Divine Discomfort

We humans are very, very good at avoiding discomfort.   We know very well how to stay inside our comfort zone, no matter how small, how twisted or how limiting our habits and expectations have made that space.

Discomfort, though, is required for growth.   If we only do what we are already comfortable doing, instead listening to the resistance of our ego, nothing will ever change.  After all, the only way change can come is when it starts with new choices by one human, usually you.

We can always find reasons not to expand our life, not to risk, not to take a chance, not to face potential embarrassment and discomfort.   It is easy to surrender to our own inertia, to be too tired or have too little hope, to just continue making the same choices while complaining that nothing ever changes.

That critical voice inside has a point.   We do need to be smart about where we use our energy, our resources, not just taking shots that use our wherewithal up or lead us to believe that change is impossible.   Spitting into the wind rarely gets us happy rewards.

But as long as we avoid discomfort, we avoid even the chance of finding the divine surprise, that moment when our vision opens and we see the love, the awesome,. the possibilities of better in the world.    We miss the miracle of seeing with new eyes, scales falling away while beauty and potential is revealed.

It’s impossible to be in the right place at the right time if you just aren’t anywhere at all.   Braving discomfort, risking change rather than just working to avoid loss is required.

Do one thing everyday that scares you,”  Mary Schmich advised graduates.   Its the only way to expand your horizons, to really find out what you have inside, to claim that gift of a lifetime that Joseph Campbell spoke about, becoming who you really are.

I know that for me, it is again time to come out of my basement hermitage and take the risk of exposing my nature, of trying again.   I have been licking at my wounds long enough.

Performance Anxiety (PA), often known as stage-fright, is an old friend of mine, as it is for most performers.   If you aren’t a bit excited, you don’t have the energy you need.

For me, though, what I need from performance isn’t simple.   My performance is far from conventional, challenging to many, and baffling to others.  I will never neatly fit into expectations and the kind of engagement I need will never come from simply affirming pleasantries.   My distance from simplicity and cuteness makes me exceptional, like so many others.

Still, I am human and I need connection with other people.   Few may get the joke, but if I decide to value momentary comfort over exposing my truth, how will I ever find anyone who understands, who cares, who wants to play?   Only braving my own discomfort, moving beyond fears & assumptions, can allow me to be present for others and possibly, just possibly, have them be present for me.

If my experience with PA teaches me anything it is that first showing myself is always the hardest part.   Once I relax into presence beyond fear, my reflexes take over, letting me appear in a way that most would call natural or authentic.

In other words, it’s not the work that is hard, it is finding a way to open up and get into the swing, the patterns of the work.   If I just stop resisting, doors open up and I can receive the gifts waiting for me, even if those gifts include hints on how to be better and stronger the next time.

Entering the discomfort, then, is the only way to get smarter and more myself.   The only way out of hell is through, as someone said.

For me, the people I want to meet are those who are also on a journey of discovery, open to the divine surprises they find along their path.   When others take responsibility for their own thoughts and feelings, rather than seeing someone to blame or demonize, they commit to connection rather than separation.

Travellers always step out of their comfort zone, knowing that anything that doesn’t surprise, disquiet and challenge them, at least a bit, is something that they already own.    Curiosity drives seekers, rather than the simple sensation that tourists desire.   Transformation always has a cost and a value, setting us apart from those we come from, while sensation just entertains, allowing us to return satiated to the everyday norms.

Working to expand our knowledge and awareness can only come with the embrace of discomfort.   We may want to grow our mastery, learning to be more precise and effective, or to engage questions, even questions we had never considered in the past, but whatever expansion we desire, discomfort lies on the path.

Avoiding discomfort is avoiding the hard work of growth and healing.  We trade momentary ease for a more limited future.

I know that if I want a more full future that my only chance demands that I open the door and push into the discomfort that stands between here and the possibilities that lie in the treasures of divine surprises.    Avoiding those surprises through avoiding discomfort is avoiding the gifts life has waiting for me.

The youthful exuberance and resilience I once had is gone, replaced now with more wisdom.  I need to choose where and when I push through discomfort rather than just bouncing about, hoping to find an opening.

Between love and fear, choose love, opening to connection rather than closing down to pretend separation.   Have the courage to change what you can, the serenity to accept what you cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

But always know that to get the most out of life, choosing to push into discomfort is the only way to go beyond where you are now, to make new and better choices that offer the blessings of divine surprise.

Carry That Weight

Who would I be without the burdens that I have learned to carry?

How the hell should I know?

Part of the whole construct/deconstruct/rebuild ethos of rebirth is looking deeply at the ideas you carry, at the expectations and beliefs that are contained in your stories, and discarding those that you can.   To become new we must clear out the old, but not at the cost of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.   Something must be worth holding on to.

I am aware that I do not discard enough in my life.   Intellectually, that is easy to know, but emotionally, in a life full of hoarding scraps, of protecting what I have scraped together, well, letting go is easier said than done.   I know loss very well, being used to having what I value removed, so discarding isn’t easy.

I know that objects and symbols are not meaning, that their power comes from the stories attached to them, but those tales form the bedding I nest in every night. New possibilities always seem to come with new burdens, weights that feel more oppressive than the bundles I have already learned to carry.

With my low levels of latent inhibition, I have always been more of a saver than a tosser, knowing that keeping lets me find patterns, giving me the possibility of having what I need in the future.    Still, I deeply process what I save, looking to work through the emotions as much as I can using my patented rational filter, the one I built in childhood to keep my feelings in check by processing and understanding the choices I saw (and felt) people making around me.

Emotion, though, doesn’t leave just because you understand its context and its roots.   The body keeps the score, as Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk reminds us.

The weight I hold isn’t in my mind, it is held deep in my body, trapped emotions, pervasive hyper-vigilance, crippling angst, creeping fear.  “That poor, twisted man.  But don’t the suit fit nice?

Solitary rationality just can never touch that residual emotion.  Yet, that residual emotion is so sharp that it makes it difficult to touch, especially for people who never touch their emotion except in sanitized packages like workshops and Hallmark movies.   Raw is raw, and only those who have pushed through their own hell can possibly enter yours.

Eating emotions, though, does not release them.   The body still keeps the score.

As a woman, a caretaker, I do the work of engaging the emotions of others, mirroring, contextualizing and reinforcing them.   I enter their world to support them, but as a trans person who is a child of Aspergers, finding people who can enter my world has been well neigh impossible.

A burden unshared is a burden multiplied.

For those of us on a solitary path solitary burdens abound.  My personal Transgender Day Of Remembrance (TDOR) piece from last year was called “Burden of Remembrance”  in which I listed all the things I was taught to remember when stepping outside presenting my transgender nature.   One PFLAG mother thanked me for explaining the weight that I feel and she doesn’t notice as a normative person, but a therapist just wondered why I didn’t effectively work the crowd after I presented, seemingly not understanding the burdens I outlined weren’t just rhetorical or hypothetical.  In fact, she later told me I needed to attenuate myself more, cut my voice back so as not to challenge others, wanting to add more weight on me.

Who would I be without the burdens that I have learned to carry?

How the hell should I know?

I just don’t have the eyes or the perspective to see myself objectively, to look beyond my burdens to my possibilities.   For the people I care about, I always mirror them so they can see both their potential and the things they do that block that potential.    Using witty reminders of choices made, choices that created better results and choices that didn’t work so well, I offer them encouragement, a clear “Yes!” to moving beyond fear and shining in the world.

Seeing beyond convention takes work.  One of the first steps is to develop language to describe what most people take for granted, their own expectations of normativity.   Until you can express your vision, you cannot change it.  After that, learning to see the range of possibilities, even possibilities which you would never, ever choose for yourself, enables a glimpse of options to be offered.

I know that even when I ask people to tell me what they see and what can be changed, their normative assumptions limit what they can say.   So much of me remains invisible, unseen and unspoken, outside of the bounds of vision.

The stories I carry, the truths I have boiled down, the foundations I have dug down to, are vital to me.   Dropping them because others just find them to be meaningless noise is not an option.

Until I can trust that others carry some of my valuables, though, figuring out what burdens I can successfully drop, what weight I can shed, is very, very difficult if not impossible.

Yet, dropping some of the weight I carry is clearly the best thing for me.   I know that.

Who would I be without the burdens that I have learned to carry?

How the hell should I know?

I guess, though, I should find out.

Alluring Aspirations

Girls learn early that the best way to enact the woman they want to be is to copy women who seem to embody their own aspirations.   Gender may be a copy with no original, as Butler said, but the copying, the copying is an essential and driving part of womanhood.

In the end, women have to end up creating a collage presentation, with a little bit of one role model, a lot of another and a scattering of family & community influences, but copying, seeing what fits, keeping the best and looking for better is deeply embedded.   This is why women, unlike men, love looking at magazines and shows filled with images of other women, stylish women to read, women to judge, women to reject and women to copy.

Forming cliques of other women — other girls — who look like you, act like you and think like you is foundational to creating identity.   Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda knew how to be smart single girls in the city, and so they created a pack, one millions of other women dreamed of joining.

I know what women hold images that call to me, who have shards of style that I want to own, including in my own presentation.   Joanna Gleason, for example, is a woman whose cool smarts have always appealed to me.

What I never knew, though, is how I could become those women.     The limits of my own typecasting, from body to history, seemed to create an immutable wall that just trapped my heart under the weight of simple divisions.

Women bond over aspirations, over dreams, desires and role models.   When you are separated from those shared possibilities, you are separated from gender.  I sure as hell never wanted to be an attractive man, and was sure that I could never be an attractive woman, so what the hell was left to weave me into the networks of dream sharing friends?

When I read about women who left behind medical care to follow a fraud who claimed to have found the secret to resisting cancer while staying lovely,  I know why women were so attracted to the aspirational dream she offered, even if it was a lie.   I know why Kate Bornstein read the TV hosts so as to say that she found David Duchovny attractive, knowing that women bond over shared crushes.

We live in a world of “infuencers” who offer dreamy faces of a “perfect” life for women to swoon over, imagining being that woman, in that place.   It is the reason women have always loved romance novels where they can be almost as swept away as the heroines, taken to a dreamed about world of beauty.

If I can’t be swept away because I have learned that those dreams are verboten to people like me, how can I join the crowd that shares aspirations?   How can my enforced “hyper-sanity,” the solitary isolation I had to navigate with rationality, ever let me simply be part of the group?   How can I dream of being like them when I know the only damn thing I can be is more myself?

