naked leap

From: Callan Williams
Sent: Thursday, July 13, 2000 9:01 AM
To: Sparkle Ann Smith
Subject: naked leap

When I leave the house dressed in the clothes I want to be dressed in, I feel like I walk out the door naked.

I am exposed in a way that I am taught that is dangerous.

I am exposed in a way that makes other people uncomfortable when they see what they think I should keep hidden.

I am exposed and feel vulnerable, without the armor I learned to wear very early.

I am exposed in heart and soul, exposing the way my creator made me.

I am exposed, feeling unsafe, ready to bolt or jump at any noise.

It was not always this way.

There was a time — somewhere after the first time I went out and before now — when transgender expression was not getting naked. Instead, it was dressing up in a costume, being a clown. I concealed who I was behind drag queen armor, rather than revealed, heart and soul.

That doesn’t work for me today. It’s the main challenge I have in transgender groups, being with people who are putting on a front — be that crossdressing fun, or the earnest attempt to play a transsexual lesbian. It is an important part of the process, this trying on masks, but the scariest part — at least for me — is when we drop the mask and reveal ourselves in all our messy but beautiful ambiguity.

When I look in the mirror and panic, I want to do one of two things — take a shower and erase the art I have painted on myself that reveals me, or add more coverage to conceal me. This is easy to do in the world of transgender — more padding, a bigger wig, thicker makeup, layers upon layers that we are taught are needed to “pass” as being female at birth.

I don’t want to pass anymore. I never really did. I didn’t spend the tens of thousands of dollars many spend to female their bodies, conceal as many signs of being male bodied as possible. This is the flip side of Almodovar’s view of transsexuality — the more someone creates themselves as what they are inside, the more authentic they are. So many of us choose to work outside in, believing that of we create the exterior, the interior will somehow follow along, eventually realizing that approach leaves us as hollow as when we try to create an exterior that matches what was expected of us at birth.

I know how to work the suit — or maybe I don’t. Maybe I just never surrendered to the suit, let it work its magic on me, freeing me to make the choices that it allows. This is the line between drag clowns, in costumes, and drag divas, who let their personality fill the costume, between people who have to let their everyday self scream forth, and people who surrender to the persona.

We stayed in character all day long,
we had everybody call us by our character’s names . . .
that gave us the creative license
to be as wild or as horny as we needed to be.
Didi Cohn, who played “Frenchy” in “Grease

Do I take that license? Or do I fear that license as much as I feared wearing shorts when I was a kid — feared that somehow, the exposure of my legs would expose my character, the character I learned early was shameful, wrong, and separating?

Do I believe in the actors credo, and become the person I see myself as being, or do I hold fast to what is safe but unfulfilling, depressing and eventually sickening? Where is the acting coach who trusts the possiblities of my choices beyond the canned and limited? Where is the boldness to get naked on stage and trust in the audience, trust that when audiences see themselves in me, I am affirmed, not erased by their projections — that common ground comes when we see the universal? Where is the trust to give my own art, my own self, to the world and believe that what they will do with it will be beautiful?

The great artists are those
who impose their personal vision
upon humanity.
-Maupassant, preface to _Pierre et Jean_, 1887

Get naked and dance. Close your eyes and sing.

sing like you don’t need the money
dance like nobody’s watching
love like you’ll never get hurt
gotta come from the heart
if you want it to work

Affirmed in getting naked, friends to slice off the combover and hold your hand as you walk out naked, letting their powerful belief in you be the seed that moves you beyond your own fears, the nourishment which allows you to bloom, open to the sun.

——————————————————————————–

When in doubt, make a fool of yourself.
There is a microscopically thin line between
being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on Earth.
So what the hell, leap!
Cynthia Heimel

——————————————————————————–

A bit of advice
given to a young Native American
at the time of his initiation:
“As you go the way of life,
you will see a great chasm.

Jump.

It is not as wide as you think.”

