My Notes To A CD
Callan Williams, 1998
What I would say to crossdressers who want to come out.
1) It's your transgender, it's your responsibility.
Audre Lorde, the lesbian poet, said that "Men keep women like spiders keep aphids, to process emotions for them." Spiders can't beat plants, they eat meat, so they keep aphids to eat the plants, and they eat the aphids.
Many people raised as men, they are used to women doing the emotional work in their lives, processing emotions and feeding them. Wives get into this pattern too -- they often see themselves as responsible for the emotional life and emotional stability of the family.
But transgender is one challenge that has to be processed by the person who is dealing with it. It's not something that can be passed off, in the same way that as children grow, they have to develop their own emotional skills, not simply rely on their mother.
Your transgender is your challenge. It demands that you engage it on an emotional level, that you process these emotions for yourself. For men in this culture, especially men who have swallowed and hidden every part of them that might reveal a feminine nature, this can be hard, because it means developing new skills from the ground up.
A Jungian therapist who specializes in men says "The first year of therapy usually consists of convincing men that they have feelings and that if they feel them, they won't die." For transgendered males, whose feelings include the shame that forced them into a closet and rage at the pounding they took to try to kill off their own feminine nature, opening to feelings can be enormously difficult, because it means facing all the feelings we swallowed.
One transgendered male told me "I just want to feel happy." I told him that it wasn't that simple -- that to feel happy, you have to feel all your feelings. This was not what he wanted to hear -- my repeated suggestions, the same as his wife's, that he work with a therapist to find ways to explore and feel his feelings were not a simple answer.
There is no simple way to become emotionally independent enough to feel your own feelings. It takes work, and the process can even be threatening to the women who have seen their job as processing emotions, keeping males and children dependent on them. Yet, until you take responsibility for processing your emotions, even going back though the painful ones you swallowed, you cannot grow and bloom. They are your emotions, they are your responsibility.
Remember, if you come out and talk about transgender as a horrible, shameful thing that has cause you much pain, it's very likely that people around you will think of transgender as a horrible shameful thing that causes pain, seeing you as sick, and wanting to help you by helping you deny your transgender. It's only your healthy emotional response to transgender that can help others around you find their own healthy response.
2) Have compassion for humanity.
Humans are messy. There is no way to remove the ambiguity from a human existence and women are raised understanding that, because they are raised with a close connection to their own emotional state.
You need to have compassion for the ambiguity and messiness of the human condition, the truth that we always make the best choice we can in the moment, even if that choice is made by unresolved feelings that twist our thinking. Putting others down because of the choices they made, or thinking that they need to make the same choices as you is not having compassion for others.
Why is having compassion for humanity so important? Because having compassion for the humanity of others is having compassion for the humanity inside of you, the messiness and ambiguity in your heart. It allows you to forgive you for decisions you made that came from unresolved feelings, that may not have been good choices, but were the best you could make at that time.
It is very true that until you can love yourself, you cannot accept love from others or give love to others. And you cannot love yourself until you forgive yourself , have compassion for your own messy humanity, the humanity you tried to hide because it lead you to want to wear a dress, and to get pummeled and shamed by society because of that.
Have compassion for messy humans, have compassion for yourself, and then you can get on with the process of healing enough to share love with others.
3) Don't lie.
Telling your wife "I love you and I value this family, and I don't want to do anything to risk it," is something she will believe. Telling her "I have never even imagined what it feels like to be treated like a woman by a man," is something she won't believe -- and when you tell her things she doesn't believe, she will start to doubt you.
Your wife knows how ambiguous your feelings are, and she can accept that, as long as she thinks you are being honest about them. But when you start to lie, to tell her what you think she wants to hear, then she has to wonder what you are really thinking, what other feelings you may be hiding.
Some support groups for transgendered males in traditional relationships are based on the idea of telling wife what the crossdressers think they want to hear -- that crossdressing has nothing to do with sex, that we would never consider sex change, or being with a man, and so on. These sweeping injunctions are supposed to make partners more comfortable, but in many cases they make them more uncomfortable, because the truth becomes hidden and obscured, even to the person making the big claims.
Emotional healing and connection is based on honesty, even the honesty to speak up about how ambivalent we feel. If you don't have a safe space to tell the truth, then you can't explore your real feelings, and you can't become a more integrated person, more open to real connection, intimacy and bonding.
For transgendered males, who are used to keeping up a barrier between them and everyone else, including their partners, it might seem like a good idea to just change the tune from "I am not queer!" to "I dress, but that's it," yet doing this is just finding another way to keep up the walls that stop real emotional connection between partners. The simple truth is that no matter how much honesty hurts, it is only that honesty that allows intimacy, and without intimacy, no marriage is worth its salt.
4) What scares people are the big emotional swings.
The closet models all have this sense of modality, him/her, me/them and so on, and getting the conflicting messages is the hardest part about dealing with a trans person. Rather than expressing ambiguity, which is understandable, they try to express these things in polar opposites: "I am a manly man who wants breasts." "I am just exploring my femininity, and if you don't believe that, I'll pound your teeth in," and suchlike.
