Travelers & Tourists

What Did You Do In The War, Daddy?

Why was I here?

Travelers & Tourists

"There are two types of people in the world:
those who divide the world into halves, and those who don't."
Mark Twain

What have I seen from over 15 years of TGIC? I have seen that there are two types of people there.

I'm not talking about TV and TS, or young and old, or rich and poor, or full-time and part-time.

The split I see is between those who see themselves as on a journey, and those who do not. It's between those whose eyes are on the future, the possibilities, and those whose eyes are on the past, what they have lost or stand to lose. It's between tourists, who don't know where they have been and travelers, who don't know where they are going.

It doesn't really matter what path people are on -- physical, emotional, mental or spiritual, though in the end, all true journeys take us though all those places. What matters is that they see their life as a journey, a sequence of new experiences though which they learn and grow, rather than as a series of destinations, where they want to bring all the comforts of home.

Travelers want to encounter the new, to strike out and see the world in a new way, facing new cultures & challenges which enlighten them. Tourists want to encounter the familiar, to see new things in a comfortable way, facing new cultures and challenges which merely amuse them.

In TGIC I have met people on many journeys, and I know that while all paths are different, they all lead to the same place, a better understanding of self, a deeper connection with the universal in all of us. I have also met lots of tourists, content to stay placated, who are focused on understanding how they can stay static by keeping up walls and defenses against the forces of change and growth.

Transpeople get good at defenses. We have a history of having two distinct faces, one public and one private, and to show that hidden face we have to face the assault of a world which wants our queerness silenced. We know that we are blanketed with stigma, with ignorance, fear and hate, and we need to learn how to build a life in the shadow of that ignorance. This is what we share, knowing that to be exposed is to face a world that wants to silence and erase us.

Our differences are in the choices we make to deal with that hatred. Do we split our life, compartmentalizing it? Do we run from one closet to another? Do we use our own nature only to enlighten other journeys? Do we do it for the performance or for the sex?

All of us face that choice: do we focus on what we don't want to lose, or on what we might be? Do we blow off steam and stay in place, or do we harness that energy to move forward into unfamiliar and scary territory? Do we focus more on what we are not -- not gay, not a woman, not a man -- or on what we are?

The people I have met at TGIC who have moved me are the people who were open, on a journey, moving themselves. The people I have met at TGIC who have galled me are the people who are in denial, who hide from themselves, who act up and act out, just blow off steam rather than engaging the challenges of life.

Travelers have compassion and openness, tourists have judgments and suspicion -- or at least that's how I have found it to be. Travelers understand we each have different views of the same shared reality, tourists have a need to believe that only their view is real. Travelers move though engaging the new, tourists stay in place though denial, dismissal and determined ignorance of the challenging.

Moments can change us forever, if we let them. To be changed forever, though, is terrifying to those who only want to stay the same, to follow an illusion of consistency and not a path of discovery.

I have changed and grown though moments at TGIC, both moments when I met travelers who shared their journey, and moments when I met tourists who, stuck in their own mud, gave me signposts of what directions not to take so I would not be bogged down by the weight of my own fears, my own armor.

The challenge has always been to be a traveler on my own path, and not to fall prey to the knot of tourists who gather to scare people off from moving ahead, who stay in the village near the jungle and say no one who entered the jungle has ever returned alive. I need to remember that there is no need to return to the same village after entering the jungle -- there are new sights to see, new people to be.

There are gender tourists, just out to be entertained and not to be transformed, wanting to return home unchanged, and gender travelers, out to find what lies inside themselves by tasting the unknown and moving forward on their own journey. Is gender a quick vacation, or gender a place where we can discover ourselves?

I say this as a traveler and not a tourist: don't be scared by the people who hang around the edges and speak of the terrors of the jungle. Listen to the people with the scars who have been on their own journeys, and then find your own path and take it, take it here, there, take it far away, just go.