Joseph Campbell, Reflections on the Art of Living: A Joseph Campbell Companion, Edited by Diane K. Osbon, Harper-Collins 1991

——————————————————————————–

Sometimes I just have to trust trust.
Sometimes I have to just stick my nose out,
followed by the rest of me,
despite the fact that I feel confident
that something very, very bad could absolutely happen really soon.

I hope it won’t, I pray it won’t, but it really could.

So I grab my good luck charm and I say my prayer
and I do the scary thing trusting that things will probably be okay,
but also trusting myself, my own choice to trust.

I’ve always felt basically like I was going to be okay, no matter what –
that somewhere there was a place for me, people for me, happiness for me.

People will tolerate different people, they’ll tolerate them, often.
Especially if there are other reasons not to write someone off –
intelligence, humor, or beauty being the top three.

What I’ve discovered is this.

If you lay on your back and show your belly,
seven out of ten people will step blindly over you,
one will drop his cigarette butt on your bare skin,
but two will reach down and pet you gently.

Bear Girl

Trusting Niagra

“let’s go to that spiritual place
where we still small voice
speaks

“a place of peace and serenity
where nothing challenges us
where we can feel the quiet dignity
of the earth

“a place where all voices are stilled
and the most oppressed among us
can speak their truths in a whisper
where we know that the loud roar of society
is what erases the true nature of a god
who is as quiet as the dew drop on the morning grass.”

SCREW IT!
NO!  NO!  NO!
ARGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!

My God is not Just the God of breezes
but the god of storms
pounding surf and crashing waves
cracking thunder and brilliant flashes of lightning
a God who contains the power of Niagara
in every moment
a God who placed the potential of the atomic bomb
in every cell.
e=mc squared indeed!

Intense passion
awesome power
surging in my soul
when god speaks though me
she does so with sharp humor
and thoughtful rants

church of unity pastor
not a preacher, just a teacher
cause a preacher can be confused with a creature
like a teacher can’t?
Aren’t you glad I’m not gonna preach?
No indeed! 
I want to feel the power of the lord though you
feel the energy, the sizzle
of her brilliance
slicing though rationalizations
to show connection

How do we break though the noise
of a society?
By shutting it out
or by focusing intently
on one thing at a time
until we can see it?

When energy is focused
by the creator
it breaks though the banal
and rivets us to it
revealing the power manifest.

I sit in my car at the seawall
darkling sky and crashing surf
or soaked by rain on a hilltop
thunder swirling
and I am awed by the presence
of God.

Can I feel the same awe
when god bubbles though me
intense and brilliant
and blows her way
into the consciousness of
a world of flesh?

or do we surrender
to the human urge
to silence the voices of god
so ours can be dominant
without the work
of feeling god act though us?

fear of passion
fear of Eros
fear of power
gods power surging though us
burning away the smallness
which keeps us tied
to social fears

reveal
not just the god of dewdrops
but the goddess of Niagara
who lives in my soul.


In a room with four mirrored walls —
physical, emotional, mental and spiritual —
you can easily look in one mirror
look in two if you try,
and possibly look in three
but you can never see yourself in all four.
You have to spin around, change your focus
or better, have a friend
who can watch your back
reflecting what they see,
and help you grow.
    Callan Williams

The O Word

http://callan.transpractice.com/poems_d.html#The%20O%20word

The O word
copyright Callan Williams
© 1998 <TheCallan@aol.com>

————————–

I remember the last time I saw Callan. It was a spring night, and Callan had come to Rhinebeck to a book signing I was doing. Callan was in her boy clothes, squatting under a cap from a plutonium reprocessing company she had bought at a dollar store.

After people left, we walked together though the quiet center of town. Callan had a piece of carrot go down the wrong way, so as we passed by her car, she grabbed the warm remains of a 44-ounce cup of Coke she had bought for 44 cents in her travels. She swigged the Coke as we walked.

