|Odd Day||the quest for contrast||exposure|
|communication frustration||ecstasy and the third gotcha||the failure of the feminine|
the challenge is
to create a world
and invite people into that world
so they can see
through new eyes.
My theory is that a hot magazine is like a motivational speech. The hot magazine defines a world and then convinces you that it's your duty to be part of it -- most often by suggesting that you are the only one who isn't already part of it.
In the Cosmo world, everyone was maniacally and euphorically dating but you; in the Playboy world, everyone was having sex but you; in the Rolling Stone world, everyone was in the counterculture but you; in the Vanity Fair world, everyone was a celebrity (or at least knew celebrities) but you; in the Wired world, everyone got it but you. In the Fast Company world, everyone works for a rational, progressive, evolving company, is approximately the same age, and is involved in a gratifying personal economic leap forward -- except you.
Each of these magazines created an entirely coherent, fully operational, minutely detailed fictional world into which the magazine itself was the only door.
Michael Wolff, New York Magazine, November 15, 1999
the world of LGBT is this:
it is a world where cosmic equality should exist
where everyone not only is treated by the same rules
where everyone gets the same breaks, has equal gifts
no disparity between countries, classes, birth, history, health or anything else.
it is a world where oppression does exist
and we come together
screwed by the cosmos
and then unfairly treated by a society
which puts the same rules on the privileged
as on the oppressed.
LGBT texts are texts of oppression
mixed with desperate longing
for some perfect system
-- marxism comes to mind --
that balances out cosmic inequalities
with social intervention
fair to all
(or at least seen as fair
by people like us.)
there are other worlds, of course
porno worlds of hot sex
sci-fi worlds of egalitarian simplicity
business worlds of monetary success
romantic worlds of lush passion
the question for me, though
is what kind of world
does callan live in?
After spending so long
learning to know the "real" world
or at least the world
where shared realities intersect
how do I find a callan world
and invite people in?
flip on "dreammaker"
"supermodel" rashinda williams tells a woman
who is about to model
"you are a diamond
and this is your world."
i start to cry
because i never believed
i am a diamond
or this is my world
i feel others own the world
and i just hide in in.
are we holy
children of god
who live in our own world?
or does living in your own world
mean you are disconnected and ill
separate from others
separate from love
separate from potential?
cosmic justice: thomas sowell
wolff on fast company
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this is the loss
of the codependant
of the gifted child
we stop believing
we have a world of our own
that goes past our front door
that goes past our own mind.
We live in someone else's
and learn to hide in it
we can make our own world.
We know all too well the costs
of being isolated in your own world
disconnected and dramatic
never room for others
so we work hard
to cut our own world off at the tip of our nose
and share the world with others
who often see us
as just a character in their world
which ends at the limits of our vision.
our boundaries are drawn tight
and we don't push out from them
extending into territory
claimed by others.
we congratulate ourselves on our discretion
we aren't like those other people
who claim a world
who make a world
where everyone else are just puppets.
We know what it feels like
to enter someone elses world
to be cast in a role
that makes us invisible.
Like entering Disney World
and being cast as a tourist
with an open wallet
Our worlds are rich and full
but there is no room in them for others
rather, we live in a bubble
dancing though the worlds space.
Magical things happen
when people dream dreams
dream big and visionary
invite others into that dream
with respect and honor
and make the dream come true.
Bill Gates, Martha Stewart, Mother Theresa
made their own worlds
invited people in
and built an inner world
into something tangible and shared.
but I stay away from the world
think they own it
thinking they have the power
and all I have
is my own little space
"It's my world
I want to have a little pride in
It's my world
Not a place I have to hide in."
"I Am What I Am," from "La Cage Au Folles, The Musical"
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playing with myself
"As a child, you played alone a lot, didn't you?"
The year was 1972, and the questioner was Colleen, my girlfriend. We were taking a child development course together at Emerson college, where I dreamed of using television to help teach kids -- "Sesame Street" debuted in 1969, the same year Sony brought out 1/2" videotape recorders.
"You played alone a lot." Yup. That was me, out in the back yard digging holes and building dykes across them and fillling up half with water, reading books, or having my mother berate me because I broght someone home to play and left them alone as I went to read.
"You are so funny!" I hear that a lot nowadays, though the one who always says it is me. I love to play, to explore and pretend, to try new things and ideas, to see things in a new way that amuses and pushes me. I just have learned to do it by myself, playing with myself the same way I always have.
Every so often I see an episode of "Zoom," the second incarnation of a kids's show from PBS in Boston that features kids from about 10-13 playing. They play in a learning way -- science experiments, language games, construction challenges. I watch the kids (especially Alysa -- always had a thing for bright redheads) as they play together, challenging themselves and challenging each other, always open to winning and always open to giving another kid a chance to win, to learn, to grow.
I played alone. My mother crimped me down good, surrogate spousing me from an early age. Her husband got up from bed and ran every morning, and somehow I never became physical, never played that way. My own desire, signals from her, or a mix of the two? As a bright kid with a mother whose narccistic world of fear engulfed the house, my own head was the only place I was safe to play.
I read books fast and voraciously, playing in the virtual world of history. I was never bored in my own world.
The problem is, though, that I learned to keep my own world inside, where I kept my own words. By playing alone, I never built social skills, trust and openness. By playing alone, I kept my own world sealed at my skin. Even my sister, my closest sibling and I, never played together much -- we were too well defended, too immersed in our own worlds.
Over the years, the people I have connected with are people who also live in their own world. When I once told a girlfriend that I had learned to be open to myself, but now I needed to learn to trust others, she said "Can't you do that by yourself?"
Part of this, I am sure, is related to the tranny intimacy issue. We learn early to wall off part of ourselves, keep it hidden so we won't be attacked and shamed for our feelings. Every tranny has to learn to live in their own world, where their fantasies are true, and where reality includes people like them. Every writer creates their own world too, where they use their imagination-- and imagination is intelligence having fun, intelligence playing.
What I consider great fun, awesome play, often is not what others think of as play. I am very funny to myself, juggling nuance, sharp insights, mental revelations, discoveries on the inner path, but it's hard to get someone to share in that playfulness.
