Team Dreams

“I want what everyone wants,” I said to the pastor trying to counsel me.

He looked askance at my trans presentation and asked just what I thought it was that everyone wanted.

“I want to be seen, understood and valued for my unique contributions to the group.”

After thinking about it for a while, he admitted that might actually be something that everyone wants.

When I watch the Bon Appétit Channel — — and read the comments, I see what people like: watching a team of smart, focused, diverse people at work.   They are food nerds who have formed a family where everyone is seen, understood and valued for their unique contributions.

Very few of us plan to make gourmet Peeps from scratch, but all of us like seeing bright people band together to fight challenges in passionate and caring way.   That intensity is compelling because it is something we want in our life, a reflection of our dream to be part of a great, focused team.

When I remember the best part of my life, it was the days when I was part of a startup software company, a big team working for creation.   Like all startups, I was connected to different groups in different ways, but my primary affiliation was to product management, the node of Marcia, Janet and myself who together knitted the tasks and initiatives together.

After that, I worked hard to create other teams, based on the same kind of close interactions, the fighting fail and fighting fun that fuelled integration towards achieving shared goals, knowing that people who won’t fight with you won’t fight for you.   I knew what I needed. After all, I used to cry at Tom Peters books even before joining software, and my team building days date back to high school..

Finding people who know how to share focus, let alone people who have the skills to let go of their own myopia to do what is needed, well, that I have found is very rare indeed.   And the older we get, it seems, the less we want to engage new tricks of coming together.

This is true in the big population, of course, but it is even more true in the area of trans.   It is very hard to herd cats, as they have said.   That’s one reason I instantly clicked with TBB, because Sabrina was always out to build a team at SCC, empowering every individual to contribute, knowing that personal responsibility is the basis of shared success.   It’s not what they are going to do, or even what we are going to do, it is the combination of personal actions that moves us forward.

Maybe Sabrina learned this because of her work in the space program, or maybe she joined the space program because she wanted to join a smart team, but either way, it was a deep connection between us.   We trusted each other on stage the first night we met because we both recognized good, flexible, integrated team members.  We had each other’s back.

It is truly a joy to know and be known by others with whom we work for shared goals.   By trusting other people, we form the beautiful and delicate tension of conflict for good, always being surprised by other viewpoints, always being rewarded with constructive change.

I long for the shorthand and the safety of being part of a smart team, but the BA comments tell me that I am far from the only one with these longings.

What do I think women want?   The Sex And The City gals have the answer.  We want good partners:  smart, attentive, trustworthy, playful partners who see, understand and value us for our unique contributions.     Compromise is required, as well as engagement, the ability & willingness to do things you don’t want to do, as long as you know they are the right thing to do, trusting even when you don’t quite understand why they are important.  We’ll do that for you and for our kids; why won’t you do it for us?

Being part of a great team means that you will always be challenged.   Mastering new skills, expanding your vision and fielding feedback will push your comfort zone, but one of the best parts of being part of a team is that you will always have people around to support and encourage you.     Change is the only constant in life, but as part of a team it’s easier to feel confident, aware and motivated about moving into a better, more empowered future.

Raising the bar is what great teams do, for the results, for the process, for the individuals within.   Living with high expectations is an uncomfortable gift, making demands while returning rewards.  When others have low expectations of you, seeing you as abject, it’s easy to live down to them, easy to lose pride and presence.

Bold, vibrant and life affirming, great teams come together with shared purpose and passion to give us the power to be more than a singleton, a community who symbiotically becomes more than the sum of our parts to create greatness beyond expectations, possibilities beyond separation.

5) The most painful thing about trans is not being able to give your gifts and have them accepted.

When I wrote that in 2002, I was simply expressing my team dreams, my need to be seen, understood and valued for my unique contributions to the group.

Isn’t that, just, though, a sign of my deep humanity?


“Don’t get frustrated about the problems, get excited about the solutions.”

I call that Sabrina’s Law.  I don’t think Sabrina — often known as TBB on this blog — invented it, but she sure as heck took it on as her own mission statement.

When she was at the head of Southern Comfort Conference, for example, she loved it when people complained to her about this or that.

“There should be a meeting for people like me,” they would say, or “You can do the parties in a better way.”

“That’s a great idea!” Sabrina would enthuse.  “Thank you for volunteering to make that happen!”

These transpeople were used to being fobbed off, ignored or dismissed, so when Sabrina empowered them to actually roll up their sleeves and do something, even if they did it in high-heels, it was a transformative moment.

Sabrina loves solutions.  That’s one reason she can get a bit frustrated by deep analysts like me who tend to dive deeply rather than getting on with it.   Now, she has seen me offer powerful expressions and seen me create great solutions, but she does tend to prefer it when I offer resolutions over emotive description.

When we come to the table with a solution based mentality we have to let go of our victim hood, of any sense that “they” have responsibility to fix it while we just get to complain.   Solutions demand an “us” viewpoint, a commitment to working together to create imperfect, compromised but still functional better ways.

Any engineer will tell you that there is no perfect solution, only a set of trade-offs that help address the issue.   The best we can hope for is a kind of elegance, a merging of innovative thinking and simplicity that makes sense and offers a platform for further improvement.

The role of the problem solver, rather than the role of just the complainer, is always the role of the parent.   Somebody has to get food on the table, pay the bills, kiss away hurts and plan for a better future.

Sabrina knew that very early, so she always did her part, starting with her kids, including her job and even in trans spaces, even when others didn’t know how to value her quest for exciting new solutions, when they wanted compliance and submission.

Taking responsibility for creating exciting new solutions is hard especially because it demands that we challenge those who are comfortable with the way things are, those who are invested in the status quo and those who would rather bitch than jump into the mess and fix things.

To take responsibility we have to be willing to lead, not just follow, have to be willing to have our own assumptions and expectations confronted, have to be willing to fail a bit to learn what we need for success.   You can’t be excited about new and better solution without the ability to leap in, take a shot then get up and try again.   This may leave you looking silly or vulnerable, but it also leaves you with wisdom and pride, with a powerful sense of agency and empowerment.

There are a wide, wide, wide range of problems in this world, none of which come with simple, easy or rapid solutions.   It’s easy to sit eating a plate of fish tacos at the Rathskeller listing all the failures, pointing out how it seems futile to dream of Utopian solutions that will never, ever come true.   Perfection is impossible.

Better, though, is always possible.   Even a little bit better can make a big difference, to one child, one individual, one ship, one bit of the ocean, as Sabrina knows.  Change is always incremental, always evolutionary, always grounded in the creative use of the possible and not in pipe dreams of the idealized.

“Don’t get frustrated about the problems, get excited about the solutions.”

Staying focused enough to persevere even while pushing though all the resistance, details and other crap that come with change is always hard.  That’s why we have to be excited about the possibilities, making milestones of every small change and spreading the vision with enthusiasm and exuberance.

That big, forward energy is something else Sabrina is good at.   She not only sees and nurtures the possibilities around her, she encourages others in believing that they, too, can step up and make a difference.   Her excitement about better solutions sparks and drives those around her, making her a powerful force for positive change.

When you feel small and powerless it’s easy just to wave your arms and demand some kind of sweeping change.   Doing the hard, dirty scut work to create solutions that will actually work,  solutions that demand negotiation, compromise, failure and resetting doesn’t sound like fun.   Actually seeing the fruits of your labour, getting respect, achieving agency and credibility, leaving you with pride and satisfaction is worth it, though.

The kind of discipline which creates precision is the effort that can leave you excited about solutions that go beyond the expected, the conventional and the routine to make things better.

“Don’t get frustrated about the problems, get excited about the solutions.”

It’s what Sabrina does.


The theatre darkens, the crowd hushes and TBB comes on stage.

She is alone in the light, but next to her is a brick wall.   Turning, she starts to run and throws herself against it.

The wall stays firm, just as it does for the next hour and a half as she crashes into it again and again and again and again.

I imagined her one woman show after TBB told me that she has, as she matured, stopped running into brick walls.   Attempts to make change, as she has in the past, are tried once or twice and then let go.