It's like a pendulum that is denied finding its center, instead violently swinging from side to side. Of course, this is an apt model, because in a dualistic culture, a polarized binary heterosexist culture, where people are separated by genital configuration/penile status, the center is truly no-man's/no-woman's land.
I often say that the line between men and women runs right though my heart, and whenever anyone tries to separate them, it tears me apart. Les Feinberg uses the image of standing on ice flows, and feeling torn apart when they drift in various directions. Sometimes I illustrate this by taking a piece of untearable Tyvek, the waxy stuff they make envelopes out of, writing "man" at one end and "woman" at the other, and asking some one to tear it apart. They can't of course, but the center gets mighty mangled -- and that is where the transgendered people live.
Wanted: Woman to Transform Me
Your quest for the perfect female phallus
to dominate you into submission,
to take responsibility for turning you into
the beautiful woman you have known you can be since the late 1960s
I will tell you the secret to finding this female phallus.
It is not, as you might like to believe, in
FTMs are not womyn, but are men, strong and powerful men.
To worship FTMs you worship men.
To have sex with FTMs you have sex with men.
It is not, as you might like to believe,
Even with their own phalluses
Which exist even without toys or nylon clad feet
Butch lesbians are attracted to women
Not people who wish to be transformed into women.
They choose from women who love them.
The truth of the female phallus is simple.
You hold it often, between your thighs.
You are a she-male and
she-males are the masters of the female phallus.
Your manhood is a lie.
It is a pretense you hold about who you are
You have always been a she-male
And the female phallus you search for is your own.
No one can make you become
the woman you are.
You must let that woman come into the world
And she and her phallus will find the worshippers
Who will satisfy your own need for domination.
Submit to the woman!
Submit to the woman inside you!
Submit to the woman inside you who has a phallus!
Submit to the woman you must be!
Submit to the woman you know you are!
You are the woman with the female phallus
you must submit to.
You are the woman who can lead you to new heights of ecstasy.
You are the woman who knows how to treat someone like you
And when you are a woman
Make the choices of a woman
Know yourself as a woman
Show yourself to the world as a woman
When you stop hiding behind some imagined self
stop hiding behind the illusion of a heterosexual man
When you become a woman
Then you can enter the world of women
And act as one of us
one of the women this list is for
and one of the women this list honors.
When you claim your womanhood
When you claim your female phallus
When you claim your own submission to your heart
When you claim your own reversed role
When you claim your own sexuality
and do not ask others to invent it for you
Then you will find the secret of the female
and find the ecstasy you seek.
Becoming a slave to your
lets you master your own destiny.
Nobody wants to invent you
unless you give them money
We are all too busy
Take responsibility for your own choices
Take responsibility for your own transgressions
Take responsibility for your own desires
Take responsibility for your own passion.
It is your own stocking clad feet
that form the female phallus you seek.
Let me make this clear.
Until you take
you will continue to be alone.
You have to
submit to your own desires
before being able to
submit to the desires of others.
You are the worst kind of presumed
You are a "pushy bottom"
who wants others to lead you where you want to go
rather than to where they want you to go.
You use passive aggressive techniques
to try to get people to
take responsibility for you
for your desires & choices.
You are willful and wimpy
which are not desirable qualities in a bottom.
You claim to be submissive only to those who are
"originally gender females"
Too demanding for a bottom
The words of a pretender.
A true submissive submits
and first submits to their own desire.
You do have the power to make contact.
You do have the power to present yourself as you imagine.
You do have the power to follow your desires
You alone have the power to change your life
And when -- and only when -- you take your
will you be then worthy
of the attentions of a top who
can challenge you
can push your boundaries
can pop the bubble.
You don't belong here, in this space.
You don't listen to what people say
about themselves and
but rather just project your own
onto everyone here.
We are not here for your pleasure.
If you think you are here for ours
then you must understand what pleasures us
and not whine to get what pleasures you.
Sex is between your legs
Gender is between your ears.
strong men who are female
strong women who are male
You are neither man nor
until you make yourself one.
You reject your manhood.
You do not claim your womanhood.
You claim to be a blank slate
yet you are clear what your top must
write on that slate.
FTMs are not the Amazons of your fantasy.
Males are not inferior to females any more than
Females are inferior to males.
You are left out until you claim your own
rather than using others as pawns
who you call queens
to force you into your twisted life.
You must see others how they are
how you wish them to be for you.
We are not screens for your projections
or toys for your pleasure.
We are unwilling to play your game
Unless you let it
Be our game too
See us as humans
Not actors in your movie.
Leave your closet.
Claim your queerness
Own your own desires
Don't project them onto us.
You are not worth the effort to train.
You don't yet have yourself
and that means
You don't yet have anything to give
or youth and beauty, if you possess them.
Do not imagine who you desire.
Imagine the person you desire would desire
and become that person.