The closest I come is at a table of queers, people who are open to multiple realities, who have fun walking though walls, and who perform a dance of conversation that is like a mental roller coaster ride, dipping and jogging though the surprising and beautiful scenery of the mind.
The lesson I learned was simple: the shared world was a terrifying place where people would hurt me. I shouldn't play in the street, shouldn't play in town -- the only place safe to play was alone in my room.
play with me
open your heart
and your imagination to me
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When Worlds Collide
when worlds collide
they often do so with a crash
twisted metal of my little world
self powered and mobile
smashing into your world
which you put right in my way.
if its the idiot who wants to pull around
who doesn't make a turn signal
who doesn't see a turn signal
or just the old woman at the register
who slams down the order divider with a vengeance
offended that my potatoes might touch her rolls
violating her boundaries
transgressing her space
we live in one of three kinds of worlds
insulated, unaware of our surroundings until they bite us
defensive, always adapting to the worlds of others
inclusive, where we keep our boundaries and work with others.
we shift the mode of our worlds
but when worlds collide
even when those worlds
are just words
my rage is triggered
when I see stupid people
rationalizing their choices
so they are OK
but only in their world
like the woman who parks in the fire lane
blocking the road
but leaves her engine on
with her young daughter in the car.
She thinks standing is OK
that the engine being on
with a 10 year old in the car
is OK in her world.
The majority of worlds
are completely unconsidered
playing out old training
acting out old rationalizations
justified in ego.
They say people in NYC
have big egos
but no one in NYC can survive
without some awareness
of the worlds around them
the diverse worlds carried by
the diverse people
each in their own place.
in the suburbs
enclave of expectation
people can assume their world is the only one
that is real
They defend their world rather than open it
harden rather than grow
become tough and not tender
I hate the rage
the pounding headache
the fury that drives me
to pound my own head
when I am erased
by ego filled worlds
of insulated and isolated people
dumb as rocks
and just as open.
I know there is life in there
everyone human and touched with god
but the callous of the world
the calcified shell
of living in a culture
that doesn't respect diversity
but enables isolation
makes them acting from openness
makes them acting from love
makes them acting like Jesus would
surrounding broken hearts
and brains stuffed full
of rationalized routine.
"Love is the difficult realization
that something other than oneself is real."
And then Hawaii Five-O comes on TV
black and white villains
I used to scream KILL at
when they first appeared
I was 17
and the world was colliding with me
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Cut It Off
What do I have to
to be attractive?
I went to the Black Velvet Art Party sponsored by the Lake George Arts Project last night. They have an auction of whimsical, Elvis inspired black velvet art, a rockabilly band called The Lustre Kings, a buffet of BBQ Beef and Chili at a Roaring Brook Dude Ranch, just up from Lake George.
I have been to this event in the past, but have passed for a few years. Costume parties are tough for trannies -- people tend to think you are wearing a costume, rather than showing a tender part of yourself. While I may have been dressed with drama, from my red bootie sneakers & tights to my neon red wig and MAC makeup, it was just a Saturday night for me. I went this year because my sister found $17 of mine in the pocket of a big, butterscotch fun fur jacket I loaned her, money left since I last wore it in 1992. I bought the jacket in Lake George -- enough of a sign for me.
I felt good when I came in, swaying to the band, myself a work of art. I felt myself, my tights, free and loose, though I wished I hadn't worn good rubber soles which were hard to dance in. I felt good, until one woman said "Hi! You were the guy I danced with a few years ago. It was fun!"
I smiled. "Person you danced with," I said. "We can at least be gender neutral!'
"Person!" she replied with a wink.
As the evening went on, though, I felt myself to be in a sea of couples. I was there alone -- not a woman thing, as most women were there at least with friends. I watched the gendered dance of attraction, the opposite-gender coupling and the same-gender connection, and realized I didn't fit. Which side was I on? None?
Over the years, I have found my own desires changing -- the more I see myself as a woman, the more I understand why men are attractive. I have never desired to be a gay man, but a woman with a man sounds good. I watched the guys, with a freedom I have never had in the past. Yet, I know that I am not easily attractive to men, or to women.
I watched one couple, a lithe blonde dancing ecstatically in an evening gown, heels and long gloves, partnered with a balding guy, a wacky, eccentric artist. I realized that couple showed my problem -- people expected me to be cast as the balding artist, when my heart called me to be the blonde woman. It would be so easy if I just fit the role I was cast in, but my heart just can't comply.
I chatted with a few people, opening the conversation myself. I confided to one group of women that the neon red was not my natural color. "I envy it!" replied one. "You can borrow it!" I laughed. I spoke with a rock and roller who was hip, and his girlfriend chucked at my witty replies, but didn't speak. "I've never heard that before," he said. "That's good." Yup, hip, witty and fresh -- and in the corner.
I stood watching the couples on the dance floor, both men and women, and women pals dancing together, and thought about how I could be attractive. I looked great and fun, being up and posing, attractive, just like my modeling instructor told me, yet few were coming to me and playing.
What did I have to cut off to be attractive to these people? Am I too fat? Too bold? Too dramatic? Too male? Too smart? Too goofy? Too intimidating? Too mouthy?
Everyone can give me some advice, like the guy who sent an instant message to a friend after seeing her picture on her website, giving the message she had heard so many times, the one that still drives her to tears -- "You would be so pretty if you just lost some weight."
"I have been thin and I hate myself when I am thin -- it costs me so much to do that," she sobbed. "Why do people demand this of me?"
This is the question every woman faces clearly: what does she have to cut off to be attractive?
Female Eunuch, indeed.
"Do I look too fat?" Vivi asked.
Sidda could not count the number of times
her mother had asked her that question,
but now, for the first time,
she thought she heard what her mother was really asking.
"Is there too much of me?
Do I have to trim myself back for you?"
Rebecca Wells, "Divine Secrets of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood"
We want to fit in, but there is no way we can trim ourselves to fit and retain our wholeness, our integrity.
I know the answer for me, but it terrifies me. My attractiveness is not in my physicality, it is in my soul. I need to be in places where I don't just show how I have an exterior, but in places where I reveal my interior, speaking and shining and being attractive in that way.
