July 24 1996
The failure stuff:
1) Natural resistance to change: I don't want to win, because of the projected cost in separation
2) Mom's legacy -- You can't win! Negative messages
3) Covering all the angles The spinaround to watch your back. Not enough focus
The Biological Imperative: Sex & Gender
Flirting makes gender roles blurrrrrrr
A wonderful, detailed, nuanced world exists inside of my head.
Enpowered Business Women turn me on like a lightbulb -- I want to be one!
You suggested I write a list of issues and what the blocks are.
There are lots of issues, but they are all details. As you noted, once the goal is set, I can achieve any thing I set my mind to. The question is why I don't I set my mind to it.
You also noted that I have to be my own product. There are many issues around giving up anonymity for some kind of fame, for coming out in a big way.
I have had the feeling for a while that I need a High Drama Event in my life, something public and ritualized. And I realized what that event must be.
The death of the son of my parents is required. I must die.
It's true that every good-bye is a hello, every death a rebirth -- but the reason we hold joy for the birth of a baby is because we believe in the joyous possibilities a baby has in front of them. Yet who can hold joy for the birth of a loud, queer human?
I realized all this when I thought about what I wanted to write in the book. In many ways, I want to pass on the hard earned lessons I have gathered to maybe help some other people find a path without all the missteps I made. I wanted, in effect, to pass on the lessons of my life -- and you do that before you die.
In so many ways this dance of death has been the internal drama playing -- I create risks that will demand intervention -- while at the same time procrastinating on starting anew. I desperately want to die -- one of the phrases I often catch myself saying is "Put a bullet in my head" -- and I am also desperately afraid of dying.
I heard a Doctor tell a story about his intern days. He saw his teacher do a technically tough procedure very quickly, but it didn't save the patient. He asked the professor how he did the hard procedure so fast, and the reply was simple: "Doing that was the easy part. The hard part is going out to tell the parents."
I have been taking care of my parents for a long time -- and they have been taking care of me too, in more physical ways. Yet now I have to tell them I am going to die -- and pray that they can see the wisdom and the power of being reborn transformed, forever changed.
That's not just about man/woman for me. Personally, that's the least of it, though I worry for my parents. I worry about giving up my armor, my defenses-- including the expectations of failure that have coddled me this far.
To go on, I must believe that I can be big, bold, public and a winner -- and that scares little old me, who has long been working to be tiny, curmudgeonly, and safe in failure. I don't know how to get support for success -- and in this world, this country, and this town, it is not easy to find.
I understand the issues. The more I trust my future, the more I accept the deaths that must occur to get there. If I finally understand that my full time job is talking about connection, using the hook of transgender, then it is easier to accept. And I know that I still have the opportunity to have vacations from that job/ mission/ life, and that there may be new & unseen missions in the future that will delight me.
But the High Drama Event required is my death. Try to say that without squirming.
How do you feel safe walking into a room with only a red dress and your smile? It's a question every woman has had to learn to face -- but she had her girlhood to practice. I was never anybody's girl, and those lessons -- of flirting, of confidence, of quiet power will not be easy to learn.
In fact, I have never felt safe. Fred Rogers writes that a child who doesn't feel safe talking about feelings starts joking early and keeps joking all their life -- and my witty curmudgeon persona is my way of doing that. My dreams, my feelings are so intense that they create fear in others -- and that means that it easier to play it safe in my grumpy middle-aged man outfit.
I know that transgender is not optional in my life, no matter how much I try to fit it into a niche as some added extra -- my liminality is at my core.
But to admit that is to destroy my life -- and create a new one that hopefully will be better, stronger, more authentic. My challenge is to build a community, a family, a congregation, a network of people who can find shared truths in my words and use those shared truths to trust their own connection with each other -- and with the Universe.
I know that people will see me as a man-in-a-dress and decide that I must be dissociative if I can transgress that boundary -- and will fear me because if I can cross that boundary, they see me as capable of anything.
There are lots of good reasons to fear life as an out, bold, public transgender woman. Lots of reasons to resist that change.
Yet going backwards doesn't seem to be a reasonable choice either.
It's time for a new start. And I am stuck in the birth canal. Moving forward or back means the end of a life -- and moving forward or back means opening up a whole new set of problems.
It's the end of the world
Subj: (TG-S) Death, Please.
Why are TG people so focused on death?
Much of the organizing energy over the past few years has been on the death of a handful of TG people -- Brandon Teena, Tyra Hunter, Chanelle Pickett, Deborah Forte, the gals in Toronto, Christian Paige. Riki has her "We are not disposable!" speech down pat, and has been able to use these deaths very powerfully to get sympathy and support.
While the death of any individual is sad, we don't know how many TG people are killed -- is it more than average for their profession and role, or less? Are we really under attack -- or do we just feel unsafe?
I think that one of the reasons we all feel so unsafe is that one of the key parts of TG is death -- the death of a persona. When we gendershift, a part of us dies -- and to some people, it feels like a whole person dies.
Maybe one of the reasons that the Benjamin Standards are focused on people "Who have always been a woman inside" rather that people who choose to be a woman, is because that makes SRS the birth of a woman -- and not the death of a man. The doctor simply frees the real vagina rather than killing the old penis.
Kate Bornstein writes in Gender Outlaw:
Sometimes, it's not the fist in your belly that gets to you.
Sometimes, it's when they're quiet, even polite.
Sometimes, it's how they look at you day after day that finally gets to you.
They squint at you, like they can't see.
It's as if by squinting they might get a better make on you.
If they're in a crowd, they shift their eyes so friends can't tell they're looking at you.
You can read the fear behind the smirk,
The hatred just past the disgust.
You worry it's your paranoia.
and you always hope it's only your paranoia.
(Confidence, they've told you, helps you pass.)
But there's always one of them who looks at you with longing.
And that scares you the most,
Because if you let that longing into your heart, you have to accept yourself
just the way you are.
I wonder if it's not the people who would kill us with knives and fists that scare us, but the people who would kill us with kindness and acceptance.
When they stop being disapproving, start accepting us, we are faced with the horrible decision -- is it time to die? Should the man persona that has served me so well, that was so hard to build, the ego laden armor that protected the tender child within -- should that be dropped, killed?
That person was built to satisfy the expectations of others around us. How do we tell those people who learned to love that persona that he has to die so another can be born.
All TG people are born with drama in their soul. And the ultimate high-drama-event is simple -- death and rebirth. It is required.
It's true that every good-bye is a hello, every death a rebirth -- but the reason we hold joy for the birth of a baby is because we believe in the joyous possibilities a baby has in front of them.
Yet who can hold joy for the birth of a loud, queer human? Do we have to make promises of acceptance and future to accept rebirth -- or can we just leap.
These are the questions of the hero quest, no doubt.
We do need to mourn out bothers and sisters who have died at the hands of another -- even at their own hand. But I suspect that one reason we fight death so much is because we fight our own death, the death that being profoundly TG still requires.
It is the death of so many things. Of the ego patterns and protections we have build up to create a gender role that doesn't fit us. Of a past that isn't useful. Of a son or a daughter that parents have expectations for. Of a parent who children look up to. Of one career. Of the dreams that we would be able to fit in. Of all the work and pain we used to try to fit in, to stem the flood of TG.
It is also the birth, a new birth, full of new possibilities and new power. It is the birth we must focus on, it is true -- knowing that while we are forever changed, we are also forever the same. Everyone has their own way of embracing the new birth -- from Rachel Pollack's mythological bent to other people's total rejection of their past.
Yet, if we don't die, we can't be reborn.
I want to talk about death, about how we embrace the death that is required, about how we deal not just with our grief & mourning -- which is mild, because the dream of a new life is planted deeply in us, or we would not leap -- but of how we help the others around us though the process. Can we? Or do we just have to abandon them, do off in the woods to die and be reborn on a journey, the traditional transsexual way as in "In Search Of Eve?"
I do not believe my life as a man was imply a canard -- or that the relationships that people had with me as a man were not true. I don't hate my life, and don't want to -- and that makes death harder. But we constantly have the pressure of rebirth - and for me, that involves being born out, public and loud. Scary.
Does the gender community help people with death and rebirth, or does it simply try to relieve the pain and avoid death. Questions.
But whatever it is, we are obsessed with avoiding death -- as most of the culture is -- and that continues to be a block to transformation.
Where do we look to find comfort in embracing death -- and choosing a new life?
Subj: Re: (TG-S) Social Icon
The Gnostic Christians say that we can be reborn on Earth. The reason the Gnostic Gospels were suppressed by the Holy Roman Church is because transformation on earth would threaten the hierarchical patriarchal power structure of the Church.
Transformation is always just a restructuring of form. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Our spirit continues, but our form changes -- last year's daises change form to compost, which changes form to this years gladdies. Yet death and rebirth are required.
