Usta-was…

Fair disclosure – I am the daughter of an Irish bartender-car-salesman-force-of-nature who fed my mom, me and my three younger sisters with his wit and gift of gab, or what the Irish call “Blarney” as much as he did with an honest day’s work…

… in other words, anything that can be said with words is much better with many many more words…

We’re storytellers. My pop and I. We come from a long line of storytellers and the proud tradition of Irish bards and poets… and our favorite subjects are usually, supposed to be ourselves. We’re not puffed-up egotists, mind you, c’mon, I said we’re Irish, and we’re good storytellers, which means we’ll usually be the plucky antihero at the center of a very dramatic tale worth listening to… probably even the butt of our own joke.

I willingly took the baton from my father, learning how to capture the attention of the entire room (no matter how large – we’re also very loud) and it’s something that was a great connection with my pop and the world at large. And as I became a veteran of international adventure filmmaking, I developed a huge inventory of material to draw from…

But lately, I find that all of this material, these stories, my precious archives, my history is… bittersweet?  (Not quite the word I’m reaching for, but let’s go with it until something more refined comes.)

Because in these stories, the protagonist is…. well, what I usta-was.

This is a phenomenon that the trans community wrestles with all the time.

Writer, Author, TV Host, and Activist, Janet Mock knows this better than anyone. In her response to an incident where some radio “personalities” not only threatened her and all trans women with murder, but justified murder and violence against our community as “normal.” Janet had no problem putting those guys in their place, calling out the Black community and our entire society to wake-up and elevating the entire incident into a teachable moment.

But she went on to make us all re-examine one of the core strategies that we in the rainbow community depend on to improve our lives – namely education when she said,

  “I’ve turned down thousands from colleges and corporations because I refuse to engage in Trans 101. Trans folk, especially of color, should not be obligated to help cis folk play catch-up on our experiences. The effort can detract from our work to protect and liberate ourselves.”

Ouch. So that’s why it hurts.

Trans 101 is shorthand for “Everything you need to know, are dying to know, think it’s your right to know, and should know about how and why someone is and could go from the outdated heteronormative belief that there is a gender binary, wherein a person assigned their gender by a doctor staring at the genitals at birth, transitions, either by the medical use of hormones and/or surgery and/or outward appearance to society into or to or was already there, or isn’t convinced is even the way to describe or subscribe to the seemingly “opposite” gender, which as we discussed isn’t accurate either, but since the majority of humans have a problem relating to even one word of this subject, we’ll have to agree to a modicum of clunky language in order to get them to stop killing us or wondering why we would choose this in the first place, since we keep saying it’s not a choice, but geezus can we stop now? Seriously we’ll never be able to tackle this all in one workshop, because you will still want to know if I am a girl how could I like girls instead of boys or vice reverse so what are we talking about, but yes thank you I am prettier as a girl, but it’s not about our looks, so please stop calling me sir, and I’m sorry that’s all the time we have, please remember to treat everyone with respect and no I don’t know her.”

Or… trans 101 for short.

The shorter version doesn’t flinch on addressing all of the above. Corporations, Academic intuitions, and organizations use a trans 101 to educate their workforces, student bodies, faculties and members about the elusive unicorns that they’ve heard so much about through mainstream media’s seemingly sudden discovery of this phenomenon, that apparently Janet’s breakfast club idiots slept through.

But… as a trans couple, Me the transgender lesbian one, and Mylove, the cis-hetero one, who are living all of the above, and are articulate, happy, intelligent women who don’t have four heads, neither of which exploded during the process of transition, we are called upon to bring our experience to the cis world, and do so happily.

Because we have committed our house’s resources to advocating, educating and inspiring for change. Mylove and I write, produce, speak and appear and lend our voices and our experiences to the “dialogue” to improve everyone’s life, but specifically the LGBTQIA community. We know from first-hand experience that the more the cis-hetero world knows of and about us, the faster things change. This has been the LGBTQIA recipe for change since The Black Cat & Stonewall.

And yet, as a married couple neck deep in the waves that buffet the shores of our community, we always ask each other as we prepare each workshop, “do we really need to go into Trans 101 again?” and “Surely we’re past all that by now…”

We feel that everyone everywhere must be getting the same news we are, watching the same drama unfold before us and live in the same country as we do… and invariably, after we’re done with a presentation, and it’s time for Q&A (our favorite part) we get the same questions:

How did Marcy deal with her husband admitting she was a woman? (read her book, she loves me in whatever wrapper my soul is wearing, but she says I’m waaaay cuter now.)

When did Scottie first know she was a transgender(ed)? (Yes, the use past tense of a verb that is supposed to be an adjective is still used even by our close friends… sigh) I’ve never not known I wasn’t a woman. I just didn’t have anyone else’s word (transgender) until counseling.

How did Marcy deal with Scottie’s deceit and betrayal? (By realizing there was never neither)

Did Scottie ever want to kill herself? («kill myself,» no. «Wasn’t sure how I could live another day? Always. Until transition.)

Have you had the surgery? (I’m usually coy about this – except in previous blogs).

And we realize. Yes. We still need trans 101 in 2017 and 2018 isn’t looking any better.

Left on their own, the cis world really usually doesn’t give us trans folk a second thought. It takes an “inciting incident” as the saying goes, to get on their radar, (which means it’s usually negative).  They weren’t thinking about us or it, until the President’s ban on transgender members of our military, so they never really did. They never thought about us until a cabal of Christians tried to influence the state legislatures of North Carolina, Texas, Louisiana and even Washington State to close bathrooms to us. (No one is really sure why they picked these states to do this.) They hadn’t given us a second thought until ol’ Betsy started to dismantle Title IX protections. The cis world never thought about us at all until an Olympic God, the seeming pinnacle of American Masculinity turned out to be one of us. But they sure concentrated on her car accident and the fact that she, despite all logic and reason voted for the white supremacist in chief for president, and was caught on film wearing a MAGA hat days after transgender sailors, soldiers, airmen, and coast guardsmen & women were barred from serving their country.