It is powerful to know that the gift of a lifetime is becoming yourself, but having to do that too early and for too long is very isolating.  I may be comfortable with having God as an audience, as she knows my heart and sees my choices, but having others to hang with, to have my back, to know me in messy, earthly ways seems to be a compelling thing too.

Worse, I know that the best way to build a following, an audience, is to be aspirational, offering attractive images to others.   Until and unless they want to emulate bits of you, they don’t see much point in listening to you.   Knowing I have never been slim and pretty means knowing that many have rejected me as any sort of life model, not wanting to look like me or end up like me.

Pretty packages, well, women have always known that they are the best way to get people to engage and accept your gifts, to draw you into their awareness.

Seeming authoritative is easy for me after 25 years of deeply exploring the meaning of life and queerness, but that appearance both lets me touch some while many others feel the need to reject what I offer.   The fight inside of them against what they find challenging is easy to externalize onto me, feeling that if they can just silence me they can silence their inner fears and knowledge.  Not having assurance in their own choices, just being able to thoughtfully express their own point of view, erasing challenges seems easier and simpler.

It is good to know that what I say can often stick in the memory, coming up years later to inform and support new choices, but having to be rejected in the moment, often with upset acting out, well, that doesn’t make me feel safe as a girl.  I may know that they are fighting with themselves, externalizing inner battles, but that doesn’t stop many from kicking out to wound and silence.

I carry many of the same aspirations as any woman, especially to have partners who share and support my dreams, helping take care of each other’s needs.

Those aspirations, though, were first crushed many years ago, and have been further worn down by age, experience and awareness.  The part of me that was never allowed to be a girl may still be vibrant in my heart, but the rest of me has grown even as she has been flattened.

Who can I dream of being?   What shards can I show, cobbling together beauty, strength and vulnerability?   How can love find those who have an unlovable surface?

Can I ever aspire to be alluring?

Characteristic

Over the years I have written a number of character sketches of “Callan” in this space.  Most of these were meant as a kind of marketing exercise; could I shape a description of someone who would be strong, focused and attractive to connect with?

The art of marketing is oversimplification, as Ries & Trout reminded us, so all of these profiles described a kind of face shown to the world, a public visage that didn’t show all of my tumultuous thoughts, all the struggle of my history, all the raw and still bloody emotions which still drive my work as a wounded healer.

If I could just define such a well defined and transcendent character, I should be able to play that character, right?

What I found, though, is that while I could show the world a carefully edited part of me, an elegant façade, keeping that face up was quite a chore.    Without a well developed support system, a backstage area where I could let my hair off, the deeper parts of me bubbled to the top, seeping out as if they were laced with Olestra.

In the well polished concierge role that I shaped to take care of my parents and others around me, a thick skin and a focus on the needs of others is easy, all part of the act.   It was just an extension of the breeches role I created to act as a guy in the world, a way to have a feminine heart and a male body while still staying connected with people I loved.   Who cares, though, for the care givers?

Revealing more of that feminine truth, though, feels like being very much too exposed to a world that just doesn’t get the joke, a society which has no way to understand or contextualize the contents of my heart.

How can I both serve by simplification while also having my deeper needs met, rather than just having to hide and compartmentalize them?   It’s a challenge that even trans support spaces couldn’t help me with, leaving me alone again and again.

I remember a crossdresser coming into a meeting and reading a poem from Yeats.

Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven
W. B. Yeats - 1865-1939

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.   Yes.  Yes, I understand that deeply.

Today, drag performance is very much in the public eye.   Flaming, genderqueer twisted shows, taking a “let your freak flag” fly moment.   Drag characters are fun and powerful, though they are rarely deep, human and complicated.   I know this because I first came out as a “guy-in-a-dress,” showing a mixed performance in a quest to perform a kind of gynandrony/androgyny.  They remind me of a memory from one ZsaZsa’s husbands, who found it difficult they could not go down to the store or for a walk easily, because she first had to get into full Gabor face.

While drags may brilliantly reveal aspects of humanity, they do it by concealing other parts of their humanity, using the marketing art of oversimplification.   It is fun to watch, bringing attention, but always at some kind of cost that needs to stay hidden for the performance to work.   Never let them see you sweat, you know.

Drag is what I do everyday in my concierge role, a strong exterior which allows my my woman’s eyes to look out, my feminine voice to sneak out, asking the tough questions with a mother’s love.

For me, even today, it is still too painful to reveal a persona that feels like it allows others to tread on my dreams.  How long will I be able to stand strong with a trounced heart and what will it take to heal enough to risk again as I lay all alone in my hermit cave?

Without revelation, though, attracting those who can help me becomes impossible.  Revelation through oversimplification, though, showing a loose and open appearance, is not something that feels like I can master; my depth of vision tends to leak through, sooner or later.

So, what kind of character can I present that both is simple enough to be marketing effective and is also not so constraining that it leaves me crippled, gasping for breath?  How do I reveal the gifts of my journey without being accosted by others who want to silence me into hiding what challenges and discomforts them?

That question has bedevilled me for a few decades now.  It’s why I have written so many character sketches, trying to suss out who I can show myself as in the world to get what I need while serving others.

I have long known both where I am best defended and where my tender, vulnerable spots are.   My power may come from a big, feminine heart, from a deep art, but keeping that protected behind a curmudgeon curtain has kept me functioning as well as I have, keeping meltdowns for private places and times.

Growing organically to find balance is definitely the best plan, but at my age and weight — the history, thoughts and awareness that I carry — that is far from a simple process.   Young and cute and full of promise I ain’t.   People want to know who I am, how they can engage me, how I am like them and what I offer, not feel threatened and overwhelmed by my history and intensity.

I can write an nice Callan.  I can even perform her, at least for a while.

But wiping off all the mess from my life, my being, my presence?

That I don’t know how to do.

The Entitlement Of Children

“Look at you, a grown ass man fighting with children!”

Those children appeared to be a pair of twenty something lesbians, the more butch of whom had driven her minivan with a “Bernie For President” bumper sticker around me in the facing traffic lane as I waited for the car in front of me in the entry road to Walmart.

They felt entitled to break the law, be unsafe and rude to get where they wanted to go, but felt that no one, especially me, had any right to challenge or confront their choices.

Removing my standing was their big move, as they told me to go away, as they mocked my hair, my whatever, calling me rude names as I just wondered why they felt they were entitled to violate rules, social and legal.   Together they agreed that I was the fucking asshole, that I was harassing them, that calling them out was just improper.

It was the more femme one who finally made the point: “Look at you, a grown ass man fighting with children!”

My reply was simple: “Anyone with a driver’s licence is not a child.”   You have agreed to obey the rules of the road.

But they, you see, saw themselves as children, entitled to do whatever they wanted to do.

(For the record, it’s the same Walmart parking lot where a young woman of colour yelled at me for an hour after she hit the back of my car as I was backing out of a blind parking space.  My fault, yes, but grown ups know how considerate we have to be in parking lots.)

I spent years talking about the obligations of parents, and beyond that, the obligation we each have to parent the world, caring for others, caring for community by taking responsibility for our own actions and the shared actions of the group.

That chat got me kicked off lists, attacked and spattered because I was a grown ass human fighting with children.  Many demanded the indulgence and entitlement of selfishness, the kind that lets you just cut around cars in the other traffic lane to get where you want to go rather than waiting for your turn, rather than respecting the other people in front of you.

Call out culture is to call out those above us, those who should make room for our youthful demands, not to call out the teen spirit that lets us be rebels in the quest for getting what we need, what we want!   How can you, who we see to be old and straight, possibly understand our suffering?

Insisting that other people make way for you while you just get to slam them for causing you challenge and discomfort is definitely childish behaviour.  It is the kind of behaviour one would expect of one who wants to be a spoiler in the Democratic party while identifying as an Independent.  Oh, yeah, the bumper sticker makes sense.

This culture knows how to pander to children because children act on whims and are malleable.   They are cute and hot and manipulable.

Seniors, however, like the three people who encouraged me to go in front of them in the line at Aldi because I had just one item, right before I drove into Walmart, are more settled, more sane and more balanced.   You usually can’t just use emotion to get them going, tempting them to buy whatever you are selling, from phones to political actions.   Telling them that the kids are trying to take away everything they value may get them hot enough to fight, but that’s a battle it takes two to heat up.

Learning that your choices have consequences, that you shouldn’t do onto others what would be hateful to you, that you have the responsibility to model good behaviour is something you grow into.   It’s easy to attack people who make choices that you would not make for yourself, but not so much fun when you get attacked for making choices that your peers approve of but don’t pass muster for grace and legality.

Accountability is not only for others.   Telling people to go away because their witnessing of your actions makes you uncomfortable is not politically correct.

Every time you use being a child as an excuse to get away with selfish, entitled behaviours you tell the world that you are not ready to be seen as an adult, not ready to make the choices of an adult, not ready to be given responsibility for shaping a world that respects everyone with dignity and consideration.   It’s okay to be a child, still experimenting and forming, still caught up in your own stuff, but both being a child and a leader doesn’t work.

When people show they are working to take responsibility, it is easy to offer them a hand.   When people demand our indulgence, shining in their own sense of entitlement, it is easy to demand responsibility from them.

In my heart, the call to mother has always been loud.   Being a mother, though, doesn’t mean just smiling as kids make unsafe, rude and selfish choices, it often means mirroring those actions to help them find mature choices.

As long as people continue to use being children as an excuse, though, they remain both dangerous to others and unsafe to themselves.   As much as they need a chance to explore possibilities, they also need to understand that their actions have consequences.

Why do I mirror those who think their identification as children entitles them to selfish indulgence of rule breaking and other crude behaviours?

Because I believe that in every child there is a grown-up who can come out and be a valued asset in the world.

No matter how much they and their peers just want to talk shit, minimize me and rationalize their own behaviours.

Attraction Fraction

There are days when I really wish I could believe in the “Law of Attraction,” the idea that simply wishing for and visualizing things can draw them into our life.

There is some truth encapsulated in that notion, of course.   If we don’t believe we are worthy, don’t trust in our own grace, we will have problems accepting what is offered to us, missing possibilities that those who trust in their own attractiveness will easily grasp.  It is very much true that those who are confident and open about their own shining attraction will be seen as more attractive than the skittish, defended and avoidant.

