An Unfair Advantage

In the queer world, is it more unfair to be advantaged or to be disadvantaged? What does fair have to do with it anyway?

A Shavian Consistency.

Some great comments about a writer who pierced rationalizations with clear thinking and was called shifty for it.

The Suicide of Alice

Some notes on being cast as the villain in the drama.

Dumb As A Rock

My choice to be dumb

Morality and Protection of Queers

Trying to start a discussion about the hard question of where morality starts for queers.

Re: Look At Me

Comments on the poem of the same name. Very strong stuff

Re: Higher standards?

About the standards that transpeople are held to, that marginalized people are held to that keep them on the margins.

Re: Stop Abusing Shame!

Rachel & I talk about facing shame in our lives

Re: SRS: Not a Panacea?

Discussion from Trans-Theory

That Time Again

A facetious piece where I project why people hate me

dream makers

The moving piece on empowerment and life. Very, very good.

I'm disappointed in you. . .

The worst words I can hear, the ones that cause the most pain

I Believe In Switches

being liminal

Too Stupid to Believe in Humanity.

I start a long and nasty rant about people who oversimplify others to the point of erasing the other person's humanity. It leads to discussion with Liz about this process I have felt all my life

They don't like you.

Christine and others are uncomfortable because they can't be with someone who is not liked. Leads to a discussion with Liz about being separate.

Gendered Choices.

Girls learn how to let people love them. . .

my biggest complaint has been. . .

nobody is saying what I need to hear.

Dyke Process: The Success Stories.

I am angry over the imposed self erasure that dyke process demands, everyone being limited to the quietest voice in the room, falling to the level of wounds rather than rising to the level of healing.

Re: Calendar // Grants

Talking to Vicki about the vibrancy of a group and what is important.

Starting Over -- And Over, And Over, And Over. . .

I wrote this for Nancy Nangeroni, who ignored it. She wanted me to put down Dallas for putting down IFGE. I talked about the big issue: When you say "I am right and you are wrong," you are always wrong, because you only know what is right for you. Putting down others is a sign of internal anger, rationalization and not doing your own work.

Notes On OutWrite 98

Talking about the Big LGBT conference,. Contains scary quotes from Kate who shows herself to be working hard to become Lola Heatherton from SCTV

Random Notes From OutWrite 98

Just my notes

It's The Packaging, Stupid.

The Outwrite summary, the good wrap, the killer column, the issue that depresses me greatly. Very Good.

Draft: Not Funny?

A piece for the local GLBT newsletter, asked for and then ignored, on why we need more humor and laughter to forgive & heal.

Draft: A Wound Wrapped in A Rationalization.

A piece for the local GLBT newsletter about how only our healing can help us grow, not staying wounded.

Draft Hearts & Crotches

A piece for the local GLBT newsletter about if the challenge is sex in the bedroom or hearts and gender in the sunlight.

Queer In A Box

My anger at being packaged

Drag Queen For A Night

Before I go out, the issues in knowing that I have no choice but to be erased and simplified.

. . .not a conversation

. . . between a packager and me. A fantasia on how the marketing mind works.

Meet Callan Williams!

a package with a bow!

Gimme An LGBT on Toast!

A piece for the local GLBT newsletter about why I prefer queer to GLBT

but today, seduction is feared as sedition

Interesting piece on how hard it is for people actually to allow themselves to open themselves to others.

The Desire Question

A piece for the local GLBT newsletter based on the new president's question: So who do Trannies want to fuck anyway?

Truth Or Lies

A piece for the local GLBT newsletter: Do trannies lie about their body or tell the truth about their hearts

The Celebration Of Shadow Selves

A piece for the local GLBT newsletter for Halloween, encouraging people to genderplay and explore


A writing experiment in leaping off a bridge

Re: VA Notes

Penny's notes to the Veteran's Administration, already influenced by our conversations, and my comments. Together, its a very interesting package about why all TG therapy is reparative

Art On The Fridge

I never saw my art being put up on the fridge, never saw my mother care about what I could create. . . .

Dear Oracle Of Ridgefield Park,

Odd shit happens. What does it mean?

Fear Is My Friend

A powerful poem about my relationship with fear.

Welcome To Liminality

A young queer is confused, so I write a very interesting welcome message.

Re: Interviewing for "1st" position

Some discussion on how to talk about TG in an job interview, with a very good highlight on how TG is erased when when we do talk about it.

Lies, Truths and Assimilation

Some notes on the pain of lying, the challenge of telling the truth.

Re: Masculine/Male/Man

Making the language explicit: sex, gender, aspect, orientation.

Stink For Yourself.

So, who do we put on perfume for anyway? Why is it always about them? Nice notes on a TG person who was accosted at a gay retreat

if I had one gift to give you. . .

Stuff that makes me cry and I can't write about

challenging & off-putting

I rant on about the challenge of being demanding that other people mean what they say.

Re: hi

A brief discussion on "male socialization," women with the courage to move past gender norms and why trannies have problems with that. Includes some notes on genetics and changing femininity.

The Cost of Context Switching

A trip to Jersey with my parents, my performance, and the cost of being who others expect us to be. A really fabulous image about mirrors in this thing, very important.

Broken Mirrors

A fable in sort of poem format about a world where the mirrors are broken and that breaks people's hearts.

Blending In

A note to Carol on how dressing to blend in is dressing to erase yourself, to be unnoticable under the lowest common denominator

Use Me

A prayer that I need to say in front of others

The Three Levels Of Power And How To Use Them

Notes on Caroline Myss's TV show. Her metaphors aren't exact, but the truths below them seem very clearly on the beam.

The Chutzpah To Be Queer

On the need to engage and not avoid conflict to be whole. A celebration of trans hebraicism.

Queer Safe Space

Some notes on safe space. Funny how they parallel with I had published in Tapestry in 1994, which Jessy from Alabama had read and loved.

Re: Meaning of transgender and all its forms

Discussion on identity construction, including the demand to be accepted without transformation and issues of freedom between US and CDN cultures. Continues with some very arcane dialogue witha marxist student.

So I Spent the Weekend In Toronto

The big sloppy notes on the trip to IFGE. I had a respiratory infection and just ground them out.

The World Needs More Canada

The essay on the trip to IFGE. Very Sweet.



An Unfair Advantage
Date: 02/02/98

Which is worse, having an unfair advantage or an unfair disadvantage?

Is it worse to be born in a slum, or of a dysfunctional family, or to be abused, or to have a disorder, or to be a woman and have an unfair disadvantage in culture, a challenge we have to struggle against?


Is it worse to be born rich, or come from a prominent family, or to be given things on a sliver platter, to be healthy & good looking or to be a man and have an unfair advantage in culture, privileges that ease our struggle?

The decision we make about this affects the way we approach the world. It affects what we show, what priorities we put on our life. Do we show our disadvantages, our handicaps, trying to hold those as a mark of struggle to be valued, or do we show our advantages, trying to hold those as a mark of privilege to be valued?

In the US, we hold these truths to be self evident, that all are created equal. But what does that mean?

Clearly, people are not born equal in economic status, or in the color of their skin, or in their nationality, or in their sexual orientation, or in their sex, or in their capacities, or in their outlook, feelings, desires and missions.

If it's so clear that people are not equal, that they have different advantages and disadvantages, what do we mean when we say all people are created equal?

For me, all are created equal, but they are not created equivalent. Equality doesn't mean that people don't have different skills, abilities and approaches, just that they are equal in the eyes of the law. We are not all the same all equivalent, but we are equal, and to truly honor diversity, we have to embrace that truth.

Many people see equal and equivalent as meaning the same thing. There has been a trend in many places to try to homogenize people, to make them all the same on the outside, by pressuring external social norms that allow us to assimilate into a group, be that group executives or feminists, beauracrats or lesbians. There is pressure to erase difference, because that difference gives people an unfair advantage, or an unfair disadvantage.

As a transgendered woman, that trend towards homogenization worries me. I believe in the sanctity of the individual, and I want people to be able to contribute their unique talents, to give the best of themselves. I want Rebecca Lobo to play basketball better than I can, for Nancy Griffth to sing better than I can, for Elizabeth Dole to run the American Red Cross better than I can, for biologists to develop cures better than I can, for dancers to dance better than I can. In all this, I will be called to my highest talent, to do the best I can do with the gifts Goddess gave me.

To try to homogenize the world on the surface, to erase differences because they make us unequal is to enforce equality at the level of the lowest common denominator, making us all equivalent to the least of us, rather than accept that we are all equal at a cellular, heart, child-of-god level, and by living up to our unique gifts we accept equality in celebrating the gifts people bring that are their own.

We each come in this world with our own set of advantages and disadvantages, none of which are inherently unfair, and have to do the best we can playing the cards we are dealt. It has always been this way, and probably always will be -- there will never be a flat and even playing field until all humans are mowed flat and even, and that is a time when I don't want to be a human. Societies that have tried to homogenize people -- for example, China during The Cultural Revolution -- have found they erase the unique spark of humans that fuels growth and progress.

To rage against the unfair hand that some are dealt, be that challenges or benefits, is to miss the point that fairness is a static and neutral thing, not able to take into account the fact that for some struggle against childhood challenges is the key to big success, and for others all the gifts in the world seem to just weigh down their soul. Rich people often have painful lives, and poor people often have joyous ones.

I know that as a very cerebral and verbal person, people assume that because what is hard for them is easy for me, what is easy for them must be easy for me, but that is untrue. My ADD like focus is powerful, but it is also a handicap. There is a price for every gift, and we each need to pay that price, let others help us in areas where we are not strong, as I try to do.

Some religions even believe we choose where and how we are born, to learn what we need to learn on this pass though.

Every person who has built a successful organization, from a church to a social service organization to a business says the same thing: "The real secret was to find people who were better and smarter than I am and help them work together on a goal." I suspect that is high on the keys to success, to honor the diversity of intellect, intuition, discipline, creativity, detail and so on that people bring to a project and encourage each of them to do the best that they can. To let those with skills lead in their area of expertise and defer in areas of weakness means that the group as a whole comes ahead.

However, if we hobble some people by telling them that they have to play small, hold back so as not to challenge others, and hobble some people by telling them they have to be effective in areas where they are not expert -- and hobble some by telling them they have to do both -- then we are not going to build an organization that takes advantages of the strengths of its people, or one where people feel happy working.

I heard a news report in Australia about a program at the National Institutes of Sport where they took kids young, figured out what sport their body would be best for and offered them training in that sport.. Stocky kids lifted weights, long legged people ran, and so on. There was some fear that the kids would rebel, but what happened was simple: the kids succeeded, and they, like every human, liked to do something they are good at, to feel success.

I sometimes believe this is the biggest flaw in all of society today, that most people are stuck in jobs where there is no chance of success. When you feel like the best you can do is not fail too much, it's hard to have joy, passion and ecstasy about your life. I'd like people to have more chance to actually do what they love, follow their heart, be the best they can be.

Playing small is something we all learn, though. We learn how to fit in, to not look too strong. "A man apologizes for his weaknesses, a woman for her strengths." We don't want to lose our connection with the group, whatever that means -- our wounds, our labels, our equivalence.

The moment we claim that people aren't playing fair because they are coming from their strengths, we end up trying to pull everyone down to our level, and in that process, we pull ourselves down to. The goal in life is to come from your own gifts, whatever those are, and when we don't honor the gifts of another, we don't honor our own gifts.

Good and strong networks are as strong as their weakest link, and that means the incentive is to have every link come from as strong a place as possible rather than making them all equally weak. Setting high standards is crucial for building a good world -- it is by stretching that we grow.

"Try this sometime. Get a group of children in a room with a light fixture hanging just out of their grasp. Then watch what happens: one child will jump to touch it, and before you know it, every kid in the room will be leaping like Michael Jordan. They're testing their skill, stimulated by the challenge of reaching something beyond their normal grasp.

"Put the same children in a room where everything is easily in reach, and there will be no jumping, no competition, no challenges.

"The problem with American education is a low ceiling of expectations. We have built schools that demand and teach too little, and the children have stopped jumping." -- Carroll Campbell

The world isn't fair. Every person has a set of advantages and disadvantages, and we can't tell what any individuals set are until we understand their choices, their gifts. We certainly cant tell them just by knowing what groups we might put them in. And that means we can't know what is fair and what is not fair unless we are omniscient, and I don't know anyone with that gift. If you can't see someone's pain, you probably just have looked deep enough.

But I do know that shaming, humiliating or harassing someone into playing small for the comfort of others is a process that will backfire onto us, keeping us small too. We need to learn to come from our strengths, to express the best of who we are, rather than to try to silence or limit others.

It is though our privileges, our gifts, that we have the power to help others who are disadvantaged. When we make success by being the best we can be, we have resources and energy to share, abundance to offer others to give them a hand. Success means that we can help each other, but struggle just means we struggle between ourselves.

Naomi Wolf talks about how she had to come to grips with this in "Fire With Fire." She made pots and pots of money from "The Beauty Myth" and then had to deal with feeling ashamed and separate from her success. She then realized that her money meant she could be more effective in helping others -- but many others saw her money as a badge of shame to be denied. They denied accepting her gifts, so she denied accepting her gifts.

When someone can come into a support group and announce "I got a big promotion and can get a nice new car!" and be celebrated, without someone saying "How can you say that? There are unemployed people here who are suffering, and you hurt them with your success!", then we can start to celebrate our gifts, not our wounds. It is true that the pain of one is the pain of us all, but it is also true that the success of one is the success of us all.

We get more of what we honor in this world. I have learned that when I see someone who has something I would like, my best path is to bless them and their abundance, rather than envying and cutting them, because what I bless in them is what I bless in myself, what I embrace in them is what I embrace in myself -- and I really want to embrace my success, and not my staying wounded and hurt, as all of us are on some level.

What is worse, an unfair advantage or an unfair disadvantage? I think what is worse is someone who thinks we can figure out who has an unfair advantage and who has an unfair disadvantage in life.

It is when we each come from our strengths, when we celebrate the gifts of ourselves and of others, not trying to keep everyone in line in honoring wounds, that we being to build a better world.


A Shavian Consistency.
Date: 02/01/98

From Gilbert Keith Chesterton, "George Bernard Shaw," Heretics (1905)

There is another man in the modern world who might be called the antithesis of Mr. Chamberlain in every point, who is also a standing monument of the advantage of being misunderstood. Mr. Bernard Shaw is always represented by those who disagree with him, and, I fear, also (if such exist) by those who agree with him, as a capering humorist, a dazzling acrobat, a quick-change artist.

It is said that he cannot be taken seriously, that he will defend anything or attack anything, that he will do anything to startle and amuse. All this is not only untrue, but it is, glaringly, the opposite of the truth; it is as wild as to say that Dickens had not the boisterous masculinity of Jane Austen. The whole force and triumph of Mr. Bernard Shaw lie in the fact that he is a thoroughly consistent man. So far from his power consisting in jumping through hoops or standing on his head, his power consists in holding his own fortress night and day. He puts the Shaw test rapidly and rigorously to everything that happens in heaven or earth. His standard never varies. The thing which weak-minded revolutionists and weak-minded Conservatives really hate (and fear) in him, is exactly this, that his scales, such as they are, are held even, and that his law, such as it is, is justly enforced. You may attack his principles, as I do; but I do not know of any instance in which you can attack their application. If he dislikes lawlessness, he dislikes the lawlessness of Socialists as much as that of Individualists. If he dislikes the fever of patriotism, he dislikes it in Boers and Irishmen as well as in Englishmen. If he dislikes the vows and bonds of marriage, he dislikes still more the fiercer bonds and wilder vows that are made by lawless love. If he laughs at the authority of priests, he laughs louder at the pomposity of men of science. If he condemns the irresponsibility of faith, he condemns with a sane consistency the equal irresponsibility of art. He has pleased all the bohemians by saying that women are equal to men; but he has infuriated them by suggesting that men are equal to women. He is almost mechanically just; he has something of the terrible quality of a machine. The man who is really wild and whirling, the man who is really fantastic and incalculable, is not Mr. Shaw, but the average Cabinet Minister. It is Sir Michael Hicks-Beach who jumps through hoops. It is Sir Henry Fowler who stands on his head. The solid and respectable statesman of that type does really leap from position to position; he is really ready to defend anything or nothing; he is really not to be taken seriously.

I know perfectly well what Mr. Bernard Shaw will be saying thirty years hence; he will be saying what he has always said. If thirty years hence I meet Mr. Shaw, a reverent being with a silver beard sweeping the earth, and say to him, "One can never, of course, make a verbal attack upon a lady," the patriarch will lift his aged hand and fell me to the earth. We know, I say, what Mr. Shaw will be, saying thirty years hence. But is there any one so darkly read in stars and oracles that he will dare to predict what Mr. Asquith will be saying thirty years hence?

The truth is, that it is quite an error to suppose that absence of definite convictions gives the mind freedom and agility. A man who believes something is ready and witty, because he has all his weapons about him. He can apply his test in an instant. The man engaged in conflict with a man like Mr. Bernard Shaw may fancy he has ten faces; similarly a man engaged against a brilliant duellist may fancy that the sword of his foe has turned to ten swords in his hand. But this is not really because the man is playing with ten swords, it is because he is aiming very straight with one. Moreover, a man with a definite belief always appears bizarre, because he does not change with the world; he has climbed into a fixed star, and the earth whizzes below him like a zoetrope. Millions of mild black-coated men call themselves sane and sensible merely because they always catch the fashionable insanity, because they are hurried into madness after madness by the maelstrom of the world. People accuse Mr. Shaw and many much sillier persons of "proving that black is white." But they never ask whether the current colour-language is always correct. Ordinary sensible phraseology sometimes calls black white, it certainly calls yellow white and green white and reddish-brown white. We call wine "white wine" which is as yellow as a Blue-coat boy's legs. We call grapes "white grapes" which are manifestly pale green. We give to the European, whose complexion is a sort of pink drab, the horrible title of a "white man"-- a picture more blood-curdling than any spectre in Poe.

Now, it is undoubtedly true that if a man asked a waiter in a restaurant for a bottle of yellow wine and some greenish-yellow grapes, the waiter would think him mad. It is undoubtedly true that if a Government official, reporting on the Europeans in Burmah, said, "There are only two thousand pinkish men here" he would be accused of cracking jokes, and kicked out of his post. But it is equally obvious that both men would have come to grief through telling the strict truth. That too truthful man in the restaurant; that too truthful man in Burmah, is Mr. Bernard Shaw. He appears eccentric and grotesque because he will not accept the general belief that white is yellow. He has based all his brilliancy and solidity upon the hackneyed, but yet forgotten, fact that truth is stranger than fiction. Truth, of course, must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for we have made fiction to suit ourselves.


-George Bernard Shaw, "How Frank Ought to Have Done it, " 16 Self Sketches (1949)

One of these [Frank Harris' Contemporary Portraits], purporting to be a portrait of me,...was neither trenchant nor pungent...The result was a piously greateful eulogy which made me laugh; so I took up my pen and sent him the following example of how he ought to have portrayed me.....

..."Shaw as not only full of Ibsen, but of Wagner, of Beethoven, of Goethe, and curiously, of John Bunyan.

The English way of being great by flashes: Shakespear's way, Ruskin's way, Chesterton's way, without ever following the inspiration up on which William Morris put his finger when he said that Ruskin could say the most splendid things and forget them five minutes after, could not disguise its incoherence from an Irishman. ' The Irish ' he [Shaw] says ' with all their detestable characteries, are at least grown up. They think systematically: they don't stop in the middle of a game of golf to admire the grandeur of thought as it were a sunset, and then turn back to their game as the really serious business of life.'

His native pride in being Irish persists in spite of his whole adult career in England and his preference for English and Scottish friends." --

Re: The Suicide of Alice
Date: 02/01/98

In a message dated 98-02-01 16:44:18 EST, Liz writes:

Yknow I went back and read Polar Eyes again --- Jesus, what a bland little commentary to be at the center of this firestorm!!! And then Dani's bullying reply is SO outta left field. And the nerve of Alice to tell me that maybe if I lived in HER house I'd understand --- oh well. Life goes on and as I said, this is all mere rehearsal for playing big. boychicks is such a little, little pond.

Yeah. My conscience is clear about all this, but it's clear that my beliefs are causing a deep seated pain in many people, people who just know in their gut that I am wrong but can't seem to explain it in words.

I would argue that is because their feelings are rationalizations, are ducking the issues, so emotional blackmail and intimidation is the best they can do. They would argue that I am a pawn of the dominant system and make it unsafe to open up beliefs and feelings that go against that system, that I undermine them without their consent. They assume it is my tricks with words that are the problem, not their challenges around critical thought.

And the worst part? There is no voice of reason to come down in the middle of this and say exactly what the problem is: People are angry, furious, full of venom to wards Callan's ideas, so much that they have to release it, but they can't find a handle. Car and Devin and Ty and Alice and Dani all want me to agree that gender freedom at any cost -- as long as that cost is borne by the culture and not the individual -- is the only real goal.

They are angry that in their little, safe, space, someone asks the hard questions. I think it's a gift, letting us answer them in a place were we have some safety. They think it is a bullying nasty making thing, rudely brining out there into the safe closet of BoyChicks.

So they beat me. And I answer reasonably, but reason ain't what people want. They want blood, they want silence. I understand why, too.

I remember one FTM responding to a review of Kate's book in the paper. They were incensed that the reviewer asked "Where are the children in this world of gender freedom?" That question has stayed with me for years now, and strikes me as a key question to answer if we want to change the system of heterosexism that has, as it's primary goal, the desire to raise kids.

So people are angry. This has been a simmering bomb since my discussions about the obligations of gender in December. And it came to a head, and people seem to be of three minds. One is that I deserve to be silenced for my homophobic attitudes. One is that these battles just shouldn't take place, and anyone in the fight should be blamed. And my attitude, which is that I behaved honorably though this whole thing, taking time trying to get perspective, trying not to hurt.

Am I perfect? Hell no. But when Dani gets uppity about the phrase "I may be doing it wrong, but I am doing it" -- so rooted in my oft repeated notion that we cannot do anything perfect in this world, that every choice has a cost, is wrong in some way, even not making choices -- then I just want to laugh. What? Is that my secret admission that I am an agent provocateur, deliberately destroying safe space? No, I don't think so.

Actually, that phrase was a simple statement of my humanity, an admission and an exposure. But my humanity is irrelevant now -- nobody has spoken to that in some time. It's my insidious ideas, such as responsibility comes with freedom, we have to gain standing in the system to be effective, nobody gets a "get out of culture free" card. and that ideally kids should have a good relationship with both birth parents that need to be stopped.

That meant, of course, stopping my verbal juggernaut that got my views out so effectively, even if Alice had to throw herself in front of a speeding bullet of horror -- or a bland little commentary, as you saw it -- and die for the cause.

Maybe now people can see the damage Callan actually does, now Callan has killed the lovely Alice.

Or maybe Alice is just another dyke who would rather commit suicide than face her wounds and wants to leave the world her pain in the process.

You decide.


In a message dated 98-02-01 17:35:51 EST, Liz writes:

Well that is prolly why it seems senseless to me -- I don't find the message all that challenging. And it's not being addressed at all -- instead it's this nutty witchhunt and "This messenger is so rude and oddly dressed she -- oh excuse me, s/he -- must be killed!!"

Don't think I didn't notice -that- either -- that Dani put a slash in yr pronoun in "hir" reply to me. Meeow!

I agree, but they would make the point that my textual tricks are much worse than anything that they could possibly try. I'd love to see a few scholars do textual analysis on our posts. I suspect that they would find Alice addressed fewer points I raised and used much blunter manipulations, but I have no doubt that I would also be called on my own style of rhetoric, in ways that I communicate nuance, especially from a feminist scholar.

I'm good at language and I like it. Christine used to get angry with me. She did teach me a lot about how to be open, but she wanted to argue with me and that was hard. I told her simply: "Don't try to use logic to convey your feelings. Just tell me how you feel and I will so my best to understand, respect and honor your feelings, but if you use bad logic, I will be compelled to point that out."

That's one reason I go and speak my feelings on a topic in a different context, rather than trying to drag all those feelings into some rational debate. I do have feelings, I do honor feelings, but I don't think feelings override bad thought. This is the argument of the feminists, of course, that women's feelings are valid and are trashed by having them have to be expressed in masculine ways. I tried to express my feelings in a feminine way in that bland little post, but got shot at because they were not in the confrontational style where they could be picked apart and shot at.

So when Dani, the only MTB in the world as far as I know, uses bullying techniques of questioning my gender, implying that I am being manly and then hiding behind the skirts of a woman, I do get angry. I see the opposite happening, people trying to express feminine emotions in a masculine way where they can be dismantled by "logic."

The feelings that Dani and Alice have about me are far from logical, but very, very real and valid. I honor and respect their feelings, but I will not take responsibility for them. I may push their buttons, but I don't do that to manipulate them, and they are their buttons. They have to cope with how that makes them feel, and not blame me, which is exactly what they would demand of straights who feel uncomfortable around them.

Instead they play these games of logical thought that are really designed to intimidate and bully me, justifying their actions because they feel intimidated by me even though (and this is important) virtually NONE of the things that stimulate those feelings are aimed at them, are direct attacks on them, are designed to hurt them. They cannot say that about their attacks on me, which are very clearly focused on silencing me rather than speaking up for their own beliefs.

Now, of course, we have the bloody lurkers standing up and sweeping everyone with a big brush, saying we are stupid, manipulative, boring, and not talking about SEX! These are people who avoid conflict, avoid actively starting conversations about what concerns them, but they sure can tell others what they are doing wrong.

In any case, it's all up for grabs. Alice's stage death was designed for effect, and it will have that effect. It turns me into a murderer, and I don't expect much, if any support. It reminds me of the little whimper Gini made whenever I raised my voice about any subject, usually work, making me feel like the attacker. It is using victimhood as a weapon, holding up wounds as proof of martyrdom.

Holly has told me on a number of occasions when I have suggested self-immolation that she will lead the canonization of me if I am killed, but that she will disavow me if I kill myself.

Give hints as to how others should attack me. Slam me. Smear me. Whip me. Make me write bad cheques. And all the while I'll remember that its a total of maybe 8 messages on the internet, nothing more.

"It's only a damn discussion on the internet, and if you think it's anything more, you need to go out and get a life." Where is Dorsie when we need her?

Oh that's right -- we are left with Devin.

I think that covers this discussion.


Dumb As A Rock
Date: 02/02/98
To: Liz, Liz

Did it ever occur to you that jag of energy I had at the first of the year had more to do with a prolonged and safe expression of my transgender than anything else? That actually immersing myself in all aspects of TG, including clothes, opened me up and released my energy?

Course, my reaction to that could have created the illness that laid me low.

So much fun to have the fight going on inside my body.



A man of genius makes no mistakes.
His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.
James Joyce

Morality and Protection of Queers
Date: 02/03/98

Following up on an long article about transgendered people in academia at

The Chronicle Of Higher Education's web site posed the open question:

Should colleges extend their anti-bias policies to cover transgendered students and faculty members?

One response was:

The fundamental question is one of morality.
What is moral and what is immoral?
What do you use to set the line that divides morality
from immorality?

If you argue that there is no way to set a moral standard,
that there is in essence no immorality, then what ethical
ground do you use to argue that protection (an ethically
charged word) should be extended to anyone or any one group?

The lack of an ethical or moral determinant for sexual behavior
argues for the lack of a moral determinant for any behavior.

First decide what criteria is used to determine morality then
decide what is entitled to moral protection.

-- Shawn Madden, Director of the Library,
Southeastern Baptist Seminary (posted 2/2, 3:25 p.m., E.S.T.)

and another

There is gender transitioning, transcending, and transgressing.
Which one are we talking about here?

Should we (I am transsexual) have "protection?" In many
ways, no. That's right, no! If a person wants to be a gender
transgressor, they are challenging roles that are intimate to the
functioning of the group. That is not to say these sex roles
should not change, or that they are not changing, but forcing
the women on campus to put up with just any male who says
they need to use the women's restroom is not the way to
change them. To insist that by law one be allowed to
transgress is an oxymoron!

-- Roberta Jane Bennett, Principal Electronics Engineer
U. of Minnesota Biochemistry (posted 2/2, 10:10 a.m., E.S.T.)

This is a question that queers face everyday. If we demand individual freedom at the cost of erasing social -- and moral -- boundaries to that freedom, where then do the boundaries lie? If transgression without limit is acceptable, then what limits do we have to maintain social order and morality?

For me, the people who create the problem have an obligation to propose a solution. We need to understand where the line between individual freedom and the moral obligations of others to support that freedom lie.

Clearly, we can't support actions that injure others, like rape or murder, but can we give moral protection to actions we see as tearing apart the fabric of society, actions that cause discomfort to others, choices that they would not choose their children to emulate, behaviors that make people face issues that they would rather keep under control?

This is the question that people struggle with in the behavior of queers. If queers want no limits, no constraints on individual freedom, doesn't that allow destructive and negative freedom too? If we remove moral and ethical tests for deciding on protected behavior, does that mean that there are no tests?

With these questions, is there any question why some homosexuals are working hard to simply modify current models of morality to include them -- and exclude queers who take freedom "too far." It's much simpler to just twist what exists than hammering out some new moral code

Some line between total freedom and too strict structures seems important. I have talked about that line being consensual behavior, and while that works well in the bedroom, it is much more difficult when dealing with freedom of expression, where people don't consent to be faced with messages that disturb them. Do they have the right to censor visions of queerness that are too visible for their liking, even when no illegal or immoral behavior is taking place?

What is the expectation about sex/gender segregated spaces, like restrooms, all women's groups, and sports teams? How do we enforce this morally-based segregation in the face of the challenge of people who transgress gender norms, be they gay or trans?

I think this is an interesting question, and one that needs to be addressed. How does your discipline come at this issue?


Re: Look At Me
Date: 98-02-03 16:34:58 EST
From: TheCallan
To: Rachel

i liked the poem, Callan, despite its sadness. And I certainly understand it as well, having been in many of those places. But you know, the more you do it, the less significant become all those other people and their judgements.

I worry that the reason other people's judgments become less signifigant is because the carpace grows, we become habituated and callous, somehow disconncted from others. I know I can learn to care less about what other people think, but somehow, I do care that I connect with them.

I know that this is a concern for you too. As you wrote:

Re: What a week
Date: 97-12-02 16:05:16 EST
From: Rachel

I loved the way you saw right through me in regard to the issue of people asking Fara about me, that you understood that Fara's need to tell me this was at least matched by my desire not to know about it.

This is the challenge. Do we follow our heart and damn the others, insulating ourselves from their opinion, or do we stay open and fight the fear and stigma that comes from other people?

I know that there is a balance here, I'm just not quite sure where it is.

Thanks for your comments.


Re: Look At Me
Date: 98-02-05 08:00:41 EST
From: TheCallan
To: Rachel

In a message dated 98-02-04 23:43:28 EST, Rachel writes:

There is a third way, which is to be open to the reality of their attitudes but let them have those attitudes in the spirit of everyone is entitled to her opinion. This is not easy, but it is possible. And living your life helps to make it possible.

Yes. The "intelligent ignorance" option where you calmly and thoughtfully decide what comments to ignore.

It takes great internal assurance in your own choices to not kick into self-defense (and the often concomitant other-attack) or into isolation. This is the focus I have been working on bit-by-bit as I become more fluent and focused about my own beliefs, believing them to be constant even in the face of assault by others.

