ah, so

Ah, so you are the one that reads all that crap.  I do hope you come back and read it again.    “The Big Bitch”  paid me a great compliment this week when she told me that she reads a piece I wrote about her every couple of years, and every time she reads it she sees something new, sees it and herself in a new way.  To her that means the work is deep, but to me that only means that Sabrina is getting deeper, now able to see meanings that were beyond her at a previous moment.  I really think that’s the glory of repeated ritual, that since it doesn’t change but we do, we come to it new, but then again I wrote about that in one of those Christmas pieces.

I need to say a few things, and somehow I think I should say it to you.  All this stuff is about me, of course — if it has meaning to you, well, that’s nice too.

I wrote years ago about the inability to actually be in two places at once.  We can’t do that, really.  But what we can do is vibrate so fast between two places  it appears to people not moving that fast that we are in all of them.  I used to illustrate this by holding up one finger and then shaking my hand from side to side so it looks to us that there are two fingers, plus a lot of shadows in between. 

I believe that I am many parts, but I also believe that I can’t be all those parts at once.  On one side is a broken human, lonely and in pain on top of the mountain, alone and bruised from a crushing life filled with stigma and pain.  On the other side, however, is an incredibly potent shaman who walks with power and can throw lightning bolts of revelation from her fingertips.

I have come to believe that this is the power of shamans, the embodiment of the archetype of the wounded healer.  We are taught and opened by our wounds, so that our power is tempered with our “monster empathy,” as Bear has called it.   We cannot be healthy & powerful without our own broken hearts, and we cannot both be wounded & potent at the same time — we have to be both in a stroboscopic dance of humanity & divinity occupying the same body, the same space, the same heart.

I know I am potent.  I know I am crushed.  Both of these things are true.  And in the American model, where value is only assigned to purity and not to ambiguity, only to simplicity and not to complexity, that assigns me the value of less than truthful. 

How do we affirm the potent in us when the potent in us doesn’t nicely fit into other’s conceptions of the world?  It’s easy to say God called you to nurse lepers and make dinner for doggies, but what if she calls you to hurl lightning bolts of insight that reveals illusion as false, calls you to walk though walls others think of as real, calls you to be the question?  How do people affirm that?

It’s so much easier for them to pint out the other side of you, the hurting side, and say that is sickness, illness and that needs to be challenged.  I watched a bunch of straights watch “Fish Can’t Fly,” a group of interviews about the ex-gay movement, and watched how they didn’t get how potent those tales of moments when these people wanted to die were.  Those were real, so real.  But the mother whose child committed self-murder, well, she was understandable, because her story wasn’t about being queer, it was about being straight and enduring loss.  That’s what they got, I sensed, that the whole trick was avoiding loss, and this woman had lost her daughter and that was sad, and she might have avoided that loss if she wasn’t homophobic.

In the discussion after, they invited me to come back to their church on Sunday.  Not because they thought the church could serve me, or more than that they wanted me to give my gifts, to open to me, no just because they wanted someone to fly the queer flag and show how cool they are.  “Come and be visible, then go away,” I heard.

I know how powerful I am.  Just this week, at the same church service, I met someone I worked with for years.  I told her a story my way, starting with an anecdote, and felt the need to tell her that this would connect with what we were talking about.  “There is always a connection with you,” she smiled.  I have long been a unique character, but also one hiding from my power.  I told a friend that I was called to carry the history, to see patterns, and not just to be in the now, and got the reply “You do it better than anyone I have ever met.”   

But I also know how wounded I am.  And between those two, the depth of my wounds and the power of my vision, it’s hard for people to engage me, easy for them just to throw me in the overwhelming pile, too hard, too intense, too much.  I embody the gifts of creation and the wounds of humanity, and while I couldn’t be who I am without both of them, I know being who I am is hard.