A pretty woman can play ugly but an unattractive woman will have trouble playing pretty goes one old casting saw.   Someone who is confident in her own beauty can show her insecurity and mousiness but one who never felt attractive has much more of a challenge finding her own inner vixen.

Every woman knows her flaws, having them mirrored to her by a judgmental and compeditive culture.   This is one reason the “put-down” pickup technique often works, where a woman is challenged by a man who appears to not be struck by her beauty.

Not every woman knows her glories, though.   The mirrors are shattered and warped for those women who don’t fit conventional expectations, those who are marked out by not fitting the images of beauty all over the media.  We live in a world where trolls all across the internet feel entitled to slam those that they don’t find appealing with whatever horrible put downs that they can muster, cruelly judging women on appearance alone even as they never question the value of their own looks.

“You are the fat girl!” I was told as I posed in a vintage Corvette at a photo shoot in the 1990s.  “You need to smile!  You need to look jolly!”  When the editor of IFGE Tapestry wanted a picture of me, she turned to a premier photographer who attended trans conferences.   She quickly called me back, saying “We will go with an illustration,” acknowledging that my big frame just was never pretty enough to catch the eye of Mariette.

“The only way I will be with a man is if he sees me as a woman,” I told a gay guy at a bar.  “That’s never going to happen!” he responded.  “Okay, then, it’s never going to happen,” I accepted.  One reason I have been abstinent for so long is a refusal to play into the roles my body typecasts me into.   I can’t be intimate with anyone who doesn’t see and reflect my big and beautiful heart.

That’s why the law of attraction is so ephemeral for me.   I know that most can’t see beyond my body and my history, most cast me into roles that they understand and that keep me separate, rather than opening up intimate pathways.   I’m smart, sharp and loud, yes, but because that comes from bits that went through puberty as male, my tender heart tends to get trounced in the interactions.

A lifetime of interactions, added to the truth that aging tends to move us away from any ideal of desire, shapes the expectations I have around attraction.   Few women see themselves as getting more attractive as they get older; a realistic viewpoint.

To be a more public person, though, requires me to trust in some level of my own attractiveness.   If I show myself, put myself out there, what will people see?   Look at me! See my heart! Don’t look at me! Don’t see my assignments!  I knew the issue twenty some-odd years ago. How has it changed now?   How can I change now?

I need the social connection that attraction can deliver, but I have learned not to trust my own image.   People are happy when I take care of them, but being present for me is more than they are ready or willing to handle.   I am not a beautiful flower but a big bull, ready for work but not for admiration.  No one was ever wrapped around my little finger, smitten by my fragile beauty, desperately wanting more of my glamour.

Always depending on the kindness of others leads one to a limited life.   Accepting the gifts — the miracles — of the life you have is more important than imagining what you want and finding ways to try and get it.   Learning to do the work of growth, change and healing is vital, and not just when the bloom is off the rose and you are no longer the flavour of the month.  It is easy to lose yourself in who others want you to be, in creating what they find attractive rather than what you know to be authentic, and that can lead to the loss of inner comfort and awareness.

It’s the balance that counts, and while for many women, learning to find themselves apart is hard, for women like me, learning to find myself connected has always been the challenge.  I had to be a strong self from earliest days when even my family cast me out as “stupid,”  so never learned to be a strong link, part of the network of women.

Attraction for me is not about finding something sexual, it is about connecting with something powerful.  Olympia Dukakis says that when she met a transsexual woman prior to playing Anna Madrigal in “Tales Of The City” she was most surprised when she asked why they had gone through all of the changes.  “I needed the company of women,” was the answer, which was both surprising and sensible to Ms. Dukakis, who knew that her power came from being part of the web of women in the world.

My mother in the sky finds me brilliant and gorgeous, I am certain of that.  My mother in this life, though, never did.   Too many have expressed their own odd attraction to me, seeing me as fire, both fascinating & illuminating while being terrifying & isolating at the same time.

There are days when I really wish I could believe in the “Law of Attraction”  but then I flick through the way I have been mirrored in the world, the way people like me continue to be mirrored in the world, and somehow, my faith quickly fades.

Salvation’s End

I believed that rationality would save me.

What else possibly could?

I was growing up in a house where my mother’s intense internalized trauma of growing up with Aspergers got sprayed over everything and everyone, where every moment threatened another explosion, another erasure, another lashing out in search of a scapegoat who must be the one who stole her normality and happiness.

She had chosen my father at a new year’s eve party when she saw his iron ring, a signature of engineers in Canada.   He brought a kind of rationality that didn’t demand the emotional involvement that other men demanded, a kind logical problem solving approach that would enable him to focus on taking care of her with no messy needs of his own.

Between the flailing, pained emotionality of my mother and the withdrawn thinking of my father, I had to find a way out of the challenges that faced me in the family, the home, the neighbourhood.

I believed that rationality would save me.

I could think my way out, moving beyond mess to clear & sharp understanding.

That choice has been my blessing and my curse.

Neel Burton has a new book out, “Hypersanity: Thinking Beyond Thinking.”   It is a direct response to his last book, “Hide and Seek: The Psychology of Self-Deception” as he found that there were those in the world who strove to purge themselves of self-deception,  learning to think out of the box, and that those people find both benefits and costs from moving beyond convention.

Both mental disorder and hyper-sanity place us outside society,”  Burton wrote in 2016.   Both shatter the self-deception that most use to hold themselves together, the shielding and shedding through latent inhibition used to hold onto the conventions of sanity.   “By protecting us from fearsome truths, ego defences not only blind us to those truths and so to reality, but also confuse and constrict our thinking.

The truth around me, no matter how fearsome, was not manageable by blindness.   I didn’t understand how rare my concept forming survival strategies were, though I did understand that most people “didn’t get the joke,” weren’t able to understand and mirror me.

Others, I also knew, weren’t as excited to see the world from another perspective, to go around corners and find new ways of understanding our shared world.  Not wanting their beliefs and feelings to be challenged, they tended to cling to the known and comfortable instead of opening up to connections, mental and otherwise.   Quick, fluid, deep thinking isn’t easy for those not taught the habits of analysis and understanding.  Seeing things as we expect them to be is so much easier and assuring of current comforting correctness, so for many rejection of challenge as “noise” becomes second nature.

It is not sick to be sick of sickness.   I knew my choices were limited as a queer/trans person, as a child in my family, as someone who could see clearly.  I knew that I had to trust rationality to save me.   In a world that values assimilation over sanity, though, that rationality also has the power to destroy me.   I know what it is to be seen as a “too person” — too smart, too sharp, too intense, too queer, too overwhelming.

The idea that rationality exists in opposition to feeling, that it mostly serves as a way to impose structure on the world, winning by forcing it into your own framework is held by those who seek control rather than understanding.   To me, rationality is a gateway into understanding natural complexity, even the beautiful complexity of my own soul.

Seeking the connections between stories lets me identify deeper patterns, the truth that can often be lost in as we rationalize difference or try to impose arbitrary structures.   Living in the chaos made me understand it, and while I tried to control it by manipulating those around me, it was not until I let go of those behaviours that I could finally embrace messy humanity with all the passions, needs, desires and brilliance.

Rationality, though, is one of the most effective ways to identify and challenge rationalizations, those mental mods we build to try and justify our choices and beliefs.  This has always made me seem dangerous to those trying desperately to stay in place even while it makes me compelling to those who seek healing.   Too many have wanted me to use my rationality to challenge what challenges them without challenging their own assertions, but questioning just doesn’t work like that.   It is always our assumptions which have to stand the test first if we really want to get to clear thinking.

To question our rationalizations is to question the fundamentals of our own identity.   If we aren’t the notions that we use to inform our choices, then who are we?   If the ground we stand on is shifting, what can we trust as a foundation for our claims, our beliefs, our truth?

For me, going deep into connection is the only way to find a bit of bedrock, but the willingness — no, the absolute need — to always be questioning, ready to doubt, makes it very hard to assert ego in the world.    I may have found some fundamentals but I know they will be dismissed by anyone who finds them threatening to their identity props and I have no simple conventions to back up my hard earned wisdom, only the way it has helped me understand my surroundings.

I believed that rationality would save me and it has.

I learned early, though, from a mother that gave me the family nickname of “Stupid” that my questions would also isolate me and keep me lonely.  This pattern has continued, wearing me down and wasting me out.

Does this make me “hyper-sane?”   I’m not quite ready to embrace that moniker; I still have a few questions to work through.

And that, I know after all these decades, makes me me.

Frayed Bootstraps

3) The hardest thing about trans is doing it alone.

How many times can you perform the trick of lifting yourself up with your own bootstraps before they just get too frayed to hold you?

When you get abject, marginalized, oppressed people together for mirroring and support one of the big challenges is to get them to affirm the choices others make that they would never make for themselves.

Their own choices are supported by a carefully understood and constructed rationale that keeps them inside of the line, keeps them within the range of approval, and identifies others as too far out, too boundary breaking, too arbitrary, too erotic, too queer.

“Sure, I stuff gerbils up my butt, which is normal, but he stuffs guinea pigs up his, which is just sick!” as I used to put it in the 1990s.

When disapproval, dis-empowerment and dehumanization is at stake, it can feel safe to be on the side of stigma, staying inside what you can rationalize as normative while throwing out those who make choices which squick and scare you.   That may mean being too weird or being too assimilated, standing outside of what you see as group values in any visible way.

I know that someone owns their own journey, become positive rather than reactionary, when they can finally say “I would never make that choice for myself, but it looks very good on you!”

These internalized judgments, based on our own social beliefs and personal self-policing, are easily hidden just under the surface, ready to be triggered at any time.   We strike out at others at things that we fight to keep immersed in ourselves, ready to attack what we fear rather than having to face it with grace & healing.

If we can’t trust those who are much more normative to support our choices when they feel fear, disgust or intensity, and we are pretty well guaranteed to get pushback from those who are struggling with the same impulses & needs, where can we find the kind of support we need to emerge beyond history and biology?

We can only trust ourselves. Even then, though, we can’t trust everything; we know that we need to keep aware of those who are triggered by our choices, staying safe and connected by active self-policing.   So very much to remember, so very much of a burden.

3) The hardest thing about trans is doing it alone.