For me, when I have asked myself the hard questions and found useful answers, then others asking me those hard questions won't cause me to try to silence or ignore them, the traditional tools for maintaining stability in the face of assault. Until I am confident, though, that fight or flight response stays cogent.

I often believe that coming out of the cocoon before one has done the work can be a bad thing, because one ends up reacting to the pressures of culture from a gut level rather than having a time to learn to respond to them in a thoughtful, useful and cogent manner.

When you are being attacked by alligators, it's hard to remember that the objective was to drain the swamp, and when you are being attacked by people over your gender presentation, it's hard to remember that your goal was to find a way to connect with your heart and with others, not just fight them. The military teaches people to focus on the mission by training and simulation, by being prepared for the eventualities -- just like I do when I run my simulations and model responses.

I believe that freedom exists only in the moment between stimulus and response, that how we choose to see the stimulus and respond to it determines the shape of our lives. I know that I am unusual in leading so much with my head, but I also know that it creates good writing which is a gift.

It was impossible to write a poem like "Look At Me" until I had really processed the issues, the feelings, the challenges. Standing in the fire and watching my flesh burn away so I knew how it felt, could see what is essential under there, has been hard, but it has been a crucial part of my development. Just being able to write that poem is a sign, at least to me, that I am though those issues and just need to continue to focus and manifest in the world. It is moving from understanding to habit.

I agree. The goal has to be to be able to hear without having all those emotional buttons wired into shame and fear take over the response, to feel the feelings of fight or flight, but not to just react to them, to create a measured and powerful response, Hard magic.

Your notes continue to help me do that.


Re: Look At Me
Date: 02/04/98
To: Jeanette

In a message dated 98-02-04 07:50:05 EST, Jeanette writes:

my god callan, the anger i read in you, the anger i read.

i just don't know what's happened to us all

I do. We are drowning in the enormous wet blanket of stigma that is wrapped around our lives to keep us down and maintain the comfort of those who believe in bi-polar gender. The attempted split in humanity between men and women runs right though our heart, and every time people try to pull them apart, our heart is twisted and torn, rent and ripped. We cope with denial, dissociation, and dissembling, storing up all the pain of culture in our hearts.

Anger, fear, shame, pain, frustration -- I can't tell the difference anymore, but like other people who are on the fault lines of the culture, we eventually give up trying to open up and be embraced and that means that we fall into the pool of our own emotions where we drown in stigma.

I was just talking with a friend who is having trouble getting people of color come to a meeting, because they feel it will be futile, that they will just get screwed again. We get burned enough, and coming back to the stove gets hard -- but if we don't come back, we deny ourselves the heat wand warmth we need to grow.

It becomes counterproductive to let old wounds keep you from trying again, to not forgive and go on, but the healing is so hard. That is why stigma is such an effective tool to maintain social order -- only really strong people can survive the mind numbing actions of being burned over and over again and keep on trying.

i just manage to keep it all at bay, but it does poke

A therapist has called me "very high functioning for a transsexual. They usually have dissociative mental disorders, you know."

i've found long long mirror sessions to be both healing or disquieting.

My relationship with my own image is simple. It is others relationship with my image that is more problematic.

I once told a long-time partner that I have really come to grips with my own issues, but that I saw my biggest challenge as developing relationships, learning to trust others.

She replied "Can't you do that by yourself?"


Re: Looking At Me
Date: 02/04/98
To: Liz

In a message dated 98-02-04 00:07:40 EST, Liz writes:

Not linear, eh? I was telling my mom about Car's Anti-Gender Society and gender being this oppressive box and all and she goes, "What about age?" I think she thinks age is an oppressive box and she's agi'n it.

Think about all those transageists who believe that they are trapped in the body of an old person -- we call them age dysphoric -- and who are just waiting for age reassignment surgery to make them young. Their inner age identity doesn't match their social age role, and that causes them discomfort.


Re: Higher standards?
Date: 02/05/98
To: boychicks@QueerNet.ORG

In a message dated 98-02-05 15:33:53 EST, writes:

>I am wondering if other trans folk on the list have noticed that as transpeople we are often asked/expected to live up to higher expectations/standards of behaviour?

It reminds me of the old joke:

Women have to be twice as good as men to succeed in the workplace. Luckily, that's not hard.

Minority groups have always had to prove a higher standard. I think of the American example of Jackie Robinson, the first black man in major league baseball. The level of play and the level of maturity he had to show was immense, and probably drove him to an early death. He was called a "race man," carrying the banner for the race.

That's one of the hardest things for me. I am called upon not only to justify my own actions, but the actions of everyone people think are like me. It's not reasonable to expect me to speak for all trans, or Jackie Robinson to speak for all blacks, but where there are so few visible images, it gets crazy. I don't want to have to be put in the position of condemning or defending the choices of anyone else who is trans -- their choices are their choices, not mine.

That's why people like Kate Clinton & Lea DeLaria are clear that they are NOT spokespeople for all lesbians -- they just try to tell their own stories. It gets bad when you get attacked from both sides, from norms because you represent all of "them" and from your own people because you don't represent "us" in the way they would. We all have to stand up and speak for ourselves, create a blend of many voices.

Of course this isn't new. I think this dates from like 1904:

If a man makes a stupid mistake, other men say "What a fool that man is."
If a woman makes a stupid mistake, the men say "What fools women are."
H.C.L. Jackson

I find when it comes to discussion (I'm not talking about this list here) it is more often than not me who has to be on my best behaviour while the non-trans women appear to have much more freedom to push the boundaries of what is acceptable for women to say.

For me, this is a different point, going not to standards of behavior but to standing.

If people disagree with what I am saying, rather than attacking the ideas, they attack my standing to say something. "Well, you have no standing to say that because you are really an XXXX and you can't know what we are talking about."

This attack on standing, this easy solution to try to silence people who don't follow the social order and norms by calling them not a member of the group is not something that is just used against trannies, but until we are comfortable in our standing, we are vulnerable.

The hardest thing about being challenged on standing is that it's almost impossible to directly address. Any argument shows your weakness, your need to defend your standing as a member of the group. You just have to pass over the threat and see if others pick up the same cry. This is the line between confidence and arrogance -- if people believe your calm beliefs you are confident, but if they think you are trying to pull a fast one, they call you arrogant, because it suits their purpose.

If the group does question your standing, the only recourse is to have other members of the group stand for you and vouch for your standing in the group, and that means entering the conflict, something most people, including women, are loath to do.

It's no fun to have your standing as a woman/member of the group/whatever challenged, and it is something we all need to learn to deal with.

It's like we are seen as deviant and anyone can demand that we lift our skirts and prove that we are normative, that we never get the benefit of the doubt, are constantly open to challenge. I know women who would never think of challenging 17 year old girls when they speak as women, but would challenge transsexuals who had sexual reassignment surgery 25 years ago and have lived as women since.

It's a problem with being liminal, being in the doorway between worlds -- people can easily paint us as the enemy, and we end up spending way too much time defending ourselves.

I am talking about this from a mtf point of view but I wonder if it happens with ftms as well. I have noticed this happening to other mtfs in mixed* forums.

As have I.

I also wonder how FTMs sense the abduction of standing. With men in hierarchy, proving your ability to stare down an accuser is often enough verification of your standing, but with women, the network must accept you. It seems to me to have some different dynamics.

I'd love to hear some notes from FTMs to get a more accurate understanding.


Re: Higher standards?
Date: 02/06/98
To: Liz, Liz

NOT SENT. Nobody wants to hear this crap.

In a message dated 98-02-06 04:18:57 EST, writes:

I wonder whether women are expected to behave better than men anyway?

Maybe this is where the two issues meet?

Have you ever noticed that what passes as a terrific man
would only be an adequate woman?
Anna Quindlen

When I first transitioned - 10 years ago -
I was faced with this sort of pressure
to conform to a stereotypically rigid ideal of womanhood.

This is what led to my "Barbie" stage. :-)

The thing about this stuff is that it appeared to be quite universal.

The pressure came from other mtfs, doctors, bio women and bio men.

I wonder if this stuff has changed all that much over the years?

And I wonder how much of it we still carry as gender queers?
around with us even if we're radical?

If the social pressure to conform to a standard of womanhood ever goes away, the whole notion of womanhood goes away.

It is exactly the same as if the social pressure to conform to a standard of Jewishness, Roman Catholicism, being Irish or any other social constrict goes away, the construct goes with it.

The way we socialize humans is to put pressure on them to assimilate into the group, to follow the standards of the group, and no matter of people accept or reject those standards, they form shared touchstones in our social development.

In a message dated 98-02-06 04:18:58 EST, writes:

But don't you and I have privilege that a pre-op doesn't?

Haven't we as post-ops acheived something that
pre-ops want and may be unable to obtain?

I'm not talking about non-ops,
I'm talking about women who want the operation and
b/c of gatekeeping or financial problems or whatever can't get it.

I'm a most-op - neither "real" (no vagina) nor "pre" (no penis).

The issue is between the penised and the non penised, as if somehow, that bit of flesh makes the telling difference between everything. You are penis-free, and that's all that counts -- the presence of a vagina just might make you into a femme who actually likes penetration.

But, on the other hand, converts always have a hard time. Genetic bonds are strong, and Jews "who don't look like Jews" and Irish "who don't look like Irish" and so on will always have their bona-fides questioned, which sucks, but that's the way it is.

I have seen some shocking statements made by post-op mtfs to pre-op mtfs regarding being superior and attaining the staus of "real women"

I am not saying that you have done any of these things but I think it is important to remember that there are differences (perceived or otherwise) between pre- and post-op mtf trannies. Sometimes we police each other just as badly as we are policed by the outside world.

Clare Booth Luce converted to Roman Catholicism, and there is an apocryphal story about her audience with the Pope where the Pope was heard to say "But Ms. Luce -- I already am a Catholic."

For me, this is the challenge of having to be judged not just by our own actions, but by the actions of others like us: "OK, you are tranny, and here is a tranny who is not good: now defend them and show us you are one of them, or condemn them and show us you are one of us."

Sometimes, I feel like Patty Hearst kidnapped by the Symbanese Liberation Army, working even harder to prove I am one of them. But that soon passes, and I start offending people again.

When you are confident enough in your femininity to act like a man and still remain a woman, then you have transitioned. When you are so afraid of your femininity to act like a woman and still remain a man, then you are a crossdresser.


Re: Stop Abusing Shame!
Date: 98-02-06 22:03:44 EST
From: TheCallan
To: Rachel

In a message dated 98-02-06 21:02:58 EST, Rachel writes:

I liked your article and the basic idea, that we are abusing shame.
the line is very eye-catching. It would make an interesting op-ed
piece in the Times or some similar mainstream outlet.

The wonderful thing about tranny issues is that if you go deep enough into them, deep into the specifics of being trans, more and more detailed, the more general they get, the more broadly applicable. If we stay at the level of concept -- like "It is emotional to lose a pet" -- we never connect to everyone as we do with the specific -- "I remember the morning I woke up, leaned to pet my dog, and found him cold and stiff." Virtually nobody shares that specific experience, but it is so evocative.

I believe that this is because the similarity of humans is on a cellular level, in our DNA, in our connection to the godhead.

What it means to me is that if I keep going deep enough, many people can see facets of themselves in my writing, tranny or not. That's my goal, the only way to make the connection across humans.

I'm glad you think this could be a mainstream piece. I understood the concept by understanding how it felt to be trans, but then realized how universal it is.

I think the current situation is an interesting example.
The press is so fanatic to shame the president that
they do not realize they are shaming themselves
by their shameless fixation on his supposed shame.

Today, the prime minister of England had to try, at least,
to put them in their place, saying there was war with Iraq to talk
about, peace talks in N. Ireland, and all they care about is scandal.

And they wonder why the public is disgusted with them.

Of course, I know that was not your point, except in that
it connects to your big guns used for the wrong purpose.

The points are all over. I know a person who works with autistic kids who won't work with sociopathic kids anymore. "Sociopaths are simple. They have internalized the gotta-have-it messages of society and because they believe they can't get it any other way, they just steal it. The shame of being not a consumer is worse than the shame of being a thief or even a killer."

I think there is a another way besides shame and in-your-face.

there's a sense of dignity and self-acceptance,
along with a sense of decency that gives you a moral compass
without being ruled by shame.

People who act out and make a fuss and confront all the time
are stuck on the shame road. they may be going in the
opposite direction but they're still on the same road.
There's a whole world off the tarmac.

I agree. And it's finding my center, my beliefs that is the key to this -- or finding and then trusting them, turning the beliefs into habits.

I should point out, however, that there are moments when
confrontation is wholly appropriate.

I once met a couple of gay guys in Pittsburgh who had moved
into a suburban neighborhood near a junior high school.
they were both kind of swish and so it was not long before the kids
spotted them. Every day at lunch the kids would come to their house and
vandalize it, or shout things at them.

Well, one of them went to the principal and complained.

the principal very politely said there was nothing he could do,
once the kids left school grounds he had no jurisdiction.

The queen leant over and said to him, in her campy voice,
"You may think you can push me around because I'm a fairy,
but let me tell you something,
I'm a real BITCH, and I've got a BIG MOUTH."

the harassment stopped the next day.

Yup. You have to pick your battles and do it.

One thing that I worry about though is how much I like confrontation. I have been known to go for the kill too often, because it is very, very easy. I have been on the defensive so long that those hackles raise quickly and that blocks communication.

What are the obligations of the shark in a pond full of guppies?

Maybe it's to move to another pond.

I like the notion of a holy person who was a warrior. Those skills are there but they are not what we live for. I am learning to leave my sword in the scabbard as much as possible, but I have learned not to back down, too.

Here's another story. I may have told you this one before, but I think
it's appropriate so I'll chance boring you.

Someone who was transitioning some years ago called me up once very upset.
She'd ventured out of the house and was making her way nervously
in public when somebody read her. A couple of teenage girls I think it was.

Well, they started making a fuss and giving her hell.
She was very angry and very upset and very ashamed.

I said to her that of course it's horrible to have someone ridicule
you on the street, but so much of the pain comes from her own shame
at who she is. If the same kinds had come up to her, pointed and said,
"Oh wow! You've got two arms!" she would have stared at them,
shook her head, and moved on.

The fact that she was physically a guy dressed as a woman was
in some sense as self-evident as her having two arms--
and also as meaningless, except for the meaning we all attach to it.

Yup. One gal was getting sassed, and being shamed, and I simply asked her "What would someone who was confident she was a woman do if she was called out like that?" Her eyes lit up, and she knew what to do.

I have even done some training of others in confronting homophobia. I know the tricks. I just hate them.

A few months later, this same woman called me to tell of
her first time out with her mother.

My friend had by now become comfortable with herself,
but her mother was terrified. they went to a large restaurant,
and Mom kept looking around nervously.

Shortly after they were seated Mom turned to daughter and
said in horror, "Everyone is staring at you!"

My friend looked up and sure enough, virtually everyone
in the restaurant was looking her way.

then she looked behind her.

she turned to her mother and said "Mom?" and pointed
over her shoulder to where a giant television screen
was showing the U.S. Open tennis championships.

Great story. So many fears projected onto us, and so few are real threats.

I suspect you know that I have done most of these things -- being out, handling people, all that. I have lots of experience.

What the challenge is for me, I think, is taking up the calling, immersing into it. I don't want to believe that it is my life, my role, my duty, my training. This morning someone asked me:

Fluko: What specifically do you fear right now at this point of your life?

TheCallan: My classic fear is simple: people don't want to hear what I have to say because they don't want to be challenged by it, so they will work hard to silence me.

Fluko: you say: people don't want to hear what I have to say because they don't want to be challenged by it, so they will work hard to silence me. Perhaps they believe you are just plain wrong in your position....

TheCallan: Of course they believe I am wrong! They believe that silencing me is holy work, good for all!

Fluko: I guess, just by going out and building our baseball field...

TheCallan: True. We have to chase our dreams, to do the absurd to achieve the impossible. It's nice to be supported in that. My mother really believes she will find the problem I didn't think of, as she desperately looks for ways to stop me.

TheCallan: Jerry Falwell will tell them it is the Lord's work to silence me!

Fluko: So then, that is your particular cross in life,.... don't we all have them... Bullshit on what J.F. says...

TheCallan: Right. And carrying the cross means that you will be crucified on it. That is the fear that I have.

I sometimes envy James Green who was ordained by Lou Sullivan. That ordination gives clear external credibility, means it's not just your own whim, your own ecstasy that you are chasing.

Yes, I fear what people think, but when I feel I am doing my work, I can face anything. The problem is that I am resisting that work. And that is hard.

Thanks for your comments. I just keep growing!


Re: SRS: Not a Panacea?
Date: 02/07/98

In a message dated 98-02-07 04:53:26 EST, writes:

She by far is not the only long-term post-op my gf and me have run into who shared the experience that after a few years they began developing a more critical attitude (which does not mean that they necessarily were regretters and wanted to transition back) which led to serious conflicts between them and the mainstream TG community :( As if acknowledging that for some people surgery is not too beneficial implied that it wasn't for others, too.

I think that the dream of surgery as a magic bullet, as a cure-all solution, is so well defended by so many for so many reasons, but the reality is that changing the body is a detail, not the heart of change. The dream is for a new presence, a new relationship with the world, and a new genital configuration sure doesn't guarantee happiness.

I am always struck by the constant plaint of humans: "If only I was _______, my life would be perfect." We persist in these imaginings even when we know people who are ______ (rich, female, white, married, managers, whatever) and know that their life is not perfect. I think it's part of the consumer mentality, that somehow if we just get something else, acquire something, we can be happy.

For people who think, as Kate Bornstein says, "because I am not a boy, I must be a girl," somehow being female seems to be an answer to all the problems. This is the rationalization they hold, and that the convoluted rituals described by the Benjamin Standards Of Care seem to reinforce, that if we just run the course, once we cross the finish line with a neo-vagina, life will be great.

Of course, that's not true. If we knocked some male on the head and performed SRS on them, they would not be a woman. Many, if not most, transsexuals have found that the gender change, the learning a new role, the developing a relationship with the world as a woman, is much more important than what is in their panties.

Yet, these rationalizations are zealously defended by many people who have had the dream of being female for years, and want to believe that SRS will cause an end to the pain of being isolated, liminal and closeted that they have felt all their lives. While people are often calm in the face of threats to take away things that they know cannot be removed, people kill to defend their rationalizations, because they know how fragile they are, that their rationalizations can be taken away from them and they will be forced to gaze on a painful truth once again. This is how many transgender males feel about the promise of SRS: "Nobody is going to tell me that this alone won't ease all my pain!" Almost no one has ever suggested denying SRS as an option, even a good option, but even discussing SRS as not a panacea is enough to send many into a defensive mode.

Even after surgery, it's very hard to find people who want to talk about the reality of the experience. I received a mail from someone who read my post on a newsgroup, saying "I am three years post-op and there are still issues. But everytime I raise them I am shouted down by people who want to keep the illusion alive. Keep talking about the challenges, because I really need space to talk about how to build my life."

And indeed large portions of her writings are devoted to the topic that there isn't a "one size fits all" solution to so many other aspects of life, too. I think her feelings have to be taken seriously and she deserves support instead of belittlement. At least this is my idiosyncratic understanding of what a community should be in the ideal world.

I have real issues with the word "community" and what it means.

To me, community is about a group of people with shared goals and interests. What the interests are is rather clear when we all live in one geographic area, and want a safe, clean and healthy place to live, although even then there are conflicts about goals.

The interests that tie the "transgender community" together are rather less clear. For many, they want a safe space to pursue their dream of changing sex, and people who speak up and say that changing anatomical sex is not the solution, even if it is a fine option, are not valuable in that goal. For others, they want a safe space to open their wounds, celebrate their pain, talk about what they deserve, and people who speak of individual responsibility for creating our own lives, even in the face of social stigma, are not valuable in that goal.

I know many people who are transgendered, but I'm still not sure I have seen a community.


Re: SRS: Not a Panacea?
Date: 02/10/98

In a message dated 98-02-09 18:55:16 EST, writes:

Sometimes a new relationship with the world is
much more difficult than just solving the situation
about what there is and what should be
(or we would be to have) in our panties...

Too many times it happens that
you have to confront with people who
apparently don't care at all
if you're pre-post-no or whatever,
but who treat you differently just because
you're in a path that, whatever it is, is not legitimate.

And this leads you to pretend "you're not T*",
but just a weird woman or whatever....
but you know that you're going for the wrong attitude,
and they know that you're lying.

When you do realize that, SRS or not,
you'll ever be the freak,
what are you doing???

A couple of years ago, I realized that people, especially males,
were treating me differently from
when i was "presenting myself in a male mode",
when talking about technical matters
(informatics, computers, the net).
I felt discriminated, but *

It was the happiness of belonging,
even if it was belonging to the un-elected, the "inferior ones".

I felt discriminated, but I thought I was discriminated
"as a woman", not as a transsexual woman.

When I was talking to a representative of a company
about technical advice or whatever,
I was usually taken into consideration only if
another "expert", a MAN,
was giving his positive consent about my views.

So, I felt discriminated, but I felt happy,
because I thought I "was perceived as a woman".

Then recently, I started to notice something different.

I realized that, if compared to a "genetic woman",
she was more taken in consideration than me.

It wasn't a matter of more or less skills.
It a matter of "natural" versus "unnatural".

A bio male is more willing to teach a bio woman than a TS.
The bio woman could be completely illiterate about tech (or whatever),
but she can be a scholar,
and she will never crave for competition.

She will ever be the scholar,
and the godlike male will ever father her,
and pretend to possess/fuck her mind, her knowledge.

With a T* woman there's competition going on....
So, a plain fuck is fine
(and stimulating, and sought after, ONCE TOO MANY TIMES)

but, please don't try to engage in intellectual competition....
you (US) are over....

(ok, this can maybe sound too harsh, but Italy is not UK, nor USA...)

Still, when you do realize this, and
many other aspects of everyday life that you'll never change, b
but you'll have to confront daily, one by one,
what does remain of your never too hoped dream
that SRS can change everything????

What else we have left other than our phantasies???

The other day i was having sex with a man,
and all of a sudden i saw myself in the mirror...
I saw my back.. my torso...
my too large and unfeminine torso....

My developing breasts and my stay ups could do nothing
to compare the body of the biowoman
that was lying in the bed with me and that man.

She had a feminine torso,
i had only fantasies, and my fetishes,
and the awareness that i was
a forbidden object of desire for that man.

And the forbidden objects of desire don't last long....

What about when you have nothing apart from the illusion
that having SRS will solve all the problems,
and you already do know that it is just an illusion????

You talk to someone that is post-op
and she tells you about the emotion of "feeling him cumming in my vagina"
and you know that she isn't orgasmic at all??????

So, what do you do other than pretending to believe her,
and pretending that she is convincing enough
to make yourself believing in the big illusion
that you can become a woman "for real"
and feel "as a woman" "for real"?????

Yes, please, please talk about the hard challenges....

We need to understand the limits, we need to reach them,
we need to build a sense of reality,
we need to create a sense of fulfillment of what we are
and what we can be,
and not of what we dream to be.....

Even if, still now,
every time that i go to sleep and i close my eyes......

not afraid of having the last few certainties collapsing around me

I was very moved by this writing. It is very honest and revealing.

The issue if how we are erased in the world because
we are seen as between genders, neither fish nor fowl,
neither on the women's team or the men's team
is very difficult.

We fall into the cracks because people don't know where to put us
especially when desire comes into play and
people don't know if we are the competition or the goal.

That means that we become the novelty
because almost nobody grows up knowing
how having a romantic relationship with a transgendered person
is supposed to go, or how it fits in their life.

What we transwomen have is the myth of the she-male
an odd mix of ancient mythology and modern technology
tits and a cock, ready for play as a sexual novelty
but not ready to be a romantic partner in a full relationship.

Learning to play on one team or another,
or even on both at different times does help.
Assimilation teaches how to be a woman with a man,
how to be a man with a woman. By knowing the rules, learning the skills
we are able to choose what is right, learn how to flirt, how to connect.

But getting over the noise of a male body --
and many if not most of us will always show the ravages of male puberty --
is very hard. It takes a lot of belief, confidence, and centering
to perform the role we choose for ourselves in a transformative way
in the face of people who want to believe in fixed dualities.
They don't know how to take people as individuals
but group membership counts, and group membership
requires clear male/man female/woman lines.

For me, it is getting clear in my relationship with myself
understanding who I am in a positive way,
learning to be me, using the symbols & choices of the world
rather than be them by just aping their symbols & choices
that has given me even a modicum of peace.

This has been very hard in the face of transgendered people who
seem to need to cut others down to justify themselves
rather than to believe in each other's dreams.
I have been a dream killer.
I learned long ago how to shoot myself down,
so shooting others down is easy, but not useful.
They must rise or fall on their own choices.

Thanks for the powerful note about the challenges of
being a transwoman in a world where there are only
"supposed to be" women and men.

May we all keep growing
and that means having all our certainties collapse
until we find our deep core of truth.


That Time Again
Date: 02/09/98
To: Liz, Liz

Well, another year has gone by, and it's time to vote for "Most Hated Person On Boychicks."

I would appreciate if you would consider me for most hated this year. I believe that I am unique, because I have managed to consistently challenge and infuriate people without the use of flames and personal assaults. By my unending demand for engaging society and taking personal responsibility for our lives, many people have found me frustrating, offensive and very obnoxious.

If you hate me because I seem to be so wordy and rapid that my arguments are unassailable, or because you believe that these arguments go right to the heart of your beliefs, please vote for me.

If you do not hate me, but rather merely find me not-impressive, arrogant, a blowhard, or even an apologist for the system who has internalized the messages that oppress us, please reconsider your position. I believe that you actually may hate me, but are just rationalizing your rage into more socially acceptable forms.

I know that the messages that irritate us are the ones that tell us where healing must happen, and for many of you who find yourself irritated by me, you may believe that I am helping you identify and focus your own feelings, but I am sure that if you look deep down, you can find hatred for me.

If anyone is uncertain about voting for me, please send me a e-mail with your deepest beliefs, and I will return a note full of just the "wrong" questions that will help identify twists and disconnections in your thinking and areas where growth is needed. I am sure that this feedback will help you find the true hatred that you hold for me.

Sometimes I wish I could inspire love, but my deep down issue is that I would rather be respected than liked, and that traces back very early for me. In that case, I prefer your hatred over your apathy, because it means I have touched you. And if I can achieve that hatred without cheap personal attacks, simply with expressing my own views, then I have really done my job well.

Thank you for considering me for "Most Hated Person On BoyChicks." I hope you vote for me, but that is your choice and I respect it.

I just know that sometimes, when people can't express their own hatred, it means that they are not engaging their own feelings because then they would have to face themselves and their own shame and rage. People who are turned off by the whole idea of strong feelings are often operating from shame.

It just seems to me that we have to be able to face our own feelings -- even the feelings of hatred that many choose to swallow -- and find themselves gagging on.


dream makers
Date: 02/08/98
To: Liz, Liz
CC: Rachel

the question is:

how do we believe in our possibilities, in our dreams?

how do we face the dream breakers and find the dream makers?

how do we trust the call of our heart in the face of a society
that believes in breaking the spirit of people?

how do we move beyond the wounds
and the scars
that taught us to stay small?

where is the empowerment
of ordination
the affirmation of dreams?

a few years ago i proposed
that the southern comfort conference
"vanguard of gender exploration"
find a new mission statement
because their old one was a lie
as the edge moved on
and they cater to weekend crossdressers

"the empowerment conference"
was my suggestion
power ideas
possibility thinking
dream affirmation
life building.

make the town meeting on
"what are the requirements for a
successful transgendered life"

but no.
too challenging
politics and wounds and parties
which go hand in hand
in the minds of activists
who prefer the stick than the carrot
and wonder why
success & abundance eludes them
and they scrap over scraps
the crumbs from people
who don't claim their own success
or keep their success separate
from their transgendered party nature.

success begets success
abundance begets abundance
dreams nurture dreams
possibilities cascade into possibilities
defense begets defense
wounds beget wounds
pain nurtures pain
fears cascade into fears

the seeds you tend
the plants that grow
are the seeds you get
so why do we tend
the fear, pain and wounds?

a queer empowerment conference
not about people of color
not about people of transgendered experience
not about women who love women
not about men who love men
about individual possibility
about personal responsibility
about one humans power
about each person's dreams

where no one stands up and says
what about the hurt
what about the oppressed
what about the marginalized
what about the disenfranchised

but rather they stand and say
I will help the hurt find healing.
I will help the oppressed find freedom
I will help the marginalized find the center
I will help the disenfranchised find their voice
and this is how
I have done it.
This is how
I will do it.
Will you,
as an individual,
join me in this pursuit?

A conference where people
don't discuss what is wrong
do discuss what how to be right
don't discuss how the system is bad
do discuss how the individual can do good
don't discuss why it can't be done
do discuss how it can be done
don't discuss global problems
do discuss individual solutions

a place where people are
beyond their wounds
acting from their highest self
believing in the possibilities
of other people
of success
of happiness
of making connections
of making change
of their own power

this is the challenge
to celebrate success
not just to mourn failures
to celebrate playing big
not just to mourn the crushing that keeps us small
to take our power
not to mourn its loss.

dream makers
coming together
not about what others must do
but about what I must do
to change my own world
change that ripples
rings of success reaching outward
touching more and more
and changing our world

create the future self
beyond wounds
ordained as an individual
to make dreams come true
when we come together
to believe in each other
to believe in our self.
and believe in
the power and beauty
of our dreams.

I'm disappointed in you. . .
Date: 02/11/98
To: Liz, Liz

"You know, Callan, I have seen some very good things from you, but this is unfathomable, not up to your usual standards, completely inconsistent. I am so disappointed in you when reading this work."

OK, you wanna piss me off? Just try something like that, putting yourself in the position of arbiter of my work and shaming me by calling me an underachiever, trying to use the prybar of shame to get me to change my opinions. You are not my schoolmarm, not my teacher. I get to say what I want, and not everything is a gem, but shaming about consistency is nothing but silencing behavior, not adult & mature discussion.

You wanna show me how this is inconsistent with other ideas I have expounded? Great. Just show me. "Here you said it is blue and here you said it is red. This appears contradictory to me. " Of course, that takes the work to actually find and identify the contradiction, work to know what I have actually said in the past, not just what you thought I said.

You wanna tell me you disagree with me? Great. Just tell me what you think. "I disagree with this statement. In my mind, the issue is this. . ." Of course, this takes the work to know what you actually think, not just what you disagree with.

You wanna point out a flaw in my argument, my thinking? Great. Just pose a question that might show that flaw. "OK. But what if. . . . " Of course, this takes work to extend my hypothesis, see its limits, and ask insightful questions..

But if you wanna tell me I have a lot to learn, or that I should be ashamed of not coming up to my usual standards, you can shove it up your rectum, because that's where your "thinking" is coming from anyway.

Challenge me. Illuminate my flawed thinking. Explain your views and why you feel they fit the situation better, why they contradict what I say. I love it. That's debate, that's discussion. It's fabulous.

But "Tsk, Tsk, this is just not up to your usual standards, and I am disappointed in you?" That's just announcing your usual standards are unusually low.


I Believe In Switches
Date: 02/12/98
To: Liz, Liz

If someone doesn't quite fit in one box or another, what are they?