But when the hoopla fades once again … they stop thinking of us.

They may contemplate for an instant what they would do if their spouse came out to them, but it’s mental bubble gum, not a meal and any chewing won’t really satisfy the real hunger or provide any nutritional value. But they’ll go for a chew if they have nuttin’ else to do.

But then again… there are, of course, those who can’t stop thinking about us – and how abhorrent, abominable or disposable we are. They seem to be staying awake nights concocting ways to erase us.

However, the good news is that usually when Mylove and I speak to our audiences, it’s planned, scheduled and we have been invited, so the audience has come to listen and the exercise does go deeper and there is ample food for thought. So most partake.

But Janet’s assertion that we shouldn’t be obligated to help cis-folk play catch-up is a poignant one. Obligated. She’s describing the feeling many of us have when we have to bite our tongues as someone demands of us that we allow them the space to remain stuck in willful ignorance or worse. It’s truly bizarre. They don’t hear how their words are covered in barbs when they say, “give me a minute to catch up” or “we have to agree to disagree…” (this is my personal favorite… of what we’re agreeing to disagree about is that I am real, that I’m legal, that I am allowed to be.)

Think of it. We, as humans are all one. We are all family. We are blood. So when someone says “give me a minute to catch up” or “we have to agree to disagree…” they instantly dehumanize us. It happens in a heartbeat. The cord between our hearts is intentionally severed.

And what was one is now cut into two pieces, “one” and “other.”

It feels innocent enough when someone says, “Scottie, just let me catch my breath, you’re not the you I was expecting.”  Which, if we shared history, and the last time we saw each other, I usta-was, then I get it. But take your breath and let’s get back to that connection.

But when you say, “I’m sorry, call me ‘old-fashioned’, but…” Or “I’ve read the research, and what you really are, is deluded…” Or anything else that smacks of you trying to tell me what my experience of me is, you are not only at the height of arrogance, which is “bless your heart” asinine, but you are also so out of step with the current maturity of humanity, that your opinion and thoughts are completely irrelevant. You have played your hand as woefully inadequate. Your sense of entitlement makes you impotent. You have just effectively removed yourself from the conversation.

Can you put your mommy on the phone?

Yes, Janet’s words make sense (still) on so many levels. Especially the ones that make me wonder how long we will have to continue to drag the rear flank of humanity into the present.

But… it’s that we are still having this conversation (and twitter fencing and Facebook arguments) that is the real point of what she’s saying. It shouldn’t be this way in the first place. Seriously, in which situation is it ever okay, by any measure, to dismiss, dehumanize or discriminate against anyone?

Apparently, this one.

Some people believe they have a God-given, Bible-mandated duty to hate. And others who know that those people are insane, choose to look the other way, allowing hatred to spread unabated.

But, (thankfully?) there are still those in the middle. And these are our audiences. These are wonderful humans who, despite the fact that they think they are the ones who that just discovered the unicorn, or discovered a unicorn has been in their family or saw the flash of a golden horn out of the corner of their eye for the very first time… allow their hearts to be heard. It’s still a little weird that they regard unicorns as “other,” but what are we going to do?unicorn battalion crest.001

They want to know how to care and feed a unicorn because they truly are good people. And though they never knew a unicorn before, or had only read about one in books or saw one on TV, their heart can or has already been moved.

I guess that’s why we do what we do, it is because we feel obligated not just to the straight, cis world, but on behalf of my sisters and brothers, and those just now growing up (I’m sorry Janet) but I don’t do it without having to take a breath. As I’ve said above, the fact that I have to be okay while someone “catches that breath,” is still a hard pill to swallow.

And Janet’s is ultimately right. It’s not easy to be the unicorn in the room. No one is fooling anyone – we all know why we’re all here for a Trans 101 workshop. It’s a safe place to help cis-folk “catch-up” on our experiences, but to do that..,

… we have to play usta-was.

Usta-was has become an ingrained part of the trans narrative. I am an obvious version of this phenom, in that I usta appear as tho’ I was a man.  But there are many variations of this phenom. All are equally valid and valued.

The point connection with our audiences is usta-was. And for most, we could end up staying here for the rest of time. Some are so blown away by the physical act of transformation and the process and the courage as well as the hardship and effort required that they don’t have the attention span for any other part of the discussion. They don’t have an appetite for the happiness, the relief, the thriving and contribution we make. It’s not as dramatic, it’s not as exciting, or easy to see with your eyes, certainly not as captivating… and Invariably, questions return to the blunt force trauma of usta-was, where Scottie was Scott, the woman, a guy.

Let’s be real, it’s the only reason the breakfast bozos had Janet on their show in the first place.  She says in her article that she has no illusions that these idiots had any desire to be human, even though they have many times decried (rightly so) the devaluing of black lives that our country still can’t seem to fix. They “looked the other way” when hatred sat right before them. And they fed hatred with smiles, laughs and tacit and overt agreement. And still, others made excuses for them –

All while Tee Tee Dangerfield became the 16th trans woman murdered in 2017. She was shot to death in Atlanta, that very weekend (we have since lost two more).  She was murdered because she usta-was. Janet was disrespected because she usta-was. The cis world is obsessed, repulsed, enraged by and yet, still fascinated that we usta-was.

I have no counter to Janet’s point that the conundrum for us is this: even the act of engaging in usta-was to correct it, perpetuates its existence.  It’s the amber that imprisons us forever in our pasts that were never correct or accurate but are still captivating and beautiful.