We are expected to lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps, not only pulling hard but doing it while we show a happy, integrated façade to others so that our sweat and fear won’t upset them.   Showing strain asks them to participate in the magic of transformation while they just want to be amazed & soothed.

Does that sound like a recipe for failure?   It is supposed to be, of course.   The stigmatized are supposed to be pushed to the margins and broken so that others who might think about following them get the message and decide instead to follow the “straight and narrow path” towards social normativity.   Fit in or pay the price is the message that keeps the status quo enforced.

Somehow, it’s always much easier to pay attention to those who loudly attack what we hold dear, even at the cold distance of news reports, than to find people ready to understand and support us, or even trust the majority who are mostly neutral, much more concerned with their own issues than with ours.   Threats are much easier to be aware of than the banal neutrality which can conceal unpleasant surprises.

Most people, who live in a cluster of like minded friends, know that when they are attacked their group is attacked so they have someone to watch their back.   For transpeople, though, travelling the road alone, we don’t have that comfort.   Worse, we know that any challenge we offer will easily be dismissed by threatening our standing to speak, every word mocked as a lame excuse that cannot touch the fundamental belief structures and feelings of discomfort held by those who seek to cast us out as sick.

Still, alone we go in the world, without even people to tell us when a label is showing or we have lipstick on our teeth.

3) The hardest thing about trans is doing it alone.

I know how to lift myself up by my own bootstraps, no matter how impossible that task may actually be.  I have done it many times.   I can still do it for moments, falling back and struggling to recover after the effort.

Going through and doing the work to grow & heal is something I have done all my life.   My authority and words show that my choices are the stuff of serious consideration and struggle.

Still, I am alone.  “The Loneliness Of A Long-Lost Tranny,” as the tagline of this blog has read since I started it 14 years ago.

I don’t see any way to change that, either.  My questioning journey may have taken me to places I needed to go, through the hells that blocked my healing (1996), but it has also taken me far away from the banalities of everyday smalltalk.  It has made my references almost incomprehensible, my contexts most off-putting and my questions most challenging.

3) The hardest thing about trans is doing it alone.

A lifetime of loneliness, starting with my isolation from parents who had almost no theory of mind, no way to understand and enter other worlds, and continuing through queerness and theology, well, once you learn to live there, it becomes a well worn habit, enforced by a society that can’t accept the gifts you have to offer without becoming new & open.

My bootstraps are quite frayed, so every time I grab them to pull myself up one more time, straining for the magic just makes me quite exhausted.

Hard.   Yes, hard.

Melty

What do I fear?

Over the years, I have learned to deal with lots of challenges.   Even back at MIT, a challenger of mine acknowledged that while I made more noise than most, I also did more work than most, which earned their respect.  In many situations when I had someone to fight for and someone to fight with me, I waded right in, taking the hits, doing what was needed, and pushing well past comfort & ease.

This work, though, always came with a cost.   The requirement is to put my feelings in the background, to divert power to the brain, and not get stopped by any sense of emotional need or desire.   I need to stay chill, playing the concierge role, and leading with my head.

As a woman, though, especially as someone not seen as a woman by most who read my body before my heart, a lifetime of cold denial has not helped me grow roots, blossom and trust my feminine power.

I have learned, though, to be safe with myself, to cut off the outside world in a hermetic fashion, so I can create a place where I can just be me, not having to toughen up, being as melty as I can manage alone.

Is being melty alone very satisfying?   Well, no, not really.   Vulnerability is much more comforting when someone else hears you, understands you, and wraps you with their caring.   Tenderness and emotional availability can work wonders, or so I hear; it really hasn’t been part of my relationship experience.

What I fear, you see, is that dreaded choice that happens when I feel emotions in the wider world with no means of support.   Do I have to harden again, or do I just start sobbing in the car, needing to hide and get the stress off my aging, tender skin?

The challenge of engaging unhealed people, individuals who haven’t done the work to own their own feelings and make considered choices, is not new to me.   I know what it feels like to be targeted by someone who needs to act out their unresolved issues and I know how some want you to help through magically giving them answers, remotely doing the healing they find daunting, onerous and terrifying.   The notion that I am responsible for the feelings I trigger in others, that I have some responsibility to reply to their concerns and to change for their comfort, well, that is a challenge a melty person will tend to avoid.

The most difficult thing about trans is negotiating others fears.

In a lifetime where I was never safe being melty, even as a toddler, someone who needs caring and being put high on the priority list, being out and about for too long without somewhere to retreat into myself and melt, well, that just feels like a burden too big to bear.

Engaging a bigger world would be easier, I suspect, if I had a better way to recover in my little world, some safety, some warmth, some understanding, some encouragement, some tenderness, but while I have learned to give these things to others, I haven’t found much of it for myself.

Most hits are not fatal.   With some brains and some work, you can recover from them.   Making smart choices helps give a sense of agency, of control, of power.   The only time you really fail is the last time that you try, as giving up is giving in.

I know all of this.   The reason that I should be more active in my own life is clear to me.

Oh, but the cost of lifting up my heart to embrace that burden, the price of having to take the hits & keep going when you just want to melt, just need to melt.  Oh. It scares the crap into me.

Good things can happen if I get out into the world.   People can see me and like me, bits of attraction kicking in.   I can feel the affirming energy and power as I connect, my voice being mirrored, my energy flowing.  Bits of what I desire can come back to me, tiny delights.

And, of course, I can be present for the divine surprises of life, those moments when you get what you never expected or even imagined, when the universe reaches in and touches your mind and your heart, opening you up and reminding you of the awe and beauty we are each heir to.

I know what  I fear, the meltdown that leaves me gasping, demanding healing time that just puts me off-line, crumpled and crushed.

Yet I also know that fear is a barrier to love coming into my life, the love of learning, the love of succeeding, the love of being seen, the love of being loved.

The experience of having to attenuate myself to keep others comfortable is an exercise of the mind, of a mind that I empowered to save myself so long ago.   A sharp mind was required to face a society that told me I was too damn much, too overwhelming,  too visionary, too intense, too queer, too passionate. I needed to modulate for others, policing myself to consider their fears by amplifying my own.

It is the heart, though, that drives that mind, a tender, feminine, emotional heart that needs to have the space to melt into beauty, into mushy, into love.   It is a heart that learned early what expectations were laid on this big body and big brain, expectations that just were designed to break it.

I know what I fear.  I fear a meltdown that I just can’t recover from on my own, one that costs just too much of the scant resources that I have left.   I fear the assumptions, expectations and just plain self-involvement of others who have never, as I see it, really been able to be there for me.   I fear the ultimate loneliness of a long-lost tranny.

I also know what I need.  I know the only way to get it is to be exposed, to show my love with grace & commitment,  ready for love.

Melty, then, like so many things, is both what I need and what I fear.

It has been a long, damn life.

Authority

The easiest way to challenge someone whose words challenge you, challenge your beliefs, your feelings, your identity, is to attack their standing to speak, working to remove the authority of their statements.

As long as all they offer is the abject ravings of a crackpot, revealing their own jealousy, personal twists and internalized fudge, well, they can safely be dismissed, ignored, erased.

Instead of engaging challenge, instead of actually having to understand what you know and believe, to find words and connections that validate and reinforce your thoughts, an attempt to silence others by removing their standing to speak allows comfort to be maintained, the status quo to be enforced.

My history is full of doubt.   From as young as I can remember, I had to question everything from my parents “truths” to my own very clear desires.  By taking apart the narratives, seeing what was valid and what rationalization, understanding the motives and preconceptions that drove words, I was able to find a basis of truth.

I remember a meeting where, right in front of a customer, another staffer expressed shock that big mouth me wasn’t saying anything.   No matter how rude she was, she discovered one of the big secrets of how I look so smart: if I don’t have something I know to be true to say, I keep my mouth shut.

A guy from our ad agency once said to me, “People who talk a lot usually have nothing to say, but I was bored in that meeting, so I actually listened to you.  You have a lot of smart things to offer!”   Of course, I wanted to can the agency after that, but if you only speak on what you have worked to understand, it’s easy to sound smart.

Being smart is not something everyone admires.   Fun bar chats often depend on the absence of an expert, so everyone’s opinion has the same standing and no one can challenge them with pesky, authoritative facts.   Facts are a problem, as many in the political system have discovered, so much better to be anti-intellectual so you can wave your arms and spout shite than actually have to engage challenging arguments, working to find common ground and effective compromise.

My history of doubt is a history of sharpening, of clarifying my own understanding.   This allows me to suss out the meaning of what others share, put it in context, find connections and identify where growth & healing is required.   I can clearly summarize the situation, which, I have found, is often a conversation stopper, as people can’t just continue to bicker.

In other words, my struggle to understand has left me as sounding — and being — rather authoritative.   Even when I run up against new facts, new truths, I am able to understand and integrate them into my own worldview quickly, another talent that surprised other staffers.

My smarts don’t come from rote knowing, they come from active doubting, and that continual questioning has always served me in good stead, even if it makes me less than driven.

Having an authoritative voice, though, especially one that doesn’t just parrot doctrine but instead demands sharp thought to cut away the fog, is not something everyone is comfortable with.   They would rather diminish my standing, cutting me down so everyone has “an equal voice,” no matter how considered their content is.

Just like any gift, my authoritative voice is both a blessing and a curse, allowing me to see, to help, to be present and also bringing on ad hominem attacks, dismissal & erasure.  The quick assumption is that my feelings can be ignored because clearly, my thoughts are enough, an assumption that has caused me pain since I was very small.

If they aren’t ready to doubt their own choices, to examine, to heal and to grow, many turn away from what I offer, more comfortable to just write me off as “one of those people.   They prefer comforting, standard, politically correct answers to difficult, sharp, authoritative questions.

Guarantee: If you don’t find something on this site
that
challenges your thinking or your identity within 20 minutes,
we’ll give you
double your money back! (1997)

I have the sneaking suspicion, though, that it is time to assert my own authority in the world.    This is sure to make people try to find ways to dismiss my words, especially fundamentalists who believe that their scripture already has all the correct answers, while I just have the power of smart, informed questions.

Trying to attenuate my voice, cutting it back to be cuter, making people less uncomfortable, has never been a successful strategy for me.   Even when I am quiet, a few words and the look in my eye tends to make people feel seen and heard in a way that makes them feel naked.   Having my vision has given me compassion beyond judgment for the frailty of humans, but that doesn’t mean others aren’t ready to feel the internalized shame they work so hard to hide, ready to feel rationalizations pierced.

