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.