“The 24 year old used the O word today,” she told me. After a few digressions on what the O word might mean, Callan finally told me what this word was that was so powerful to her. She raised the big empty paper cup to her mouth, using it as a resonator and boomed out the word, replete with echo: “Overwhelming.”

Overwhelming. The stories Callan told me that night were funny and sharp, Callan was up and animated, but they all were about the O word. How people, from parents to lovers, had cast her aside, and closed a door when they found Callan overwhelming. There were stories about kindergarten, when a teacher wanted to move her out when she found out she could really read, about lovers, and coworkers.

Callan was full of energy, entertaining and electric, but there was a sense of deep sadness, because she was having trouble believing that she could ever overcome the curse of her life, the sense that others could not see her or love her because she was overwhelming. We talked of publishing and art, of techniques and venues, of ways to help her share her gifts with the world. I told her clearly that I believed that there were other people who could find her as wonderful and attractive as I did.

Callan’s loneliness, though, ran very deep. Her performance was almost manic, to cover this sadness, and that upset me. This challenge, of packaging herself up to connect with people, which meant cutting down, was something that wore on her he entire life. She felt she was, as she said to me that night, a 5000 volt person in a 120 volt world.

I felt understood Callan. Callan said that was because we had a history together, and more than that, because I had worked so hard to understand the shared history of queer, transgender folks. I needed to understand that history, because I needed to understand myself.

Like a stranger in a strange land, the language of society was not Callan’s first tongue, and she always felt awkward and limited by it. She had the constraints of someone who learned a second language later in life, always forced and constricted in a way she was not in her beautiful native language, a language so many felt was overwhelming.

Overwhelming. Callan may have been overwhelming, overwhelming with ideas, overwhelming with emotion, overwhelming with pain & rage, overwhelming with energy and overwhelming with sprit, but it was my great joy to be overwhelmed by her in these ways, and to be a better and more enlightened person for it. It was when I let her wash over me that I felt the power, and it was a gift, a gift I honored.

I really believed that this gift was something that could be shared with the world, but for Callan, that was the hardest belief of all. She knew her loneliness, and every cut that came, the cuts which for her were tied up in that one word, the one that boomed through the streets of Rhinebeck, resonating in a paper cup. Overwhelming.

Overwhelm my defenses, let me see myself again in your mirror, show me the beauty that is awesome and overwhelming. This is your gift to the world — a gift that Callan really learned to believe she could never show in public.

What The Hell Do I Do With A Penis?

http://callan.transpractice.com/text/poems_c.html#Penis

Subj: What The Hell Do I Do With A Penis?
Date: 5/3/99

So, this is the question: what the hell does a femme do with a penis?

For femmes, a penis is less a root part of their identity than a fashion accessory, something to don when it will perfectly compliment an outfit, attitude or role. They are nice to have, but they get in the way.

When Tina came over last night, I gave her the one I made for her. It wasn’t complex, just a soft packy to compliment the strap-ons in her wardrobe, made from condoms filled with hair-gel and tied together in the toe of a nylon stocking.
We slipped it inside her pantyhose, under the long black silky knit dress print with tulips. she complained about it all night, how it stopped her from sitting nicely, and wandered about like it had a mind of its own. Her best friend Patrick, who we ran into at the drag show, told her that would happen as soon as she pulled his hand to her crotch to show off the “arts & crafts project” she had been gifted with.

healing, believing in beauty, power of sexual healing,

enormous moon, pray dammnit pray. not about what you want, about who you are.

Sex confuses me
I end up getting cast
as the one with the penis
even when my partner
sees me as a woman.

Or maybe
I’m just cast
as the old one,
the smart one
the healer
even for people
who are the healers
in other places.

My strength
My mind
My penis
overwhelming

I provide safe space
for others to find themselves
but where do I find safe space
to just relax?