Of course, we are not talking about the death of the body -- though, since it is always dying and being reborn, we may be. Kate B. says every cell in your body is replaced at least once every seven years -- and that means she is all new. You can also argue that some functions of the body die, while others grow and change.
The question for everyone is the way this society honors transformation. Look how we fear and deny the transformation of aging, especially for women! The focus is only on what women lose as the age, not on the new blossoming they also have, of spirit, of empathy, of wisdom, of love.
We want to be able to control and limit transformation, especially transformation that affects and erodes power structures. We want you to have to have permission to change -- in the case of transsexuals, from therapists and doctors.
Transformation is always about revealing what is nascent, unborn in us, but was unseen. It is about buds that blossom in different times in our lives, not about being a whole new plant. To us, from the inside, we see that it is a straight line, but to an observer watching the cycles of a plant it appears to die and be reborn -- even though we know it must have been alive though the transformation. Does a butterfly remember being a caterpillar? To us it looks like a death and rebirth -- but to the butterfly, it is just another part of the cycle of life.
Subj: Re: (TG-S) Social Icon
In a message dated 96-08-12 07:02:40 EDT, xxx writes:
We have misplaced our tribal methods of preservation and transformation, I think. They have not evolved with our technology and knowledge. When will we learn that we undermine only ourselves?
Campbell says that our biggest challenge is to tell the old truths in modern language. We have many old truths about transformation that we gave "forgotten" or misplaced, I agree. How do we change our world if we cannot allow change in ourselves?
Is there any better way to help others see us as we see ourselves than being out, public and loud?
No. It seems the only way -- stealth only opens the gap of dissociation. To hide in plain sight -- to make the connections and be safe in our own nakedness and vulnerability.
Is it safe in a society that transforms itself with increasing volatility? Very scary.
I would agrue that it is most unsafe in a society that resists transformation with increasing volatility. The Radical Right fight transformation from a conceptual point, trying desperately to go forward into some idealized past.
But worse than that are the people around us, who have fought their transformation for so long, have cut off parts of themselves to fit in. They see the acceptance of our transformation as threatening their fragile balance -- and they work to deny transformation in us so they can deny transformation in them. They are too bound to expectations to take Joy in the way things are.
A new study in Georgia took two groups of men, divided on the basis of a questionaire about homophobia -- the fear of gays (as opposed to homonegative, the moral opposition to gays). The men watched 2 hours of erotica with a strain gauge on their penis -- and yes, the homophobic ones were more turned on by the gay erotica than then non-homophobes. They fight transformation in others because they fear transformation in themselves.
We were discussing a new exercise she teaches on inner child therapy and at one point she exclaimed, "You should try this with yours, I'll bet *she's* wonderful!" She had been calling me my boy name, but at that moment, my friend's eyes widened and she put her hand over her mouth.
I simply smiled. How seldom this happens with someone who -knows- us.
You know, I think this is a marvelous way to change -- I do believe that many people need to see the girl inside of us, see beyond the big slab of male body (or vice versa) to some inner part of you. A friend calls this "shamanic eyes," this seeing inside -- though in the story she referred to, I had done the shamanic trick of transformation, to reveal, not having her see the interior alone.
The point is that Death And Rebirth only open up potentials that have been blocked -- and if people look in us, they can see that.
Next she'll be giving me all kinds of advice. How to dress and behave and do my hair and not act so feminine. Transforming me. Big sigh.
Ah, but this is how women are tamed. They get in groups and transform a bit -- that's why women love makeovers. Can you be a woman without being accepted by other women? I don't think so, but you can also transform her -- it's a two way street with women.
One other question I asked this weekend is "Do you have to have been a girl to be a woman?" I think the answer is yes -- and we have to find ways to claim a girlhood. But that's another topic.
Have a glorious day.
Subj: Everybody Must Get Stone
I have been watching the stone threads with some interest, but almost thinking it didn't apply to me. But I went to a new support group tonight and I realized it did apply.
As a kid the messages were clear -- my emotions were too much. They were too loud, too deep, too sentitive, too intense, too overwhelming, too crazy and too weird.
I learned quickly that it was not safe -- or to us ethe word I did, reasonable -- to expect people to deal with my emotions. This is tough for a kid -- it makes them grow up early and I did, having no parent to share my feelings with, no parent to share my dreams with. There were other reasons too -- after all, my emotions called me to transgress gender, and that would clearly take me into the deep end.
I learned how to manage my emotions. I installed a brain mounted system that would monitor and regulate them, to be aware of and honor feelings, but to parcel them out in reasonable little blocks of explanation, emotion, energy. For many people, when they saw how well I could understand and regulate my emotions, they assumed I could control and change them -- but that was never possible.
Over the years, I have let my emotions have more and more rein, to just go with them. I have pulled back the control rods in my emotional reactor as it were, trying to get to something pure.
This has scared a lot of people. I remember, I was about 25 and one woman decided she had enough training to help me go though the anger I had at my mother for her surrgogate spousing of me. I remember well teh rush of emotions, the breakthough -- but remember at least as well the terror in her eyes at the force of the emotions she had broken loose. If my emotions terrified other people, why shouldn't they terrify me?
In any case, I have come to accept that I an emotional thrill park ride, intense & overwhelming. People have left me because they can't stand the intensity, and I have had to learn to deal with the isolation that can cause.
But the worst times for me are always when I am called to once again parcel up my emotions into little digestible chunks. I attended a new support group meeting, and the strangth of my energy caused someone to strike out at me in a way they didn't like. In the same way my emotions continually hold my constructs to the fire, burning away that which is not authentic -- but those flames can hurt others.
However, I know that trying to play small emotionally -- or mentally, or spiritually, areas where I am also big -- has left me stunted and unhappy. I need to figure out how to be big -- but my very intensity makes it hard to find others I can share with. To think that I can survive by cutting my emotions to size, or can be patient while othersdo what they have to do is very tough.
I have worked hard to be an open space, to not be overwhelming. Yet my gifts seem to be big, and to play small is to deny them.
Whatever the case, I realize that I have had to learn how to be stone -- to build a rock vessel for my emotions -- in order to survive. But now, I find the size of that vessel constricting, and I have to break out of it.
It's a challenge, I'll say that.
Subj: The History Question (was Re: Brandon Teena pronouns)
In a message dated 96-08-08 03:36:07 EDT, xxx writes:
Naurally, when a transexual is in front of me, I can see that he/she is changing. Has changed.
And so I refer to her/him in the gender she/he has chosen.
But I am also aware of the person's upbringing.
Shall I discount Brandon's formulative years as a girl?
I mean, I go down to the sea and I look at the great expanse of water, but I also feel where all that liquid has come from, all the rivers and estuaries.
Is this wrong?
Shall I just ignore all that?
Is our compassion for Brandon only for his death as a transexual?
Or, like me, do you not also feel/understand "her" frustrations?
Ah. The history question again.
How much right do you have to consider someone's history?
I mean we all have histories and they affect who we are, right?
But for TG people our history and our present and our future may not be linear. To assume from history may lead you to the wrong places.
This is true for lots of people. There are historical facts about them that they have transcended. That youth time when they were in the gang. The drug problem. The abusive relationship. That bizzare period when they were the Secretary of the local Young Republicans.
How much history do you have a right to consider?
I would argue that you have the right to consider as much as they tell you and no more.
You don't get to guess what it must have been like for them as a little whatever. That's making assumptions based on your life and not on theirs. If you want to know what it was life for them, ask -- and if they choose not to tell you, that's your choice.
We live in the moment. People are who they are right now, and you have no right to blame or to absolve them because of their history. If they choose to bring up their history as a mitigating factor, then they put it on the table -- not you. Then it's open.
You may look at the sea and see connections, think of rivers and lakes you have loved. But that doesn't mean that this patch of water doesn't have it's own unique life within -- or it's own dangerous undertow. To assume that all of the sea is the same as other parts you have seen is to miss the beauty of this place, this moment.
And you may use things you have learned and test to see if they are true here too -- but you just can't assume they will be.
We all like to make up stories about people, to wonder "Why?"
But just because we can come up with an answer doesn't mean it's right -- or even relevant.
People look at TG people and wonder "Why?" and they come up with answers, about pain and suffering, about perversion and dissocation, about queerness and sex, about lots of things.
But unless they test those guesses, they have no idea if they are right. And most people don't question their own assumptions.
My life is my life. My history is my history. Looking at me and seeing other histories -- other bodies of water -- is fine. But don't assume their history is my history.
If I choose to share my history -- and you find it interesting, compelling, funny, whatever, fine. There are many things we can learn from sharing our pasts.
As scholars have show us, there are many ways to read any history -- you can see what you want to. Ultimately, though, to know someone, you have to know what their history means to them -- not what it means to you. For example, I guarantee that mothers of TG people don't see the same formative events that their child sees. Do you read me queerly -- or from another political stance?
