So, I have been away for a while. As some of you know, I have had a few struggles of late; these have taken a toll on my energy. Your patience has been a gift. In all of this, there has also been a lot of good. For one thing, the wedding plans are going well despite financial worries and continued health concerns. Di and I are on track for the big day in October. In addition, I have had the opportunity to begin work on opening a non-profit that has been my dream for some time. The non-profit is called “grasp”: Gender Revisioning and Sexuality Pathways. We are progressing. Recently, I was invited to speak at a local United Church of Christ in regard to the expansion of their open and affirming welcoming statement. There were two sessions, the second of which took place this morning. Below is the content of the first session. The content of the second session will follow soon. I hope you will visit for both. These sessions were developed in response to four questions that the church council and the worship committees felt were most important. Here are my answers to the first two questions.
The willingness to have this dialogue is an obvious example of the things that are to be celebrated in Parkway’s welcoming and affirming path. This topic is a difficult one and certainly a topic from which most individuals and groups shrink—regularly. It takes enormous courage to openly deal with this topic and even more courage and spiritual insight to seek understanding that leads to real acceptance. The desire to gain greater understanding of gender issues demonstrates a significant spiritual maturity. It is relatively easy for most intelligent people to accept Gay men and Lesbians—it is not easy to extend openness to a group of people who are not well understood even in our “own” community. There is a high degree of transphobia among our own. [other “isms” exist as well because the LGBT community is still a community of humans…]
In my observation thus far, the other thing that stands out as an ongoing aspect of things done right is the overall openness at Parkway. There is a warmth and a sense of genuine caring here that speaks volumes about the personality and culture of the collective heart. It is one reason why we kept coming back. Similarly, the attitude of social consciousness and responsibility at Parkway is no small thing. The welcoming and affirming presence here is, I believe, an arm of a spiritually-based social awareness in theory and in practice. That a reach is being made to include all those actively—or silently—viewed as “other” is a gift to the community at large. And, in my opinion, is both word and action carrying the spirit of the Christ message: radical love and justice.
2. Areas for Growth:
I am not sure that it could be said that there are things being missed in the welcoming effort. What I have to offer in this area is more of a gentle cautioning—one which comes from years of experience as a person often adversely affected by even the best of intentions. It is a fact of human nature that a profoundly felt desire to right a wrong or to address the healing of damages done out of injustice, fears, and hatred can manifest in emotionally charged zeal. This is a good thing—passion is necessary for any lasting transformation of ourselves and our society. There are times, however, when passion becomes overzealous and, thus, becomes behavior without forethought and wisdom. It is easy when something is heart-felt to create—with good intentions—the very thing we are trying to correct: a king of backward discrimination, if you will. We can go so far to include that we create yet another category of difference. If we are not gentle and thoughtful in our delivery, we can send the message that we are reaching out to a group because they are different rather than because we want to embrace them as an extension of our own humanness, as being ourselves in another. Or, as Paul says, being “all members one of another.”
So, to this end, to the desire to greet the Christ in each other, to affirm in each of us both the greeter and the greeted, simply be yourselves. Breathe first. Relax. Focus on the fact that we truly are members one of another and leave room for the spirit to move through the spaces between. It is easy to try too hard when the heart-felt desire to make things right overpowers the simple truth that, when we greet one another in love, everything already is right. When we are simply open, love moves among us and the wrongs are righted—gently, quietly, often without words or explanation.
I would also say that the more we learn about the human condition the more a profound truth becomes clear: that we are bound by more common ground than we are ever separated by difference. So, the more we can educate ourselves about the aspects of human experience we perceive as outside of the realm of our own experience, the more we find similarities of experience, a range of universal feelings, and thus commonalities. Read. Hold discussions. Engage others. The more we reach across the illusion of difference and unfamiliarity, the more we find familiar—and the more we are all lifted up.
Your Pastor stated this was an opportunity, as well, to share with you—if you would like—some of my experience with the adverse perceptions of others. Because of the nature of our discussion, I am choosing to focus only on experiences related to religion, the church as I was raised in it, and I am avoiding general references to my overall adverse experiences moving in the world in this body. Those stories are both ancient and as new as yesterday; and they are for another time. It is interesting to me that I had never considered certain aspects of my experiences as violence until Craig and I were talking and emailing about this discussion. This is, for me, another example of the ways in which even self-aware adaptive people like myself develop levels of denial as we attempt to cope with our status in the world. I have been experiencing layers of growing awareness concerning the many things I had suppressed about my identity for some time now. It might be more appropriate to say that I acknowledged the anxieties, insecurities and fears, but made mistakes about their origins or causes. For example, I now see that many things I assumed were attributable to lesbian angst were really as much about gender angst. Within the church and my experience with religion, however, one was a bad as the other.
Two things stand out immediately to me.
I was raised in the Baptist church. Throughout, my parents insisted that I wear dresses to church. I was taught that I was to present my best self to God in respect and reverence and, since I was a girl, this meant wearing a dress. There was never a time that I felt comfortable. I felt awkward and out of place—as if, in fact, I were cross-dressing. At varying levels of conscious awareness, I felt like a boy in a dress. Clearly, this was noticeable because I was constantly reprimanded to “stop walking like a boy”—or, at least to “walk like a girl” which I had not even the vaguest idea how to do. I would protest that I was just walking. I was admonished to sit with my legs crossed, to sit “like a lady.” It was actually painful to try to do that. My parents had no intention of doing emotional violence to me; they had nothing but the best of intentions in regard to preparing me for adult life as a woman. The message I got, however, was that God wanted me only if I could be acceptable as a female. While in practice this was a message initiated by my parents, it was reinforced within the church after.
Around the age of 15, I announced to my parents that their protocol made no sense—that if God was God, then He saw me every day of the year and saw me all day long dressed in jeans and t-shirts. I further pronounced that a God who was all-knowing and all-powerful already knew who I was and who I was going to be…and, if what we were taught was true, then God played a huge role in my creation. All that said, God either loved me as I was or did not. And, if He only loved me on Sunday and only because I looked like a proper girl, then He wasn’t much of a God worth worshiping.
I stood my ground firmly, stating that one of two things were going to happen: either I wasn’t going to church ever again; or, I was going to wear dress pants and shirts when I went. My parents eventually caved as I refused to go Sunday after Sunday, hands raised in the air proclaiming my independence: “I am old enough that you can’t make me go…and what is the point if I am only going because you make me. Doesn’t God know that too?”
When I was allowed to attend dressed as I wished, the reaction by my peers and many of the adults was not easily hidden. It was as if they were seeing me for the first time. As if, somehow, the girl costume had partially hidden the something-amiss, the something-different about me that had been lurking under the surface. I was boyish. Physically as well as psychologically. The other girls looked at me with distain and something akin to shock. The guys seemed to realize why they were never drawn to me like they were the other girls and why treated me as a pal. Because I was one. I was one of the guys. But, because I was in a female body, they were uncomfortable and, thus, rejected me. What followed my first steps toward outing myself was not pretty. It was, I now see, religious violence of the worst kind.
