Being The Grown-Up

With two Aspergers parents, I was adultified early.  They had no idea how to enter the emotional world of a child, how to engage my feelings and affirm my safety.   Instead, my family nickname became “Stupid” from at least the age of eight or nine because I was so baffling to them, appearing so contrary.

I never broke away from that caretaker role.   I took care of them until the day that they died, then wondered if anyone would take care of me.  It didn’t appear likely, so I hunkered down.

When I go into the world, I know that I have to be the grown-up.   I’m smart, sharp witted, highly perceptive, queer, fierce, born male-bodied, big and loud, and at least a bit overwhelming.  People around me expect me to enter their world, make them feel safe, help them move through it, not to have to enter my baffling and apparently contrary space.

Even in the very rare times when I am hopeful that someone will make space for me, do the work, I am most often dissapointed.   I don’t end up getting the presence, the attention, the understanding that I need.

With a lifetime of having to be the grown-up is there any surprise that when I am alone I often engage in a playful conversation between my sad & needy child and their caretaker?   The voices surface an inner tension, allowing me to explore and vent what has been so very long denied.

I resist taking on social responsibility because I know it will force me to be the grown-up without any place to be the kid, to feel and honour my own feelings and needs.

Now, after a lifetime of practice, I am very damn good at being the grown up.   People see that, I know, and so they cede power to me, hoping that I will take responsibility which will allow them to ride along, being confident I will understand, respect and honour their viewpoint and their feelings.

After all, I have learned to wrap honesty in humour, surfacing truth in a constructive way, while that’s something that not only haven’t they practised, but is also something that scares them.   Engaging in conflict may make them uncomfortable, unlikable and upset, hurting their own feelings.

In any choice between engaging the feelings they keep hidden and letting the grown-up do the work, well, you know what the outcome is bound to be.

I do know how to be the grown up.   I don’t mind doing the work.  It’s just that afterwards I want to be able to go home, kick off my heels and be somebody’s girlfriend, somebody’s girl.

That has never proven to be an option for me.

Part of this, of course, is my own weakness in knowing how to play that role.  I never got the training and affirmation to master the role for many reasons, not the least of which is how others saw me.

There is no place, though, no service that can help me learn at an advanced and queer age.

“I have been learning how to trust myself,” I once told a partner, “but I need to learn how to trust other people.”

“Can’t you do that on your own?” she replied.

It reminded me of the line from Woody Allen’s “Love And Death,” where a woman tells him that he is very good in bed.

“I practice a lot on my own,” he replies.

It doesn’t work that way, of course, which is why the line gets a laugh.

I know how to be the grown-up.   Being the kid, though, is not something I can do.   Learning to relax, to trust, to surrender is very hard for someone who had to learn smart defences from an obscenely young age.   Even doing a very good job at that doesn’t mean those needs & desires still exist.

If I want to be more present, I need to be willing to be the grown-up.   That willingness has to be based on my ability to take care of myself afterwards, processing what feel like slights, insults, amateur demands for indulgence, and other frustrating bits.

People heal & grow in their own time and in their own way, I know, and as any good mother understands, that means you have to meet kids (and all other people) where they are, not where you want them (or even need them) to be.

There are significant benefits to being grown up, to taking responsibility, to building structures.   These benefits can provide space and support for a fulfilling life with opportunities of connection.   I know this, I teach this.

Acting on it, though, can be tough, especially when I am just trying to serve myself and not take care of someone else.  I know how hard the work is, know the cost, understand the limited benefits.

Living in a country where even the elected leaders don’t want to be the grown-up, acting professionally, and instead throw fits, spin out insults and work to create separations that dehumanize does not embiggen a noble spirit to rise above the fray, acting with grace even as others strike out.

I have been the grown-up as a service, enacting the concierge to care for others.

Feeling cared for myself, though, has always been a harder challenge.

And I don’t really see any good way to get help with that.

Annealed

We are tempered and strengthened by our struggles.

In the time when we learned by apprenticing, this was an acknowledged truth.  Masters made us suffer in ways that they had experienced to deepen the learning experience as we traded labour for mastery.

Today, though, lots of us look for the shortcuts, the quick and easy way to get status.   After all, can’t we just learn anything we need by watching a quick YouTube video?

When we create our own curriculum, we tend to focus on the parts that interest and engage us, skipping over the bits which seem tedious, dull and difficult.   We want to get onto the fancy, fun stuff.

Masters know, though, that it is having control of the details is always the basis of excellence.   The legendary Jacques Pepin asks novice chefs to cook a plate of chicken for him.   The good ones cook plain chicken perfectly, owning the technique, but the wannabes try to do it their own way, with sauce or stuffing that they saw on TV once.

Pepin came up in the harsh apprentice system for cooks in 1940s France so he knows about doing the crappy parts over and over again until you have the discipline to move to the next step.

I understand why we don’t want the next generation to have to suffer like we did, facing stigma and denial, but I also understand that it will be the struggle they choose to enter, the hard work they take on, the tough journey they follow, which will, in the end, shape their success, revealing the gifts they bring to our shared world.

Choosing to avoid struggle is choosing to avoid excellence.   Staying comfortable is staying mediocre.

Explaining the bliss and blessing of struggle to someone who wants to believe that just picking and choosing the good bits of life, flipping the channel, is the a good way to get what they think they want is very difficult.   Education is what we get when we don’t get what we want.   If all we learn is to back off or switch over, rather than to learn and persist until we gain a bit of mastery, well, we don’t really grow from the experiences offered.

My life has been my struggles, and while I know they don’t sound like fun to go through, I am very aware the the gifts I have gained came from engaging them, from surrendering to the moment, from learning the hard way rather than just complaining I wasn’t getting what I wanted, what I deserved, what I was entitled to.

Being ready to affirm someone who is trying hard but suffering a bit is easy for me, usually through making them laugh when they see their challenges in context, remembering both their goal and how far they have come.   Doing the same to someone who is just whining about how hard the world is, how they suffer because others won’t make things easy for them, usually makes them a bit miffed at my viewpoint.

Life isn’t fair.   We each face challenges, from the mass to the minute, from the political to the personal.   Still, it is only how we play the hand that we are dealt that we have any control over.   Do we make the most of whatever we have, living with grace and presence?

We know our own struggles intimately.   They shape our life-myths and the choices that we make everyday.

Knowing the struggles of others, though, is much more difficult.  It takes listening, presence and engagement, entering their narrative with empathy to see the world through the experience of their eyes.

If we hold too closely to our own struggle as being paramount, we won’t be able to see the connections between us, won’t be able to gain a wider context, won’t be able to learn the lessons others can offer us.

Looking at others with envy can lead us to diminish or ignore the struggle others endured to have what they have and get where they are.   Often we just wonder how they got lucky, getting what we wanted and deserve, while we still feel mired in our own struggle.   We become triggered, angry and resentful which are not emotions that help us do our work of engaging our own personal struggles.

It is often hard to hear when others talk about their own struggles, the challenges that they have had to face to become better, more whole, more authentic, more integrated and more actualized people, especially if we have been resisting engaging our own struggle.    Instead, we may look to those who seem to have had an easy ride, like young, attractive people, and wish that our life was just like theirs.

When a rabbi noted that the salty water in a ritual represented tears, I asked her why it didn’t also represent sweat.  Isn’t perspiration the mark of the hard work we have to do in the face of struggle, not just respecting the suffering but also the bold and beautiful struggle so many had to make to transcend the barriers in their way?

Human lives have always included struggle.  We all knew that until we started living in a modern world where everything was supposed to be neat, clean and easy.  Living by avoiding the hard and uncomfortable bits just wasn’t possible.  Even today most in the world do not have the luxury & privilege to imagine that they and their loved ones can ever avoid struggle.

Until we can engage, honour and respect the struggle which anneals humans, bringing out the strength & resilience which brings success, we will keep looking for sweet stories about shortcuts and divine interventions rather than understanding our responsibility to co-create our life, to shape it with the pain, sweat and learning which helps us make better choices.

Go out there and struggle.  Push to move beyond your limits, your comfort zone, work to find a way around the blocks in your path, find the courage, grace and strength to become new and better.   As you understand your own struggles you will better be able to connect with the struggles of others, finding knowledge and bonding in shared strife.

Struggle is at the base of everything valuable, transformative and annealing. A Life is never as satisfying when your struggle it gets you what you need, even if you could not imagine that before you started.    Choosing to avoid struggle is choosing to avoid excellence.   Staying comfortable is staying mediocre.

My struggles have shaped me, even as they demanded I do the hard, the uncomfortable and the painful.   I value that truth.

Can you?

Play Resistant

If you are not willing to be playful, you are not able to grow, to heal or to form resilient and deep connections with other people.