Standing on an authority built on the shifting sands of liminal, bridging, connecting questions may seem a bit queer, at least until you understand that with enough digging you almost always find bedrock.   Joseph Campbell reminds me that cross-culturally, human truth has been mirrored the same meaning in many places, many times, that there is such a thing as shared understanding of our continuous common humanity, even if we use very different symbols & metaphors to convey those deep truths.

While I believe in the fight, I don’t believe in battle, in seeing someone or some group as the enemy.   What we share is always, always much more important than what seems to divide us.   Healing, growth, change and transformation is possible if we hold open the space and ask the powerful questions that help us let go of comforting falsehoods and defensive rationalizations.

I know about the attack.  I also know that the only way to transcend it is for people to speak up out of the love which embraces & replaces fear, answering the call for love & connection that lies deep in the soul.

The authority to speak is something I have, if only because I worked so damn hard to discover and claim it.

Now, as before, though, the challenge is to share those lovely questions,  the ones which lead us to divine surprises, in the wider world.

Bloody Gifts

Some have called this “performative spirituality,”
which I think is a good designation,
as long as we understand clearly: there is no other kind.
     https://internetmonk.com/archive/59235

Jenny Brien offered up gifts when responding to yesterdays post, including an announcement of her presence, of her being touched by my work, a moving poem she created that was inspired both by a post of mine and a blog post referenced above.

The sweetness of Jennifer’s words, all the way from Fermanagh, touch her deep knowing, and the touchstones she has found touch me.

Calling, you see, well, it is a bit of a bitch.   Especially if that calling is seen as queer.

The gifts of your heavenly Father aren’t solely for your own personal use. They were given to you for others and for him as well. If you have received more, more will be expected of you. If you have anything to fear, it’s not the acknowledgement of your gifts, but your failure to use them.
• Michel Quoist, Keeping Hope

As Martin Mull reminded us, “Jesus is Easy.  When we wrap our calling in Christic imagery it assumes the guise of normativity.  If I explained the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints most wouldn’t identify it as canonically Christian, but the Mormons are clear: Jesus is at the centre of their beliefs, so that makes them Christian.

Resisting calling (2003) has always been a theme in my life.   After all, feeling the call to move beyond the gender expectations placed on me was just one facet of how I understood the need to transcend, to move beyond, to go deeper and serve those I love in ways that they didn’t understand so they could not value.

How many people do you have to make uncomfortable before you are voted off the island?   In my experience, most people find it easier to stand with the crowd than to stand alone, stand up for challenging voices and visionary diversity.  I was taught to judge my worth not on how many people that I inspired but rather on how few people I pissed off, not on how I brought cutting edge ideas but on how I served expectations.

I always brought more than meets the eye to my interactions with other people.  I learned to sneak in the theology like other moms learned to sneak in the vegetables.  How can I help it?  I have, well, a calling, something that just doesn’t want to stay hidden, no matter how much I try to keep it down.

Some have called this “performative spirituality,”
which I think is a good designation,
as long as we understand clearly: there is no other kind.
     https://internetmonk.com/archive/59235

My relationship with my mother in the sky has always saved me.   I know that she loves me even when it feels like everyone else is just looking askance, ignoring me, or consumed by their own issues.  She doesn’t care how big I am, in body, in mind, in voice or in spirit; in fact she loves it the way she loves me, seeing the powerful feminine voice that cuts across gender expectations, revealing the beauty of continuous common humanity.

My relationship with humans, on the other hand, has always been strained.   Part of the cost of being liminal.   Would I have traded away the joys of liminality to be less challenging?   Could I?  Like I told the therapist who offered me a lobotomy to knock my edges off, or the one who pushed me at 12 to say who I wanted to be when I grew up trying to read my dysphoria, the gift of a lifetime is being who you are.

Booger.

You can’t fight for someone unless you are also willing to fight with them.   Not battle; battling is just ego trying to force change.  Fight fair, fight fun, fight with love to support them as they grow and change, no matter how long it takes them, no matter where following their own heart takes them.

Booger.

Some have called this “performative spirituality,”
which I think is a good designation,
as long as we understand clearly: there is no other kind.
     https://internetmonk.com/archive/59235

Thank you, Jenny, for reminding me that what we give matters, even if we can’t immediately see its impact.  Calling counts, but only if you follow it, letting it lead you beyond comfort and expectations.

The gifts we were given need to be discovered, polished and passed on, even to those who never imagined needing the gifts of spirit.   Machine made red shoes don’t ever take us on the journey of the heart.  Blood is required.

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.   Amen.  Life isn’t about what we say, it is about what we do, the work that leaves ripples.

I may never be simple, conventional or expected, but if transpeople don’t hold open the space for change in the world, who will?   How can the possibility of change beyond the bounds of normativity ever be affirmed if we don’t offer a hand?

If it is to be, it must start with me.  Someone else out there must understand.

After all, Jenny does.

Plundaga

The many solicitations in the mail box remind me that I am rapidly approaching a milestone birthday, one where things change.  I need change, I know, but like most things in my life, it’s not that simple.

I have three draft posts open and have for quite some time now.

One is an ode to ambition, both an acknowledgement how being ambitious sets us apart from the mass and how nothing gets done without ambition.  The ways we justify & rationalize our ambitions, working to sanitize them so they seem normal & godly, make commitment to inner calling difficult.

The second is on compassion, on the power of love to help us engage and empower those who are struggling to grow and change.  As a woman — as a mom — I know how much I need people to lavish my own love upon, to be present for in ways as simple as feeding them and as complex as helping them find and face their own inner voice.

The third is on breakage, on the need to shatter bits of our lives to break through to new possibilities.  What do we need to smash and what do we need to hold close?   What bits can’t we break, no matter how much we want to, so we need to learn to live with them?   As the target patient in my family, I was both the scapegoat and the healer, revealing what others would rather keep hidden, revealing where healing was needed.   The obligation to both break through and to be the one who mends breaks, facilitating growth, always left me split and scared.

My history is playing small, using guerrilla strategies to make motions towards change.

There is, however, a good case to be made that at some point, I need to just let fly, opening my big mouth, my big brain, my big spirit and my big heart to speak loudly and see what that release attracts, in the world and in my life.

This is not a case I have been able to make easily, as my ambitions are feminine, my concern has been for those I loved, and I have been as conservative as I have been queer, valuing structures and social norms.   I have resisted calling to the point of self destruction, as I have noted before.

A few days ago, though, my mother in the sky gave me a sign that my voice has power.   Someone found this blog and read like fury, going deep and chewing through an enormous number of these dense posts.   It was a surprise to see that day in my stats because I am used to being just a voice in the wilderness, speaking without being heard.

I also found a bit of feedback from three years ago, stuck somehow as a draft that I had never seen at the time.

You are an incredible writer. And I don’t say this lightly, I’m a journalism grad from Texas Tech. Any books? Where else can I find you? Big fan!

So now, at this time,  the question comes to me, simply and powerfully: Do I have the energy for one more rebirth, this time as a very public persona?

I know why I haven’t gone big before, why even after exposing myself and my writing, I didn’t work the room, doing the social connection bit, preferring to have said my piece and let others find me if they were ready and willing to do the work.   I never work for an audience, never search for affirmation & acclaim, and in fact don’t trust that kind of feedback when I get it, assuming that there was a kind of shallow, surface connection which was more about others projecting what they need onto me rather than deeply engaging.

Working the crowd just feels to me like missing the point.   Maybe, though, those feelings miss the point: if you don’t put yourself out there, don’t let people get to know you, how can they ever engage more deeply?

One of the hardest things for me is my utter lack of a social support system, people who affirm my ambition, who enter my world with compassion, and who support my breaking through.    (That’s a recall, in case you didn’t notice.)  Instead of engaging public life, taking the knocks and challenges that come with it, I live as a hermit, missing the bruises but also missing the divine surprises that are out there for me.

Yet, a milestone approaches.   Change or, well, whatever.

I have trouble when I invoke a voice to write encouraging polemics.   One I wrote as a bad example was read to the crowd during an orgasm workshop, sending me into a long and extreme laughing jag.   Recently a therapist asked who had sent me the polemic, not grasping that I was always stuck writing them for myself, which makes them almost more sad than empowering.

Still, I seem to need some kind of transcendent encouraging.

I have read your 1997 poem Look At Me/Don’t Look At Me.   I know what you fear.    From being targeted by your mother to being “too much for the room — too queer, too intense, too intellectual, too visceral, whatever” you have learned to play small, to stay invisible, to own your own voice by not having to satisfy the crowd.

What I want to tell you, though, is that over the decades you have cleaned and cleared your presence.   Even though you vividly remember your missteps and blunders, they don’t define you.   What defines you is your crystalline vision and your powerful voice, gracious and transcendent even when it illuminates what others want to keep hidden.

You have lived a deep life, discovering by exploring.   Now is the time, though, to be the crone you were meant to be, the grand-mère who returns her gifts to those who are still seeking, those who can incorporate bits of your hard-earned wisdom into their own expression.

Be seen.  Speak up.  Shine.  Now is the time, no matter how it inspires fear in others who would rather see you play small.    Go on with a bang, not a whimper.  The world needs more Callan, especially a Callan who can convince others to bring their smarts, their wit and their spirit out to be more beautifully themselves.

Change comes, if you want it to or not.  The only way to make it better is to be bold and take ownership, breaking the rules to make new ways to be.   When people see you, some will see you shine, but only if you own that brilliance rather than just flashing brightly and then falling back into the tiny darkness.

Show yourself and you will be seen.  That will let people see you and your heart.  And if they see a bit of what I know is there, well, I know they will be moved. 

You are lovely, even if you don’t always see that when you look in the mirror. You are loveable not just in spite of who you are but because of who you are.  Some people will see that and be able to respond.  Let them find you.  Let them love you.

Shine.  It’s your time.

Or, at least, that’s what I would say to someone like me.

Shimmering Iridescence

I feel most comfortable when people see my iridescent shimmer, the wide range of changing colours that come across my expression in every moment, like light through the wings of a dragonfly.

I feel least comfortable when people try to fix me in some role, like trying to put a pin in the thorax of that dragonfly and sticking it to a board.

