What You Need To Know About My Transgender
September 9, 2002
1) My transgender is about my work, my calling.
I see my clothes as my work clothes.
I don’t do trans to get dates — trans, in fact, requires leaving the system of desire.
I don’t do trans for simple reasons, though, like many, for me pure work is play, and fun. Being immersed and focused and feeling like you are creating good things is fun.
Trans may be about Eros, but about Eros in general, the passion for living, not just about sexuality. Things aren’t about sex or reality — they are about who we are in a whole, integrated way.
What this means is that it is only by being visible as trans, putting on the work clothes, making connections & building audiences, is the only way to do the work.
I see myself as the continuation of a long tradition of shamans who walk between worlds, even the worlds of men and women, who have existed in every human culture at every time. I am liminal, a door between worlds. My mission statement is in a phrase I heard from anthropologist Anne Bolin: “In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.”
I remind people that separations are illusions, that we are all connected, and that has always been the message of the shaman.
2) The challenge for me is becoming product.
For good or for bad, getting what you need, be that as simple as cash, or as complicated as having people quote you in discussions, you have to become story. It’s about becoming abstracted, a hero AND a cartoon, which is both potent and risky.
This means that I have to become a symbol, a projection, an object, while still being human.
After you have spent all that time and effort breaking free of the box, moving from symbol to meaning, moving back into another box seems very, very hard.
3) The hardest thing about trans is doing it alone.
For most people, life is like riding a bicycle. Slow down, and momentum from people around you keeps pulling you forward.
For people on their own path, life is like running a marathon. Slow down and you lose momentum and have to restart.
Trannys don’t come from a community that is like them, so the issues aren’t taught, worked out. We each struggle very much alone, and that means we often lose momentum and falter.
4) The most difficult thing about trans is negotiating others fears.
Too often people feel scared by what challenges their assumptions, what makes them stretch, what brings up their own stuff, and when they get scared, they find it easier to blame it on what scares them than to confront the basis of their own fears. We become a “phobogenic object,” invested with their own terrors, and like voodoo, they assume that if we are erased, their fears will never have to be faced.
Transpeople learn early that expressing their nature brings torrents of abuse from the world. The world wants to do the good and nice and appropriate thing by shaming people into normativity, which is good for the status quo and good for the individual. The attempt to erase the nature is seen as caring and appropriate — these people should understand reality, or at least the reality as we have accepted it.
Even when talking with mothers of gay and lesbian children, they express fear for their kids, a fear that can never be removed, but a fear that their children have to get past. It’s not useful to have parents fear, it’s useful to have parents help and encourage.
There is an old joke about a top professional golfer who is offered an enormous sum to play a round. When they asked what handicap their opponent wanted, they were told “Three Gotchas.” They accepted the offer, and on the first hole, just as they were about to drive, their opponent rammed a hand between their legs and screamed “Gotcha!” which caused them to miss the shot. The same thing happened on the second green, just as they were about to putt. When the golfer got in the clubhouse, they had lost by seven strokes. When someone asked why they had lost, they said “Have you ever tried to play 17 holes waiting for the third gotcha?” This is the power of stigma — when you are used to abuse, you lose your grace and power.
When you think you are already on the edge, or even over it, it becomes hard to take the simple risks humans have to take to get others to agree with us, to take power in the world. When we play safe and defended, we rarely get what we need, rarely make the changes that we know will benefit all.
To ask the person assigned as fear producing, who has been bashed by stigma, to be the one who always has to negotiate the fears of others is a daunting and overwhelming task. People often assume that their fears must be respected, but to respect fear rather than real danger is to allow fear to shape our world, rather than to allow love to do that task.
5) The most painful thing about trans is not being able to give your gifts and have them accepted.
When we accept the gifts of another, we accept them. For many, who don’t want to accept people who challenge their beliefs in comforting boundaries that separate good from bad, accepting the gifts of people they believe are acting in immoral or inappropriate ways is impossible.
What does this mean? It means that because of other people’s belief in the need to keep separate, to minimize and stigmatize by isolation, to avoid what causes them challenge and discomfort, to believe in their fears, people who are diverse are seen as less than human and their gifts are not accepted.
It pains me most not to have been able to feel safe enough to give all of me to my community, and to get the simple rewards in return, just because my nature is one that many would rather not exist.
Trans rights are not about special rights, they are about simply having the right to contribute and be rewarded for those contributions to the mainstream. This right is key not only to our financial well being, it is key to our health & our pride, and, believe it or not, is a key to really embracing diversity and innovation for all of society.
6) I know that I will never be female.
We have no way to change sex, at least not today. We can change the appearance of sex, in some ways, but we can’t change sex.
If we could change sex, would I have made that choice? Probably. But since we can’t, it’s not a relevant question.
That means I have to change gender role without changing sex. An issue.
I know that bones don’t lie, that I won’t pass as being born female. Every tranny has a passing distance, a space within which their history and biology is revealed. For some trans, especially slight transwomen who transitioned early, or transmen, that passing distance is quite close, but at some point, they become visible.
My transgender is an attempt to tell the truth about my inner nature, not an attempt to lie about my sex.
7) I am not two people.
I am not two different people with two different names depending on my clothes. I find that model wrong and disconcerting. I do change role and clothes, but to me at this point, no more than anyone else who has plays multiple roles in their life, like mother, businessperson and laugher.
8 ) I am not typical of current transgender thought.