Kids build identity by play exploration, so why don’t earnest and resistant understand and engage that process?

Being playful demands leaving the comfort of your own rigid expectations, assumptions, beliefs and rules to be present, flexible and ready to try something new.   You can’t play if you aren’t willing to take a bit of a tumble, laughing and trying again to make a hit, pop a joke or create a moment.

For those who wear their armour heavily, this playfulness often feels like an insult to their worldview, a kind of frivolity that doesn’t respect the burdens they have chosen to assume, the strictures they have learned to assert.

Staying fixed in your own identity props and resisting play that requires you to lighten up may keep you in your comfort zone, but it doesn’t move you along in your journey to new, unknown and potent.   Kids know that they are on a journey, know that they have lots of possibilities ahead of them which will require lots of learning, lots of new skills and lots of playful exploration to get them to a better, more mature and more whole place.

Stopping your journey can happen for many reasons.   You may be afraid of losing what you have now, may be afraid of the challenges ahead, may be afraid of failing, may be afraid of having to face your own fears.

Did you notice a pattern in that last paragraph?   Change is always scary — after all, we can never know the future — but kids know (and pray) that it is inevitable.  Seasons pass and so do we, moving through the cycles & stages of a human life.   The only alternative I know is to just declare “game over.”

When we resist change, resisting the play that comes with it, it becomes easy to diminish or bad-mouth others who are doing the kind of thing we have decided that we don’t need to do.   Sometimes we just can’t see the value in their playful, explorative choices and sometimes we actually see their choices as destructive, challenging and scary.

Knowing what we don’t want to be, the places we don’t want to go, the ways we don’t want to be seen often seems much simpler than knowing who we actually are.   To know ourselves we have to be willing to swing the pendulum wide in a playful way, finding places where our heart naturally comes to rest.   Going past the point of balance is the only way to know that we have come far enough to identify our own centre.

As a writer, I know how much play is involved in learning to express ourselves.   We try on different attitudes, different looks and different voices to find what works for us.   A bit of this, a touch of that, a swipe of something else and after much experimentation we find our own personal way of expressing ourselves in the world.

Knowing my own “Jonathan Winters” gift of speaking in characters from even before I knew my own trans heart, much of my play was speaking in other tongues.   By taking a position I could speak from another point of view, a tool which not only allowed me to explore parody but also gave me a compassionate understanding of what our shared world looked like from other, very different viewpoints.

My expression is still playful, offering sly reflections on what others share, listening close and mirroring them in a way which allows them to see themselves more clearly, allows them to reshape their choices.  As Bessel van der Kolk notes, effective mirroring is a key to growth and healing beyond trauma.

Those on a journey tend to enjoy and value my playful exchanges, but those who are resisting change usually find me annoying.   They know that I am wrong, but they can’t express what is right, as they haven’t done the positive excavation work to claim their own beliefs and understandings.

No one thinks they are against play and exploration.   For example, they see it in young people and it warms their heart, even as they resist the call to the kind of playful exploration which can get them spattered with pizza and looking silly.   Those who resist play always have prepared good reasons for keeping their defences up, for pushing away jibes and winks, for armouring up their own identity.

For me, queer spaces are places where play is supported, venues that don’t try to teach the right way to be but rather offer delight in the different, the bold, the brave and the witty.  Good play creates laughter, and laughter is the only effective social lubricant, breaking down the barriers we think protect our dignity to reveal our continuous common humanity.

Kids understand the powerful connective nature of play.   When they meet other kids, they want to play with them, sharing their games, their skills and their knowledge, creating bonds of exploration & growth.

The gang that plays together stays together.  That’s even true when much of play is fighting, the kind of fighting that challenges skills, testing us to develop discipline, power and grace.   Kids have always fought between themselves as a form of play, learning to fight fair and fight fun, to get better and more clear about how to succeed in the fights we will have in the future.  Conflict as a creative exercise is an essential form of play to gain mastery, as any tiger cub will be happy to demonstrate.

Resisting play is resisting that process which opens us up, showing us where growth is needed, where development is required.  It is resisting the gifts that play can bring us, including new knowledge of ourselves, including knowledge of our current limits & weaknesses, and understanding of new ways we can connect and bond with others.

“I’ll play with you.” Isn’t that what most kids want to hear, knowing the gifts and joys that come with play,  the growth, the awareness, the presence and the bonding?

Resisting play, staying defended in our own current armour, not only denies us those precious gifts, it also attempts to diminish others who are committed to the growth that comes with play.   That, I suspect, is not only an insult not only to the journey that others are on,  it is a denial of our own human journey.

God Loves My Ego

The blessings of the one true and ultimate God is that he wants you to be as successful as you can dream of being, having all the joys and luxuries that you are entitled to as his child.

This is the essence of the prosperity gospel, an occult blending of Christian words and success ideas, which venerates the ego as the centre of service to God.  The resources of the earth are yours to use in creating tributes to His glory and wealth for his individual followers, which means the ones who make the most are not only the winners, they are the holiest followers of God, the people we should model ourselves after.

As one who learned to practice æsthetic denial, the suppression of the ego in favour of service, mostly concierge service, this indulgence of the ego as offering the true calling of God is not easy for me, even if there are massive numbers who call themselves Christian and believe in the “laws of attraction,” that an active God is just waiting to help those who help themselves, delivering all that one can desire.

I was lead to be a teachy preacher, looking within to identify and remove the blocks I hold to God, no matter how uncomfortable going deep and dropping my defences is, rather than a preachy preacher, venerating exceptionalism and entitlement for those who bring wealth to the chosen ones by succeeding at any cost for the glory of their personal God.

As I look to being more present in the world, considering my relationship with creator is important.   Does God love my ego?   Did she give it to me to have the force to cut a place in society, or did I create it to protect myself from discomfort, wrapping my soul in the armour of control?   Is surrendering to ego visions a way to do divine service, or is it just me playing fast and loose to get what I think I desire?

If only the ego immersed make big creations in this world, then how will the challenge of smart, humble, considered presence ever make a place, become a balance?

Persistence is the key to success in the world.   It really doesn’t matter if you get knocked down twenty times as long as you knock down the other guy on the twenty first.   Salespeople of my acquaintance claim to like hearing someone say “No” because that only brings them closer to the person who will say “Yes!”

Resilience is the basis of persistence, the ability to bounce back after taking a blow.   If you see God as being on your side, see your work as divinely inspired, worshipping in a fraternity of others who focus on blessings of success, then it becomes easier to go back into the fray once more.

Now, it also becomes easier to decide that the ends justify the means, that your special relationship with God allows you to do whatever is needed to accomplish your ends, no matter how many false believers you take down or social laws you break, but that is another issue.   Just believing that you carry an exceptional personal blessing, that you are on a divine mission from God, doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole, but it does help.

It is the essence of resilience which leads to persistence that calls me.   Is now the time to get out there and go for it, fighting hard to make a successful place for me? Is my experience of getting knocked back by so many people for my scary ideas something that I need to move beyond by trusting that my ego is in service of God, no matter what flack or how little social support that I get?

Have I tempered my ego enough that I can trust it, even if I still get squicked by people who just come from the place that whatever their ego calls them to do is a direct call from a God who wants them to achieve success and comfort in this realm?   Does affirming the calls of my ego mean that I have to affirm the calls that they hear from their egos, need to support their law of attraction, prosperity gospel belief structures?

That which is hateful to you do not do to your neighbour.   If I want to trust my own callings, is it okay to call their callings ungodly?  Or is this the key to trusting the ego, being willing to fight not only for what you believe to be right but also to fight against what you understand to be wrong?

I know that to be bolder and more persistent in making a place for myself in the world I need to have more resilience that will increase my persistence.   I also know that I am highly unlikely to find a group or even individuals who are ready to encourage me not only to do what I fear because it challenges my comfort but also to do what they fear because it challenges their comfort.

Playing small to not threaten others, like my remaining family member, though, is clearly not helping me grow, helping me get what I need, allowing me to help more in the wider world by being boldly present even when that presence draws isolation and brickbats.

Does God love my ego?   Is it a gift which allows me to assert my unique gifts in the world even when I get resistance or flak?

How can we be empowered to create the change by becoming the people we need to be unless we trust our desires, even the desires that come from what might be called ego?   Manifesting our spirit in the flesh demands believing in our dreams enough to work to achieve them, learning courage, serenity and wisdom along the way.   Those who resist plunging into uncomfortable change just end up envious and bitter, striking out to defend their own choice to stay safe.

I need the healing that brings resilience which in turn underlies the persistence which supports making dreams come true.    Solace, I suspect, comes from the belief that God is in our desires, that the ego which drives individuation and creation is threaded with divine inspiration.