Our fear is that you will always see us as only usta-was. You will never see me in my womanhood – you will see me as I usta-was.

And yet, an invisible part of being Raised By Wolves is the internal wrestling match with usta-was. Some in our tribe choose to patently ignore it. Erase all traces. Others wear theirs out loud, sometimes literally tattooing the past for all to see. As we contemplate our pasts we see both good times and bad (like everyone) except ours have all kinds of heartbreak in both. When we share with you our “good,” you would never know how the lead shielding of my armor stopped joy from penetrating my heart completely, and with the “bad” you would never know depths to which I sunk.

But I do. I remember how it usta-was.

And as I settle into my own acceptance of myself, I am sometimes surprised that the pain, confusion, and sense of imprisonment of a lot of my usta-was is starting to fade. I have to “call it up” from a distant island where I had marooned it during the coup d’etat my feminine self-staged a few years back. I call it up to support others in their understanding of what this world is like. What’s weird is that while the details are clear, gone is the overhanging feeling of dread. But what is left are the sometimes embarrassingly silly ways I tried to deal with a Nazgul who is no longer there. Yes, I remember being hijacked every month, and fearing both the departure and return. Yes, I remember having feelings of powerlessness, the feelings of entrapment, the feeling of injustice. But I can’t recall the actual feeling viscerally.

Thank you, God.

When I do recount the times when I stood on the top of a tower of ice and fire in Iceland, or swam in the crystal waters of a cenote in the Yucatan, lead my crew out of the Guyanan jungle, or stood on the legendary beach of Uluwatu, it seems like an adventure novel…

And that’s what everyone wants to hear – it’s the hook that not even I can deny. Yes, I wrote the backcover notes on my book. trading on the tropes that I was trying to overcome by writing in the first place – in order to get the reader to pick it up.

Because everyone, including ourselves (at first) is fascinated by usta-was.

But, usta-was is only supposed to be the jumping off point for those who are just waking up in 2017 and realizing that there are herds of unicorns… gosh – everywhere!

As the woman who “didn’t have a hell to leave,” I hope my story helps people understand that nature has a course that no amount of nurture can change.  No mob of pitchfork-angry Republicans can “scare” it away. No mean-girls can shame it away, no father can “man-up it” away. No facebook troll can “opinion” it away. No religious zealot can “fire and brimstone” it away. Not even the very real fear of never being loved or lovable can threaten it away.

The only path is acceptance. If it comes with love, all the better.

Maybe we can be women our society is inspired by, “Scottie followed her heart despite what the world, success, society’s expectations, even her own body, tried to deny.” And “Marcy faced down her greatest fear to choose love.”

We thrive when we embrace one another.

We thrive when we choose love over fear.

We thrive when we stand for love, body & soul.

We thrive when we stand up to ignorance, inequality, and discrimination of every kind.

And to make this point, we have to tell you “the before,” the usta-was, so you can grasp the full brilliance of “the after. “

Again. And again.

So, if that’s the price to pay to open one human heart…

We’re all in.

But it’s important – when I recall for you what I usta-was, and regale you with the dizzying romancing of a beautiful woman who would take my hand in marriage…

Or when I relate the ways I cared for, protected and earned the respect and love of those I led, was in charge of, or served… or when I confess to you the dreams yet to be realized…

… please know this-

It’s all the part of usta-was that I still am.

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“It’s weird because it’s not weird… am I right, ladies?”

One of the surprising side effects of estrogen is the melting of a chain that I tried to keep ignoring for my whole adult life. This chain was short by design and the links felt lighter than the other restraints I had used to chain my heart into its dungeon keep. They were lighter, so I would almost forget I was wearing it… but it was made of some seriously strong stuff.

I tried to convince myself that I had several tools that helped make up for the lack of mobility because of this chain, that I had ways to get the work done despite this chain.

I used to talk about this chain metaphorically, because that made it easier to dismiss that I was the blacksmith that forged it, that I probably had the strength to break it, and that I did know where it leads, what it was restraining, and that I even knew why it had been forged in the first place, and therefore…

that I was the only one who could break it.

This chain? Let’s call it Miss-direction.  And it restrains the raptor of self-inquiry that hunts the smaller rodents of denial that gnaw on normal, everyday reality.

No, I am not on Molly, hang with me, I can stick this landing, I swear.

You would think that a woman who has been able to claw her way out of the dungeon, past the fire-breathing dragon of dysphoria should be able to deal with the little critters of everyday reality without so much as breaking a sweat. And you would be right.

You would say that a yogini who had dedicated her entire adult life to the practice, study, and pursuit of self-realization, after removing the large boulders of identity and fear with Grace, should have weeded out these pesky weeds in the garden of self-awareness in the process. Again, you would be right.

But the iron chain of Miss-direction was a rusted relic that I discovered as I was redecorating the deeper chambers of the temple of myself. As I said, I was surprised to discover it – it was carefully camouflaged by a thin veneer of “been there done that.”chains.001

I wish I had found it through an intentionally targeted search because that would mean I’m on my game. But the truth is, I only saw the rust marks on the floor when I pulled up the carpets that I had used for years to sweep things under.

Along with the skeletal frames of bravado and crass, it had been dissolved when estrogen began to scour the inner walls of my heart.

I guess what I’m just now realizing is that the chain had been unnecessary for a very long time – the raptor it had held captive had given up long ago – the muscle memory from her initial tests of the restraint was still there, she had thought that she was forever chained. But when I threw open the drapes and let light flood in, she could see that she was no longer clapped in iron.

And her tummy was rumbling… she was hungry.

She is stretching her wings in the sunlight, and it couldn’t be a moment too soon.