Some would answer that they are what they wish to be. Some would answer that they are both. Some would answer they are neither.

All of those answers may be true for a given individual, but my first guess is that they are a switch.

A core belief of mine is that humans occupy many positions, just not all at once. We may be a submissive bottom in the bedroom and a tough business person in the office and a compassionate and tough parent, and all of these positions are truly us.

As long as life is compartmentalized, that's easy, but sometimes it gets more complex. If we are home with the kids, for example, and we have to call the office, we may switch from parent to business in a heartbeat, and switch back and forth if the kids start getting out of hand.

Things get even more complex when the positions conflict with one another and decisions must be made. The core of human life appears to me to be making decisions about where to apply our limited and finite resources, setting our priorities and following though. When we have to choose between lover, parent, worker and more, life gets difficult.

It is this conflict that is so vivid in people who are liminal, walking along boundary lines. We occupy two positions, and we need to face the conflict between them. Can we be a man and a woman at the same time?

Many would argue that we can. I argue that we cannot, although we might appear to be doing that. Sometimes, I hold my index finger in the air, It's clear that it only occupies one position. But as I use my wrist to rotate my hand left and right, back and forth, the finger starts to blur. It soon looks like there are two fingers, one to the left and one to the right, that one finger is in two positions. But I know that isn't true, that there is only one finger in one position at any one moment, it's just that the position switch is so fast that it appears to be in multiple places.

This is the power of switching positions, of being a switch. By quickly covering a range of positions we seem to be in many places at once. We are never in more than one position at a time, but we change so rapidly we appear to cover an arc of positions, an arc of humanity. It is magic.

The problem comes when I need to do something with that finger. When I need to push the button for the elevator, that finger needs to be firm, solid and in one place. When I need to hold hands with another person, intertwining fingers, that finger needs to be firm, solid and in one place.

What this means is that, as a switch, I need to both be able to quickly change positions, exist in an arc, and to be able to hold those positions, to provide body and substance and responsibility to any chosen position. To simply not face confrontation by rapid change, to avoid responsibility for my positions by shifting them quickly, to not be manifest and embodied, these are ways to abuse the power of the switch.

When I was a kid, I could do all sorts of voices, characters, but I couldn't hold onto them for long. What that mercurial nature meant was that none of them had force or weight behind them, none of them was solid enough to make change.

A friend told me that I was like an iceberg. "You are very solid and dependable, but you move around a lot." I liked that comparison, because it describes the challenge of a switch: how to be both big and solid enough to make things happen in the world, big enough for others, like our children, to push against, and how to be mobile and magical enough to walk between worlds, see everything from a range of angles, be flexible and transformational.

This challenge between being solid enough to have force and liquid enough to have fluidity is the challenge of a switch.

Many people find my advocacy of both liminality and responsibility to be a contradiction in terms. They want to be free floating and untrapped by the world, a magical ghost and find the demand to being solid and responsible to be a weight that holds them down, stops them from flying. They want to live in a world of freedom, not in a world of responsibility, a world of individual spirit not social obligation.

There are many people today who are too trapped in the world of obligation, who have so much weight that they stay in their positions like boulders who block growth. They are unable to move, to shift to accept change. These people are so solid that they have lost the power of transformation, given it up for the stability of solidity, and in that solidity, the pressure on them changes.

When we stand up and speak for the power of s/witches, other people, who know the value of balance, will always try to speak for the other side, the power of manifestation, of embodiment, of making choices and sticking to them, rather than only flowing and swaying with the winds. The answer, like any other answer, is that both are necessary, both the power of transformation and the power of stability, and our genius comes when we find ways to do both.

If we argue for one or the other, rather than for both, we setup a polarization between people, putting us and the people we care about at opposite poles, and driving people apart. To build bridges, to go though the walls that seem to separate us from others, we need to embrace what is on both sides of the wall, for the more we reject the others side, the thicker and denser the walls that separate us from others become.

We have all been switches at some time in our lives, because we have had to be. As teenagers we all walked in the liminal space is a space of exploration, between child and adult, between girl and woman or boy and man. We were both and neither, switching back and forth to try out new forms, go back to old forms, and eventually find a self that was both effective and comfortable

I believe in switches. I believe we can learn a lot from moving though positions, exploring and experimenting, seeing the world from many points of view.

I also believe in solidity. I believe that we have an obligation to occupy the positions we take well and effectively, to take the hits and learn, to show respect to others by being solid and responsible enough to be there for them.

This is the challenge of the liminal person who walks between walls, finds secrets and brings them back to integrate into a life and a community. In the exploration process, they must be fluid enough to go though cracks in the wall, to find new points of view and lost truths. Yet, in the integration process, they must be solid enough to make those truths manifest and embodied. The integration process is the return of the call, becoming a parent who provides a touchstone, a solidity for those around us who need to explore, and that means the children.

Being a switch is a powerful place, and when we have both learned the magic of fluidity and the magic of solidity, then we can truly have the best of both worlds, a flowing rock, a solid silk, both transforming and having been transformed. Birds can fly, but at times they must build a solid nest to play their part in the continuing of their species.

What does this mean? If you are going to be a man, be a good man. If you are going to be a woman be a good woman. Take the sweet with the sour, because it is adversity and discipline that teaches us, not just the fun stuff. To be untrapped is to be untapped, to never be solid is to never be able to give the gift of yourself to another

Many people want to speak for transformation, and many people want to speak for solidity, but the power, in my mind, is when we can speak for both. That is the true power of the switch.


Too Stupid to Believe in Humanity.
Date: 02/13/98
To: Liz, Liz

People who are too stupid -- or too young -- to know that even people who do hard and solid jobs, like being the parent, are also vulnerable, emotional humans, are too stupid for me to trust.

Jennifer Wells used to tell me I should put more emotion into my work, more feeling. I have her a poem, and she couldn't see how it was about me. People who are grown-ups can see my own humanity in a heartbeat, but people who see walls between them and the automatons that make up the oppressive system see me on the other side of that wall.

My response: If they are that stupid as to see anyone else as inhuman, fuckem. I don't have to prove my humanity -- my normativity -- to people on demand. This is the truck of every cruel race in history, to erase people, see them as less than human to erase and destroy them. Even Shylock cries out to claim his humanity as a Jew.

I just present myself and they respond. More stories, more humanity? Fine. But not because I have to, because I choose to.

People who need to see me as in-human because of my gifts -- smarts, insight, transgender, whatever -- are going to do that anyway.

Children who are dependent are one thing. Adults who believe in interdependence are another thing.

But kids who are fighting only for independence are just not people who can see me as human. To them I am like their parents, just there to posture against. I will play the parent, fine. But they gotta trust in the inevitability that even someone who sounds like their parent is fully human, and will bleed when you cut them. I don't have to convince them.

Meet me half way, and I will reward you with visions. But demand I play on your turf? That's my biggest fear, in any case, because on your ground, I only exist in your world and you can erase me. I fear being smashed, attacked, hurt just to silence and erase me. I respond to that by limiting how visible I am, so people won't attack.

The question of how much we need to be what other people expect to seduce them, and how much we need to just be ourselves and be attracted to our unique message is very hard. In a one-on-one relationship, we can blend the balance, but when we stand to speak to an audience,. write our story, we can't adjust to every listener.

Terry gave me this who lecture a year ago. "Just relax and be yourself." "I will, but the real me is pretty damn pedantic." Terry laughed, and saw the challenge of the teacher -- you have to set expectations high, ask people to meet you on your level, and know that people will use you as a projection screen, not see your own humanity, unless the look for it.

And if they can't yet know that each of us is human, then they have their own work to do.

They don't like you.
Date: 02/13/98
To: Liz, Liz

One of the hardest things Christine found about me is that she hated that people didn't like me and I didn't seem to care. People find me strange and off-putting and she didn't want to lose face with them or feel forced to defend me. She knew I had benefits, but she really wanted me to play other people's games better so I would be liked.

Very, very hard for her. Very very hard for me to hear.

Gendered Choices.
Date: 02/13/98
To: Liz, Liz

As a girl, you feel that telling people about being bullied makes them feel compassionate towards you, makes them feel like protecting you. You use the choices of a woman to get protection.

As a boy, I was taught that telling people about being bullied makes them think I am a loser, demand I stand up to the pressures by myself. I had to make the choices of a man to protect myself or be vulnerable to even worse abuse.

I often talk about my challenge as feeling safe to make the choices of a woman. Rhett would not depend on the kindness of others, even though Scarlett would.

I fear that if I make the choices of a woman -- everything from using the women's room, flirting with men (Kate's fear), or depending on the kindness of others, and they know/discover my truth, they will hate me, hurt me, try to silence me. The vulnerability opens the way for people feeling tricked, betrayed, used.

What that means is that I have a lot to lose that women born female don't have. They can't have their truth ripped out from under them nearly as easily.

Now, maybe when I feel safe enough to make the choices of a woman, I will find the risks aren't as great, that the benefits far outweigh the risks.

But finding safe space to learn all this isn't easy.

What do people feel about a male -- a big male who loves women -- making the choices of a woman? Can you understand why I have some trepidation about finding out?

Maybe it takes moving beyond doubt, but the believe may be happy, the doubter is wise.

Re: They don't like you.
Date: 02/13/98
To: Liz, Liz

In a message dated 98-02-13 20:39:19 EST, Liz writes:

Well you're talking about a couples kinda issue which is different than friends, I -think-. It's one of the reasons I'm not in a hurry to be in a couple. I don't really want to get all involved in what ppl think about my gf. It was one of the nice aspects of having my relationship be secret -- I never had to answer somebody who was pissed over something Beth wrote right before her Zoloft kicked in or anything.

I agree. The issue was not how you responded, but that seminal issue that I am just odd and off-putting, and that makes connection hard.

Three Stories

1) My mother would say "We keep moving and you keep being odd. Why don't you just take one of these chances to start over, be normal and have people like you.

2) In 5th grade, I corrected my teacher, Miss Hansen, on a scientific point. She thought I was wrong, so she had the class vote to see who was right. 24 kids voted against me, I voted alone. I wouldn't change, so she looked it up and I was right. She turned it into a lesson on standing up for yourself.

But any fifth grader, 10 year old, who can stand up against the big gun of peer pressure is quite odd.

3) Twice when I was at GE, people (Jerome & Pam) came to me and said "People were talking about one of your e-mail messages, and I said they were good, and they all looked at me funny, so I backed down. Sorry."

I just said "You have to keep your standing with the group. Do what you need to, that's OK with me."

I think being a teensy bit more vulnerable & personal in yr writing and yr life would be a good thing, for you and for your writing. But it's your life and your writing and you have to do what you have to do.

I don't think being more vulnerable & personal is the same thing as playing other people's games better so you would be liked, but I can see how these sets intersect.

I agree. I need to tell more stories, and to do that, I have to spend more time with an audience to help shape them. My next step must be storytelling.

I was thinking today that it was tragic that I didn't act more as a kid. But my story around performance is so odd -- at one of the three best high schools in Massachusetts, our drama coach was a Power Mechanics teacher who needed me to explain who Bertold Brecht was to him. I did drama, but there was no coach, nobody to show me how to perform. I even did running Jonathan Winters bits on the PA for morning announcements.

In any case, eventually I was so bottled up around who I was that I feared it would come open that I didn't pursue it. I didn't learn what Kate did in drama, and then as a Scientology huckster, how to seduce for fun and prophet.

I had to invent my own style of sales that melds truth and persuasion when I sold cameras. A perfect job for me would be to sell again, as a woman, to learn how to do it in a new mode, a new way.

But yes, I need a venue to practice telling stories, no doubt, to be less pedantic and more vulnerable.


Re: Too Stupid to Believe in Humanity.
Date: 02/13/98
To: Liz, Liz

In a message dated 98-02-13 21:07:17 EST, Liz writes:

Okay. Just make sure you're *choosing* to hold back the stories and humanity as well.

::tearing my hair out::

But you're adjusting your story for THE BULLY!

That's what I don't like about it. You're -not- being "yourself" when you use that flat voice -- Maybe part of yourself but it's not the Big Picture by a long shot.

Hey, I don't really care -what- you write on boychicks. I don't care if you seduce an audience or not. I think you want to play big.

And like I said this morning, your ideas, alone, are rigorous, valid and useful.

Those ideas coming from the individual I know as Callan are all those things plus riveting, real, and moving.

Fuck, that's brilliant!!!

My fear is that if you don't take [the risk to be seen as a woman], you'll never know how big you could have been.

Thanks for this stuff. I have printed it out.

Terry gave me this who lecture a year ago. "Just relax and be yourself." "I will, but the real me is pretty damn pedantic."

This is a nice anecdote but it's bullshit. The real you is a mall rat and a pedant and a soap opera heroine and a million other things. Actually, the real you isn't relaxed so you really can't do what Terry asks. :)

I think that's the point of the story. Terry wants some hypothetical real me, but there are so many of us in here that even my pedantry is real.

Meet me half way, and I will reward you with visions. But demand I play on your turf? That's my biggest fear, in any case, because on your ground, I only exist in your world and you can erase me. I fear being smashed, attacked, hurt just to silence and erase me. I respond to that by limiting how visible I am, so people won't attack.

Right. I think this paragraph is a good definition of playing small.

And so people won't pity you. When you typed all in caps that you didn't want to be pitied, did you remember me saying the same thing to you back in the last minutes of 1997? Do you remember what you said? (It's not what I'd say to you, btw.) You said you pitied me but you liked me. LOLOL.

And if you feel like the stories of your life are too pity-inducing for public exposure, that's fair too, but if that's how you feel about it, maybe you should change your life.

What I have spent the last years doing is changing my stories.
It's important I not see my life as a dead end based on fear.

But how do I change those stories?
How do I write them so they lead to possibility and not despair?
How do I craft them so that they can be a touchstone and a tool,
not just a well of pain and an anchor?

If there is one thing I would want out of an ideal support group like a mailing list, it is a place where possibilities are celebrated and dreams are affirmed, not just we we all get to wallow in our pain & bad thinking.

One anecdote on drama, energy and presence. -- I took a course in Canadian Drama from a theatre prof in Plattsburgh. I was having an affair with an older married woman in the class. As my class presentation, I did an hour on CDN TV, in what has been termed my "jumping about" style. A few weeks later, another guy did a presentation, and when we left the class my friend asked if I noticed anything about his presentation. "Yeah. He was doing me." "Exactly!" she replied. "And not nearly as well."

At least once, I got a note of support on Boychicks being amazed that I could expose myself so much. I took one course in expository writing from a English Prof/Fag who I liked, and we talked about how exposing yourself is the key to writing. It is certainly what Kate & Riki & I spoke of in DC, how to deal with this compulsion to tell the truth, to expose yourself in a culture where exposing yourself has been dangerous.

I know how to do all this on the big scale. I saw a great piece on 20/20 tonight about an elementary teacher who is dying of colon cancer and staying in the classroom. Face death bravely, and with grace.

What I -- and Kate and Riki -- don't know how to do is to do this on the small scale, to heal that wounded child who is still inside of us. We lost so much basic nurturing because we learned to hide so early. We had no protectors against the people who were trying to kill our spirit, trying to crush us. Those people were our teachers and parents, the ones who were supposed to nurture our spirit and teach us love & trust.

I wrote this poem once and I thought it was upbeat, and it was compared to most tranny writing, but when a straight friend read it, it almost crushed her. "So much pain." I have been to hell, but I know that my hells, as true as they are, are only tolerable by others if I tell of them in a constructive way. Even therapists blanch at my stories, my intensity.

So I walk that knife edge that balances truth telling with social grace, vulnerability with defense, honesty with craft, boldness with prudence. Part of the secret is getting past the tiny window problem. If you have a long term relationship, you can probably achieve some balance, but when you believe that people will reject a relationship, that you have limited time, you tend to cram stuff in, and this guarantees that there is a big chunk of stuff coming that is indigestible for most people.

Once in a while, I try to think like George Lucas in Star Wars: get the arc and then divide up the stories to fit, so it is step by step, trusting that as people get used to my voice, enter into relationship, that more and more nuance can be conveyed, that the richness can be built layer by layer, thread by thread.

In any case, thank you for your positive words. I continue to think about them.


Re: They don't like you.
Date: 02/14/98
To: Liz, Liz


Thanks for responding. I am still Wort free, though I have a number of warts. I think the key difference between the IM and the e-mails I sent afterwards is that in the IM of Friday, I felt threatened, backed into a corner, defensive. I then took time to process what was said and turned it into proactive prose that makes my point.

I am not good when that little kid inside of me feels scared, challenged, hurt in the same way that is so familiar from the abuse I took growing up. That was the emotional hit you felt from my response to Julie's post. that child being beaten into normativity with shame. Tell me I'm an underachiever and I "should be doing better" and I will go stone in a second. Not the best response to be sure, but that is the pain.

I don't see what happened yesterday as being a quick study and responding to your comments, rather I see it as simply taking my own time and my own way to pull out tools that would be effective in making the points I wanted to make to you. None of these stories are new, they probably all occur in my writing that exists, and in a much better written form than the sparse anecdotal form that I knew you would respond to but that many people would find way too spare and barren to convey the emotions that exist in them.

It's always better though, to get stroked for making a good choice than hit for making a bad one.

In a message dated 98-02-14 15:47:01 EST, Liz writes:

::nodding:: And heroic! Do you think of this story when you watch documentaries about Nazi Germany? I do -- I mean I think of the odd young person I was and all the odd young people I've known who have stood up against the big gun of peer pressure. We're the people who don't "follow orders" or use the bankrupt excuse "It's how I was raised" when the Allies show up and ask what we were thinking when they rounded up and killed innocent Jews.

No. I wonder how strong -- or how dead -- I would have been when faced with the crushing pressure of the Nazi regime. Personally, I think I'm the refugee type, getting out of there ASAP.

I don't think of myself as a hero. I just did what I needed to do.

Yes, black people have the edge over queers when it comes to having a support system built into their family -- but it takes a certain kind of stubbornness and belief in one's self to be genderqueer, to not put those impulses in a box, to stick to something because you know it is true. This is interesting because it goes back to you wanting to be a Certified Shaman, yknow? Alas, they haven't yet invented the book your mom could refer to which would say, "Call her Callan and be glad you gave birth to a visionary!"

Yes. But individual pain is not honored in this culture.

There is a great line in "The Family Heart" where she pulls down her old childrearing books and looks for homosexuality, how she should have helped her child. "These books contained not one paragraph, not one line. I know they knew about homosexuality, but there was a conspiracy of silence, a conscious denial to me of what I needed to help my child. They erased my child and me, even they knew about it."

Yup. There were no good queer affirmative therapists in 1968.

But the challenge of helping transkids is the challenge of making roles that transkids can live in. Books are not what is needed, rather role models, possibilities, images and mentors.

Well writing them does that to an extent. I mean that's one of the reasons I didn't think you'd think "loser" when I told you I was a bully magnet. It's past tense. I'm not one now. I've obviously overcome it or I wouldn't be here to tell the tale. You've obviously survived a path that is littered with the bodies of others who weren't so strong/stubborn/lucky. That alone is an achievement and an inspiration to others who are trapped in that well.

Have you read Elie Weisel? Have you read "Night"?

Well everybody told Elie Weisel that nobody wanted to hear his story (he survived a Nazi death camp he was in from I think, ages 12-14. He watched his family & friends die slow horrible deaths).

Again, the mere survival of one person is sometimes the only "constructive" part of this kind of story telling, but that doesn't lessen its power nor does it mean the story shouldn't be told. On the contrary, these stories must be told.

There are young people *now* who are baby shamans like you were. You could write the book you wish you could have had then. You could write the book that somebody's mom could refer to someday, where she could see that, yeah, her kid is odd but it's a blessing, not a curse.

You're always talking about being the parent.

.Yeah, you can do You better than anybody. (that's what I've been yelling at you.)

It was the presentation where I talked to myself on the TV set. Got a round of applause.

What I -- and Kate and Riki -- don't know how to do is to do this on the small scale, to heal that wounded child who is still inside of us.

But you do know it. You're doing it in these emails dotted with anecdotes.

Nope. Don't mistake lucidity for healing, for lack of deep & abiding pain.

Well that's why God invented editors and gave them strong stomachs.

And someday, if I actually am willing to expose myself I may have one who gets paid what she is worth.

Good! (Unlike yesterday's emails from you, which were packed with disconnects, these today are wonderful, real & grown up.

The skills of good thinking which you've developed over the years will help you walk the knife edge, yknow? You're unlikely to descend into rhetorical histrionics, unlikely to self-aggrandize.)

I need to believe this.

Doris Lessing, writer: Learn to trust your own judgment, learn inner independence, learn to trust that time will sort good from bad -- including your own bad.

I quoted that in 1995. Gotta learn to believe it.

In a message dated 98-02-14 15:44:55 EST, Liz writes:

You're such a quick study! I liked the first email in this thread -- it was a Story! and now you've written three more!!

I agree. I need to tell more stories, and to do that, I have to spend more time with an audience to help shape them. My next step must be storytelling.


I didn't learn what Kate did in drama, and then as a Scientology huckster, how to seduce for fun and prophet.

You'd be sooo good at it!!!

I had to invent my own style of sales that melds truth and persuasion when I sold cameras. A perfect job for me would be to sell again, as a woman, to learn how to do it in a new mode, a new way.

Yes!!! And you'll be selling yourself and your vision.

well, you learn to sell by selling something else first.

But yes, I need a venue to practice telling stories, no doubt, to be less pedantic and more vulnerable.

This was a good start. You're such a quick study and when you let the genie out of the bottle, I expect a tidal wave of stories.


Re: They don't like you.
Date: 02/14/98
To: Liz

In a message dated 98-02-14 20:21:21 EST, Liz writes:

I still think you take your time faster than most. Yesterday you were explaining why you didn't use personal details on Boychicks or wherever. Today you were saying you could see where it would be useful in your writing.

But I believe both of those things right now, and believed them before. They are both true: Boychicks is not a safe space and I need to tell stories

You would have gotten out of Nazi Germany by changing tactics 6 times while escaping. :) But that's not the point!

I'm sorry, I wasn't referring specifically to the wounded child inside when I said you do know it. I meant you know how to do it in yr writing. And you are a very supportive, nurturing friend so you have healing -skills-.

You need more safe space and love and support to counteract the real pain from the past.

You need hope that it can be done.

Yes. Hope would be useful.

It's true! And if you DO do this, the beauty part with writing is you can edit it out. :)

Time is an amazing editor.


my biggest complaint has been. . .
Date: 02/15/98
To: Liz, Liz

my biggest complaint has been that nobody is saying the things that i need to heart about how to be transgendered, that the culture needs to hear about how to embrace the transgendered. i just want somebody to say this stuff well and brightly and boldly.

but nobody is saying it, so i write what i need to read, say what i need to hear. that simple.

and unfortunately people think i should be the one becoming a public figure and saying this stuff out loud.

which sucks, because i think somebody else should do it. anybody else.

but yeah, when I write for holly, i write what i need to hear. the problem i have had for all this time is that i just seem to have trouble acting on it.


Dyke Process: The Success Stories.
Date: 02/15/98
To: Liz, Liz

Some gay and lesbian folk in Smallbany want to start a G&L Medical center.

They see this grant coming down the pike for $30-$150K, and they think that's a lot of money. Ha! They compare to DC (Whitman Walker) or Manhattan (GCC) or Boston (Fenway) to see what can be done, talk fondly about how cool Berkeley is, but they don't look at towns this size, about 1/2 Million people in like a 20 mile radius, anchored by a city of under 100,000. Richmond has like twice that in the metro, which is smaller. Richmond is also the biggest city in Virginia. In NY, Albany comes after NYC, LI, Westchester, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse.

What they want is for everyone to have a say. I have NEVER known a committee to make things happen.

If people want a building that houses G&L practitioners, fine, Want to start a monthly free holistic clinic? Great! You can do that this month, and keep growing it.

But these people think that a) government money and b) big plans are the answer. They forget that most clinics started very small and grew -- we aren't looking at startups, but 10-20 old organizations.

Motown 40 is on. They are talking about how competitive the atmosphere at Motown was, that people competed to be better than the next person, and what that meant is that by the time it left the building, it was great. Better you have the test of fire with your allies, in house, so you can get success in the world, than to put out mush and let the world tear it apart.

Not the issue here. Big plans, big hopes, little work. The longest journey starts with one step, not with a committee meeting. You can get lots of people involved, but ultimately the formation of the dream has to be entrusted to a very small core group. Someone has to have a dream and want it so bad they can taste it, then as it grows, more people will dream it.

But what we had is a swamp of dyke process. Lovely and equitable, but I have never seen a book in the queer bookstore: Dyke Process, The Success Stories: How Process Has Lead To Shared and Growing Success For All. No, instead you get the old joke: "How Does Bill Gates Change A LightBulb? He doesn't. He just redefines dark." People want to redefine success so they can achieve it, but how fulfilling is that?

There was a great Frontline on, where a black academic from Yale talked about the issues facing blacks with all sorts of leaders and came out with a simple answer: it's not about color, it's about class. Exactly! We don't have an obligation to help the poor blacks who are left behind by the system, we have an obligation to help the poor who are left behind by the system. Lots of blacks are doing just fine, thank you, no matter how scarred they are by being mistaken for the poor people who commit crimes and are stopped more often by the police.

One woman told a moving tale about the desperately poor people she works with, people without a bus token, who were unable to work in any system, falling between the cracks. These are the people who do need help, but the question is what help -- should they be encouraged in their separate cultures, or should we help them become part of the system? Do they want to be part of the system?

I said one thing: "I don't believe even if you get the coolest G&L practitioners they will get trans. I think that the work has to come in changing the view of who we are in the culture, and health care // social services will follow along. I don't hold out hope for how this dream or even a few 4 hour training classes will change the life for many trannies who are erased when they put themselves in the hands of any system."

Lots of people told stories of erasure. A gay man, 10 years ago, had doctor say "You have a viral infection, and probably AIDS, so go to Albany Med, and leave now." One lesbian complained about a partner overhearing a doctor discuss tumors in her partner and when she asked him, he said "I can't speak to you about this," which is the legality. Ari told a story of 10 years ago when she told a nurse she was a lesbian, the nurse turned on her heel & left and the doctor burst in and said "What's going on in here?"

All powerful stories, but as one woman said, they are far from systemic -- it's the luck of the draw most times and most places, and that, queer or not, is the scariest thing about any powerful system -- they are very capricious because the players are human and angry.

I left at the half. I left this crossdresser there, after suggesting she not say she is speaking for the transgender community. She later admitted to the group that she couldn't talk about TG people "in the bar scene." Naive and not very deeply thinking? Sure, but that's an asset in working in the world of dyke process.

So much to say, and starting from the beginning is so hard. Everybody talked about their wounds, their own little axes to grind, and while I understand that, the thought of being one of those people, unable to actually build, to be a principal in something, but rather to be a consultant who keeps reminding people to "remember the trannies" seems quintesentially depressing

Dyke process is designed to filter out those with too much power so everyone can be heard. The problem is that it seems to filter out the power in the process.

"I'm all in favor of the democratic principle that one idiot is as good as one genius, but I draw the line when someone takes the next step and concludes that two idiots are better than one genius."
Leo Szilard

How to say that in the flat recitals of pain and concerns and voices, the flat playing field, that I, as a mountain, am erased? It's at least as bad as when the bloody health care system does it, because in this litany of classes, this every voice is equal, you demand I be complicitous in my own surrender of power to a group that is most likely to prove not only demanding of lowered standards, but completely ineffectual.

"I think we should show solidarity and only have one grant that we all agree on, and have that grant submitted by an organization of color for lesbian & gay people," said one white and very liberal woman. What she is saying is: let's not be all represented in the group that submits, lets allow the poc to lead us. White man's burden and all.

But the point is missed. It's not about race, it's about class. And worse than that, virtually any organization that has succeeded in health care has used delivering health care to people who can pay to help fund care for those who can't. How do you propose to get a client base, to build a world? Duhhhhhh

I wrote a 4 page discussion before this meeting, a discussion that was never addressed by the organizer, though she said she would. It covered all this stuff, but to bring that up would be to silence the voices, not acknowledge the rotating facilitator system.

Somehow, I just don't think this is my venue.


Re: Calendar // Grants
Date: 02/16/98

I saw Joyce at the health/social services delivery meeting yesterday. I left at the half, which was 2 hours, and another 1 1/2 hours were planned. Joyce was scribbling down notes, promising to write them up and get them in the newsletter. Joyce has a real vision of getting TGIC socially involved, but as I noted to her, that means she has to get involved with TGIC -- a new president would be nice. With her issues at home and with her business, I wonder how effective she can be.

We did have a side conversation when she said she was representing TGIC and the Transgender Community. I had only said I offered trans presence, because I am clear that I cannot effectively represent the diverse group of transpeople out there, even when I know a wider range than Joyce. Joyce later publicly backed off, saying she represents herself and she doesn't know much about "the bar crowd," which isn't a very affirming way to talk about all others.

TGIC represents middle class whites, and primarily older crossdressers. Joyce has a dream of making the representation wider, but I have concerns. Still, Joyce is earnest and idealistic, and those are good things. Personally, I have to balance how to both add a voice of experience to help her grow, but to not dampen her enthusiasm or stop her from finding approaches I would have missed. Hard line.

In any case, this being her first time in queer politics, she has an earnestness, a passion (and maybe even a naiveté) that I can't match. I said to the group that I don't have a hope that even hip providers would get TG, so I felt that my work is in getting new conceptual models out there, changing the climate by new social ideas, so that much would change.

I was on a plane from Chicago, sitting next to a woman. She loved chatting with me, said I was a good conversationalist -- of course, she didn't know I am another woman, though she probably assumed I was gay because I could talk like that. She was terrified of flying, and we hit some bumps, some turbulence. I said "I like it when we hit bumps, just like in a car, because it reminds me how solid the air is that we are flying on, like the ground."

She smiled and said "I never thought of it that way." I could tell that a new way of seeing gave her a new context. That's my job in TG too, if I have the will to do it.

Make sure you get the story from Joyce. She's the point person on this health/social services grant thing.


Starting Over -- And Over, And Over, And Over. . .
Date: 02/23/98
To: Info@IFGE.ORG,

Starting Over -- And Over, And Over, And Over. . .

Callan Williams Copyright © 1998

Life begins again in every moment.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

It's common wisdom, and for transgendered people, it is crucial wisdom. We reinvent ourselves over and over again, searching for that mysterious balance, trying to find that magic combination that lets us both be effective in the world and true to our hearts. We start over in a new mode, and then adjust and start over again. For us, life is a series of chapters, a range of approaches, a series of rebirths, a continuous change, new in every moment.

People, however, like to try to predict the future from the past. "Well, it didn't work last time, so why should it work now?" Worse, we believe "I was hurt when I tried something last time, so why should I try it again?" This is the voice of the ego, trying to protect us from discomfort and pain by extrapolating the future from the past, and keeping us guarded, limited and avoiding trying again.

As any successful person will tell you, it's persistence that pays off in creating the changes we want to see in the world. Kate Bornstein says one of her favourite quotes is from Calvin Coolidge:

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination are omnipotent.
The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race
Calvin Coolidge

As transgendered people, we are faced with this challenge of starting over and over again until we find a mode that works for us. This means seeing failure not as defeat but as learning, seeing failure as a gift that, if we accept it, can teach us how to better win in the future. The difference between pessimists and optimists, says Martin Seligman in "Learned Optimism," is that optimists learn from failure and risk again and pessimists recoil at failure and quit trying, give up and just whine.