No matter how many times I see those who seem to miss the mark, claiming the exceptional holiness of drives to separate and dehumanize, aggrandizing in the name of their lord, that doesn’t mean all ego is corrupt.

If God loves me, she loves my ego.   My dreams are inspired and tested, so as long as I don’t lose my balance too much, I can trust my Eros too, coming home after getting hit to pray for those who attacked me and be ready to go out again tomorrow to keep fighting the good fight.

Asserting my dreams in the world, even when it feels everyone is trying to silence me?   Isn’t that a good thing?

Queer Up The Joint

I’m okay until I open my mouth.

It’s then that the queer comes out.

No matter how much I try to look cute and little and whatever, my big voice spills out of my mouth and then I tend to queer up the joint.

Is that a bad thing?

Well, when you are with your family, the ones who easily get embarrassed by your actions, or in a store where someone might not understand or might be offended it is not exactly a good thing.   Queering up the joint can have lasting consequences.

There are times, though, that queering serves a vital purpose.   It can offer cover to those who have something to say but fear it might be too odd, too sharp, too queer.   It can open the minds and hearts of people by letting them get a glimpse from another, queerer viewpoint.   And it can start the process of healing by offering the group a new way to respond, one that values unique individual contributions rather than expecting conformity and compliance.

Queer affirms questions, queer values complexity.  Queer speaks to connections rather than separations, searching for continuous common humanity.

When I open my mouth and queer comes out, some people really like it.   They want to be freed from norms, want to be challenged to take responsibility for their own choices, want to feel affirmation to be more profoundly and authentically themselves.  They feel liberated and joyful that the room is all queered up.

Affirming their unique humanity feels liberating to them, even in the midst of many people who want to keep things nice and neat “for the kids.”

People sense that I spout a very well tempered queer voice, shaped by long experience in communicating with non-neurotypical people and guided by a strong belief in the group process that underlies effective corporate solutions.   After a lifetime of consuming stories, many, many viewpoints have given me a wider view, offering possibilities, insight, and comfort with many choices that I would never make for myself.

Bringing out the best in those I engage is the most effective thing I can do, empowering their voices rather than trying to fill the space with my own words.  As a hostess, a concierge, I open gateways to exploration & transcendence, holding the liminal space where connections transform us by offering the miracle of seeing anew, offering a divine surprise.

Each of us has to balance our tame assimilation and wild individuality, finding a way to be both compliant and queer in a powerful mix.  Breaking the norms, resetting the boundaries is vital, as is creating new norms, building resilient social structures with new respect and inclusiveness.   This is the challenge of working corporately, using marketing to build effective organizations, products and services.

My polish may make people who are ready for queer find me more engaging, but it also makes people who are not ready find me much, much more annoying.   Resisting change and healing, holding onto separation, be that identity politics or fundamentalism, demands you resist what I share, declining what I offer by rejecting my gifts.

Projecting your own needs and fears onto me, be that the desire for shortcuts to comfort or the pain of your own inner denial can leave me bruised, battered and isolated.    It turns out that queering up the place may be useful, even compelling, but it is a quite lonely job.  You can’t be present and human, trusting in the possibility of transformation without being powerfully ware of your own fragility.

Still, someone has to speak queer, standing against pressure towards norms, making the hidden transparent, illuminating the invisible.   If no one goes beyond the obvious & expected, looking to deep process and meta connection, how will we ever hold the grace of what lies within human possibility?

I open my mouth and queer comes out.    That’s nothing new for me; my sister will be happy to testify that I have been speaking this way from a very early age, bringing on abuse from my parents and challenge in the schools.   I have always needed a kind of x-ray vision, seeing beyond the surface, understanding what moves beneath, crossing through walls to collect data.

This viewpoint allows me to listen clearly and reflect what others offer, making meaning from their communication, mirroring them and offering useful comments & suggestions.  Feeling seen and understood, in turn, lets people move beyond their own comfort level, dropping defences and being more present, more engaged, more vibrant, which is a feeling that some love and that scares the shit out of others.

That viewpoint, though, also makes me more of an observer than a participant, a chronicler and supporter more than being a player.    While I can understand and enter the worlds of others, few have the deep queer experience to enter my world, to be safe space for my trauma, to be present as cohorts rather than audience.  Leadership, with all the costs of that service to others, is always the result.  I’d rather be respected than liked, but on some level I also want to be pretty and loved, having someone who can take care of me as I take care of them.

This isolation, of course, is why I have resisted opening my mouth, trying to just let tiny bits of queer out when I think they might help, rather than showing up bright, bold and ready to queer the room.   I know that whatever recovery I need I will have to do alone.

Opening my mouth, though, and queering up the joint seems to hold possibility, both for community and for myself.

After all, I’m probably good at queer for a reason.   A dammed reason.

Make Art

What do we do with the parts of ourselves that we have been taught are too intense, too overwhelming, too queer to show in polite society?   Where do we put the aspects of our nature that people have told us are just too big to fit in, too strange to be acceptable, too risky to reveal?

Somehow, we have to suppress those bits, policing our choices to keep them hidden.   Creating a public face which attempts to edit facets that we were denied exploring means creating a jovial lie, an exterior polish that celebrates being inauthentic.

Flowing free and powerfully just isn’t possible when we have blocked our own nature, working to compartmentalize off drives, energy and Eros that doesn’t fit nicely into other’s expectations of who we should be and how we should act.

Over-policing our own choices means living a chopped up life, spending more of ourselves on denial and resistance than we do on creation and love.   When we self-police we almost always over police, avoiding possibilities just because they feel risky, even if they open possibilities beyond the conventional.   The rules only keep us from losing; it is discipline, audacity and boldness that helps us win.

Unlocking our own flow, releasing our own momentum is very difficult for people who have learned to hide their own light under a bushel because we have been told it is too queer.  When we suppress our own brilliance, we depress our own possibilities, losing the grace and power we were born with.

Who says “Yes!” to emergence, to intensity, to transcendence?   Where do you find support in releasing your capacities in a way that you can learn to manage, maximize and trust them?  If you just listen to naysayers, to people who fear their own wildness, it is easy to stay small and stuck, never boosting to the next level and the universe beyond that.

It is important for those of us who have done the work of transcending fear to stand and encourage people who are feeling trapped by their own compartmentalization, their own chopped up nature, their own intermittent fears.    Learning to trust in love demands supporters who can speak for transcendence, for the power of the inner journey, the blessings of precise integration, and the leap to emergent expression.

My own hermit life, based on aesthetic denial, is centred around focus, discipline and the renouncement of sensation, allowing me to not get tripped up by the demands of the ego for comfort & indulgence.

The limits of this life, of course, are the limits of any life without ego, where we serve but do not explode our own voice and insight in a way that others can see, can feel, can engage.   It is a dry cracker of a life, the power of thought and the passion of emotion conveyed only through disciplined presence.

Only those accustomed to making a meal out of desiccated ideas can find nourishment in my rich and dense writing.   My performance voice, though, is open and accessible, offering a taste of what is put-up in my texts.   Those who know my voice hear the humanity in my paragraphs, but those who have not yet got the flavour can’t imagine the sly wit and common poetry.

Performance is part of who I am, from my first stealing the scene in junior high to hosting a daily magazine format TV show.   The meta flash wit of being live is very much part of who I am, even if it only peeps through the stored bulk of my writing.

Showing that performance side, trusting it, has long seemed to be my calling, even if others who love performing find my analytical side off-putting and those who fear showing themselves find my self-exposure terrifying.   Still, if I have to choose where I would prefer to be in a crowded room, it is always on-stage, though not at the price of ego.

In meetings I learned to raise the bar towards expression, foolishness and brilliance, which allowed everyone else to loosen up and let out their own special brilliance.  From horrible jokes to ball tossing, play is play, taking the edge off to make reaching higher feel safer.

Performance requires performance.  I have written a lot about performance in the last twelve and a half years, but actual performing?  Plenty, but all in a kind of micro, concierge way, just flickers with tons of restraint.

What do we do with the parts of ourselves that we have been taught are too intense, too overwhelming, too queer to show in polite society?   Where do we put the aspects of our nature that people have told us are just too big to fit in, too strange to be acceptable, too risky to reveal?

We make art with them.    We create with that energy.

I have been creating with my writing for a long time now.   It’s good.

But there is more of me to share.   That fast performer, so quick on her feet that audience members feared that in her heels she would fall off the stage, but she never did, well, that gal needs to be let out.

That emergence cannot happen if I keep my heart suppressed for purposes of politeness and protection.   That messy, juicy woman has to be in the world, and I have to trust that my growth and learning will shine through, revealing the inner glow of truth and transcendence.