As I attended church dressed as myself, a change occurred. Those who had initially begun to cast me out even further [I was always kind of different], now began to seek me out, to talk to me and invite me to things, and to make efforts to befriend me. Having few actual friends, I naturally was sucked in. But not for long. Because their gestures were false to begin with, they were also irregular, infrequent, and undependable making the pretense obvious. It became clear to me—and my parents—that something was amiss. Of course, in my mind, the something amiss was me. I wasn’t good enough. There were many episodes where my so-called friends stood me up, or I fell out of fashion for the week or the month and was let down, disappointed and hurt. Things came to a head. My mother intervened. It was discovered that a particular woman and some members of her clique had decided that I was troubled and did not have enough love in my life, that I needed the church to love me and heal me of my troubled state. They had taken it upon themselves to advise the youth to take me in and show me some love and friendship. I had become their project. Through false love and acceptance, they were going to fix me. Untrouble me. Bring me into the fold. Get me right with God.
With their intermittent, forced attention and pretense of love and acceptance, they nearly destroyed me. This was my first experience with false prophets. And their minions. My first real run in with zealots. By the time I was 17, I had refused to go back.
It is important to point out that there are two forms of violence here. One was the violence directed at me, the “other”—a violence of pretense, of assumption of insight about me and my needs, of self-serving gestures and attempts to change me through a perverted greater good enacted in Christian self-sacrifice. The other misdeed may be just as destructive; this being the violence toward my peers, the violence of misleading those who are being used to serve an end that they did not conceive of or understand. We all have seen this form of manipulation and its results at every level from small groups to governments.
The other thing that stands out was more painful. I had begun to attend the School of the Arts and was only home on weekends. One of my friends at home was dating one of the church youth workers. By this time, I was very clear that I was a lesbian. I was not really out anywhere but at school. I made the decision to come out to my friend. This was actually fairly well received. It was not a surprise to her, nor was it a problem. Even if they did not say so, most people assumed I was a lesbian based solely upon my appearance. Because I was boyish I must be lesbian. My friend was initially supportive. However, when the two of us told my youth worker, he came unraveled. My personhood and personal struggles somehow became about him and what he could or could not accept. He felt betrayed. He was angry. He was concerned about the state of my soul. He rejected me and our relationship outright. I can only imagine the reaction had I been able to articulate and take ownership of my gender issues. Over time, my friendship with the woman ended too.
Around this time, my parents decided I was unhappy and my issues with isolating and refusing to go to church concerned them—no small wonder, really. So, much to my chagrin, they sent me to a Christian counselor. The primary reason was that my parents feared I was lesbian. I spent time with one or two females or spent time alone. I was not growing out of being a tom-boy. This scared them. In my first session with the counselor, I said very little. What I did say was that I had issues, but they were not about my sexuality and that he could not help me because I was fine with who I was. I wasn’t necessarily fine with how others felt about me, or about God, or an array of other things, but I did not need help with who I was. He advised me that I was “gay” [even he masculinized me] not because I truly loved and was attracted to women, but because of the sin in my life. I was lesbian because I was a sinner and, if I accepted my sinful nature and turned my life over to Jesus, I would be able to love men as God intended me to do. The following sessions were spent with my sitting in silence until he finally accepted I would not participate and decided it was unethical to take may parents money. Later, my mother talked to our physician, began reading books, and came to understand and accept me. So did my father.
The messages I took away from these incidents were significantly adverse and affected my views of “the church,” of religion…and, unfortunately, of myself. I came to understand that surely I was an abomination according to the church and, clearly, at least to God’s people—if not to God itself. I came to realize that love from others was dependent upon my adherence to the ideas they held of me. That if I stepped out of that, I was no longer loved. My lack of trust in people deepened. I began to rely more and more upon myself, to require very little from others, and to develop keen instincts about who I could and could not trust. My already well-developed survival skills strengthened. Very few people were allowed access to much of who I was, what I felt, or thought.
I stopped attending any church.
I continued, however, to believe strongly in the spiritual nature of humans. I continued to seek some kind of believable, healing spiritual path. I was a believer with no real sense of belief…or even a sense of safety in believing. I practiced Buddhism intermixed with the Native traditions I had identified with as a child during visits with my grandparents inArizona. A desire for a spiritual path was part of who I was and never left me. A sense of God was always with me despite the mistreatment by His followers. So, for many years, my path was solitary and spiritual in nature rather than religious.
One thing struck me throughout my experience with professed and highly visible followers of God. There seemed to be no boundaries for their ability to switch positions and change their views in accordance with what they perceived as the position of approval and, of course, greater security for and advancement of themselves. They could make these changes with no apology and do so as if were perfectly acceptable. There was no awareness of the consequences of their altering belief systems. At one point, a preacher I knew embraced me as a fellow believer. A few years later, when I called him to ask if he would talk with a friend of mine, he advised me he had changed his position and could not, in good conscience, speak to my friend. His lack of understanding that this blowing in the wind, this lack of conviction in proclaimed values, was destructive to those he claimed to love and serve made a significant impression on me. It also made a huge statement to me about the nature of a real faith system verses a professed faith that was clearly about other things.
I was in my late thirties before I ever sincerely stepped foot in a church.
There are other such experiences. These are the most significant. These are the lashes of the whip that tore the skin of my spirit—the wounds that it took years to heal. The truth is, the wounds are still healing. The scars are still sometimes tender to the touch.
NOTE: This work is published here as proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, sold, or otherwise utilized outside the posting on this site without the express permission of the author; these works are the sole property of the author writing as Androgynonamous or DreadPirateRobert.
Recently, through my job, I had the opportunity to become acquainted with a man I would otherwise likely never have met. We had a couple of interesting conversations in which it became clear that, despite some significant differences, we share some commonalities of world view. This was made even more apparent on a day when I had experienced a pretty nasty little encounter with a man who had a strong negative response to my physical appearance.
The unpleasant encounter was not unlike most of the experiences I have with people who do not particularly appreciate my androgyny. He had come in with a customer and, immediately, I registered the confused look in his eyes—as I interacted with the customer, I watched the his demeanor move from confused to frustrated to angry. He frequently interrupted both me and the customer in attempts to speak for him and, basically, to find for himself a valid reason to be angry with me—a reason he could justify that was less ambiguous than my apparent non-specific gender. This happens a lot. People get frustrated by my presentation then find ways to process their discomfort that produces something they can blame on me. It happens fairly subconsciously and quickly. I am used to it. However, I was still a bit annoyed when he referred to me as a “whatever.” As in, whatever you are.