A long time ago, I begged Chuck Munson for words of advice.   He was resistant, but eventually came up with something he felt worthy of sharing with me.

“Don’t piss into the wind,” he told me.

To be trans in this world is to be a change agent.   We see things as they could be and ask why not, bringing our own unreasonable and passionate desire to become more and better.

“The nail that sticks up gets pounded down,” goes an old Japanese maxim.   While in the west that pounding isn’t as strong, it still exists.

When TBB and I first met, we understood the other deeply understood the experience of being a bold change agent in the world, from having a bigger vision to fighting in the moment to getting pounded back.

Within a short time we were on stage together, improvising hosting the talent show, knowing that we had each others back.   For me, it was a surprise to feel safe in the spotlight, going wild and shining.    Even 15 years later, someone remembered our performance when they saw us together at dinner, recalling an empowering moment of freedom they found liberating.

We both had big energy, big dreams, big hearts and big mouths.  This made us both invaluable when problems cropped up and a huge pain in the ass when those around us just wanted to keep the status quo going, to stay in their comfort zone.

It was that resistance which formed the brick wall that Sabrina kept running into, the howling wind that blew back against me.

The same force that was vital when facing a problem became just too much in so called “normal” life, too exuberant, too questioning, too consistent, too challenging, too relentless.  The same people who found us useful and fascinating found us too wearing, too visceral, too intense, too overwhelming.

TBB and I took different approaches to this challenge, as reflected in a sketch The Drama Queens did of two transpeople driving to a conference.   She popped on her “peril sensitive sunglasses” to become charming & oblivious, while I felt the need to explain and justify my choices.

Last month TBB took her motorcycle up into the Napa Valley for a weekend looksee.   Cruising up a twisty mountain road, she came upon a breathtaking sight, a just smashed classic Porsche hanging off the side of the road with two broken passengers inside. With no airbags, they had gotten much the worst in a collision with a big new Ford Explorer.

While there were other people on the scene, none of them had yearly training in first aid and none of them were TBB.   After determining she was the most experienced person on scene, she quickly took charge, assigning tasks and doing what she could to stabilize the injured.

When a paramedic and then a doctor arrived she quickly let them take charge, becoming an assistant to the process.   Eventually an ambulance came and then two helicopters to medivac the driver and passenger from the scene.

“I wasn’t put off by the blood,” she told me.  “I just saw what had to be done right there, right now, and I did the best that I could.”

Instant laser focus is one mark of too people, quickly engaging with the situation.   We don’t live in assumptions and expectations, just ready to play out some internal scripts, rather we operate in real time, able to understand and adapt on the fly, doing what needs to be done.

After the airlift, TBB saw one young man who was on his knees.   She went over to him and asked if he needed help.

“That was my brother.  I let him ride in the Porsche.   I killed him,” he said, understanding that TBB was safe to open up to, that she wouldn’t just play an old tape and make it about herself.

For fifteen minutes they talked, TBB being there for him.   As he was leaving, he turned back to her and gave her a big hug.

“Thank you for saving him,” he said.

Through a phone call from him she has heard since that the two are still in intensive care, at least one still draining fluid off the brain, but they are still here, young and in with a fighting chance.

TBB wasn’t expecting to come upon a life and death scene on that beautiful ride, but when she did, she just did the work, blood and all.

Afterwards she looked for some company, sharing a coffee and coming down, but it was getting dark and everyone had somewhere else to go, something to do.  They were either observers or professionals, not dynamic participants who had to zoom in like TBB.

This kind of separation comes naturally to us.   Most people just don’t get the intensity and vigour that comes with being big, can’t engage the story.   Mayebe that’s why she was happy to tell me in a phone call, sharing the experience and putting it in context.

TBB & Dr. Daughter

TBB was picking up her children’s mother and driving up to her daughter’s PhD graduation this week, doing the work she has always loved most, building family.  She will see her mother and brother, bringing a trailer filled with possessions from the condo.

This is the fight she still manages, the stuff of her heart.   She can tell you the brick walls she ran into building family, especially after she came out as trans, and even show you the scars, but enough pounding and there was salvation & delight to be found.

The bubbleheads at work, though, the ones who can’t listen and need to follow their scripts even as failure is encoded in them, well, those aren’t fights she needs to win anymore.   She did the work, said her piece, and if they ignored her, well, it’s on their head now.

The history of running into brick walls, though, well it has left her scarred a bit, not so willing to jump in and be a change agent.   She is still a force of nature in the world, but a tamed one, more focused on her defences than on her brilliant & beautiful audacity.

In cultures where we knew others as individuals, each one exceptional and valued, TBB would have been treasured by her community.

In cultures where the normative is valued, her bounding heart is seen as too much, just not easily fitting into the machine made pattern of life.   From school to standards, fitting in is valued above standing out, so excellence is scary rather than admirable.

Rather than embracing her power as breathtaking, TBB has lived a life where too many have tried to steal the breath from her, the air that might allow her to soar too high on exuberant wings.   Hitting that brick wall, you know, will knock the breath right out of you.

TBB, though, still has some left and when the situation demands it, she will amaze and save others.

She just no longer expects people to really honour and encourage that magic.  She has met too many walls in her lifetime.

Crash.  Bang.  Ooof.  Ouch.

Sabrina Wept

Sabrina is a tough old bird.   She has to be.   As a big, bold transwoman, she takes the lead in so many ways, from being chief engineer on a ship to being a father to her children, to being out and about across the country as herself.

It’s been a tough thirteen years since she emerged as a transsexual woman, getting fired from her dream job at a NASA contractor as a result.   Her family had tolerated her actions as a crossdresser, where she not only created a local support group but also founded Southern Comfort Conference, still one of the largest trans conferences in the country, but this was different.

Suddenly doors slammed shut for Sabrina, her own families rejecting her choice and doing everything they could to separate her from her two beautiful children.  They threw every block imaginable in her way, legal, logistical and emotional.

Since then, Sabrina has rebuilt her life from the bottom up.   After striving to create one of the first aftercare facilities for transsexuals in the country, as documented in “Trinidad: The Movie,”  she came back to Florida, regained her maritime licence and patiently worked her way up to the status and position of chief engineer, taking many blows in the process.

More than her life, she has rebuilt her family, starting with her children.   Having them with her for summers, going on expansive voyages in “Marguerita,” an old Jeep fitted out with custom made sleeping bunks, and just being present as their father, she rebuilt her relationship with them in the face of continuing resistance from the families.

It took a decade of hard work to get to the point where she could achieve a simple goal, hosting everyone including her brother and the kids mom for a big, festive Sabrina made Christmas.  Over the years, Sabrina stood fast, strong, stable and resilient while those around her came to terms with her choices, with her reality, and with her truth, while they came to the point where they could see that living authentically and without denial allowed Sabrina to bring her full heart & soul to all facets of her life.

Through all that time, there has been one constant.   Sabrina’s mother, Anna, never turned away from her child and Sabrina never turned away from Anna. Keeping a promise to her late father to always watch out for Mom, Sabrina was there even as the fashionable and bright Anna started to slip into the fog of dementia.

Living only a few miles apart, Sabrina was the daily caretaker for Anna whenever she was home. Starting by bringing Anna along on all her jaunts, recently, that turned into sharing her own big bed with Anna, into being the one Anna let help her shower, taking care on the most intimate basis.

Dementia is a one way journey, though, and recently, after enduring Hurricane Matthew, it became clear to Sabrina that the system she created, including an in-home carer for when Sabrina was at sea, just wasn’t going to work anymore.   Anna needed dedicated, full time help, and that meant a memory care facility.

The plan that was in place involved moving Anna 1300 miles north to a facility near her brother’s home in western New York.

Sabrina discussed it over the phone with her brother and sister-in-law.    Her brother has been managing the fiances, trying to keep up with flying visits to Florida.