I know what she wants
healing of a healer
by being enveloped
surrounded in a womb
and I give her that
but not with my body
which cries for the loss
dreams of femaleness
scratching inside my skin

yet this is the way of my body
this is the life I was dealt
the cards I was supposed to play
rather than trying to reconstruct
a neo-female body

I know I can wear whatever I want
and go wherever I want
but I also know
that is a lonely life
however you cut it
hiding my history in a reconstructed body
hiding my body in a reconstucted image
always hiding
always hiding
always lonely.

This is the challenge
even in bed
when the roles are assigned
and I feel erased
always lonely

I am not
a guru
a healer
a radical
a nutcase
a bomb thrower

I am
a human
with the power of story
and the weakness of flesh.

My penis works
but I never had
the cockiness
to work it.
Yet, it is the part
that ends up defining me
in bed
and wherever
the line between female and male
slices me apart

======================================
Women wish to be loved not because
they are pretty,
or good,
or well bred,
or graceful,
or intelligent,
but because they are themselves.
— Henri Frederic Amiel

The Myth Of Identity Politics

Date:         Thu, 13 Nov 1997 10:28:13 -0500
Reply-To:     Queer Studies List <QSTUDY-L@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU>
Sender:       Queer Studies List <QSTUDY-L@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU>
From:         Callan Williams <TheCallan@AOL.COM>
Subject:      The Myth Of Identity Politics

It seems to me that the great myth at the core of identity politics is that people in any defined group have more in common with each other than with anyone else.  Gay men have more in common with any other gay man, blacks have more in common with blacks, women have more in common with women, and so on.  That means that, from a political viewpoint, only another person in the group can effectively speak for and advocate the viewpoints of any given person in the group.

This leads to all sorts of political notions, like set asides, where for example, the composition of a board is matched to the composition of a group, or to the ideal composition of a group -- half women, over half people of color and so on.  It leads to the attempt to build voting blocks by exclusion, to cut up any electorate into groups who follow the rules -- and means that people who span groups are often left in the cold.

Identity politics can mean that focused groups tend to ignore issues unless they are directly relevant to their group.  As Riki Wilchins says, NOW is firmly against rape, but not strongly working against prisoner rape, because those are men who are being violated.

The problem with this is simple, though: humans don't fit neatly into groups.  The issues of black millionaire may be different than the issues of poor blacks, and a poor white may speak more effectively for them, but identity politics would deny that.  Justice Clarence Thomas is a good example of the conundrum of identity politics, a black man who many blacks don't feel speaks for them, and therefore is branded as a traitor.

Who speaks for gay men?  Does Larry Kramer and his pull for assimilation, or Edumond White and his fighting for sexual liberation?  Maybe Elizabeth Birch speaks more clearly for them than either of the men, or maybe Urvashi Vaid, or maybe even Madonna.  For some gay men, Ollie North or Hillary Clinton may be even be closer to who they are.  In the long run, people who only share the same sexual orientation don't have to share anything else, politically, class, regionally, family, work, you name it.

Now, if the only thing that we care about is human rights for gays (and maybe lesbians)  that might not be a bad thing, but I suspect that the truth is that every human is multi-dimensional with lots of parts of them they care about, lots of objects of desire past just an anonymous cock or a stylized vagina.

The political movements in this country tend to be identity politics based because it is easier to bring people together on focused issues, to create exclusive identities than to find cross connections.  Yet, democracy only works when we care more about what we have in common than what separates us.  Any government is inherently the system for joint ownership, shared resources, hopefully making our life easier and less costly by solving common problems.  Even helping the poor solves common problems, from being humanitarian to keeping a better quality of life by reducing crime that cannot be kept behind boundaries.  In the long run, engaging people in a positive system keeps car insurance rates down, for example, by keeping theft down, and having people more responsive to laws and courtesy.

To me, this notion of identity politics based on groupings versus the power of the individual to make many different connections across the community is the question of queer.  Queer says that boundaries and boxes are illusory, and that we all transgress them all the time, that we are all individuals with many truths, not easily essentialized.