“Transition” (a noun in our community spelled with a capital T) can be so… what’s the word here, full?  Sure that works. So full of both physical and emotional experiences and tasks, that it can be a full-time job just keeping your footing as your entire world shifts on its axis. This “fullness” can be all you could possibly do in a 24 hour day, between trying to shed these “Post-Surgical Pounds” and fending off the impulse to engage with that idiot who thinks their opinion on whether having transgender military personnel will affect unit cohesion is somehow more accurate or pertinent than what the Joint Chiefs already took years to know.

Yes. Good ol’ life can seem like a full time job.

Oh and then there’s getting a job. Keeping the projects that are in progress progressing. Nurturing the new ideas. And none of this takes into account the time that life is really here for, loving and caring and living with the most amazing person in the history of persondom.

That leaves about 7 minutes per day for self-inquiry. That usually comes in the shower.

But one has to take it when one can get it, right?

But as I said, I realized that the biggest restraint is gone and lo and behold, in its place is a strength and refreshed sense of… is that wonder? Why, so it is… okay, a wonder at…

how am I doing?

Well. Yes. How. Am. I. Doing?

To understand the gravity of this question, I think I need a breath here. I have not only dreamed of being “where I am now” – on the other side of GCS, but I fantasized about it (two very different things) like forever, even though I never believed I would ever really get to here. This fantasy was as painful as much as it was temporarily liberating…

until finally it just got depressing.

Too painful.  I knew it was just vapor. A future that would never be. A pall on my present. And, if I’m going to try to be brutally realistic, a waste of my time to “even go there.” Which was the shillelagh I used to pound myself with when my commitment wavered.

So, I finally got myself to just stop dreaming.

I built wall after wall after wall to seal off the dungeon so the light would never get in, because even just one deflected ray could pierce my heart so deeply that it would take weeks to recover.

But… back when I did dream…

Despite knowing that it would end back in drab reality, I would sometimes be able to soar… and it was giddy, euphoric, blissful (have I made it clear, yet?), ecstatic.  A wonderland of gold and pink light, of sparkling newness, and glistening, scintillating… normalcy.

My life as I hoped to live it would be as normal as yours. A life with no questions that started with “how come” and ended with “why me?” In this vast and glorious queendom, I would no longer deal with the body of some guy; I would no longer have the life of that dude. I could drop pretense and fear. I could let fall the shield of appearance. I would reallocate mental energy from navigation and defense to creation and nurture. My fantasies were not of riches and creature comfort but of my family seeing me and accepting me. MyLove loving me as a woman.

I wasn’t some super heroine, but a normal, average ordinary girl.

Yeah, I know. It was just a fantasy.

So, the other day when Mylove asked, “ So… how are you really?” Which for those of you who read GBTM might remember, was a question I would dread hearing, usually about once a month from Mylove after I came out to her.

It’s a question that I also used to ask of myself, not really wanting to know the answer.

And now, as one who has made it to this side of the river trans, I confess to knowing that if I were to ask this of myself, and if that answer were to ever be negative, there would be nothing I could do about it.

So it might be better not to ask?

Yes, I know, I know, to not ask this question of one’s self is (normally) to have doubt that one may not have made the right decision in the first place. I tried to threaten the raptor with a new chain by saying to myself that I would not have this question if there was nothing to question.

But srsly girl?

And that’s why it’s important that I realized the raptor could fly the day before Mylove asked. Because I did it under my own power and direction. I didn’t relegate it to the “so what department.” I actually walked right toward this question and stared it in the face and that’s when I first discovered that the tell-tale tug on my ankle that would have stopped me from going any further “down this road”…

never came.

I wasn’t afraid to ask this question and hang around for the answer.

And it was, I’m admitting right here, a bit disorienting because as I went searching for “how” I was. I realized I had been trained to look for only two things – the pink and gold blissful sunshine of my fantasy future life, or the dank and choking fog of regret.  I wasn’t prepared for what I found, and that’s why it confused me… I wasn’t sure what it was, at first.

Because it was so… um… well, this is a bit embarrassing, to admit, but… it was so… real. Realer than real. It was as if this was, and had only ever been my experience.

Because it was, you silly.

I was almost disappointed. Where were the flocks of rainbow doves? Where was the golden sparkle of reality, the crystal ring of each moment? Where was the ecstasy of “finally?” Where was the euphoria of “inevitable?” Where was the radiance of angels’ singing welcome?

I had had amazing peak experiences during the days right after (gender confirming) surgery, so now that I was healed, and starting to return to my workout and feeling physically good for the first time in like forever, why wasn’t I still floating in bliss?  Why were my days just like any other days… uh! Oh…

… does that mean…?

Yes, girlfriend, it means your dream came true. Your life, your living, your reality is…

normal.

It happened so gently and gracefully that I almost missed it. Now, my everyday life looks anything but normal. I didn’t sign-up to have a sitting President try to institutionalize discrimination by not only dismantling long and hard-won rights and protections such as Title IX, the Civil Rights Act, and trying to ban transgender people currently serving in our military, or  from ever serving.  So there’s that.

But that’s not the normal I’m talking about. I don’t feel like a stranger in my own body. I don’t feel like a charade trying to be “okay” so you can be okay that I’m okay. I don’t think about how to get through another day, despite feeling like any moment I will be swallowed by “the hijacker” (my pet name for the dragon that came as bouts of dysphoria that stalked me for fifty years).

So when Mylove asked me how I was doing, I knew neither she nor I had the time to say all of the above, and I immediately remembered my sister Kimm’s words from a text she sent me after seeing her big sister (me) for the very first time:

“I finally figured it out. It’s weird cuz it’s not weird. Am I right ladies?”

Maybe it runs in the family. Maybe our genes view reality through a “Seat-o-the-pants” filter, an instinctual jedi–scan that looks for disturbances in the Force, that pings under the crust of appearances to scrutinize the heart of the matter to heal what needs it. Whatever you call it, it was the only thing that accurately described… how I was doing.