As the customer and his champion were leaving, the guy I work with called to check on things at work. Since he is the manager, I related the situation so he could be aware in the event there was a complaint. Complaints usually follow these situations. Particularly if I respond in a smart-ass way like I did this day. [I said: I am not a whatever; I am a whosoever. Then, I added: we can discuss it further outside if you wish. The point was clear.] As I was explaining all of this to my co-worker, my new-found acquaintance [hereafter known as S] walked in to pay for the rent on his offices. He lowered his head and shook it slightly as he listened. When I hung up the phone, he spoke…and, you could have knocked me over with a very small feather when he said what he said.
“You know, it fascinates and irritates me how very threatened people are by transgenderism…if that is a word…and the assumptions they make about a person’s sexuality and character based on appearance.” My initial response: it is a word. And, then, I agreed with him. Needless to say, we had another of our interesting discussions.
In this one, however, a few things were of significance to me. Firstly, he made me aware that it is likely that many people see me as he does—fully, as I am—that they accept what they see and simply do not say anything about it. I have always operated on the assumption that people who do not say something negative or ask the obvious questions, see me as obviously female, usually recognize [or assume] that I am a lesbian, and accept that as who I am. Having said that, this basic assumption has also caused me to wonder why this group of people do not seem to see the ambiguity, the gender-fuck, the male walking in my female skin. This day, in my conversation with S, I began to experience a slow recognition of similar situations over the years. I began to recall things people say all the time such as “we just see you” or “we don’t think about it because we know you.” Like the sun coming up slowly on a foggy day, I began to see a clear probable truth: that these people do see the gender-fuck, that they do see me just as I am and see the truth of who I am. What separates them from the nasty folks who get pissed off by my presence in the world is twofold. Primary of the two is that they are accepting, non-judgmental people who are kind by nature. The secondary factor is that, because of the first aspect, they come to know me and like me, if not love me. So, it began to dawn upon me that Scin may be right, that I pass more than I realize and that everyone sees me as I appear. It just doesn’t bother the people who give themselves—and me—a second or two to see the self I reveal to them.
The other thing that was of great significance to me was S’s instincts about my receptiveness to his supportive reaction. He somehow knew—or assumed—that I was comfortable enough with myself and my walk in the world that he could, so to speak, call a pot a pot and a spade a spade. He knew he could speak to me his vision of my truth even though we had never spoken of it, that it would be a kind of comfort to me to be fully seen, and that I would receive it in the manner he intended. He saw that I would not only be comfortable with his acknowledgement of my personhood, but that I would participate openly in the discussion. I could not help but see his comfort with speaking such things to me as a reflection not just of his open and accessible nature, but of my own as well. That is a good thing, I think.
Finally, the other thing I was left with was a recognition I desperately needed. That, often, we find enlightened people in the most unlikely of places. And, that—often—their paths and ours converge for reasons that unfold as the path takes twists and turns. Further, we always seem to find them when we need them and that the need is usually mutual. They may stay a short or a long time. Length of stay is not the issue. Quality is. What we, each, bring to the meeting is the thing that matters. And, sometimes, we do not know for some time what the essential aspect is or the nature of the impact. Sometimes, our part is never known to us. And, often, difficult times are made better by seemingly random interactions. I suspect, however, that these encounters are far from random.
As I struggle daily with my personal path—one that is spiritual as well—and with conditions that are weighty, I cannot help but have a sense there is some purpose to the frustrated and, for the moment, unclear turns in my little walk on this large earth. I am–and have been for a while–experiencing a growing sense of self even as I struggle daily with difficult conditions beyond my control and with a lack of solutions to many of them. The circle of my life is widening. Paths are converging with mine that reveal commonalities, differences, and conditions that appear to be essential to my growth and to those whose paths are meeting mine. I am finding greater understanding of some old issues. I am also finding more questions. But, that is the natre of the path. And, perhaps, that is the point of the path. Dark times blur the vision. Edges merge and the way is not clear. The sun breaks through the canopy, and more is revealed. Storms come and then pass. The way is rocky. The way is smooth at times, then muddy and slippery at others. Sometimes, the only thing that is sure is that there is a path. The point is to keep walking. It is the only way to see what is on the other side of the trees. My experience thus far has been that there is always a clearing, somewhere down the way, just beyond the trees. Usually, it is worth the rough terrain.
NOTE: This work is published here as proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, sold, or otherwise utilized outside the posting on this site without the express permission of the author; these works are the sole property of the author writing as Androgynonamous or DreadPirateRobert.
I have been playing around lately with certain themes and topics, and with the idea of using them as journaling tools—such as “Who I Am” in the Walking Between Worlds category. This is the first of the “What I Believe” topic. Clearly, there will be more entries. This is a list of the things that came to mind in this sitting with the topic. As always, I hope you enjoy it. If not, that is fine too—at the least, I enjoyed it.
I believe that being known for being kind, fair-minded, and caring is the best legacy I can leave. And I hope I am able to do so.
I believe that the following things [to name only a few] are evidence of an intelligent and benevolent universe: the sound of saccades and crickets; the sight of black-capped chickadees at the bird feeders; the taste of fresh peaches; the tart snap of a chilled, crisp Granny Smith apple; the appearance of an orange-pink sunrise; Chopin played on a lone piano; the feel of a woman’s soft nipple against calloused skin and the gentle hardening caused by the contrast; an evening fire in the barely-cool night air and the smell of smoke and fresh dew.
I believe in the One-God which is so vast, so complete, so omni-everything as to be All-Gods: the One-God so ever-and-all-present and incomprehensible that it takes a many-cultured, many-named, multi-conceptualized view for us to even begin to grasp a small understanding of any aspect of It; the One-God whose names and faces are many so that all races, cultures and individuals might be given a point of departure for meeting Her/Him/It wherever they are. I believe in the panentheistic nature of God: God in all things; all things in God. I believe in God at the level of molecules, order and chaos…at the core of all things seen and unseen. I believe in a God so beyond us—and yet, so present, so much a part of us and our world—that It can never fully be named or fully known…much in the same way that we experience air but do not fully know it, experience our skin but do not fully know it.
I believe in the sweet spot on a golf club and a ball bat. And, that hitting it is a feeling that is good and satisfactory to the whole self. [If, that is, one likes golf or baseball.]
I believe in the creative spirit of human beings. I believe that it is this that will save us from our own tendency toward self-importance—it is the one thing that binds us and communicates universally without need for suffering or tragedy as a catalyst.
I believe in the laughter of children.
I believe in a good game of gin rummy.
I believe that there few things as peaceful as sitting on the screened in porch with a cup of strong, robust coffee, my dog at my feet, and my lover’s bright intelligent conversation bringing the day to a long-awaited close.
I believe in monogamy—that the ongoing sharing and cultivation of the natural ebbing and flowing of mutual love, admiration, and passion is the full expression of our selves as humans being and doing, that this continuation of connection in right relationship actually grows us, increases our ability to actualize ourselves, love ourselves, our lover, and others, and teaches us about love, ourselves, our patterns of being and makes us, generally, better people. Many disagree. I believe they have the right to their opinions about this and anything else. I believe, however, that it is in making choices, committing to a thing, and putting ourselves behind that commitment that we become more than we are otherwise. I believe this is true for relationships, personal endeavors and just about everything.