In the transgendered community we are faced not only with our own pessimism, the fear and expectation of failure that we carry, but we are also faced with the pessimism of others. Many people want to point to our failures as defeats, to use failures to prove the inherent impossibility of what we are attempting to do. They want to use our failures not as events to learn from, but as signposts of defeat and disaster.

People highlight the failures of others, reading them as defeats, to further their own ends, whatever they may be. They may need to convince themselves that their own dreams are impossible to achieve; they may need to put people down in order to put themselves up; or they may just be frustrated because they aren't doing their own work and feel the need to criticize the work of others. It's always easier to help other people fail than to help ourselves to win.

To succeed though, we must accept failure as a friend, and use it well to learn how to do better in the future. We cannot allow failure to daunt our persistence, cannot give into pessimism and defeat or we are doomed to lose. Failure is only a chance to learn. As Thomas Alva Edison said after many sleepless nights, "I have not failed in making a lightbulb. I have simply learned 1000 ways that it will not work." Persistance paid off for him.

When, as transgendered people, we are faced with naysayers, face people who trumpet failures as harbingers of doom rather than as the natural result of risk, growth and learning, face people who are determined to project the future from the past and see every misstep we take as a personal pain to them, then we have to think carefully about how to respond. Do we buy into their pessimistic predictions, or do we leave open the possibility that change is possible, that the learning of today may bring a better result tomorrow? Do we give people the chance to start over, or do we close off the possibility of success, declaring doom and betrayal?

The only thing that we can judge is how people learn from their mistakes, how they honor and accept them, and then how they go on to learn from them, doing better everyday. The learning curve for being a human is often steep, but it is only when we dive in, make the mistakes and learn what we need to focus on that we end up learning to swim, to become powerful and strong. Natural swimmers are only natural because they have immersed themselves in the water and learned to act with strength and grace, not because the first time they swam they were perfect.

We accept that learning curve in children, seeing in them the honest determination to learn and do better in every moment. We know that they have to fall down some to learn to walk, and we accept their failures as a natural and beautiful way of learning to manage their own strength, power and grace.

Today, many transgendered people and organizations are learning to reinvent themselves, to do better and better everyday and in every way. We have to make a choice how we deal with stories of the daily failures that these people face. Do we see them as a sign of defeat or a sign of growth? Do we honor the inevitability of failure, or the possibility of change, rebirth and renewal? Do we come down hard or give them the benefit of the doubt?

Anyone who is ready to declare failure "defeat" is someone who is mired in their own sense of defeat. As long as people and organizations show a willingness and intent to learn from failure and grow into success, having a defeatist attitude is to call for defeat, and that call is a call that must be rejected by all who have a positive and powerful hope for a new and bright future, where change can occur.

For me, seeing someone starting over, and over and over and over is the sign of someone who needs to be supported in creating the future self. Calling for the defeat of those who are trying to learn and grow is the sign of someone who has to go and do their own work in finding a positive hope for tomorrow.

Notes On OutWrite 98
Date: 02/24/98
To: Rachel

Writers are a queer bunch, and nowhere was that more evident than at the seventh OutWrite conference for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgendered Writers held in Boston over the weekend of February 21 1998. Everyone experiences a conference though their own eyes -- these are my experiences.

Writing is inherently a solitary pursuit, the battle between a human and a blank page, the will of words to craft a message that is meaningful. Samuel Delany noted "the only transgression to speak of is the issues of pain we have because we cannot speak about them," and in their own way, each writer has spent time locked in a closet and finding ways to speak out about what touches them, to put their vision of the world on paper, on screen, or on stage, so that for a few moments others can see the world though their eyes and come away with a new vision.

In her plenary address, Nancy Vatrano, publisher of Firebrand Books noted that the decision to write is always a private one, but the decision to publish that writing is a public one, that art made public becomes public property. We write because we have to write, to understand ourselves, to pour out the thoughts and emotions that flood us and shape who we are. Sharing that writing, especially in a way that gives rewards to the writer and the people who also participate in the process of making that writing available and visible, requires more. We can also see this in gender -- the essence of gender is private, but the decision to express that gender is public, open to all.

"The difference between a book and standup," said comic Kate Clinton, "is that in standup you can tell people how to react, but in a book you just have to let it go and let the material find its own audience, its own level." Material we give to the world has a life of its own, and that life will affect the authors life in new and interesting ways. The hard part is not coming out, but coming out over and over again in new ways. A book outs its author in a new way everytime it is read, and selling a book requires even more outing, more public visibility, more surrender to the audience in every moment.

For me, as one of the few transgendered women in the approximately 1000 attendees, the issues of how to communicate the essence of my transgendered experience, how to have people share my vision for a moment is uppermost. In a crowd organized around sexuality, around cruising, a group where the connections of sexual relationships were predominant, talking about the challenges of gender is to be a member of a small group. Even in this ocean of queer writers, the transgendered are invisible, drowned in the assumption that its about sexuality, even though many panelists spoke of seeing the limits of open sexuality as a rallying cry in the culture at large.

Craig Lucas, playwright, who was the other plenary speaker -- one lesbian, one gay man -- spoke of wanting to have his inner child assured that it was OK to fornicate, to copulate in ways that are still seen as slightly dirty. For me, though, I wanted to assure that inner child that it was OK to be a faggot, that the world is a better place because there are gay men who bring their own vision to it, in the same way the world is better because of the rainbow of diverse gender visions we each bring. I wanted to celebrate the gender, not the copulation, but that was far from the dominant theme.

In a panel on "Post Gender" with Nancy Nangeroni, Mike Hernandez, Caitlin Sullivan and Matt Bernstein Sycamore, they spoke of the challenges of moving past gender, of the point where we lose the "traction" that comes from fixed gender roles engaging with each other and end up "splattering" into a place beyond interpersonal relationships.

I noted that the organizer had invited the whole conference to "cruise . . .ahhhh. . network" but that one young butch from NYU had said that "my friends came up to cruise, but they are having trouble figuring out who is what." -- having trouble judging the books by their covers. I questioned the group on how the issues of packaging can actually reflect the contents of someone, how we can move beyond simple visual cues that create fear or desire, and move to understanding the whole person. For this crowd, writers whose inner emotional lives rarely were fully expressed on their surface, this was an enormous challenge. Even the big queer dance looked more like the high school dances for nerds I used to put on in the early 1970s than a festival of the most thoughtful and emotionally rich queers on the planet.

This issue of how to show who we are, to communicate with our packaging was reflected in the theme of commodification that ran though the conference. With the flowering of big chain bookstores and new media outlets, authors are required to package and sell themselves in a way that was only required for mass market authors in the past, the turning of nuanced books to bumper-stickers, the over-simplification that is inherent to marketing. Many bemoaned this requirement as capitalist oppression, while others welcomed it as the natural extension of ownership, owning and selling our own destiny.

The challenge in commodification, however, is the contradictory requirements on an author who must both be deeply solitary & introspective and now must also be committed to building marketing relationships & sales by being extroverted. Authors, whose every bruise makes for compelling reading must also toss off the bruises of the free-for-all market, remaining up, persistent and in-character, in-package to face the assault of the audience they must appeal to, from agents to editors to reviewers to readers.

Successful authors seem to address this dilemma by presenting a persona to the world, to perform the public role of author, which is somewhat separate from their private role of writer. Kate Bornstein highlighted this in her panel on Writing Against The Rules "As someone who is not primarily a writer but a performer, I am working on the Zen koan, "The way you do anything is the way you do everything." I am trying to write the way I act, to have relationships the way I write, to live the way I have relationships. I bring everything I am to my work, my acting, my transgender, even those days when I sold Scientology. I'm too exhausted to act. I just come from the heart. Many people fear transgendered people, and my goal is to say in no uncertain terms "I am not a threat to you." I have this whole non-gendered cuteness thing, and I think it's working. I just want to say "I love you" to as many people as possible, and I do that. I just am myself with the audience, and that means I am good with an audience. I can get an audience off, oh yeah baybee!"

Meryl Cohn, whose book "Do What I Say" was written as "Ms. Behavior," a lesbian etiquette expert, says she sometimes looks at outrageous things she wrote and then thinks "That's OK. Ms. Behavior said those things! Writing from a persona has really freed me."

For many authors, the challenge of maintaining those persona in face-to-face encounters can be difficult. On the Internet it can be difficult to code nuance and irony, and there were writers who could not even recognize irony up close any more. This is the natural extension of the writers inherent self-centered-ness, their obsession with their subject, which, after all is said and done, is always themselves. Their own immersion into their thoughts and feelings is what allows them to make powerful language, to concentrate their emotions on the page from where they can jump into the minds and hearts of their readers.

It is an old truth that one who feels too much need to criticize and demean the work of others is not doing their own work enough. The dissatisfaction they have with not speaking their own piece comes out in demeaning and belittling what others say. My own personal issues around OutWrite were around this issue. When I was doing my work, either participating or receiving positive comments about my work, I was happy, but when I saw others doing work it chafed at my own need to get my work more visible, and I was prone to see them negatively.

The challenge for me, however, was the cost of moving from writer to author, of commodifying myself and my work to go public, and in going public letting go of my privacy and opening myself to both the negative and positive of the audience. To be open to the world requires dropping our defenses, defense that protect against other people's fear and against the love other people have for us.

The cost of this opening to others was seen differently. Carol Queen, a bisexual sex educator and author noted that whenever heterosexuals read even a book about queers they think "Hey, this is about me!" She believes that there may be something to learn from that, that we can learn to appropriate the good stuff, moving away from the assumption that whenever we take from others we are contaminated, polluted. Kate Clinton, a radical lesbian comedian was less happy. "Straight people are becoming more gay, and gay people are becoming more straight. Assimilation is about coming together, but being cutting edge means being marginal, and losing marginality for me is losing my edge."

Losing our edge, our marginality, our unique voice that is grounded in our pain and rage versus taking the best from the world, breaking boundaries and becoming part of culture is the debate that the queer community that is engaged in, and the one that each writer as an individual is faced with as they try to juxtapose the inner creative voice with the outer product. Even as Veronica Vera. from "Miss Vera's School For Boys Who Want To Be Girls" sits in the sparsely attended transgender writers caucus and tells me that she was also afraid of being packaged, but has come to love it, I fear that packaging as much as I crave that opportunity to be a star and have people want to hear my words, see the world through my eyes.

The friend I drove to OutWrite with turned to me and said "If they know it are not, you are one of the best chances that trannies have to change the perception of transgender in culture." Even a friend who was on an airplane talking about transgender with an advertising executive got the advice that "The gender community need to find a way to "SELL" their issues."

I write what I need to hear, what I have always needed to hear, just like any writer does. The challenge, as highlighted for many queer writers at OutWrite, is how we take the work and turn it into a product, take the very blood from our veins, the tears from our eyes and sweat from our brow and hawk those precious fluids to a waiting market. To suffer in silence, write in private, is to open your heart. To speak up in public, to be an author in the market, is to sell a piece of your heart. Yet, if we don't give our heart to others, how can we help the global community grow?

Random Notes From OutWrite 98
Date: 02/24/98
To: TheCallan

-It's possible to make a living doing what I plan to do. I know because I met someone doing it.
-- I'm expelling toxins from the right side of my body! I'm free!
-- I am way too smart for the crowd. My mother promised that would change as I grew up.
-- I dreamed my whole family came and met me and took me home -- even the ones who have left this place.
-- I was having my arms pinioned to my side and being suffocated. That must be your dream
-- Of course I can change context in an instant. Why can't people just accept that?

Before I left, Paige called, the gal who I last went to Boston with, and when I came back, Fran got the point about TG. How odd and synchronous!

Walking though Boston was a hoot. so much like home. And then there was tat odd pseudo-Buivid who was with the crossdresser <Gypsy6@AOL.COM> who was born in Albany and has been living in Montreal -- where I also went to school. How odd.

Victoria Vera: When the money gets thin and the bill collectors are calling then you have to jump and just make the package go.

What is the difference between adjusting your story to not infuriate bullies and adjusting your story to not short out allies? Do both require the same kind of staying dim?

Liz: "You are brilliant and funny and sexy and you don't know it. You play bigger in boy clothes because you feel safer, but I'm not sure that's a good thing."

Carol Queen: Many of us are into the romance of ownership and belonging, and we try to stealth into a kind of emotional S&M if we want to or not.

Delany: categories are always provisional.

Callan: Who should we be performing this weekend? It's all performative.

Caitlin Sullivan: I have taken to writing about myself in the first person plural. I am a fragmented being, which is a TG being. [q: how is codependency (who do you want me to be?) different than multi-role personalities?] There are benefits to structure, and I like to talk about them. How do we negotiate points of solidity, common ground?

Vatarano: We are visible, but people still don't feel comfortable engaging us. We need movements, need to study the struggle of oppressed groups, learn from others people's lives, find common cause with people not like us.

Callan: Kate should be on "Trannies Who Will Do Anything For Affirmation & Affection" on Geraldo.

Carole Maso: Why does reality == verity? And whose verity does it equal? Does autonomous always equal joyful and free? Every piece of writing is the creation of a universe, a universe that has its own rules and must be internally consistent or readers will tear it up.

John Keen: "We" is almost always a conflation and inaccurate.

Barbara Carrellas: Writing is seducing people into your world

Liz: I feel scared, wacky, out-of-place, discombobulated & uncomfortable at the reception.
Callan: Transpeople feel that way all the time. What is a transwoman thinking when you see her? I can guess -- fear, scars, discomfort, trepidation. Few people realize the enormous effort it takes just to be there.

--Hormone drives are the anesthesia of the first adolescence
-- The cycle repeats
-- how can you know about people from their packaging?
-- People buy books that are written by authors.
-- Stardom is required
-- I can see people who will play a role in my future.
-- It's about my work or it's about nothing at all. Happy when Leslea or others honored the work

It's The Packaging, Stupid.
Date: 02/26/98

It's the packaging, stupid. For cruising or for selling, it's the packaging that counts. When given a choice between an excellent product with so-so marketing, and a so-so product with excellent marketing, bet on the marketing. People really do judge a book by its cover, even authors.

That was the message that threaded through the seventh OutWrite convention, held in Boston February 20-22 1998.

Most writers there hated the message. They hated the notion that their hard written words were nothing but product, that their image as an author was nothing but a commodity to be bought and sold. They worked hard to ignore the message that agents, publicists and publishers were giving out, that the obligation to engage the market, to engage the audience, is the first priority. Just like the first obligation of a politician is to get elected, because they are only effective in office, the first obligation of a writer is to get the book published, publicized, sold and into the hands of readers, because if no one reads the book it may as well not exist.

This does not sit well at all with vulnerable, romantic writers, who are focused on creating great art. The requirement to package, to seduce readers, to market is painful, especially for people who reject the whole notion of a market economy. Yet, if a book is never published, does it really exist? While Emily Dickinson published very little in her lifetime, most writers aren't willing to wait for a post-mortem audience, and can't afford to wait for post-mortem royalty checks.

It's hard to make money from writing a book. It takes good sales and ancillary work, like speaking engagements, to make a living as an author, even for people who write blockbusters, which also need to be sold. That means that packaging is crucial, the notion that "marketing is oversimplification" as promoted by Reis & Trout. This is very hard for an author who has worked to create a nuanced and rich work of art, only to then have the obligation to remove the nuances from it and over simplify it again to satisfy the market.

It is a packaging of both the work and the author. Agents are clear that they look at the commercial possibilities of the author as well as of the text itself, because they know that books that sell attract both publishers and readers. The author's public persona is part of the package, honed and performed to entice readers, to draw attention, to focus sales.

This notion of packaging exists in every part of life. Transpeople quickly learn that it is not enough to be something, but that there is an obligation to show who we are though the packaging that we present to the world. Even at OutWrite, queer central for the weekend, cruising was done by looking at surfaces, at what attracted in the moment, at the package. This makes life much easier for simple people with simple thoughts, because they have less nuance to erase, less angst about the pain of being oversimplified out of existence.

Authors who out themselves in their work know that whatever they do, they will be obscured by surfaces. Sometimes those are the packaging of the selling of the book, but many times it is the pigeon holing of the readers, who see what they want to in the text, often taking away messages that reinforce their own ideas and missing nuance that might challenge them. Putting yourself out as product, either in written form, in performance form, or even just in image form is allowing yourself to be surfaced, to be packaged by others to fit their own needs.

Yet, what is the alternative to this packaging? It is to be invisible, to never be seen by anyone. When we do fit in the package, we open the possibility to develop a relationship with the audience. In the first season of Seinfeld, we needed lots of cues, but now that we have built a relationship, even Elaine lifting an eyebrow is funny, because we know what she is thinking. This is the challenge of building an audience, starting simple and working up to a level of complexity and nuance, like two computers negotiating a language starting with 1 and 0.

The obligation of fitting in a package, even though we know that nobody is as simple as their packaging, is very hard. Even Caitlin Sullivan, who wrote "Nearly RoadKill" with Kate Bornstein, says that she still judges packages quickly, even though she knows there i.e. much beyond that. People have even told me that some see me as less than a full emotional human, someone who doesn't bleed, because they only see the packages of thought that I put out, and not the nuance behind them.

It's the packaging, stupid. It's about taking all that we are and symbolizing it, essentializaing it, commodifying ourselves, in order to start a relationship with the other people and with society at large. I know that this is true. And I also know that there is a reason I am drinking rum at 1:30 in the afternoon as I write this, because I hate the thought of being surfaced, packaged.

But, it is the package. And sometimes I would rather just be stupid.


Queer In A Box
Date: 02/27/98
To: Liz, Liz

Queer In A Box

How do you put a queer in a box? Very carefully! Queers have this underlying need for transgression, to cross lines, to whistle their tune and pop out of any box they find themselves trapped in.

I know that this is my story. From my earliest days, people have wanted to package me neatly, to push me into a box that they thought I belong in. I learned very early to perform a role, to try to kill off my true self and be the person that my narcissistic mother, my teachers and other people around demanded that I be.

The idea of staying in a box was a goal that I was destined to fail at. Confinement is not something my heart will accept willingly, and as much I tried to fit in the packages assigned to me, I felt pain and suffering. It is precisely because I am boxed, because I have fought so hard to get out of the box, to find a place where my spirit can soar free, that the thought of packaging myself again terrifies me.

To be surfaced, to be flattened to a two dimensional human, to be told that I can't be who I know I am because the package is wrong is the essence of all my pain. It is the silencing of my heart, the denial of love for my essence, the demand that I behave well It is about existing as a human doing, always with a demand to perform, rather than a human being. It's about learning to be a master manipulator, trying to con people into giving me the basic love that I need, rather than trusting that they can love me. I believe that I am lovable, that my god loves me, but I also believe that I am challenging to people.

I have been in so many packages, hidden behind so many facades, erased so much that I have learned to perform for anyone. The problem was simple though -- people rarely got what they expected from the package they saw before them. No matter how much I tried to be what they wanted, in the end I am what I am.

What that means is that I focused on figuring out the contents of my heart before learning what the package should look like. So many other people did the package first -- they got a box and everything. But, no, not me, and now I am faced with the challenge of figuring out what the heck the package should look like that represents me.

I watched BallyKissAngel today and loved Assumpta Fitzgerald, a spitfire of a woman, bright and sexy, who can never lose her femininity even when she does manly things, because the package is clear: female/woman. That notion is why my mother doesn't mind me being seen as a gay man, because I can never lose man.

I suppose I can, with lots of money and surgery and time try to claim a female looking body, but frankly, it would be expensive and far from assured, In fact, the surgeons would have to take away the masculine characteristics that my mother has, which on her never seem to get in the way of her being seen as a woman.

So now, I have to think about packaging myself. I see doing that as about as easy as nailing jelly to a tree. Admittedly, the advantage to packaging myself is that I can use that to start a relationship, to grow, but the challenge of truth in labeling laws, the expectation that packaging makes is very hard.

In the long run, I guess I am just terrified of being a queer in a box.


Drag Queen For A Night
Date: 02/27/98
To: Liz, Liz

Into the valley of death
rode the four hundred
their hipness ready to be blunted
their nuance ready to be dulled
their brilliance ready to be ignored
their lives ready to be erased.

The choices are all bad,
a gay bar mardi-gras with $10 open bar from 9-1
a straight bar mardi-gras costume party in a disco too young for life
no cover for costumes, $2.50 hurricane drinks.

Pull out the old outfits
red cotton ramie cowl neck encrusted with cheap gold beads
metallic gold skirt
red bootie reeboks
enormous frosted blonde shag
lots of black and glitter -- nails, legs, face
the look from 1992 at the coronation
the look that is a disco joke
that no one gets.

And out into the bar
where people need to figure out so quick
who I am
competitor or prey
clown or sage
dead or alive.

But at least they have wit
better so than the women's building auction
tomorrow night at city hall
so earnest and so plain
too cool to engage
too cold to let loose

And I look at the choices
sitting in or going backwards
reducing myself to a stereotype
at least one with lots of makeup
and I think of how un-satisfying
the last 13 years of this have been

but once again the 400
feel the call to ride into the valley
ready to be erased
but hoping for the one pair of eyes
that sees the wit and the brilliance
living in this lump of eyeliner
and tears.

. . .not a conversation
Date: 02/27/98
To: Liz, Liz

"So, Callan, we just need a few lines about you for the program guide."

OK. How about "I am the shadow my words cast"?

"That's very artistic, but I don't think I can draw them in with that. Can I just call you a transsexual?"

Well, no. I'm not in the process of changing my sex.

"OK, fine. Then do you prefer drag queen or crossdresser?"

I don't identify as either of those either. It's not just about being a man-in-a-dress for me.

"Well, what do you prefer?"

I tend to use transgendered woman. I want to tell people I have changed my gender but not my body.

"OK, so now you see yourself as female."

No, I see myself as a woman. A female is a sex, and that's consistent though most of the animal kingdom.

"Good! Well, we are getting somewhere. You are a transgendered woman. I'm a bit worried that people won't know what that means, but I'll let that pass. Now, just give me a capsule summary that will attract people to hear you."

Well, I'm the theory queen of transgender. Riki is the activist queen, Kate is the performance queen, but I do theory.

"I've heard some of your stuff, and it doesn't sound quite theoretical to me. Besides, I'm not sure our audience really cares about theory. Can I put down that you are funny?"

I guess that's OK, but I won't be doing humor. I don't want people to assume I will be doing some sort of stand up act.

"Well, we gotta get the audience in. You will do some humor right?"

I think it's funny, but that's because I do a lot of nuance and hip references. There is a certain amount of dry and insightful wit. . .

"Hmmm. I'm not sure that dry wit sells. Look, why not talk about how empowering your work is?"

That's great. I love to challenge people to pay the cost to take their own empowerment, to take responsibility for their own life.

"Actually, I meant more empowering in the sense that we all come together to fight our shared oppressions. You know, it's the man's fault, keeping us down, we need to come together and overthrow the system, that stuff."

I don't do that kind of material. I think that is a false connection, that there is no them to attack. It's how we play the cards we are dealt that changes our lives, no matter how much we want to be playing a different game.

"Let me explain. These are people who have never heard you before, and I really want them to hear you. You are marvelous and very special, but we have to find a hook, a way to get people into the tent, as it were. I want something that you can be billed as, that people expect from you, a message that you can say over and over again to build an audience. People like to hear what they expect to hear."

I understand that. I really do want to reach the audience, but I'm not sure I can summarize my message in one line.

"Try. For me, will you? Please, just try. We can work it out."

OK. How about "Callan brings a empowering message of the way we can use our own thoughts, heart and spirit to create a new and powerful life."

"Well, it's no "GenderOutlaw" or "Transsexual Menace." How about something a little more catchy? Something like "TransPunchy!"

I'm not sure that gets to the point. Maybe, "Changing My Mind: Creating A Transgendered Life?"

"Cute, very cute, but who cares? Honey, we need to get people into the room. Something punchy, something zippy, a catchphrase that will draw them and that they will want to tell their friends about. What's your unique position, your unique selling proposition? Maybe something with Love in it. You can be the love queen!"

That seems to be an overworked area. RuPaul just chants "everybody say love," Kate wants to love everyone. No, what I am selling is a way for people to use their mind to save their life, to reprogram themselves and take responsibility for their own future.

"Great! Just like Anthony Robbins! Get people up and working, reprogrammed for success! That's a hook right there! Talk to me about the successes that your techniques bring, give me some testimonials."

Actually, I'm not sure that my reprogramming brings success like Tony Robbins. He tends to preach belief, while I preach questioning. I believe that people have their own answers, unique and individual answers. For many people, just doing the work that I talk about is hard, not like following Tony Robbins rules.

"So you want people to come and you will ask them questions, stimulate their minds? Wouldn't it be easier just to give them the answers? People love answers, especially if there is a number in it. You know, 57 Ways To Be Happy, that sort of thing."

I don't have any answers. I guess that's not quite true, I do set out some good answers about the way gender works, about the way community works, about the requirements of a good life, but those are more challenges than solutions.

"Too bad. People love solutions. They buy things that solve their problems. What problems can you solve for our audience?"

I think I can help them find some light to guide their path to enlightenment and awareness, to building balanced life.

"Will this make them happy?"

No. In fact, I use a cute line "The truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable."

"Very cute, very cute, but let's not use that in the promotional materials, OK? We need something up beat, positive, loaded with benefits to the user. I mean we just want people to get a chance to see you, to take in that sharp mind and that brilliant energy."

I agree. I just want them to let out their own brilliance, to sharpen their own minds. Is that too much to ask?

"Well, it's just not a good starting place, d'ya know? It's not really a draw. People are busy today, they don't have time to do all this work. They go to conferences, buy books to have someone else do the work for them. You have great work! Why can't you do the work for them?"

Well, I have done lots of the work. I really can give them signposts, landmarks that can help them on their journey. I can give them language and pointers to where the work must be done.

"So it's kind of a travel guide to gender? A sort of a narrative? Doesn't that limit the audience?"

Actually, no. It turns out that there is only one human nature and we all share it, that the trip inside is very similar, no matter why we take it. Everyone has to face the same issues of social expectations, and gender is a biggie for everyone, balanced against their own wild and individual expression.

"If there is only one human nature, why don't you just give people answers?"

It's not that simple. The journey is the destination. We all have to go.

"OK, I guess I see. You give some tools, some ideas for the journey to create the future life. That still leaves us with the challenge of how we help invite people in, how we get the audience to see you."

Look, let me sleep on it and maybe I'll have a better answer. Or maybe not.

Meet Callan Williams!
Date: 02/28/98
To: Liz, Liz

She's Big! She's Bold! She Has A Penis! She's Callan Williams, one of the most interesting voices to come out of the new movement around transgender, people who cross gender roles to express their own nature.

"Transgendered people have always had a unique view of the world, acting as shamans and visionaries. They speak both for the possibility of transformation and of the continuous common humanity that connects all people regardless of sex, gender, race, class, ethnicity, religion or anything else," says Callan

Readers are guaranteed to both enjoy Callan's unique voice & engaging writing style and to see themselves and their challenges to be more complete & more fulfilled humans reflected in her writing. Using humor, compassion and a sharp mind, Callan examines the how we all need to create a self that both vividly expresses our inner nature and effectively works in community with others. This primary duality of wild freedom and tame social order runs though all of her writing as she examines the choices we each make to be true to our hearts and connected with others.

When Callan presents her work, she does it with energy and flair, her natural brilliance shining forth. Ready to engage the audience with anecdotes and questions, to give a new way of looking at the choices we each face everyday, Callan both entertains and enlightens.

but today, seduction is feared as sedition
Date: 02/28/98
To: Liz, Liz

kathy, I'm lost
I said
though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching
and I don't know why.

i do know why, though. i am lost, lost in a culture where my voice is lost, where there are no words for me. i am erased and silenced and tongue tied and just disappeared.

i can play their games. but there are almost no places to play my game, to be simply appreciated and maybe even adored for who i am. there may be forty words for snow in the language of the inuit, but there are no words for lawnmower or piranha or callan. not in the vocabulary.

"so nice to meet you callan. tell me a little about yourself. . . . .. . .

"summarize yourself in a few lines. help me put you in my context. position yourself in my mind. tell me where you fit in my mind.

"you want me to work to understand you? you want me to look for new meanings in the shadows of your words?

"it's been nice speaking to you. i see a friend across the room."

i have no mouth and i must scream. cut out my words, my ideas and you cut out my tongue.

so i told my parents about the packaging issue, and my mother got it and it scared her. my father just wants me to market some product other than me. i can still do my own stuff on the side, of course.

they were amused. it was a very good performance, a lovely gift to my parents. they enjoyed the wrappings. they just didn't like the chewy center.

and i think about going out. i though the auction was at eight. it was at six for the viewing and seven for the auction, which is a bit late when its six forty-five and you are in schenectady. i wanted to talk to bright, engaging women who found me fascinating. somehow, though, i suspect that was not one of the offerings in the auction, not for this feminist women's building.

i don't want to pay twenty dollars to see the lavendar light gospel choir at eight, but maybe the after party for eight at the door at a gay restaurant, probably around ten, ten-fifteen.

i look great, of course. but the package doesn't give much hints about the contents. "who," liz asked, "who could imagine someone as wonderful as callan before they actually met her?" yup. they need to meet me on so many levels, to do the work to come to where i am to get the rewards.

but i remember last saturday when we sat in the corner, all wrapped in our beautiful finery, ready to attract people who wanted to unwrap us and find the joys and treasures that we hold, chests full of jewels that are beautiful and precious -- and adventurers who would rather settle for an postcard and their own hand.

performance of beauty, a display that creates the attractive force, some magical physical force that draws people to us, that anesthetizes them while they learn, have their minds, hearts and spirits opened in a new way. we seduce and though that seduction we create, but today, seduction is feared as sedition because people fear their identity being eroded by the strength of others. they cannot accept what we have to give, because they are so unsure about who they have to be. the ultimate power of getting lost in another person is now the ultimate fear.

so i stand seductive, and it is that very seductiveness that causes the fear, because along with that seduction is the demand to be open, willing, penetrated to the heart, surrendering yourself to a joining, a mating that will leave you forever changed. the more seductive i am the more the fear is triggered, for seduction is seen as inherently fascist, leading people astray into territory beyond the walls and boundaries of life.

"don't make me surrender to you. surrender to me by becoming the object of my desire, that which i seek. you need to subsume yourself to my desire rather than allowing my desire to lead me into a darkness where i might find the light that will expose me. show me that you can play the part of my fantasy, and i will allow you to do that, to be the face of my own desire that i cannot be myself. as little of you as possible is the goal, because that means i can stay full of myself."

here i am. enter my world and see life though my eyes and i promise you a garden of delights. unless, of course, you fear how seeing through new eyes changes your world. too much pressure to assimilate, too much pain to stay separate. welcome to life.

so i think about going out, and i see the options of entering their world, a world i have lived in for so long, or inviting them into mine, and the rift is deep enough to swallow a skyscraper.

and it swallows me.


Date: 03/02/98
To: Liz, Liz

The air got cold as it entered my lungs, freezing me from the inside out. It was a warm day, but as I looked down from the railing of the bridge, the fear swelled in me, and the cold filled my lungs.