This focus on the individual is great, but it is also hard, because it means that we have to find connection, coalition and caring on an individual basis, without the simplicity of identity props, the proper response to a sentry's "Halt! Who Goes There!  Tell Me The Password!"  Life with fewer fixed boundaries is life that demands individual involvement.

Riki Anne Wilchins facilitated a panel in DC over Halloween weekend about queer space, and her comment after was that while it's nice to see the academics talking about embracing queerness, the gays & lesbians she runs into are still deeply immersed in their identity politics and getting to normativity by exclusion.

This is the challenge that queers face.  If we say that the clear and fixed lines of identity politics are not useful, then what is?  How do gays, lesbians and other people who might identify as queer find a tool that works better than simply demanding of people to state an identity and ignoring or attacking them if that identity is not one they hold?  How do we move away from a push towards being a normal gay or normal lesbian to being a person who accepts the individual humanity in every person?

What are the political tools for queers?  Clearly they are tools of communication, to find connection, alliance and shared humanity across boundaries, but we still have trouble knowing how to make those tools easy to use.

Is the myth of identity politics, that separating people by groups means that people are better represented, true and valid?  Or do we need to move beyond that?

Callan

The Pleasures of Determinism

Date:         Sat, 2 Aug 1997 12:13:39 -0400
Reply-To:     Queer Studies List <QSTUDY-L@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU>
Sender:       Queer Studies List <QSTUDY-L@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU>
From:         Callan Williams <TheCallan@AOL.COM>
Subject:      The Pleasures of Determinism

What do terms like racism and sexism mean?  To me, they mean racial determinism, sexual determinism, the notion that some part of your anatomy determines much about you.

We have been fighting this notion of determinism for years. The idea that the color of your skin determines what water fountain you can use, or even if you can be owned by another person is anethemetic today, no matter how widely accepted it was in years past.  The idea that the shape of your reproductive organs determines your capacity to vote, or you ability to do any other task is one that women have fought against.

The problem comes, though, not when we see determinism that limits us, but when we see determinism that comforts us.  When we see determinism that we can use as a reason for our lack of success, or determinism that keeps us separate in a way that we like, we often embrace it -- and embracing determinism in any form maintains determinism.

There was a woman on the Today show who was happy being called "the Black Martha Stewart."  What separation by race meant to her is that she didn't have to compete with the "Martha Stewart" Martha Stewart but had her own separate ladder to climb where she could be the black version of someone who made a name for themselves in the broader culture.

Separatist feminists, while saying that women should not be limited by their sex, also say that women should be able to limit males by their sex.

The argument is simple: "We have been separated so long that we don't stand a chance of success in the culture at large, so we deserve our own space to develop beyond cultural pressures."

This, of course, is the argument for Affirmative Action, the notion that there should be separate ladders based on anatomical characteristics that have social implications.

What comes after affirmative action, though?  Do we really want a society where there is only one big ladder, or do we want to continue the separations based on sexual & racial determinism where they benefit those groups?

The answer from almost everyone is that we do want an equal playing field, that everyone should have a fair chance.

However, some argue that now is not the time for moving beyond determinism, that more change has to come, more wrongs redressed before we can move beyond determinism.  Determinism was "negative" for so long that it must be continued as a "positive" force for longer until we can drop the walls and boundaries.

The challenge we have is not giving up the deterministic separations that oppress us, it is in giving up the deterministic separations that comfort us.  White men resisted strongly giving up the benefits of racial and sexual determinism that benefited them -- why should women or people of color want to give up their benefits from the same systems any easier?

To be on an open playing field is to lose our edge, our benefits and our excuses.  We want to believe that our actions and choices will only be seen in our own context, that we don't really have to deal with people and situations that challenge us and make us uncomfortable.

The truth of dropping determinism, though, is that we will be challenged by everyone.  We will have to play in the big world, not just on our isolated playing ground.  Just as American business had to face global competitors as boundaries dropped, and white men had to face women and blacks as barriers dropped, everyone had to face the challenge of the whole world when the barriers drop.