I believe that facing our fears, walking through them, and making it to the other side teaches us, increases us, and often teaches others as well. In any case, it makes us stronger. I believe that embracing our joys, looking for the happiness in every day life, actually creates happiness—we get what we seek—and that, too, increases us.
I believe that every act of becoming is good, that we were fearfully and wonderfully made and we deserve our own trust, love and respect. That people teach us how to treat them and, conversely, they treat us as we treat ourselves as much or more than they will treat us as we treat others.
I do believe in rock and roll, that music saves our mortal souls, and I can teach you how to dance real slow…
NOTE: This work is published here as proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, sold, or otherwise utilized outside the posting on this site without the express permission of the author; these works are the sole property of the author writing as Androgynonamous or DreadPirateRobert.
Of late, I have been processing some of the things I have written about here in the context of some recent experiences. As I grow, some aspects of my personality have become more clear to me, more understandable. Writing helps me come to terms with them. And, as my recognition leads to greater understanding, the language evolves. Sometimes I play with that, push at edges, blur lines, explore my own boundaries of self. For a few weeks now, I have had experiences that have raised some issues related to the main thing I talk about here: being a dyke, being biologically androgynous, and having a strong energy that, in the gender binary, is viewed as male energy. This is who I am. And, it brings with it some issues. Some are troublesome. Some are enjoyable. Some are…well…just interesting to me.
Like the friend of my dear Scin who thought I was in transition. Or the way children see me. That, perhaps, is the most interesting. Children, frequently, see me as I actually am. Example: A friend of mine, with whom I am close, has a boy and a girl. The girl is now five and the boy is three. I have known them for two years and have spent a lot of time with them. Now and then, the girl will stop whatever we are doing and ask me: “Miss Li Li, are you a girl or a boy?” [They call me “Li Li” because the youngest could not pronounce my full name.] The most recent time, the boy answered his sister before I could: “You know who that is; that’s our Li Li.”
For him, it is simple. I am who I am and that is enough for him. There is no male or female. There is no boy or girl. There is simply Li. Unlike his sister, he is, as yet, untainted by the world view of gender.
So, with that ideal in mind, this is what I will say about who I am in regard to gender identity and sexuality–at least, in my present state of being and understanding.
I am a lesbian. A dyke. I love women. And I am a Butch. As a gift of my particular gene pool, I am physically androgynous. From the time I was five or six years old, I have been assumed to be male at least as often—usually more—as I was correctly assumed to be female. Often, in fact, I have even been asked if I was a hermaphrodite. [Yes. People have actually been gauche enough to ask that to my face.] I have frequently had gay men try to pick me up which always results in hearty laughter and interesting discussion.
I like to do things that the inadequate language of the gender binary tells us are male in essence: I like to build things; I love tools; I like to play hard and work hard; I like to box; I like to work out; I like to work on cars and motorcycles; I like to refinish furniture; I like to practice archery…and I like to fuck women. I like to watch them walk. I like the way they laugh. I like the feel of soft, smooth girl skin against my calloused hands. I like to lead when I dance with a woman. I like to romance them. I am, by nature a top—although, with Scin, I seem to be able to switch and to like it. I like to play football in the snow with other guys. I like to wrestle with guys. I love martial arts. I like the camaraderie of men. I am a butch.
In addition, I still often feel out of place in a female body. It has always felt like…well…not what it was supposed to be. But, it was not grossly dysphoric. More and more, I think that is due to the fact that so much of my sense of self was troublesome and difficult in a global way that there was not a sense of one particular thing being the issue.
Because of a range of factors from the influences of the women’s movement on my generation, to the negative influences of religion, to the inadequacies of the transgender technology during my formative years, I learned to find a way of being in this body which suited me. A way of being I could live with. And, as I grow, my ability to be at home in this form grows and becomes a much better place to be. The fact of a partner who truly sees, “gets” and accepts me is a large part of this growing comfort. While it would appear that people often wonder if I am in transition—or considering it—I can say that I am not. And I do not intend to do so. That may change, but I do not sense that it will. I do share a lot of experiences, feelings and issues with a lot of FTMs. And, I do relate very strongly to many of my peers who identify as trans-masculine. I have used statements here such as: I am a non-transitioning trans-gendered male in a lesbian body. Some people have not appreciated the hyperbole. I will, no doubt, find other ways to push the language in efforts to increase the dialogue, my own understanding and sense of self, and to generally fuck with the binary ideology. That, too, is part of who I am. I will fuck with a thing until I break it or rebuild it. Either way, understanding increases.
Having said that, I also like my butch cock. I like that it feels like a part of me. I also, however, really enjoy my biological genitalia. Having a partner who understands my body has made it a much more comfortable and sexually satisfying place to be. I am biologically androgynous; it is not something I have created or cultivated. My clitoris, for example, has never reacted in ways that are typical for most females—my clit functions more like a penis. I am good with that. [So is Scin, by the way.] I also build muscle in more of a male way. And there were issues with the functioning of my internal female organs. Yet, I do not plan to transition. I am happy with my life as it is. I am a butch with things in common with many people—just like any other person.
In my somewhat simple thinking, it seems to me that being butch is like any other aspect of being human. It still involves being an individual. The human condition being what it is—universal—I have much in common with many people. There is also much that sets me apart, individualizes me, makes me who I am versus being someone other than who I am. Most importantly, being butch is only part of who I am. I am, like all of us, much more—many things that work to make a whole. So, I am who I am. Like my friend’s little boy says: “you know who that is; that’s our Li.”
It is dusk and I watch the dolphins playing as the sun sets. I find my mind wandering, in this peace, to the early memories I have of the ocean.
When I was very young, we lived in Florida near Coca Beach. We went to the beach frequently. I would immediately wade into the water and sit with my back to the waves, just at the breakers, and play and explore while the sea washed over me. I could sit like that for hours. My father would carry me on his shoulders, walk us out to deeper water, then swim to shore with me riding on his back. This way, we rode the waves into shore together. These are memories I have never lost. I have loved the ocean as far back as I can remember. Even Her creatures fascinate, teach and renew me. I am at home in the salt water, at ease walking the soft wet sand.
The early memories are also filled with images of my mother walking the beach for hours, picking up shells, wading in the water, and generally communing with the ocean. Of all the things she enjoys, this is the one thing that has always brought her a true peace. The ocean is her church. It is her therapy. It is an infusion of life force. Put her on a beach and she is reborn. This is the one thing we truly have in common. And, while we enjoy doing things together, combing the beach is the thing we do with ease and contentment.
We walk together picking up shells or calling the other’s attention to some thing of interest. We separate and go our own way. Mom wades in the water, walks the beach. She finds all sorts of shells others miss, discovers rocks and other evidence of the mystery that is the ocean. I float freely—without any floatation device—and nearly nap in the watery arms of the sea. I swim to shore, shell a bit and repeat the process. We come back together and share tales of our adventures and admire each other’s treasures. We are at our best together during these times.