It’s not weird. It’s not euphoric. It is not “not normal.”

Which is weird.

I just had major surgery. I’m still trying to get the hang of lipstick. I can’t remember the last time I even watched a war movie. I walk through my daily world, where I had previously walked as a relatively high profile “dude” (albeit a flamboyantly independent Hollywood freak) gracefully, unapologetically, and even, dare I say, tastefully feminine. Not a trace of “guy” anywhere. It’s not so much how I look that I’m reveling in, but more the acceptance that greets me. Most of my people do know that I was raised by wolves, and they either don’t care, like this version much better, or are too polite to make a fuss. “It’s” not weird, am I right, ladies?”

Yes. I notice that I am different. I think twice when I feel a string of expletives revving their engines while the catapult prepares to hurl them from the deck of the carrier into an aerial dogfight. But, I flinch at the use of explosive violent adjectives to describe a benign human interaction. (example, I don’t SLAM anyone, I’m COUNTERING their opinion). I used to cringe at the assumptions of patriarchal misogyny in all human endeavors, and resort to “workarounds.” Now I (either it’s estrogen or age) weed them out.  Even my sense of humor has gotten different – the jokes I now tell I either modify on the spot or let die a lonely death, unsaid. I don’t need to be the “jokester,” I can graciously just smile at the ones I’ve heard a million times (daughter of a car salesman-bartender – I grew up on the classics) knowing that every comedian needs an audience.

And… yes, I still practically dare the a**hole in the Camaro staring me down at the red light to give me an excuse to… to… to what? My adrenaline still spikes from the same stimuli, but the second part of that is when my brain kicks back in and reminds me that I was never a fighter at any time, in my life and I for damn sure won’t turn into one now. So I can stop “frontin’” here and now. When this does happen now, I spend the next hour probing my psyche for the accelerant that still wants to turn a spark into a backdraft. Before I just wrote that a**hole off without a second thought.

I’m not sure if other girls think this much about thinking.

I’ve come too far to not go all the way. But navigating the way forward by measuring the distance traveled is a cumbersome way to sail. And truly speaking, now that I’m in the seas of normal, it’s getting harder and harder to recall the weird past. The pain suffered is only a vague concept now. I made land driven by winds that came from the original desire to relieve the cause of that suffering almost… um… gee… I guess that would be… well, a few months ago. With that cause now gone, so too are those winds that filled my sails.

ship-001.jpeg

Which means that other winds can now take me in new directions.

I guess I will still be of service to others in the sharing of the charts from my journey. And I guess, if I’m really transparent, that’s what these writings are. The reality is that watching this raptor of self-inquiry hunt her prey is not the moment by moment experience that ignoring her had once been. She’s free to hunt. But I am free…

I’m not worried what she will find.

I am strong. I am in my body. Nothing is weird or strange. I have a lot of new in my life. I have a lot of unfamiliar. I have a lot of “really? Me? You mean I can, I am, I will, I don’t have to…” And yes, some of that recalls the vague memories in my muscles of the ways and whys of my time running with wolves, when the opposites were true, “I can’t, I am not, I won’t ever…”

I am doing all right. But that’s now, finally, wonderfully an assessment that comes by measuring the way forward rather than looking back. I’m no longer defined in the negative. Wow.

Am I right, ladies?

Yes. I’m right. I’m all right.

Actually, I’m just…

Right.

 

 

“Does this skirt make my butt look trans?”

I’ve been putting this one off for a long time. And yes, those of you who’ve read my book will want to remind me that I’ve said this before –

it’s not about our looks and it is about our looks but not in the way that most mean when they say that to us, or about us. Please allow me to explain.

You hear a lot of confusing things when people talk about the T in LGBTQ. The most mystifying of these is Dysphoria. As in “Gender Dysphoria,” which is the medical diagnosis that has been the gateway to all of the things that made my life livable. (Despite an amazing marriage to the most incredible woman in human history, a loving family, and “normal” childhood upbringing, college education, etc.) More recently, you’ll see the term “Body Dysphoria” used as well. I never thought about it before, but when used accurately, Body Dysphoria may be a more relatable term for a huge segment of our Pink & Baby Blue community, I’m speaking of those for whom even the word “gender” can sometimes send the conversation skidding sideways. And before we go any further, we’re okay with this ambiguity in our community, so you can be okay too.

I first heard the term “body dysphoria” when a dear new BFF was sharing with me that though she was cis-woman, she could relate to my experience. She too knew what it was like to be trapped in conflict with her own body. She had suffered from Anorexia. Her own body dysphoria had ruled her life from puberty through her early twenties. And the subsequent work that it took to alleviate the trauma and the health effects that are collateral damage, had become her daily experience.

Yes. She could understand me and my experience. She could relate to the utter exhaustion and trauma of living under the tyranny of the mirror.

Those who have never had this (and God bless you) will never “get it.”

I still hear even well meaning people wondering aloud how come no amount of will power, affirmations or good intentions can ever remove the elephant’s foot from one’s head, neck, and chest. Neither of these dysphorias (gender nor body) are our imaginations. Neither are “psychological” in the lay-man pop-psych euphemism. Neither dysphorias are a curse or punishment for past wrongs or missing Sunday mass. Neither dysphorias are God’s… anythings.

They are medical realities with cures.

I will leave my friend’s reality here because I can only relate to her experience as she did mine. But the lesson learned is that “body dysphoria,” is not our community’s cross to bear alone. Other communities know this, other communities deal with this, other communities beat this. We’re in good company.

It’s important for me to try to lay to rest once and for all, that we’re not talking about “confusion” about our bodies like it’s a mental exercise that can be cleared up by restating the issue in a different way or diagraming its formula or elements.

No.