The call was tough.   As much the care Anna needed grew, Sabrina had done everything in her power to give it to her, being as tough and tender as she needed to be.   Taking Anna out of the lovely beachfront condo she created for her husband in retirement felt like an awesome disruption, removing her from a home built with love.

Was Sabrina giving up on the promise she made to take care of Anna, a promise that always involved keeping her close, so close that they went everywhere together, so close that the touch of skin on skin always comforted and reassured her mother as Anna lost the other touchstones in her life?

The discussion with her brother was technical, but his wife could hear the emotion in Sabrina’s voice as they talked about the potential move.

“I don’t think you understand,” she said to her husband.

“Sabrina went through a tough time when everyone turned on her.  But through all that time, there was always Anna, standing by her side.

“Sabrina and Anna stood by each other for well over a decade after the rest of the family froze Sabrina out.   Anna always saw Sabrina for who she was, a loving child and dedicated parent, someone strong and loving who was doing their best to support and extend family in the world.

“We turned away, but Anna stayed committed to Sabrina and Sabrina stayed committed to Anna, so letting her go, losing her presence has to be very emotional for Sabrina.”

It was in that moment that Sabrina lost it, starting to weep openly.

Finally, someone else, someone who had stood firm in the wall against her, acknowledged that she saw Sabrina as the woman she is, saw and spoke of  the cost and the pain that their decade of resistance had cost Sabrina.

Someone opened their heart to Sabrina, no longer seeing her as a wilful man challenging their family, but rather as committed and dedicated to family even as that family had turned on her.

What made the change?   Maybe it was spending time with Sabrina’s children over the years, hearing their stories and learning how much they were loved.   Maybe it is the fact that now trans is much more out in the open, no longer something to be ashamed of and hidden away.

Whatever it was, it was the absolutely the result of over a decade of astoundingly tough work on Sabrina’s part, work that kept her big loving heart ahead of her rational brain and of her personal experience of pain and rejection.

In that moment, Sabrina felt seen, understood and valued, mirrored in a way that she had long felt she never would be.

And in that moment, Sabrina knew that even as she was losing part of her family, she was gaining another piece of her family back again.   Instead of Anna being the only connection between siblings, with her loss being the end of the relationship, their shared love for Anna and the way each other loved her could bring them together again.

Sabrina wept.   And in those tears flowed a decade of pain, bridged by an acknowledgement of love, of commitment, of value.

There were more tears as Sabrina packed Anna into the car, driving her north, staying in hotels to give a sense of moving to new places.   They picked up Sabrina’s daughter for the last leg of the journey, keeping family together.

“You are always welcome here,” she was told when she entered her brother’s home and for the first time she felt it was true.   Rather than just grudging toleration there was respect and love from a couple who had spent a long time hiding Sabrina’s choices from their own growing children.

Sabrina gave Anna a last shower in the hotel, making sure she was clean and sweet to meet her new gang, the friends she would make in her new home.  So many things needed to be washed away, lost for the moment, but creating a clean slate to start new chapters with new relationships.

Sabrina wept when someone finally opened their heart to her, taking her not on some logical or political thesis but rather acknowledging her choices and deep, deep emotions as powerful evidence of a huge femme heart that beats inside a big trans body.

And isn’t touching skin to skin, heart to heart, what really makes a family?

TBB World

TBB lives in a very rich and very full world.

Returning to the Space Coast from her work as Chief Engineer on the Bell M Shimada, Sabrina is right at home.  Staff at restaurants greet her by name, the gang at the airport count on her as one of the gang and her network of friends throughout Brevard County look forward to her company.   Her social life is full.

She has been around for long enough to find clippings with her photo in the lobby at the local theatre society.   A phone call can ask her to speak for inclusion at a school board meeting that night.   She is such a part of this place that there is no surprise she was the first local to be a grand marshal at Space Coast Pride.

Big, bold, blonde and bodacious, TBB’s radiant confidence carries her everywhere.   Always ready to speak her mind, she reaches out with generosity to those around her.

One of those people is her mother, who is following in the path of her mother with serious memory loss.   Sabrina holds her close during the few weeks she is home, making sure she is included in all activities, from meals to bed.  She acutely feels the distance from mom when she is on the ship and her brother follows her from his home near Buffalo.

The big heart of TBB keeps her claiming the life she values so much, keeping her at the centre of a connected web.  By focusing on her own values, she keeps her life clear of clutter and distraction, everything as neat, shipshape and routine as she can make it.   This keeps her ready to engage new challenges, bringing them into line as efficiently as she handles a ship dead in the water with two blown generator sets.

There are moments when you can see her bridle at the limits of her life, as when a peppery novice tries to play host in a theatre that still holds TBBs heart.  Her emergence drew a line in the sand back in the day, blowing up an old life and leading towards a struggle to create a new life from the shards.

Her new life is her focus now, though, one where she has reclaimed professional dignity, the kind of financial standing that allows her to take care others in the way she wants, and a relationship with her children that has grown even stronger.   “Thank you for imbuing me with wicked sense of humour and sharp brain,” her daughter offers as part of joyous birthday wishes that celebrate the presence of TBB in her universe.

Claiming the possible has always been TBB’s clarion call.  As founding chair of the Southern Comfort Conference her sheer energy pulled people to move beyond their fears and do what they thought was impossible, creating opportunities for growth and connection.    Her message of not getting hung up on loss in a way that limits your happiness and your future has always been at the heart of making her way in a world she is sure she has a place in.

The grounding of place and family helps, of course, gifts from her loving parents, given back to her children.    TBB wants her mother not to experience the loss of her memory but rather to bask in the power of love, staying present, starting and ending every day with a hug.

A better life is possible, TBB wants everyone to know, if you just step up and claim what you want and you need.   The past is gone and the present is here, so drink deep of it and revel in the day God has given you.   This is the approach of an immigrant, who lets go of the old to embrace the new, transcending loss to swim in a new sea, succeeding in a new world.

It is the richness and fullness of her world that TBB claims everyday, cruising the causeways in Mom’s Lincoln and loving life to the fullest she can muster.

It’s TBB’s world, and if we are very lucky, she might just invite us to join her in it.

Sabrina Taraboletti, A Personal Pride

Sabrina Taraboletti, Space Coast Pride 2015 Grand MarshallTBB was delighted to be one of the Grand Marshalls of the first Space Coast Pride Parade in Melbourne Florida this weekend.

Her three top moments?

3) Speaking with a woman who had to choose between the strictures of her fundamentalist church and being present for her gay child.  This woman was grateful for the support she had from PFLAG and other groups.   TBB spoke about the gratitude she has towards all the people who helped her find comfort and centering over the years and how she feels the need to pass those gifts on, taking leadership.  To keep the gifts, you give them away.

2) One person who felt some urge to get involved with the trans community because they needed to do some exploration of moving beyond gender expectations felt safe enough to engage TBB.  They are having dinner together on Monday.

1) When the festival was over, cleanup had to be done.  Being informed that the bathrooms needed cleaning, people looked at each other, but TBB stepped right up to do the work, rolling up her sleeves and scrubbing away.  The group saw why TBB has change so many lives by putting herself out front, whatever needs to be done.

For TBB, the power wasn’t in being in the spotlight but in doing the mature work to empower others, offering leadership that helped those around her to find their own strength, power and possibility.

With the support of many companies that would never have fielded connection to the LGBT community, the event was a huge success.   The huge pride flag became the symbol of a new and better day, something to gather under and around, a banner to wave with great and expansive pride.

TBB felt the old roles surface, facets of her that are often hidden in her everyday work.   She brought more of herself out, down to the black Mustang named Angolina that she bounded across the country in to get back for this event.  Even her Italian roots were honoured with coffee and pastries in a group of leaders who celebrated their Italian-American heritage after the parade.

Remembering the bittersweet energy that would surge through her after every Southern Comfort Conference, TBB offered support and guidance to the leaders of this event, as she remembered her own proud heritage and glimpsed a shared proud future.