I breathed deeply, trying to get the fear out of my head, trying to get clear and lose the spinning blindness that surrounded me. In that moment, nothing existed but me, the bridge and the river below, so far below.

I wasn't here by accident. Standing on this precipice was quote deliberate, well thought through. The choice was clear in my mind, and I knew that the option was death, that the choices had come down to this. The fear had to quiet in my mind, the calm had to come -- I couldn't live without it.

To leap. That's why I was here, standing in the wind, balanced on the railing, feeling my heart pound in my chest, feeling my brain full of the pain and rage and confusion.

I breathed, once, twice, three times, and the air bit into my lungs like ice. I breathed, and then I jumped.

I sailed off the railing and felt the acceleration as I went up and then the weightlessness, as I fell. I knew the physics of the situation, that I would accelerate at 32 feet per second per second. What I wasn't prepared for was the wind, the resistance that pushed me upwards, the blew against my body as I fell.

My mind went to slow motion as I fell, seeing the structure of the bridge rise out of sight and seeing the ground rise up to meet me. Even in that second I remembered the old joke about the man who jumped off Empire State Building and lived to tell about it -- he told the people on the 82d floor, the 81 floor, the 80th floor.

Past the threshold, past the point of turning back, I knew that the decision was made. I would ride this all the way down, right to the bitter end. It may be the first decision I had ever made that didn't hedge a bet, leave wiggle room, allow space for chickening out. I had no choice but to trust in my beliefs about what would happen, to put my fate in the hands of the goddess, to surrender to her tender mercies. My life was out of my hands as I plunged to the valley floor below me.

A matter of belief. A leap of faith, here on this sunny day, frozen inside, the frost seeping though my heart and into my brain, freezing the voices of doubt and fear. As the ground rushed up to meet me, my fears fell away, and I knew that I was free of the earthly concerns, free of the fears of daily life, of eating, of my body failing, of people hating me, of paying the rent, of facing the slings and arrows that flesh is heir to.

In that moment, I knew that I could never be separate from anything on earth, that I was connected to all things. The peace set in for that instant.

As I felt myself speeding towards the ground, the harsh reality that my fall would soon end came on me. It's not the fall the kills you, they say, it's that sudden stop at the end. How would it feel, that second when everything stopped and I just had to trust in what comes next? Would the terror overcome me? Would everything go blank? Or would I keep this sense of connection, of trust, of faith that I had found as I fall?

I didn't know. Does faith endure? Would this transcendence, this absolute trust continue past the moment when leap ended as the inevitability of physics, the laws of gravitation and falling bodes came to act on me? Could this freedom endure past the end, or would it be gone as quickly as it came?

One more breath, one last breath just before the end. I went to ice, squeezed my eyes shut and prayed. I prayed to goddess, one last time, that my peace would continue, that my trust would be there, that the center I found would hold beyond the inevitable second from now when everything changed forever.

The air went out of me, driven out of me as I felt the slam, felt the price for those moments of weightlessness, felt the reaction that I knew would come. I felt my body jerked and twisted, thudding, and then was jerked upward.

The bungee cords worked, doing their job and arresting my fall before I became nothing more than a splattered mess on the ground below. I bounced, bounced and then hung in the air, the blood rushing to my head. Swinging at the end of the cable as I was pulled skywards was the longest minute of my life, my vertigo kicking in and the nausea almost overcoming me.

I stood again on the bridge, my knees shaking. I had seen other people after their jumps and they were very social, very talkative, but not me. I just let people talk and walked across the bridge to sit in the forest and watch other people take their turn jumping.

It was a leap of faith, the kind of leap that I have resisted taking. In that moment, I felt the freedom the power, but now, all those moral, finite cares were back.

Yet, I had made the jump, had taken even my life in my hands, risked it all and survived. I proved that I had the right stuff, the strength and the power to believe in the possibility of survival, the possibility of tranquillity, the possibility of hope. All those dreams that had been taken from me, all those fears, but now I made my own possibility come true.

I sat on the grass and thought about what I would do next. Was cheating death really enough to convince me to live my remaining days fully, to take more risks?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Re: VA Notes
Date: 03/02/98
To: Penny

Great! I really like it, and hope that you made an impact with the crowd.

Of course, I can't help but making some notes, maybe even helping you get better, so here goes. . .

as always, take 'em or leave 'em

In a message dated 98-03-02 18:04:37 EST, writes:

· My father is a navy veteran of W.W.II.

· I was born a man in Roanoke Virginia in 1952.

Well, you were born male, so they decided to train you as a man.

I first knew I wanted to be a girl before the age of five, but it was explained to me in no uncertain terms that this was not possible -- I had to learn to take it like a man, and the more I resisted, the more I had to take.

· Hormone therapy for five years as of March `98.

· Living and working as a woman for three years.

· Surgery within the next 6-8 months.

· I am a C.S.A.C.

· Eleven years working

· Having persistent conflicting feelings, and many troubling questions concerning my own gender confusion, I finally entered therapy about 10 years ago. Fortunately I found a therapist that helped me become more comfortable with my feelings. After about 3½ years, the direction gradually began to come clear with me. I have no children and I was not married when this direction began to become clear. These factors would have no doubt extensively complicated my decision process.

I did not enter into this journey on a whim, nor have I had any second thoughts or misgivings about the extremely difficult choices I have had to make. I have never in my life been more happy, secure, nor more confident about who I am.

· My therapist at the time tried to find a doctor that would work with me on hormonal reassignment. In a town in central Virginia of about 60,000 people, he could not find one doctor willing to provide me with endocrine monitoring and hormone therapy.

· I relocated to Richmond and found a doctor who has been monitoring my progress in hormone sex reassignment for the past 5 years.

· I then found a job in my career track, living and working as a woman. That was three years ago. I have never felt more well adjusted, nor have I ever had more confidence in myself.

· My journey to date has been rather easy and uneventful, with the exception of being fired while working in Lynchburg VA for an organization that describes itself as Christian and liberal.

· There is no support for transgender people anywhere but within the transgender community.

and even there it's piss poor! So many people who want to fight their own TG nature and they do that by fighting other TG people.

· I have made extensive contacts within the transgender community to gain support in my journey. The extremely difficult aspect of gaining support has necessitated my traveling as far as Washington DC and Atlanta on a regular basis. The Internet has provided a vital means of communication and support for people in the transgender community.

· Transgender people learned from a very early age that there are severe consequences for honoring the truth of their heart.

· Transgender people have learned from a very early age that in order to survive in this world, they have to lie about who they really are, and learned to lie about their true spirit, and lie about their calling.

· I had little choice as to my true spirit. I have known from an early age that my very nature was decidedly feminine. I also learned to lie about who I really was.

· The transgender person is in the position of trying to access a system of care that does not allow for more than two options; male or female. Our society has a strong investment in maintaining a gender paradigm that insists on a male-female dichotomy. Even though this is socially demanded, The absolute truth is much more flexible and reflects more of a continuum of all aspects of human sexuality. Transsexuals confront this human sexual dichotomy head-on.

as do all TG people in their own way.

· For the male wishing to become a transgender woman,

for the male who would make the choices of a woman, but who is punished every time he does that, being told he has to be a man, no matter how wrong it feels, and who becomes wrapped in a prison of fear, stigma and shame. . .

there is a painful revulsion at the physical and emotional effects of testosterone. From the onset of puberty I have simply despised the effect testosterone has had on my body. When I began to enter into hormone therapy and began to feel my skin softening, and began to feel the ebbing of the testosterone-driven sex drive, It was nothing less than a blessing and a Godsend.

Not all TG people would claim this desire to change their body, and in fact very few actually choose to change their bodies, for many reasons, not the least of which is that while the medical treatments are better than what we had before 1930, they are still far from perfect.

For those who do feel the need to change their body, it is a powerful drive, even if they swallow it for years.

· One characteristic among G L B T -- I was different
· Never could quite put my finger on …….
· M-F painful revulsion at effects of testosterone / skin softening -
· Lessons learned quickly; the heart is shameful -- feelings must be
· No choice …………….
true spirit - truth of heart
· Learned to lie about true self / spirit
· Lie in order to fit in / hide how different I feel
· If I don’t lie; Severe consequences for honoring true spirit / heart

· There is no support
· Traveling to Atlanta and DC
· The Internet
· System of care in dichotomy of male/female, -- socially demanded
· The truth is a continuum in all aspects of human sexuality
· Transsexuals confront .. human sexual dichotomy HEAD-ON; at every turn

It has taken me forty years and innumerable trials, unimaginable soul-searching, and very intense weighing of possible consequences to come to the point of considering hormonal reassignment. I sincerely believe that there are scarcely any individuals that travel this road without tremendous personal reflection and decades of continuous personal searching.

Each person’s journey is unique, and mostly must be forged from the ashes of loss.

It is all-too common for transgender people to lose friends, family, contact with children, career, and financial security; all because they follow the calling of their heart.

The transgender path is in most ways a reparative path, designed to reclaim the sense of self that had to be erased in order to socialize the child in a "normal" way. The decision was that any pressure to make the child act in a normative way, rather than accepting and embracing their transgender nature, which is usually revealed before the age of five, is good. Of course, what it leads to is not the removal of the nature, but the denial of the nature, with all the related issues around denial -- dissociation, substance abuse, self-hatred, rage, fear and so on.

To heal the effects of the closet, transgendered people have to learn to love who they are, not fear their own simple drives to wear a dress or grow a beard, drives that we stigmatize by sex in this culture.


· As a caregiver myself, I am familiar with the maxim that patients that come from underserved population groups are keenly aware of a caregiver’s perception of them.

underserved? I would say they are marginalized groups, forced to the margins and always afraid of being pushed over the edge. These groups are underserved because they are marginalized, and they are marginalized because we fear accepting them into the mainstream.

· For many a caregiver, coming face-to-face with a transgender person is to come face-to-face with their own gender and sexual sensitivities, however subtle. This will in many cases instill discomfort in the caregiver and at best cause distance between the patient and the caregiver; at worse it could cause friction and compromise the quality of care.

· To provide care to the transsexual patient is going to take a commitment on behalf of the hospital and the caregiver to provide holistic care to the patient. This means for the caregiver to be sensitive to impediments to appropriate care.

· One of the greatest sources of friction between a caregiver and a transsexual patient is in the use of personal pronouns. Except in cases of psychosis, the caregiver should make every effort to acknowledge the self-chosen identity of the patient.

· The caregiver needs to be aware of the patient’s medical condition, both short-term and long-term, and the patient’s social environment. The care provider also needs to be aware of their own assumptions and beliefs about human sexuality.

· Consistent non-judgmental behavior and non-judgmental rendering of services helps sustain a therapeutic setting, and provides an environment that is comfortable to the patient.


· If, when rendering services to the transgender patient, the caregiver is finding themselves confronting their own individual value system, or finds that they are unable to maintain a position of objectivity ----- then the caregiver may wish to evaluate whether the needs of the patient could be better served by another person on staff.

· Being Transgender flies in the face of our patriarchal society.

The decision of an individual to abandon the male sex is largely viewed as social heresy, and the individual is routinely branded as sick.

Are you trying to say that FTMs have it easy?

This unreasonable social response to a person’s genuine spirit and genuine needs is counter-productive, especially in the therapeutic setting.

If you can't have compassion for your patient, if your goal is to get patients to hate parts of themselves so they will keep those parts bottled up in society, then you are putting extra pressure on a fragile vessel. If that pressure was going to work, it would have worked by now. At the moment therapy begins, the goal is to relieve that pressure, create self-acceptance, and then deal with the issues of how to be effective in society when the pressure to lie all the time, the pressure to hate and deny is off.

· As caregivers you have a unique opportunity to be instrumental in the adjustment and social integration of this critically underserved population.

As long as transgendered people are beyond the pale of what we can accept, they will also be beyond the pale of what we can control and beyond the pale of what we can heal. Just like a parent who says "No Alcohol Ever!" loses the opportunity to help their children learn moderation and appropriateness in drinking, when we say "No Transgender" we lose the opportunity to help people born with a transgendered nature learn to accept themselves and be appropriate and effective in culture.

Art On The Fridge
Date: 03/04/98
To: Liz, Liz

I never remember having my artwork stuck up on the refrigerator. It's just not something that could happen in my home. It would have messed up the place.

My mother was concerned with what people would think. She would sit with a cigarette waiting to hear stories that confirmed her world view that everything was crap and the world was out to destroy her, to break her heart. I knew that whenever I made a mistake, whenever something when wrong, I would hear those words "You are just trying to make my life miserable!"

My mother was waiting for somebody to make her happy. Heck, she is now 74 and still waiting for somebody to make her happy.

My father was another case. He loved the kids, really cared, but he had a short attention span. He was lost in thought, at work, or trying to run interference with my mother, keep her from attaining critical mass and spewing all over the family. It was clear who had to come first in our family, the ticking time bomb.

I knew that Nicholas didn't do well with emotion. He didn't understand anything but how to defuse it, how to keep things calm. He just couldn't hear it, couldn't engage it.

I remember when my sister was dating her husband, and he walked into the room at some family gathering to see me sitting there and telling a story to no one. I finished, and explained that everyone had left the room while I was telling the story but that I was determined to actually finish it.

I learned to perform for my parents, to get their attention by doing what they wanted. And I hated it, this having to package everything up into nice balls that would avoid the triggers and the fuses.

It wasn't fair on my sister and brother either. They would need attention, but I would act like a performing seal, reading and doing tricks to get the attention I needed.

There just wasn't enough attention to go around in our family. Nobody knew how to be a good audience, how to celebrate the stories and dreams of others, how to support and care for the people they loved, how to encourage and believe in themselves or their family.

So now I walk the crooked line between never trusting that anyone wants to be there for me unless I perform to their liking, and hating that very performance that is designed to deny the messiness of me. I am that little kid who just wants mommy to look at me and think I am wonderful and full of magic & possibilities, but who knows that she doesn't believe that.

For many years I tried to manipulate people into giving me the cookies I used to earn by performing, and for many years those cookies never satisfied my hunger for something deeper, something more fulfilling. I spend my time fearing the loss of going too, of losing the one affirmation I found in being funny and normal enough to entertain.

I watch myself do that still. I perform for my mother now that she has cancer, a wonderful performance that affirms her, supports her, makes her laugh and helps her see a bit deeper. I listen to her tell pointless stories and spin them just enough that there is a glint of hope in them, touch of joy. It is a gift I give to her, just as the gift of being my father's audience, as he natters on about his engineering papers, how nobody understand him, how he is going to change everything, the gift of engaging and rewriting his stuff is the gift I give my father. People tell me I am very generous.

But who is my audience, the ones who delight in me? Where are those simple people that meet the needs of the child in my heart who just wants to be loved for who she is -- and that, right there, is a challenge that most cannot meet.

I need to build my audience, and I need to do that by trusting that there is someone out there who wants to hear what I have to say, not simply what they want to hear me saying. This is a trust that is not easy for me to have. The old expectations of having people walk out, ignore me, put me down, blame me, get angry at me, are very vivid, and I do not yet have good relationship models to replace them with.

I am well spoken and effective, rational and pre-digested. I sneak in enough of myself to be interesting, but not too much, not so much that I freak people out. There I am in my button down oxford-cloth shirt and my cords, looking as benign as possible, just trying to make it though.

I don't remember having my art put up on the refrigerator, don't remember anyone believing in me. My refrigerator is covered now, notes from an old book project, images and scrawls, but I don't yet have it. I work to have my cosmic mother, the mother in my heart love me for who I am, but when i step out the door, I feel the cries of the culture, the expectations of the parent.

And I just want to hold up my messy finger painting, the art that is me, and say: "Is this good?"

Dear Oracle Of Ridgefield Park,
Date: 03/04/98
To: Liz, Liz

Dear Oracle,

I was called to drive again this afternoon. I wasn't sure where I was going -- Lane Bryant is having their $10 clearance, and I thought about stopping at Crossgates, which I have been avoiding since I almost kinda asked the manager out. I thought about seeing Boogie Nights at the $3 movie.

I drove down 155, and stopped at the CVS I never stop at, the old Revco. There, just outside, on top of the trash can was a big copy of the March April 1998 Open Exchange, a 96 page directory of alternative practitioners in the San Francisco & Bay areas.

I picked it up, put it in my pocket and went to the car. This was a very odd happenstance, because the magazine, which is distributed free in San Francisco just isn't distributed around here. I was confused and laughing at the same time.

I pondered what to do, so I stopped at the cheap Chinese Buffet. The food isn't very good, so I don't eat much.

I flipped though the magazine, and my eye kept stopping on performance coaches, theater people. I was overwhelmed by all the good looking smiling practitioners who seemed to believe that success was possible. I wondered why this magazine found its way to me today, just after I finished most of my bills.

I cracked open the fortune cookie and read "You are capable of fulfilling your ambitions. Lucky Numbers 1, 5, 16, 19, 24, 43."

I was dazed so I staggered into Colonie Center, where I avoided buying anything more at that Lane Bryant, where I had already found some great clothes this week, but looped though the Franklin Covey store, where smiling Mormons sold day planners and motivational items wrapped around the image of Steven Covey. I immediately decided to cut my hair, drop the whole TG shtick, and become a highly paid business guru.

This was not, however, what Anne LaMott, whose "Bird By Bird: On Writing And Life" I had just found finished listening to in the car this morning would have me do. She is passionate about the need to write.

The question for you, oh Divine Oracle, is simple:

What the hell does all this mean?

Thank you for your consideration.


Fear Is My Friend
Date: 03/05/98
To: Liz, Liz

Fear is my friend
It comforts and protects me
It holds my feet to the fire
reminding me how dangerous
the world really is.

Fear comes to me
in the night
speaking its truth
that people want to hurt me
unless I follow the rules

Fear enforces the rules
of hiding and defense
that protect my tender heart
from the pounding of the world
from the possibility of pain

Fear wraps me in her arms
coddles me with comfort
follow my mandates
and they can't hurt you

Fear tells me stories
of what might happen
if I don't listen to her
follow my heart
and get torn apart

Fear shouts a warning
into my ear and
my beating chest
adrenaline that helps me
hide in the dark

Fear soothes me
Giving me reasons
the pain in my heart
is really the joy
of not being killed

Fear gives me power
the power to lie
to dissemble and prevaricate
to rationalize my choices
into pragmatic truths

Fear is my sustenance
my nourishment, my meat
the strength to go on
in a world that wants
to erase me

Fear is my companion
always ready to listen
about the insults and threats
I seem to see
in every eye.

Fear is my sword
power to smite those
who make me feel afraid
make me feel challenged
make me feel alive

Fear is my thunder
giving me moral authority
to silence every one
who speaks in a way
that makes me feel afraid

Fear envelops me
the comforting terror
the happy dread
the throbbing base note
that reminds me always
I am alive

Fear shields me
from what might hurt me
from what might kill me
from what might humiliate me
from what might scare me
from what might love me

Fear is not scary
like the unknown
or the uncontrollable
my constant companion
my old battered coat
no challenge to grow

Fear is my teddy bear
to clutch at night
and tell my troubles to
to whisper into my ear
telling me that my choices
are rational and good

Fear is my touchstone
There whenever I need it
Ready to tell me
to hide
or to fight.

Fear is the gift
my mother gave to me
her treasured possession
held close to her heart
passed down to her
polished shiny with wear

Fear is the center
of a life I was given
a warm enveloping feeling
that keeps me safe
helps me play small

Fear is my friend
my only friend
who keeps me company
though the long dark night
of my soul

With my friend fear
I am never alone.

Re: Welcome To Liminality (was Confused)
Date: 03/06/98
To: boychicks@QueerNet.ORG

In a message dated 98-03-06 09:35:59 EST, cygrrl writes:

I feel sad and upset writing this. I wish that everything was ok but inside I don't feel that way. I mean how can I wear pink for half the day and the other half of the day wear all men's clothing while trying how to make my breasts look like they are not there? And then when I am doing this, how do I explain it to people. Especially those who say, "well I thought you wanted to be a man" I don't know who I am, that is what I am trying to find out. I do know that I want to be with a man as a man. I do know that I am still attracted to women too.

Welcome to liminality.

In Roman times, the limina was the step at the bottom of the door way. Being liminal means living in the doorway, the portal between worlds.

One classic definition of a shaman is that they walk between worlds, usually between this world and the underworld. Shamans walk though walls between planes that stop other people because shamans know that those walls are illusions. Shamans walk through doors that other people don't even know exist.

There are challenges with being liminal.

Are people in the doorway in both rooms or in neither room? Are they part of the separation between rooms, or part of the connection? Are the people in the doorway part of us or them?

We only see part of people who stand in doorways. We don't see the other side, beyond the wall, so only part of them is visible. This makes it hard to see all of them.

When people try to shut the door between worlds, it runs right though our hearts. We feel cut apart, torn and twisted when people attempt to make clear separations, make the walls solid.

To be on the doorway is to have to be pulled in two or more directions, to be hot on one side and cold on the other, for example. We have to hold contradictory aspects and feel the tension between them.

In order to get things we need, we often have to become solid, leave the doorway for a time to get what we need from the communal table, without losing the part of us that resides on the other side of the door. We become disconnected, and then reconnected again in a cycle that honors both being in the room and being between.

We often are pulled into emotions and conflicts, like smoke pulled into a draft, entering the feelings of people we meet, seeing the world though their eyes and both learning from that and having to resolve their issues in our own heart, own worldview.

But the joys of being liminal are many.

We see the world from a unique point of view, neither in the room nor out of it, the gift of both engagement and distance at the same time. This gift of sight is the gift of knowing and being inside of everything.

We have the possibility of transformation, even as shamans walked between the walls between human and animal to fly like an eagle or hunt like a wolf. We enter places that cannot be entered unless one is willing to pass through the door.

We claim the wholeness beyond the confines of the room, seeing how all is connected, even the connection of those who want to build false separations.

Mostly, we live without limits, allowing our souls to be big and free and expansive, moving beyond the illusory walls and limits that stop most people from being all that they can be.

So, even as we struggle with the issues of wild/tame, individual/community, fluid/solid, here/there, we gain the gift of spiritual openness and growth, working though the hard challenges, overcoming walls of fear and finding the connection of love.

You have entered the funhouse, where much is demanded of you, but much is given. You are guaranteed to have the ride of your life, spanning and flowing, fighting and working, feeling and thinking. Limiinality is being beyond limits, but not beyond responsibility.

Welcome to liminality!


Re: Interviewing for "1st" position
Date: 03/10/98

In a message dated 98-03-10 11:17:55 EST,  J writes:

My question is, would you advise me to bring up my past? If I bring it up at an appropriate time, rather than let them guess as to my situation, I then have the opportunity do some gentle "education" about the topic, and hope to put their minds at ease. On the other hand, if I bring it up, do I risk appearing to them as someone for whom this issue is going to be constantly brought up by me, i.e. an activist?

Ah, job interviews. The standard question: do you tell them you will go down on them to get the job in the cover letter, or wait until the interview?

Seriously, though, if you are a transgendered woman and that can be read on your body, I think that you can show grace and resilience by bringing it up, but in a very matter-of-fact way, as if you assume it is obvious.

"Well, as a transgendered woman, I really find that I can connect with men and with women, communicating across worlds, and this can be a real benefit in bringing together an organization."


"There is nothing like commitment to a thing to make it come true, to help one become all they can be. I learned that as I addressed my transgender issues, and chose to use discipline and persistence to overcome barriers and succeed."

There are many stories out there about people finding out, after carefully hiding their past, that everyone knew anyway, that they knew there was some difference. But if you get the interview, they have time to see you as a person.

Many interviewers won't want to bring up the issue out of fear or politeness, and they can feel stifled because of that need to skirt the issue. If you casually mention it in passing, or use it as an indicator of benefits and strengths, they can finally exhale, start breathing comfortably. They can know that you are not a delicate flower who might be set off if called a liar, which is what they know TG people get -- "Hey, that's really a man!"

To me, the issue isn't being an activist, but finding that magical line where we are both tame enough to work well in a group, and individual enough to stand up for ourselves. We don't want to be the squeaky wheel, the sore thumb, but neither do we want to feel like we are silenced for other people's comfort.

You have the history under your belt to show that you can be effective as a woman, and that's good. This is an arts position, and they are supposed to be liberal and open minded, and that's good.

Of course, using the "of course" gambit -- "Of course, as a transgendered. . . " -- is always useful, because many people will feel honored that you assume they know something they don't, and won't want to admit that they didn't really know it.

After all that, you may find people forgetting the difference in your history. Kymberlieigh Richards tells the story of her manicurist asking if Kym had her period, and another woman tells of having people ask about ex-husbands, even though they both knew other people knew they were trans.

To us our TG history is a big deal, but to them, all that counts is what you can do for them. People can forget what they know and drop back to "normalcy" even after seeming to go through the hurdle of realization They know we are TG, but they just forget, start assigning us as what they see us as. It's much easier than figuring out a new way to think about people. Our challenging bits get erased. They just would rather we play along, act normal, keep the friendly little deception going. It's the key component in most dysfunctional families. They like it so much better when "wink-wink" we just all conspire to erase your queerness for everyone's comfort, even though we all know it's there on some level.

We never forget, of course, because we know the pain, but they forget because they don't want to engage our pain, don't want to have to ask the questions that transgendered people bring up, like "Are the separations we hold dear, like the wall between men and women, really illusions?"

What that means is that if someone doesn't want to hear you are trans when you say "Because I am transgendered, I have shown that I am my a true artist, recreating myself as art that represents my heart" they will just ignore the bits where you say you are trans and hear what they want to hear anyway --"Blah Blah Blah, I have shown that I am my a true artist, recreating myself as art that represents my heart." That, at least in the interview process is a benefit, because you get it both ways -- open to those who can hear, opaque to those who don't want to hear.

I'm sure others will offer other points of view on this, and they may well be right, but this is just the way I see it. Treat TG like it's not a big deal, just another benefit, part of your life, and they will probably treat it the same way. If they do get all squicked about it, you probably didn't want to work there anyway.


Lies, Truths and Assimilation
Date: 03/07/98

Why do people lie? Mostly, people lie to get something that they fear others won't give them if they tell the truth. It could be their freedom, or a job, or a sexual encounter, or lots of things, but people generally lie because they believe it will make them more attractive to others, more likely to get what they want. Lies are part of a pattern of manipulation, creating some image that is better and more desirable than the one that the truth might give.

Why don't people tell the truth? Is that the same question as "Why do people lie?"

I don't think it is. People might not tell the truth for many reasons.

--They might not know the truth

--They might not have the words to explain what they mean,

--Their view of the truth may be very different than the person judging the truth,

--Their truths may appear to be contradictory or too complex to explain,

--They may have erased the truth in their own mind

and so on.

For me, the challenges around assimilation and individuality, between individual and community, between wild and tame, hinge on this distinction between truth and lies.

Are some people lying to lie to themselves and others in order to manipulate people around them into giving them what they need?


Are those same people telling the truth about their lives in the best way they can in order to balance their own truth and the contrasting truth of the culture around them?

For me, this goes to the underlying question I have recently been asking about transgendered people: Are transgendered people trying to lie about their bodies, or are they trying to tell the truth about the contents of their hearts?

I like people who are confident and comfortable in the choices they make about their life. "I am doing it as right as I can."

People who are not confident and comfortable, on the other hand, give me the willies. They tend to want to justify their own choices -- which they doubt -- by putting others down. Once you have said "I'm doing it right, but they are doing it wrong," you have shown that you are doing it wrong, because anyone who needs to justify their own choices by putting down the choices of another is not clear in their own choices.

I know many people who have renounced lot of themselves to be like everyone else, to assimilate -- take on the choices of a target group in order to be accepted as a member of that group -- and these people often get very angry at others who refuse to make the sacrifices they have made. Homophobic males, for example, have been shown to be fighting their own homosexual tendencies when they strike out against others who have not denied their own homosexuality. These people prop themselves up by putting others down, justifying their own choice to suffer for acceptance.

These are people who are paying the price of lying about who they are, lying in order to be accepted by others who they fear will not accept them of they tell the truth. Often times, of course, they are right -- they will suffer dire consequences if they don't lie. The problem is that the consequences that they suffer if they do lie may be even more damaging, destructive and insidious, eating away at them.

Every one of us shades the truth, by lying or omission or spin, to get along with others. Anthropologists tell us that the polite lie, the lie that avoids confrontation and social conflict, the lie that saves face and retains dignity, is used in almost every tribal culture on earth. When the truth demands a response, but that response will tear the social fabric too much, lies are useful.

We live in a society that asks queer people to lie for the common good. The social graces ask us to go along to get along, to just not get in people's faces all the time, and frankly, there is no reason to do that. Virtually no one in our life needs to know the total truth of it, especially truths that we have grown away from. That bust for pot at age 15, for example, could lead to people leaping to conclusions that are totally invalid today, when we very rarely use marijuana.

Anyplace we life in society, there are shared conceits, shared rationales, shared expectations that we are asked to go along with to be a member of the group. We feel the pressure to conform. Conformity is not a bad thing -- it creates bonds, connections and comforting expectations that create the threads of many communities. Yet when we feel that we have to lose ourselves to conform, we get hurt, and that often shows when we lash out at people who don't choose to conform

This is much of the pain that TG people feel, the coiled tension, the rage and pain that people have taken away from a gender system that demands sacrifice for acceptance, demands denial for reward. Some see transgendered people as mocking the amputations of the heart required to fit neatly in a gender box, and that mocking is too much to bear, so they strike out at this reminder of the pain.

It is the line between this socially graceful omission & deception and the tension that builds up in our hearts when we feel we are lying -- tension that often lashes out at others who do not choose the same conceits as we do -- that is the challenge. Everyone is just trying to tell their truths in the best way they can, and that means that they are balancing the expectations of others, the obligations of culture and the truth of self in odd ways.

For me, that makes it hard to call people who choose more traditional, more tame, more social, more get-along paths, to call these people liars. They too are struggling with the challenge of wild and tame, trying to be both true to themselves and effective in society.

It is when I see people strike out against others, however, not just engaging and disagreeing with their ideas, but kicking with fury about character, full of anger about the choices others make, watch the pain erupt, that I see people who are not comfortable with their own choices, who haven't found their own center, believing in their own truths, but are still in pain. Wherever we get upset, there lies our own pain, our own struggle. Whatever touches us off, touches some challenge deep in us that we have not yet resolved.

As a queer, I know I have lots of these pain points. The difficulty of being true to my own heart in a world that has erased all the words for me leaves me stuck between a rock and a hard place. I can tell my truth and be called a liar, or I can tell societies truths and feel like a liar. No good choices, a deep and difficult moral conundrum.

What I do try to do, though, is to believe that people are mostly trying to do their best to tell their truths in a world that doesn't want to hear them. That may mean the truths are colored with lies that people think will help the medicine go down a little better, or may mean the truth is in the rage against people, but it does mean that everyone, as much as they want to get what they need from others, also wants to tell their own truths.

I just try to listen and ask questions, engaging their words. This often means that i identify twists in their thinking, the little rationalizations they use to explain why their situation is different, why their attacks on others character are justified and not rooted in their own pain. Most people hold their rationalizations scared, those little reasons they use to explain why they don't have to heal too, why it is other people's fault. Of course, I screw up on this, because my pain and rationalizations are also real, but I know that the only way I can be happy is if I do my own work, find my own path, and not if I slam the choices of others. The only thing I can control in this life are my own choices, and that is what I have to take responsibility for.