This whole notion of being more than one thing, of living in the cycle — even though most cycles aren’t nearly as fast as mine — is really important to understanding trans.  Most trannys have an in and out cycle, a natural procession of how they put their focus to being a tame part of society and being a wild part of God’s nature.   We transfer on this slow cycle because that’s what fits into the world, and whatever part of the cycle we are in, we usually claim purity, that this is who we are, who we have really always been and who we will be in the future.  That’s a credible claim in a country for whom history and connection are just messy details, not a glimpse of a rich and nuanced tapestry of life.

How do we become empowered when the frequency of our lives moves us back and forth through what others see as walls, and they see us as becoming invisible or false and then visible or real again and again and again and again?  We know that this vibration is required, that we cannot be in multiple places at once, but that sliding through the points of the circle really does make us what we are.  Others though, well, that seems to be illusory, a chimera, not real.

To perform with credibility and to live with liminality is one of the hardest things anyone can do.  It is so easy to get caught by the ankle and held in place, and while we may still flicker in our heart, mind and spirit, our power drains when we cannot be fully present, and so all we can be is to be wounded.

This probably makes little sense to you.

But it is what slices my heart to ribbons.

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between

We are always trapped between the should and the must, the wild and the tame, the spirit and the flesh.  That’s where humans live their lives, needing to be one of the group, eating and sleeping and taking care of the kids, and needing to feel connected to something beyond ourselves, to something eternal and ethereal.

For those of us whose calling isn’t included in the standard inventory, the shamans who walk between the worlds of men and women, worlds people often think of separate, that place between is almost impossible.   We are only seen as true or real when claim purity, and for us, the only truth and reality is ambiguity, a kind of liminality that holds not only the circle of life but also the tenderness of our hearts.

We must have what we must have, money and comfort and company, the essentials that flesh requires, and what we should have, what we need to stay whole and righteous, well, that usually gets squeezed into the little spaces.  Ane when we are reminded that the balance is off, what can we do but do what we can, what we must, rather than what we desire, what is blissful, what is connecting?

I know this division.  It tears me apart in every moment, as I get farther and farther away from both, nether getting a comfortable life nor walking in the whispers of my creator.  The division tears at me and by now, walking away from the world and spirit only being shown in text, well, I am torn to shreds, with pain levels that cripple me in both strength and in supplication, unable to rise above or to compromise below, cracked and shattered.

I have been clear about this for ages.  The therapist I saw for one session a year ago was lifted by my words — “I could listen to you forever” — but glimspsed what I was telling her — “your eyes are so full of pain.”  But another beating happened and I slipped up and that had to be cut off, and it just keeps getting worse. 

I just spent five weeks trying to find someplace where I felt safe, understood, valued, attractive, honored, someplace where healing could occur, but at this level, at this person, that place seems far off.  I am intense and terrifying, attractive only in the ways I transcend pain with my mind, offering insight & understanding that is comforting & stimulating to others. 

In other words, I’m not balanced and resilant enough to not challenge you,  not to leak into your “monster empathy,” that the gift the bane & the glory of all shaman-type creatures.   We feel though other’s eyes, and while this lets us enable healing, though giving voice to the pain, through embracing the pain, though absorbing the pain, though finding solace for the pain, or though whatever mode our healing power takes, it also costs us.  Who does heal the healers, who keeps us whole and healthy and able to do what we must?

I hope your life is joyous and full. 

Callie

TBB Says

TBB says:

This is what I want you to know.

It is possible
to live publicly, proudly and peacefully out
as a transgender woman.

People will know your history and your biology
and you need them to know
because otherwise you can’t speak the truth of your life
but they will accept you as a another human.

and

It is better
to live publicly, proudly and peacefully out
as a transgender woman.

To live your truth you can start everyday
identifying what you have to embrace to live your better life
rather than identifying what you have to deny to live your small life.

My life has taken me away from my expectations
and into my dreams
and whatever is vital to me
including my children
is not lost to me unless I choose not to embrace it
unless I choose to cut it off.

My dreams are now all as a woman
and my heart is full & peaceful
as I renew my relationship
with the God who created me this way.