Grand Marshalls Barney Frank & Sabrina Marcus Taraboletti at Space Coast Pride 2015

Sabrina Taraboletti, Space Coast Proud

Sabrina Taraboletti & Barney Frank at Space Coast Pride 2015
Sabrina Taraboletti & Barney Frank at Space Coast Pride 2015

Today, in the beautiful Eau Gallie Arts District in Melbourne Florida, Space Coast Pride is holding their 2015 Pride Festival and Parade.

Three Grand Marshalls will grace the event.   Barney Frank will represent Gay Men, Mary Meeks and Vicki Nantz will represent the Lesbian community,  and our own Sabina Marcus Taraboletti will represent Trans Pride.

Sabrina Taraboletti, Rose Rubino and Gia Heller at Space Coast Pride 2015
Sabrina Taraboletti, Rose Rubino and Gia Heller at Space Coast Pride 2015

Sabrina came out in Brevard county in the mid 1980s, looking for shared support.   Since there was no local organization to support crossdressers and other transpeople, she started one.

Her trip to an IFGE conference opened her eyes to the power of diverse transpeople coming together to share, encourage and empower each other.  This sparked her to bring together people from across the south to found the Southern Comfort Conference in 1991, serving on the board and chairing the event for years.

After emerging as a transwoman in the workplace, she was let go from her job as a Space Shuttle contractor for NASA.   Working with the National Center for Transgender Equality, she later testified about her experience at the first hearing on transgender discrimination held by Congress.

As documented in Trinidad: The Film, Sabrina Taraboletti in Sabrina was a founder of an care facility that supported transwomen through their surgery.   With her open manner, including an interview in a bubble bath, she became the breakout star of that film, appearing at festivals across the USA.

Through all of this, Sabrina worked to repair stresses in her family resulting from her emergence by always being a father to her two children.  Together they travelled the country, even to Prudhoe Bay Alaska.   She is very proud of her daughter, a chemical engineer, and her son, a Naval aviator.

Returning to her roots, Sabrina reestablished her licence as a marine engineer and is now Chief Engineer for a NOAA fisheries ship.   By developing and managing a crew and all systems, she maintains safe and effective operation for all.

Readers of this blog, though, will know Sabrina as TBB, with many of her stories shared here.    They are tales of a truly big and bold transwoman, a talented busty blonde with a sharp mind and an enormous heart.

We met in 1993 and were onstage together hosting in front of the entire conference that evening, the first incarnation of The Drama Queens, eventually hosting the Virginia Prince Lifetime Achievement awards three times.

Sabrina has always focused on creating family around her.   By drawing people in, giving them the chance to share and gleefully encouraging their contributions, she has empowered many, many people to move beyond their comfort zone and discover all that they can be.

Sabrina has always reflected pride to transpeople, from the 1980s to today.   Many leaders remember her unconditional support as helping them go out and do the work that needed to be done.

She will tell you, though, that her own pride emerged with the help of others.   People reflected her as they saw her, not as she feared she was, and slowly, she learned to flow, moving beyond old models to authenticity.

“It’s ass!” Sabrina will rail at me, “The ultimate trans surgery is pulling the stick out of your own ass, not out of your backside or your bum!”   Sabrina is absolutely sure of this because she knows firsthand how a contrived life can come crashing down and then, with commitment, persistence and patience be built back up in a better, more authentic way.

As I have said in the past, Sabrina has always been a catalyst, bringing out the energy of those around her.   She’s platinum, that TBB, and today the folks at Space Coast Pride get to share in a bit of that proud magic Sabrina has been bringing to transgender communities for almost 30 years now.

That’s definitely something to be proud about.

Thank you for being visible this weekend to represent all the people who have strengthened your pride in the last 30 years.  And thank you for being one of those proud people for so many of us over that time.  Thank you, Sabrina, and congratulations!

Here are some links to great TBB stories on this blog:

Continue reading Sabrina Taraboletti, Space Coast Proud

Bullets Poison

When TBB had to choose what to do about her transgender heart, she had two choices: bullet or poison.

Most people around her though she should bite the bullet and stay presenting as a man with occasional and very discreet time away.  The fact that her marriage was already strained and she was suffering wasn’t the point: if she really loved her family, she would learn to do what they wanted, whatever it cost her.

She knew the alternative, too, the one that came to pass.   If she did come out, people who neither understood or even knew her very well would spread poison about her: an indulgent perverted man who cared more about his own jollies than about his family.

After all, who else would put their dear, loving family through such humiliation and torture?   They didn’t need any more than her actions to assign motives and then judge them as harshly as possible.

Worst, of course, was that this poison was spread even to her children.  “Such poor babies, to have a horrible, horrible, disgusting father like that,” people had no trouble saying.

Bite the bullet, chewing lead, or be sprayed with poison that even tainted your kids.  Even her own brother worked to have her removed from the family home and legally restrained from seeing her children.

Needless to say, being forcibly separated from her kids broke her big, tender, feminine heart.      While she knew what role her kids needed her to play — Daddy — she didn’t emerge to start living as a transwoman because she was a typical man.

It took her a decade to get everyone, including her brother, her ex-wife and her kids together under her roof to celebrate a Christmas together.   Her reflection at that time was about how much work and waiting she had to do to get people to heal and grow enough to get together, and how much their resistance, how much the poison had cost her.

The goal is simple, has always been simple: get past the effects of the poison so that she could create grown up, mature relationships with her family again. That sounds simple, but people on the edges of her world still find the poison useful for their cause, the cause to blame, separate and cause strife for their own benefit.

Like someone who was very damaged by the initial attack, TBB is very sensitive to even a whiff of that old poison coming back into her life.   It reminds her of the pain she suffered having her babies torn away from her and poisoned against her.

The hurt runs very deep so touching it brings back those old defences, the stubborn fight to be a stand-up person, a father to her kids, both an example and a rock.   She worked hard not to let the kids be in the middle of a bitter divorce, never fighting back with poison, because she knew how cruel and unfair those attacks are, to the attacked, but mostly to children who have both parents in their hearts, in their minds and even in their genes.

The path back to a quality relationship with her children has been hard because there was so much poison spread about, but she has worked very hard for a decade or more to make it happen, taking the blows, feeling undermined, but always present.

Her kids know that someone who will fight with you will fight for you, and they know that she has fought for them at every turn, even when she is demanding more and better from them.   She fights for their growth and healing, offering high expectations that they can live up to the legacy of an honourable family.

From before the moment that TBB chose to break down the compartment walls, to stop biting the bullet and getting lead poisoning in the process, she always fought hard to be a good parent to her babies.   Her coming to herself, finding a kind of peace and awareness, a maturity past denial, has helped her be there even more fully for those children.

Fighting the poison, though, getting past the toxic effects from the words that small and myopic people used to demonize and dehumanize another person who challenged their binary conventions, casting them out, well, that can still be a challenge.   When she sees others being asked to bite the bullet, others being manipulated with the poison that seeks to control and limit them from real connection with their own heart, those tender places get touched again.

TBB still holds herself proud for her children, still working to be the father she knows that they both need.  Her big, tender, feminine heart is obvious though, to anyone who cares to look, to anyone who sees that her scars are the same shape as any mother who had her children estranged from her.

Maybe the world is changing.  Maybe it’s not quite choosing between the bullet and the poison anymore.   Maybe respect, the golden rule and grace are helping society move past fear and separation to love and connection.  For that to happen, though, people have to let go of the poison that has been spread around them in their lives and not pass it on, creating space for growth and healing.

You know, like TBB does.

Dark Star

How can TBB not know that she is a star?

She recently had a couple of dinners with one of her old frenemies.   They were in a documentary film together a few years ago when they both were working in Trinidad Colorado.

The friend is an very accomplished doctor who loved being a big fish in a small pond, both geographically and culturally, serving the trans community.  In her mind, TBB was playing a supporting role and not really doing it all that well, as TBB had her own vision and her own energy.

After watching the film again recently, though, her friend had a different view.

“You really were the star of that movie,” she told TBB.

Yeah.   TBB has always had megawatt star power.

That’s not something she can easily agree with, though.