Who knows, maybe that revelation will attract people who can be present for me, can be partners, can offer a bit of loving engagement?   I mean, it could happen, could be the divine surprise that definitely will not occur if I stay hidden and suppressed.

I have a wealth, gifts from a deep and intense journey.   Returning those gifts is something I can work at doing, even if that process is too intense, too overwhelming, too queer for the comfort of many.

Maybe it is time to drop the barriers, flowing free and powerfully using the drives, energy and Eros that can create transcendence, attraction and connection.

Maybe it’s time to make new art.

Born Shaman

I have never been a very good tranny.  

When I first came out, well over thirty years ago now, I refused to identify as crossdresser, a transsexual or a drag queen, instead just trying to claim my own self, just as I told the therapist who pressed me on what I dreamed of being when I was thirteen.  

In 1995, I even stood up in an IFGE keynote and called for the end of the Benjamin and Prince models, instead valuing the power of individual expression.

Reading “What You Need To Know About My Transgender” (2002),  it’s easy to figure out that I don’t fit neatly into trans models.  I don’t think I was born in the wrong body, don’t think I just have a hobby, don’t believe in the end of the system of gender.   In fact, I like gender, for what it is intended to do at base (protect children) and for the communication it facilitates about what we know ourselves to love (Eros).

Immersing myself in trans issues over a lifetime has been an attempt to understand how others who have a nature like mine have striven to find a place in this society.   It has not, however, shown me a comfortable way to take my place.

The last time I called Holly Boswell, it was to have her remind me of the three ways that one could become a shaman in native tribes.   One can be born of a shaman, fall ill and have your senses opened, or be two spirit with a heart and mind existing in the liminal space between social boundaries.

I don’t have a perfect word to describe someone who stands out of the routine expectations and instead speaks and acts for connection, for transcendence, for spirit.   Whoever those people are, though, they challenge the status quo, demanding wider vision and seeing past comforting cultural boundaries that most prefer to see as real.   The conventional, even the conventions we call religious or new age or fundamental, are not what seers, sages, gurus, change-makers and the rest ever speak for.

My calling, though, the acorn in my heart, well, it has always seemed to be that of a healer.   The wounds of my childhood and the love inside of me lead me to deliberate and exquisite sight, searching for meanings and patterns, while the demands of my family required me to learn how to facilitate growth & healing from a very humble place.

Now, I need to be bigger and more visible in the world.   To do that, asserting a story is vital; who am I and what can I do for you?

Hello!  I’m Callan and I’m here to help.

After a lifetime of playing from the shadows, asserting my power in an oblique and hidden way, changing into visibility feels exposed, vulnerable and arrogant.  I have seen too many people caught up in their own egos and spent my life silencing my own ego to be comfortable with the truth that only by being present can we attract what we need in the world.

In my experience, finding support for being a bold shaman in the world is difficult while finding resistance & rage that acts out to silence transcendent and challenging voices is easy.  That traumatic experience is written on my soul and my body in various kinds of scar tissue.

It takes a whole heap of queer to affirm choices that you would never make for yourself, choices that scare or confound you.   Supporting people in being big, being powerfully themselves requires that you be comfortable with big, with power, with boldness.

As far as I can tell, there are no shaman pride events.   Instead, those who want to claim shaman by being preachy preachers, offering salvation by compartmentalization, tend to attack anyone whose presence seems to challenge their assertions and identity.

Carrying your own individual pride, your own knowledge of calling & mission, while being present & humble enough to avoid being captured by ego or rationalization is a tall, tall order.   Long ago I learned to doubt my inner self, the feminine heart that I knew I had to hide as just part of me even as it informed every choice I made.

The world has come along, though, and it seems time to trust that womanly energy I have kept under wraps for so long.  Showing on the outside what exists on the inside, my style and view, my choices and caring, is a way to be more seen and more present, which should bring me more presents.  Simply not having to switch away, hiding one bit or the other, can bring rewards of immersion, growth and deeper presence.

Training to stay discreet and hidden, which I coded as gracious and safe, without the armour I have seen so many transwomen wear like iron or the policing that kept them playing small to stay off the radar is hard to reverse.   It is very hard to peel back the habits of a lifetime, especially when the goal is being exposed, speaking queerly, going to the front of the room and being in the spotlight as a shaman, a trans shaman speaking powerful truths wrapped in wit & wisdom.

In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.   I instantly knew that was my mission statement when I heard it in 1993.   However, if society wanted the gifts we bring back from our heroes journey, they would already have them, as Joseph Campbell reminds us.  Returning the gift is always the hard part, harder than death and rebirth, harder than going though hell to burn away the false.

The problem is that I appear to be built for the purpose of being a shaman in this world.   My mother in the sky gave me the wiring to see beyond the obvious, making deep connections, and my training forced me to understand the linkage between thought & emotion.   I absorbed stories and language, decoding and coding essential & eternal messages in colourful, engaging language.

All my years writing mean that I have a wealth of considered notions at my fingertips while my performing nature lets me share them by asking just the right question or offering a strong quip.   If you want to stay where you are, projecting your fears and expectations on the world, you just want to shut me up, but if you are ready to open your eyes, your mind and your heart, ready to move beyond, to grow and heal, I am an amazing gift.

In short, I’m damn good at being who my mother in the sky called me to be.   I have known this for a very long time, but I learned to resist calling to the point of self destruction (2003).   It was what I had to do to stay connected to my family, to stay hidden enough to be of service and observe the world, listen to how our human stories are shot through with powerful connections, and that includes even the stories we label as lies.  Finding my own voice and knowledge wasn’t easy.

That strong voice and shimmering knowledge, though, are now firmly in my posession.   Apparently, I’m supposed to do something with it.   And soon.  (It’s well past time, if you really want to know, or maybe its exactly the right time. How am I to know?)

I have never been a very good tranny, going along with the expectations and assertions of the others around me, be they transsexuals, transvestites, drags, non-binary feminists or any other model.

But a corporate shaman, a guru, a prophet, a priestess, a change-monger?   That I have always been, striving for integration, connection, actualization and the treasuring of the possibilities in each individual acorn.

That is where my core lies, even when I don’t proudly show it, keeping invisible in the world to be a watcher, coming out of the shadows to help and then fading back again.   I avoid tiny labels that feel like they trap me,  cut back on noise generated by fear, ignorance, assumptions and separations to keep a kind of freedom of action.

Someday, though, I really should go to the front of the room, take the spotlight and trust what I have never trusted, that I can be attractive and move the minds and hearts of people.  Taking all the fragments of affirmation and trusting them, rather than keeping my head down, well, it seems a worthwhile thing to try before I leave.

Doesn’t it?

Pounded Into

“You chose to live in suburbia.  You have to follow the rules, do what others demand.  If you want to make another choice, someplace you feel is safer and more supportive, we can talk about it.”
— Sister, July 6, 2018.

Grant me the courage to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I can’t change, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Where are the limits to choice?   Do humans really have infinite choices, or are they limited by context and nurture?   Why do my sister’s words, spoken as we tore up the front of the house to satisfy the neighbourhood association, feel like abuse, triggering old style fits of pounding my own head and ranting that there always has to be an ultimate choice?

I’m doing the amazing book “Sex Money Murder: A Story of Crack, Blood, and Betrayal” by Jonathan Green. It tells the creation story of a gang of incredibly violent drug dealers that came out of the Soundview housing project in the Bronx and of the police who worked to stop them.

The NYC tabloid headlines will quickly tell you how “evil” the group was, but Green wants to tell much more than that, wants to give some insight on how they got that way.   From the racist views of Robert Moses who used planned parkland and highways to enforce segregation, to the venal pull of the Mafia who made money through pushing drugs, a context was created which demanded young boys learn how to be tough, encouraging them to value status over love.

With the eye for detail Green brings to the book, the stories of these hard ass killers will just break your heart.

Each individual must be held responsible and changing our choices, usually rooted in changing our story, is the only path we have to change, no doubt.

What, though, are the limits to serenity?   How many insults do we have to swallow, how much support & reflection do we need, how much pain & rage do we have to suppress?

I strive to make the best choices that I can, but every day, every moment, I am limited by the context I live in, from the history of parents who not only couldn’t teach because they had no theory of mind but also saw whatever they didn’t understand as stupid, to siblings who can’t grasp the mammoth effort which maintaining serenity costs, instead demanding compliance or change.

Willpower is awesome, but it not only is a finite resource for any human, it’s also only part of the answer.  We not only need the courage to change, we need the serenity to accept what we cannot change, even the things we cannot change that trap us, hurt us, frustrate us and tear us into tiny raw shreds of human pain.