People can't see the packaging and know what it means about me. And I can't change my packaging to lie about what is inside. I wrote a piece last week about the fact that both sides of the "guy-in-a-dress line" are wrong. The drags and crossdressers who say that they are real men regardless of their transgender expression, and the transsexuals who say they were never male are both wrong -- we are not real men, even if we play that role, and we are not female, even if we are femaled. That's hard to explain, hard to grasp.
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from the calmness
I wanted to pick up the three-foot bright red pipe wrench lying next to me on the floor and start smashing it into things.
I wanted to jump off my closed cell foam pad and hurtle towards the wall at high speed, smashing into it.
My head was pounding and my psyche was roiling.
What put me into this agitated state? Simple. I was taking my first beginning yoga class.
I was the only male in the darkened room, a room cluttered with props for physical therapy, from stairs to a computer. We lay on the floor, listening to calming music, and my sister, who had dragged me here, was next to me.
I liked sitting at first. I actually felt the way the muscles in my body were out of shape, unfit and out of shape. I was ready to try this "philosophy" that promoted integration between mind and body.
Two problems quickly raised their ugly head. The first was my being so out of shape, having little flexibility and physical endurance. That was simple and obvious, though.
The challenge that roiled me up, wanting to grab the cast iron club next to me was more complex. To come into my body is to come into my maleness, and for me, that is a very uncomfortable place.
I have done guided meditations where the first thing they do is ground you, see your feet anchored to the earth, roots reaching deep. I hate these meditations with a passion. To be grounded in the body, to me, is not to be able to fly, not to be able to be myself. It is my body which pulls me back into who I am supposed to be rather than who I am.
I know transpeople who are comfortable with their bodies, often post-op transsexuals or erotically charged transvestites. Delia Van Maris even does weight training with her male crossdresser body, posing as a woman for photographs. Most of these trannys who are comfortable with their bodies, though, are uncomfortable with other parts of them, the parts that are not grounded -- being seen as a male or being seen as a woman. It almost seems that it is an either-or choice.
As people relaxed in this yoga course, getting into their Sun-Moon, Ha-tha poses, open and closed, my head started pounding. During the opening meditation I felt great and centered, but in the closing meditation I was boiling with rage, on the verge of sobbing. This was so hard for me, being pulled back into something I have learned to leave.
I suspect the instructor never would have understood. To her, yoga relaxes and centers, not destroys that centering, because she lives like most people who lead with the body. I can't easily work with them.
Gwen Smith was talking about TG and body image this week on AOL. For me, the biggest block with TG and body image is that contrary to most people, we don't have a time remembering when we were congruent, centered and whole in our bodies. We don't remember being embodied in a positive way -- or at least I don't. No men's team sports for me, no time when I was young and gorgeous, no time when my body was what I saw it as being in the bedroom.
Some would say that being femaled is the answer that will help. I know one woman who has undergone at least 12 operations in the last 18 months to be femaled, and she is not done yet, everything from hair transplants and labiaplasty to tummy tucks and collagen in the lips. Her face and body are rebuilt, but she doesn't yet inhabit them, and she may never really, at this point.
Whatever the case, I know I need my body. I need endurance, stamina and good health, and that takes caring -- not avoiding diet, exercise, Doctors and Dentists. Yet, to be reduced to a body is to be erased, and that is searingly painful to me. I can't simply disguise my male body in an exercise class where the body must be free, but neither can I swallow my reality, that I feel attacked and slapped whenever someone calls me by my given name. I physically slap myself hard in the face just thinking about this.
My rage and pain are palpable. I must own my body, but it betrays me.
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so, on Oprah, they have Mariah Carey, and to 'keep it real' they choose to talk about being bi-racial -- Mariah's dad is 1/2 African American/ 1/2 Veneusalian and her mom is Irish.
They have this kid who is bi-racial on with her mom. "I didn't know how she felt about being bi-racial, so I asked her to write a poem."
oprah reads the poem, saying she hopes she gets through it. Mariah was sobbing during it. . .
i am invisible.
do you see me?
what do you see?
my brown eyes and brown hair?
do you not like me because i am white
do you not like me because i am black
you don't see me
i am invisible
(or something like that.)
oprah went over and hugged her
it's the human story, ain't it? we all feel that part of us is made invisible by the assumptions of normativity. . .
bigendered, biracial, bicycle
all the same
but not as cute when its a guy in a dress and not a tiny, beautiful girl.
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beyond desire, beyond flesh?
16 November 99
To explore my nature
my transgender nature
I cut myself off
from the system of desire
that links humans
to body urges
The question is now, though:
"What do I desire enough
to pull myself back into that system?"
I know the rules of the world of flesh
action begets action
get a thick skin
play the percentages
take the hits
engage in the struggle
what you desire.
It is the armor dance, where
pay off in the collision of worlds
a sea of dysfunction and desire
Why should I
clamber back into the armor
I learned to wear
when people found me
for "real" life?
My belief in the power
of open assertion
and open response
by a deeper belief
in the power of hostile aggression
I fear assertion
because I crumble
in the face of those
who screw themselves
to screw the world
screwed vision tainted with screwing lust
"How do I know
I won't be accepted
if I am open?", you ask
How do I know
that I have the strength
to try without crumbling
that I have the motivation of desire
to take the hits
to get -- what?
What do I want?
to find my heart
towards the light
towards peace & spirit
towards a place of solace
But the world demands struggle
to achieve what we desire
to play the role in my heart
seems crushing to me.
Do I assert my place
Aggressively claim it
in the face of others,
Or do I desire
so little of this world
it's not worth
filled with lust and desire
not where I am
Do I desire anything
to go back
and fight for it?
What do I desire
I will take three steps back
to take one step forward?
This is a world
that wants me to go back a long ways
just to find common ground.
Coming out is hard enough
but coming out again
for every new person
who needs the act of my coming out
to open them up
seems to me to be hell
Service is the prescribed answer
do for them
and find a purpose
your outward efforts
create desired rewards
but when no rewards seem tempting
the cost seems too high.
Find the gratitude
for a human life
find the desire
or just find peace?
I am richer this life than any past life
even without lusting.
My desire is for affirmation.
Yet, have I ever really been heard?