What makes a star?   The most useful definition I know is functional: when a star is on, you can’t take your eyes off of them.   Their energy just compels you to watch, to engage, to connect.

TBB was already the star of Southern Comfort Conference when I arrived.   Everyone knew that she had the spark, even as they saw others doing the work.

Why were others visibly participating?  Simple.  TBB would focus her star power on them, tell them that their idea was great, that they were great, and that they had a big part to play in the success of the conference.

TBB wasn’t in it for the glory; she already had the star power.

TBB was in it for the mommy.    She knew she could empower others to be better than they thought that they could be.

Other people really did play their parts, parts they and others around them understood.  That was great.

But TBB was playing her part too.   It’s just that other people didn’t understand what she was doing, didn’t get how hard she was working, because she, like any great star, made it look effortless and natural.   A star never lets them see her sweat.

To them, TBB was just having fun.   The magic happened without her seeming to strain or make a point of it, just flowing in a way that made it invisible to all but those who knew the work and energy it takes to be a star.

The first day I met TBB at SCC, with just an hours notice, she pulled me up on stage to co-host a talent show in front of 450 people.

I knew a few things.  I knew that this was a great opportunity to go beyond my own comfort zone, knew that my over-thinking and elaborate preparation routine had to be thrown out, and I knew, knew, knew that TBB was going to have my back and make it safe for me on stage.

I knew she was a star.  I wonder what she knew about me.

Tonight, though, as I telephonically joined her table for dinner overlooking the Sound in Seattle, I reminded her of what her frienenemy had said to her; she was the star of the movie they shared, bringing an energy her friend didn’t value at the time, an energy that was even threatening in the moment.

TBB had trouble agreeing with our assessment.

Why doesn’t TBB know she is a star?   People around her see that star quality in her, feel that energy.    They all assume she understands how powerful and attractive she is.

Almost none of those people, though, have grown up with star quality of their own.  They don’t understand the cost of shining in the world.   Growing up a star and as trans?  Even more inconceivable, even less comprehensible.

TBB learned early to use her power for good, making the honourable choice and putting others first, leading with family and empowerment.  Unlike others who craved stardom and chose to hog the spotlight, TBB took her inner light and shared it with others, bringing them into the glow.

The worst part of having success is
to try finding someone who is happy for you.
—   Bette Midler

Ms. Midler knows the price of being a star and search for support.  Trying to find people who aren’t threatened or challenged by your power is almost impossible.   Others can’t see the power and the price, can only imagine that somehow you are bound by the same constraints that they are.  Between envy and ignorance trying to find someone who is happy for you, who can really help you burnish your brilliance rather than hide it is well neigh impossible.

The star as wounded healer, performing at a personal price, luminous because of a huge and broken heart is not an uncommon archetype in the world.   Burning bright always has some cost.

TBB finds it hard to acknowledge her stardom because she needs to fit in, in technical spaces, in workplaces, in communities, in family.  Being big and bright isn’t a way to make people comfortable even if it is a way to enervate them.   Star power separates you, even if your goal is to illuminate and empower the lives of others.

It’s been over two decades since she pulled me up onto that stage with me and I still see the star shining through under the sweet transwoman, even if she resists going there.

It’s hard to embrace your own star power and it’s even harder to embrace the star power in others, that terrifying and thrilling energy that makes others incandescent with life.   To cheer for the power you just see as both magical and as coming at so high a cost to the star is hard.

“Your work will shine more freely after you are gone,” TBB tells me.  “The audience will catch up with you.”

Why can’t TBB easily accept her own stardom?

Probably for the same reason that many others also swallow their star power.

D’ya think?

Goddess Of Eros

“It’s you, you know,” the bartender told TBB this Saturday night at her favourite chophouse.

“This connection wouldn’t have happened without you.  You are the reason everyone is feeling loose and sexy tonight.  You are amazing!”

There is something magical about someone who has made peace with their own desires, learning to show their heart on the outside.  When you are comfortable in your own skin, not very bothered about what other people think and trusting your own Eros, people can feel it.

That doesn’t mean that they are always comfortable with it, especially at first, as the two older Southern Belles who joined TBB at the bar for dinner gave her the fisheye, putting their heads together to chatter, proved.

The restaurant  is safe, though, with a gracious owner so TBB ignored them, just chatting with a bartender who remembers good guests and makes a fine Negroni.   This is a classy place and they know how to make people feel comfortable.

It was when the trio of young, well-heeled swingers came in that things began to get interesting.  The gent peeled off to enjoy his evening, but the two thirty something women picked out TBB from across the room and bracketed her at the bar, one cocky and one tender.

As dinner came out, there was laughter and sharing, of stories and of erotic exposures stored on their phones between the girls at the bar.  TBB was the catalyst for their relaxing and the gals went off to find prey for the night.

“I held court,” TBB told me.

A bit of magic had already happened, though.  Those curious belles had seen TBB chatting with the hot gals, learning that she was not only fun, she was also safe.   Soon they too were sharing with her, relaxing into the evening, and telling stories about desire.  Heck, they might have even invited TBB to join them if she still had the equipment they favoured in place.

TBB even knew how to play cupid, though, telling the bartender that the hot swinger found him very attractive.   If he just asked, he might have some company tonight.

That bartender had seen the magic that TBB and her strong comfortable Eros brought to the bar that night, affirming how her transformational energy had changed people around her.

“The stars aligned when I decided to get out of my engineer outfit and put on boots, a skirt and show some cleavage.” she told me.  “I know I’m in my fifties, but if you just show people you aren’t a threat, aren’t competing with them, they open themselves up to you in really beautiful ways.”

A few drinks and the big, open, vulnerable heart of a visibly transgender woman at the bar offered a glamour on that chilly Saturday night that no one was expecting.

“I don’t think the other gals actually saw me as a woman, which was sad” she said, “but I know that they saw me as a magical individual, saw me on the girls side.”  They saw her as bold enough and strong enough, to stand up to social pressure, not subject to the judgment and fear of other woman like they are, saw her as not bleeding to stay in the system of desire, unlike them.

After 4 AM, when she drove home the horny high-maintenance blonde who needed lots of affirmation, even calling a boyfriend in the night, things changed.

A guy staying at the house invited TBB inside and made some coffee.  They chatted, connecting not just over curiosity and transcendence, but over humanity.   They spoke of the men and the women that he had loved, and he even shed tears over a lost child the mother chose not to take to term.

TBB sat together with him, two grown ups bonding over being queer and being the parent.  TBB was finally not just the transcendent queen who smashed the ice for others, not just a subject of curiosity and awe, but a human sitting together in empathy with another tender heart.  At that moment, she let go of her shield of playful desire and entered a deeper intimacy that left her moved, touched and wanting more.

She got a text message the next day from the tender woman, the gal who struggled with her own emotional state.

“God put you there for me,” she said.  “Months ago I prayed for a transwoman to teach me how to be a woman.”

TBB, the Goddess Of Eros, wove her spell over those people, creating an energy that opened hearts.

More than that, after the party, someone who saw her as a tender woman, opening up so they could share hearts together.

All the points of light came together on Saturday night, her huge heart creating a nirvana experience for TBB and the people around her.  She made magic, opening doors for others, and finally letting the door be opened for her.

It’s just what she does.

It’s not alright

Sabrina — TBB — wants to share this with you.

It’s not alright

It’s not alright for you to ignore me.
It’s not alright for you not to call during the holidays.
You are my children, my family and friends.  It hurts more than you can imagine

It’s not alright to poison my children toward me.
It’s not alright to claim I am violent when I am not.
It sets up doubt which can never be overcome.
It’s not alright to make me the villain when I am not.
You were my spouse and lover. You are supposed to be my family and friends

It’s not alright to tell my children that I am not worth loving.
It’s not alright to constantly make them feel that they have to choose between me and you.
You were my spouse and lover. You are supposed to be my family and friends

It’s not alright to plan things during the short planned times I have to see my children.  It’s not alright to plan holidays so far away ,with family you haven’t seen in years, so that I can’t be with them even for an evening. I see them little enough as it is.
I love them too.
You were my spouse and lover. You are supposed to be my family and friends

It’s not alright to never invite me to go out.
It’s not alright to be nice to my face but talk about me behind my back.
It’s not alright to be nice to me only because you need something from me.
You are people who are now in my life, acquaintances and people I work with.