Until you possess yourself
Can come without
demanding others play
a pre-determined role
in your closeted and unpleasant fantasy
demanding others become
complicitous in your delusions
Is that clear enough direction?
If you want a mistress to transform you, be
prepared to pay
probably in money, but maybe in respect or relationship.
No personal ad that just says what you want
not what you are prepared to give
will draw much response from women.
No woman is stting at home,
dying to have the chance to turn you into
the woman of your dreams.
Transformation is possible,
but it takes work
"They say time changes everything
you have to change them
Guys & Grace
Callan Williams © 1994
You're a guy. You were raised with guy rules: belching contests, barroom brawls, big hunks of meat, colorful language. These rules, you quickly found out, were the key to getting respect, to moving up the pecking order. You learned how to be rough and tough, how to get what you wanted by going after it.
You know, somehow, that the rules for gals are different. Farting for volume is not usually a skill women work to perfect, though you probably know some guy in your college dorm who was a pro. Women have some other kind of rules.
In fact, most of women's rules revolve not around how outrageous you can be, but rather, how civilized you can be. Women base their success on respect for others, getting what they want without taking it. Women work to find common ground, to put things in order, rather than trying to force themselves to the top of the pyramid. It is almost inconceivable to picture a woman in a T shirt that says: I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain to eat sprouts.
Women have a set of rules for behavior. It is a complex and varied set, always under change, but it does work for them. One word that can describe this set of rules is decorum. Decorum is designed to offer respect and safety while allowing a context for communication.
Some guys have learned decorum. Guys like diplomats, or PR flacks, or weenies. But most think that decorum is primarily some block to their natural behavior - that of bears with furniture, as Rita Rudner says.
That's great. But crossdressers have an issue. If they want to pass as women, if they want to really express their femininity, they cant just get the clothes right. Nope, just looking like a woman is not enough. Rather, they have to get the attitude right. They have to play their part in decorum, in respect.
One woman who has often attended gender gatherings is appalled at the table manners of crossdressers. "They look lovely, then they sit down and shovel a huge hunk of prime rib into their mouth, seemingly all at once. Its a really jarring picture, pretty lipstick and powerful, chomping jaws." Of course women have learned to eat with decorum, to be lady like. In some cultures it is polite to cover the face while eating, but in ours they make sure that the actual actions of consuming food are as unobtrusive - and as inoffensive - as possible.
Transsexuals usually find that they have to leave gender groups to get on with their woman journey. The crossdressers continue to see them as guys in dresses, and to treat them that way, long after they have begun putting away their guy stuff. It becomes unpleasant to try to deal with the guys, who are still playing guy dominance games, when you want to be out of the game.
So what can you do? First, decide what you want to do. If you're happy being a guy in a dress, great. Act like a guy, wear a dress.
If you want to express your femininity, then you better start to deal with what femininity is, not just what femininity wears. People like honesty, and having some guy say "I am feminine - and I'll pound the shit out of anyone who says I'm not!" can seem really disconnected. While your behaviors may not be as blatant as that, if you are into only paying lip service to femininity, cut it out. It's not pretty. Just be a crossdresser, and be happy.
It's not easy to give up all that maleness. You use it everyday, and it works for you. You like it, and your partner probably likes it too. So keep it, but be honest about it.
But no matter if you try to be feminine or not, make sure you respect others as they change. The biggest advantage of any gender group is to give people a safe place for exploration of their own gender issues. Through experimentation, they can find what their own path is. This experimentation may seem odd, but gender groups are designed to give us a safe place to explore the odd or unusual we hold inside.
It can be difficult to accept change in others. You may be at a stagnant point, not accepting change in your life, and find it difficult to accept change in others. You may find that other's changes push emotional "buttons" in you that make you uncomfortable and resistant. You may resent other people's changes because you are in a situation where you can't make the changes you want to make. You may disagree with another person's choices, and resist accepting them because you don't approve.
There are lots of reasons we resist change. We resist change away from the male way that we have been trained in. We resist change because we are afraid of the potential effects of change. We may even end up being more macho, playing against our pretty outfit, so that people won't think we are wimps. Yet change is the only constant.
The one thing we must achieve some level of decorum in our expression, not matter how feminine we care to express. This means that we must learn to be honest and gracious in our own presentation and to respect others and their changes. We need to examine our resistance to honesty and respect, and learn to honor others.
One good trick that works well for men is the "What would Cary Grant do in this situation?" technique. If you feel yourself getting angry, or someone else identifies that they are upset with you, just ask yourself what Cary Grant would do in one of his movies. He would find a solution with humor and grace and still be masculine. He would cut to the essential humanity of the situation and get his point across with wit.
If Cary Grant doesn't work for you, find someone who does. But one hint: don't try Sly Stallone solutions while wearing a beaded dress. It's not pretty.
There is nothing wrong with being a guy. There is nothing wrong with being a guy in a dress. However, you will find that some grace and a sense of decorum will help not only those around you, but also help you to be more warmly accepted. And that is a good feeling.