The key issue is that TG people know that there are many expectations and limits that can come up when we share our histories and people choose to read what is important to them, not to us. And for someone moving to transcend limits and expectations, that can be tough -- so we are careful about the history we share and who we share it with. And that doesn't allow you to make up your own version of our history to fit in your world view.
What you see in this moment is what you get.
And you only get my history if I choose to let you see it -- not if you make it up for me.
Subj: (TG-S) Stuff
In a message dated 96-08-07 03:42:23 EDT, xxx writes:
Perhaps one should discuss the delitarious effects of lust on the soul. where the spirit is forgotten in the lusting/craving of physical pleasures that bind one to the ground.
I guess I'm not really anti-passion -- or lust. I think some hot an heavy moments can create connection, communion -- dare I say intercourse? -- between people.
But I do get very uncomfortable with substitutions. I know that I have a tendency to "stuff" -- and that means to try to fill up the empty spaces inside of me with "stuff", to focus on "stuff" rather than life.
We all have ways we stuff things. For me, if I couldn't wear it, I could buy it -- and that carried on a tradition from my childhood where I grabbed stuff in any way I could to make me calm down, to buy people into liking me, to try to pretend that the stuff would make up for the love and support my narcassitic mom just couldn't give me. I find myself still holding onto stuff, grabbing more stuff -- even though I know now that stuff just keeps me grounded in the material world.
And other people stuff with people, with sex, stuffing it in, having it stuffed in. Sex replaces intimacy, spiritual contact rather than helps it along.
The material, physical is important. We need touch & sex, we express ourself though symbols.
It's just when those symbols start substuting for meaning that I get crazy -- and I think other people do too. It's my guess that most greed comes from an addiction to stuff, thinking that more stuff will make people feel better -- when it is something else altogether they are lacking.
So sometimes we renounce all stuff to try to get balance back, and that's not bad, but it is limited. For alcoholics, who stuff with booze, they can live their life without another drink -- but for people with eating problems, they have to learn to eat sensibly, not to simply abstain from food.
I think it's the obsession with stuff and stuffing -- the attempt to mood alter without dealing with the key problems that gets us into trouble. It sure as hell is what gets me into trouble, both from running from stuff I am scared of and running to stuff that "should" make me happy -- when it's not the stuff that is the issue, it's how I feel, think and understand it.
Clarissa Pinkola EstÚs (author of "Women Who Run With The Wolves") tape" The Red Shoes," (Sounds Great) is about spirituallife and sorrow. She talks about leaving the "handmade life" and trying to replicate it with objects.
The theme story is of a girl who has no shoes, so she gathers scraps and makes some, dyed red with the juice of berries. She loves them. A rich woman takes her in, and cleans her up, but the woman decides the shoes are too odd, so she throws them in the fire.
The girl learns about society, but at her confirmation, she needs shoes. She sees red leather shoes, and buys them, and wears them when they are inappropriate, at church.
The woman tells her never to wear them again, but when she does, a soldier offers to dust them, and makes some incantation, saying "What wonderful dancing shoes!" But when she tries a step, the shoes take upon a life of their own, and dance her off, and she is only saved when her feet are cut off. Ms. EstÚs rendition is much more detailed and dramatic, and followed with a thorough and vivid analysis.
Pinkola EstÚs makes the point that what we hand make as a child, we lose in the process of socialization, then we try to fulfill again with objects, but eventually the objects overtake us and we lose what we love. Our issues are not with the objects, but in reclaiming the handmade feelings that we had to suppress, and that we tried to substitute the objects for.
It is a tape worth hearing.
Objects are just symbols, not replacements for meaning. Though I still have deep desires to stuff, both to stuff things I don't like away, and to fill the empty spaces in my heart with stuff, I do hope I can rembember that stuff will never substitute for love.
Subj: What You See, What You Get
Kate, It's short for Bob wrote:
So on to my problem. She wants me to be more feminine. Now, I'm not the butchest thing going but i do fall very neatly into the androgynous category in appearance and i identify as butch. Shehas mentioned that it is not like being with a woman, and that she'd essentially like to find a real woman. I don't know what to do with that. She says she likes me, it isn't just sex though there is a lot of that, the relationship is a lot of talking and understanding eachother and stuff. Anyway...I don't think I've gotten my point across very clearly but I just don't know how to feel about this or what to do.
So why, when people are attracted to us the way we are, do they feel the need to change us?
Are they hot for what we are or what they see us as being?
There seem to be many women who believe that you will be fabulous if they can just help you get rid of your rough edges -- but those rough edges are the wildness you have fought so hard to claim.
And so often it seems like they just want to increase their own comfort level with you by changing you. You threaten my identity, you question who I am.
I am reminded of the story a therapist friend tells of two women who came in, both complianing the other one was trying to change her. The butch one kept trying to butch up the femme, and the femme tried to femme up the butch -- yet it was their differences that attracted them to each other. They thought they "should" be equal, clones lesbians and they were different -- and that made them feel uncomfortable.
Accepting difference & embracing it, not trying to erase it -- for when it is erased, you erase that which attracts you.
This is very hard. People who feel an attraction to me see what they desire in me -- and they then get upset when I refuse to be their ideal object of desire but instead stand firm on being who I am. I am seen as defended, unreasonable, deluded.
If you found me attractive, why don't you just delight in who I am, not in who you want me to be?
Maybe it's because you don't yet delight in who you are.
Subj: Re: What You See, What You Get
In a message dated 96-08-06 14:29:11 EDT, xxxx writes:
I have, however (as I've posted before) been with women who didn't id as butch or femme who could not accept me as me but thought I was playing a role. I DO find compassion, companionship, and warmth within differences, but only when the differences are respected. When they aren't, the relationship just can't work for me.
Exactly. When people don't respect their own uniqueness, they find our lives as sort of over-dramatic, that somehow we are phony, only into the affectations -- we are immersed in symbol, but not meaning. I am my own construction, artifical in the sense that I am created by a human -- me. I express my own nature though my constructs.
I have found that most TG people love symbol play -- which is gender play, playing with the gender symbols, languages, behaviors, and attritudes. TG people will be the lsat to want to outlaw gender, go to neutral/neuter lives -- we love the difference, the diversity, the fun.
"Why are the symbols so important to you?" people who don't do gender play ask. IFor me, it's because I feel big in a spiritual way.
So many people want their lives to fall within prescribed limits, to avoid breaking the rules. Yet, for me, it has only been by breaking the rules that I have been able to become myself, to take my own power.
People who don't accept & embrace how they break the rules -- or how the rules limit them -- often feel umcomfortable with our transgression. They try to balance us -- and too often that neutralizes and neuters us, something none of us want.
I love drama, especially the drama in my soul. And I am beginning to understand that only someone who has accepted the sweep of their own drama can accept mine. My drama is not phony -- it is just who I am.
As Carrie Fisher said: "I don't want my life to imitate art. I want my life to be art."
Subj: Re: responding...
In a message dated 96-07-29 09:13:27 EDT, (vick) writes:
...never fear? come on...i see a lot of control coming from you...and a wise counselor taught me that when i am afraid i will try and control.
But what do you control? I don't control others, I control myself. That may mean walking away, but that's the choice we all have to make. I could have chosen to spend more time with you and control you into being someone I want your to be -- but rather, I just chatted, and let you choose who you want to be.
I am afraid of being afraid. "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," as FDR said. I walk away from the fear of others. That simple.
Callan...your walls are very high. I had such walls most of my life. But i am now in the processing of scaling them and blowing them up...i don't want them in my life anymore. So that is why "connecting" is so hard for us...
Maybe -- but like any walls, they are only illusions. When you are in harmony with them, you can walk right though them. When you are not, they seem enormous.
I have some people telling me that I seem to be naked to them -- and others telling me I am totally defended. I guess the question is what I have to defend, and what I have to defend it against. I defend what is nascent in me but not yet born, and I defend it against fear and expectations that have kept it unborn for many years.
People who understand, honor and respect what is behind my walls can walk right though them. People who don't find them impenetrable. Seems like that makes sense.
I respect the need for walls...goddess knows i needed mine to get this far.
So when i say i'm giving you space...all i mean is...i'm not trying to break in anymore. You'll let me in if and when you're ready...and willing.
And what I am saying, is that I continue to be willing to keep the conversation going, to try to show you what lies inside -- and to sense respect for that. We chat, listen to each other's stories, find shared reference points, shared beliefs -- rather than playing 20 questions to try to do an x-ray. My life is told in my words, not in yours, and I say that as one who spent a lot of time interviewing other people -- as a salesperson, as a TV host.
To let each other in, we have to find areas we share.
Your last message talked about the fact that you were beginning to see that I didn't want to play the role of a man in a relationship. I said that was good. And yet in this message you tell me that I am defended, with high walls, like that's something I don't know or don't have responsibility for.