It’s not alright not to love me.
I am worth loving, and without love I will certainly die.
Is that what you want?


TBB is working hard at a weight loss programme, starting with using an food logging app that lets her understand and control her calorie intake.

This push is part of an investment in her future that includes becoming mistress of “Second Chance,” a Kitfox airplane that has previously existed as parts in garages and storage units.  TBB has been collecting the bits and expects that it will take a year and a half or more to have it assembled and flight ready.   Flying lessons are part of TBB’s routine now, a commitment to fulfilling a long time dream.

She has worked to convince me of the wisdom of weight loss.  Neither of us are getting any younger, so taking control of what we can to maintain health, the greatest gift, is a smart choice.  Her suggestions to me come out of care and concern, and I appreciate them.

TBB wants to invest in her future.  She has hopes and dreams of new horizons and new joys.

Since my parents death and my sister’s choice not to carry out my parent’s instructions on the disposal of their estate, my ownership of my own life and my future have seemed more like burdens than possibilities.

I seem to have so much to burn and archive and so little left to grow and achieve.    Dreams are not something I can easily indulge in while I work hard to not spend what little funds I have, strive to conserve rather than to invest.

Instead of dreaming of new flights, I wonder if I can ever get past the corrupt foundation of my life, if my own smarts and broken body can ever get over the empty and broken bits of a life spent in service and not in building a family, a space, a career, a reputation, a nest egg, a future.

TBB’s commitment to her dreams is inspiring and joyful.   She invests in her own future.

My investments though, in understanding and insight, don’t seem nearly as prudent.

Invest in your own future.  It’s where you are going to spend the rest of your life.

Yet, like so often, that’s not a maxim I could take on for myself.

The Opposite Of Authentic

“I didn’t feel authentic when I had to be one of the guys on the golf course, working to fit in,” said TBB.

“I spent years going through all the options in my mind, rehearsing in the men’s room after hours, taking overtime to practice in the mirror,” ShamanGal told me.

“I used to try and control everyone around me,” I said, “until a partner slapped me for it and I came to.”

The opposite of authentic is controlling.

When you try to control your behaviour to attempt to control the choices and opinions of others, you aren’t being honest, forthright, comfortable, authentic.

I have heard improv people dismiss this need to control rather than be in the moment as “writing.”    For someone who works very hard to be in the moment when she writes, letting the flow carry her, that label seems reductive, though I do see how someone might use it.

Today, TBB is called Auntie Sabrina by her co-workers, who respect her smarts and her enormous heart.

Saturday night, ShamanGal got over her damnself and went to a birthday party at Hamburger Mary’s.   She stayed until closing dancing like a diva, and then had a lovely Denny’s experience with a charmed waitress and a few fellows to flirt with.   She hadn’t felt this way for a year and forgot how empowering being authentic and loose felt.

And I am reminded how much my words can engage, enlighten and move people.

When we are told that who we are just isn’t right, proper or good enough, we internalize those lessons.    We begin to believe that we are broken, and the only way we can be acceptable is to create a false front, a calculated manner to manipulate the way that others see us.   We get grandiose, telling stories we think people want to hear — people including us — rather than being authentic.

People can read that attempt at control, though, can see through our carefully constructed façade to the real person underneath.    It is when they see a dissonance between who we are pretending to be and who they glimpse beneath that they see us as not comfortable in our own skin, see us as squirrley and untrustworthy, see us as inauthentic.

The idea that we can’t control ourselves better than our creator made is is very important.  We may co-create our lives with God, but that does not mean we can erase what she has created in us, we can only polish, enhance and extend it.

Society often tells us that this is wrong, that we need to do what is expected, not what is natural.  Many feel better when the imposed structure overrides the organic, when the “should” erases the “is.”

This over controlled denial of the real and authentic, though, never works.   It always leaves a hollow space inside, leaving what makes us special and potent to wither and warp in the darkness.

In the end, this challenge comes back to where it always does.  “Give me the power to change what I can change, the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

It is when we work with our nature, our desires and the truths of the world that we become authentic, and it is when we try to impose our own imagined control over nature and the truths of the world when we become inauthentic.     The symbols and choices of humans can never express the full circle of truth in one go, but it is when our expression is in harmony with truth, rather than attempting to cover truth with deception that we become authentic.

Practice is the way we work with nature, the process of separating the true from the false, taking time to reveal and explore our nature and our world so that we can be centred in what we value and venerate, which then allows us to be fluid and authentic in the moments of creation and connection.

When we are fluid and authentic, following our bliss, people sense that, opening to us.   The world opens to us.

The opposite of authentic is controlled.   This isn’t a binary, of course, where  we need to be one or the other.  We need both components in our lives.

One of the great powers of humans is the ability to control our choices, to make considered and deliberate choices that are effective in getting us what we need and want.  It is only when we exercise that control to cover and erase the truth that our choices become deceptive and inauthentic.

When we bring together thoughtful choices and essential authenticity, our co-creation of self is at its most successful, using wisdom to alloy the power to change what we can and the serenity to accept what we cannot change.

It is possible to be both authentic and a mess, of course, and that doesn’t serve us.   Getting our performances right, in balance with mind and nature, is empowering, letting us show truth in gracious and potent ways.

Letting go of trying to control what we can’t control, learning to embrace what is true, lets us be both polished and authentic.

And that always makes us live a happier and more authentic life.

Her Three Last Horcruxes

We have a guest blogger today.    TBB’s kids are both finished college now, and they are back home this week.   They are, though, being separate from TBB, who planned a week of family fun that hasn’t worked out.

That left  TBB to ruminate:

In the “Harry Potter” book series, the evil Voldemort divides his soul into numerous pieces and places them in objects, called Horcruxes, so that he may live forever.  We, as human beings do something similar.  As we make relationships throughout our lives, we give a little piece of our soul to the people we love.  They in turn, give us a piece of their soul, also in the form of love.  If we are good people and have invested wisely, we will have an abundance of love whenever we need it.  In a normal person’s life, they are surrounded by it.  If someone dies or moves on, there is still enough love to sustain them.  Not so for the transgendered.  We make our horcrux investments the same as everyone else, but then the tornado called transition comes along and destroys almost all them.  After transition, many of the friends and family you gave a piece of your soul to are lost, destroying the love you invested with them.  You end up with only a few Horcruxes left.  You guard them carefully and cherish them with whatever love you have.  I have three left.  My mother and two children,  and there is very little chance that I may fall in love and be able to create a forth horcrux.  These horcruxes become our Achilles heel.  They are very sensitive and easy to damage.

My children know this.  They learned it in their teenage years.  When they ignore me or chose to give me the silent treatment, I writhe with pain.  It is like a knife that has dug deep into my soul. They do not realize that I am unable to bear this level pain, as say another parent could. They do not understand that they are my lifeblood, that I have no one else to turn to for love.  My life stops for a moment and I go into a very deep depression.  I then get angry because I have been attacked in a way no person deserves to be attached.  To have love withheld from them.  If I try to hold back my love from them they just laugh. It is easy for them.  They are young and have many horcruxes to sustain them.  I have three horcruxes left, and when my two children join together and remove that love from me, I’m only sustained by only one.  My eighty year old mother.

 She watches as my children torture me and writhes in pain along with me.  Her other son has been lost to her for 25 years now.  He is still alive, but has also held back the love she so needs and deserves.  When my children scoff at me and purposefully ignore me, she understands and wants to lash out for me, but she is old and only has two horcruxes left herself.  Her life partner and I.

 What will happen when my mother passes on and I have no horcruxes left.  Voldemort became dust and blew away with the wind. Empty of love and without a soul.  Is that why there is so much suicide among us?  Is that my fate?