The demand that we hide those feelings, complying with norms, though denial and compartmentalization, or get out, being left to our own limited endurance, may be the way society maintains a status quo, but it is also abusive, designed to pound the different into the compliant, comfortable and unchallenging.

My Coke Zero can mocks me, demanding that I share a Coke with my “Soulmate.” It is what we cannot share, even with those who we grew up with, the ones who look to us for care even as they struggle with a web of tension, the challenges laced into the demanding expectations of others, which eventually wear us down and break us.

People are who they are, doing the best that they can do.   They can only understand what they can understand, facing limits of context, energy and self-knowledge, so they can only heal and grow in their own time and their own way, if at all.    Even as it costs, hold open the space for transcendence, offering opportunities for them to learn and make new choices.   You have to have the serenity to accept that you can’t demand change, that you have to meet others where they are, no matter what you need or how ragged you are.

Ouch.   Just fucking ouch.  I howl in pain, dreaming of a way out.

Spending a life focused on understanding, expressing and helping in the world, a life where I put ego drives and desires on hold to be present for myself and others has left me apart from earthly delights.  Æsthetic denial is a powerful strategy, and I was born with the capacity for it, but that doesn’t mean the persistent and profound loneliness hasn’t come at a high cost.   My own isolated process is very slow, both in understanding and in healing from the million daily bumps and cuts of a modern day life.

Doing the work, struggling make the most out of my choices has been hard.   I know there is no simple answer, no easy perfection.   I understand that human life will always include fighting and pain, so we have to take delight in the divine surprises, remembering to try the pâté.

When people, especially those who should know better, those who have seen my struggles, tell me just to make be courageous and make better choices, my serenity is sorely tested.   This is especially true when they know I still live in the house my parents selected, limited by the way they, as executor, didn’t follow through in canonizing my mother’s wishes.

Sore, sore, oh, so sore.

Yes, better choices are the key to claiming a better life.

But serenity?   That’s a price which wears you right damn down.

Balls & Heart

I, with the all of the power of the universe, through the magic of the goddess, and in the full witness of the circle of humans, hereby grant you full and complete status as a transgendered person from this day forward.
You have the right to define your own gender role, to choose from the wide range of gender expression, in appearance, in language and in action.

You have the power to be who you are and express yourself in the way you want, using the full spectrum of choices that exist, not just selections from one culturally defined gender role.

From today on, you have full status as a transgendered person, able to select the best from the abundant palette of human appearance and behavior.

You are constrained only by your own spirit and mind, by your understanding of your responsibility as a member of the human race.
-- The Rainbow Speech, 1994

“Thank you for bringing balls into my office,” she said.

I’ve spent about a year attending a support group hosted by a local psychotherapist who showed her compassion and willingness to understand transgender issues at a big public forum.  Over that time, I acted as a kind of co-facilitator, listening to LGBT people and responding from decades of striving to make meaning about the experiences of living a queer life.

She had wanted to loosen up the group, suggesting some exercises rooted in process, but I had suggested that the key was making people more playful.   To that end, I just bought a couple of balls from the dollar store and tossed them out at the beginning of the next session.

The group took to them immediately, tossing them about, and deciding that they wanted to pass one as a kind of talking stick, a talisman to empower the speaker.

This was the next month when she thanked me for bringing balls into her office.   Apparently they had also brought a sense of play to her everyday work, loosening up clients with a combination of easy physical engagement and childlike play.

As she repeated her affirmation to me, though — “thank you for bringing balls into my office” — I saw she meant something deeper.

As a person whose feminine heart feels erased when others see the expectations laid on my biology rather than opening to my nature, I had to decide how I felt about being warmly thanked for bringing balls into the space.

Fear comes from ignorance — we fear what we don’t understand — and ignorance comes from fear — we avoid exploring things that we fear. This is the syllogism that allows humans to keep up boundaries against people like “them,” keeps us away from the challenging and close to what comforts others around us.

For most people, gender is trained through avoidance and denial.    We are policed against doing the wrong thing, against making the transgressive choice, against seeping across gender lines.   Gender becomes rooted in the negative — what must I not do? — rather than in the positive.

When I came out as trans in the mid-1980s, my goal was to become more integrated, more whole, more androgynous/gynandronus.  I used my birth name and showed what today would be called “gender fuck,” mixed gender cues.

At that time, I really wanted to become a man more in touch with my feminine side, as I knew that was possible for me.   Being seen as a woman, with my bones and body, well, that would be tough.

More than that, the traditional model of transsexualism, purging anything in your history, biology or expression that might be seen as masculine, would demand me losing my voice, losing the idiosyncratic, iconoclastic, individualistic power I had worked so hard to find.   I was already queer by most standards, so why not add more gender fluidity?

As I explored over the years, though, the truth became clear to me.  I had never felt safe and effective as a man, never been cocky enough to satisfy straight women, never been able to whip it out and battle.   My feminine heart was much more powerful than my masculine body.

It was that heart which called me to stay connected, to not treat trans as a demand for exemption, to not just be in-your-face with my own erotic expression.   I would rather be accessible than be egotistical, leading to the choice to be trans-natural.

Many people, though, saw my ferocity as a masculine trait, as much as I knew that my fighter came from a deep feminine place.   “If I was born female,” I asked one crossdresser, “would I have been a ballsy broad with a big mouth?”   They thought for a moment and reluctantly answered yes.

Because I saw my transgender path as a search for the best that I could be rather than as a way to deny and destroy queer parts of me, I had a different experience.  The spouse of a renowned sexologist decided he liked me because I understood and respected the challenges he had growing up as a boy and being shaped as a man as we exchanged our touchstone A.A. Milne poems.    Gender is Gender, as I wrote in 1994.

I know many people who fear the power of gender expressions that they have learned to diminish, shame and avoid.   So many transpeople are more shaped by what they have decided is bad behaviour without trying it than by an open attempt to cross boundaries, understand with compassion and find the best.

As a shaman, though, I know that every tool I can place in my bag of tricks is useful in expanding growth, healing and understanding.  That’s why I know when to bring out the balls, childlike and playful, or open my mouth to challenge, giving context, nuance and empowerment.

Bringing the balls to those raised as women, either in offering more ballsy choices or informing them the pressures placed on those from whom balls are demanded, is not something I really want to do.   I want to be pretty and sweet and attractive, just one of the girls.   Yet I know that if I can’t just be defined by the negative, stuck in a kind of “us vs. them” mindset, surrendering my voice to the will of the group, that will never be possible for me.

My gift is liminality, floating through walls that others see as solid & defining.   I can “select the best from the abundant palette of human appearance and behaviour,”  just like that gift I laid out almost 25 years ago.

I bring the balls and I bring the tenderness, the compassion and ferocity rooted in a long and hard journey through hell to my own nature.

When I am affirmed for bringing those gifts, well, I better take the compliment, eh?

The Trauma Cleaner

What do we gain from starting over again?  What do we lose?   How do we hold onto what is vital in clearing away the bits of our life that are blocking us, how do we become new without having big swathes of us erased by loss?

Sarah Krasnostein explores these questions in “The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster,” a poetic and compassionate attempt to reconstruct the story of Sandra Pankhurst, a woman whose story weaves between possibilities, genders and traumas.

Sandra is a wounded healer,  a businesswoman who takes charge of cleaning the physical damage that comes from the inner damage which humans carry, someone who uses her hard won skills in surviving & thriving to help others.

Krasnostein is in awe of the healing gifts that Sandra offers, but understands that power comes from the requirement to transcend extraordinary & profound wounds, facing a lifetime of loss while holding onto the humanity needed to claim respect and presence in the face of massive indignity.

No two trans lives are ever the same, just as no two people are ever the same, but the tender heart and sharp brain that Krasnostein uses to pick through the shards of Sandra’s life is one of the most compelling and insightful exposure into the twists of trans lives that I have ever read, especially for someone who hasn’t lived on the bent path themselves.

This is the gift that Krasnostein gives Sandra, the gift she gives all her readers, the surfacing of a complex and very human life beyond the facade of acrylic nails and strong, sweet service.   How can we tell our own story to a world that wants to smooth out the queer bits, wants to erase the cost of claiming beyond?   How can we own our narrative if we can never speak it, if we always have to clean it up and out to just be accepted in the everyday world?

The artifacts Krasnostein excavates from Sandra’s life create a museum of contrasts, from free-flowing fun to brutal rape, from beautiful rooms to placards of denial & separation.   Krasnostein is clear that the bits challenge her, but understands that they can’t be judged individually, that without the context of an extraordinary life any assigned value is as shallow as the myopia that so many used in moments to castigate Sandra.