We all lie, shade the truth to get along better, be better accepted in the group we see as home. It's a very human thing to do. We all also tell the truth, try to express our hearts.

But when we try to tell the truth and it is called a lie, that is when we cry the hardest.


Re: Masculine/Male/Man
Date: 03/09/98
To: IG Network

In a message dated 98-03-09 05:34:36 EST, IG Network writes:

So it seems to me that as tg males (or just tg's, for lack of a better, more inclusive word) can reach out to each other for support, we gradually stop feeling like the only person in the world who's like this.

Kevin, just a note to you.

To me,

Sex -- male or female -- is the anatomical way your reproductive organs appear at birth. Sex is cross-species and pretty binary, males producing sperm and females producing eggs. We don't look at genetic sex to determine a persons sex, we look at anatomical sex, the configurations of their external reproductive organs, which is why the intersexed are often cut to be placed neatly in a category.

Gender role -- man or woman -- is a definition of the choices you make in culture, the choices of a man (men's clothes, etc.) or the choices of a woman (women's clothes, etc.) These roles are cultural conventions, and are much less clear than anatomical sex, not nearly so binary or explicitly defined, but in Western Culture, still quite conventional, dimorphic and accepted. These roles define many aspects of what the role can and cannot do, from dress to behavior, limits, privileges, interests, appropriate sexual partners and so on. They give both benefits and responsibilities for being inside of them, based on a heterosexist notion of family and society.

Aspect, also called gender identity -- masculine, feminine -- is how you feel inside, the choices that you would like to make without social pressure. Many of us for example, were born with masculine hearts in female bodies and wanted to make the choices of men, but were pressured into making the choices of women and felt silenced, hurt, and terrorized into making these choices. Aspect is very fluid, as the Buddhists know, and someone can be both strongly masculine and strongly feminine, for example. In fact, for some people aspects other than masculine and feminine may be the most important things in their personality. We change, we flow, we behave and different aspects come to the fore.

Sexual orientation is a fourth variable. Some people use heterosexual / homosexual / bisexual to define this, but these constructions assume that people are normatively gendered/sexed in the first place. For example, a heterosexual is assumed to be attracted to the opposite sex, which will also be the opposite gender. For me, I prefer to just make desire clear -- "loving men", "loving women" "loving drags," "pansexual," whatever -- than to try to depend on constructed opposites or sames..

The classic pairings are masculine hearted males who live as men and love women, who are feminine hearted females who live as women and love men. We have set up the assumption that all these concepts are equal

male == masculine == man == loves women

female == feminine == woman == loves men

Of course, this isn't true. Gay men are often male/masculine/men/loving men. Transpeople make the scales go in new ways. A butch woman might be a female with a masculine heart who lives as a woman and loves women, while a gay drag FTM might be a female with a feminine/androgynous heart who lives as a man and loves women.

What does all this mean?

It means that for me, trans-females are people who are born female and express transgender in whatever way, from butches to crossdressers to writers to FTM to transfag and whatever else they choose from the calling of their heart.

It means that transmen are people who are born female and choose to live as men, at least part of the time.

It means that female-tomale transsexuals, FTMs, are people born female who are working to have a more male body, though hormones and/or surgery.

I really like being explicit about the difference between sex / gender role / aspect / sexual orientation, and using those words in a consistent form, not assuming that, for example, sex and gender are interchangeable, because that allows me to build a language that is more explicit and free about who people are in their body, their heart, their role choices and in their love.

Just something to think about when you choose what word to use to describe a gender state.


Re: Masculine/Male/Man
Date: 03/12/98
To: IG Network

In a message dated 98-03-12 01:40:36 EST, IG Network writes:

Thanks for your explanation of the definitions of sex vs gender.

You'd said the note was just for me, and I hafta check it out, hey does that mean I can't post these to the group?

I'm just not sure that it's valuable for the group.

One thing that I have found is that my messages tend to be big and well encapsulated, and that means that they can very easily stop discussion at a time when you want people to discuss things. People tend to get frustrated because they disagree with me, but can't find a good way to put their feelings into words.

It's a traditional part of dyke process that we want every voice to be heard, so any voice that is more clear, more persuasive, more effective, more cogent is expected to be more quiet so all voices can be equal -- equal to the lowest common denominator. It's seen as fascist to say things that the group emotionally disagrees with in a way that isn't easily dismissed. The typical things that make the group angry are saying that individuals have to take responsibility for their own actions and choices, and we can't just blame a hierarchical oppressive system for every problem.

That means my words often hit at the rationalizations people hold about their identity -- they like conflating man/masculine/male/loves women for example. People hold their own justifications for their actions dear.

All that said, if you want to copy the original post to the list, you have my permission, but know that it can easily be seen as someone trying to set oppressive boundaries about what we must do with the words we call ourselves.


Stink For Yourself
Date: 03/11/98

"Studies show that women find the scent of Good & Plenty licorice & cucumbers more erotic than most colognes, and men prefer pumpkin pie scent with a hint of licorice. I wonder if the perfume companies will follow though on this!" said a morning show host. Remember the Rita Rudner joke "If women are attracted to flowers and men to leather, then shouldn't women's colognes smell like leather and men's colognes smell like flowers?"

The underlying question here is simple: Do we think our choices should satisfy ourselves or do we think our choices should be designed to attract other people? Is the basic premise of being a woman to attract men and of being a man to attract women, or is the basic premise of being a woman or man to express something about who we are, be true to ourselves and out heart? Are we defined by those we desire or by our own heart?

For people who define their lives around desire, it's simple: they dress to attract. And when they see someone else, look at the package, they immediately try to figure out what the self-expression means about who the other person wants to sleep with. This is especially strong for gay men and lesbians, for whom self identity circles around desire even more than most heterosexuals, who take desire for granted. The first question to TG people from many gays and lesbians is simple: "Who do you want to sleep with anyway? Why should I see you as one of my gay friends?"

Women have been facing this challenge for much longer than men have. Women have had to face men who often think that every clothing choice women make is designed to titillate and excite them, giving them license to comment, come on, and maybe even more. The question "Do women dress for other women or for men?" has been a perennial chestnut in women's magazines.

One answer that rarely comes up, though, is the simple one: most people dress for themselves. We dress to be attracted by others, to be accepted by others, sure, but we also dress for our own comfort and our own expression. [I have discussed who we dress for in an essay in the past.]

Wouldn't it be nice if people assumed that how other people look and smell was more about who they are than about you? Wouldn't it be nice if people tried to figure out what we were trying to say about us, rather than just assuming we dressed for them, to stimulate their emotions?

I have a friend, a transgendered woman, who was in a gay men's group retreat last weekend. One man in her small group was very upset, so he went out, got the therapist and decided to speak out. "You," he said to my friend, "dress that way to upset people, to press their buttons. By looking that faggy and swishy, you just tell people you want to be beaten up, to be abused. That really upsets me." Of course, what this man was saying was that his buttons were pushed, that he wanted to silence my friend, to erase her from the world so he would be more comfortable.

We can guess that there were parts of this man that he felt he had to hide that he fought into submission, beat into silence, and that he felt my friends statements about herself made a mockery of his sacrifice. He had no choice but to assume that her choice were about him, even though they were only about her.

It's very hard to live in a world where people assume that any choice I make in packaging myself are designed to state my space in the system of desire, are only about who I want to attract and not who I want to be. Sex will always be a big deal for humans, people will always judge how attracted they are to others, but somehow, I like the idea that people will allow themselves to be attracted to whatever attracts them rather than searching for someone who has wrapped themselves in an idealized package.

I guess, though, on the night after the Miss USA pageant where 40 out of 51 contestants had breast enhancement, that may be a bit much to ask.

(who notes that pumpkin pie came in third, after baby powder, for women.)

if I had one gift to give you. . .
Date: 03/15/98
To: Liz, Liz

These are the things I cannot write right now because they make me cry.

Callan, if I could give you one gift, it would be a real sense of your gifts from God, including the very simple gift of how lovable you are. It would be a trust in the idea that if you show yourself fully, don't hide, that the rewards will far outweigh the costs.

I watched The View yesterday, a repeat of the one with RuPaul. The gals were talking about what they thought was sexy, and confidence, power, a sense of being comfortable in your own skin was the almost universal answer. How do you trust that being comfortable, letting go of fear -- especially in an environment where fear seems to be the only thing affirmed -- will be the solution?

You fear that if you take your place, the costs will destroy you, that the thin line that keeps you sane will be gone and you won't have the nourishment you need just to stay stable and sane.

You can't just forgive. You gotta keep forgiving, like you keep coming out.

If you aren't getting enough, you aren't giving enough. give more.

That's what the wounds are for, so people can feel into us and know we are alive, and we can feel others. tell your truth, that's all you can do.

you are a lovable child of god. let those who can love you love you, and pray for those who cannot love you.

Trust is learned in the first two years of life. we learn it in our family, but trust is the key, belief that the possible can happen, hope that good will come when we expose ourselves. How do we regain trust when it has been taken from us so that we will toe the line, always afraid that following our hearts will lead us to being deliberately hurt "for our own good."

The problem with the very (overly?) empathic is that they understand that everyone has other things to do than fulfill their needs. They postpone their own needs by being understanding of others, become emotionally malnourished while waiting for others to eat, others who may never be able to get the emotional nourishment they need. It is odd, how narcissistic mothers build empathic kids, kids who have learned to wait for their portions, and who often wait forever while others waste the feelings that are needed because they refuse to accept them.

challenging & off-putting
Date: 03/17/98
To: Liz, Liz

I have been dealing with this idiot editor at the local newsletter -- sloppy as hell, but glad-handing to cover it up -- so I blew off steam

TheCallan: People often find me challenging & off-putting.

Carol751: Pray tell, why is that?

TheCallan: Well, I tend to remember what they say and the promises they make and then point out where they violate their own consistency and commitments. I think that this is where they are not thinking, are foolish, and I don't suffer fools gladly.

TheCallan: People like it better if you just believe what they say in the moment, and don't try to see the patterns in their actions, patterns that often they would rather not see.

TheCallan: When I do this, they get all flustered and tend to get angry with me, saying I twist their words, when all I do is reveal the twists they put there themselves.

TheCallan: People see me as sort of fascist because I say things they can't argue with, but hate on a visceral level. They want me to shut up, but can't find the flaws in my thinking.

Carol751: hmm. I know what you mean. Sometimes though people say things in the heat of the moment. I find myself wondering sometimes now if people really do mean what they say. Sometimes I take what they say with a grain of salt. Almost like you have to trust your gut on weather to take them seriously or not.

TheCallan: They don't know how to argue with my assessments, but they sure don't want to agree with them. I must, therefore, be a trickster.

Carol751: I'd say pretty bright and intuitive.

TheCallan: The challenge isn't your own assessment of their veracity or if they will believe and follow through on the same thing tomorrow, it's how that plays when you have to work with them

TheCallan: The people I am working with -- like the editor of the G&L newsletter, is a pleaser, a placater, but those sweet tricks just make me crazy, because I see through them. Honesty, put up or shut up.

TheCallan: Interesting how the same tricks that allow you to be a pleaser -- just being in the moment and not caring about the effects of your actions -- are the same challenges that get you in trouble building quality and solid products and organizations

TheCallan: Being bright and intuitive is not highly valued in someone who is going to look at your work.

Carol751: Yes it can really be difficult when you have to work with them. You have to have confidence in what people say if your in the work place or working on a project of any kind.

TheCallan: In business, people loved to have me review others work, were terrified when I reviewed theirs. It takes people a while to get used to my style, which is compassionate, understanding, caring, sharp and demanding -- of myself above others.

TheCallan: Right. How do we build a team if we think other people won't do their best if we pass them the ball?

TheCallan: (I demand more of myself than I do of others, but I do expect people to work to achieve high standards.)

Carol751: I always like to have someone like you review my work. Keeps me sharp and I would feel good about it. Take the comments and suggestions, criticisms to only make it higher quality. I can also disagree and choose not to take a recommendation too. Which is all ok.

TheCallan: This is a woman issue in some ways. "We have to allow every voice to be heard, so we all have to be as quiet as the quietest voice. To be more persuasive or cogent is to be fascist, silencing the weakest of us."

TheCallan: Well, you are a grown up. You want to learn, know it's change or die. You know that it's much better to ask the hard questions before you ship the product, whatever that is (a proposal, a report, whatever) rather than let the customer find it.

TheCallan: It's about being the best we can be rather than the least we can be, stretching, not shrinking.

TheCallan: Simply, it's a lot more fun to be excellent.

TheCallan: When we are excellent, success and abundance comes and there is more for all. When we play small, we all fight for scraps, wasting more energy.

Carol751: Yep, you're right. It's a lot more work but it's certainly rewarding.

TheCallan: This is the odd truth: people LOVE to work when they feel productive, rewarded and appreciated.

TheCallan: They hate it when they feel like a cog in a mediocre machine.

Carol751: Absolutely. And if they think they're perceived as adding value.

TheCallan: Right! People want to be proud of what they do!

TheCallan: But so many believe that is impossible. They think that they have to hold on to wounds, not try for being big.

Carol751: Yes, people really need to arise above their wounds, drop the baggage and do their best. It's amazing what can happen.

TheCallan: Bette Midler: "The hardest part of being successful is to find someone who is happy for you." We celebrate wounds, not when people win, because other wins challenge us. We think it's better for others to lose rather than to have to do the work to win.

TheCallan: It is amazing! But how many places do you know that celebrate the dropping of wounds?

Carol751: Not many.

TheCallan: Right. It's so depressing!

TheCallan: I want to go places where people delight in people taking their own power, winning, succeeding, getting big!

Carol751: Well Callan, I need to hit the hay, speaking of giving it my best tomorrow.

TheCallan: OK. I was just blowing steam anyway. Feel free to shut me up anytime I get like this. Have a good sleep!

Carol751: Actually, I enjoyed it. I like thinking positive. It's the only way that really works.

Date: 03/17/98

"You see, it's volitional. Those people make a voluntary choice to appear like that knowing that they will be open to criticism and comments. It's not right to criticize blacks for being black, because they have no control over their skin color, though they do have a choice over their clothes, their haircut, their size and so on. In fact, in one way you could say that commenting publicly on the choices someone is making is good for them, because otherwise people would just think those things, and the person would never know that they should really clean up their act if they want people to accept and respect them."

On The Practice last night, Eleanor, the woman of size, helped a fat woman (her words) sue a clown in a dunking booth at the state fair who would taunt people as a come on to get them to pay to try to dunk him. The other side's lawyer wasn't very good in arguing the free speech issues, and Eleanor won $330,000 for this woman who was emotionally distressed by the taunts.

The big point was that the owner of the carnival booth wouldn't let the clowns use racial taunts, but they would let them taunt fat people -- the last big prejudice. But the issue of why society sees these things as different was never brought up -- because one is clearly inborn and one is apparently volitional.

For many years, people wanted to see religion as a choice. If someone wanted to stop persecution, all they had to do was choose to follow the normative religion. This didn't always work, of course, because racial characteristics -- the physical characteristics we somewhat arbitrarily define as dividing racial lines -- also came into play, and religion and race became interlocked, not a choice but a genetic heritage.

Today, on St. Patrick's Day, it's easy to find someone who will tell you about the oppression of the Irish, though lack of relief from the famine, though their characterization in the American media, though their separation and segregation -- "No Irish Need Apply" -- and though their religious persecution, like Al Smith being denied the presidency in 1928 because of his Roman Catholic heritage. The Irish have used this history to band together, to create a shared myth that blends facts and legend in a compelling mix, while at the same time, fighting over religious separations in their homeland.

The British, who were ruling Ireland at the time of the potato famine, saw the famine as a chance to teach the Irish lessons on how to be normative, how to move away from a rural culture based on potatoes and come into the modern, normal industrial model that the Victorians were building in England. They felt their policies were good for the Irish, because a little suffering was just what the Irish needed to light a fire under them, and even with the death and hardship, a fire was lit under the Irish that did bring them success in America and then in freeing Ireland.

What all this means is that the line between good socialization and bad abuse is often a hard one to find. In this society we let kids socialize each other though peer pressure to be normative. Teenagers are one of the worst at calling out transgender people who don't look normative in a sex/gender way, whose choices look queer. Why? Because everyday teenagers face the possibility of being called out for their own queer choices in the process that is supposed to help them learn how to be normal people.

Where does behavior turn
from distinctive to deviant?
from atypical to abnormal?
from marking to separating?
from normative to transgressive?

Where does socializing turn
from persuasion to pressure?
from influence to intimidation?
from feedback to force?
from criticism to coercion?
from differentiation to discrimination?
from taming to bullying?

This is, to me, the heart of queer studies. How much do we push for norms and how much do we respect volitional choices, even ones that squick us? People are squicked by transgendered people, no doubt -- they see the choice as inappropriate and bad.

The thing that allows us to judge the choices of others is not that we see them as volitional, as free will, but because we assign motives to those choices and judge the motives behind the appearance. We judge that people are fat because they are disordered or slovenly or gluttonous or self-destructive or that they want to taunt our sacrifices to be thin. This is one reason that people of size often work hard to show that their motives are pure "Well, for me, it's just a glandular problem, not like some people."

We somehow feel capable of assigning motives to people and then judging those motives. We, who have almost no idea of why people make the choices they make that are revealed by their appearance and social behaviors, often feel empowered to judge them as if we understood. Of course, that's a very American trait -- we see it as some sort of democracy to judge without having to know about what we are judging, and that is affirmed every time an instant poll on how people feel about the President -- "Is Clinton Lying?" -- or someone calls a talk radio show, or even shoots off their mouth about the way thing should be on a mailing list somewhere.

For me, I know one simple thing: If I don't want others to judge me without knowing the circumstances under which I made my choices, then I don't get to judge them. It's a useful rule, because it means I am not forced to build rationalizations and separations about why some choices are OK for some people and not for others -- like why females can do some things but males shouldn't do those same things. Lara Flynn Boyle was on TV talking about how she loves her 150 pairs of beautiful shoes, all wrapped up in shoe bags, how she checked them after the earthquake. Of course, if a man has the same collection and treated them with such reverence, he'd be Marv Albert.

We do get to judge people only on how they act towards others. Are they respectful & compassionate toward others? Do they follow though on their promises? Do they take responsibility for the effects of their choices? Are their words and actions in sync, or does there seem to be a disconnect somewhere?

The results of this judging only really mean one thing -- do you want to spend time around these people or not? When we judge people, we just judge how much of our own trust and resources, like time, that we want to give them When we want to tell others about people, it's best to just tell our stories about them, not our judgments, and let others judge for themselves.

Why do people feel free to comment on other people? Because they feel other people are making choices that show motivations they disapprove of, and social pressure on these people to be more normative is good. We feel free to rank people's choices without knowing why they made those choices because this is a free and democratic country, even though most of us would get angry if we were judged the way we judge others.

This can easily lead us to try to find ways to justify our choices to others, by showing that we are different than others who make those choices for bad reasons. When we do that, though, we buy into the notion that others have the right to judge us.

For me, it is taking my own volition, making my own choice to respect the choices of others that seems key.


Re: hi
Date: 03/19/98
To: IG Network

In a message dated 98-03-19 01:40:14 EST, IG Network writes:

thanks for instant messaging me the other day.

I inadvertently misplaced that letter of yours, so didn't post after all.

I don't agree that your postings tend to stop conversation, or certainly not anymore than mine do.

As far as feminist thought patterns, or not standing out too much, maybe that's not something to worry too much about.

I mean, male socialization isn't a bad thing.

Anyway, I'd love to hear from you, just privately, and wonder if I'm in the NY area sometime if you'd like to meet for coffee?

I'd love to get together, but I'm in Schenectady NY, which is about 150 miles north of NYC.

Thanks for your comments. I'm not sure that my problem is "male socialization" but rather and issue that all women have to face in finding their voices. When a woman says she thinks someone is manly because they speak up, I wonder how they would handle Gloria Steinem or Gloria Alred. They are clearly women (because they are female) but they are not prone to define themselves as "not men," don't worry a great deal about that taunts of being less than feminine, too masculine will remove their gendered identity.

This is a challenge that we all face of course, how we face the pressure to be normative and make good decisions about where we follow the rules and where we break the gender rules to speak up for our individual power. For trannies, of course, the problem is that our standing can be ripped out from us in a heartbeat because our body/gender connection is non-normative.

While that is a problem, the truth is that many trannies don't learn the rules and consciously break them, rather they never learn the rules, never assimilate into the gender role of choice in order to find a base for where to make hard choices. A transwoman who never learned to act like a woman can't make a good choice in balancing expression, rule following & rule breaking.

Thanks again for your comments.


Re: hi
Date: 03/19/98
To: Kevwitz

In a message dated 98-03-19 15:40:45 EST, Kevwitz writes:

Well, I admit it's awfully difficult for me to understand how it would feel to actually feel comfortable as a woman. And to actually understand all those rules, and how to break them.

To be a woman is something so strange, so confusing and so complicated that only a woman would put up with it.
Søren Kierkegaard

For it is surely a lifetime work, this learning to be a woman
May Sarton

Even so, I agree that women who are confident and outspoken are very valued by most. Maybe they are seen as controversial or as rule breakers, but then, most women realize that the expectations placed on them are unrealistic.

Yes and no. On one hand, they want to be in control of their lives, but on the other hand the dream of a handsome prince coming to take charge is still very sexy. This whole submission and penetration stuff can still make most women weak in the knees, even if they have real issues in surrendering themselves to anyone else.

It's hard to have to be masculine at work, in the way the world defines work, and feminine in the bedroom. It is the challenge that women struggle with as they don't want to be defined only as sexual playthings -- but don't want to give up romance and sex either. Gender is a system of desire, and desire is a powerful pull for humans. There are real benefits from gendering ourselves in heterosexist ways, and if there weren't, nobody would do it.

Of course, Gloria Steinem and other feminist leaders who are genetic don't have the extra obstacle of having to prove that they aren't men.

While I wouldn't use the word "genetic" because I haven't seen their genes, and because we don't know about what genes control behaviors, attitudes and choices we consider feminine, yes, people who are appear anatomically female, even if they aren't chromosonally female (like Jamie Lee Curtis, who is not XX but XXY) do have an advantage because the social convention of linking female and woman works in their favor. When they are seen as less than womanly, and people try to hammer them back into social roles, the rug cannot be pulled out from under them.

I can imagine it's especially difficult to have to do that constantly.

On the other hand, being a transsexual woman and an activist is really valuable and important these days. Still not easy, but lots of room to be as strong as you want, and take a leadership role. And maybe as more and more ts women do that, it'll help these genetic women broaden their standards of what's feminine.

I think I would rather have them sharpen their image of what is feminine, to claim it more. I would rather see people judged on their behavior towards others than their body or category, to celebrate individuals who are feminine and powerful. When we substitute female for feminine we then lose the real power of the feminine. To define women as not men is to come from a negative stance, so I would rather define women as feminine in a positive and empowering way.

The role of women has changed very much over the last 40 years, and I expect that to continue. I hope we can find ways to take the soft, enduring and constant power of the feminine and meld it with the trusting, goal oriented and spasmodic power of the masculine to create new balances that honor both.

I don't really know how I can completely understand what you've said, except that since I'm basically now living as a woman with a really deep voice and a receding hairline, I'm sometimes perceived as an mtf. So I probably have some insights from that experience, but not the real desire to fit in.

The question for you is what you have the desire to fit in as. How do you take a power role where you can influence the culture in positive ways? That takes engaging the culture, fitting in enough to have standing and standing out enough to have a unique voice.

Jake has talked about his experiences being seen as a transwoman, such as when a man followed him through a supermarket lusting for one of those she-males who only exist in pornorgraphy, and in the sex trades where young trans play the characters for money like people play Minnie Mouse at Disneyland. There is a point where all gender transgression blends, and we realize that the walls we see between things are illusions.

I'm not sure where Schenectady is in relation to Hastings. My sister lives in Hastings and I occasionally visit. It's near a trainline and is about 20 or 30 minutes into NYC, so if you've got a train station in Schenectady I could probably get there.

Hastings-On-Hudson is on the Hudson Line of Metro North, about 20 minutes and $6 (one way) from NYC, if I remember correctly. Schenectady is on Amtrak, about 2 1/2 hours and $40 north of NYC. You would have to go north to Croton-Harmon or Poughkeepsie and change to the Amtrak train from there. It's not short or simple, but give me a yo when you are up this way.


Anyhow thanks for writing.

Re: hi
Date: 03/24/98
To: Kevwitz

In a message dated 98-03-24 03:13:01 EST, Kevwitz writes:

Thanks for the quotes on being a woman. I guess it does make sense that the masculine thing at work would be very different from the sexual surrender kind of thing. Actually, I'm not sure all women think of men as prince charmings, well I know lesbian women don't for sure. But I'm curious if that's how you feel- a conflict between work mode and play mode?

The whole world is looking for a good top. We all want someone to force us to do what our heart tells us to do anyway. We want to feel safe and reflected. The problem is most want to be pushy bottoms, want the top to do things our way, rather than just trusting them in their own patterns, that they are caring and powerful.

Women are supposed to do that in one way, mommies & wives who reflect us and make us feel strong, empowered and capable, and men are supposed to do that another way, sweeping us off our feet, letting us feel taken care of, all that. Isn't it sweet how in a heterosexual model, both behaviors have strength and mesh -- the classic image of the man bringing home a brace of pheasant, delivering for his woman & family, and the woman cooking a nourishing and tasty supper, nurturing her man & family shows the interplay. "A woman wants to be treated like a queen by a man who deserves to be treated like a king," goes one old saw.

I'm not really sure what the romantic fantasies of lesbian women are -- that's why I like the butch femme community, where the kind of heterogenderal interaction described above goes on. I suspect that many lesbians who want homogenderal relations are looking for someone like themselves, someone who they can feel safe with because they are the same person. Hot is the contrast between opposites and warm is the safety between same, and figuring out how to have relationships that are both warm and hot is the challenge for all hets.

anyway, you'd also mentioned Jake having gotten read as a she male.

I have some similar issues as Jake, in that some of my sexual proclivities are in conflict with my male gender identity. I guess he wears makeup and earrings on occasion, is that right?

He wasn't when he was getting read as a she-male. Now that his body looks very masculine he loves drag, bringing Mistress Angelica out, but still (just like a man!) unable to do his own makeup and always wanting women to do him over. Jake has a real pansexual background -- lesbian, straight woman, gay man and tranny-lover, each with their own rewards for him. I'm not sure he has ever been a straight man -- I think he finds that role comes with too many expectations of normativity, but you would have to ask him.

Anyway, I hadn't realized Schenectady was so far from nyc.
Do you ever go into nyc for events?


(who is off for a week to IFGE and TransPositions.)

The Cost of Context Switching
Date: 03/19/98
To: Liz, Liz

"Be careful who you pretend to be, because you are who you pretend to be."

Kurt Vonnegut, "Mother Night"

I got me a performance hangover.

It was a long day with my parents yesterday. I hemmed and hawed about going, but it was clear that my mother wanted me to come along on this jaunt, the day before she hears about her next lumpectomy and radiation treatments for her pre-cancerous growth. My sister had to open the store, so we gathered there about 9:00 and departed about 9:15.

My role was clear when I got the shotgun seat in the mini-van -- I had to navigate and keep my father, whose mind tends to drift, in line. I had a bad, very low resolution map and a birds eye view of the jerky decisions of an aging father. My role was clear most of the day, in fact -- I was asked to perform the quirky and eccentric character who mc's the enevt, making sure that things work well

There was food. Too much food. I ate some brats for breakfast, then we went to Ikea and had the meataball special, and then a really bad EastSide Marios with unpleasant chain Italian food. Food meant sitting and joking, performing this

The feelings I was actually having were hidden in the character. like my sadness at Ikea, thinking about building a home, because if I raised them I raised opportunities for people to tell me I should just be normative and it would be OK. Other people are quick to explain how simply going along will alleviate all my troubles, putting me in that classic double bind of erasing my queerness so people will get me, or being queer so people will erase me.

We went to Syms on Rt. 17, and I fell in love with this Rena Rowan jacket, oatmeal color, four button, with a tab style collar and great pocket flaps. Very long and lean, very sharp according to my sister, who I pulled over to look at it. My mother, though, kept pointing me towards the men's department in the back of the store. I loved this $200 jacket, a sharp classic investment piece for $50 and I didn't by it, because I was in character, and the character demands suffering, and has limited capacity to open to the feelings I have about the jacket, or the furniture, because opening to those feelings is eroding the character.

I can barely write this morning, my head pounds. This is the cost of context switching, of being driven back into a rut by the expectations and demands of others. We have to climb out once again, figure out how to be ourselves in a new way that doesn't yet exist in the world.

There are so many expectations out there. I can feel Sabrina expecting me to be the same person she last saw three years ago, feel Terry expecting that once a man-in-a-dress, always a man-in-a-dress. This makes me cared about Toronto, where I need to stay in my center, but without a magic mirror to reflect back a positive image of me, it becomes hard -- the image of how someone sees us affects how we see ourselves, which is why most women want to find someone who thinks that they are beautiful, bright and sexy, because that's the way they like to see themselves. Relationships are good when they focus the way we see ourselves into ways that we appreciate.

So I go on this trip, and I am on stage, but there is no backstage, no place to come back to and be validated for the fact I did a masterful performance at a cost to myself, validated that I am not that person on-stage, but someone much more rich and nuanced, brilliant, vulnerable, honest and lovable. I am not a human doing but a human being,

My mother told me at Sunday diner that I should write an article about the difference between gay and transgender, admitting it would be hard. Her friend had asked when I was going to get married and she tried to explain and her friend couldn't hear her. "It's hard to talk about transgender because people don't get it," she told me, not telling me anything I didn't already know.

"I would be happy to tell my friends you are TG," she said, "but I don't know how." You, there is the whole problem wrapped up in a nutshell -- how do you explain a notion that not only doesn't exist in the world, but that also violates all the comfortable separations and dualities that people have built their own identities on? I did send them the Q&A on Monday, but no mention was made of it yesterday. I even handed my sister some poems, but she tucked them away for later reading. If I had to guess, I would suspect this was a bad time of the month for her, as she sat sucking her thumb as she has done for over 40 years now.

We passed right by Daewoo on the Jersey Turnpike and I waved to you, before a bizarre ride trough Trenton, Bogota, Hackensack and all, trying to connect with Rt 4. I could have got us over to 17 easier, but my mother wanted to pursue vaguely understood illusions of fun, and it was my job to figure out how to implement these visions, to create reality out of her ill-defined and impossible desires. It's a job that I am used to.

How do we stay in the character of our choice wile being buffeted by a society that wants us to be normative, follow the costs? Society knows that it is easier to just go along than to keep fighting, and it wears us down, forcing us away from our visions and into its own mire, the mire that glues things together. This is why persistence is always seen as the highest attribute of those who break out of the mold as a success, though the line between persistence and stubborn, ignorant, unconnected pig-headed-ness is rarely discussed. It is not enough to just do it, it ts required to learn and grow, because one definition of insanity is to persistently make the same choice over and over again expecting different results.