So that's the deal. Everybody needs defenses -- but they, like white blood cells, have to be selective and effective, to keep out that which will hurt us, which is foreign to our bodies, and easily accept that which is positive and beneficial. It's called balance.
Am I perfect at that? No. But I don't think I'm bad at it either.
Marianne Williamson: "The point is not hunting for the person we want to meet, rather it is becoming who the person we meet would want to meet and be with."
Pamela: I only called you he since I saw you in your boy clothes.
2d meeting: L'Ecole Encore "He will end up competing with you, said my friend." There were also other uses of "He" before the viewing.
Subj: Re: Support in 914
In a message dated 96-07-28 09:12:47 EDT, (Nikki) writes:
I'm not to far from Albany, But I work in Westchester/White Plains and thursday would be impossible. I'm a little <A lot nervous. Really scared about just going to a group.
Let's start from the beginning. And the first is that you are not alone. This gift of transgender, this plague of crossdressing is something that many people, both male and female share and have learned to intergrate into a full complete and happy life. That may mean going to out of town conferences, joining a support group, doing drag performances, living as a woman on weekends, going full time, having SRS. This is NOT a hierarchy -- it is a menu.
But the one thing that every TG person shares is the experience of the closet, the hammering of the gendering process to knock you into what others expect as the norm for people of your genital configuration. You built a wall to keep all the feminine stuff inside -- and I'll bet that wall, thet requirement to keep everyone at arms length wasn't good for your marriage -- or for your happiness.
But you can take that wall down and find ways to intergrate TG into a whole, authentic and happy life. That does mean that you have to face the pain & sorrow you felt in having to kill off that feminine part of you -- but behind that pain is the joy of the full person that you are.
I've never dressed in public <Not sure that I ever will. I'm sure thats not a group requirment. But to be honest I'm scared! I know I should seek counceling but just can't afford it right now.
I understand. It can be hard to find a good counselor who does gender, who helps you work past shame.
The only question I would ask: Can you afford not to get counseling? Would a breakdown be the better way to handle this situation?
Only you know the answer to that.
There are a lot of great books and tapes out on dealing with shame -- and you have a ride to listen to tapes on. Try some John Bradshaw, Merle Fossom, or even Marianne Williamson.
New Paltz is a regular stop for me, I have a a few friends and associates that meet there. The only problem is I can't be open to those around me. My associates and friends would not understand.
You don't know what they would or wouldn't understand until you ask them.
I would advise not telling them until you know yourself a bit better, have worked through some of the pain to find the joy -- people don't like seeing other people in pain, and often advise them to move away from what causes them pain -- even though for you, you have to touch that pain to heal it.
But that doesn't mean they wouldn't understand. Part of getting more healthy is beginning to understand that your fear that people would hate you if they knew your horrible, shameful secret they would hate/humilate/harrass/hurt you. That's RuPaul's trick -- the Ru came out, happy and bright and people love it.
It works for other people too.
I am at a very confusing time in my life. My Ex <Divorced in Jan tolorated the situation for a short time. I only came out in the last year of marriage <But she knew. I was first caught dressing around 11 or 12 and sent to a psych. Massive amounts of Ritlan and everybody thought I would get thru this "phase". 19 Years later and I am still in the same "so caled phase" with no more answers now, then I had then.
The interaction of ADD and TG is fascinating. While it seems clear to those who have done their work that TG is NOT a phase, but the way some people are born, some therapists want to treat it as an obsessive/compulsive desire -- and that, like all other forms of eliminating it, has not been effective.
The only way to deal with TG is to explore it, move it from obsessive hiddenshame filled fantasy to an healthy part of a whole life. It's not easy or perfect -- but it's better than jumping off the Tappan-Zee.
I'm sure everything ties in. My mother left when I was young. Thats why the doctor said I dressed. Come to think of it I was around 10. My wife leftbecause I couldn't let her inside me. Thats something she needed very much. Perhaps a result of my mother as well.
Ah, yes, growing up early. Doctors like cause and effect -- but no one has yet found a cause for TG, and the only cure medicos gave us (thanks to Ms. Jorgensen), transsexual surgery, has lots of limits. Many of us stop asking "Why?" to find a cause, and ask "Why?" to find out what we are supposed to learn from this gift -- connection, courage, wholeness?
If you had been another kind of male, you would have dealt with your grief in another way -- it was your TG nature that probably drove you to dressing, not loss that created your TG nature.
As I entered my teenage years. Dressing seemed to become sexual. I dress, stay dressed as long as I want <I enjoy it so much. Then of course it always ends in self excitment. After which I feel ashamed. Each time I tell myself it's ok to sleep in a nice nightgown etc. But I never do.
Yep. Big part of the deal. It's OK to get an erection, but not to actually live TG.
I call it the brain/heart/gonads model (you can use whatever three part image of self you like here.)
Your heart says: I want to dress pretty! I want to do feminine things, act in a feminine way, make feminine choices!
Your brain says: Look! We will get killed if we do that. FEAR, FEAR, FEAR! No!
Your gonads say: Oh shit this is nice, this is aaahhhhhhhhhooooooo!
Your brain says: OK. If it's just for sex, in the house, it's OK -- after all, sex is supposed to be dirty. Fine, for sex.
Your heart says: Hey brain, we didn't die doing that -- let's try doing a little more. . .
And that's where you are. Your heart quests, your gonads tingle, and your brain fears. It's a loop others have broken and have found transformation and joy.
But fear is something we all have to learn to move beyond -- and you know that.
In the end, dealing with TG is about pride transcending shame, sure. But more than that it's about being able to say "What the fuck!" and risk a bit -- and being able to say "Fuck You!" to those who want you to stay afraid.
31 August 1996
I do not want to be who I was.
Yet I do not yet know -- or at least trust -- who I am.
I get angry when I feel pressured to bring up the old me, to live inside the stone butch persona that I built for defense of my sensitive inner self.
Yet I am not yet ready to leap and trust that new energy can take me. The challenge of the butterfly: I hate to have to crawl -- yet I am still not ready to fly.
I went to Lake Placid to see JJ, a CD friend & Anne, his wife, to get my computer fixed.
I thought about driving up to LP, and how I get dressed in the morning. On one hand it's obvious -- just put on some jeans, a pretty top, a little makeup. On the other hand, it's easier & safer just to wear my boy clothes. Might have a car problem, something.
Besides, to me, fixing computers puts me in quite a masculine mode -- or maybe it's more accurate to say that I do it better in a masculine mode.
Now, at sometime I have to take the risk. But maybe not this trip.
Yet, one thing that may be fun for JJ was having someone else to play with, even for a night -- to share dressing for dinner with. Yet, if I do that, am I just a crossdresser? In some ways I am, I will always be -- but in other ways I am not -- I find that role very restricting.
JJ does wear girl clothes around the house, but with no pretense of being a woman -- Anne accepts him as a man in a dress. But how does she accept me? Anne is more comfortable with the notion of crossdressers, boys who dress up now and then -- not blatant gender queers. This is not to say that she wouldn't be elegant & gracious -- I have no doubt that she would.
Anne is working on being assertive, transcending her old familial caretaker, codependent role. She has met me twice before -- and I performed at dinner again this week.
In the morning she told me off. I talk at her, perform too much, watch her too much, don't have a point, create walls.
All true, of course. I was in a mode where I didn't like who I thought I had to be -- and so was she. We are both changing people, not quite free from our chains of programmed reactions and impulses, but not comfortable in them anymore. I was sensitive to her -- maybe too sensitive, and she felt it acutely and it triggered old patterns -- patterns that she doesn't like.
We chatted later, in the boat, how you can be controlled by the world in two ways. You can work to change everything around you so it's perfect and fail, or you can simply accept everything around you and adapt to it and fail. It's the serenity prayer: "Give me the strength to change what I can change, the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference." Anne and I are too adaptive -- sacrificing our own influence in the cause of peace. She sensed that in me too -- and we did our dance.
Does beauty pay off in life? If you come from a world you have changed, arranged to be beautiful, do you become stronger & more beautiful?
Anne, an artist, suggested that I get out with people, to find a safe space make some mistakes, to stretch my still wet wings, just coming out of the chrysalis. A message came into my e-mail that reminded me that without the struggle, a butterfly's wings will not be string enough to fly -- and that the butterfly does not see this struggle as negative, just as part of life. Struggle just is.
Am I one of those people who want to talk about it or to do it? Of course, this is the problem with every artist -- art requires immersion, and immersion is inherently isolating, so we talk at people.
Anne also noted that we tend to get more focused as we get older, if only because the things we are not good at tend to fall away -- we don't have the energy to keep up a front and have to become more authentic.
It was hard. I felt "attacked" because I was putting up defenses -- and yet those defenses felt bad. I always hope those in the community will see beyond them -- but they have their own dramas.