We have never been confused.

Bewildered. Blindsided. Betrayed. Maybe. Confused as to why this happens, sometimes. But, confused that this is true, or so, or real reality?

No.

We are not confused.

We each (all humans) learn to develop coping mechanisms to deal with things that are  “not right,” when we are children. No matter what the “not right” thing is. Everyone eventually cobbles together a defensive strategy pretty quickly.

Or they don’t — and become a statistic.

A tragedy.

You know these numbers – 41% of our community have attempted or contemplated suicide.

Dysphoria (at least in my case) came from the psychological trauma of trying to suppress messages from my body that were contrary to my heart and mind. That sentence seems benign enough, right? And maybe that’s why the confusion in the cis-community exists. In an effort to articulate our experience in a succinct way, we end up sanitizing words — which makes them seem so… I dunno, almost benign, certainly surmountable.

Which is something Dysphoria is not.

For me, it was like lying on a live grenade for every moment of of my life. And knowing that someday. It will explode.

Now, try imagining that for even one minute. Go ahead… I’ll time you.

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Not easy is it?  A minute, under those circumstances is a very long time. Now pile on top of that the tension of feeling that you have to do it every minute of every day of every year of your life.

Now add on to that the feeling that it will never end.

Your nerves are permanently frayed. You are mentally spent trying to keep this tidal wave of grief and despair at arm’s length.  You are physically spent because this requires every nerve, every muscle, every breath. You are spiritually exhausted from trying to believe that God and life and nature are worth having faith in.

That’s the tricky one, spiritually. Try staying afloat in the beauty that is a human birth despite bathroom laws and an asshole in the White House who just threw 15,000 valiant members of our military to the wolves of right-wing Christian hate. (Make no mistake, our brothers and sisters in the U.S. Military are taking the assault on behalf of us all… this will only embolden the idiots on the state level who have already been trying everything they can, to institutionalize their hate.) It drains the soul of a community that has had to keep the faith despite being hunted for sport, despite our own families “turning their backs” on us and disowning us and disavowing us.

Try to remain engaged with God, despite a constant feeling of bile that arises because you’ve been biting your tongue when those who claim to “have no grudge with you” look the other way because our fight is not their fight. Try to stay happy despite being told that everything you’ve been taught to accept as moral and just and good, is not for you. It’s for everyone. It is your divine birthright. It is for all… except you.

If you can imagine all of that, like my friend who survived anorexia, then you can begin to understand dysphoria.

It’s a medical reality with cures. I use the plural because, for some like myself, the cure was hormones and GCS. But there are many in our community that need nothing more than love and acceptance to lift the toxic smog of Dysphoria.

And here’s the part that seems to mystify the cis-community. No one needs to know “which is which” and “who is who.”  You really don’t need to know why I had to have surgery and some of my sisters and brothers do not – just like I (and my sisters & brothers) don’t need to know why you (insert what you have or have not done to your own body). It’s no one’s business but your lover’s and your doctor’s.

But the “yous” of the world still try.

They announce their misunderstanding and ignorance publicly, saying really stupid things like, “I just don’t understand…” (which, if it was an invitation for someone to come forward to clarify, wouldn’t be so bad, but sadly it’s the sound a wall makes when it goes up to end the discussion.) “Where I come from, there’s just men and women” “Or we just agree to disagree.” “We just have different beliefs, that’s all,” Or, my favorite is, “You’ve chosen to live this way…”

I, and my sisters and brothers, are not your opinion, belief or agenda. We are people, citizens, your neighbors, your bosses, your employees and your sisters and your brothers. Your nieces. Your nephews. Your children.

Period.

Our stunted President has already dismantled Title IX protections, excluding trans youth from services that every person is supposed to be entitled to, citing that transgender people were not entitled to protections under the civil rights act. In Texas, they used a special session to pass a bathroom law to keep trans people out of going to the bathroom with less than 10 hours of debate citing “daughters over dollars.” How hate-filled and messed up is this — how can you tell a transgender person, “give me your tax dollars, but YOU can’t use the facilities that they pay for?” How can you say your daughter is more important than the Trans child? And this is not just about where we pee. When the child is ostracized by the Federal and state governments, the child is subject to vilification and bullying ONTOP of discrimination.  THIS IS AMERICA PEOPLE!

We’re still fighting down these down all of these like whack-a-mole.

It’s the height of ego. Because the yous of the world can not, will not even try to regard us an individual people. It’s safer for them to regard as a faceless mass. Easier to built a wall around us. Easier to legislate us into oblivion, Easier to erase us. Forget us. Forget trying to get them to walk in our shoes. They think their view of the world is shared by all. That everyone thinks the way they do. That there is an inherent logic to their argument. It’s like talking to a child who keeps repeating the same question over and over despite being told the facts. They aren’t really asking for an answer, they’re looking for validation that they are okay.

But, and here’s the weirdest thing of all, they have made us a cause – the transgender community must be erased. Our existence tramples on their freedom to discriminate and exclude. Our right to live somehow infringes on their right to hate.

With these conditions waiting for you as you step into the world, you might be able to see why we step cautiously. We have been taught that the world thinks we should feel shame and confusion about something that we are born with. Many of us follow the world’s lead and deal, succumb or hopefully cast off this shame and confusion (not of who we are, but how we are to live with it and you) to simply live our lives. This hatred is the backdrop of our lives. Look, we know we are a minority of every minority. The color of our skin intersects with our identities and our sexuality to push us from our families and tribes. A huge segment of the cis world believes it is their divine right to hate us, be confused by us, and works to forget us because of our race, gender and sexuality and all of the above.

And another segment of the cis–world allows this to happen by their silence and indifference.

