really loved their sons” they wouldn’t be so selfish as to continue emerging.   The character cuts their long hair and goes back to man gender cues.  Their encouraging boss then finds them in her office, wearing her scarf and lipstick.  Soon, the sons show up and tell the transwoman that they just want them to be happy, as long as they stay the father, prompting hugs all around.

According to this tale, trans is so simple that putting a scarf around your neck and applying lip stick allows you to be true to yourself.  It’s about the clothes, not about tricky gender markers like being a parent rather than having to be a dad while also being a woman.   Guy in a dress is fine.

In my life, people have wanted me to be simple. I, in turn, have struggled mightily to cut back the noise, to create clear and engaging language to explain my needs, my desires and my view of our shared world.

Simplification, though — and as Ries & Trout remind us, “marketing is essentially the art of oversimplification” — has turned out to be a futile exercise for me.

My trans heart learned early that there was no refuge, no sanctuary for me beyond my own inner world.    If I was hurt, battered and broken, my only choice was to retreat into myself to try and effect healing.

Exposing my injured spirit to others would just prompt them to tell me to cut back, compartmentalize, grow a thicker skin, fit in better.   If my struggles were simpler, they told me, I would have less pain.

Expecting them to enter my inner world was stupid and dangerous, so I had to learn to better and more effectively enter their world, their consciousness, their awareness.

I did that work, doing my own inner therapy to heal as best as I could, entering their world, playing their game, being present for them.

Today, though, that seems barely enough.   I know that there are still a few people who want to give me gifts, but my complicated view makes that difficult for them because I see things, strings and crocks, that are just not in their vision.

Over the past thirty years or so, I have come to understand transpeople by the defence strategies they use.    By the unique shape of their armour I can see the beating heart underneath.

We stay within our armour because we know that if we get injured deeply, cut to the quick, we will have to retreat within ourselves to do the healing.   There is no peer group, no support network, no safe space where we can get naked and be bound up with love and care.

In my romantic fantasy, a bedroom is where we can take off our armour with a partner who is there to care for us, two people revealing for healing, exploring for passion, affirming for possibility.   I know that doesn’t happen easily, but it is still why I tear up at people committing to each other, signing up to know, to share, to heal and grow as partners.

The reality of relationships is often much less than this, needy people playing games with demands and projection, which is why I stopped trying to ask others to be present for me if they didn’t have the will and the passion.   Æsthetic denial has a price, but less than the cost of having your heart broken over and over again because of projecting your own romantic illusions, dreaming of the “special relationship” which will finally save you.

When I hear a transwoman express her fear over ruining the Christmas prime rib, wasting $40, I know how close to the bone her life has become since she decided that emerging with her trans truth was worth more than comfort & ease.   Her scars are visible to me, even with her long-term partner, and they touch my heart.   She has had to become a warrior just to survive.   While others may not see the price of that — after all, she brought it on herself — I know too well the struggle to keep carving out a place for us and others like us in a political world that would rather simplify us to comforting invisibility.

I know that others want to be present for me, just in a way that simply fits into their own priorities.

Complicated, though, is what I know myself to be.   I have had to learn to love my own complications, my own folds & crenellations, my own facets & twists, my own shimmering & iridescence.

That complication is the gift my creator gave to me, the liminality which allows me to be both and neither simultaneously,  crossing worlds to live in beautiful questions.

While others may see that nature as a cluster of sharp shards too spiky for ease, I see it as truth.

No scarf and lipstick is going to make my life come together.   Either/Or is beyond me.

And that is why I am alone at Christmas, my voice silenced to just an internal chatter.

May the complicated parts of you be the gift you embrace this holiday season.