From my chair on the porch outside of the condo, I watch my mother walking the beach. Head down, back slightly bent, she walks with her cane in one hand and a bag for shells in the other. Her focus is sharp. Her walk is less labored than at home; there is almost a spring in her step—not quite, but almost. It is, really, an air about her. She simply is lighter. The peace she clearly feels walks with her. I recognize it easily, no matter how far she walks. If I look closely enough, I can see her as I remember her when I was young. When she was young. As she was long before the cancer, the chemo and the toll it took on her. She becomes almost girl-like as she delights in the sun, the water, the shells—all the things that make her at home in the universe…and, in herself. She is beautiful. She is my mother. She has suffered much most of her life. This is the one thing that takes the suffering away—if only for a while.
The water is calm. It is perfect for swimming. The sun glistens on the surface like a mirror. I am here on the concrete porch because I have become drastically allergic to some kind of insect bite—likely, sand fleas. I find myself feeling as if my body has betrayed me. I have bounced back from the years of damage I suffered before they found the pernicious anemia and I can live with the other allergies that result from having an autoimmune disorder. But this new-found allergy now prevents me from doing one of the few things that quickly and effortlessly brings me to center, feeds me spiritually and reconnects me to the family of things.
I am covered in swollen, inflamed and irritated wounds. Even my legs are swollen. I long for the water. The bites from this unknown assailant itch to the point of insane distraction. It is almost painful and persists despite the large amounts of antihistamines and cortisone creams. At least, there is no anaphylaxis. And, I had at least one good day of walking the beach and resting in the water. Not for the first time, I wonder if this physical misery was worth the drive down here, the time away from home and the things I need to be doing, not to mention the time away from the one I love. I look out at the ocean and bring myself back to the moment at hand. Mom is quite some distance away, walking. She has found something worth bending her tired back further to pick up and keep. I find myself smiling. A heron dives low, gracefully, and flies away with a good sized meal.
A few years back, when the cancer and the treatment made mom too sick to make her yearly trek to the key, I promised her—and myself—that I would do my best to get her here every year. She can no longer make the drive, but I can. And, she should not come alone. I realize as I watch her walking in her own world, at peace for the time being, this is the one thing I can give her that really matters. Adding on to my house and moving her in with me, into her own space, was significant. Tilling up half the yard so she can mess in the dirt, grow things and tend them, was a decent way to let her know I care about her quality of life. But this is the gift that counts.
This yearly act is the one thing that demonstrates my full knowledge and appreciation of her. I watch her with no small emotion. She is headed back to the porch. I know she has treasures to show me. The almost girlish lightness in her tired gait is nearly heart breaking in its joy. “I brought you some shells,” she says smiling…”since you can’t go find your own, I’ll bring them to you.” The voice in my mind that questions whether the trip was worth it becomes mute. My eyes water slightly. I walk into the condo with her, knowing that there is not much I would not suffer for this woman who is my mother. This peace she feels in the presence of the ocean is worth some itching, discomfort and relative misery. The bites will heal. The itching will subside. These moments we have together cannot be replaced.
Later, I will have coffee on the porch and look out upon the water I cannot enter. Still, I can see it. I can smell it. I can feel the salty breeze on my skin. I can close my eyes and feel myself floating. When I look in on mom before I go to bed, when I hear her sleeping peacefully, I will remember clearly why I am here. It is now, and will be then, worth it.
This piece is more than just a way to talk to Scin while I am out of town. It is a way to explore a particular form of writing that is memoir-like in style, mixing fact with literary elements. I am enjoying playing with this medium and hope you like it as well.
It is 9-11 and that is not lost on me. It never is this time of year. But, the Gulf of Mexico is calm, people are few, and having a quiet beach to roam moves my mind to other things.
I think of you. I think about the fact that we began this journey together nearly a year ago. And, I wish you were here. After all the months of short visits, long leavings, and the past couple of months finally in the same place, any leaving is hard. It seems wrong in some way to be anywhere trying to relax and enjoy things without you. It is what it is, however; and mom is clearly glad to be here. So, the mission of the trip is being met. Still, I miss you.
Last year while I was here, I wrote about learning to float. Really, I wrote about trust. This year, my mind is on all the many forms of trust.
I think of the trust between us. It still amazes me how I trust you so—trust you with my feelings; my affections; my deepest thoughts, fears, dreams, secrets. I trust you with my body in ways I have no other. I trust you with my life. I have trusted few. None so deeply as you. It takes a lot for me to trust, as you know. I spent my life trusting only myself, my instincts, my own learning and experience, my own abilities to cope and problem-solve, and a few carefully chosen, close people. I had to learn, by experience, to trust people again. This is how we all learn. I had to learn, by experience, to trust God. As you know, that trust grows, in many ways, each day. I know how hard trust is for you as well. The trust you bring me, I know, is not a thing you give easily. It is a gift. I cherish it. I recognize the largeness of it. And, I respect it.
Looking out at the vastness is that is the Gulf, it is natural for the mind to turn toward the smallness of our daily lives. The blessings we receive each day come to mind almost as a consolation of the difficult things—a kind of reminder that, even in the uncertainty, there is much that is given. Much that is good. Much that is better than good. I watch the sea after the sun has gone down. The water moves in shades of blackish-purple, grayish-pink, and deep indigo. A crescent moon hangs low and shimmers silver on the darkening water.
As we have talked of faith, of the forces that shake it, the events and forces that revive and increase it, I think of the things we are taught. Our battle, we are told, is not with governments, principalities or people; it is with darker, unenlightened forces. I watch the changing water and ponder these things. We are like the water. We, too, can absorb and reflect both the light and the dark. These simply manifest differently in our solid bodies than they do in the water. In the water, the light is so clear, as is the lack of it as the sun goes down—clear, deepening blackness. Like the normal human doubt we feel when we are walking on shaking ground. We do not fully trust the ground to remain firm. At times doubt is good. It keeps us from becoming too comfortable or careless. But, if we are not careful, doubt can overwhelm us and become a state of being—a state of pessimism and lack of belief.
The things with which we struggle now, the uncertainty, the things we cannot see but which work on us, are like the sun behind passing clouds. They are temporary darkenings that seek to increase our normal doubt and uneasiness. Circumstances are simply the darkness trying to move us into the blackness where we cannot clearly see all the evidence that we are being cared for, that our needs are met, and that we live in a benevolent universe that responds to us. The difficult times are, indeed, the dark night removing the evidence of light from the water. But, the sun does rise. The light does return. And, we can carry the memory of the light within us, shine it outwards until it begins to shine as real as the sun. We can hold a torch into the darkness.