I think of the reaction to bisexuals by both homosexuals and heterosexuals.  If your partner is bisexual then you don't just have to compete with other women, but with other men too.  This can be a scary concept, and rather than focusing on how you can make your relationship so good that your partner won't look elsewhere, often we look to ways that we can wall off our partners so we won't have to compete.

This is the question that we have to answer: Do we really secretly like the pleasures of determinism, of separating people by sex, race or any other way?  Are we arguing for a truly boundary free world, or simply arguing that determinism that limits us should go away?

This is the secret of heterosexism: people gender themselves not simply to avoid the stick of stigma, but to gain the rewards of compliance with the system of separations.  By fitting nicely into a group, assimilating well, we get the benefits of that group identity, including people who desire us, support systems, and our own separate ladder to climb on.  Desire is a primary force in creating separations -- to be normative -- is to be open to being desired by your counterparts.  There is a cost to being a good woman, but there is also a benefit, for when the costs outweigh the benefits people start fighting.

As long as we keep listing ourselves as the "first woman to," "the highest ranking black,"  "the only gay man who," we maintain the separations that also limit us. We continue a determinism that says our gender, sex, race, sexual orientation, or any other factor make us different from the people around us.  People can then use that difference to give us benefits or to deny us those benefits.

Prejudice is simple: it assumes that we can use some sort of determinism to know something about a group, that we can prejudge people on their classification.  Blacks are this, Methodists are that, Lesbians are the other thing.   When that prejudice leads us to decide to benefit that group, it is privilege, and when that prejudice leads us to decide to deny that group, it is discrimination.

Prejudice depends on grouping people along some deterministic lines.  To erase prejudice, to accept people as individuals, is to erase both discrimination and privilege.

Are we really ready to give up determinism, grouping of people by a single characteristic and assigning values and prejudices to those groupings?  Does giving up determinism simply mean changing all the prejudices about a group to positive ones, or does it mean dropping the prejudices altogether?  Are we ready to be judged on our individual characteristics, or do we like having a group identity to defend?

These are hard questions.  Determinism, like any other separation, is often very comforting and useful, while also being limiting and destructive.  To drop determinism and the prejudices that come with it is to drop bot the pain and the pleasures.

And for many, the pleasures of the separations of determinism are too hard to give up.

Callan

Feeling Like A ________

Date:         Sun, 11 May 1997 08:16:57 -0400
Reply-To:     Queer Studies List <QSTUDY-L@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU>
Sender:       Queer Studies List <QSTUDY-L@LISTSERV.ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU>
From:         Callan Williams <TheCallan@AOL.COM>
Subject:      Feeling Like A ________

What do testicles feel like from inside your body?  Is your sensation of your having a penis the same as for the male you are in bed with?  Can you describe how you make masculine choices, or feminine ones for that matter?

It's easy to examine someone's anatomy in an objective way.  In fact, the best time to do it is when they are dead and you can take it apart to examine without moral objections.

It's not so easy to examine someone's thoughts, feelings and spirit.  In fact, we only know two ways -- we can either have them use shared symbols to describe them, with all the limits of those symbols, or we can examine their choices and try to infer something from them.  In either case, the bias of the observer is key.

And when we examine those thoughts, feelings and spirit, how do we know if we are examining something that is rooted in biology or in society?  How do we know if it is nature or nurture?

When the question comes up "How can you feel like a woman with a male body?"  the first question is "What is feeling like a woman?"  Is it simply the shared experience of having functioning female reproductive organs?  How do we know how shared that experience is cross culturally?

I have trouble defining the essence of womanhood as reproductive organs, because to me, the cultural layering upon that basic difference is the tale, the story of gendering.  We don't know what is natural, only what is conventional.  Only through cross cultural examination can we begin to find what meanings about having ovaries are biological and what are cultural.