In many ways, my discussion with Anne was a discussion with my sister -- we work on the same issues and are angry most at our reflection, not at others.
I have been offered a comp for Southern Comfort 96 -- sharing a room with Sabrina, meals and $100 for travel. My biggest fear about going to Southern Comfort 96 is that I will feel pressured (and it's by myself, I know that) into being someone I don't want to be. Can I room with Bree and not be her TV partner? Can I pull up those old responses and not feel trapped by them? These are the questions.
I wasn't planning on SC96. I was feeding Bree jokes and routines for the talent show via e-mail, and she wanted me there -- asked about me sending a video tape. I said that for the cost of the projectors, it would be cheaper to fly me there. I have a routine for our opening -- we need to be radical. Bree pulls me out of the audience tried to get me to DramaQueen and I demur. I'm a TS now, not nice, not feminine. She continues to pull. I finally get furious, my voice drops and I read her out -- and then give up.
It's funny because it's on the goddamn edge. To be liminal is a very tough place.
Can I be who I need to be at SC -- or will I end up being angry with myself because I keep the defenses up? If that anger reflects on others, it is bad -- yet who can I trust with my own pain, especially in the face of people who are working hard not to transform?
So I went to dinner with Judith Emily and Jeanette. While one cute young gal stared, the waitress insisted on calling me ma'am.
The Legendary Barb was at group -- and Jenny had left in a huff.
It was "Old Playhouse" night -- $1 well drinks.
Michael Broderick, new director of the Capital District Gay & Lesbian Community Center and his partner came over and wanted to schedule a lunch.
Sheila (Cheryl?), the woman sitting next to me -- my age, with a great haircut, blazer, handmade pin and scarf (the same thing I was wearing) -- had a great discussion about politics, women and AIDS. We will chat again -- and I like her a lot.
And Ginny, a TV and Naval Academy graduate, 10 years younger than I (and taller), married with a 2 and 5 year old girl -- and in her boy clothes -- was smitten. He has previously said I am his idol because I am so outgoing -- and that I remind him of his mother, who abused him. He wants to be happy -- and I told him that unless he could feel all his feelings he would never feel happy -- and that meant to feel happy you must also be able to feel sad, compassionate, and so on.
Boys are so easy -- and it was nice to know that. He pleaded -- and I smiled. It was easy to have a big boy at my side -- het girl training, as it were. I know one friend who had to sleep with a boy before she gender shifted, even though she id's as lesbian -- and I always understood the reason. It helps one feel confident in the face of men.
Four reasons I didn't go anywhere with him:
1) He has a wife and kids who he loves.
2) He doesn't want sex -- he wants me to teach him to be outgoing, to feel his feelings, to work though the pain of his mother's abuse. Boys seem to think any feelings they have are about sex -- a lesson of heterosexism.
3) It wasn't a one night stand -- I would have to see him again.
4) (and every girl will understand this) I didn't have the right underwear and my house was a mess.
Goddess gave me gifts. As I told Terry in note I wrote that night, may I remember this when I am sober.
Why am I surprised that people see me as a ticking time bomb when I feel like I need to blast apart the old walls, my stone butch cocoon? An explosion is required -- as it has been for a while. I need to leap -- and the leap terrifies me.
The image of a butterfly having to struggle out of the chrysalis to get strength in her wings has come up twice in two days, from Anne & e-mail. It is important.
So what is the point? It is the same as always -- transformation is required.
I have to trust that if I come boldly and fully from my spirit that I will make connections, like I did Thursday night -- and that if I hold back, I will be unhappy and alienating -- like I was in Lake Placid.
But to boldly come out means making a statement, not worrying so much about walking the line between. You have to be able to commit to one side or the other, immerse, secure in the knowledge that you will be able to again find the shore when you need to. If you only venture out as far as you can without losing sight of the land of your past, you will never find your future.
I'm getting close, you know. I have spent a couple of years stuck in the birth canal, going between here and there. It's been a tough time -- but my writing has been useful and lucid, I have insights to share, a deeper knowledge.
Even TVs wives see me as a woman now -- they tell me that and talk to me about the issues they see with men pretending to be women, and how that can look ungainly, awkward and unpleasant. I have learned to speak woman -- albeit with an accent, an accent that can be minimized with practice.
It's funny. JJ's "plumber" analogy from the long ride home from SC93 stays with me -- if you can fix pipes, you are a plumber. In many ways he was right -- though I now believe that it is when other plumbers accept you as a plumber that you are a plumber. To be accepted you have to be able to speak the language of plumbers -- and heaven knows, I have a gift for being able to speak the language of others.
Yet JJ also noted that at 40, he was struggling with the same issue -- and he did go full time, yet called it off to marry a woman who wanted a Daddy.
I have the feeling that I need to get my thoughts crystallized, down on paper, in context. JJ noted that I often seem to be all over the place -- that he can't get the point. This makes sense, because my conflicts are so clear and violent -- yet all a part of who I am.
If I had to predict my future, I would say I need to get the book out, let go of the angst of transition and move on. I think in the future I will be able to write fiction, to unlock the detailed stories and images that play so vividly in my dreams.
But every journey starts with the next step -- and the next step for me is a leap. Everyone knows that.
Separations And ShitJust got off the phone with Terry Murphy. Terry made two points.
One is that she feels I need to have more sex, because it's about holes. We chatted about this, and what we both agreed on is that holding back from relationships because we are afraid of what will happen -- we will not be desired, we will be desired, we will be hurt, whatever -- is staying in the closet and limiting. She sees this fear of opening up as a key issue in the TG community -- and sees my own life as an example of it, too theoretical, not practical enough.
She does understand that opening to relationships is opening to disappointment and pain -- but it is the only way to open to joy and connection.
The second point had less agreement. Terry felt my words about "those crossdressers" and decisions about "cross dresser events" are elitist and separating, that I try to distance myself from others who are just like me. She found my words, and the attitudes she felt they must represent as very nasty.
I wanted to talk about the issues of making choices with resources. I noted that I go to crossdresser events every week -- but that I don't necessarily fly to them, run to them over distances.
But the key debate was over growth. It may be OK to want to hang out with other Nobel Laureates -- other people with whom you share more experience -- but that doesn't give you the right to put down non-Nobel Prize winners.
I have had this debate in many ways and many time. I like people who are growing, don't like people who are just blowing off steam so they can just fit back into the closet. I don't care how they grow -- spiritually, politically, mentally, emotionally, whatever -- it does not have to be to gender shift. What Terry doesn't like is me using the word "crossdresser" for those people -- and separating myself from them in any way.
I approve of crossdressers. I think they should live their life well and happy. I so think we are both transgendered -- but many of them reject their transgendered nature and want to only dress up now and then. How should I respond to people who reject the notion that they are simply genderqueers -- even if they live 99% as a married boy? How should I respond to people who deny the possibility of transformation between man and woman simply because they need to stay fixed in place?
I go to TGIC, I am friends with individuals. I spend time in crossdresser space. But I don't go out of my way to find it. And just this week, I wrote a response to a set of "Basic Facts About Crossdressing," published in the TGIC newsletter that insisted crossdressers not only did not want to become women but couldn't -- even calling someone who lives full time as a woman with a penis "he."
Can we identify differences without creating separations and hierarchy? I work hard to do that.
But Terry couldn't hear that. My words need work, yes -- but Terry is convinced the real problem is the beliefs under them. I, on the other hand, am convinced the problem is that Terry wants desperately to stay a crossdresser -- while I want desperately not to be one. This creates a lot of conflict -- none of it related to the underlying questions we both face.
Subj: Separations & Connections
Thanks for your kind & considerate phone call.
We both agree that desireshifting is very hard.
And we agree that you have to open up, take risks in relationships to find the joy and growth -- even though we may find pain and disapointment. The gender community just doesn't do enough -- stays too closeted, too safe because of a wide range of fears -- including as you noted, that they won't be desired -- or worse, that they will be.
We both have challenges in finding something big enough. Time for SF for both of us.
But we argue about the labels, the separations, the growth. Does our growth create connection or separation?
It's a wild / tame thing. The wilder we get, the more unqiue we are -- but that also means we understand how alike we are. One of the key paradoxes of life is that we are all unique and all the same. Like drops of water in the sea, who may see themeslves as separate but are connected, or spokes, all pointing different directions, but connected at the hub.
We both fight against and for labels. If I am this, am I not that? Is it about either/or dualities or about Zen aspects -- being both maculine and feminine at the same time in different ways? How much am I limited by labels imposed on me? How much should I fight to reject the label? How much should I fight to redefine it to refect my beliefs? Are labels hopelessly limiting, or a conveient way to define groups? Can anyone be grouped or are we all individuals -- and if we are, how do we discuss what we share?