That light comes from the things we know. That we have been given much. That even in the difficult times, there is evidence every day of all we have been given. I look upon the moving water and know that this vastness teaches me much about the movement of the light and the darkness. I know that I need to continue to focus on what I can see, on all of the things that evidence I am being cared for—perhaps learning new lessons in preparation for something else—but being cared for nonetheless. I need to remember that there are things that are mine to do: that trying to be the best person I can be, trying to be responsible and accountable for my own thoughts, words and deeds, and seeking to do the next right thing, are mine. The rest is in hands larger and more capable than mine. It always has been. It is mine to remember that. In that, normative doubt and fear cannot become the lack of faith that brings about a deep undoing.
I am going in now. I will attempt to sleep. I will miss you as I have throughout this day. I will talk to you before we both retire in different beds, in different towns not unlike we did before. When we talk, I will remind you of my love for you, my trust in you and in us, and my trust that we are being cared for, that all will be well. I cannot help but think of all the ways that our journey together has already served to increase my overall faith. I am aware that as I grow in my own sense of self, I grow in my love for you and for us. There may be much I do not know. There may be much that is so uncertain the possible outcomes are out of the range of my sight. But, I do know this. I know from experience that when I am on the right path, obstacles are removed, things beyond my control are resolved, and the things I need come to pass—usually not in the form I envisioned, but they do come. We are part of all that comes to pass. We were brought together in a way that deserves consideration. I do know that this path is not only a good one, but the right one. And, I know there is no one I want to walk it with me but you.
In the morning, the sun will return. The water will be so clear, again, that I can see my feet pressing gently into the soft sandy floor. So, clearly that I can see the way in front of me.
Recently, my partner [Scin] reconnected with an old friend she knew here before we all took off for college. Her friend has become a friend of mine as well and I really connect with and like him. The point of interest here is this: prior to actually meeting me in person, and based solely on photos, he asked Scin if I was in transition. I was not at all offended by this. I was, however, and oddly, surprised. Then, I began to wonder…
I found myself wondering if other people just assume that I am transitioning or that I intend to, or if they wonder why I have not, and simply do not ask. I think it is clear that a primary point of this blog is to have a safe place to discuss my experiences—both positive and not so positive—as a highly androgynous lesbian with a lot of male energy. I talk frequently about how it feels, that it is like walking between worlds, having foot in each realm at times, but never really belonging fully in either. I also talk about this way of being in the world as a large part of my spiritual disposition, that I see it as a kind of gift, the purpose of which I am not always clear about, but which I am willing and happy to explore. It has been my lot in life, since I was very young, to confound the gender binary—often without ever intending to or trying very hard. Pretty much all I have to do is be myself and leave the house. It is a condition which has given me much and which has caused me a fair amount of pain, frustration and discomfort. It has also put me in danger at times.
As a result, I have developed a set of instinctive, self-protective skills and traits to cope with my daily condition. My way of being in the world is such a part of me that I have to push a bit to become conscious of the things I do, how I do them, and what they do for me. This whole thing with the question about transitioning set me to examining, again, my perception of myself as well as the behaviors and traits I have adopted. And, I started trying to look more objectively at photos taken by Scin and others. The past few days have been like peeling a personal onion: I know it is an onion and understand it for what it is, but peeling away layers seems to give way to a renewed understanding of the thing—its characteristics, its form and function, its identity. These are the things I have discovered.
How I see myself the past few days:
One thing that hit me squarely is that I am finally looking more my age. A few more character lines and wrinkles have appeared. So, the boyish look is blurred a bit by the signs of age that suggest I am not an 18 year old boy. Yet, I am not so masculine or haggard by my age that I appear to be a 40-something male. I think this confuses people more now than it did when I was so much more baby-faced. Before, people automatically assigned a male gender to me and assumed I was much younger than I was. I have never been deluded into thinking that I look like the average female. But, for years, I thought of myself simply as really butch but obviously female if a person really looked at me. In recent photos viewed with a little more objectivity, I can see that I do look traditionally male more than anything else. I see, lately, how male I really look through the eyes of those who do not know me, looking through the shades of the gender binary.
You know how it is. You see yourself every day. You live with yourself. You do not see what others see. No one does. At least not without a conscious effort. This personal blind spot is enhanced, I fully realize, by the things I do instinctively and as a matter of course to soften my life and get by with minimal discomfort or violence.
Things I do to get along in the world and compensate:
Over the course of my life, I have become very open and accessible. I speak first in new situations. I engage people and am really quite outgoing. [Still clear about boundaries, but open and friendly.] I have also developed a versatile sense of humor and will often poke fun at myself [in healthy ways, not in mean ways] in order to keep things light. I wear small earrings rather than the larger, thicker manly silver things that I tend to like. I make friends, if only for a moment, everywhere I go—even in the grocery store. The main thing I have learned to do, however, is create safe, familiar, and comfortable environments. I eat at the same restaurants. I get gas at the same places in my town and others. I shop at the same stores for groceries, clothes, and whatnots. In a light-hearted way, I make people familiar with me. And, I come to know people enough to endear them—to ask how the day is going, remember names, ask about the family, joke around and be open. I make myself accessible. I am likeable. This, by the way, takes energy. But, I realize, it has given me much to be this way. I have made lasting friends. I have a sense of home pretty much anywhere. And, I am alive. Had I not developed these traits that are, really, who I am, I would not have faired so well in some situations. And, like all of us who need to, I have a well-developed sense of when to fight or flee. I know how to close off and keep vigilant as well. These traits are not false; it is who I am. But, it did require the removal of some walls, some chips off my shoulders, and a fair amount of trust in the universal flow of things that it is OK to be this way. The result of my way of being is that people are put at ease; once I speak, my gender is clear. No one has to guess. And, I come across as warm and non-threatening. [Even though I can be a huge threat when I have to be.] We all survive in ways that work for us.
So, I have discovered on new levels how insulated I have made myself, if only within the blanket of my own personality and by treading lightly on the earth. The upshot is that I have come to see myself as one tends to see oneself—familiar and focused on other things like being too thin, or wishing I were taller. Aware of my less than feminine appearance, but used to it, accepting, and not focused on it until something happens. More significantly, however, is that this relative sense of home everywhere has dulled my awareness of how I am perceived by others who do not know me. And, possibly, some who do. I really do wonder if people want to ask about transitioning and do not in order to be appropriate and not offend me. I don’t know and likely never will. I do know this: I think I see myself a bit more clearly. And, while I like what I see, I am paying a bit more attention to the reactions of those around me. I am trying to strip away some insulation. As the old saying goes: know thyself. Sometimes, that means being willing to try to see what others see. Sometimes, we learn the most about ourselves through the views and input of others. Of late, what is clear to me is that others see me as I am—a butch woman who appears more masculine than feminine on the binary continuum, and who happens to have a fair dose of masculine energy. I can live with that. And, I am hoping that a greater awareness will help me find a clearer understanding of any greater purpose that might be served by my experiences in the worlds I inhabit.