There is family to be cared for
and children who reassure me
I am attractive
in ways I feared I could never be.

I wake up in breathtaking country
between mesa, mountain & prairie
and finally get to breathe deeply
nourishing my heart.

I live my life with gusto
and while some may hold
the expectations of my old life
others find me new & reborn
and want to connect.

It is possible
and
It is better
to sing the song God placed in your heart
and be all the person
you are inside.

Enclave To Sanctuary

Steve,

You said that people who stayed in a congregation were only those that were a part of the life of the church.  People who only come for services can come and go, but those who feel roots in the church stay.  That’s one reason you wish your church had to struggle a bit more, so parishioners would become involved in the struggle together.

You are right, of course.  Those who are a part of the life of the church are the vital parishioners, the ones who are the lifeblood of the church.  But for me, the question is how people come to feel a part of the church.

We spoke of one way that happens, creating an enclave in the church, an “us versus them” attitude that lets fear be the binder, our shared fear of the outside world.  This is a church that uses separation to create connection, and we both agreed that is wrong.

But if the church is not enclave from the world, it should at least be sanctuary from it.  Safe ground for connection and for exposure, a place where we use our shared commitment to being better, being more like our God, to create peace & acceptance.

Creating separation may be shorthand to create an enclave of safe space —  we are safe from them behind these walls, with these people like us — but how do we use love to create a sanctuary of safe space, where we are safe in diversity?

For me, the key is being seen.  I need people to see right though me, to see my heart, full of all the mess that is in every human heart, from sin to divinity, and still embrace me.  It’s all well and good for people to be nice and pleasant and not threatening, but does that really create a feeling of safe space to be human and to be loved by God and her people?  Starting from the pulpit and moving all the way to those pouring coffee, I don’t just want to be tolerated, I want to feel seen and feel loved.

My primary challenge in the world isn’t trans.  My primary challenge, the one I knew early, was that I am one of those “too people” — too smart, too intense, too challenging, too sharp, too everything.  I learned early that I had to play small, to stay defended in order to be accepted in polite society.  I learned to meter myself out in tiny doses, first trying to be appropriate and then trying to be authentic somewhere down the line.

I, like every human, learned how to perform a persona that gets along in the world, nice and constrained.

And I have absolutely no doubt that if it’s just that I bring to the event, people will accept me on a social level.  But is that enough to feel seen, embraced and loved? 

I know that most people rarely get naked even to themselves.  They don’t go deep into their knowledge, spirit, emotions and beliefs to expose themselves.  They are used to showing a little bit and being exhilarated by that revelation, needing and wanting only what they show to be appreciated. 

We “too people” though, well, somehow being exposed is what we do.  We just get real and get raw, letting it all hang out, because we have so much there is nothing else we can do with it.  And no matter how graciously and elegantly we learn how to offer revelation, offer the power of change, the essence of death and Rebirth, for many, many, many, most people it still feels like Too.  After all, how can someone so sharp and strong need connection, affirmation, tenderness? 

While this need to be seen may be more pronounced for “too people” like me, I think it threads though everyone.  We stay where we are seen and understood and still affirmed, for after all, how safe is safe space where it doesn’t feel safe enough to expose our own messy humanity?  For some, pleasant words at coffee make the difference, or even just the long term commitment to a church for our family, but for the truly powerful, it is the ability to be seen not only for what we do but also for who we are that makes us feel connected.

The traditional way to be seen is to be seen over time, for people to know us step by step.  But in a hurry up, fast fast world, that old way doesn’t work so well.  Creating community by decades is a rural kind of community, and with the world getting smaller & faster — small things always spin faster, ask any physicist — the challenge is how to move to a faster, more diverse urban community.

I spoke to an dear old friend a few nights ago.  What I needed to hear, what I gave her, was a simple affirmation that I have believe that God is in her heart, and trusting that divinity, I trust that she can make good choices when she trusts her heart.    I had trouble getting that back, though.  I got some chat about how hard it is to “cook for the chef” because it feels like not enough, and how, I doubted what was in my heart “maybe it was coming from the wrong place.” 