No one comes out unscarred.   No one can be forced to carry the weight of all the judgments and shaming they have endured through the years, be held down by blaming them for what they did to survive, struggling to get beyond the shattering residue of trauma, separation, disconnection, abuse and loneliness.   We are those wounds, yes, those broken moments in our lives, but we are also that healing, the way that we have turned and blossomed even in the face of disasters.

There are very few cuts & twists of a trans life, of a human life, that go untouched in Krasnostein’s masterly work.   That alone makes it worthy of study, of going back to explore knots and scars, letting us ponder and rehearse choices we could make differently.   None of those touched moments, though, are revealed without compassion for the needs that Sandra had in any moment, from moving away from those who loved her to putting up a facade that shielded her from the rejection a deep part of her had come to expect.

The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster,” is a book where trauma is laced with brilliance, where wounds are transcended by healing, and where darkness is overwhelmed with light.    These are, in the end, the lessons of Sandra’s relentless work to make as beautiful a life as possible, being of service and rising above all that could have sunk her.

Ms. Krasnostein has created a powerful, stimulating and delightful work, taking the best of Sandra Pankhurst and tempering it with wonder, wit and reverence.

If you care about any single thing I have written about in the past twelve years of this blog, you should read “The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster” and meet these two amazing women.

Heart On

Who is a woman without someone to love?

I loved the people assigned to me, my birth family,  in ways that cost me dearly.   That love, though, was at the heart of my feminine nature.

And now, I need someone else, something else to love.   This time, though, when I am choosing, I want one different, one simple thing.

I need what I love to be able to love me back in a way that is affirming and empowering.   That’s something that my family could never manage, Aspergers and all.

To be seen, understood and valued for my unique gifts, well, that just shouldn’t be too much to ask, should it?   Then again, I remember crying in the car coming north from Atlanta after my first Southern Comfort Conference in 1993 when Mary Chapin Carpenter came on the radio singing “Too Much To Expect, But Not Too Much To Ask.”

I know how lonely I am, how my voice is getting weak, rusty and faint.  But I also know how queer I am, how sharp and intense, how I challenge the healing and awareness of other humans who didn’t have to do the work I had to do to survive, to love.

Long ago I learned to make do with what I have and not strive for more, knowing that whatever my ego wants, trying to manipulate it into being will only make the results corrupt, friable and disappointing as it crumbles away when I try to put my not inconsiderable weight on it.

Now, I sleep a great deal, trying to dream, because in dreams I imagine details that I believe I never could create in everyday life. In dreams, my feminine and creative fancy flies far beyond the constraints of audience and defence that have bound and constrained me into the putative shape imposed on my body and mind. Yet, there is no place IRL to manifest that transcendence. so instead I sleep a great deal.

In my life, I could never imagine getting away with being high maintenance. Sleep on the bedroll and serve.  A human doing, not a human being.

My life has always been a tussle with the audience.   Nobody gets the joke, not the wit of a queer kid who speaks in Jonathan Winters tongues to explain existing in the Aspergers zone, not the compassion of a trans theologian outlining deep connections which challenge the dreams & assumptions of promised normative lives.

The choice is backing away from my so very hard won knowledge to be more conventional or learning to tolerate a hardscrabble life, one full of æsthetic denial.   I told the answer to that dilemma to the third shrink they sent me to, the one in eighth grade: I have to be myself.

I still pop into action when my remaining family needs help, but while they give what they can, they must focus on their own needs, cares and desires, not mine.   That’s the way of relationships; filling the holes that others have identified without being too, well, too too for their comfort.

Lack of love, though, reciprocated and replenishing love, has withered my own voice, my own capacity, my own energy.  The spiral grabs me and sucks me down, no love to renew, no renewal; no renewal no energy to seek love, no love.

My manifestation is not elegantly reduced to a simple, easy to understand, easy to digest appearance.   While I understand that this means people around me grab the bit that makes sense to them and erase the pieces that seem different, unexpected and queer, that erasure is still diffident and painful to me.   Would it be any less traumatic, though, if I did my own surgery, curating a fixed and finite appearance of my own selection?

No, I have to hold on to the rational construct that I am faceted, showing many faces that are then selected by the observer.   “Hello, I’m Callan, and the pronouns you use to refer to me tell me much more about you than about me.”

But seen I need to be, translucent and loved not just for what I can do for you in this moment, but for the way I have shaped and salvaged a self that stays functional in a world that did its damnedest to pound and erase me into a good marketing consumer, boxed and drawn like product to be sold, advertisers and employers understanding my value to their constrained & constricted vision.

As much as I want to connect this piece to other tales, threading a web which deepens understanding, I know that those pathways will virtually always go unexplored by readers on a schedule, their own goals & needs demanding they discard what seems to be just noise, without information that applies to their current question of mind.

Relationships take time & effort, but my years and energy have been sunk into playing small, playing all that the local traffic could tolerate.  Waste is left, huge piles of debris which holds the very stuff of my life, my deep, deep emotions encapsulated in crystal sharp thought, dressed in any turns of language which I prayed would make it charming, accessible and engaging.

These middens swamp me now as I live alone with them, my only company voices from a cheap device which read the debris of other humans, these, though, smoothed and shined by publishers who hope to share in rewards and revelations.

Where is the passion, the Eros, the love that can move me beyond this valley?   I spent a life giving love without return, burning my heart in an attempt to catch a bigger fire, one that would warm and illuminate me, burning away fears while melting together lives, releasing me from suppression & attenuation, opening my new growth like a forest fire pops open pine cones laden with new vitality.

I so need a heart on, a swelling blossom which unlocks and unleashes, but the vigour is gone, dried to dust which barely powers minimal exposure.

Because who is a woman without someone to love?

Moms and Moms

You can’t tell the mothers just by looking.   They reveal themselves in their choices.

I just read about the origins of cognitive therapy, where “Therapy may consist of testing the assumptions which one makes and looking for new information that could help shift the assumptions in a way that leads to different emotional or behavioral reactions.

To me, that sounds like what a mother does.   Mothers help growth by giving context. The rest is detail.

Sure, kids need to be fed and cleaned and kept warm, but that can be done even by bureaucrats.

The real grace of mothering comes from listening close enough to be present for learning, helping discover new and better ways to interact with the world.   That starts with understanding before language, meeting needs, offering challenges and pushing beyond in ways that are unspoken.

Communication is the foundation of human interaction.   Learning language, which includes not only mastering the symbols but also the concepts and strategies behind it, is the fundamental basic of living a human life.    We need to be able to learn from stories and to express who we are to fully participate in the possibilities society offers us.

One of the most difficult parts of learning is moving beyond the limited, flawed or fearful notions we already hold.  Unless you are willing to expose, test and change your beliefs, you will always be stuck.

Shifting the assumptions we hold is what cognitive therapists do.   It is also what good moms have always done.

I had to find a way to shift my own assumptions from a very early age in order to function in a family where both my parents were stuck in the tunnel vision that comes with an Aspergers mind.   Becoming a concept former was my solution, trying to understand beyond my current knowledge to become more effective and safe.

My nickname was “Stupid” for years because I questioned and challenged the standard assumptions rather than just making what was seen as the smart and easy choice to follow along with the conventional wisdom.   It was brutal treatment, but I knew the only way to hold onto myself and protect my siblings was to stand up for better, smarter, fairer and more loving.

In the assault that was my family, I learned to be manipulative, using any trick I could find to change viewpoints and get what I needed.   I was never devious or secretive — my goals were open and clear — but I was needy and pathetic.

Coming out helped me move beyond smallness and start listening.   Because I could read others, understanding their meanings, I could fight fair and fun, working to find common ground and common goals.   My deep thinking let me analyze situations and my snappy performance let me be entertaining as I led.   I could start by hearing, affirming and holding the truth of a life while also shining light on ways to expand it, a trick that many miss when they just want to ignore truth rather than growing it into transcendence.

Caring for my parents in the last decade of their life was just a continuation of being a caring, engage and loving cognitive therapist; being a mom.

I cared for my parents, even in ways they could not vocalize, like making sure my mother always had novelty and something to gripe about, and I helped my parents shift their understanding to make better choices, at least as far as I could.

When I finally ended up participating in a support group, the leader saw that I listened to participants in a unique way, then offering up not what they expected but rather bits of story that changed the context, moving past current assumptions to see in a new way, like a cognitive therapist, or a good mom.

Others have seen this, having their assumptions challenged over years to find a way to move beyond limiting behaviours to new ways that opened up hot new possibilities for them.   They were ready for change and I had the skills to help, something that is rare in a world where people only heal and grow in their own way and their own time.