In my first installment on this topic, back in March, I wrote about two aspects of the use of a synthetic cock, and my ownership of it as a part of myself, that I believe are essential. Primary of these two concepts is the fact that the activity of penetrating my partner in such a way is not male emulation as it is often viewed by those who frown upon the idea and/or do not understand it. It is, however, an inherent part of and expression of the aspects of my nature [and personhood] that the gender-binary language would label as masculine or male-identified. It is an extension, in a very real way, of my shaft-driven, sexually aggressive, and—for lack of a better description—masculinized clitoris. I have discussed, in other offerings here, the fact that my genitalia have never been responsive in the ways typical to most females, and that, prior to finding a partner who understood me and my body, I thought there was simply something wrong with me because things that so clearly aroused and satisfied other females either annoyed me or served only as arousal stimulus. My clitoris responds more like a dick. And, my cock has become, as I said, a very real extension of the smaller cock-like organ that is my clitoris. This leads to the other aspect of coming to own my cock that I discussed in the first blog on this issue—the fact that, from the beginning, there was a sensation of it being, somehow, part of me physically, mentally, and emotionally. In that piece, I wrote:
… there was only the feel of her legs at my sides, her heels pressing my buttocks, the sight of this life-like cock moving inside her. There was only this embrace. The feel of the silicone balls against my clitoris. The sound of her responsiveness: her breath at my neck; her breast beneath my tongue. The explosion of freedom between us. The wonder of her wrapped in both my arms, tightly. It was as if I began to grow some kind of synthetic nerve endings and became attached to the thing—this appendage both me and not me, part of me and not part of me. This thing we share is not male emulation…It is simply one of many ways to penetrate her, to join with her, to be in communion together. It is the loving—and exuberant—expression of a deep desire to please her, to enjoy her, to be as close to her as possible. And, it is one of many ways to express my very real need to be both inside her and outside of her, to be free to touch her everywhere in every way I can. It is my butch, baby boi cock. And, I like it. I like what it does for me and for her. It is mine. Part of myself. Part of my identity with her, with us. It is mine and I own it…and so does she. It is part of who I am and always have been—finally finding freedom. It is a deep embrace, indeed. Not only of her, but of myself as well. And, it is good.
There has been an evolution of this experience that, several years ago—and even several months ago—I would have scoffed at as even being a physical possibility. In the past in fact, when I heard or read others say it was possible, I had sworn they were full of shit, that it was not neuro-physically possible. For some time now, I have known that is not only possible, but it happens on a regular basis. This evolution is the growing ability to come through my cock, so to speak, without there having to be a particularly direct stimulation against my clitoris. From the start, I was able to come due to the stimulation of my clitoris by the cock itself. And, I was able to do so quite vigorously and satisfactorily.
In fairly short order, however, I found myself coming when the position of my body as I penetrated Scin did not provide a direct stimulation of my smaller, masculinized organ. The first time this happened, I was pleasantly stunned and exceedingly happy about it. Scin was thrilled. We immediately set about seeing if we could make it happen again. It was a long night. And, it did, indeed, happen again. I was, though, surprised…and, I must admit, more than a bit confused. In many ways, it did not make rational sense. In the literal sense, the synthetic cock is not sensual or sentient—it does not feel, does not experience the neurological underpinnings of mentality or emotion, nor is it cellular in its connection to me. Yet, it was.
Being a friend of the scientific method, I felt we should explore this phenomenon in order that I might get a better sense of exactly what was happening and how it was happening. Scin was happy to help. We tried all sorts of pleasantly stimulating and satisfying positions and activities. We were able to achieve truly enjoyable orgasms, together, in all manner of positions during which there was little stimulation of my actual genitals. Blow jobs were no longer simply arousal foreplay. We found that hand jobs worked as well. My ability to come with my cock has become a regular event and occurs in all manner of sexual activity—as if it is, physically and mentally, a part of me.
What is even more significant is that this ability immediately and effortlessly translated to my soft pack as well. Early in our relationship, the soft pack was a wonderful tool for foreplay. I would pack for fun and Scin would rub my crotch, stoke me, and play with me in an array of teasing and taunting situations. It was marvelously naughty and exciting. After I began to come when we were fucking with my cock, we discovered—much to our mutual joy—that I could come with the soft pack when she sucked me off or engaged in a vigorous hand job. Because Scin likes, very much, to watch me engage in all kinds of auto-stimulation, we have recently discovered that I can come jerking off with either of them. There are those who would say that it is all in my head, that it is a mental experience only. And, they are wrong. Just as I was wrong before I experienced it. I have a simple way of describing the experience.
It is very much an extension of my own genitalia as well as my overall sensual experience. Sensuality is physical, emotional, mental and—for some of us—in a way, spiritual. It is vibratory. It is excitatory. It is of the physical body, and thus, tactile, visual, auditory and feeling-based. It is organic. The relationship between me and this synthetic organ is a connection that is all things sensual in nature. It is vibratory as the action of my cock inside of Scin moves down the shaft and into me. It is visual as I watch it move in and out of her, and see the effects it produces within her. It is auditory as I hear the sounds we make together—the sounds of our fucking, our sliding and moving into one another, the expressions of arousal and the inspirations and expirations of satisfaction. It is fully tactile as we pull and push into each other, grasp at each other, increase pressure, penetration and contact in an effort to be closer and closer still. It is as physical as physical can be—the sensations, the arousal, the engorgement of blood, make my own woman-dick larger and harder. It is exciting in the same ways that her hand or her mouth on my boi-clit is exciting. It is all the same. Yet, it is different. It is different in the way that the orgasm I have when she sucks me off on my own clit is different from a hand job. Yet neither is more or less physical or real than the other. Coming with my cock is as real as any other body-oriented way of coming. It is feeling-based. It is emotional. It is mental and physical. It is as I described it from the beginning:
…this appendage both me and not me, part of me and not part of me… her legs at my sides, her heels pressing my buttocks, the sight of this life-like cock moving inside her. There was only this embrace… It is the loving—and exuberant—expression of a deep desire to please her, to enjoy her, to be as close to her as possible. It is part of who I am and always have been—finally finding freedom.
Now and then, I talk here about my job hunting ventures in this awful economic situation as well as the strangeness of the process. It has certainly been an adjustment to be job hunting at my age in a world that is so different from the way it was when I was leaving college and entering the work world. The arena of job searching is, in my opinion, one area where the increased reliance on technology has not helped us at all. It has, I think, taken a process that, by nature, needs to be as personal and interactive as possible and transformed it into the most impersonal, randomized, dull-witted, and banal activity it can be. It is so void of anything resembling interaction that one wonders how any person actually gets an interview or gets hired. There is only one thing about the new way of things that is good: volume.
When there are actually several jobs to apply for, a person can apply for a large number in a relatively short amount of time and with a fair degree of efficiency—at least, in regard to completing the process. What happens in the ether is anyone’s guess. Whether a person ever looks at or reads our applications is a mystery. But, if the jobs are there to apply for, a massive amount of applications can be done in one day. For example, in the past week and a half, I have applied for approximately 35 jobs. A vast number of these were the any-old-retail-job-will-do kinds of jobs. But there were several of them for a change. This past week, however, it was not only quantity that was different; there was a difference in quality as well.