Phil McGraw is on Oprah
helping a kid and his mother
she needs to be right
he feels erased and raging.
I know the rage from not being heard
as I start to hit myself in the head again
a teenage legacy incarnate.
Can Parents Learn Martian to Help Underachivers?
Action is the triumph of the flesh
breaking analysis paralysis
by just doing it
acting on desire
and trusting that desire
takes you someplace good.
You cannot dream yourself into a character;
you must hammer and forge one for yourself.
James A. Froude
Dr. Schuller told of a study
where education experts thought that fences around playgrounds
may limit the potential of children.
They studied the children at play
and then took the fence away.
Instead of being more free,
the children began to cluster together
in the center of the playground
because without clear boundaries
they played safer to stay secure
not running to the edges
knowing it was safe.
I am way trans
a vast open world
and I play safe
in my space
knowing that the boundaries
feel unsafe to me now.
I tell my sister
of how hard it is
to do even simple actions.
She lifts an eyebrow
and I launch into a tirade
directed at myself:
"Just do it! How hard can it be?
Everyone needs to act!
Join the struggle!
It's simple for us, and you are smarter than us
so it must be even simpler for you!
Come on, get off the stick and act!"
and so on.
She smiles a sad smile.
"You have the answers.
And you have the questions.
It's just that they don't line up."
What do I desire enough
to re-enter the world of action
to re-enter the world of armor
to re-enter the world of lust
to re-enter the world of flesh?
or is it just
time to go?
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It was a cold, clear, crisp night, feeling more like January than November. I sat outside on a bench for a half an hour, teeth chattering, waiting for my sister to come to the yoga class.
I looked into the sky. Some people like to see the moon as half full, but I like to see it as half new. I was raging out there, feeling the frustration and pain of trying to be heard, trying to be seen in this world.
It was a frustration I saw mirrored in the kid on the Oprah show with Dr. Phil McGraw, who two months ago had been the object of derision as his family hauled him in as an out of control rage king who terrified them, but who was now seen with compassion as he tried to speak to his mother and she negated and rejected his feelings before he even got them out. She had to be right, so she explained how he was wrong on the facts, cutting the feelings off.
"He needs to be heard, his feelings need to be accepted and affirmed," Dr. Phil said, as his mother shot back "Well, I need to be heard too!" The call of my mother, to whom nobody listened, nobody could see what was so obvious to her, she just screamed and moaned. She created patterns that affirmed that childhood sense of not being understood by being not understandable -- rambling stories, unconnected to feelings, a generalized rage that no one could read her mind and make her happy, something she still waits for at 75.
I have worked very hard to be heard. I have learned to communicate myself clearly and effectively, both in person and in writing, but the challenge of people getting up to what I need to say, of listening to me without their buttons being pushed, of hearing me on some deep level is still the biggest challenge, the one that befuddles me. The more effective I am at communicating, the less people believe the emotional content and pain is real -- they assume that I can handle it.
As my sister said later, those feelings always stay with you, and it is hard to know if what is killing you is the real inability to communicate, or the feeling that this is just like when you were growing up, being erased & invisible, hurting and raging from being unable to have anyone hear you. I go out and speak myself with a feeling that I can't be heard, won't be heard.
As I sat outside, in a deep and dark hole, I knew my only hope was gratitude work, to find something I am grateful for. If there is anything to be grateful for, it is my sister, who was dragging me to this beginning yoga class, and to Dennys afterwards. There is a minivan ad running where an sonorous announcer mimics the Smimich/Vonnegut speech: "Keep in touch with your siblings, for they know you best and are most likely to be there to help" -- or most likely to drag you onto the Jerry Springer show, as I parodied last night.
Kathy does listen to me, but it's not always easy for her to understand -- her own challenges and my pushing into areas where few people go that make it hard to get it all. But she is there, and for that I am very, very grateful. We laughed at Denny's last night -- the second time in two years, the last waiting to pick up parents from a trip, and we got the same table
Our conversation was wide ranging. Kathy spoke of a woman she heard on the radio talking about Earth as goddess, an integrated system from the cells of our body to the ecosystem itself. This was goddess, but we still needed a firm god, centered and moral. I laughed. Our yoga instructor, in teaching us Tanasana, the mountain, had said that she used to tell people that mountains never move, but just last week she heard on the radio that Mt. Everest had moved two inches.
"Goddess Earth is not the warm & sweet force so many want to see her as being," I said. She keeps balance by moving everything, even the very plates of the earth we live on and see as solid. The balance of nature is not lovely and sweet, but hard and rough -- arctic foxes and hares are kept in balance not nicely, but by the death of too many hares, which a year later means the death of foxes, which means the expansion of the hare population and so on. Nature has big swings, harsh cycles that keep balance.
"It's the imposed god, the constructed, that fights the organic goddess, trying to control and limit her by demanding moral acts that act before nature's limit cycles kick in. We control child behavior, nature and the market so we aren't subject to the swings of nature, rather we keep them under control.
"The woman on the radio may have wanted to see Goddess nature as us and God as outside, but I see Nature as the challenging flow, and a strict and moral God as our internal attempt to keep from the cruel vagaries of nature. We act morally to prevent war and anarchy, which is a natural way of getting things back into balance."
I had just turned an idea on its head, and Kathy followed. I laughed.
"When I went to confirmation class, in a tiny dark room in the back of the old Holy Trinity church in Hillsdale, with a pastor who chain smoked King Sano cigarettes and who soon would be checked into a 'mental health facility,' as we euphemistically call them today, I was only 10, in fifth grade. Parents wondered how I was doing, so they spoke to him, and they told him "Your child has a real grasp of theology...."
"Even then, I was a theologian waiting to happen. People hear that on the Internet now and think I must be boring and dry and tedious. You know that I am funny and engaging and amusing. My friend Liz once asked me 'How could someone ever imagine someone like you until they met you -- and got to know you?''"
My sister reached out to me, the best she could, and warmly. She lives in her own small world, feeling the amputation our parents put us though, our mother through narcissism and our father though living in his own, small unconnected world of being a jovial crackpot engineer with communication problems. She stretches the boundary of her world every day, working with a couples therapist, trying to feel her feelings, to immerse in the natural conflicts of her body.