When TGIC is a waystation for explorers, it is a glorious place. When TGIC is a hovel for long-time tourists, it can be stifling, depressing and soul-killing. The dreams go to the travelers, who can always expect a life better than their wildest imagination. Everyone knows that the most wonderful things in their life are things they could never have imagined before they happened, and the terrors of their dreams have never fully come true.

Even the biggest challenges offer big rewards, as people faced with fatal illnesses report everyday. Explorers know that there is a special poignancy to a life lived on the edge of it, an openness, an awareness, an intensity that delights. Travelers, when faced with a long and dull life or a shorter and more full one, tend to go for living life, not just passing time.

There are many journeys. There is one destination.

If I only have one life, let me live it as a blonde (or in my case, as a redhead). But let me live it.

May the sprit of the traveler, the explorer, always be around TGIC -- at least enough to persuade traveling souls to move on, along their path, and live a rich and full life.



what did you do in the war, daddy?
Date: 8/23/99

This seems to be the question:

What side of the war between the sexes are you on?

Some of us are clearly on the women's team, happily sitting in Mary Daly's classroom.

Some of us are clearly on the men's team, even if we wear dresses.

Some of us are contentious objectors to the whole war, believing that we can stop a war that has raged since sexual dimorphism evolved.

Some of us deny the war occurs. "There is no difference between men and women," we claim.

Some of us see ourselves as infiltrators sneaking across the lines.

Some of us see ourselves as political prisoners, held by the other side against our will. We wonder why people who should see we are on their side see us as collaborators.

I don't believe any kid wants to be trans. We don't dream of being betwixt and between, we dream of being a girl or a boy.

We dream of being normative, but then learn that we have to take a side in the war between the sexes. We are torn between our heart and the expectations of culture. We are asked to declare our allegiance at the door to every restroom, even if we believe we are lying when we do it

Each one of us deals with that in our own way.

Some of us shift bodies so we can shift teams. We hide our past affiliations, often becoming zealous converts to cover any traces of our past.

Some of us are twisted by the strain. We believe we live right on the battleground, that everyone is against us. We learn to live in armor.

Some of us shift in invisible ways, have a different belief than vision.

Some of us stay neutral -- or neutered.

Still, everybody grows up aware of that war, and aware that sides have been drawn up. The war between the sexes is a fact of every human culture that has ever existed.

The ground rules of that war have changed drastically over the last 50 years. The woman's movement means lines are not nearly so well drawn, but media images draw those lines in new ways, surfaces of what women should be what men should be. We live in a transient culture where surfaces have become key, because there is no time to build long lasting and enduring relationships that let us see connections and changes over time.

The goal of gender theory has to be to look at the line between inborn sex roles and culture gender roles.

The goal of gender politics has to be to define the parameters of the war between the sexes. How do we find ways to keep the best parts of a war footing -- the excitement of difference, the benefits of conflict in keeping balance -- and the best parts of an egalitarian culture, where each is free to be all they can be?

Yet, the war rages, and what most people are concerned about is simple: they want to defend their own position rather than work to find new ways to make the war something of benefit to society.

I, for one, don't believe that the war between the sexes will be ended in humans in any foreseeable future. We like it too much, it is coded too deep in the primeval and sexually-dimorphic brain. Even the separation of sex from reproduction, something that will happen in the next 50 years, won't erase those deep sex-role instincts.

We can talk about the war in theoretical terms, and that's good. But everyday we also have to live in the war zone. And those of us who are not clearly men or women, not clearly maled or femaled, live in no-man's/no-woman's land. We are shelled at from both sides.

Is there a benefit in choosing a team, being in the mainstream, and then using our clout on that team to build a place of safety and a force for change in our lives? Or are we best served by standing in the battleground and staying in the armor of our choice, be that paranoia, denial, dissociation or spiritual faith?

What did you do in the war between the sexes?

It seems the question.


(who plans to be out of trans in another week)

why am(was) I here?
Date: 8/26/99

Why was I on Trans-Theory?