There were actually three postings for Executive Director positions with three different non-profits in our area. I nearly fell over from shock. Well, truth is, I have applied for so many jobs for which I am over-qualified, for so long, that I almost missed these. Like my brain had trouble recognizing what I was seeing—kind of like what happens when you have been in a very dark room and walk out into the sun. These things stung my eyes at first, and I had to adjust. Then, because I had not seen a posting for a professional job in so long, I had to remember that I was one of those candidates. It was a lot like when I woke up after surgery and everyone was asking me what my name was. I had to stop and think for a moment. And, then, I had to say it a few times before it sounded right. Once I remembered who I was and the kind of jobs I am actually capable of and want, I applied for all three.
Applying for these jobs, stepping even partially back into the light of my previous professional achievements and standards, was risky. But, reaching deep within to pull out that old and dusty leather coat of confidence and studded belt of self-awareness was not the real risk I took this past week. No, indeed. I went one further. I wore the metaphoric coat, so to speak.
One of these executive positions was posted by a non-profit clever enough to make use of the techno-application age to begin weeding out the gross multitude of applications they had the good sense to know they would get in this economic climate. They created a questionnaire, put it in a pdf file, and required the completed product be sent, by email, with a resume, list of references and an actual cover letter. I had to like these guys. I could not help but wonder how many applicants freaked over the cover letter due to lack of practice. I’m old school, however. Not a drop of worried sweat even formed on my little brow. Nor did I freak over the questionnaire. I am a writer—of sorts, anyway. I tore through that thing, handling with ease and renewed confidence the topics regarding experience working volunteers, working with Boards, managing budgets, management style and philosophies. I was in my element. Until I hit the last question. Then, I felt a little queasy.
I did what I always do when I am thrown. I did what any real butch does when uncertain about the next move. I called my girlfriend. And, I ended up taking her advice.
The last question was one of those canned interview questions for which everyone prepares a canned answer. And, as a previous business owner and a person who has been interviewing a long time, I asked at least one of those questions on purpose and for one reason only: to see if I got a canned answer or a real, honest response. These kinds of questions always have some other value; they do get at some basic stuff you want to know. But, their main purpose is to weed out the bullshit. It was the trick question. They wanted to know about a situation in a previous job that was irritating, why it was irritating, and how we responded to it. Not that hard in itself. Except, it’s the trick question. And, given the probable volume of applicants, it is important to be sure you stand out from the masses. This was the question to nail, to hit it square on the head the first swing—it was the only swing I was going to get.
My girlfriend’s response. “Be honest. Tell the truth. What have you got to lose at this point?” What, indeed. [This is one reason why I love her. She values honesty and integrity as much as I do. But she also loves to shake things up. Rock the boat a bit. Live close to the bone. Got to love her.]
Given that all jobs have their frustrations and bad days, and I am a realist, there are only two things in my employment history that were really what I would call irritating. One was the massive mess that the mental health system has become due to lack of theoretical and practical cohesiveness and consistency, as well as inappropriate oversight. The other was the recent troubles I had with one particular demographic group and their response to my appearance. Everything else was just random daily shit that any professional accepts, handles and moves on in response to. Clearly, referring to the first would be a bad move. It would imply an inability to work within systems and accept things as they are. The second one…well…I am sure you can see the risks involved there. But, Di made a wonderful point I had not considered. If I bring it up first, if I put the whole androgyny thing on the table, there is no surprise when they see me. And, having the honesty and the guts to talk openly about it might be the thing that makes them bring me in for the actual interview in person, not on paper.
So, I took her advice. I answered by explaining the hell I went through with this particular client base: affluent, retired, Southern folks. I talked openly about being called “sir” after I had introduced myself repeatedly. I discussed having to endure actually being asked what I was. I told them about my staff having to listen to statements such as “that thing that is your manager.” And, I talked openly about what it was like to face that every day after several years of relative reprieve found in my previous profession. I also discussed how I have developed a way of being and moving in the world that is open, accessible, light and engaging with people—a way of being that greets them first, lets them hear my voice, clears up any confusion and invites them in without being overly friendly or intrusive. I simply am with people. And, as a result, people are put at ease without ever having to acknowledge that there was a moment when they were not. I have learned to let others see me, to be light-hearted, and engaging.
Over the years, and with the exception of circumstances where interaction is not possible or is not appropriate—such as public restrooms, malls, gas stations, etc.—I have rarely had problems with people. Until, that is, I was working, daily, with this particular group of people. Many were very nice. Many did not cause problems. And, many of the people I saw each day, responded to me in ways I am used to; they liked me. But, every day, there were several who made it hell for all of us. They wore their frustration that I had confused them like a bad dress. I was open about all of this in my answer on the questionnaire. And, I was honest about my response to the whole thing.
I told them that I resigned my position after having done everything I knew to do. And, I told them why. This is the part of my answer that I felt was most important because it speaks to who I am, how I see things, and my basic values. I resigned because the situation was not fair to me or to my team. There was nothing I could do to make it better for any of us. I could not, and would not, change who I am. It was affecting our performance numbers. It was not fair for them to suffer my situation with me. In my answer, I also pointed out what I believe to be a basic truth. In the business world, we are almost brainwashed to believe that there is a solution to every problem, that there is always a win-win if we look for it. The truth is that this is not true. Some things cannot be solved or prevented. When that happens, the only thing we can do is seek to determine what is the next right thing and do it. The next right thing is always the thing that, both, serves the greater good and comes the closest to fulfilling the original goal, whatever that is. I stated these things in my answer.
The risk has been taken. The truth has been told. In many ways. Perhaps, the trials of the past three years in this awful job market and the dwindling of my resources, have transformed me in some way. Perhaps, all that has so beaten me down and demoralized me has somehow pulled me back to my own center. Perhaps, after retreating as far as they could, my balls are finally descending again. [Wait, that sounds like a different post…] I don’t know. I do know this: this is the scariest time in my life.
My savings are gone. The crap jobs I have had caused such a drop in income that I have spent my savings to keep my house and pay my bills. I have had major issues with my health and nearly died before I got treated for the right thing and started getting better. Then, I had to face the cancer. I have reunited with the woman I have loved for a long, long time and was concerned at times we would not find a way to stay with each other and make it all work. Yet, we have. And, somehow in the midst of my greatest fears, I am finding that my sense of self keeps growing, despite the blows to its weathered housing. And, I am finding courage persists when I feel as if I have run out. I am finding that I am worth a little risk taking. I am remembering who I am, learning more about myself, and remembering that taking risks and putting myself on the line are the ways that I achieved all the things I have in the past. I am rediscovering the warrior I have always been. At heart, my hair is long; my shield is made of many inner aspects; my sword is sharp and heavy. I am taking risks again. Maybe, I am remembering when to raise my shield and when to wield my weapons. Risking has given me more in my life than playing it safe ever has. I am hoping it will again.