We both want to speak for connection. But we also have to speak for difference -- and this is tough.
Are all separations eliteist?
Is choosing to hang out with other [therapists, gas jockeys, Unitarians, abuse surviors, whatever] inherently putting down any other group?
If you see separations, does it deny connections? If you see connections does it erase differences?
I don't avoid crossdressers. In fact, I often -- about once a week -- deliberately try to meet them at TGIC.
But I don't see myself as a crossdresser. Why? Because I dress to reveal my gender, not to conceal my sex.
There are people who identify as crossdressers who I love.
Yet the beliefs of groups of crossdressers are such that I violently disagree with them. Many deny they are transgendered, making it clear it is only about clothes, not self. Many choose to only blow off steam so they can fit back in the closet, rather than growing in some way (and not neccsarily gender shift.) And most deny and run from their essential queerness.
Because the model of crossdressing was developed by the Prince and promulgated by her organizations, I can disagree with it -- and with people who follow it blindly.
This does not mean that I don't see my connections -- and my differences -- with CDs, who I see as transgendered people in a specific kind of role.
You love rhetoric. "Some Of My Best Friends Are Negroes. . " you throw at me. But even though their skin color connected them, some blacks chose not to hang out with negroes and make bold moves for civil rights. ". . . but that doesn't mean you shouldn't hang out with Catholics, or Doctors." Of course -- but the question is if you conciously avoid them, not if you simply move in different circles.
I love both your political bent and your call for connection. I firmily believe that connection is crucial. Anne Bolin's quote "In societies where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender transgression remind us of our continuous common humanity," is my watchword. You express this in political terms -- me in more spiritual, kind of Buddhist ways.
But even with the focus on connection, this life is finite. We make choices, see differences. We need to make the best choices we can -- and unless we can look at the choices of others, we can't see the options.
But the words around that can be polarizing.
Our current debate is the continuation of a long line of debates on the same topic. You put me down for calling someone a "guy" -- until I pointed out you used the same word to describe Jennifer at TGIC. You have told me how much you hate the word transition, how you see separations as horrible -- and while I have agreed, I also see you making separations -- because you have to.
Do you still play actively in SigEp -- or do you see a separation between you and they, even if it is a separation enforced by them? I know you had to leave because you were not their kind of crossdresser. They have decided the same about me.
When we use labels, do we always mean absolutes -- All X are always Y -- or do we simply try to talk about our experience -- I have found most X to be Y, and I so I call people I find people to be Y, X? I know that I don't mean abolutes -- I don't think all TVs are anything other than human. On the other hand, I do think I can talk about what they share --- and thet share it because they define themselves by what they share -- and they speak their beliefs out loud in Tri-Ess publications.
If we accept people as indviduals, does that mean we can't talk about groups? How does that limit our discussion? Or does it only mean we accept that each individual is not a perfect match for any specific group -- that humans are much more than a label or even a set of labels?
I appreciate your concerns of elitism, of putting others down. Yet, my issue is not that I refuse to be around "them" -- whoever they are -- but rather that I don't go out of my way to be with them.
Maybe I need new words. It's a bit "Closety" -- even though it is certainly not 100% that. It's a bit too straight, not queer enough -- like you find Atlanta.
Am I the same as all people? Yes. Am I the same as all TG people? Yes. Are there differences between me and CDs -- or anyone who doens't share the same expreience? Yes. Do those differences make me better? No. But it is reasonable to choose to expend energy to be with people I do share more with -- or whom I have more to learn from? Yes.
Thanks for your call. I appreciated it, for a number of reasons, including a report on a living in a corporate state -- and the odd phenomona of walking wounded while smiling and saying how great it was.
I am aware that one of my primary lines of defense has always been being aloof -- keeping a distance from things so I don't have to be in them. I am also aware that can read as elitism -- even if it is insecurity and and fear. But it is one of the key things I am working on, to break though, break out of so I can show up more fully -- and take part in life without fear. And that, of course, is the point of it all.
(who has never seen Holly as "sainted")
Diane Wilson, genderqueer
Nothing succeeds like excess.--Oscar Wilde
In message "Michigan and WomynSpace (not on EFNet!)", you write:
Nope, I didn't present it as fact. It IS my opinion... as is the vast majority of what is written to the group.
Your presentation doesn't leave much room for other opinions. That's why I said that you're presenting as fact. I felt no openness, no intent to be open. And you wrote this:
which means that your whole life has been influenced by the male "nurture". Whether you liked it or not. Whether you felt it fit you or not. It is just a fact.
"It is just a fact." You said it. If nurture were that powerful, I'd be a man, and you'd be straight. We've both had hard journeys to become who we are. I give you credit for your journey; why won't you give me credit for mine?
What I got out of all that nurture was the absence of a place to fit. We know we don't fit, even if we live for decades without understanding why. Others know we don't fit, even if they don't know why. So we struggle along as best we can, until we accept who we are: women, born into male bodies. Then we do what we can to become whole.
I don't ask to be considered as being "the same" as a genetic woman. It's painfully obvious, to *us* more than to anyone else, that this is not the truth. I don't lie or make any pretense about being other than who I am, except to the extent that I have to work and go to the grocery store while maintaining some sort of personal privacy and dignity. What I do ask is to be accepted as who I am, a woman with a different history.
But aren't all of our histories different anyway? Is a woman who grew up in a loving home going to be the same as a woman who grew up being abused? (I'm also an abuse survivor.) No; these women are not the same. Neither will ever understand the other. This does not prohibit acceptance and sharing, though, and that's really all that I ask.
You are jumping to conclusions here. You're wrong. How do you know that I haven't met hundreds of transsexual people?
How easy is it for you to spot someone who is talking about lesbians and knows nothing about them? Same thing applies here. Your post is full of misinformation, misunderstanding, and rejection. If you have met any of us, you didn't seem to learn much from the experience.
My impression is that you'd rather that we just go away and form our own society. I'm sorry; life doesn't work that way. This is a two- gender society. There is no third restroom. The whole issue for us is not limited to finding ourselves; it has to include integration into society, one way or another. Neither is this an invasion of women's space; that is simply part of the follow-on. If I reject being a man, then where do I go? If you slam the door in my face when it comes to being a woman, what's left? That's why I get such a strong feeling that you simply want us to go away. But there's no place to go. Please read Adrienne Davis' comments on being black in America; there are strong parallels with being transgendered. I can't go back to being a man. What options does that leave?
Let's make one other distinction here. I am not accepting you to accept me sexually. There is nothing of that in my request for acceptance. I am a woman, without regard for my body which is neither male nor female. I am a woman who loves a woman. When we go out in public, we (specifically, Carol and I) face the same prejudice that you do. You talk about celebrating what you have, but is it really everything that you want? Do you live without receiving prejudice from anyone? Can you marry your partner? Are you really willing to reject those who would be happy to work along with you to achieve common goals? Or are you doing what you accuse us of doing, of riding along on the hard work done by others, while contributing nothing?
Once again, I you have crossed the line into telling me what I know and what I don't know. That's folly.
No more than you crossed that line by telling me who I am and who I am not. That, too, is folly. What I am telling you is that I reject your definition of me. I do not accept your rejection of me.
3 September 1996
What fun is life unless you are obsessed about something? Especially for an ADD kid, life is only fun when you are "selfless"-- that is when you lose self consciousness somehow.
Diane Ackerman, a pilot, scuba diver, and horse woman, writes, in her book On Extended Wings, that she likes:
"that moment central to danger... when you become so thoroughly concerned with acting deftly, in order to be safe, that only reaction is possible, not analysis. You shed the centuries, and feel creatural. Of course you do have to scan. assess, and make constant minute decisions. But there is nothing like thinking in the usual methodical way. What takes place is more akin to informed instinct. For a compulsively pensive person, to be fully alert but free of thought is a form of ecstasy."
I have been obsessed with acquiring stuff, with shopping -- a touch of the shopaholic -- and that is not a useful obsession. If I can't wear it I can own it -- a socially approved obsession for TG people, "as long as we don't have to see it, dear. . ." Some of it is stealing my life back -- they stole my soul, and I stuff it with junk.
Too many trips to the mall -- and escapes from the work that I have to do. Not useful. I am working now to only go into a store if I intend to buy something -- hard.
Ostensibly, the point is simple. I just want to live my life wearing what I want to wear, being who I want to be --yet without paying a high price in humiliation, and without having people fear me -- without being a lightening rod for the anger people feel at having to follow the heterosexist system. Yet the issues are deeper.
For my birthday I bought the Capital District Business Review and made a list of meetings I could go to -- Consultant's Alliance, Women Marketers, Home Based Business and so on.
On my birthday I actually got dressed and went to Clifton Park for an 8AM meeting -- but I didn't like the crowd, so I went home.