What I lack, though, what I have always lacked, is a cognitive therapist who can see both my possibilities and my deeply held expectations to help me move beyond.   I need, as I have said so many times, someone who can give an affirming and encouraging “Yes!” to me, helping me let go of twists and trust my own shine.

What I lack is a good mom.   As much as I learned to care for myself and others, it’s impossible to be your own mom, moving beyond your own fears and experiences with affirmation and love.

It is nice to get a Mother’s Day gift from California and to have my sister offer to take me for a 50¢ Mother’s Day cone, to be seen as a mom by some who know my choices.

It is hard, though, to have lived a life without an affirming mom, to not have that mom voice deeply embedded in my head and in my heart.

I need it now, need to trust it, need to move beyond.   This week I have been scratching at the “Burden Of Remembrance” for the local Transgender Day Of Remembrance coming up in November, so I am very aware of the assumptions and expectations I have had to carry for so long, not just for myself but also for my community, my queer family.

Looking like a stereotypical mom is not something I can do.   Many just don’t know a mom when they hear one, and  others need to be focused on their own growth & healing more than helping oldsters.   That’s OK; I could never be a stereotypical mom, just cleaning & feeding.  I’m queer, which means helping individuals blossom and spread in a world that desperately needs to affirm the power of personal possibility.

It’s just that, well, sometimes, I need to believe beyond myself.   Yes.

Animating Force

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trusting that force, though, has always been difficult.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I wish the same blessing for you.

Complicated

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too Much, Too Little

“I have to watch myself because I often put other people off by being too _________.”

What do you believe that you have to tamp down, to keep small and hide for other people not to find you off-putting?

It’s those aspects you have been told that you have to police which form much of your anxiety, fear and denial.   It’s the reason you feel the need to modulate, cut back and control your choices to follow the rules, to fit within the lines, all so people will like you.

What do I most fear showing?  Simple.

I fear being overwhelming (1998).  I know how easy it is for me to open my mouth and fill the space with challenging, intense, theological, liminal and potent words.   People can be baffled, frightened, insulted or just see me as a total jerk.

If less of me is more, then I should hold back on revealing myself, right?   My æsthetic denial and expectation of scarcity tells me that if something or someone might be useful to me, going after it is the absolutely wrong thing; instead I have to let it come to me.

This strategy leaves me alone and cold most of the time. STFU — Shut The Fuck Up! — does not lead to making lots of new connections.  It doesn’t even lead to making the most of the few connections that you do make.

I could, of course, give a complex, detailed and exhaustive explanation of how I came to this state, but I have already filled an enormous and obtuse blog with the blow-by-blow.

Just because I am aware of the torrent of thoughts, feelings and voices that course through me all the time doesn’t mean others are ready to engage or even to hear what I have to share.  That means I need to be my own editor, which also means that, like any contentious self-policing queer, I end up cutting out much of the good, relate-able and connecting stuff.

My life-myth is simple: nobody gets the joke.   They won’t see what I have to offer beyond their own limited expectations, their own tunnelled assumptions.    I may know how sharp, connected and gifted I am, but they see the lumps and bumps of the idiosyncratic & iconoclastic package, which never fit the standard conventions.

For me, attention was always something to be avoided rather than being encouraged.  To be revealed was to be unsafe, open to attack for what others projected onto me.   Unsafe was my expectation, never really one of the gals, never really one of the guys, never really one of the gang.

I learned to take power from the edges rather than from the front, using guerrilla skills to ask just the wrong question which opens up a new way of thinking.

Offering too much information can be a problem, so we can be defined by what we conceal, what we police.   Like anything, though, conscious creation is always more powerful than habitual patterns.   When we own our less than perfect bits, our deepest intentions, our choices and our shimmering contradictions we can come to expression with awareness & presence rather than fear & ignorance.

My personal denial is considered, deliberate, explicit.  I trust thoughtful content over free style, overthinking, overworking and under achieving.   I don’t trust my performance, my brilliance. my beauty (2006).

I know, though, that choice keeps my spark, my light from the world, keeps me from trusting that I can attract what I need, keeps me believing that my intensity will blow the deal.

What we police holds the flashes of our energy, our gifts.  Staying small may keep others comfortable, but it doesn’t keep us happy.

Or healthy.

Remember Too

It has come to my awareness that my first draft for TDOR 2017 seems a bit too complicated and intense.

Here is a second, simpler draft.


We don’t come together today to remember transgender murders, rather we gather to remember transgender lives.  Each name read isn’t just a chime, rather it is the remainder of a trans person who lived, loved, struggled, sweated and survived until they no longer did.

When we hear of tragic deaths, we have two choices.

We can come together to fear death, identifying victimization and loss, girding ourselves from inevitable pain and destruction.

Or we can come together to remember to value life while we have it, celebrating the messy possibilities of creation, of relationship, of love.

When you hear about a murder, do you look for someone to blame, for someplace to hide?   Or are you reminded that life is precious and must be lived to the full in order to make the most of our gifts?

Do you yell and wail or do you hug and educate?

I believe that the way we honour those we have lost is by making the most out of what we still have, of all that we can find and transform in this world.

Were people there, loving, encouraging and empowering the people who lost their lives to violence this year?   We hope so, hope they had moments of bliss that lifted them and deeply connected them to others, to something greater.

We can’t change their lost lives, though, cannot change the past.   All we can do is to allow the memory of them to inform our choices, helping shape our future.

As we remember what is lost, we are reminded of what we have to value.   We are reminded that moving beyond our own limits, our own comfort, our own habits and expectations is the only way to develop deep connections that open us to love beyond fear.

Queer people were lost to us.   Doesn’t that remind us to remember how important it is to value the queer people who pass through our lives today, the ones who make choices we would never make for ourselves, but which open our eyes and our hearts to a kind of continuous common humanity that transcends our personal experience?

We remember the lost so we can be reminded to value the found, moving beyond the fear of death to the love of life, human expression and essence in all its diverse, challenging and beautiful forms.

We remember to remind us to open to the love that can connect us all.

 

Remember Fear

Draft for TDOR 2017

As we come together on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, taking the time to list those transpeople that we know were lost at the hands of another in the past year,  what do we need to most remember?

The stories of our murdered sisters and brothers remind all transpeople that our safety is not something that we can take for granted.   We live in a world where we can become targets of other people’s internalized fear and rage, where their need to purge what they find challenging to their own beliefs can end up with them targeting us, with them feeling that they are entitled to erase perversion and evil.

The one thing that all queer people share is the experience of the closet.  We learn very early that it is unsafe for us to show the nature in our hearts, that the only good we can do is to deny, suffocate and twist our desires to fit into what family, church and community expects.

Today, we remember that fear which caused us to hide, which still pushes us to stay small and deny our power, and we stand together to resist it.

By gathering in love to celebrate the lives of marginalized transpeople, by showing our solidarity and coming together with allies who also commit to remember the fear that terrorizes gender variant people around the world, we stand up for care, for compassion and for liberation.

Today we say that the stories of trans lives, the voices of those trans people some attempt to silence with fear, are vital to remember each and every day.   We honour the experience of being trans in the world, even where it differs from our personal experience, seeing through the eyes of those who have lived in fear just because their hearts crossed the lines of society’s gendered conventions.

Marginalized, pushed to the edges, they lived in fear of their own safety, striving to create a life even though they were routinely told that just showing their nature put them beyond what many could accept, what many could tolerate, what many believed was right, pure and godly.

They knew that even using a public restroom could put them at risk from some who would brand them sick and perverted, who would dehumanize them, call them deluded monsters, worthy of purging from polite society.

Yet, they lived their own love, claimed their own creation, embodied their own truth.   Some paid the ultimate price for that expression, unable or unwilling to hide themselves enough to satisfy the tormented, mirroring the diversity and transcendence of creation in a way that got them attack and destroyed.

On this day, we remember that only by creating safe space in our own heart to embrace the mirror of continuous common humanity, moving beyond the walls and separations that we believe keep us safe can we create a world where diversity can blossom and thrive.   Our comforting assumptions need to be released to see the humanity around us, rather than defended by erasure, ignorance and projection.

We come together today to move beyond our own fear of the different, our fear of those who make choices that we would never make for ourselves, choices that we can only understand by opening our hearts and seeing the world through their eyes.   We commit to remembering that our discomfort or feeling of challenge is within us and only we can reach to something higher which allows us to transcend, moving from fear to love.

As we see echoes of attack of gender variant people around us, in the media or in conversation, we remember that the seeds of fear are being planted, making the world less safe for those who have the spark of transcendence in their hearts.   We remember that only love can trump fear, only compassion can trump doctrine, only we can trump ignorance and hate.