I'll live without the jacket, no matter how much it haunts my dreams as both a fabulous piece of clothing and a symbol of the denial that I make to keep others happy and sanguine. I push the edges all the time, but there are lines I still find it hard to cross -- lines that seem to shatter boundaries and leave my life in shards that people can sweep under the carpet.

I never got over to Seybold, and am barely making my way back to be who I need to be in Toronto, for which I will have to get dressed and be confident about my appearance without a mirror, at least one that reflects my the beautiful soul I need to trust. If I had looked in a mirror yesterday, I wouldn't have seen myself, but a cartoon.

And that is the cost of context switching, that seems to take away the advances we have made. Two steps forward, one step back -- but often, it seems to be three steps back.


Broken Mirrors
Date: 03/20/98

Broken Mirrors
Callan Williams

Once upon a time
In a land far far away
a child was born.

The parents were delighted
Their dreams were fulfilled.
"A little baby of our own!
to do with what we want" they cried.
"People will see our baby
and know how wonderful we are.
Eyes like daddy, smile like mommy
A baby just like us
a baby we can be so proud of!"

They bent over the crib
and giggled and cooed
"Hello baby! Look at us
and see who you will be.
We are show you your future
We are your images.
We are your mirror!"

It was a beautiful baby,
growing strong and healthy.
But the parents were troubled.
"Our baby isn't just like us.
Our baby is willful
Our baby has a mind of its own.
Maybe this baby isn't really ours
Maybe the gypsies brought us the wrong child.
Maybe this baby thinks they are a swan.
Maybe the wolf has captured their soul.
What can we do?"

They went to their pastor
spoke of their fears.
"The answer is simple.
Babies can only know they are different
If they see themselves as different
in their reflection.
Break all the mirrors in your house
and your baby will only see themselves
though your eyes.
They will be what you expect them to be,
nothing less and nothing more."

Together with all the parents in the town
they broke all the mirrors that might reflect views
they didn't approve of.
They made sure all the people baby saw
reflected the proper, positive views.
For the good of the child, they
eliminated the possibility that the baby
might see themselves in a way
that would let them think they were different
and not like their parents.
They got rid of odd teachers,
Turned off the TV,
Never went where the other people lived.
And kept their child in safe spaces
where the mirrors only showed
what the parents expected.

As the child grew, though
they knew something was missing
"Who am I? Why do I feel different inside
than I look in all the mirrors?
No mirror shows me as how I feel.
Either all the mirrors are wrong
or how I feel is wrong."
Not knowing about all the broken mirrors
smashed to keep them quiet
hidden to keep them silent
destroyed to keep their images erased
the child assumed the truth of their heart was wrong
and the remaining mirrors were right.

One day, though, the child had a a glimpse
though a veiled curtain
of "Someone like me!"
a brief flash of someone like themselves
in a mirror
For that instant they saw
that their heart might be right
that the soul that they had learned to hate
for deceiving them
for leading them away
from the glow and affirmation
the proper mirrors gave
that soul might not be sick.

That possibility glowed
as the child watched others search for mirrors
in the eyes of teachers
in the eyes of lovers
in the eyes of parents.
They dreamed of that glimpse of a mirror
where they saw themselves
for a brief moment.
They tried to fit in
but longed for a place
where they were visible
where they were reflected back
in the mirrors around them.

One day, they finally went out to search
for a place where they saw themselves
and were seen by others,
mirroring each other.
They found places
communities where people
who were kind of like them
lived and played
and they were excited!
"Look! I can make myself into one of these people
who are kind of like me
and I will finally be seen!"

As they stared into the mirror
behind the bar
in the support group
around the neighborhood,
they began to see how they were the same
and how they were different
how everyone is different.
They started to experiment
with finding not just an image
but a unique personal vision
of who they were
as an individual.

When they did that though
the people around them
started to yell
"Hey don't do that!
You don't look like us anymore!
Our mirrors show us that we are all the same
show how proud we are
of people like us!
Mirrors that show us as different
like you
are flawed and broken
so we get rid of them.

And once again,
without a mirror
the child wandered to find a place
where a mirror existed
that could help them discover
who they were
how they were the same
how they were different
a mirror that could help them learn
how to show outside
what they felt intside.

To learn to speak who we are
takes a mirror that we can use
to see back what we create
to hear back what we say
so we can focus ourselves
into a clear and powerful way
where our outsides match our insides
and we don't just satisfy the expectations of others
but satisfy our own heart
by seeing it in the mirror
in the eyes of the people
around us.

I still look for those mirrors
a place where people see me
see my heart
and help me trust that
it's the mirrors that are sick and broken
and not my heart.
Too many mirrors are broken though
because they never learned
how to reflect what someone else is
only to show what they were taught to expect
the images they want to see.

But broken mirrors
don't change the world
they only
break hearts
which continue to beat
even when made invisible.

Blending In
Date: 03/21/98
To: Carol751

Today, you said that you wanted to look like perfectly groomed, elegant business woman (or "office worker") and that you wanted to blend in. One thing that I have always found interesting is that the better looking you are, the more well dressed and well turned out, the less you blend in. When you dress with style, class and elegance, people notice and, in that noticing, they also notice bits of you that may contrast or contradict. That's one reason why they tell women of size (fat gals like me) that we have to be perfectly turned out, because we will be noticed and examined in a way that more normative women are not.

The people who blend best are the people who are down-scale, the ones in mismatched polyester and sweat pants who appear to live in trailer parks. People don't notice these people for a number of reasons -- they don't stand out, they don't call attention to themselves with bearing and carriage, we don't want to look at them, and so on. When these people do get noticed, the contradictory bits seem to fit right in -- whiskers, too much makeup, bad teeth, a wig askew and so on. It's almost expected and accepted that down-scale, lower class people will look odd. Between the not being noticed and the acceptance of less than elegant behavior, clothes and appearance, going down-scale is the easiest way to blend.

The other way is to move to one end or the other of the age scale. Babies and very old people are gender neutral, and even 17 year olds and 70 year olds have an easier time passing because the sexual differentiation becomes less clear and the expectation is that more unique clothes are tolerated, on the young who are experimenting and on the old who are past the point of having to worry too much about what others think.

So when you set out to blend in, know that you will have a choice -- dress well and be noticed or dress poorly and blend in. It's a hard call, but in the end, for me transgender is more about claiming the messages of my heart than trying to get lost in the din of so much mediocrity again.


Use Me
Date: 03/20/98
To: TheCallan

Use me
let me do the work
you put me here to do

not getting bogged down in
the wet blanket of stigma
that society tried to
wrap my heart in

Let me find the purpose
you put in my heart
let me find the song
you taught me to sing
let me find the joy
you gave to me
let me find the brilliance
that is the part of you
that connects us all

Let me move past
following the rules of society
let me move past
breaking the rules of society
let me find the place
where I can follow the rules
that are your gift to me
the rules that tell me
that giving is receiving
that trusting in my gifts
and receiving gifts from others
is what makes
a full and happy life.

Use me
let me move beyond
my own fears
let me move beyond
the fears others hold for me
let me move beyond
the limits of my fear
let me become
the light of your life in the world.

Barriers are illusions
differences are only on the surface
at the heart we all are the same
each human, each beautiful
each unique, each the same.

Use me
let me do the work
you put me here to do
trusting in the gifts
and the connections that bind all of us
in your heart

The Three Levels Of Power And How To Use Them
Date: 03/21/98
To: Liz, Liz

Caroline Myss, The Three Levels Of Power And How To Use Them

Moving from the tribal/social to the individual to the symbolic is moving up the power scale, is learning to reclaim our own souls by putting them in context. When we see how our story in the archetypal, we learn how to take our own power.

For example, the martyr becomes resurrected as a symbol, and brings the immense power of the symbol to the world. Martyrdom is not about suffering, but about the rejoicing in being born again. [KB on TG Martyrs: "Didn't *everyone* want to be Jesus?"]

Making a choice is releasing your power to a target, giving your power to something / someone. Be conscious of the choices that you make, decide how you want to spend your precious energy//cell tissues. Become an owner of your power and invest it wisely, because power finances creativity -- creativity demands energy.

--Invest your power in your own personal sense of honor.

--Invest your power/energy in practicing forgiveness.

--Invest your power in faith, because life is a mystery. You will never solve your mysteries, so learn to believe in them.

--Invest your energy in positive attitudes. In vest it in an appreciation for your own life, for gratitude.

--Invest your energy in staying above petty things.

Learn to use your power wisely, and give gifts of prayer and power to each other.

It's not yet 100% true that we create our own reality. Our reality is influenced by reactions to stimuli that effect us, but we need to learn to create an internal reality that transcends those stimuli, rather than just editing external reality to physically remove those stimuli. The rational mind often selects choices that hurt us for many reasons that are our pain acting out, [often by acting out the tribal reality when other levels are needed.]

Tribal power always demands an initiation to show how and to prove that we will give some of our life force to the tribe, to allow them to manage our life. When your group life becomes unsettled, you have to take back power from the tribe and use it as individual power. By focusing on present time, seeing your individual viewpoint. you take back the power.

[this is the whole dependent/independent/interdependent, family/individuation/community model]

Sing Out Louise
Date: 03/23/98

825 words

Sing Out Louise!

"Sing, Sing A Song.
Make it simple, to last your whole life long.
Don't worry that it's not good enough
for anyone else to hear
just Sing, Sing a Song."
-- Joe Rapposo, "Sing" from Sesame Street

Humans are born with a voice, to sing out the contents of their head and heart to others. This is a precious gift. Helen Keller said that her greatest darkness came from her inability to speak, rather than her inability to see or hear. Many humans, in many ways feel powerless because they are silenced, because nobody hears or understands what they are saying. This is what leads to the demand that every voice be heard, that everyone have a seat at the table.

Is the best way for the smallest, most challenging voice to be heard for everyone at the table to be as quiet as the least powerful voice? Should we all choose to bring our voices down to the lowest common denominator, so that everyone can have an equal voice? If we do that, don't we demand our allies sacrifice the strength and the power of their own voices in the world, making the table as a whole less powerful?

In this society, free speech is the power. When people like Fred Phelps comes with his protests that "God Hates Fags!" we need to face those, and the framers of the Constitution were clear on how that was to be done. It was not to be done by society silencing the radical and deviant voice of Phelps, but rather by other voices speaking boldly and effectively about their points of view, so that Phelps voice became not a beacon, but one lone dissonant note in the chorus.

The challenge is not to make Phelps, or people like him, lose their voice, but rather to have the rest of us use our voices to win the point. This, however, can be a real challenge for people's whose identity is cast as losers, and who don't want to have to win, but would rather just have other people lose even more. It's so much easier to point out where they are wrong and where they should change, to try to silence them, than to stand up and take responsibility for effectively advocating our point of view that many of us choose not to fight to win and gain positive ends, but only to fight negatively, trying to get the other guy to lose. This, however, does not build strong cultures or strong movements.

To be effective, we must, as Ghandi said, be the change we wish to see in the world. That means that we have to stand up for what we believe, sing out our own note. Brian McNaught, who speaks about gay issues, notes that the harmony of the world depends on each of us singing out our notes bold and strong. "When God meets us in the after life, he will ask "Did you sing the song I taught you?" says McNaught, and that is the challenge that each of us face, bringing our own song into the world and not just trying to silence the songs of others.

It is very hard to find our own voices, especially when we live in places where the tribe asks that we silence ourselves to make life easier for others, so they don't have to work as hard. Everyone has a different voice, a different song to sing, a different role to play, and the success of any team is encouraging each member to do their part to the best of their abilities, to expect the best from each individual and together form a group of compassion and excellence.

True empowerment is to help people find their own voices, strong and powerful that they can use to sing out the truth of their heart, the questions of their mind, and the visions of the spirit into the world. By letting each individual use a strong voice in the areas where they have gifts, we bring together the power of our gifts to lift us all up, rather than losing power in the demand that voices that challenge us be silenced -- a demand all too often imposed on queer people.

The true power is not in silencing others, asking them to swallow their own voices, silence themselves, but in creating a space where all voices can be heard in their own way and with their own power, even if that seems a bit cacophonous at times. Speaking up does bring us into conflict, but it is that conflict that lets us grow, lets us learn to see the world in new ways and create new ways of being.

The challenge is for everyone of us to "Sing Out, Louise," to tell our own story with power, grace and passion. Then we can each help make the world a better place to live.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Stuff I didn't use, because this is only sorta about language.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The magical power of humans is seemingly so simple. We have a voice and a complex symbolic language that we can use to communicate the invisible to each other, communicate everything where the party will be, how we feel about something, or what our dreams could be like when we make them come true. We communicate on so many levels, using so many kinds of symbols, from words to gestures, from clothing to tone, from pictures to music, but all of them are designed to do one thing, to make what we see inside our head and heart visible in the world.

Language is hard because it is inherently imprecise. By assigning shared meanings to symbols from words to gestures to dress, we communicate ideas, but because none of us thinks in exactly the same way, has exactly the same experiences, or shares the same priorities, language will always be imprecise, the symbols invoking different images in the listener's mind than in the speakers. The more we work together, becoming clear on what others mean when they use symbols, the more we can communicate quickly and accurately.

As a transgendered person, for example, I know that language has been designed to cast things into binaries, dualities, and the truth that not everybody fits neatly into either-or situations makes it difficult to be clear about what I am saying. Often people don't wa

Creating Queer Space
Date: 03/23/98
To: McCracken@EmpireOne.Net

500 words

Creating Queer Space

What is queer space? It's a space where people feel safe to expose their own queerness, their own transgressions against the norms of the culture, without fear of being silenced or judged. It is a space where people are accepted as humans, whatever consensual behavior they choose to engage in.

Queer space is hard to find because so many people in this culture want to apply social pressure onto others to get them to conform to norms for many reasons. Some people pressure us for "our own good," thinking that if we are more normative we will be happier, some people because they are made uncomfortable ("squicked") by our choices, some people because they believe our choices reflect badly on group we are both assigned to, and some people because they just like telling other people what to do.

To participate fully in queer space means that we have to hold our judgments about behaviors, to accept the challenging and diverse views that people bring to the table. It demands that we both work to understand and defend the freedom to speak of people who we just simply don't agree with, who make choices we simply don't get. For example, in the pantheon of activities that give sexual pleasure to people, there are some we just can't fathom how they could be pleasurable, but in queer space we have to just take people at their word that they like what we find sort of nauseating. We have to bless their choices, not because we would make them ourselves or that we would approve of them, but because we want others to bless out choices, whatever they think of them.

There are challenges to building queer space. Decorum is crucial because it protects our freedom to speak, in the same way that traffic laws and grace on the roads protect our freedom of movement. Order is required to ensure freedom, but order cannot be stifling to creativity -- the continuous challenge of a free country. We also have to accept people at their word, trust that even if the facts of their presentation are not quite accurate, that it is the truth of their hearts they are trying to convey. While we many want to check out the facts before we invest in someone, in queer space, we need to be able to listen to their meanings.

The best part about queer space is that it is not limited to people who engage in any specific sexual practice or group, but rather is open to anyone who is open to others. Many people who have never engaged in homosexual acts want the freedom to be who they are, to stand up and tell the truth about themselves and be safe space for others to be open & honest in.

How much do you want queer space in your life, a place where you can be open and honest about the truth of your life? How important is it for you to have space to tell the truth that you know but that other people just seem to want to silence everytime you speak it? We know what we know, and to be able to share that knowledge, we need space to find words to spak that truth. This is one reason that many people who are just out immerse themselves in the queer community, often by traveling to one of the gay ghettos in big citites to explore their own choices in queer space.

Queer space is space where people can


Re: Meaning of transgender and all its forms
Date: 03/31/98

In a message dated 98-03-31 12:02:23 EST, writes:

I think it was on another list about a couple of weeks ago that there was a discussion of the origin of the word "transgender". I need to ask a question in respects to the meaning of the word transgender again.

I believe that originally the term was used to identifying one who was living in the role of the gender of choice and that it designated that one was living as a member of the other sex without wishing to have SRS. Those who were seeking SRS were transsexuals.

This definition of "Transgenderist" has been promoted by Virginia Prince. According to an SSS pamphlet, a transgenderist is someone who is living full time as a woman but "is comfortable with his genitals and does not want them changed." I presume that the word "his" is used to allow the person in question to be seen as a heterosexual man and participate in the SSS structure that denies entry to self disclosed transsexuals or homosexuals. The Prince has remained active in SSS, and that means by definition he must be a heterosexual man, because others are not accepted.

The Prince has been very clear that the origin of the term "transgender" is not from them, and finds it as "meaningless" as the words transvest or transsex.

The tern "transgender" did not become popular until the adaption of the term in the early 1990s when it became to mean an inclusion in queer culture as to specify inclusion such as, gay/lesbian/bi/trans with trans meaning transgendered.

I believe we saw that it was in reasonably wide use in the late 1980s, for example at Renaissance in Philadelphia.

The question that I have is the term transgender a philosophical identity rather than a classification identity? Just something I am pondering off the top of my head.

I think the issue of what kind of identities there are is an interesting one. What do you see the difference between a "philosophical identity" and a "classification identity"?

Is a classification identity one that is assigned to you by others based on their observation of you and a philosophical identity one based on how you see yourself?

To me, the notion of how much identity is relational is key. At the IFGE conference in Toronto over the weekend, for example, it was asked "If someone decides that their inner identity is of an eighty foot tall orange fire-breathing monster, should we be fighting for the law to demand everyone else see them as that?" Is being not man the same as being woman, or being not woman the same as being man?

The question of how much identities are claimed by us and how much they are seen by others observing us is a key question in the fight for legitimizing transgender. Are we really fighting for the notion that anyone can be what they claim they are, or is some sort of substantiation that allows others to actually see them as what they claim they are required?

In any case, I would be interested to know what you see the difference between classification and philosophical identities to be.


Re: Meaning of transgender and all its forms
Date: 03/31/98

In a message dated 98-03-31 21:38:02 EST, writes:

Thank you very much for the reply to my query. First off, I would like to make a comment about Virginia Princes reference to the meaning of transgenderism having as little meaning as transvest or transsex. Could this refusal to find any meaning in the word to be a rejection of the classification identity as I was referring to.

When Virginia Prince was trying to come up with a better term for transvestite, I believe we were still in the classification phase of sexology which was a carry over from biology's classification of the species.

Actually, The Prince's favoured word to replace transvestite was "femiphile" -- a nice normal male/man who loves things assigned to women. The Prince worked with many, including Dick Docter, to create classification identities that suited -- and excluded.

Transgenderist (or transgenderista, as I enjoy) comes from The Prince's struggle to rationalize personal behavior during a period where The Prince preached "healthy masculine expression, no feminizing" and practiced a hormone regime. It was personally important to have a category that was not the hated transsexual, maintained masculine privilege, but allowed estrogen enhanced boobies. BiGendered (or BigEndered) didn't quite cut the mustard, so transgenderista, with the moral high ground of not being really gender transgressive -- none of the mutilation of those fake females for The Prince, saving people from being carved up -- became the choice. Prince has continued to flaunt this moral high ground, even at a high personal cost.

It may not have been an accident that the predominant sexologist of the post-WWII period, Alfred Kinsey was a biologist. However, this classification of sexual behavior goes back to Kraft-Ebing and Albert Ellis, who saw those who cross-dressed as eonist. Which true to his humanistic approach to sexuality, naming cross-dressers eonist after the Chaoissey D'Eon was in many ways giving us a nobile role model. I digress.

Actually, Hirschfeld, who influenced Benjamin, is probably a better source for the medical identities.

Classification identity as far as i am concerned was an effort to use science as a way of controling sexuality as Foucault pointed out. Thus identify was created from outside the person and used as a mold to fit that person into. This mentality still exists in the psychiatric community in the DSM-IV for example. For me a philosophical identity is one that is created by the community and serves not only as an ideal of what a person should be, but also as a way of shared values and self-examination. In Marxist terms, the oppressed define who they are and not the oppressors.

I'm not much of a Marxist "shared oppression" girl. This assumes group/class models that are really not all that relevant to queers, who are quite individual in expression. Queer theory, and Foucault is but a starting place, is moving past the group models to individual expression, arguing simply that we cannot move past group oppression by continuing to see people as groups, and a focus on individual actions, behaviors and possibilities is a better view.

There is no simple group community of transgendered, no community in a classic sense, and no clear group discrimination against all transgendered people. It is not systemic, rather it is individual processes that are designed to support order and assimilation, which are not inherently bad things.

To me, it's trusting in the power of the individual that is the key to change, not big odd group models that always demand "classification identity" -- just like much of women's studies does.

We don't dismantle the house of the master with the masters tools, and when I hear the head of the IFGE talking about having two chairs, a transperson born female and a transperson born male, I get very uncomfortable. How do we end gender oppression based on separation by sex by doing more separations by sex?

I do love your " eighty foot tall orange fire- breathing monster" analogy. Do we indeed fight for the the right to be such a monster. If the essence of the monster is not doing harm to their selves or others, than yes, we must fight for their rights. The question is whether the monster is using the fire to harm others or if the harm is just a perceived one because society is afraid of the smoke. That really is something that needs to ne examined. Thank you very much for the insights, Callan.

The question for me at this point is if the monster is helping build their community, or just using monsterdom to get out of the obligations & responsibilities of a human. Too many people see transpeople as the ones who declare as all religions just to get the most holidays without taking on the obligations of the religions, trans as an escape from social responsibility.

I was amused at IFGE when Joanne Law, talking about TG and the police said that the difference between Canada and the US was that Canadians were free. To her, safety to walk the street, freedom from harassment and obnoxious behavior are freedom, but to me, those are artifacts of a more socially ordered system that reaches from the British colonial notions of Canadian history, where society is valued and the government is more paternal that directly democratic.

In the US, the freedom to bear arms and be an idiot is cherished. For a (facetious) example, in LA you are "free" to shoot people on the freeways, which is a freedom almost cherished by the NRA and other conservatives, but in Canada, the restriction of the freedom to own guns means more social order and therefore more freedom to travel.

These questions of order and individual freedom, how curtailing freedom is required to gain freedom is a key issue in the challenge of how we support transpeople in a freedom to claim whatever they want and how that works with the demand for social order and responsibility


(who learned liminality as a Canadian in the States, and then as a Canadian Studies major in the US. How odd!)

Re: relational identity
Date: 04/01/98

In a message dated 98-04-01 00:02:27 EST, writes:

I suggest that claims of identity will not, in fact, be granted unless there is some sort of apparent substantiation (speaking in the social sphere here, not in law). Thus, the person who says "I insist I be accepted as a woman/man" will find but little acceptance as such (likely none at all, in many venues) if the person appears to have no hallmarks of being a woman/man and does have hallmarks of being a man/woman. Then the question becomes, what is sufficient hallmarks of the desired gender in order to be accepted, what is sufficient lack of hallmarks of the undesired gender in order to be accepted? (Actually, that is two questions, and the answers are to the two are related in a complex manner and in a fashion that is not symmetric with respect to the two genders.)

I believe that a woman is someone who makes the choices of a woman and a man is someone who makes the choices of a man. We experience people by seeing the effects of their choices, using those results like X-rays to model who they are inside, to suss out the meaning behind the symbols/behaviors they choose.

Of course, this means that we are limited in understanding to that which we have models of. If we X-ray a box containing something we are not familiar with, we have trouble interpreting the results, and this is why transpeople, like all people who are non-normative, want more images that reflect ourselves in the world so that people can see us and not just surface us with simplistic models (really gay, really a man, whatever).

I know that when I am with someone who is skilled at seeing other than the visual -- maybe an NLP Auditory or Kinesthetic -- they have no trouble seeing my feminine heart. However, someone who is Visual can have trouble getting past the body cues that make it clear that I was born male. The focus for TG for so long has been changing visual cues, leading with the surface. Yet, it is the experience of someone that lasts, and that experience, especially in community, is based on a wider model than just visual image, and in fact visual image may be the least important bit over the course of a life, even though in a highly mobile culture based on suburbs and TV, visual image is held as the highest norm in many ways

In any case, when the cues are disssonant, people get confused, the message is noisy, until the noise is put into context, read from the model. If I say "I love you" while making a fist and extending my middle finger straight up, then you have to decide which of those messages are "real" or have a way to interpret that dissonance, those conflicting cues that makes sense, like reading irony into my message.

This is all very dependent on highly localized contexts: I am seen as a man by my colleagues and students, because they know me as such; when I shop for clothes in the women's department, with the same demeanor, deportment, clothes, etc., as on campus, I am likely to be seen as a woman; and in another environment (everything else the same), a stranger is most likely to see me as a man.

And this is a challenge in a society that depends on surfaces, because society is built on an expectation of consistent behavior. If we build hierarchies, enormous pyramids based on people who can transform in a heartbeat, the pyramids fall. The challenge of how to read variable behavior in a stable social context, how to allow enough instant transformation for personal freedom while demanding enough consistency and reliability for social order is the big issue.

In the same way that it is impossible to sew buttons on ice-cream, it is impossible to build a stable and healthy culture based solely on transformation, but a society that doesn't honor change and transformation will stagnate and die. We need both order and freedom, reliability and transformation, consistency and innovation.

No culture based solely on situational ethics and morals can survive, in the same way no culture based solely on rote & fundamentalist ethics and morals can survive. We need to find ways to demand accountability, responsibility and predictability while not limiting individual expression, freedom and innovation.

It's not an easy challenge. Maybe we just need better creation myths to base our life on. . .


Re: Meaning of transgender and all its forms
Date: 04/01/98

In a message dated 98-04-01 19:58:38 EST, writes:


Aside from the fact that I do find a great deal of utility in a Marxist analysis of gender, which by the way isn't nearly so conflating or simplistic as you seem to suggest, I am surprised by some of your claims here.

Nothing is as simplistic as anyone suggests in any one post. The roots of queer theory are very much in Marxist and Feminist theory, though the changes are coming.

First of all, I have not read much Queer theory that proposes such a strict counterposing of the individual to the group. It is simply too difficult to construct any kind of analysis that ignores the relationship between social relations, cultural hegemony, and individual expression/identity.

Yup, everything is linked. But why assume that the drive for any culture to become self sustaining, to carry on the normative beliefs and transitions is hegemony?

You are right in so far as you say there "is no simple group community." It is quite complex. But "no community in a classic sense?" What does this mean? As an historian working with a synthetic analytical model (basically merging the best of Marxist and semiotic analyses), I work from the assumption that all notions of categorizing, identification, organization, are historically-constituted and mutable. "Community" is one of those terms that means a lot and can say nothing.

I have discussed my beliefs on community extensively on this list, including the issues around shared goals. The classic model of community is people aligned around common interests, usually very tangible, like potholes in the street or schools.

will get you to the archives Search on community or heterosexism.

I have to disagree with the claim that there is no clear discrimination against all transgendered people. It's a very problematic formulation to begin with. I would re-phrase it and respond with the claim that: there is a clear system of oppression and disciplining exercised by the dominant culture against persons who express non-conforming genders, gender identities, and sexualities.

The issue is systemic discrimination against transgendered versus social pressure to meet gender norms. Is there systemic discrimination against the poor, or is the issue that the problem is that lower classes have trouble becoming effective enough in culture because they cannot be effectively assimilated?

The pressure for normativity in a culture, a culture having norms that provide a base for effective growth and connection, is a given. Even so called revolutionary cultures that honor Marxism, including Russia, China and local movements like feminism have a structure that provides for assimilation and shared norms that provide a foundation for the culture, often enforced in very strict ways.

What are the benefits of heterosexism? What role does gender play in making the culture effective, and what benefits does it give to participants in the system? If it delivers no benefits, why do people so willingly gender themselves? I was just talking about this with James Green of FTM International over the weekend, and he was noting that the "oppression of gender" model ignores the benefits people and culture gets. He intends to present on this in the fall at Oxford.

I have also written about this on this list and on queer studies list

You can search on title or by me as author.

That, it seems to me, is the basic contour of Queer oppression. We are made into a community (a shared sense of identity at levels that are both abstract and real) because we face a common system of oppression. To put it rather bluntly, no Queer basher is going to stop and ask if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-something, or whether you are straight-identified. If you even "look" Queer, you are going to get bashed.

Agreed, but how do queer-bashers form a community? Is the entire shared goal of our community to stop queer-bashers? In any case, queer-bashing is an individual event, officially unacceptable in this culture, and not a systemic oppression There is no clear community of queer-bashers, and in fact, most queer bashers appear to be people who are fighting their own queer urges and to that end want to silence/erase symbols that make them feel their own queerness. In that model, queer bashers are us, in the same way that trannyfuckers are us, just people who express their nature in ways that are not as pretty and can be destructive.

I reiterate: there is no clear systemic oppression against trannies, even though there is individual bashers and pressure to be normative.

How does the Queer basher know how to identify targets? The Queer basher draws from a stock of systematically produced/reproduced cultural stereotypes. One may object that the Queer basher analogy is perhaps an extreme example. Perhaps. But the analogy follows the same dynamics that inform other forms of discrimination, prejudice, and oppression whether these are exercised on the job, in school, or any other place.

I disagree. They, as Bobcat Goldthwait so charmingly dramatized, tend to bash people who set off their own gaydar.

We are a community also in the sense that we create our own spaces. Clubs, bars, support groups, political organizations, email lists, web-sites. We define the outer parameters of who can share these spaces with us. And this is inevitably one aspect of identity-formation and individual expression. In fact, these spaces create more possibilities for individual expression. But it is unavoidably a social and a group process.

I agree. There are communities out there -- the Ingersoll community, the IFGE community, the trans-theory community and so on -- but the notion of an overarching gender community is untenable. Especially if you define that community as anyone who might possibly be bashed by a queer basher.

But it is not a process that simply imposes identity on individuals. It also works in the other direction, so that the common sense of identity is created in the course of individuals working out their unique modes of expression and identity.

The common sense of identity is exactly what is lacking. We don't have shared goals and shared connections.

Okay. Enough for now.

in peace and solidarity


"Keep your feet on the ground and your eyes on the stars."

Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars. Casey Kasem, American Top Forty

I'm sorry this is so short and terse, but the issues are big and can fill a book -- or at least megabytes on a disk that I need to make into a book. . . .


Re: Meaning of transgender and all its forms
Date: 04/04/98

In a message dated 98-04-03 23:52:13 EST, writes:

Yup, everything is linked. But why assume that the drive for any culture to become self sustaining, to carry on the normative beliefs and transitions is hegemony?

First, hegemony is the unavoidable consequence of any culture that seeks to sustain itself. Culture meaning values, beliefs, practices, and the like. From the sacred to the profane. But very few societies are home to one homogeneous culture. When two or more cultures in one society acquire notions or practices that conflict with those of the other in important and contradictory ways, there is usually some kind of struggle for one set of notions/practices to dominate over the other.

Several expressions of hegemonic relations come to mind. In Canada: the Anglo culture exercises hegemony over non-Anglo culture; the ideology of democracy exercises hegemony over totalitarian notions; bourgeois ideology exercises hegemony over working class ideologies; and so on. Hegemony itself is not a bad thing, and it seems -- to me -- to be a necessary element of cultural reproduction.

I get the point, but hegemony is such an emotionally loaded word, full of connotations of negative behavior, that to use it in a positive way seems difficult. If we want to define hegemony as not negative, just neutral and natural, where do we draw the line when hegemony turns negative?

From a post of mine on the queer studies list:

Where does behavior turn
from distinctive to deviant?
from atypical to abnormal?
from marking to separating?
from normative to transgressive?