How do we get the love we need from the love we gave?   It’s hard for anyone, but for those stigmatized as queer, we often find the ones we love have trouble making the ones they love see us as human and tender.

Personally, I believe that empty nest syndrome is hard for TBB, but that she has so much to give that she will find new rewards and connections, new people to share love with.

But I know from her passionate writing above, that’s not the way that she feels today.

Keep working the process, Sabrina.  The conventional has never rewarded you, but the unconventional has always brought you bliss.   Amen that it will again.

Your Inner Merman

There is no business like show business.

Not even for The Drama Queens.

TBB called tonight.  She had the privilege of having her family around her as her son graduated from her alma mater, and took up his commission in the Navy.  It was a great time, but it put her out of synch with her ship’s sailing schedule, so she is doing two weeks on another ship as a fill-in, meeting her ship next week.

It’s been a tough week there.  The old chief is leaving the boat, the new chief is a fill in, the juniors want to show off, and the ship was in port, with most of the crew going home every night.

Usually, TBB just has to prove four things to get over the scuttlebutt that a transsexual is coming aboard.  She just has to prove that she is competent, excellent, human and charming.  That’s usually not hard for her.  What’s the old Bella Abzug mashup?

“To get ahead, a woman has to prove she is twice as good as a man.   Luckily, that’s rarely a problem.  The feminist revolution isn’t about making sure that a female Einstein is recognized as easily a male Einstein, it’s about making sure that a female schlemiel has the same opportunities as a male schlemiel.”

But when there is lots of other drama going around, it’s tough for TBB to get standing to show her stuff.   The girls see her as old, the boys are trying to show who has the biggest member, and everyone is apprehensive about change.  Things change this week when they are on a cruise, and everyone is locked in the same big floating tin can.   As an extrovert, TBB really needs company, not like me locked in this basement, and so an audience will be life blood to her.

TBB is being seen as other, not one of us, without standing to perform at her best.  Why is she other?  Because she is new, because she is short-time, because she is a woman, because she is a transsexual, because she is older, or some other reason?  The answer is, of course, that all those reasons are in play.    But I got to talk about all the stuff I wrote  this week about the experience of otherness, and it all resonated with her.

Just understanding otherness isn’t enough.  The challenge is how to get past it.  Regular readers of this blog (both of you) will know the answer I was working with this week.

Performance is performance.  When you’re hot, you’re hot, as Jerry Reed sang.  And part of the job when talking to TBB is to bring back that heat, get her laughing and performing, so she feels the energy surge through her, the energy that is so easy to be buried.

“If they offered to have you do a one person show at SCC,” I asked her, “what songs would you have in your act?”

She had to think about this.  On Karaoke nights, TBB often does Sinatra, but he’s not really a perfect fit.  Ol’ Blue Eyes is a very cool performer, but TBB is a very warm performer, wanting to touch the audience.  She’s much happier with some Jerry Herman, like her performance of Hello Dolly!, a performance I had to channel in my mother’s last week to get her into the shower.

We thought about Sophie Tucker, maybe, The Last Of The Red-Hot Mamas, but she wasn’t it.

No, the answer to unlocking the energy was simpler than that.  It’s unlocking your inner Merman. Ethel, that is.

In a story on Theatre Talk, a friend of hers talks about seeing her at curtain call for Gypsy when she was going through her third divorce.  She looked down, with maybe the saddest face ever, until she stepped out into that spotlight, and then she blazed with the light of a thousand suns, filling the theatre with her energy.

Ethel Merman was not always Ethel Merman.  But when she was hot, well, she was blazing.

Bert Lahr used to tell the story of when he and Ray Bolger and Jack Haley used to goof around between shots for The Wizard Of Oz, and director Victor Fleming would get upset that they lost focus.  But Fleming was used to Hollywood stars, not vaudeville troupers, so when he called action, the energy level soared instantly.  Bang.

The experience of being the other, and the experience of being in the deep freeze where nobody supports your inner Merman.

There is a little bit of Merman in every one of us.  That may not actually be true, but if there is one thing The Drama Queens believe, it’s when you say something potentially stupid, you gotta commit, dammnit.  Go big or go home.

Stay hot, babe.  The world needs your Merman.


“Let me paint the view for you,” TBB — who now might want to be known as Sabrina — said to me last night.

“I’m at an outside table just behind the bridge.  We are travelling east just off the shore of Puerto Rico, and I’m looking back west, across a placid shimmering black sea, with the lights of the island shining to my left,  the stars of Orion above me, and the quarter moon hanging brilliant in the sky, shaped like a huge bowl.

“This weekend will be my third here, another time to ride out on my motorcycle through the lush foliage and countryside attractions, like the fresh food DiFazio and I enjoyed last weekend, two gal pals on a bike.   This weekend it’s a SCUBA excursion, and dinner with a gal I met the first weekend I was here, who works as an exotic dancer.

“My son is graduating from college in a few weeks, and my mother is doing fine, though the dementia is just starting to take hold.   I’ve got some money in the bank, and I feel valued where I am.  In fact, I recently got a call to offer me a promotion onto another boat, which I passed on.

“But what I feel here tonight, is a little bit lonely.  I look at the moon and think about what I have done with my life, the cycles where I created something amazing and the cycles where I tried and failed, and the cycles where I took care of my family and myself.  I feel the cycles changing again, and I want relationships, want to work with people to empower each other to be better, more amazing.

“I know I did good, and I am proud of what I have done.  I lead in a way that made people feel that they could do it themselves, and they did, and that’s great.  But I do sort of feel bad that I wasn’t as involved as I could have been, because I chose to put my family, my wife and my security first.  That was the right decision for that time, I guess, but the amount I feel opened up as I let go of those constraints, those shackles, well, it’s amazing and liberating.  I lost my family when I transitioned, but winning them back has led to a new and deeper relationship, with my kids, with my mother, and now, after nine years, even with my ex-wife and my brother’s family.

“Somehow, I feel it’s time to get engaged again, to do something where I connect with the world and bring all of me to bear.”

To me, the amazing thing about transpeople, even though the episodic nature of our lives, filled with turns and struggles and incubation, with time in the wilderness, is how we link things.

“In a culture where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity,” goes my mission statement.

For TBB, that commonality and connection was missing a bit in the world of gender crossers, so she created what became the biggest annual conference in the world as a place where everyone of them felt welcome and empowered.

She created a link, she did, between TV and TS, between MTF and FTM, between the intellectuals and the partiers.   And because I was linked to her, I felt the connection between the wild, revolutionary gender outlaws and the tamer, evolutionary gender explorers, who valued their families but also needed more.

It wasn’t about assimilation or individuality for her, it was about honouring the balance that each individual made for themselves.   And that means it was about honouring the links that each of us made as transpeople to connect the wider web, to share a continuous common humanity that celebrated connection by valuing unique expression.

Today, the truth that opening our heart unlocks the best of us is profound in her.  She has struggled to get that sick out of her butt ass and found a rhythm & flow that connects her with herself, her creator and her world.

And that’s Sabrina.

So Many TBB

Just got the Christmas report from TBB.

She achieved her nine year goal.  She hosted Christmas dinner with her mother and kids, plus her ex and her brother’s family, who have been estranged from her since she transitioned.

It was a good day.

It just wasn’t enough, though.  A pink crescent wrench?  No one knows what to buy her.

Today, she is alone again in her house, and feeling the need to throw things out.  Those thigh-high boots with the broken zipper?  Gone.

But from the back of the closet she dug out the spare pair of thigh-high boots she bought years ago, fresh and neat and ready to go.

And this New Years Eve, well Power TBB is coming out of the closet.  Stiletto boots and a mini? Why not?  Fuck ’em!

I have seen so many TBB over the last two decades I have known her.  Crossdresser, drama queen, transsexual, parent, engineer, organizer, so many roles I can’t name them all. No simple binary for her, ever.  A complex and beautiful human, absolutely.