God didn’t make me to just be sweet and nice.  God made some of us to be sharp and insightful, remembering history, making connections, and showing the line between comfort & rebirth.  I know that to be true, but I also know that enacting that reality makes me more porcupine than puppy, and finding a safe space for porcupines is a challenge.

It’s a challenge for me, yes, but I think it’s also a challenge for every church that wants to move from enclave to sanctuary, from a closed comfort to an open vitality.  How can we see what challenges & discomforts us, acknowledge its truth and embrace it as a gift from God?

I’ll be at the Wednesday, I think, but it will be the last time for a while.

Thanks for everything.  Your open heart is to be valued.

Callie

A Dwali Story

The local Interfaith story circle had a meeting at the Hindu temple tonight. To celebrate Dwali, they wanted stories about light, and finding light. (Remember, in India, this is the time of the year when days start getting longer).

I wrote the following story this afternoon, though I didn’t end up going. The parking lot was enough for me tonight.

========================

One thing that most hotel rooms share is darkness. Between the tiny windows, the blackout drapes and the light bulbs chosen by accountants, most American hotel rooms are just plain dark.

To me, darkness seemed appropriate. This was my first transgender conference. Sure, I’d crept through the darkness to a gay bar in Schenectady where one of the oldest transgender clubs met, but that bar was designed to be dark and secretive, the old style gay bar set up for clandestine assignations.

This darkness was different. At 7:30 AM the sun was up outside as I stood in from of the mirror trying to smear on my makeup.

I was scared as I opened the door to the corridor, my hear pounding. Luckily, the hall was as dark and as dank as any other Ramada Inn anywhere.

A name tag clipped to my blouse, I slipped into the back of a dark meeting room where an introductory session had just started. A few people were up front talking about their experience and choices. These weren’t people like me — these were people who had been outside in the daylight on a day other than Halloween. I listened and asked question — How do you take power in the world as a transperson who moves between? — and eventually the session ended.

I walked out into the lobby again, wondering if I needed to go back to my room to use the facilities. Instead I turned towards the curtains keeping the sun out.

One of the people from the session stepped over to talk with me. Sabrina Marcus-Taraboletti, a big tranny with an open heart and a thick Noo Yawk accent told me “I really liked the question you asked. You really got an understanding.”

I smiled, pleased to be in the spotlight for a moment.

“Come on,” Sabrina said.

“Where are we going?” I asked

“I need some air. Come with me out to the parking lot,” Sabrina said as she cruised towards the wall of glass doors.

I stopped. In here was a lovely, dingy hotel, but out there was a sunny September day. Sabrina may have simply stepped through the glass, but for me, well. . . .

I tried to breathe as the sun continued to rise in the sky, and there, as I stood in that cheezy convention center lobby, it found a crack in the faded draperies. A beam of sunlight came down and hit me smack in the face. I blinked and blinked, but couldn’t turn away.

Apparently, no matter how much I wanted to stay in the shadows, this place, a shabby hotel just off the perimeter now full of hundreds of trannys was my place to meet the sun. I walked forward and passed though the door, cheap wig, bad makeup and all.

It was a beautiful September day. The crisp air filled my lungs and the sun warmed my face. I went over to chat with Sabrina.

For me, staying in the darkness was staying in the shadows. staying hidden Now, everyday I face the same battle. You can’t both be scared of the sun and proud of who God created you. Now, when I feel the fear creep in, feel the desire to hide, to avoid upsetting other people, I remember the smiling face that pulled me into that parking lot, the spirit that helped lead me into the light for the first time.

Ouch!

So this is what I need to know: my feelings count.  Hell, as a femme, my feelings are at the heart of who I am, and to deny them is to deny myself.

I told my sister how I felt about Friday with the car, starting with a sticker check and ending with locking eyes with my old landlord, punctuated by arguments, difficulty and a cold.   She suggested that it was all just random, without meaning. 