Today, we remember those who were destroyed by fear and violence, those who are damaged every day by fear and the threat of violence, those who cannot give all their creator has put into their heart because they live in fear.

And today we remember that only we can create fertile ground for them with our love, our willingness to open our own hearts and minds to hear their stories, to move beyond our old assumptions and comforting walls to engage them with love.

We remember the lost and we commit to the living that we will remember the continuous common humanity that threads through all human hearts, remembering to open with love and kindness so we create safe spaces for diversity, expression and transcendence, spaces that can spread from our heart to the wider world.

We promise to remember to release fear and embrace love for every human, even the ones who cross gendered conventions.

 

 

Try To Remember

“I think that Transgender Day Of Remembrance (TDOR) is simply a vigil,” said the pastor who called the organizational meeting, “and not a time for speeches or anything like that.”

“Let me ask you a question,” I said.  “What are we trying to remember?   Just a list of people we never met?

“Clearly, these lost people act as symbols, but symbols of what?”

The room kind of choked.   All these people wanted to be good, liberal allies of transpeople, catching the trend, but in their minds, trans was just what they assumed it to be, not something challenging, risky and potent.

It’s just that power that TDOR was created to express.

From the first, TDOR was a political event.    What it means — what we are trying to remember — is at the heart of the question, a question shaped by your own worldview.

For many, TDOR is just another reminder of racism, as many of the victims are women of colour.   It becomes swept into conventional identity politics based social justice rhetoric.

For me, though, TDOR is aan event for consciousness raising about the erasure and destruction of trans visibility.   It is about the forces used to kill off trans nature in society.

That requires that we face the connection between all transpeople, the shaming and the abuse that tries to crush us.

For transpeople who have spent countless energy in trying to justify why they are not bad trannies, why they are the exception that doesn’t deserve the shunning, shame and slams that other, too-queer trannies get, this can be very hard to do.

I had a transwoman murdered a few blocks down the street from where I lived.   Trying to bring together community to call for justice, let alone to remember her life was an enormously difficult challenge.

Many questioned why a man was in her apartment after the bars closed.  It turned out that he followed her home to rob her, seeing her as vulnerable, but the very suggestion that she may have been sexual marked her as complicit in the view of many.

Many couldn’t imagine trading their hard crafted mask of invisibility to be out to stand up and stand by her.

Trans is such an individual journey that they couldn’t see themselves as family with this woman, couldn’t imagine why they should take her questionable choices onto themselves.   After all, they protected themselves by playing safe; shouldn’t she have done the same?

Race, class, economics, sexuality and much more form barriers to our own consciousness of connection.  Even when we do try to reach beyond those boundaries we often find others who create their own blocks to solidarity, looking to blame others or use the shame of constructed political correctness to enforce their own identity politics.

TDOR has always been a political event, asking us to stand up in solidarity for those transpeople who have been physically erased, no matter what the reason or how different they are from us.

For the nice people in that room last night, it was a simple matter of humanity.   The people on this list could be refugees or political prisoners or lost miners.   Just humans who died and we should list off their names, take a moment to remember them and then move on.

For me, though, context is all.   How do we legitimately remember the challenges transpeople face without engaging their narratives?   How can we create a space for them in our mind unless we are open to their continuing struggle?   What is the purpose of claiming remembrance without doing the work of actually understanding the context of their lives?

This was, though, much more than people wanted to handle in the meeting, than what they wanted to include in their nice vigil.   The service was enough; actually remembering, which meant actually opening, knowing and engaging was beyond the scope.

I left the room feeling unheard and erased, with no one wanting to engage what I offered.

And that’s what I’ll remember.

Terrifying Transgender

Transgender, if you do it right, is terrifying.

Transvestism isn’t, be it crossdressing or drag. If all you do is change clothes for a bit of fun, retaining your assigned gender,  staying fixed in heteronormativity.

Transsexualism isn’t.   If you have a birth defect and your attempt is to hide it, fix it, blend in as the real sex you always really were, well, that supports heteronormativity.

I lived through decades of transsexuals and crossdressers fighting hard to separate themselves from transgender identification.  They didn’t want to be colonized and co-opted by those transgender people who sought to appropriate their deep cultural truth.

They knew that transgender is terrifying and they had no desire to be terrifying.   They just wanted to go along to get along.

Today, many try to take the terror out of transgender by removing its threat of challenging comforting divisions.   Their model of trans is a kind of neutering, a removal from oppressive gender constructs rather than a true crossing of them.   By specifying pronouns and staying away from the power of assimilation, they treat transgender as a kind of personal expression that floats above gendered norms rather than challenging them.   In this case, trans is the embodiment of “none of the above.”

Transgender, though, if you do it right is terrifying.

Doing it right means revealing the artificiality and limits of gendered assumptions by cutting across them.  It is when we powerfully show that we are “all of the above” that people begin to get queasy, feeling the challenge of liminality to their comforting social divisions.

Transgender opens up the power of connection, demanding we face the mixed, mired and beautiful part of us that links us to continuous common humanity.

Any transperson who has experienced the “third gotcha,” seeing their gender shift in someone else’s eyes knows the power and the fear contained in this truth.

It is why, on Halloween, no matter what costume we try to wear, we end up just being the “scary tranny” if we do it well enough.

Looking at the current sexual harassment scandals though a transgender lens leaves us seeing them as abuses of power, which always run deeper than gendered behaviours.  Sure, men may abuse power in a different way than women do, but that demand for obedience at the threat of destruction runs through the stripe of humanity.

This view isn’t comforting to those who are used to an us versus them mentality, a separation between victim and oppressor, between hunted and prey, between masculine and feminine, between good and evil.

In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.

I knew that was my mission statement, my transgender mission statement when I first heard anthropologist Anne Bolin say it almost 25 years ago and it remains my touchstone today.

And its when that humanity beyond convention is exposed that transgender becomes terrifying, at least to those who crave constructed walls for comfort against the fear of what lies within them.

Transgender, if you do it right, is terrifying.

It’s why I love it, because moving beyond fear to seeing with love is a key to becoming aware.   It’s why I hate it, because being a solitary, abused, phobogenic object (2006) is lonely and tough.

But I can’t imagine living with any other stance.

Halloween marks the time when our ancestors believed the veil between this realm and others was at its thinnest.  It is the moment when shadows dance, scary and potent, revealing connection.

May yours be energetic, divine and transcendent.

Easy To Slag

I have been thrashing about with the concept of “learned helplessness,” the notion that with enough repetition of negative results we learn to avoid even trying to break out of the box that we find ourselves in.

How do you break your own deep conditioned responses?   Clearly, the best way is to try something new and get better results, outcomes that reward, support and encourage different choices.

That, though, is not so easy to do on your own.   Your mind is already conditioned to see the expected outcomes and to minimize possible flashes of better.   When you believe that no one gets you it is easy to look almost anywhere and have that assumption confirmed.

I want to be able to leave the basement and come back with something more than short-dated 99¢ clearance bratwurst, but being able to find the stimulation, affirmation and mirroring I need is far from simple.

Why can’t I just take the risk, just put myself out there with grace, resilience and persistence to build a new audience that values what I have to share in a way that brings me what I need?

Reading an article in the NY Times Magazine about the attacks on Amy Cuddy let me realize what holds me back.

I am enormously easy to slag off.  Since, after a lifetime of experience, I know how simple it is to portray me as weird, disconnected, out-of-touch, twisted, sick, over complicated and so many other negative things, I expect to be attacked in passive-aggressive ways that do not engage what I say but rather just slight my queer, thoughtful style.

“Well, I don’t understand it, so how can it be important?   I mean, if he can’t say it in simple words that everyone gets, then how real can it be?”

The message is simple: go along to get along.   Challenge is not what we need.   Help us attack shared enemies rather than asking us to question our own choices and maybe then we can find some common ground.  We are all in agreement; why do you have to try and cause trouble?

Trans is a very individual journey.   It is a quest to claim our own special heart rather than trying to become one of the crowd.   This, though, is a tough idea to own for people who long dreamed of becoming one of the crowd, strong, beautiful and well accepted.   Who The Fuck Wants To Be A Tranny? (2006)

The voltage that courses through the grid that walls me off is the power of getting slagged off, dismissed and mocked for my attempt to communicate.   That thread started early in my history with two Aspergers parents, continued through public school where I learned to stand on the sidelines as an idiosyncratic iconoclast and got magnified in LGBT spaces where the correctness of identity politics is valued as a comfort blanket.   Add to that the hew and cry against queer perversion and I have good reason to be trained to avoid rather than engage, to reside inside my own learned helplessness.

I know how easy I am to slag off, to characterize as a stupid freak not worthy of engagement.

And that, I note, keeps me silent and in this basement.