Where does transgender come from? Where does the urge to have relations with your own sex come from -- surely an urge to transgress gender norms in heterosexist cultures, cultures that place a very high value on breeding?  Is it in the testes, ovaries?  Is it in the erectile tissue?  Is it in the hormones?  The anatomy of the brain, as researchers in the Netherlands have suggested?  Is it in brain chemistry?  Does it stem from genetic differences or from a hormone shock?  How does a brain that leads people to gender transgressive actions compare to a brain that does not?  Is the brain of a transgendered male like a non-tg female?  Good questions -- but unless someone on this list is doing breakthrough work in brain biology, not questions we will answer soon.

That leaves us looking at cultural influences.  Do TG males feel like women, or do they just not feel like men, and in this bi-polar culture, that means they assume they are women?  Is this the essence of defining women as the shadow of masculinity?  How are we to interpret the symbols of transgender when that is the only way we have of communicating about it, when we can't directly examine the similarities and differences?

Gender is a social construct, no matter how rooted it is in biological differences, and simple cultural examination, either over time or between cultures will show you that the definitions of "what a woman does," "what a man does," and "what people who are not simply men or women do" are far from constant.

How does a man feel?  What makes him a man?  What is manly and what is not manly?  Is there any simple consensus on this?  If we can't answer these questions, how can we answer how a woman feels?

I personally believe that sexuality has an enormous amount to do with gender -- that we contextualize our sexual urges in the context of appropriate gender roles, in the choices and words that we are given about who we are -- our gendering.  Gender roles are used to regulate sexual behavior, to define appropriate sexual behavior for people like us.  Yo me, it is not the study of the fraction of time we are actually engaged in sex acts, lost in a moment of passion, that teaches, but the dance around those sex acts, the courtship and mating rituals that expose our choices -- and these rituals are richly gendered.

I guess the thing that concerns me most is the apparent underlying assumption "Well, I don't feel like a woman, so how could any other male ever feel that way?"

To try to understand queer, transgressive behaviors in the context of if we would do them seems limiting.  The nature of transgressive behaviors is that they are not normative, they are not standard issue, not easily understandable to the mass of culture.  "Why would people want to do that when it makes me feel sick?  They must be sick."

To understand transgressive behaviors requires first accepting the the words and choices of the people who do them at face value.  It requires accepting that in their reality, their choices are pleasurable and correct, that their choices come from some genuine thing deep inside of them.

If we don't accept that, then we try to find how someone is so damaged, so twisted, that they would allow some other male to insert a penis into their own anus, for example.  I believe they do that because they love it, no matter what my choices are about that behavior.

If we try to examine other people's choices in the context of our feeling and our morality, rather than in the context of their feelings and their morality, our observations will be hopelessly biased, and we will never figure out what is going on.  This is a real challenge of queer studies -- it will bring up everything that squicks you and demand that you be able to see this as just another form in the rainbow of human behavior.  If you see others choices though your eyes, as about you, it will bring up all your stuff.

What does a woman feel like?  Can anyone born with an antomically male body actually think like a normative woman (whatever that is)?  What does a man feel like?  Can a man who engages in homosexual acts actually think like a normative man (whatever that is)?

The challenges of what normative means, and how our body, it's urges and the choices we make reflect on that are the questions of transgression, of queerness.

All I know is that the narratives of transgendered people, and the extreme measures that they will go to in breaking out of the gender role assigned at birth has assured me that they have a deep, in-born knowledge that they are different than other people with that genital configuration.  They face incredible stigma and still come, and I choose to see that as their own truth rather than some sort of warped behavior.

Does that mean that they are or are not a _______?  I don't know -- but I do know that the magic of assimilation and transformation means that, with enough work, they can enter any social role they want -- maybe not perfectly, but enough.

In other words, I accept their own individual narrative that drives their own mix of transgression and assimilation, even if it doesn't feel like the one I would ever choose.

Callan