For me, part of the failure complex my Mother gave me is "it's too late" feeling -- that some how I am past the point of trying. I do this with bills, doctors, whatever -- it is a very big deal
Yet, I know that life begins again in every moment, that change can start now -- that you are never past the point of taking control of your life. Yet believing in and acting on that is hard.
What is the issue? It is simple. I believe that if I take a risk I will be creamed. And this is not about my TG, it is about my mother and her narcissistic issues -- the same as Christine & Paige and lots of other people in my life.
I have always learned to keep my dreams and obsessions private hidden, not to make the public. It is this horrible public aspect that scares me -- and is what I have to do.
I would feel afraid exposing myself in my boy clothes -- but the big difference is that I know how to stay hidden in them, because my boy identity is a portable closet. I am not nearly as vulnerable as I am in a dress. Yet my friends who were born female also often feel the same vulnerability, the same fear of being seen. Chris, she of the carrot red hair, tries to disappear, talks of being comfortable, of not standing out, of how other people have no business commenting on her -- she wants to live in a closet. Yet, it limits her -- and we talked about it when she called for my birthday -- wrenching for both of us.
Julia Paige, related the story of a coworker who noted that she was uncomfortable in groups. "He said I had trouble in groups because I didn't know who to be." Ah, the perils of a codependent kid who grew up in a narcissistic family.
I spoke with a friend from the Internet, a powerful queer pagan from the bay. We talked about the "Lucite egg" syndrome -- the number of TG people who survive only because they walk around in a Plexiglas closet, unable to feel how people are actually responding to them.
My closet is deep, my closet is broad.
But it is my closet.
I don't trust humans because I don't trust humans, not just because of transgender. This is a mommy issue -- and a tough one to address.
Stamina. endurance, toughness, hardness. Are they all the same? Does one lead to another
What do we lose? Does sensitivity go? Is the only way to have stamina, to endure life to be tough, to build a stone shell around your heart?
One reason I believe this is because the notion of building a shell was the only way that I survived my youth. I don't know any other techniques for survival other than the closet.
I am more and more aware that the gift of humanity is the gift of being finite. Infinite beings don't have to make hard choices, to burn away that which is not essential.
But humans do -- we have limited time & energy. That process of choice -- which gets clearer and clear the older we get, the less excess energy we have an the more wisdom we get -- is the gift of this lifetime. If people are the choices they make under stress, then discovering yourself is discovering the choices you make in the face of a finite reality.
I do believe that our spirits are infinite -- but there must be something to learn from our finite period of human life.
Joseph Campbell talks about the most powerful ritual he went though. You start with five tokens, each representing one of the most important things in your life -- and as you go though the woods, you go though challenges where you must give up a token. What is important to you? What decisions do you make?
This is how we express our spirit in the world -- by the choices we make from the finite amount of tokens we are given. Yet I simply horde -- and hide.
I came home from a ClamClub party (9/7)and went into Price Chopper in Guilderland at about 1AM in my denim dress, cowboy boots and enormous blonde shag. I expected to be laughed at -- but the stocking crew ignored me. I had work to do and I did it -- getting sale spaghetti sauce. I bought some sausages and was overcharged -- so I came back in and got it corrected.
It was one of the first times I felt powerful, right & normal walking though the supermarket in pantyhose (under my dress, of course.)
I got home and switched on the TV, seeing a man in prison talking to a woman -- and when Lyle Lovett started singing "Sometimes It's hard to be a woman," I knew it was the end of The Crying Game.
Sometimes Goddess reminds me that the future is possible . I just need to get a car, dump out all this conceptual text and then turn into a singer of stories, a storyteller who can help enlighten lives -- sort of a cross between Jackie Collins & Garrison Keilor. . .
Julia Paige: "That's the problem with CDs -- they always say we went out we had fun, we passed, we're back to normal -- that's the only point, not transformation. I want to write about Trish the Cowboy, my twisted crossdressing ex-husband."
If my message is that we are connected by something deeper than surface looks, tacked on labels, then how do I communicate that in this country?
The US is a transient culture, with a dubious future and a blurry past. We have been stripped of our deep roots -- and they have been replaced by shallow labels, that serve management, marketing, politicians.
How do I convey the notion of ownership -- taking ownership of your own life. How do I convey that our life exists in a context (something bigger than you), that there is something to pass on -- passing generations, stories, caring.
Unless we are able to renounce something in the moment to get something larger and more important -- and that larger and more important thing happens -- we will tend to make our decisions for the moment.
I am the generation of the bomb -- and while the bomb couldn't destroy the well rooted European civilizations, it seems to have blown the hell out of the shallow American one. Do we actually see a future -- or at least one that isn't dark? Does America reject her past as shallow and exploitative -- so she rejects her future?
Technology has always helped humans get a better life, and I do believe it always will -- even details like mining landfills will be possible in the future. But for that to happen, we have to have a rooted culture.
How do I convince people that our roots run deep -- and that we are all connected to them?
Some notes from the last session:
It's like that time when your hair is growing out and it's not short and it's not long, and part of you wants to hide, and part of you wants to cut it off and give up, and part of you knows you just have to keep living.
Confidence is a muscle that grows with experience. I learned confidence about presenting as a man --- yet I have limited confidence about presenting as a woman. It's like a 16 year old girl who likes to have her friends around her, is sensitive to slights and problems, versus a 32 year old woman who knows her talents and doesn't let hits bother her.
For me, the hardest time is when I am around someone I perceive has expectations of who I am supposed to be -- and I find that limiting. Of course, this describes much of my TG life -- people who saw me as a big 'ol man had expectations about that life.
My friends who resist change have expectations that I will not change, will not challenge them. Hard.
For me, the way to build confidence is not to minimize my losses -- work harder on passing -- but to maximize my wins, believe I can be powerful and effective when coming from my womanspace. I can't win with passerby's in the mall --- that's not my game. I need to win in relationship -- and that means, in this culture, work of some kind. There I can feel useful and capable -- and with those wins, the little losses in the mall are trivial.
Yes, I need a pal, one who sees me as I want to be seen, who affirms and protects me -- as I protect her. I have been explicit about this -- though you want something else, a client -- someone you keep theraputic distance with.
Subj: Lesbian Because Mind Is Seared. . .
5401 N. W. Broken Sound Blvd.
Boca Raton, FL 33487
Rosie O'Donnell In Gay Marriage - Gay talk queen and Grease star Michelle Blakely raising baby in luxury love nest
When she was a tender 10-year-old, Rosie's mom died, leaving her and her four sisters and brothers to be raised by their dad. Rosie was devastated and turned to her father Edward for understanding and comfort - but was rebuffed, say sources.
"That seared her mind," a pal confides. "and Rosie decided men could never meet her emotional needs."
The more I think about this, the more offended I am. Somehow, the Globe has decided that Rosie was turned gay, that it is her parent's fault.
It's like having a seed bloom and then saying that the gardener was responsible for it. The only thing we can do as gardeners is simple -- to either help the seeds blossom or to hinder them. There is no way we can grow beans from a corn seed -- all we can do is bring our what lies nascent in the seed.
Now, with humans, there are lots of possibilities lying dormant in us, ready to bloom when we find the right conditions. We are entire gardens in one package -- like those flower mats that contain lots of seeds. We can be inhibited in our growth or supported -- but I'm not sure how much we can change the seeds of our origins.
Sure, it's about choices -- we quickly become the gardener in her own life, and we are sure of that when we have the responsibility to nurture the growth of another, when we become a parent. We need to choose what parts of our garden to help grow.
One issue is weeds. What is a weed and should be cut back in our life? What is not? We are often told that there are weeds in the human soul -- but in the diversity of nature, every plant has it's role, and any plant only chokes others when the balance is shot -- and people see then them as the enemy. It's all about wild & tame -- weeds are just plants that won't be tamed.
So when I see this big play that somehow Rosie is gay because her mind was seared, I choke. If Rosie had been pure het, she would have never turned to women. And if she is bi somewhere (and with her drooling about Tom Cruise, she may be), a more positive model of man in relationship may have helped her accept a het marriage -- though she still would have been bi. But nature and nurture worked together in some balance to end up in a lesbian relationship.
It's not because her mind is seared, not her parent's fault. It's the way she blossomed. And, in the garden of humanity, that's beautiful.
Subj: Re: uh - roles? nails? younguns?
In a message dated 96-09-11 11:41:55 EDT, (Angela Moreno Lippert) writes:
i absolutely agree with the rest of your post, but this part is troublesome. as the resident herm, i feel the need to challenge this oversimplification. genetic and anatomical diversity alone disprove the assertion that male = outtie and androgen while female = innie and estrogen. humans come in all kinds of delectable varieties.
Yes, they do -- and there is no doubt that the simple act of looking at genitals is a very cursory and simplistic way to see the sex of a person -- another good argument why it shouldn't be the only decider of what gender expectations we have pressed onto us.