Her story reminded me of the first time I met Virginia, the White Prince of Crossdressers.  The Prince wanted to talk about my masculine side and my femme side, but i wanted to talk about all the sides of me.  After all, when I was a kid, the first time I knew I was very different was when I saw Jonathan Winters and instantly understood how all those characters lived inside of him.

TBB worked so hard for most of a decade to achieve what she achieved this Christmas, all the family together and happy at Christmas.

Now she gets to keep growing and achieve new things, to find new TBBs, or just let some of the more intense ones fly a little bit.

There must be a lesson there, but I’ll be dammed if I can figure out what it is.

TBB’s Bubble

In talking about going through the bubble — that place between where people get that you have a trans history and where they get over it — TBB says that the process changes.

When she walked in the world as a crossdresser, she used to think that she passed all the time.  Now she knows she wasn’t passing, rather she was just carrying her own little force field around her and inviting people to enter.

Now that she walks in the world as a mature, graceful and beautiful transwoman, she often assumes that people know she is trans when they just assume she is normative.

Last night at the VFW post, hanging with a pre-op friend, her first karaoke song (did you think TBB could resist a stage & spotlight?) was a gender-neutral James Taylor tune.

A half hour (and a few drinks) later, she went right for the Sinatra.

TBB’s pal was surprised at how well she could perform.  The post commander was surprised too, but for different reasons.

“Did your friend, well,” she asked the pal “did she used to be a guy?”

“She’s a woman.  Just a transwoman, like me,” the pal said.

Everything was cool, but TBB entered the bubble without knowing it.  Two transwomen together, size, whatever, well, she assumed.  And since she did, she was comfortable enough to belt Sinatra.  Boom the bubble opened.

Comic Magician Carl Ballentine used to play a theater where the manager loved him, and was surprised when the audience didn’t laugh.

“Do you book any other magicians in here?” Ballentine asked.

“No, they are boring.” the manager replied.  “I only book you.”

Ballentine understood the problem.

“Book some boring magicians,” he told the manager.  “Unless they know magicians, they don’t have any context for me to be funny.”

When you have people who only know one transwoman they don’t have any context to understand the range.  TBB is much more together than her friend, so she looked good.

Rumor is that TantraGal is coming to the TransDance tonight after the wine club.  We shall see what she sees.

Entering the balloon without knowing it is scary, which ever way it happens, if you think you pass and are wrong, or think you don’t and are wrong.  It’s the gotcha we don’t like.

And it’s only in context that trannys can be understood.

Or at least that’s how I understand it.

Stepped Up

TBB went to a new bar with her woman biker friends, and at least one of their husbands.

As she sat down, she saw a barfly clock her. To be clocked is to have someone get your difference, though to be read is to have them read you out, tell everyone.

This drunk woman came to TBB’s table, and started gushing at how beautiful TBB was. She flirted, with hands and body, until she whispered “You’re a man. . . ”

The gang at TBB’s table fell silent. They know her history, but it’s not a big subject of discussion. How would she handle this breach?

TBB made her decision in an instant. Rather than being upset or resistant, she turned the tables.

“Why yes,” she said to the drunk woman. “How did you ever know? Usually nobody can tell. How could you tell?”

The drunk felt special, and TBB’s friends at the table got the irony right away. Regina Barreca, in They Used To Call Me Snow White… But I Drifted: Women’s Strategic Use Of Humor talks about how women use irony to keep connected in the face of challenge, though I assure you TBB hasn’t read that book. She just gets it.

Later, a woman at the bar was sad, and TBB felt called to her. She had recently been widowed, and had just dreamed about her husband, though she couldn’t see his eyes. TBB knew she was supposed to be there, even if drunk woman was getting jealous at attention paid to the widow.

So often when we transwomen feel challenged it is because someone is attracted to us, attracted to some part of us we don’t feel safe exposing. After all, people who don’t feel that attraction have no incentive to pay attention to us, to talk to us or about us in ways we might feel invasive.

But when TBB had that happen to her, instead of shrinking down, instead of feeling captive, she stood up and felt empowered. Her friends understood, and TBB was open enough to go to the woman with the tear at the end of the bar who needed a moment with a shaman.

TBB, in other words, played it big rather than playing it small.

And it felt much better for her to be big, better than the bad mornings she cries at home wondering if she will ever again be small enough to be accepted as normative.

The Big Bitch went big, accepted her own powerful attractiveness, even though the attraction came very sloppy, and ended up being there to do her work.

And then she called me to tell the story.

A treat, indeed.

Armor Piercing

They were just three tranny gals sitting in a straight bar in Key West, enjoying drinks & company.

And across from them was a table of women, led by a queen bee who lead her pack by reading out the people around them.   “Her bag is fake, her boobs are fake” and so on.   Her witchy power was to raise herself up by putting down others.

And when she turned her laser judgment on the gals at that table, well, you know she had to read them out, too.  “Look at the hair on that one.   And this one definitely used to be a man.”

TBB was at that table, the only one of the three open and connected enough to hear her.

And TBB was worn down.  Four months of manual labor, working in a world of guys, well, it doesn’t leave a lot of place to have femininity affirmed. She was deflated and another leak was just too much to handle right then.

She said she would go back to the room, but her companions didn’t want to lose her.  After all, she’s TBB, the life of the party.

They wanted to know what brought her down.  She didn’t want to tell them.

They persisted, so she told them.

They were shocked.  Not shocked by the woman’s bitchy read, but shocked that TBB would internalize that, shocked that she would bring it inside the lucite egg that they thought they shared.

One of these gals, well, in her egg, she thinks she’s ready to be a straight gal, and wonders why straight men don’t accept & engage her as a straight woman.

The other, well, she had her straight relationship.  Now, she is getting ready to accept that no one will ever love her, never, never, never.

They known how things should be after transition and surgery, have clear images in their mind.  The first waits for that magic to happen, while the second has given up on magic.

And TBB?  Her magic has been blocked by an attempt to fit in, be normie, not make a fuss.   She didn’t feel she could muster the magic to heal from that armor piercing blow from the queen bitch.

There were struggles, but these gals were sisters and tomorrow was New Year’s Eve.  And TBB lead them to the queer side of town, where people were bright & respectful, letting themselves shine rather than throwing mud on others, as normies are often wont to do.

They were close to the stage in a drag bar, then came out to catch some camera when CNN covered the big drag queen dropping in the giant red shoe.

And in a straight bar, they met some queers from Austria, one of whom quite enjoyed kissing the New Year in TBB, quite enjoyed it indeed.

To TBB, the lesson of this story was in how that woman pierced her armor.

To me, the lesson of this story is in how TBB was brought so low by trying to be invisible to normies that she lost the power of her magic for a moment.  And her galpals, well, they haven’t yet figured out, as TBB has, that the only magic comes from within.  You gotta own it before you can own it,  gotta love yourself before anyone can love you.

I asked TBB what she thought I would have done if I was at the table.  She guessed that I might have read out the woman, gotten us out of there, or some other defense.

“Actually, no,” I said.  “I think I would have leaned over and French kissed you.  It would have gotten your mind off the slams, and would have reminded you that you are beautiful & powerful.”

“Well, it certainly would have gotten my mind off that bitch!”  TBB replied.

When people around you don’t support you in your magic, because they can’t really enter their own magic, well, that can wear you thin quite easily.  I have little doubt that her galpals wanted to be with her because they needed her spark and sparkle, wanted TBB to use her big, bright warmth to affirm their magic.

But while TBB was playing their game —  lucite egg and wishing to be normie, playing small so as be accepted by others — she was as vulnerable as they are, but without the shell they still carry.  TBB don’t do so well in a shell.

There is a reason I know TBB to be my sister.  We share much in common, both a bit big and both a bit powerful.   She keeps growing and will eventually understand why “used to be a man” means something different than “is a man.”

But when she feels those moments when her fabulousness gets thin, leaking out under the demands and expectations of others, those gender enforcers of the correct way to do “the imitation for which there is no original,”  well, those are moments I understand the pain of all too well.

May, in this new year, may we all be affirmed not in how we fail to meet norms, but in how we shine in our own special magic.

And let’s kiss a lot, too.