That’s why I spend the vast majority of my time alone.

I watch people watch me and I know they see me as one of those optical illusions I used to see in school.   Do they see see the vase or the pair of faces?  How many legs do they think I have?

After decades of exploration, I have good self knowledge, becoming integrated and actualized.   When I see the reaction of someone it almost always tells me more about their perception and mindset than it reveals some facet of me in a new way.    I know who I am, in all my shimmering iridescence, but they only know what fits their assumptions & expectations.

When I engage, I work hard to mirror their shimmer, revealing the layers of connection underneath the everyday persona.   This is, of course, both a gift and a challenge to others, bringing forth what they don’t usually reveal.

Shimmering, moving through the flavours and facets of who we are, is where our continuous common humanity is revealed.   As a queer trans woman, I know that being receptive to iridescence is holding open the space for growth and transformation, the revelation which allows people to transcend history & biology to become new. I need that space, which means I have an obligation to give it to others, at least if I hold in the Golden Rule.

Today, though, we live in a culture which is primed to divide, setting up beliefs as either/or, and identifying enemies by how their beliefs seem to negate what we hold sacred.   It is us or them, so if you don’t agree with me, you must be someone who is essentially evil.

Defence is attack, ACIM teaches us.   When we battle, for good reason or bad, we feed the negative rather than seeking for the connections, the cooperation, the understanding, the coming together, the love.   Battling forces us to live in the us or them paradigm, even if we are trying to come from a good, positive, transcendent place.

To battle, I need armour.   To wear armour, I push others to wear armour.  Armour doesn’t reveal our iridescent shimmering, that glowing, weaving humanity, rather it conceals it, both to the attacker and the wearer.  You can’t see their human shimmer, the residue of a human life full of love & challenge, and they can’t see you shimmer.   Bad magic.

It’s hard to transcend the dominant paradigm.   If you feel they are battling you  it seems obvious that you should battle them, deploying your own fundamentalist beliefs to try and destroy the beliefs which you feel are oppressing and hurting you.

An eye for an eye, though, often ends up leaving everyone blind.

To me, it’s vital to fight fair and fight fun rather than to battle.

Fighting fair means being willing to be open to challenge, being able to identify and agree with others when they offer something correct, even if it punctures my assertions or isn’t completely correct.

Fighting fun means respecting the humanity in the challenge, acknowledging pain and the need for solace & safety.   Rather than trying to crush others, destroying their beliefs and identity as negative, we respect them with a sense of dignity and play.

For so many of us who hold negative identities, knowing what we are against but not what we are for,  this kind of fight feels terrifying.   It’s simpler to work to silence others, to discredit them and remove their standing to speak than it is to stand up, vulnerable and honest, and lay out what we believe, the solutions we have found to work for us.

When we do that, though, trying to silence & destroy others, we set up the pattern for ourselves to be silenced & destroyed.  We identify shimmering as a weakness, as a place where the beliefs aren’t battle hardened, revealing locations that we can go in for the attack at the revelation of human vulnerability.

Trying to harden ourselves to avoid or resist challenge can give us the sense that the best thing we can do for others is to teach them to harden up, to grow a thick skin, to learn the tricks of knifing others with emotional weapons and illogical tropes.   It continues the battle rather than transcending it, lets the battlers have the upper hand over humans who glow with beautiful shimmering iridescence.

I played that battle game for years, got pretty good at it.   When I saw, though, what it did to people I loved, understood what it demanded of tender humans, and felt what it did to me, well, I knew that kind of big battle wasn’t going to help me heal & grow, wasn’t going to help the society around me heal & grow.

If I can’t reveal my shimmering, I can’t be present.   Today, that often means that it is simpler and easier to just stay away from those who still need control, need the false comfort of walls, need to keep the battle going to keep hidden from their own shimmering iridescence.

Narratives, the stories we tell, are powerful to me because they always reveal our liminality, where we cross boundaries in a way that shows many colours at the same time.   Even when we don’t want them to, our tales reveal our continuous common humanity, the shimmering iridescence that connects us to all things.

That’s why I listen, why I have struggle to communicate in a way that can be heard, that can reveal.

And it’s why, when people only try to figure out how to pin me, how to dismiss me, how to keep their own truths defended, I go to my own place, to celebrate my — and their — shimmering iridescence.

Bound Emulation

Smart humans create smart ideas that offer smart defences, notions that rationalize and constrain our choices in a way that seems simple and elegant.  Our ideas become the filter that defines our worldview, that gives us protection and comfort.

There comes a time, though, when any defence becomes not just a way to bind us from outside harm but also becomes a barrier that binds us from growing beyond the limits we have constrained.

Our walls, so carefully and thoughtfully constructed, stop being a fortress to keep out challenge and start becoming a prison to keep us bound up, isolated and hurting.

An egg is wonderful protection for a budding bird, but unless and until that egg breaks open, there can be no glorious & brilliant flight.

The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
— Anaïs Nin

I very much admire transpeople who strive to honour a commitment to family.   As a woman, I am moved when I see people take care of others, even when they have to put their own desires aside to do that.

For transpeople raised as men, those of us with a feminine heart and a body that went through puberty as a male, finding the balance between our own deep knowledge and our obligations is very hard.   We know the power of love which leads us to know the power of performance, the gift we can give of being a man in the moment.

The notion that our commitment to manly duties is enhanced by the pull of our feminine hearts may at first seem surprising, but for those of us who committed as spouses, parents and caretakers, we know that our love, our need to both give and get love has shaped our choices.

One classic strategy for people assigned as male at birth who love women and have the power of the feminine in our heart is the “hobbyist” plan.   In this model, we define the choices we make to try and satisfy the yearning in our hearts as just play, just fun, just a hobby.

This hobby has often been called “crossdressing.”  In this model, choices are just about the clothing worn, just a kind of game to emulate females because of admiration or sexual stimulation.

Since the 1950s or 1960s there have been those who strongly advocated this model, even creating organizations that tried to make crossdressing safe for “heterosexual men,” by banning any kind of homosexual behaviour or attempt to actually emerge as women.    The leaders have often broken the rules they wanted to impose on others — Virginia Prince used hormones while railing against the folly of transexualism, for example –but they worked hard to promulgate the model as one that gave comfort to wives and those who clung to manhood.

The comfort of this hobbyist model was obvious, protecting masculine privilege by denying queerness.   For those who felt the pull of family obligations, or even just feared their own nature, it gave cover and comfort to be seen just as a crossdresser, just a guy who liked to dress up without any deeper meaning.

The problems with this model were also obvious.  Makeup artist Jim Bridges who worked trans conventions came up with two classic jokes:

What’s the difference between a straight crossdresser and a gay crossdresser?
— Three Drinks.

What’s the difference between a transvestite and a transsexual?
— Three Years.

The boundaries of dreams, especially dreams we first had as transkids, imagining a future, are never simple or logical.

In the recent HBO film “Wig!” I was touched to see two powerful drag queens. Willam and Lady Bunny both tell stories about how moved they were when they were seen as women — when they felt that they “passed” as being born female — if even for a moment.   Willam was called “m’aam” by a crack addict breaking in while Bunny was warned about her gown hanging out of a cab, but the power of their childhood dream flashing true moved each of them.

Is womanhood for people born male even possible?   I wrote on this in 1998, “The-Guy-In-A-Dress-Line,”  a piece Jamison Green called “Fabulous! A literary tour-de-force.

In my decades, I have seen that the power of womanhood is not in how we can look flawlessly feminine, passing as being born female by concealing much of ourselves, but rather in the choices we make, the way that we let our love and feminine truth flow.   While gay men may have seen Divine as just one of them, reduced to birth sex, at least some women saw her heart, understanding her as powerfully feminine.

Recently, a very popular blogger who spoke for the hobbyist model, for “emulating females,” has announced they are done, signing off their blog.

For many years I read their work, watching their focus on crossdressing and not womanhood.  For example, they recently featured a BBC comedy where a young gay man disguised himself as a crossdresser.  I saw that scene, but it was not that engaging to me, as I watch how the lead woman character carries herself, how they write and dress her.    Woman choices are much more compelling to me than crossdresser choices.

The blogger worked hard to carry a hobbyist model, even merging hobbies so they got to crossdress at other conventions.   Now, though, they are retired, and while they still have a wife with health challenges, I was seeing the pull of emergence work on them as they imagined bonding with women and having relationships with men as a woman.

They are still proud of the terms they introduced to support the hobbyist model, terms a wide audience of men with trans in their hearts engaged, living vicariously even as they dreamed of being more out with their own crossdressing.

That rapt audience, though, and their expectations of emulation, of putting on a mask, rather than of emergence, of breaking out of the egg, letting go of old habits and making the leap to fly, became a burden.   How do you satisfy people who want to live through your exploits when you need to do what terrifies them, being reborn beyond past limits?

The walls of our fort become the walls of our prison.  It becomes time to bust out, even if that is exactly the thing we have been resisting with all our might for so long.

The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
— Anaïs Nin

Blessings in blooming to each of you.

Stow Ick

I am in favour of stoicism.   Learning how to think rather than just feel, to make choices based on balance & priorities rather than just impulse & reaction saved my life.   I believe that as we age, learning to be more stoic helps us be more effective in the role of the parent, the role that helps manage and balance families & communities.

Being forced to be stoic, though, is not a good thing.   In a story about children raised in Scientology, Rolling Stone reveals the cost of demanding stoicism from children.  While adults who enter the program want to be able to not be controlled by emotion, deciding to accept the continuous, grinding demands for discipline & compliance, the children they brought with them never signed up for this rigidity, nor did they need it.

For these now adult children, getting together to mirror each other, affirming their experiences is vital, just as Bessel Van Der Kolk explains in “The Body Keeps The Score.”   Their stories of being unable to easily interact with others who had a childhood, those who don’t understand how existing under fear and threats everyday could have shaped a life.

For me, though, it makes perfect sense.   While I didn’t have a mindset forced upon me, I quickly learned that the only way to protect myself in a family lead by two people with Asperger’s Syndrome was to become stoic, controlling my feelings and using my head.

“Everybody who comes in here explains how people did hurtful or stupid things to them,” a therapist told me.  “The difference is that you go on to explain why they made those choices, explaining their thinking and the pressures they are under.”

Yeah.  I had to model others in my head just to keep myself safe and sane.