It's the Oprah issue, this goal of gaining mastery of the world, which necessarily disconnects us from our very nature. Kathy worries when she feels sad and eats ice cream rather than running, but as her therapist said, what happens when we don't feel our feelings. My personal fantasy of the Oprah show is a great smackdown, a la The Jerry Springer show, where the guests don't fight, but the hosts do -- Ianyla vs Suze, John Gray vs Dr. Phil vs Gary Zukov. I see how, no matter how lovely their ideas are and how sensible they make them, they conflict and challenge each other, the real balance not being about sweet mastery in a calm center but about the rages of nature battling for a dynamic and turbulent balance.
Mastery is one thing, but being human is another. I have mastery over the self, but the fights of nature are not something I can control, or even Oprah can control, though she feels she must, pushed by the train behind her not to feel and consider, but to act. So many swept by the train, who fear going inside, and who are happy with slight course corrections while they keep pounding on to attempt a victory of their imposed and constructed god over the messy truth of nature.
If you want to know me, the question is not "What have you been doing?" but rather "What have you been thinking, what have you been feeling?" I am knowable though my own expressions, but only with work, though I do believe that making one step towards me gives benefits & rewards. I can't easily fit myself into your context, but in my context, I can communicate.
Kathy mentioned the review of Deirdre McCloskey's book in the NYT Book review, where a woman poet said that while she didn't know why she was asked to read & review this book, after reading it she felt she gained a lot of understanding about herself and her gender position. Kate says the same thing -- lots of straight women say "you told the story of my life!" to which Kate is surprised. Carol Queen notes that whenever straights read a queer book they think "this is about me!"
I have something to share, something that is valuable and powerful, but the challenge of breaking though to say that is so hard. I have spent a life being frustrated, hurt and raging at not being heard, and the idea that I have to get small, go slow, work again against the challenge of being head is just daunting and painful to consider.
I love to listen. When I hear a story, I don't try to explain why people are wrong, but understand where they are right. The reason hip, mature trannys respect me is because I have listened to the stories, found a context to hold them. I told my sister the story of a local tranny who was transitioning who managed their Dennys -- they went to one only in femme mode, the other only in butch. That story makes sense to me, it represents a truth of context switching, of limits.
I survive by these tricks. The Yoga instructor -- much nicer and better connected than last week's instructor -- suggested that I dress more lightly next week. I didn't want to tell her that my unisex looking fleece jumper was from Lane Bryant, and gave me pyschic comfort, because she wouldn't get it.
For me, the challenge is simple: Can I stand the challenge to communicate? Or does the pain of trying mean the limits get to me?
How can I muster gratitude to make action, to find the motivation to take action and re-enter the struggle? I am "skidding" now, to use Kate's phrase, the boundaries down, and the traction normally found in fixed boundaries and points lost.
It's very hard. But I am grateful to my sister, and to my mother in the sky, who last night, was half new.
return to top
It's Friday, November 19th, 1999. 11/19/99. All the digits are odd. All the digits won't be odd again until first of January, three thousand one hundred eleven. 1/1/3111 will be a Sunday, more than eleven hundred years from now.
I'm lying on the hardwood floor of a ballroom amongst a gaggle of nubile Bard students of both sexes. The sunlight is streaming in, and I am in the midst a gender free orgasm workshop, and we are learning how to find an state of ectasy though breath control. We are all breathing, and then Barbara, the instructor, says she's going to read a passage from a wise person about the power of taking action. She reads the passage:
Action is the triumph of the flesh
breaking analysis paralysis
by just doing it
acting on desire
and trusting that desire
takes you someplace good.
http://members.aol.com/mscallan/text/nov99.html#beyond desire, beyond flesh?
It's from a sucide note I wrote in the last few days.
I start laughing. Out of control laughter I am trying to stifle, spasms of laughter, waves of laughter, oceans of laughter. I haven't laughed like this since, after a tony cocktail party following the first Congress of Sex & Gender, where I watched Virginia Prince cry on Dick Doctor while Wendy Parker played, the Director of The Comprehensive Gender Program at the University Of Michigan gave me a firm dressing down. Terry & the pro domme from San Diego just were in shock as I lay in the back seat, collapsed into paraclasyms of laughter.
I mean, how bizzare can life get? My suicide note being used as an uplifing piece of motivational pap to a gaggle of college kids learning tantric orgasm? Come on!
Linda Montana, the noted performance teacher, came over to me after the workshop. She felt freed by my laughter, found it empowering. We had chatted before the workshop, but now she wanted to talk about the struggle of her life -- how could I read her, what could I tell her about her struggles in liminality? Oy. Over a decade older than me, respected and published worldwide, and she's asking for insight from someone who just had their suicide note read out loud?
I had come down to Bard for two days to see Barbara Carellas & Kate Bornstein do one of their patented college events -- a performance of "sex death and gender" to kids sprawled on the floor in the dance studio, the orgasm workshop bt Barbara, a gender performance workshop by Kate.
Thursday night's performance, everyone shoeless in the dance studio, was very different than the crowded auditorium where I had last seen Kate & Barbara perform. I watched this time for the mechanical tools of performance as Kate read her script. Kate was assuming the missionary position, repeating a message that was new and fresh to the students crowded at her feet, but familiar and routine to her. This was the life of the itinerant performer, taking the show to the people.
To me, it was a bleak vision of the requirements of being the performer, cranking out consistent messages over and over again to build a nucleus. Later in the night, Barbara heard me do some characters -- Linda Montana called them voices and I disagreed with her, the difference between clothes and essence, between speaking and channeling -- and suggested I do a radio show. I am that auditory, and my mother and old friends have often said that I am a radio show. I need that freshness, that newness, that innovation.
I looked good -- black slinky knit pants and mock t, cinnabar red sueded silk jacket, red hair cut in a shag/bob, elegant makeup in natural tones. I looked so good that when Linda Montana saw me in boy clothes the next day -- maroon pique sweatshirt henley over jeans and tshirt, she was at a loss. "That was a fabulous... a wonderful.... what?"
"A look," I told her. Just another look at who I am.