Where does socializing turn
from persuasion to pressure?
from influence to intimidation?
from feedback to force?
from criticism to coercion?
from differentiation to discrimination?
from taming to bullying?

But subaltern cultures also exist. And the perpetual problem for the hegemonic culture is how to exercise control over subalterns. This is rarely achieved by outright repression. Normally it happens through reform to the hegemonic culture, through co-option of the subaltern culture, and/or outright tolerance (the practice of modus vivendi).

So how do subcultures exist inside of the norm, and how are those sub-cultures and the norm interacting, either changing the sub or the master? I find Daniel Harris' book "The Rise And Fall Of Gay Culture" very hot on this, noting that classic gay culture was a result of the underground and isolated nature that was required, but in order for gay culture to move mainstream, both mainstream culture had to change and gay culture had to change, losing the characteristics that defined it by oppression.

The issue is systemic discrimination against transgendered versus social pressure to meet gender norms. Is there systemic discrimination against the poor, or is the issue that the problem is that lower classes have trouble becoming effective enough in culture because they cannot be effectively assimilated?

Please note the formulation I used. I purposely left out any reference to "systematic discrimination." Instead I spoke of systematic "oppression and disciplining." There are moments acts of discrimination form a part of the system of oppression and discipline. Sometimes the relationship is quite formal and even brutal (like segregation laws in the American south). Sometimes the discrimination is simply tolerated, and the relationship then becomes casual/environmental. Sometimes it isn't even necessary (those historical moments when the subalterns "know their place").

Now as for the poor. It seems to be that your line of argument can only be supported by two assumptions. The poor are unassimilable for genetic reasons, or the poor are unassimilable for cultural reasons. I doubt if you would care to defend the first assumption. The second assumption is more palatable, but it is no more sound, mainly because turns into a proof for the cultural hegemony position.

Acts of discrimination against the poor happen as a corollary of poverty, which is itself the main expression of oppression and disciplining.

It seems clear to me that we have an underclass of poor people who are, for whatever reason, unable to assimilate in culture, probably because we don't choose to make the effort to integrate them, and assimilation would cost the identity of these people. As many American Blacks have been noting recently, the issues classified racism are mostly class issues -- in fact, the gap between rich blacks and poor blacks is more profound than the gap between rich and poor whites. Last year, most people in America wanted to be a black person from Chicago -- men, Michael Jordan, women, Oprah Winfrey.

For some reason, due to social pressures both from the environment poor kids live in and the government which does not seek to change those pressures, only to punish them -- for example with draconian drug laws -- the underclass persists.

It is and always has been possible to get out of poverty in America, but the system is not set up to make the demands on individuals that they learn to assimilate into the normative culture, nor to make the demands on the system that it accept people who refuse to assimilate.

The issue if why the underclass is not assimilated into the system, able to earn rewards and gain freedom, is a key issue. Is it a refusal to surrender identity or a refusal of the system to accept social norms and morals that are not focused on success -- or at least on effective consumption?

What are the benefits of heterosexism? What role does gender play in making the culture effective, and what benefits does it give to participants in the system? If it delivers no benefits, why do people so willingly gender themselves? I was just talking about this with James Green of FTM International over the weekend, and he was noting that the "oppression of gender" model ignores the benefits people and culture gets. He intends to present on this in the fall at Oxford.

The first question to ask is really about whether we can identify systematic oppression and link these with acts of discrimination against Queers. So what do we call anti-sodomy laws, or court rulings that deny legal protection to Queers? Sumpturary laws that require a person to wear a minimum of three articles of clothing appropriate to their "birth" gender? The psychopathologization of Queers?

Clearly, there was systemic oppression of sexual/gender deviance, and a pressure to drive all people into heterosexist model relationships designed to promote breeding. This was good social policy when we had a big country to fill up, a market to create, by the release of population pressure means the release of heterosexism, as Gilbert Herdt has pointed out cross-culturally.

I am inclined to see these types of things, codified and enforced legislation as "systematic" forms of oppression and discipline. This system of discipline and oppression encourages and tolerates individual acts of discrimination against Queers.

Today, the primary justification is not legal, but moral. In the same way some Christians take the power to judge doctors who perform abortions and kill them, they also feel empowered to put pressure on queers to be normative. I find it heartening, though, that the legal support for this is leaving and changes are coming, though outraged moralists who see themselves on a mission from God to clean up the world will always be a problem -- especially if they are fighting their own internalized homophobia about their own desires.

In short, the legal pressure to enforce heterosexism is going away, but it sure isn't gone.

The benefits to heterosexist society are not just a matter of cost/benefit. Cultural practices and values need reification and a belief in their sanctity and security. We can argue how heterosexism came to be hegemonic historically. But it seems hard to argue that it is. What society inherits from its past many not always make sense in a contemporary world, but society has a strong urge to hang on -- just because its a "part of the culture".

Right. Michels Iron Law Of Oligarchy: Soon after an organization begins, it's primary goal is self-sustenance.

The question for me, though, is how we replace the functions, like desire codes, control of unauthorized reproduction, and family models to raise children that came from heterosexism. What is post-gender gender, what models can we propose as queers that allow social order and a way to raise healthy children/propagate the culture, while still embracing diversity? It's easy to figure out where the system is wrong, it's hard to figure out how to make it right.

By the way, I do happen to belief that there is a collateral benefit for capitalist society in the practise of hetereosexist oppression. Simply put, it's a convenient weapon to divide working people, and exercise discipline in the work-place. It worked out that way, but it wasn't planned.

Divisions are always powerful, and they are the core of shamanic issues, for shamans walk though those socially constructed walls others think are solid. Yes, every individual uses these social divisions to rationalize why the golden rule doesn't apply in this case: "Well, I am different because. . . , so I deserve special/different treatment," or "They are different because. . . , so they deserve different/special treatment."

I don't think that is a factor in capitalism, but in all human cultures where a strong moral code does not rigidly enforce the golden rule, treat others as you would wish to be treated.

Agreed, but how do queer-bashers form a community?

No, but they do belong to a wider heterosexist culture. Their activities, as acts of discrimination (and violence) are contextualized. They arise more frequently in an atmosphere oppression and intolerance.

I agree that cultural modes, modes that teach queers to want to hate and destroy themselves and people like them, and modes that give moral ground to the silencing of deviants are a problem, even if change is occurring.

But your answer begs the question: Are communities formed on the classification identities imposed by queer bashers/homophobes or on the philosophical identities where people choose to come together to work for common issues?

Have a lovely day!


Re: Meaning of transgender and all its forms
Date: 04/05/98

In a message dated 98-04-05 22:01:48 EDT, writes:

It seems to me that the negative dimension of hegemony co-exists with its positive dimension, although the balance between the two constantly shifts as the balance (tensions/struggles/tolerances) between the dominant and subaltern cultures shift.

It is moreover, a perspectival judgement.

From the point of view of the dominant culture, hegemony is generally a positive thing.

Exceptions to this occur when it appears that attempts to repress a subaltern culture (say Queers) may threaten to undermine other elements of the dominant culture (let us say, a commitment to constitutional rights).

It's often at such a nexus that struggles begin within the dominant culture, initiating a process of transformation in its values and practises.

We can turn the perspective around the other way, too, and say that for the subalterns, hegemony is generally a negative thing. It can be tolerated to the point where hegemony threatens to negate the subaltern culture, at which point the chances are good that some form of rebellion will begin.

We can even argue that for the "subaltern" hegemony is useful because it forms a defining force that keeps the subaltern together. When and if Quebec ever separates, what will give them the same kind of unifying force as their shared hatred for Ottawa?

The resolution, or the struggle to resolve, the tensions with hegemonic cultural relations has a lot to do with how dominant and subaltern cultures regard and construe the characterization of behaviour and socialization practises. These shifts are historically configured and determined by the consciousness and intentions of the various actors.

See, as a drama queen, I would tend to say that the results are more performative than conscious. In the long run, it's performances that count, not just clear thought, because there are always many ways to solutions that will work, and the cycles work in big arcs, not on any simple scale.

I would also highly recommend George Chauncey's "Gay New York" which I found to be a highly textured and sophisticated analysis of identity and community in the Gay culture of New York in the first half of the twentieth century.

I too love Chauncey's book, but the challenge of the creation of Gay identity is noting compared to the challenge of creating a new mode in the mainstream culture.

Well, it may be so that individuals are able to escape poverty. However, poverty and exploitation are also every bit a product of capitalist economic and social relations. The nature of productive relations is such that there must always be a "reserve army of unemployed" and poor persons, and relations of exploitation within the workplace.

My favourite quote about capitalism is "Capitalism is not an economic system, it's what people do when left to their own devices." The free market has always been at the core of human civilization, and fetters to that market are often the problem and not the solution. The market out of balance is a nasty force, to be sure, but I have never seen anything more effective than the market as a base economic system

The problem for capitalism is how to manage the working class, the poor, and the unemployed. This is perhaps the fundamental role that capitalist hegemony plays, and in the developed industrial nations, the dominant class has learned to become quite sophisticated in manipulating and coopting its subaltern classes.

You speak of this like it is some conscious plan, some secret conspiracy of the aristocracy to make things work in one way. I somehow just don't believe in the reading of some great management of the working classes, of some unified front of "them" to manage "us."

I used to, of course, but then I saw the business people up close and found out they were just messy humans trying to do their best in making hard decisions. One turning point for me was when I was rooming with a world class bobsledder, and I saw the commentators on ABC's Wide World Of Sports talking about why one driver had been pulled from the lineup. It all appeared so logical and well thought though, so planned and considered, but I knew he was yanked because he was screwing the coaches wife.

President, Billionaire or Welfare Mom -- we are all just humans.

The system itself produces multiple cultures. It isn't and cannot be a single culture. It can only be dominated by a particular culture. The subaltern classes can and are assimilated into the system, and to a point they can co-exist with the hegemonic classes/cultures and even share certain values and practises. But important distinctions continue to divide and separate them as well.

So how do you feel about the Canadian Mosaic theory of cultural assimilation as opposed to the US Melting Pot?

It is my impression that the dominant heterosexist culture is still in place as a system of oppression and disciplining, but that it is increasingly divided between those who make their categories of sexual/gender norms a "line in the sand," and those who now worry that continued oppression and disciplining will undermine more important practises and values in the dominant culture.

In other words, there is now a tangible process of cultural transformation taking place in countries like Canada and the USA. That it is still far from incomplete and a mixed bag is confirmed by the struggles within the Queer community over ENDA, by the scattered geographic nature of rights protections for trans-folk, and by the recent Canadian Supreme Court ruling on the Vriend case (among other examples).

I guess I agree, Some people see gender deviance as being the marks on the road to Sodom & Gomorra, while others see the stigmatizing, separating and scape-goating of individuals who are deviant but not directly destructive as the problem. Amen! The big swings just play out in human performance.

<laughing yes, indeed! That is where the real hard work begins. All I can say on this score is that is something that can only be worked out in real life practise itself. But I suppose that is the purpose of clearing away social that we can begin to actually experiment with alternative models/practices.

Ah, back to the community question. Well, for now, I will leave you with this suggestion, that the trans-community is one in the process of formation. That in various places temporally and mentally, it taking shape, and that it is possible to perceive the outlines and to guess at what the outcome might be.

The question of if we ever have a viable trans community, or gay community for that matter, is very much an open one. The numbers are just very small, and without shared oppression, community formation is very hard, as Blacks are discovering now that racism is not the issue, but rather class is, and class is dividing black solidarity in new ways that many find disquieting. I will leave you with the notion that what is really happening is that some people, regardless of sex and gender behaviors, are coming together around human rights and dignity of the individual, and that there will never be a trans-community, but rather a queer one where freedom is more broadly accepted. In short, identities and communities will be based around shared ideas and agendas, not just classification identities.

It's a thought.


So I spent the weekend in Toronto
Date: 04/01/98
To: Liz, Liz

So I spent the weekend in Toronto, at International Foundation For Gender Education (IFGE) 1998 conference, "Crossing Borders." I have avoided both Southern Comfort and IFGE for the last two years, because I find them depressing. I was planning to stop by there on Thursday and then drive south to an academic conference called "TransPositions" at Cornell for the weekend. I love that academic crap, but I also love Toronto and wanted to see my friends.

Last week, however, The Big Bitch, Mr. Sabrina Marcus (as it said on the hotel registration form) calls and says that the entertainment has bailed for the big Virginia Prince awards that we co hosted in 94 and 95. I was promised a room and meals, and it was a nice thing to do, so I took it as a message from Goddess and showed up.

I mailed all this crap to Bree, who has trouble engaging it. I drove up and picked her up from the train, where she had changed in the bathroom and opened her bottle of Canadian Club and had a little party with some drifters. It was Bree at her classic best, being Bree -- which is all she can do. Bree told stories about her latest exploits with transman Tony Barreto-Neto, head of Transgendered Officers Protect & Serve (TOPS) and chair of GenderPac, working with Rikki Ann Wilchins. A sheriff's officer from Tampa (Hillsborough County), who is living with a lesbian woman since before transition and has slept with many transwomen, like Nancy Nangeroni, new director of IFGE, he and Bree had a fling. Sabrina talked of their big date in Orlando, a lovely day, right up to the parking lot where Tony popped Bree's dick out and it was over. "He really made me feel like a woman," said Sabrina, but my question was simple: Did Bree make Tony feel like a man?

This is the transgender question, one that Tony and I talked about when he left the IFGE board meeting and complained about all the guys in dresses. "I look at them, and they want to be protected as women or whatever they say they are, but I don't experience them that way." I got it, and spoke to Tony, helping him process his feelings about this. If we claim to be an 80 foot tall orange fire breathing monster, do we have the right to demand people treat us that way, that they see us that way?

Bree thought I missed the point. "It's like Amistad. He knew he was free. It was other people who had problems seeing it. You know what you are in your heart, and that's enough." Tony shot me a look, saying, "Well Callan, how do I deal with this?" For me the point was simple: Tony was experiencing me as one of the lesbian women he has been with over the years, even in the days when s/he was a bar-owner in New Orleans. Audre Lord said "Men keep women like spiders keep aphids, to process their emotions," the aphids turning plants into meat for spider consumption. I was there and was different, and it was powerful.

I had originally planned to room with Holly, but that was a mess. I spent Wednesday doing the Toronto thing -- grandparents grave, falafel place we like, where I last ate just before her funeral, all that. I got Bree in and went back to the hotel. I checked out of my hotel Thursday morning, big smiles from the woman who checked me in until she saw the record, where she registered me the day before in my other clothes, and the quizzical look started. I smiled and she looked odd, and I left. It was a slow ride into town during rush hour, but I had my Marianne Williamson tape, and just before 9AM, I pulled into the hotel garage. The last thing I heard before the tape ended was "life only begins when we stop trying all together."

It was a long day. Holly's plane was late, but worse, there was no room registered. This meant I had to kill time, me who knows fight or flight so well. I wanted to run, take a shower, get out of my long slim black skirt, black top and rust cardigan, all in that gel knit. But I couldn't. I had to face it, like I walked across town and walked into the salon in the headquarters of MAC cosmetics. It was a treat -- sleek and fun, bright women, and lots of makeup. They knew what to do -- trannys are no big surprise at the company with RuPaul as a spokesperson. I bought some great foundation, some shadow, and had a lot of fun. Walking though Toronto felt safe and familiar, but it should -- it was the only city I was in every year of my childhood, from 1-30, and I am the only one in my family who didn't surrender Canadian citizenship. Of course, that's the issue with TG -- I always feel better when I like how I am dressed, so I have learned to let the fear keep my nature in check, but that fear never quite hit.

I went over to the Thai restaurant just down from where I ate, in my boy clothes, with Bree the night before, her in shabby polyester and bad fur. I kept my head down, and when the 40 something Thai woman started talking I read, but she kept at it, and we had a conversation, a real conversation, about Canada and NY and Thailand. She wanted to learn and she was comfortable with me and we talked girltalk, and it was good. While we never mentioned my gender, I know that In Thailand, they call transwomen "katoey" and they are accepted as normal. Being accepted as normal, as simple as that sounds, was a real gift.

The room issue raised up when I got back to the hotel. I got assigned into Daphne Prideaux's room -- a big slow never-married railroad dispatcher from Amtrak in his late 30s who had been in Toronto since the Friday before doing rail-fan stuff with his gay friend. The next morning was hell. I figured to let Daphne out first, but it took well over three hours for her to get dressed, talking and delighting in my company -- like any woman, I know how to keep a conversation going and let a man talk about himself. He loved it. I hated it. I told Terry that the roommate filled up the room with words, and Terry just smirked at me, the message clear: "Heck, you do that, so learn from it."

I had listened to a book on neuro linguistic programming (NLP) on the way up, which had been reinforced by an interview on a local Toronto breakfast show. NLP says that we primarily see the world in one of three ways -- visual (60%) auditory (20%) or feeling/kinesthetic (20%). My auditory lead was jammed by all this incessant chatter from someone who had never learned to be in close relationship, and I was angry.

What almost calmed me down was bringing a young TS gal back to the room for makeup. A bright and sweet gal who was raised on a farm near Kingston, learned to be a library technician, has been 24/7 since January and has a new boyfriend, I got to be the mommy, which, given my identity as femmedyke drag mom theory queen, is a real treat. Chrystine was with Joanne Law from Ontario, who was treating her more like a father -- a typical situation. I had to chase the roommate, who was filling up the room with words, but when Chrys saw herself in the mirror after being afraid of being too painted, the smile was worth it.

The head of the Ontario Human Rights commission spoke at lunch, a very nice and normative gay man who has been in politics, including Minster For Education and such for almost 10 years. It was amazing to see someone in government talk so well about transgender and the issues around queer human rights, very compelling and another message about why Toronto is someplace I should consider.

I enjoyed the "Washed Up Blondes" who performed on Friday night, three women born female who perform a very tight act of 60's music in tight harmony and patter about being single girls on the go. What I loved were the dyke jokes, but I was very aware that few in the audience of 150 got them at all -- they just weren't on the radar. My whole identity was invisible to these men in dresses for so many reasons -- men who weren't trained to read women's symbols, men who were afraid of their femininity, many who were self centered around their expression, men who hid part of themselves in the closet and lost socialization, men who use denial, dissociation & dissembling so as not to see evidence of their own queer transgendered nature. They erased me in the process -- not fun.

I didn't sleep well -- I don't at these intense things --but I was up at 6:30 to jump the roommate. I was in face and getting ready when the alarm went off at 7PM, and the roommate was peeved I only spent an hour. By happenstance, I met Penny Ashe in the line for breakfast, a new hitter who is taking a bigger role in the community. I spoke of models and truths and assimilation, of telling stories, and she was moved. She was ready to hear me, and she did -- better than when I had to go past the group of girl-scouts and their mothers as I left the restaurant.

I walked, though, safe and cool though a glorious weekend with temperatures in the 70s, with no problem. I went to the other MAC store on Bloor street to buy blush, and had a lovely chat with a young lady who had magenta hair, a pierced nose and a tongue stud. I took the subway back and leaving the station a young gal asked if I was going to the convention. We chatted.

I tried to work with the Big Bitch, but that was hard -- Bree was very much unable to assume new roles, and with a performative model of gender, this is an issue that is a stopper. Lots of energy, but lots of unwillingness to engage life -- what else is a crossdresser for?

Holly asked me to present her Trinity award to her at lunch. It was a joy, and after, a few people came up and asked if I wrote her acceptance speech -- it sounded like me. I was touched, even more so because while I had read a draft to Holly the week before, she did write it herself, indication that my words over the years are getting though.

The afternoon was slogging. Bree liked the "Broken Mirrors" piece so I worked it into a two part piece, and she asked me to read the performer, which I did until just before we went on, when she decided rather than working to be able to read the language of the narrator, she'd rather do the piece she had heard me read so many times -- and do it badly. I had this bit in the opening where I played a TS who has transitioned and resisted going on stage and Bree played a big shallow TV, a great piece about the gaping chasm in the gender community, but Bree didn't want to be an asshole, so -- well, it had lots of energy. Suffice it to say that I looked great and the energy was high, at least at first, but having to put in six mediocre to bad lip-sync acts killed the show.

I ran upstairs, showered, put on by clothes, packed and loaded the car. At this point, I was really thinking of driving the six hours to Cornell, but I stopped at the bar, and saw Lola Cola in bar. We danced and she was thrilled, a party girl CD from Atlanta who is now TS, and creating waves in her little community because she challenges Sabrina and Terry. Terry was also sweet in the bar, not clear until the next morning that she doesn't actually do that introspective crap -- no self examination for him! It means we have a hard time connecting.

Sunday was in boy clothes, a painful experience but better than having to deal with pulling out ID in girl clothes. I went up to brunch and sat with James Green, who had received the Virginia Prince award the night before and had been gracious with my shtick on stage with him. James is a transman, born female and raised as woman, and a leader of the FTM community, being handed the mantle of leadership by Lou Sullivan just before he passed of AIDS. James and I had a good conversation, but the delight for me was that he was experiencing me as a woman, even though I was in boy clothes. It seemed clear to me that I reminded him, as I did Tony, of those femme dykes they grew up with, and that was good. I suspect the reason he responded was the way I responded to him, the nuances of "James, you know all this, though!" and his reply of "Yes, but I love hearing you say it," was great.

Then, unfortunately, Nancy Nangeroni sat down and started taking about her plans to have a transperson born female and a transperson born male lead a committee. I thought this was a knee-jerk stupid move -- how do we transcend barriers based on sex by creating more of them? Birds of a feather groups are fine, but in the big overarching groups, we have to model the way that we want the world to be, and anytime we put in gender separations, we speak for gender separations. Nancy lashed out at me --'Stop your brain and shut up!" I shut down.

I went for a walk, up to do an exchange at MAC, still affirming -- "this will really bring out your eyes" -- and down though Chinatown and Kensington Market, full on a warm Sunday afternoon. Around 2:30 I met Holly Boswell from Atlanta in the lobby, and drove her out to where my grandmother lived, even walked in the park at the end of the street. My grandmother was very much with me -- I had even tranfered my wallet to my front pocket to twart pickpockets, just like she told me, a thing I don't do in any other city in the world. I took Holly to the deli where I bought Montreal smoked meat (viande fume) to bring back to the hotel for my grandmothers funeral, then dropped her at the airport where she headed to Oberlin, a 1972 grad back to do trans-awareness week with Leslie Feinberg.

I drove to Kingston, a beautiful drive, some of it along the lake, and checked into the other hotel where Chris & I had stayed -- I was in one on the way up. There was a CBS movie with Katey Segal and John Ritter about a woman who thinks she is too big to be loved. The lines echoed, the self-image issues that I have. I know I am good, but the voices around me tell me that isn't enough, that I can't trust exposing myself.

I got my car fixed at Canadian Tire, maintenance of the tie rods and front axles. I walked downtown in Kingston and went into Indigo, one of a chain of three bookstores in Toronto & Burlington. It was lovely, quiet and reverent, big and elegant, and their motto moved me: "The world needs more Canada." Maybe, just maybe, the world needs more me too, writings to be in a place this beautiful.

I even saw a copy of Dick Docter's "Transvestites and Transsexuals" in a used bookstore for CDN $6 -- odd because the book wasn't published in big numbers, but Queens University helps. Docter was at the conference, explaining it's all about male sex issues, a pal of The Prince -- maybe someday my book will be there.

I drove home, stopping in Utica. My Cleo Lane tape stopped just as I drove past old Riverside Mall, and on the radio was The Beatles -- "and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make." Message, eh? I went and found a fabulous $50 wig in Utica -- new hair, new makeup and new shave solution waiting in my mailbox at home, all I needed was a $1 clearance at Label Shopper for clothes, and there it was!

My mother called the next day at 9AM, and asked me how the trip was. I started to tell her, but I obviously had the wrong answers -- feeling safe and affirmed was not what she wanted to hear. Dammnit, if you don't want to hear the answer don't ask the question -- don't make me lie for you!

The World Needs More Canada
Date: 04/04/98
To: tgc-l@YorkU.CA
CC: (Rachel,

So, Goddess called. I had been intending to go to a theoretical, academic conference about transgender at Cornell, but a voice from the past called, asking for help, and I was off to IFGE Crossing Borders 98 in Toronto.

Toronto has always felt like home to me. My family left in 1959 when Diefenbaker canceled the Avro Arrow project, but while we wandered the northeast like technomads, going with the will of the aerospace industry, at least a few times every year we packed up the car and drove to my grandmother's house in Toronto. That little brick home where my mother's parents lived was a touchstone of my life, all the little histories, like learning how to ride the TTC by myself, how to eat Shreddies and seeing the lit Dufferin Gates of the Canadian National Exhibition as the end of summer every year, were part of the fabric of my life.

In college, I spent a semester in a Canadian Studies program at McGill in Montreal, run though the auspices of SUNY Plattsburgh. In one discussion, a woman looked at me and said "You're Canadian, aren't you?" I asked her how she knew, and she said "Whenever you talk about the US or Canada, you talk about "them", never about us."

I suppose that being a Canadian living in the US was one of my first experiences of liminality, of being betwixt and between, being welcome in both worlds and in neither. Unlike the rest of my family, I never renounced my Canadian citizenship, always feeling that somehow my birthright had been lost in the shuffle. If I had lived in Toronto, I would have been around that comedy that Toronto made famous, the humor that revolved around the liminality of just being Canadian, of not quite being invited to the big party next door, but having a good view of it, in the community of a small cold country with a great view of a big hot one.

Though the years, the "always them, never us" sense that I had, the sense of being both observer and participant became very clear around my transgender. Transgender let me both live in the world of men and women, but to always, on some level, be a stranger in both of those worlds.

My trip to Canada was full of shifts -- I drove up though the frosty Adirondacks, past the old mill building in Utica where I worked marketing cutting-edge software, though the snow covered rural towns that recalled my college days, past the trees destroyed by this year's ice-storm, and then on to Kingston, to stay in a cheap motel that I last stayed in with a partner who has moved on.

Canada surprised all of us though, this weekend. The frost melted away, and temperatures in the 70s and 80s gave a breath of summer. Having not been back since the funeral of my grandmother, I paid the obligatory stops: the place she lived, the shopping areas I remembered, the falafel place I ate before giving her eulogy -- I have always had the ceremonial role in the family.

IFGE was familiar to me -- old friends, old caring, old arguments. The convention was nice and appropriate, the traditional mix of old hands, weekend crossdressers and young transpeople, all finding their own space for a few days. Seminars, vendors, luncheons, and parties, all people playing out their own needs in a safe space. From the people who spend five hours getting dressed to the ones who want to tell their stories, IFGE in all its forms.

Toronto was a revelation. I was walking those streets of my youth finally expressing the transgender nature, the nature I was sure would get me hurt, abused and rejected, and discovering that it really didn't make much difference. I didn't get read out, get the stares that the streets of Boston gave me, and as I sat in the park, out in full summer sunshine, just feeling the freedom and warmth of being out of my closet, the closet I had carried with me on these streets for so long.

My core belief was always simple. It was part of the gift of failure that was passed down from my mother, and from her mother before her, a woman born in this city in 1895, when Toronto The Good was a straight-laced and tightly moraled outpost of Victorian England. Life is hard, and only by being tough and expecting the worst from others can we learn to live in it. You may be wonderful and lovable, but don't expect others to see that, for failure is inevitable. Ramrod stiff or feeling sorry for yourself, it didn't matter -- if you expected the worst, that is what you saw yourself as getting. I believed this message, believed that exposing myself, having hope that love would be a reward was a fools game, and that the only thing worth believing in was failure.

Sitting on that park bench in Toronto though, a city grounded in the ethic of the Canadian mosaic, where diversity is not thrown in a pot and melted down to slag, but honored as the gifts that make a thriving, healthy and vibrant culture, I found it possible to believe that the gifts of my own diverse nature may be valued by others. The idea in Canada is to respect the identity and choices that another person makes as part of who they are, part of their heart and their heritage, and not to try to force them to make sense on your level. This possibility of being simply accepted as who I am is a belief, a hope that I lost a long time ago.

From the IFGE podium I heard the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner talking about the social commitment that each individual will be honored with human rights and dignity. Here is a government official bold enough to address a group of transgendered people, to talk about our issues in a way that most politicians in the States would avoid at all costs for fear of backlash. This is a country, though, where the Supreme Court would tell a province that it is not acceptable to simply omit gays and lesbians from human rights, where freedom is seen as coming from social order and respect for each person, not from the rights of the individual to bear arms or make moralistic pronouncements about others. This is a mixed blessing, of course. For example, that order is traded off against limited speech rights that are constrained by strong definitions of obscenity that often limit queer expression which is valued in the United States. The challenges between freedom and order are at the core of every society, every individual life, but here freedom is assured by order that comes from a stable history as a British colony, not the wild individualism of revolution.

Hope, though, came to me not just though the government, but though the people. I knew I would be accepted at the stores of MAC cosmetics, who use RuPaul as a spokesperson and who received the IFGE award for corporate support for diversity, but it is hard to explain just how good it felt to have a place to fit in. The cosmetics queens at MAC didn't just tolerate me, they accepted me simply as one of them, and issues like a high coverage foundation -- and theirs is the BEST I have ever tried -- are just part of life. To me, make up is art, creating our own expression of self in a unique and individual way, and MAC accepts those selves. I even got a sweet little smile from a staffer who seemed to share a transgender history with me.

I didn't know I would be accepted at the Thai restaurant around the corner from the hotel where I went for dinner. I kept my head down, just to eat, but the proprietor wanted to engage in conversation, like two women, and when I let myself chat with her, a 40 something Thai woman who came with her husband to Canada, the conversation was simple and enjoyable. Though we never talked about my gender status, more about the differences between New York, Thailand and Toronto, I know that most Thai people accept "katoeys" as normal -- and for me, being normal is a simple pleasure rarely found.

Many transgendered people born male want to have a man make them feel like a woman, but my goal is slightly different. I believe that if I help a man feel like a man, he will automatically make me feel like a woman. I was pleased when two transmen, both with histories in the lesbian community, accepted me as a woman, a strong woman like the women they knew.

From the twenty something trannies who were just learning how to be a grown-up, to the mature people who accepted me not as an object of fear, but rather as just another human, who embraced the truth of my heart as shown through my choices, rather than demanding the simplistic truth of my body, I felt safe and accepted, and this was a gift.

I stopped in Kingston on my way home to get some work done on my car at Canadian Tire. While I waited, I walked to the lake, an historic place in this city which sits at the junction of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River that flows past Montreal and Quebec to the sea. This was a place where loyalists had worked to define another kind of country, another kind of place a long time ago.

As I walked back, I stopped in Indigo bookstore, a beautiful, quiet and stylish temple to books and community in this town that is the home of Queens University. I felt the reverence of the written word, the honoring of all these human voices that were cased on the walls, a safe space to hear the unique and diverse thoughts that make up a culture. On the wall above the stairwell was a slogan, one that also was over their selection of Canadian books -- "The World Needs More Canada."

For a moment, before I crossed the bridge back to the States, I thought about that slogan, about how that respect for others and their own crossing of worlds and borders really is a sacred thing. My own history as a Canadian who crossed in to the States, as a transgendered person who crosses norms to find their own heart came to my mind, and for a moment, I could even believe that, in some way, the world needs more me.