It may well be random, but the meaning I assign to it, how I feel about it, well, that still is true and real and vital.   And while she may be able to pass over feelings — hell, while she may see her job at work as to get women to focus on actions, not feelings — it’s bad freakin’ magic for me.

I know the issues.  My mother has always been a mass of feelings that disempower her, so we both were more like my father, thinking creatures that knew how to work around that mass.  Trusting the gut seemed crazier than geting bound up in the head.

So when I get dismissed, told to stay focused and do it harder, I get very upset.  I blow.  I got short with my sister and let the call end.  What one way has she reached out to me with warmth, tried to enter my world?  Hell, we had the blitz about birthday rest– she could have asked me to dinner at one of the BBQ joints, or even just Old Country Buffet.  But no, just toughen up

_____ suggests I work to understand what I am really feeling.  Well this is what I understand: when I don’t do my work I feel ddisempowered.  But the only way to do the work is to trust the feelings and not the fear I have cultivated into a forest to keep the feelings down. 

My feelings count.  My bliss counts.  It’s my bliss that tells me when I am doing what God wants me to do.  And Sunday, well sunday I was in the zone.  Out there, beyond fear, even hazarding the women’s room at the Albany Library where Yumara was beat up, first ny two girls and later on talk radio.  The black girl did her business, and I moved on.

Thinking harder, doing more sensible shit will not get me out of this cesspool.  And that’s not something my family is willing to understand.  But affirming my feelings and my power, well that seems like giving into the enemy to them, supporting sickness.  Just ask ____ how I need to be strong armed — she’s very authoritative on every subject she chooses to pronounce on.  My sister even felt the need to explain how I was not without personal responsibility.  Wonder where she got the idea that I was without it, where she practiced the explanation.

So this is what I need to know: my feelings count.   But when the world’s response to you is to demand that you explain, justify, rationalize, console and comfort them rather than challenging them, well, not easy.  I remember a sketch where TBB and I played CDs going to an event.  Her strategy was to be above it all, doing a performance, mine to rationalize, offering some credible story that people could accept.

But I am big, strong and smart, so clearly, the feelings of others who feel fear or disquiet are more important than my feelings.  I need to respect and understand the feelings of others — indulge their illusions — while my big, messy, challenging & intense feelings are subordinated to the need to do what is required.

Ouch!  fuck that!  I can’t keep huring this way any more, internalizing all the pain.  That’s what makes me sick.  But my sickness is a gift to people who don’t want to face their own.  If denying, dismissing and dissapearing my own feelings incapacitates me, well then I have to be tougher, don’t I?

I gave my health to them, freely, willingly — and they gave me a request for more giving.  I hold onto my fear to keep my head down, and they want me to do more in this crouch, this enfeebeled shuffle where fear keeps me taut & tucked away.

The question is simple: Do I do the stupid thing and trust my heart, letting the power flow by valuing my feelings, or do I do the smart thing and keep trying to force myself to follow the rules, pushing harder to be functional while crippled with denial?

airless poetry

it is, i know
the lack of poetry
which keeps me
breathing so shallowly

bbc crackles on waves of real
such language respect
such respect of the poetry
in each heart

this is diversity
not groups and bundles
applied identities
but the poetry
bubbling from souls

bubbles to shape
grow and crystal
make into the artifacts
revelations of the god
bubbling within

bubbles to pop
let out the air
flattened to stay
hidden and american
burst.

what they say they want from me
is more clarity
more explicitness
more specifics
that they can dismiss & ignore

but I tried that
and know
I am poetry
the voices of thousands
lilting and laughing
lumbering and lumping
effete and egalitarian
all that music in me
reduced to a few lines of text
all i can save.

my voice,
my voice,
my voice,
my voice

muffled to thuds
by the blanket of stigmata
placed by those who fear their own poetry
so long ago
bubbled to fearts.

my voice is hoarse
too many tries
now all that’s left
airless poetry

gasp, gasp,
exhale.