The evening had started with me waiting outside the home of Jeanette & Judith Emily. I met up with Jeanette's date -- or John's date, as he would have called himself. When J & J came home, he told them that "he has been telling me about tonights performance." Yup, that's the perfect way to start an evening, by having a gay man decide that no matter who I am, what I am screaming with my clothes, all I can be is a "he."
Judith Emily & I drove to the performance talking about relationships. "I wait for magic to happen," she told me. As a 42 year old, out bisexual woman-born-female with a penchant for glam andro looks on males, Jude'em keeps looking for magic. I agrued a more practical side -- intimacy, on all four levels -- body, emotion, mind and spirit -- has to be worked for. You can even start with NLP and work from there. . .
It's hard to build intimacy, especially with people who have trouble being open and intimate with a world that tries to erase them. At the performance, we met Fara Kelsey, whose efforts to crack though the armor of Rachel Pollack, a transgender author, have recently fallen apart. She was given a court order and an hour to leave the home they shared for six years. Fara is still suffering over this, feeling broken, betrayed and hurt, telling her story over and over.
Kate was uncomfortable with Fara, her unwillingness to take responsibility, to admit the failure of her cude and forceful attempts to break though Rachel's armor. Fara has cast herself as the victim, playing out old patterns of hurt, and Judith Emily -- Fara's "best friend" -- and I had to play those out after the performance. Fara tried to guilt Jude'em into going home with her, rather than to the resturant Fara had been disinvited to, but even Jude'em is getting tired of Fara's inability to move on, to grow up.
I spent a moment with David Harrison, Kate's former lover, who was up to tape the performance. We spoke of the old days when we were both on-line -- he is PeterPants@aol.com -- and we watched FTMs grow up.
In the workshop, Linda turned to me, then looked at Barbara & Kate. "Don't they make a good couple?" she asked. "Yes they do," I replied. "I remember hearing 'You Can't Hurry Love' at the carival when I was a kid, but I never thought it would take this long." I heard "You Can't Hurry Love" twice on the way home, but only the end of the song. On TV was a replay of "Groundhog Day," asking the basic question: what would you do if you had eternity?
Is there anyone out there s/witchy enough to be close to me, in the way that Barbara is s/witchy enough to be close to Kate? I have come to doubt it. I love comunicating with Barbara -- as femmes, we have high eye bandwidth, positive chat. Kate is interesting to watch when she leads a workshop -- a strong and forceful presence, a Russian ballet master incarnate.
In the world, we have the obligation to lose our balance to move. What I call skidding, losing traction when there is nothing to grab onto, notrhing solid, no focused desire, Kate calls splattering. I feel that acutely -- everything slips around me, so I cling to my own inner self, and avoid moving in a world that seems to spin too fast for me to stand.
I go out in the world and I share myself, and then see how my words are used in new ways that I never could have suspected, both delighting me with surprise and breaking my heart because once again I am not heard. It is the surprise of my mother universe, as I stand in a field by an old brownstone church at Annandale-on-Hudson, the twists of both amazing flight and abject dejection, all at the same time.
It is just another odd day in an altogether odd life.
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the quest for contrast
my desire is triggered by contrast.
i want contrast, i need contrast.
i am willing to get in a car and drive to seek contrast.
I want to pursue contrast, to claim contrast, to have ownership of contrast.
it is contrast that is my passion.
this contrast is
a mac eyeshadow.
barbara was wearing it
striped as a liner.
i tried mac sketch as a liner last night
the night i get dressed and painted
and stay inside.
a wet brush, and high pigment
leading me to lips with mac currant, l'oreal garneta & nat robbins vienna
eyes with make up for ever #49
a high contrast look
for my eyes alone
mac is magic to me
makeup art cosmetics
rupaul in the glamour ads
trannys like me behind the counter
creating a life
with pigment & imagination
speaking who they are
though a facefull of art
in a week
where my desire is lost
where nothing motivates me
to enter the world
and I find reasons
to stay withdrawn
the quest for contrast
triggers something deep inside
I don't trust other people with it.
"kate keeps trying to convince me
that making art is not enough
that i have to give it to other people
and let them mangle it,"
i said to linda montana,
with a smile
is having makeup enough?
is using makeup sufficient?
or is exposing my face required
for -- what?
is the quest for contrast
and not for the exposure
of those colors
makeup i have.
what i don't have
is someplace to wear it.
"that's a wig! great!
i would love that,
wearing something diferent everyday
because my own hair is nice
but it gets old, you know?"
budding student femme to kate bornstein
who smiled sweetly in return
knowing the problems of having to wear wigs.
return to top
"as a transperson
you have an obligation
to put yourself on the line
be queer in every moment
out and visible
not hiding behind the armor
of passing privilege."
it's the whole
trans as warrior thing
as clown, queen or queer
whenever you are visible.
the cost for hiding
is losing the good possibilities that come
from being exposed
the benefit from hiding
is avoiding the abusive possibilities that come
from being exposed
is a day full of separation
"you look great"
from the tranny gals at mac?
is the carapace one learns to wear
worth a few, far-between, warm affirmations of self?
there is no natural constituency for
no group of people like us
we can rely on connection with
we can rely on protection with
no flight to the women's room
no black solidarity
the choice is hiding, lying
my sex or my gender
at isolation point
choice of a warrior.
i hear people say
it's what you believe about yourself
that defines your day
but when you believe yourself to be liminal
woman and male
there is no firm assertion.
having the carpet pulled out
from under me
too many times
makes me anxious to stand
in the queer space.
i feel like
i can't be heard
my mother never heard me
over her own narcissism.
it's the craving to be heard
to be understood
i have to put aside
simply let people listen to me
and hear whatever they want
hear whatever they need
no matter how
it betrays the meaning
I wanted to convey.
whatever i say
means what others think it means to them
not what i think it means
not the first person to find
people hear what they want to hear
no matter what I mean
leaving me feeling erased and empty
this is my resistance to publishing
giving my work to the world
not to do what I want with it
but to do what they want with it
including using it
as a mark of the apocalypse
the choice, the choice
of what to hide
of what to show
of what to give
and not how it will be used.
and how that choice
He who has to do in secret
what he does best and most likes to do,
with protracted tension, caution, slyness,
and because he never has harvested
anything from his instincts
but danger, persecution, disaster,
his feelings too turn against these instincts
-- he feels them to be a fatality.
return to top
the problem isn't
that I care too much
what judgments people make about me
what they think.