Three possibilities:

1) To get valuable and insightful feedback on my own ideas, to help clarify and sharpen them.

2) To engage in discussions with other theorists that help us find common ground

3) To publish my own ideas and work so that an audience can find benefit in them

At this point, I don't believe I am accomplishing any of these goals. I have found that people rarely engage ideas, rather they repeat their own assertions. This means I don't get much insight more than understanding the positions of others, which quickly become clear. And as a publishing medium, this list surely is not the mort effective place, as even though there are around 100 subscribers, as an audience their interests remain undefined.

Why do Trannys focus on the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival? Is it because any tranny really needs to be there? There are other festivals that are trans-inclusive, and if you are stealth/passable enough to ID as a woman, and not see yourself as a transsexual, you can go there no problem.

The reason for the focus is simple: if there is no rock, there is nothing that lets us direct our energies. We need conflict to create change, and conflict demands having something opposed to us, so that the issues can be aired, discussed, illuminated. If the differences are not highlighted, the underlying assumptions not exposed, then they can never be addressed.

Without conflict, we don't even know what we think. Until we are forced to examine our own beliefs and come up with a position to support, those beliefs remain nebulous and vague. We act out of unconsidered ideology rather than considered understanding.

It is wrestling with the challenges of conflict that enlightens us. Finite humanity means we have to make hard decisions. Joseph Campbell said that the most enlightening ritual he ever went though in his life was one where he was to find five tokens and assign to them what he valued most in his life. He then went though a course where gatekeepers demanded he surrender his tokens, surrender what he valued. Some people cheated, picking up pebbles to surrender, so they didn't have to face the hard choices.

The spirit is infinite and eternal. The flesh is finite and ephemeral. The soul delights in being both spirit and flesh, knowing the infinite by experiencing the finite. We live in conflict to find what we truly hold as essential, peeling away the routine and expectations to find the center, the core.

The power of theory, for me, is the power of that exploration into the mind. We enter the crucible, open ourselves up to conflict, and the fire burns away weak thought and old assumptions.

I know, though, that there is more than just the exploration of the mind. I also need to put my body, my emotions and my soul into conflict. I need to perform the beliefs, not just hold them, even though that enters me into other sorts of conflict in areas less well exercised than my mind.

It's hard to move into those areas, though, if I stay in conflict. As the old saw goes "When you are up to your ass in alligators, it's hard to remember the mission was to drain the swamp." When we get too aware of conflict, feel that we are being attacked from all sides and that we have to defend our position at all costs. Conflict becomes an end it itself.

One thing I like about "early-transitioning" people is that they are still kids enough to know that fighting with them is often a sign of love. They understand that if their parents won't fight with them, they won't fight for them -- and often that's the same thing. "Late-transitoners" are often so habituated to the fight that they see it as a fight, rather than a process of growth.

Why is anyone on trans-theory? Do they want the audience, or to just act out old patterns of defense? Or is it really a place where they can explore what they hold to be true and have those beliefs tested in conflict, where they can grow?

Many of us ran though the battleground of transgender as fast as we could, not tarrying to explore it, because we knew how dangerous it felt. We got to the other side and built good lives, powerful lives, graceful lives, lives to be admired. Yet, we know that part of us is forever on the other side, that we stretch between, and we need to go back and look at our life, reflect on it. That's a tough process, because it means unrearthing the pain and rage we had being stranded in no-man's/no-woman's land, at how we felt erased, abused and destroyed as children.

Maybe there is a need for a place for ex-transsexuals to come back and explore the choices they made to get what they needed, to re-examine how those beliefs were either rooted in sound thinking or rooted in pragmatic rationalization of deeper needs. They can learn the new language of transgender, explore the modes of living between, where sex and gender aren't hard linked. They can try them on, walk around in them, and find which words and ideas fit them and which don't.

But that's not where I need to be right now. In the long run, at least for me, transgender isn't the meat, its just the flavor, and I need to move past exploring the sizzle and help people find steak.