The cost for that, though, is very similar to the price the children of Scientology paid, a lost childhood.   Just feeling, trusting, exploring, playing, never was safe.

To me, it felt like a life lived backwards, learning to be stoic first and then trying to go back to learn trust, including trusting my own feelings.   Because I was so out of synch with people around me, though, they had no idea how to engage me.

Stoic behaviour ends up demanding more stoic behaviour.   Because sounded strong, well balanced & smart, people assumed I had no emotions, so they dumped their own drama onto me.   If I then tried to show my feelings, they got upset, assuming I should be the stoic one, taking the brunt.

This cycle continues to this day, with me offering my hard won knowledge, people feeling threatened and then acting out, even if they claimed to be a safe person creating a safe space.  I know I can’t react by showing emotions because they will see that as me denying my better training.

For mental health professionals, teaching stoicism is a key part of the process, helping people move away from emotional reactions to considered responses.  Our freedom does lie in the moment between stimulus and response, so learning how to be beyond old, knee-jerk habits is vital to making better choices and creating positive change.

When you endured compulsory stoicism, though, learning to stay small & controlled, out of touch from your deep human feelings, well, learning more stoic behaviour doesn’t open your heart and unlock your possibilities.   It becomes impossible to blossom.

To me, stoicism is like gender; I’m in favour of both, but against them when they are compulsory, forced upon us by dint of biology or family history.  We are powerful when we manifest our spirit with thoughts & grace, but we are destroyed when pounded into shape.

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
— Gnostic Gospel of Thomas

Stoicism saved me.  It also, as part of a family that could only be survived with it, helped destroy me.  For decades now, I have been writing to share what I had to stow away, but I know that many find it too intellectual on the surface or find it too emotional and deep.

Ah, returning the gift is always the hardest part.

Gender & Duty

Would it surprise you that most people don’t choose their gender expression as a bold statement of individuality, of how they stand apart from the system of gender?

Instead, most people see their gender expression as a form of advertising, a way to indicate to others what role they are trained and willing to play in social engagements.  We do want to show our strengths, but we also want to show how we fit in, how we are useful, how we can do the job.

Gender roles are social roles.   In this binary — heterosexist — culture, there are only two clearly defined roles, linked to birth genital configuration.   This isn’t true in all known human civilizations, though.   In some cultures, there were a range of roles, often assumed after or around puberty.  (Binary, heterosexist societies are usually focused around the primacy of procreation, of growing the population for economic reasons, while non-binary societies tend to be stable in birthrate, so more diverse.)

All these roles, though, include a measure of service to the group, signalling what duties you are prepared and obligated to take for protection and growth of the tribe.

I respect people who have chosen to be good women — moms — and good men — dads — in the context of gender.   Their commitment to their families and to the wider family of the shared community, is something to be honoured and praised.  This is one reason I have spoken highly of those who continue to perform their duty after trans emergence, and spoken against those who believe that rejecting obligations is justified.

I understand why the erosion of gender enforcement can feel like a loss for defenders of traditional family values, just as I understand why trying to pound someone into a gender role that breaks their heart is a loss not only for those individuals but also for society in general.

The challenge, as I see it, is how to support a system of gender that doesn’t try to impose a divisive binary but rather finds a way for all to participate in the life of the community, helping with child rearing, growth and development.

As long as queer people are seen as unable or improper to participate in caring for what we know to be precious, they will always have to decide between being of service and claiming their own hearts.   Forcing that decision is guaranteed to enforce the binary, minimizing diversity to venerate fear in the name of comfort.

My personal gender expression, as I have said many times before, is about my work.  Sometimes that means I need to show up in raiment, ready to represent my inner nature, empowering others to reveal theirs or sharing a viewpoint with a wider audience, but at other times, that means it is easier just to walk in my gender neutral expression, allowing me to just to blend in and participate.

I have been out since the mid 1990s, always trans identified, but that doesn’t mean I have always tried to look any particular way.   I need the social connection that often evades me as I try to self-police a feminine appearance, need to be clear that my heart is always one rather than changing along with my clothes.

Dancing along the Guy-In-A-Dress-Line has always been tough for me, knowing that any dream of my birth sex becoming invisible just would lead me to being a failed transsexual.  Maybe that choice for immersion would be easier if it was done today, leading me to relax and feel secure in making only woman choices, or maybe I would still stand out, stand between, stand in a limimal space where my trans voice cut across boundaries to speak for continuous common humanity.  I just don’t know.

I do, however,  understand why every human culture has had a system of gender roles, even if they weren’t simply binary & tied to biology, and why the biggest beneficiaries of that system has been children.    Gender, at heart, creates obligations around reproduction and child-rearing, even if today it has been loaded up by marketers with plenty of other expectations around appearance and consumption.

Humans move from the dependence of children to the independence of adolescence to the interdependence of parenthood.  Eventually we have to be part of building and maintaining safe spaces rather than just trying to tear down what offends us.   We have to be for something lasting, not just against what we don’t like, have to build up with compromises rather than just tear down with idealism.

Emergence as a transperson takes a lot of “what the fuck” and a quantity of “fuck you.”   It’s not as simple as just trying to fit in, dashing to “the closet at the end of the rainbow,” hoping hormones will work magic and allow us to have our fantasies created.

In the long run, becoming who you are is the gift of a lifetime, even if who you are crosses conventions.   We are the choices we make when it counts, and to me, and to the voices I respect, choices of service and duty, of sacrifice and balance, of giving ourselves to those in need are choices that create a full and fulfilling life.

As I  hear tales of history it is stories of people who don’t indulge sensation or seek comfort but rather engage the challenges and conflicts to take care of others that they love which touch my soul.

Gender roles, like any social roles, come with a sense of duty, an obligation to what created us, be that the universe, family or society,  and the willingness to set our own needs aside so we can do the right thing, do our work.

Being a good person is valuable.  Most people do that by being a good man or a good woman and that is to be honoured.   Some of us may need to do that by being a good queer, one who stands for diversity, for individual empowerment, for continuous common humanity.

Doing our duty, the duty of giving our gifts back to the shared world, moves us beyond fear, self-pity and indulgence, moves us to act with the power of love.

What is your role in building safe spaces where kids can grow up better everyday?

SensationFail

Babies are awash in sensation.   It is a time in our lives when we experience through our senses of touch, taste, warmth and cold.   We know when we feel bad and when we feel good, know how to surrender to being taken care of nicely, know how to cry out when something distresses us.

With two parents who do not understand their own Asperger’s style brains, though, safety in sensation is very hard to find.  They are disconnected from their own bodies, have trouble reading their own emotions, let alone the feelings of a child who needs them, and stay centred in their own expectations & sense of betrayal.

Over my decades, I have know people who indulge in sensation, who surrender to sensuality, who let their own feelings lead them.

I just was never one of those people.   I was never that young, never that trusting, never able to abandon myself to emotion.

Language saved me.   I learned to read early, from the pages of Time magazine to the state of my mother.   Stories of me surprising teachers with my reading skills stretch from speed reading in high school to my first kindergarten teacher.  She even recommended I be moved ahead, but when the principal saw the state of my physical development — I couldn’t smoothly hold my hands over my head — he denied permission.

I needed to be able to think in a conceptual way to navigate the worlds of my parents, and that was true from my youngest day to when I was with each of them as they died.   That demand has been a gift, helping me find words to express ideas and feelings in a way that mirrors and helps heal, but like any gift, it has also been a curse, separating me from some essential human connection.

When I see people steeped in sensuality, like so many at Pride events, that gap becomes very potent to me.  Realizing what I lost in my lifetime starts the sadness while an inability to connect on the level of disciplined thought and learned grace leaves me feeling isolated.   I may be able to find words that will touch others yet I know that does not mean they can find understanding which enables them enter my experience, demanding they face the challenge of my journey, of moving beyond immersive sensation to determined sensibility.

We humans live in our comfort zones, continuing our habits, struggling to fit in, to be attractive to others, often by hiding parts of ourselves.  My nerd training, though, taught me to peel back layers, to sort between conventions and truths, to challenge assumptions in order to reveal what lies beneath.

“You can recognize a small truth because its opposite is a falsehood. The opposite of a great truth is another truth.”
— Neils Bohr

The revelations that lie in conflict help us remember that as humans, living in a finite world, we are forced to choose between compromises.   Perfection just doesn’t exist.

I love the journey I have been on, one towards knowledge & enlightenment.

I miss, though, the journey that I was denied, one towards trust, immersion and the luxury of being saturated with sensation.  That was a trade-off that I never felt empowered to make, especially as long as I had to be the “stupid” one who was the scapegoat for my parents.

Succumbing to passion is part of the human experience, trusting your body to take you out of your mind, claiming that primeval energy which drives connection.   Moving out of your mind is freeing and transcendent, even if losing your mind is a problem.   The balance of great truths is always like that.

Missing passion, desire blunted down by rational understanding, given up to a lifetime of loss through mature acknowledgement, well, that is hard to replace.  Exuberance and enthusiasm fuels risk taking behaviours, the choices that open new vistas and teach us about failure.

Riding that cresting wave of emotion is a sensational thrill that can move us forward if we let it teach us, or can be the entrance to a spiral of wasted power if we merely keep searching for the thrill.   The sensuality can help us through challenges, growing more mature, or can make us lose our way if neediness overwhelms us.

Being one of the old people, I feel how the loss of passion can leave us dry and isolated as we resist taking the kind of risks which have revealed smaller and smaller returns over the years.    In my case, though, I can’t even go back and remember the wells of passion, the love of parents, the budding exploration of sensuality, the heat of connection.   As a trans person with the kind of family I had, I never built those reserves of torrential trust and exuberant joy.

My choices were the best I could make in any moment.  I know why I chose to be TransNatural, why I played my breeches role to serve the people I loved with all my feminine heart, why my iconoclastic choices were the only way to liberate & use my voice.

That doesn’t mean, though, that those choices didn’t come with quite a cost, doesn’t mean that cost doesn’t continue to mount.   Our bodies, you see, keep the score.

You can’t go back, only forward.   I’m proud of my journey, and every day, I do my best to keep it going.

But learning to surrender to sensation, to the joy of connection, the power of passion and the curve of care?

Sometimes, that sounds not only nice but also life-giving.