I care too much
that they hear what I am saying
get my meaning
understand my message.
I have always felt
the burden of communication is on me
trying to make myself heard and understood
growing up in a place
where people assumed
what I said meant what they thought it meant
what I said was about them
I know that basing my happiness
on someone else
is a guarantee for happiness to elude me
even if all that would make me happy
is to be heard and understood.
I communicate what I communicate
People hear what they hear.
and that's perfect for them
even if what they hear
is 180 degrees different
from what I meant.
Their inability to hear me
is their problem, not mine.
My communication frustration
being blamed for their feelings
being attacked for being visible
is their problem, not mine.
I should just laugh at them
when they completely miss
the message of my heart
no matter how much time
I have spent working to convey it
like I laughed when Sandra dressed me down
or my suicide note was seen as positive.
Take a cue from visual artists
who, unlike writers
don't work for feedback and precision in communication
people get it or they don't
people by it or they don't
humming the tune
forgetting the lyrics.
Why should I feel so hurt
when people can't mirror back
what they have heard
without warping it beyond recognition
in the unconsidered mirrors
of who they are?
let them hear what they want to hear
let everyone hear what they want to hear
nobody has to hear me at all!
I laugh at their mistaken impressions
return to top
ecstasy and the third gotcha
This is the day the lord has made
let us rejoice in it!
I have joy, joy, joy
deep in my heart
deep in my heart!
"I see you as exuberant and
but it's very well stifled,"
a friend said to me last week.
My joy and my ecstasy are hidden
submerged and sad
and that breaks my heart
and that breaks my spirit.
my mother is the black hole of joy
a sob at the ready
manic depressive without the fun bits
narcissistic and bleak
alone and broken
full of defenses that keep joy away
and that keep her heart gray
the role of the feminine
has always been the celebration of the ecstatic
the veneration of beauty
in nature, in objects, in hearts.
we take the sparks of spirit
and nurture them into flames
using the tinder of our own selves.
the feminine is bold and beautiful
the feminine is subtle and serene
the feminine is powerful and potent
when we relax and release
the power of women has become equal
gender differences wiped clean
everyone the same.
at books like "The Rules"
at old fashioned ideas
that it our differences
must be honored and exploited.
There is no gender!
There is no gender difference!
We live in a rational world
where everyone is the same!
The potency of ecstasy, though
belies that fact
for while the life force we all touch is the same
our colors are different
blue and pink and green and mauve
I live in a place
where ecstasy is censored
by the painting of a world
in universal grays
The deep gray of corporations
the pale gray of marxism
the blue gray of solidarity
the tense gray of recovery
pick your gray suckhole
to erase a rainbow.
ecstasy is unbridled
so rather than learning discipline
we are broken to the leash
of someone's politics
tamed into darkness.
is the despair that ecstasy
will be sliced from my heart
So, this guy says to Tiger Woods "I'll play you one round for a million dollars."
Woods says "What's the catch?"
The guy says, "I want a handicap of three gotchas."
Woods says OK, so they go out on the course.
On the first hole, just as Woods is about to make his first drive, the guy comes up behind him, shoves his hand through Wood's legs, squeezes his balls hard and screams GOTCHA! in his hear. Woods whiffs the drive.
On the second hole, just as Woods is about to putt, the guy does the same thing -- between the legs, squeeze the balls, scream GOTCHA!
They come into the clubhouse and Woods has lost the round badly. His friends ask him what the problem is.
"Did you ever play 16 holes waiting for the third gotcha?" he asked.
I wait for the third gotcha
rather than playing my own game.
I get upset at thanksgiving
cooking all day at my mothers house
out of my ritual vestments
out of my own zone
out of the place where
I can bring people into my own
joy, exuberance, ecstasy, power.
I know what most people want to hear.
They want to be affirmed
that their own problems are real
that their own separations are real
that their own rationalizations are real
that their own view of being wronged is real.
They don't want to hear
that their own power is real
that their own creation is real
that their own individuality is real
that their own ecstasy is real
that their own responsibility is real
how do I help my sister
trust her feminine power
when her model is only
a crazy self-centered broken woman?
we learned to lead with our heads
from our dad
who was functional and stable
loving and caring
but emotionally a bit impotent
distant from the feelings and emotions of others
a crackpot engineer
with unconditional love.
how do we find a place to be girls
and be affirmed in feminine power
when all the power places say
we need to be gray?
a few years ago
the born-female partner of a tranny
demanded I feel safe enough
to tell her what I need.
"I need to trust my feminine whiles
I need learn to embrace my feminine power
like a girl of 13 might do."
"Wrong!" she pounced
"That continues destructive gender separations!
You must move beyond gender
Where do we trust ecstasy
in the pantheon of queerness
the veneration of the individual color
over the identity politics of light?
When my sister and I part
I lean over
shove my cheek in her face
demanding she kiss it.
She hems and haws
wrinkles up her face
but she does it
one more reminder
that she can be the kind of person
who can give a feminine kiss to a cheek
without self-consciousness or fear
even if she isn't yet.
where do we find space
to be joyful in who we are
to be ecstatic in the song our creator
placed in our heart
to be delighted in the songs of others
to be grateful for our responsibility
how do we learn to be ourselves
feminine and free
(if that's where our heart carries us)
if we are taught and taut
to wait for
the third gotcha?
return to top
the failure of the feminine
callan williams, copyright ©1999
"Let me guess," she said to me. "You had a distant father who wasn't there for you."
She was a social worker I met because her husband was transgendered, and she was promoting her own origin myth of trans -- males with distant fathers don't have good role models and become flawed men.
"Not for me," I said. "In fact, my father was the loving one in my household. He was always there for the kids, honoring our thoughts and giving unconditional love."
She was set back -- the "distant father" theory was fundamental to her, explaining so much. To me, it was like saying "milk drinking causes heroin use, and we can prove that because all heroin users we have studied drank milk as infants." A study without a control group tends to catch commonalties that are common to the society and not to the target group.