I have been strange from the first days when I was a guy in a dress, keeping my given name, which is different than traditional transvestite or transsexual behaviors. Today, I don’t fit neatly into any transgender model that exists.
I have always been striving for balance, in interesting ways. The vast majority of trannys are stuck in a second adolescence, because there are no grown up models for trans. That is a challenge — to create new models.
No matter how it makes you feel, my transgender expression is about my trying to find a connection to what links us all, to express my view of our shared truth as well as possible, not about claiming I speak for others.
9) The challenge is to both be defended and open.
In many ways, transpeople can best be categorized by their defenses. For many, they choose to create walls between themselves and others in order to stay beyond the pain of stigma that trannys are subject to.
For me, though, I have always needed to stay connected, which is why I have been too loathe to challenge the world with my transgender. I need to be in touch with the world to see and understand it, and I like connections.
This is a big challenge, to be both open and defended, between being so raw that you become brittle, breaking at every new affront or being so isolated that you never really open to others.
The trick is to stay in the story.
But that’s the bigger vision, right there.
30 thoughts on “What You Need To Know About My Transgender”
If I was writing this today, I would note that while I still don’t believe we can change biological sex, I do believe we can change social sex, functional sex and legal sex.
While the body may not be biologically female, we may be identified as female, we may function as females in relationship, including sexual relationship, and we may have the status of a female under the law.
I will quote you, Callan!
I love your work and I remember it from years ago. I recently rediscovered your work during a search for my old user ID “vickiecd”. Someone had saved the archives of the old email list Trans-Theory, and you had a post there about “Emigrating To Woman.” I had a posting that was the “Next message:” after yours.
I am so glad I found you again.
Yours is the first blog I’ve read that is actually in recognisable english, which is probably why it’s also the most meaningful analysis of transgender issues I’ve seen.
There are no answers here for me – apart from the challenge to ‘create a new normal’ – but the questions are excellent, and that’s the main thing.
Hope it’s working for you, and hope to see more of your stuff.
Not sure if we understand what you mean by leaving the
system of desire. We interact pretty normally with
society including intimacy.
For all intensive purposes we are a woman. …and we
do not have 2 people inside either. …we have 27 3 or
4 male and the rest female ;-)
We really do not think much about our trans heritage.
Our transition and surgery were a long time ago. Other
issues in our live are more pressing – like doing our
job and taking care of the chores of life.
Wow! I hardly know where to begin to express my gratitude and joy at finding your words. Like you, my challenge is to remain open and connected with the world and be and feel safe at the same time. I, too, have strived for years to walk in both worlds, although for a long time it was a journey to learn how to walk in both the world we perceive and the world of spirit, as the shaman does. Only in the last 2-3 years has it also become a desire to be both the woman I am and the man I was. I do not want to abandon or reject my past. I want to take those parts that helped lead me to where I am today and meld them with who I am today into one, whole being. A daunting task, but one with rich rewards that make it well worth the effort and time it takes to make it a reality.
I also was blown away by your statement about “allow[ing] fear to shape our world, rather than . . . allow[ing] love to do that task.” I have studied A Course in Miracles for over a decade. Through that study, I have learned that the central challenge of our lives is to do exactly that — to rely on love, not fear, to guide us through this world. It’s nice to know there are others out there who are also on this journey.
I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog, which I just discovered today through a link to today’s post on the TransgenderNews Yahoo group.
Found you through Boylan’s place and wanted to pop in and say hello….er….so…hello.
Right then,I’m pretending to work so I’ll keep this brief and pop in again when I’ve more time.
Some very well thought out statements and most interesting comments regarding the same.
It reminds me that I am on a journey.
I am not the same person I was yesterday.
Something new has changed in me as a person because I was able to experience life in all of it’s awesom splendor.
Its nice to read your comments, there are a lot of familar tones to your blog that i have echoed over the years. Unfortunitly TG’s that i have met or spoken too don’t share the same views as us and i have found myself not having many trans friends.
I completely agree with your ‘i know i will never be female’ and ‘I’m not two peoeple’ sections and these, for me have been very unpopular views over the years.
The one thing i would add to the ‘i’m not two people’ section is that although i am Sue all the time, i have a defensive act! that is a male persona that people have seen since i was young and this ‘act’ has taken a life of it’s own. Which i would class more as a split/mirror of my personaloty? but he exsists as he has had to live the public life i was to affraid to live.
As an example of this, as my male persona i have never liked my birthdays! ever since i was young. Last year i enjoyed my birthday for the first, because it was the first birthday i have had as Sue. I went shopping with my wife and we went out for a meal and i spent the day as myself and not as my male persona and i realised what i’ve missed out on over the years, so thing i intend to change.
Something i have also found less than popular is that i feel Locking our femininaty away for so long and not allowing it to grow and learn, hinders our maturity in certain ways. I have found that the male persona develops within it’s enviroment and grows at a normal rate but our female side tends to be quite young when she is finally allowed ‘out and about’. Almost at a infant stage where it can be considered a little girl ‘playing with mummys clothes’ because the Transgender hasn’t been allowed space the grow up. I think that this is where a lot of ‘newer’ girls tend to over do the make up or buy the triple D cups falsey’s and over compentate trying to BE more fem than just BEING themselves?
Anyway i have very much enjoyed your blogs and would love to read more.
Thank you for so clearly articulating your ideas on being trans. It’s so validating to me.
Wishing you well.