Is it any wonder then, that this potential disconnect between not only what I see, when I look at me, but also what you see when you look at me, makes me work so hard? I have to get it right. I have to thread the needle between dignity and experimentation. Between self-expression and self-preservation. If you don’t see me as a woman, then I have you constantly reminding me (with both subtle and overt messages) that something about me is “not right.” It’s one thing for someone to say, “You look pretty today,” and quite another for someone to say, “You look like, oh bless your heart.”

So, the more visual clues I give that tell you I regard myself as a woman, the better chance we both have that you’ll get the message and at least not make it more awkward than it might be.  In some places this isn’t just a potentially awkward thing – it could be the difference between life and death.

Hopefully, you can see that for us beauty isn’t merely skin deep.

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For girls of my age, “the ability to pass” was a holy grail. It’s an impossibly high standard for a community that has been sculpted by testosterone. I’m not sure if I do, (Mylove tries to reassure me all the time) but (knock wood) since my transition, I have not been misgendered or even looked at with so much as a raised brow, so something is working in my favor. Even so, there are those people who knew me before, who spend the better part of a conversation trying to peek under my mascara. I guess I should take even that as a compliment.

But… when I see myself in the mirror, I still go right to the “tells”…

Yes, I see a woman. Thank God. But I can’t ignore the “too strong” jawline, the back that has trouble staying in any slinky dress, the wide ankles, and feet that spill over my size elevens and don’t get me started on my arms… thankfully, electrolysis has finally taken most of the hair from my face, and estrogen has softened the easy parts. With a curling iron, eyeliner and a touch of lip gloss, I look like…

…  the me that is looking out from my own eyes.

Yes. She needs more sit-ups, fewer carbs, and better fitting shoes. But her confidence glows brighter every day. Which helps her lighten up on herself a little more every day.

And here’s the thing… something almost all of my close cis-sisters say to me is that this self “critiquing” with its wild swing from dismay to acceptance is one of the not-so-good parts of “being a woman.” This constantly comparing one’s own body and physical self to some sort of “ideal” differs slightly for each of us but is there nonetheless.

And I know this – I don’t have to be told. What none of my cis-sisters knows is what it’s like to cry when another girl simply pulled her hair casually back into a pony tail without a second thought. And you can’t.

Or the conflicting war between grief and pride when your next door neighbor wore a “big girl’s dress” to high school for the very first time. And you never will.

Oh, trust me, I’ve been comparing my life to other girls since I was little. But the distance was measured in light years. So yes. I know.

But what I don’t know is what do you see when you see me? Do you see a woman who is desirable? Do you see a woman who is strong? Who is intelligent? Whois creative? Who is loved? What does Scottie Jeanette Christine Madden look like?

I ask this because, the other day, I was talking to someone who said, “Funny, you don’t look trans.”

I wasn’t sure what to do with that. Look trans? I had a train wreck of images in my head from the classic Catwoman-like-too much-plastic surgery taughtface to Jeffrey Tambor’s “Oh Bless her heart” Maura. Then I thought of all the trans women that I respect – Alexandra Billings, Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Jen Richards, Ashlee Preston, Trace Lysette, Zachary Drucker, Rain Valdez…

Were they saying I wasn’t… drop-dead gorgeous?????

If trans looks like anyone of these amazing women, I’ll have what they’re having.  Because sadly according to this person, I’m not or don’t.

Or are they merely trans stars?  So, of course, they would be beautiful?  Now, I know Alexandra is roaring with laughter now and calling me playful yet derogatory names for including her in this group of super models, we’ve had this conversation a few times, and she has the appropriate amount of humbleness about her looks, usually deflecting any sort of praise or adoration. But let’s face it – she is beautiful, inside and out as are we all — some just more than others.

I don’t look trans?  I. Don’t. Look. Trans?

Of course,  my self-conscious self went to cynicism, taking “don’t look trans” to be cis-speak for “Now that you mention it, I can see that you were raised by wolves, despite that cute sun dress and pink acrylic nails.”

In other words, my daily fear that no amount of lip gloss will ever cover testosterone’s legacy.

Yes, I am maturing, getting stronger as I said, and on the days when I am self-confident, I like what I see. I like the me that is emerging. And I realize that I have… a different look. When I was growing up, despite not seeing my face as mine, the face that was there was never really handsome. It wasn’t not nice for others to look at, but it wasn’t particularly a man’s face per se… just a face. Now that I am seeing out my eyes and seeing my face, I’m starting to like her, even with her too strong jawline. She is unique. She is different. Is she beautiful?  Well…

I hesitate because…, I am a child and a product of the televised concepts of beauty.

I formed my views of femininity and beauty during my childhood and puberty just like you. I had a vision of myself as a woman that still had Farrah Fawcett surfer bangs and wore leather mini skirts and disco inspired slinky dresses. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s and my inspirations were the sunkissed FF Jaclyn Smith and Michelle Pfeiffer (I actually placed a lavalier mic on the divine Ms. Pfeiffer, and was so nervous she had to steady my hand with hers… I nearly fainted).

Remember, I was never going to actually get to be my mature womanly self, so I could set the bar impossibly high.

And now that I am a mature woman in her fifties, the bar is still high. Too high. But not quite high enough for me to judge myself with it.

I don’t want the world to view me through cis-colored lenses. But I also don’t want to be seen as a woman with an asterisk.

I’m hoping that with my continuing maturity, I’ll lighten up on myself even more and see my beauty and accept it as the most beautiful me that it… is. That’s a little hard for me to do at this point. Maybe because I still have hope in my youth. I still have a chance. Everything I see in the mirror at this point is because of hard work. Getting up early to work out, almost 50 hours of electrolysis, and dieting. I’m at least willing to work as hard as I can to see where I will end up.

Just like the fact that you will have to be okay with the future versions of you staring back at you from your mirror, I will, because I’m no longer dysphoria’s captive be okay with the me staring back at me.