I did have a failure in my life, a distant parent, but it was the parent who was physically present more of the time. In my family, there was a failure of the feminine.
The role of the feminine in society is the inward facing role, while the masculine faces outwards. One of the key jobs of the mommy is to be the translator for her children, to help them find what they are inside and give voice to that, starting at a time when they cannot yet even speak. The feminine is focused on nuance and feeling and communication of that, starting with mommy-ese, the singsong language that babies understand and moving to helping husbands navigate social waters.
A woman who does not yet know herself, who is blocked from her own feelings and nuance -- often because her mother was so self-centered that she did not help her daughter find a voice for her feelings, find an outlet for her emotions -- cannot teach a child how to become emotionally empowered. The noise of her own repressed feelings of pain and anger and rage drowns out the voice of the child she is duty bound to help develop. This is the truth of the narcissistic mother, who is so immature in her own emotions that she cannot parent, cannot teach and assist the child in finding their own emotional muscles.
The inner world -- the emotional world -- can never be described as simply as the outer world, the world of things. In the outer world, things can be measured, quantified. We can use the scientific principle, hypothesis and observation with many fewer biases then when we explore emotion. We can develop rational, logical arguments and understand the phenomena around us.
In the outer world, we can quest and conquer though strength alone. In the inner world, questing and conquering must be done though the power of love, of touching the emotions, because there are no chains inside of us except the chains of fear.
The exploration of the inner world can never be done directly. We can pass around a rock or a shell, measure it, but we can only see an emotion by its expression. In the inner world, we work in darkness, seeing not the feelings and beliefs themselves but only their shadow, never directly expressing the feelings and beliefs, but only creating symbols and metaphors for them.
The expression of emotion is the creation of art, and the receptivity to that emotion is the openness to the art in someone elses soul. There is a reason good mommys put pictures on the refigerators, dote on recital costumes, decorate the house for hiolidays, create rituals, and have a passion of soap operas -- they have a passion for finding and admiring the art which reveals the spark in someone's soul.
The primary art for humans use is the art of performance, creating a costume, voice and manner that expresses who we are -- who we have been trained to be, who we believe other people expect us to be, and who we know ourselves to be. We show our history, our role in culture, and the unique spark that is us in the choices we make in every moment. The drama of the feminine is the drama not of siezing external power though strength, but the drama of gaining internal power though seduction and other forms of expression.
Too often, in this culture, the feminine fails us. Maybe it's because the feminine tradtion is not valued, and so not passed onto the children. Maybe it's because we want to be potent in the outside world, need to be potent there in a way that women never had to be when there were clear distinctions between men and women, when we saw everything as a family or community unit, and not as individuals.
When mother/wife fails at being the interpreter/translator/teacher of the emotional inner language though, there is a big cost to society. When she does not affirm her vital role, she cannot affirm the vital roles those around her have -- other women, children and men. While men have the responsibility to help boys grow into men, women have the responsibility to help keep men balanced and focused, aware and in tune with their own inner life, just as men have the responsibility to help women and their family with the outer life, protecting and providing.
I'm sure that some people will be disgusted at this point, rejecting any idea that the role of the feminine and the role of the masculine are different in the world. These people want us to be internally balanced rather than socially balanced, balanced in ourselves rather than balanced in relationship or community. While I believe that there is no "ideal" balance, a cookie cutter solution for how relationships "should" be, I also believe that the history of human society has found the balance between masculine & feminine, mommy & daddy, inner & outer, to have been best achieved in relationship. There may be males who are strongly feminine and females who are strongly masculine, but the feminine and masculine still exist in the cultural repertoire.
There is no doubt that well balanced people will contain both the feminine and masculine inside themselves, being open and skilled across worlds, each in their own balance. To move however, we must not be in perfect balance -- motion always requires losing balance and regaining it again, so motion comes most to those who go out of balance.
In my own life, the failure of the feminine has been clear. I lived in a family without art on the refrigerator, without record player, without a love of the dreams & drama of the family members. Only one kind of drama was valued, the sadness and pain of the matriarch -- a tradition my mother had passed down to her as a girl. My mother was unskilled as an interpreter/teacher of emotional language because her own emotions were unexpressed, unexplored -- she was waiting for someone to make her happy.
The power of the feminine is the power of learning, being open to the feelings and expressions of others, honoring, respecting, reflecting and developing them. This requires the willingness to grow past your own emotions, the maturity to be open to others rather than immersed in yourself. The emotional failings of the parents the limits of her own feelings and their own unfulfilled lives, are often the limits to the family, as Jung has noted. There are as many ways and styles to express emotion as their are cultures on the earth, from Southern Belle to Martha Stewart to Nubian Princess and matriarch, but they all demand an openness and connection to emotion.
This failing of the feminine had repercussions thought my family. My father, a crackpot engineer, had no one to help him understand the emotional content of his workplace -- "He doesn't help with my stuff!" is still my mother's response. My sister feels voiceless in emotional matters, not being able to stand up for herself and her own emotions and art.
While I am clear that my thoughts count and I can express them well, I find it hard to believe that my feelings count , that I can express them well -- that people will listen, hear and care. My own art, the expression of my inner feelings, counts to me, but I don't believe that others can open to it. The childhood feelings are hard to transcend, the skills and confidence hard to gain in later life.
The idea of distant fathers is well understood, but the notion that a narcissistic mother is a distant mother who betrays her family by not performing the feminine role has not been well explored.
"I don't like all this junk about mothers,"
she says, having trouble with the whole nice mommy concept.
She avoids the feminine
filling the space with stuff
lots of tschochkes
with sentiment added in China.
This year, when I gave them halloween costumes
he loved the ritual of scaring kids
while bernie stood on the door wreath
that said "booboo"
$2.98 at the christmas tree shoppe.
any wonder why
her kids replace sentiment & ritual
i always thought I wanted to be a woman
because they had it easy like my mother
coddled and narcissistic and crazed
but now I know
I chose to be a man like my father
(as my sister did in many ways)
because he was the sane one
and I don't know any way
to be a woman and be healthy
not the black hole of despair
return to top
there have been
people who read this page and didn't know what to say to me