Imagining A Future (And A Past)

In a culture that believes in predictable, linear lives, steeped in expectations that  someone’s past and future can easily be determined by looking at them in this moment, the sinuous path of queer lives, loaded with curves & surprises, full of  passings & rebirths can be hard to fathom, even when when we know that we are on that shape of road.

One of the most challenging things to do for transpeople is to help them imagine who they could be once they decide to shed their armour and emerge more fully in the wider world.

There are very few models for what a grown-up transperson looks like.   Many of us just dream of our trans nature being invisible, even if only to us, inside our mental force field.  Often, though, the people who are visible as trans offer models that trigger something in us, something that we don’t want to see when we look in the mirror, something we have resisted seeing for so long.

The very thought of getting naked, dropping the defences that we have so carefully built up over the years to become something new, is terrifying to us.   Doing that alone, without affirming, useful and trustworthy mirroring is even more difficult, leaving us skittish, avoidant, knowing only what we want to run from rather than what we need to run towards.

Our dreams are fantasies, untested in any real world sense.   Often we mature in what I used to call “crossdresser years;” only growing in the time we spend out in the world, living a series of moments that take ages to build into a bigger, more lucid picture.   Getting stuck at any point, due to lack of interactions, becomes very easy and eventually self-fulfilling as we fall into a defensive comfort zone.

Crossdressers who told me they wore a size 10 made me ask if that was their skirt size.   “What size top?” often got the answer of 16 or 18.   Proportion meant nothing to them, only the smallest bit they could squeeze into.

One popular crossdressing blogger — “Femulators need more makeup than females to look female” —  went to their fiftieth high school reunion.  They were amazed at how old the women looked; “they haven’t aged well.”  Yeah, those women are all 68 real years old, not the 38 (or so) crossdresser years old woman this person sees themselves as.

In their writings, the whole cultural world of women, the social pressures, the concerns of mothers and the connectedness of allies is not even touched upon.   Rather, being a woman is about looking like a woman, emulating a female.

Gender as pick & mix, as choosing the parts that attract us while rejecting the obligations which challenge us, seems simple.  We know what we don’t want, know what scares us, know what seems hard, know what we feels so far beyond our comfort zone that we have to avoid it.

Avoidance may be a way to remain fixed, connected to who we were taught we were, but is also a way to remain stuck, stagnant and in pain, to grow weak, twisted and failing.

Rolling Stone offers a fascinating article,  All American Despair, about the suicides of middle aged men who have grown beyond their assigned role and can’t seem to find a way to create a third act. Their pain is palpable, their isolation heart breaking.   The tales of loss feel very real, very engaging to me.

As transpeople, we don’t have a past that grounds us in the varied experiences of growing up while being seen as the gender in our heart.   That means any future we can imagine has to make up for that loss or fall short.

If we cannot imagine a supportive, affirming past, how can we ever possibly imagine a fulfilling,  nourishing future?

Can simply enacting the fantasies trapped inside of us make up for enduring the price of walking in the world as trans?

The older we get, the farther away the possibilities of our dreams seem.   Youth live on the present because they dream of the future, but as we grow, our bodies become much less vigorous and pliable, our history becomes much more weight to bear, and our dreams become dry, brittle and increasingly distant.   We become more crust than possibility, more fixed than malleable.

Lives lived out of time, our stages of development forced out of sync with our peers, with the social structures to support emergence, are lives twisted into bogus shapes, forcing us to take on what we are not yet ready for while we have to deny the moments in our soul.  Being adultified early, losing the playful exploration of our own possibilities and instead being expected to discover new while also being mature and responsible, has an enormous cost.

Being bound up by scar tissue is only surmountable with outside help to support us while we peel away our honest encasement to reveal the new, the fresh, the tender, the stuff of possibility.   Too often, though, the patterns which scarified us are just repeated as others respond in socially programmed ways to try and keep us in our places, keep us from exposing layers that they find more comfortable to keep hidden.

If we cannot imagine a supportive, affirming past, how can we ever possibly imagine a fulfilling,  nourishing future?

Only seeing the reflections of our possibilities in the eyes of another can help us let go of vain dreams so we can shape a robust and beautiful future.  Seeing how we have dried up, though, how so much has passed us by as we lived behind expectations and callouses, doesn’t offer much hope for rebirth, for rebreath.

Where is the future of my imagining?

Past, I fear.

Pride & Prejudice

I am proud of my journey, proud of the work I put out, proud of how I have been present for others, proud of how I have co-created my life, making the most I could out of what I was handed, both inside my mind & spirit and outside, the environment I faced.

It is that pride which keeps me going in my own isolation & loneliness, keeps me claiming my hard earned wisdom even as others tend to blanch at my words, finding them dynamic and challenging.

My pride is my solace, no doubt.

What I don’t have, though, is a strong connection to shared pride, to group identities and tribal conventions.

My experience growing up trans, especially double-queer, is much the same as my experience growing up as the child of Asperger’s parents: I had to learn to struggle through alone.

I’m not alone in this.   When I confronted trans health “experts” on how they  appeared to fail in reaching out to transpeople who aren’t visible to the LGBT “community,” almost every transperson in the room came to me after to say that I had voiced concerns they had, issues of separation and isolation.

Today, Pride has turned into a tool of “activists,” those who want to corral people into bands for political action, for commercial benefit, or for both.   Pride — with the capital “P” — is much more about the weight of compliant followers than about any celebration of queer, individual, diversity.

Does not feeling safe & welcome at Pride events mean that I have no pride?   Or does it just mean that Pride doesn’t reflect the real strength, the real stories, the real pride of those who activists claim to represent?

Learning to hold back, to not trust that those enmeshed in gay & lesbian conventions would understand, affirm, or even tolerate my queerness, was the obvious solution.

I recently got taught that lesson again when a professional I worked with for over two years decided I was too queer for their group, demanding that I become more policed, more silent and more compliant or depart.  Since that choice was a choice that would deny my own pride, there was no real choice; I departed, “honouring their intention.”

They made it clear that they do believe that there should be someplace for people like me.  That place just shouldn’t be anyplace that they feel comfortable, safe and defended in, any place that challenges the long and deeply held tenets of their soothing group identity.

Is there any wonder that Pride can’t really celebrate pride?

TDOR 2019: Remember Courage

Maya Angelou was clear.  To her, courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.

Because courage is an individual value, every human has to decide what it is worth being courageous about and where they can just go along with the group, just play nice, keep their voice down, getting along.

We are never courageous when we just fit in, just do what is expected, just do what everyone else is doing.   We are courageous when we stand up for what we know to be right, when we stand out, go over and above, and practice the virtues we value even we know there is risk and danger involved, know we are putting ourselves on the line between normal and exceptional.

To claim the truth of your own heart in a society that wants to value you based on the shape of your body, the colour of your skin or the story you were born into takes everyday acts of grace & courage.   Your smallest choices, from the restroom you use to the way you speak up are made political and challenging by those who want to enforce some fundamentalist status-quo, those who resist conflict and challenge by trying to use the momentum of the group to crush deviance.

Being labelled rude, overwhelming, deviant, disruptive always hurts as people try to separate you from the group, acting without compassion to remove your standing to speak, refusing your gifts, and separating you out so you have to develop alone and isolated, without mirrors.

This, though, has been the requirement of people who claim their own gender truth beyond convention, pushing through walls of stigma and resistance to claim the truth of their hearts.

Emergence beyond expected gender norms is, always, a courageous act, the grace of one person to express their own deep, valid, powerful and queer truth in the world.

We feel the risks on our own skin, the years of being seeded with fear and promises about what will happen if we expose ourselves, about how those who go beyond the normative set themselves up for abuse, humiliation,  rejection and even grievous physical harm.   We are told these people are just getting what they deserve for not giving into common sense, to conventional wisdom, to the way things are and always have been, the way things always will be.

Every one of the people we remember today shares at least one thing with every other trans, gender variant, queer person: the personal courage to boldly claim their own heart in a society that doesn’t want to be challenged with overwhelming demonstrations that the convenient shorthand of separating people into groups, dividing between us and the other based on simple characteristics of body, ethnicity, history are just false walls creating false comfort.

The courage to emerge as an individual, no matter how much that breaks conventions, stirring up the emotions of others and exposing conflict, is at the core of trans truth, at the core of trans truth telling.

“In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity,” said Anne Bolin, an anthropologist who studied gendered behaviours.

Reminding people of continuous common humanity, though, offering reflections of truths that have been filtered out by group belief systems, is challenging.   It can even be very threatening, so threatening that others feel entitled to destroy the truth teller rather than to examine their own beliefs, rather than explore their own feelings.

The only way to emerge as trans is to take an inward journey, going beyond the beliefs repeated into you to listen to that small voice inside which says that your truth exists beyond the simple binary of us and them.   The only way out of hell is through, entering your own pain and contradictions to dismiss the intrusions and discover your own truth.

The courage of going beyond conventions, even the conventions that others around you hold as walls, is breath taking.   It removes you from machine made wind to demand you claim your own breath, your own spark, your own flashing truth.  There is little help to be had for this journey beyond your own fears, as others will quickly try and impose their fears on you, keeping your flame down to a level they find tolerable, to a level that doesn’t illuminate the truths in them that they find scary, the truths they don’t have the courage to engage.

How many of those who have a shimmering truth created inside of them have been scared off from investigating, exploring and claiming that truth?   How many of us have suffered as we have striven to deny what was in our heart, staying immersed in the fear fed to us to keep us small, normative, and nonthreatening?

Today, though, let us remember those with the courage to put their own social standing at risk to claim that beauty in their heart, to express that essential truth that reflects our continuous common humanity.   Even those who have lost their lives, have been physically or emotionally injured by others who lashed out, trying to silence them, have not only gained from their revelation, but also have served as examples of elegant, messy and human courage to the rest of us.

Courage may be a personal expression, but it is an infectious one; when we see other courageous people doing the right thing beyond stigma and fear, we are inspired to summon our own courage, encouraged to stand for our own inner knowledge.

When we remember those who have been courageous and taken a hit, even the loss of their human life, we are warmed by their actions, enlightened by their bold, brave, queer, courageous choices.

Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.   Honouring those who have been here and shown courage, we are called to our own courage, to the courage to go deep, move beyond convention & comfort, to explore our own truth and stand, celebrating continuous common humanity.

Remember courage by remembering the courageous.  And remember that you share that essential human courage inside of you too.