While you talk about the intersexed and herms, that is genital sex in a wider range of configurations.
I wonder about the day when we can look at hormonal components (like hormone shock or balance), genetic issues (like chromosomes that lead to sexual orientation) or other anatomical issues (like, perhaps, varying brain configurations) and all the other innate things that go into deciding who we are.
The issue of nature or nurture is a continuing one, and it is clear that whatever the answer it will include natural predilections combined with environmental factors to make a whole person. I know that the messages I get from below my conscious mind tell me that I am profoundly transgendered. It's easy to read those messages as coming from body, but I am also aware they may simply come from non-verbal socialization.
I agree that simply looking at our genital configuration is not the ending part, nor is it the only body part that determines our sexual configuration. But there is no doubt that it is what is looked at -- in your case, it seems, they looked your crotch at birth, made a decisions for the rest of your life -- and when your body announced things weren't that simple, they simply cut off the challenging part. Not good or fair.
For many of us, the cues that we aren't as simple as the classification of our genitals made us seem are more subtle, based in behavior and not in visible body parts. If we could see more of our inner configuration, could we be classified more easily? Maybe -- or maybe people would, as in your case, define those dissonances as a pathology and try to cure it with a knife or other therapy.
Kessler & McKenna, in "An Ethnomethodoligical Approach To Gender" talk about "cultural genitals" -- that we try to read the sex of someone from what we see in front of us and then assign them the cultural genitals of the sex we identify them as. It's the first question, no doubt -- "He or She? Penis or Vagina?" We try to figure out sex (and to some degree, age and race) -- and then determine the appropriateness of the gender wrapped around that sex.
This is the issue of being "third" -- can we be without even cultural genitals? Or do they switch with our gender expression? Kylie has talked about getting alternating "She" and "He" as she walked down the street. Is third distinct, or is third simply interpretable in multiple ways?
Of course, the issue of how transracial people -- children of mixed ethic groups -- are seen is the same issue. Almost everyone cares about determining sex/gender -- but those who want to determine race are now somewhat less, yet we may do that to determine if we like that person -- if they are one of us -- or if we hate that person -- if they are one of them.
Bodies are not black or white, in any sense. And being prejudiced about how someone looks is not useful -- we need to judge people on how they act.
But I also know that words mean what we agree they mean. And Male and Female are pretty well agreed upon -- even if they don't include some of us, or only describe us on the surface.
Subj: Re: Fame (was ha(s)te)
In a message dated 96-09-11 02:43:12 EDT, email@example.com (tranzone) writes:
however, i want to tell you that a member of this list decided to write to me in response to a public post i made a week ago, a private response which was obviously written in ignorance and ha(s)te. it was way beyond a flame. this editor chose to attack my mastectomy and my pride, my transgender and my identity. i believe the person used the private forum to ventilate what they were unwilling to say in public, in cowardess.
This is an issue that I have been dealing with. If we want to stand up boldly and speak our challenging words, we are going to get slammed. That simple. Most people will ignore us, some will love us, and some will hate us. I have written before that the hardest thing about being TG is that you become a lightening rod for the hate that people have about the pain they feel from having to fit into a gender system to get love -- they made the sacrifice, and you standing up to say it's not worth it means you have to be quieted.
A friend said to me that the only way that people would care about what I am saying is if I am dead or famous -- being dead is easy -- so how do you get famous?
How do you stand up and be vulnerable, exposed, lose your privacy and your comfort and risk the hate of others in order to find the love of others?
This is an "out" issue -- how far out do we have to be. And when we get out, how do we cope with it?
I know, for example, that Urvashi Vaid has to have "intelligent ignorance" about people's reaction to her -- she just has to be able to write off some of it in order to survive, so violent is the hate for her standing up to say we should be queer, especially from people who are in pain about swallowing their own queerness. But how does this required insensitivity cut us off from our world?
I realized that I would be a perfect transgendered shaman -- doing the work of the tribe. But there are no ads out for companies that need that now. The way to do that job is to stand up -- and in this culture, that means exposing ourselves to slings and arrows.
I know Morgan feels this -- that people attack, use his words against him -- that people take away his privacy and hurt. Yet, it is part of the deal.
One person on this list argues that fame is too costly -- we should just try to be infamous, create a wild persona and go for it. It's a notion.
So these are the issues. I hope Morgan doesn't go -- but, on the other hand, I do suspect that as he gets more and more out he will have to deal with his words being spread and his ideas attacked more and more.
How can we be famous enough to speak the words others need to hear -- and still survive the potshots and anger that we will draw?
This is a question.
Subj: Re: Powersurge policy revisited
To: (boychicks@QueerNet.ORG), (PatCalifia)
The question of what is the cost of following a transgendered path, of what we have to let die in order for other things to bloom, is one that will always haunt transgendered people.
In a broader sense, this question is one that haunts the world. To accept a new way, to have things change, we have to not only grab ahold of the future, we have to let go of the past. If we fight for no death -- of schools, of plants, of animals, of houses -- then we have no room for no life. On the other hand, we cannot become casual about death, because we need our roots, our heritage to keep reminding us that we need to invest in our future.
Transgendered people see relationships die, privildges die, group connections & identity die, and more. And for each of us this is hard -- if we cannot be who we were yesterday, who can we be?
For many of us, who have become big fish in a small pond -- the biggest butch, say -- moving into a new pond full of butch fish offers us a whole new set of challenges. To grow and learn we need new challenges -- and that means leaving comfort and competing on a larger scale.
But to fight the deaths, the challenges, is to fight transformation to deny it.
Pat Califia makes this point in her way -- that we either believe in the possibility of transformation or deny it. I gave a speech to a Southern Comfort about exactly a year ago where I argued that "Transgender is either about pure transformation, or it is about nothing at all."
For anyone who calls themselves an FTM to want to be a man and still be allowed in woman space means that they don't believe in the possibility of transformation. And that limits everyone's possibility of transformation.
It seems clear that the line between men and women is not a thin one, but rather a wide "no-man's land," a zone where we are both and neither. Being in that zone can be wicked uncomfortable -- that I know firsthand.
Yet the question is: Do we believe that transformation is possible?
I recently read and commented on a a piece from Society For The Second Self (Tri-Ess) the primary organization that supports crossdressing males, an organztion that traces its roots to the early '60s.
In the definition of "transgenderist," which they consider under the category of crossdresser, the phrase "who lives and works [as a woman] all the time. Unlike the transsexual, he is content with his male organs and does not plan surgery to remove them."
So, to TRI-ESS, one who lives and works as a woman is still a he -- not a transgendered woman, but a full-time man-in-a-dress. This is an important definition, because two of TRI-ESS's top supporters, Virginia Prince and Kym Richards identify as transgenderists -- yet are not forced to resign from a society that is exclusively for "heterosexual crossdressers." They have not become lesbian women -- they are simply straight men who live as women.
This is all consistent with the notion that no crossdresser ever wants to be a woman, also espoused in the article. But surely we all know people who were self diagnosed as heterosexual crossdressers and who, as time passed, decided to go full time, and even to have sexual reassignment surgery. This "fact" makes the fact TRI-ESS choose to state that no crossdresser wants to become a woman a lie.
It may be argued that the crossdressers who want to become women were in fact misdiagnosed transsexuals -- but who is to say that many, if not all crossdressers are
TRI-ESS, it would seem, has a strong belief that males cannot become women -- even if they live full time -- because, as hetrosexual crossdressers don't want to become women -- don't want to become lesbians. Homosexuality is anethema to TRI-ESS -- even though their behaviors are as gender transgressive as possible.
To Tri-Ess, the only people who can become women have always been women and are born with the wrong genitals, hating them so much that they need to have them surgically altered. This statement implies that the definition of women is those with vaginas -- a very shallow and heterosexist view.
It makes me wonder that, if the state of phalloplastic surgery was more advanced, the same divisions would exist in the community of transgendered people born female. You are only a man with a dick -- but man-made dicks are still hard to come by and of limited function.
We feel we have the right to demand full surgery from a TG woman -- but not of a TG man.
This essentialist view -- that our holes and our history are the limits of transformation -- is both comforting and constricting. It means nothing in our life will ever die -- but it also means that that which is nascent in us will never bloom.
I wish there was more dignity, more respect, more support for those between the genders. Kate talks about the cost of living between genders, when a panhandler, very down, felt empowered to laugh at her after she gave him some money, because to him, Kate was even below how far he had fallen.
But if I want to open up space for transformation, then I have to believe that we are not always doomed to be (or blessed to be) what we once were -- that parts of us can go away and reveal other parts of us. That the socialization we were forced into as children does not always limit us (nor always protect us.)
Do we believe in the possibility to transform beyond our holes and our history or not?
This is the simple question -- and the only answers are hard.
But to embrace new life, I must embrace death -- that is the cycle of life.