But will I look trans?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Direction

The other day a day friend said something to me that has echoed across my inner skies for… well… Geezus, really? (says she looking at a calendar) Months?

Fade in: It’s Memorial Day weekend 2017 – Bright southern California sun paints the trees with the promise of summer, and the breeze, a welcome break from a late spring heat wave… a glorious treat across bare legs. I ask Siri to dial the number of my favorite Green Beret – the infamous Master Sergeant Terry “Tezzer” Schappert, who is truly one of the stars of my book – his love, support and acceptance, an inspiration to all the “real men” out there. I always call Tez on Memorial Day to sincerely thank him for his service, my freedom as an American, and to talk about our shared love for a Canadian Power Trio, called Rush.

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How many dogs can say they were rescued from vampires by a Green Beret?

Terry was one of the cast members of my show, “Dude, You’re Screwed!” for the Discovery Channel, three years of my life that was at once both the hardest and best times of my life. A time where I lead a boys’ club of testosterone-addled military survival experts around the world in some of the most dangerous spots (jungles, geyser riddled glaciers, deserts) as they subjected each other to a survival contest to find water, food, shelter and “not die” all in the name of reality TV… as Terry loved to say – “it’s okay, until it’s not okay, and then it’s REALLY not okay.”Logo3.001

The esprit de corps that I had to nurture everyday earned my reputation as den mother, despite an insane production schedule (get into and out of not one, but back-to-back third world countries, with each’s customs and ways, dependent on local transpo to remote locations in just 14 days with 100 cases of gear and 20 crew – then repeat with no more than two weeks prep between), for a network that was not only in turmoil (we had four network executive changes in season two alone) but that also treated our cast as nothing more than “wannabes.” Which was odd, cuz the reason they bought the show and promoted it as such was that these guys were the real-deal, not a bunch of weekend warriors or reality show contestants. I guess, like the rest of the country, they don’t understand the value of real soldiers.

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP: never regard a Green Beret, A Navy SEAL and RAF Survival instructor as “Wanna–be” anything except, maybe wanna-be removing your head from your neck when you do. Jes’ sayin’.

We did eight countries on four continents in three months with only one case of malaria, one fractured ankle, and two lost cellphones. As Terry would also say, “nobody went to the hospital, nobody went to jail, nobody got pregnant – it was a successful mission.” That these guys not only followed my lead, but had my back was largely due to my having won their respect as showrunner and professional despite long hair and hoop earrings. When they learned that I had guided our adventures despite a soul crushing gender dysphoria, my stock actually went up in their eyes. After I came out to them, they called the production company and the network and said, “Just in case you’re thinking of doing anything stupid… we’re with her.”

That’s how real men roll, boys.

They were with me when my dysphoria was at it’s tippy-top, peaky peak peak. When I was wearing sports bras under my Columbia expedition shirts to hide “the girls,” when I wouldn’t take off my shirt in the Yucatán cenotes or the southern Chilean bays to go swimming, when I was crying myself to sleep every night after screaming my rage and frustration with a god that imprisoned me in someone else’s body into my pillow. They were there right before Ms. Scottie emerged into her full bloom (and let me tell you, the beginning was anything but pretty.)

It ain’t anything like I am on this Memorial day, reddish hair in a cute topknot, white skirt and pink tank (oh, and on the other side of GCS), now a full two years since our “Dude” days, thanking newly retired (and not digging it) Master Sergeant Tez — himself, toes in the sand of his Outer banks beach. He’s on a new show about Hollywood Weapons and once again touched that I remembered him on this day. As we catch-up about our lives, Tez says something that freezes my mind like the too cold iron spike of a brain freeze:

“Well, Ms. Madden, ever since you went in the other direction…” 

I confess, I don’t even know if I heard how he completed that sentence. My mind stopped recording and skipped right to processing.

Was he saying that we had a shared path that I left? Was he talking about gender? Was he talking about… what was he talking about?

Since that time, I unstick this piece of mental bubble gum from the headboard and give it chew almost everyday.

The Other Direction”
“The Other Direction”
“The Other Direction

The first time I heard about “othering” was in Janet Mock’s book “Redefining Realness,” and since that time it has become a theme in our national conversation about marginalizing anyone, particularly by race, gender identity, or sexual orientation, and has become one of the various tools in getting people to understand intersectionality. But Tez’s statement makes it seem like I picked a direction that was… well, defined by being, separate from a reference vector of some kind.

Did I choose to be an “other?

First of all, really, would anyone choose to be one? As I said in last week’s blog, many of us (particularly as adults) strive to be individuals. To be “unique,” and yes to be different. To be memorable, to stand out from the crowd.

But, make no mistake. None of us would choose to be bulldozed back into line, forced into a group of “other” that makes it easy to discriminate against, to vote down, to legislate away. But that’s how it works. Those who fear having less, want to use the boogie monster called “other” so there is no one person whom you would have to look in the eye. It’s neat trick, isn’t it? No one has to be face-to-face with “the other” to remind them that they are human, deserving of all rights equally. The captain has turned on the discrimination light; you are free to move about the cabin.

I must confess that I have… well, always looked at the rest of the entire material world as other. As an artist it’s been my job to observe it, explore it. Try to make some sense of it, with film, video, clay or heck, even crayon. So, to be pushed from my post into “other,” is um… what’s the word? Disorienting? Close.

I was trained as an artist. I’m just now recognizing that tho’ (as I’ve often said here) success was my armor of choice when I was running with wolves, my default survival mechanism had actually remained hidden to even me, masquerading as my gift. I call it “laser-focus,” anyone who is an artist or craftsman knows this one. The ability to stay “dialed-in” on a fixed point artistically or intellectually means you can shut out all else. You can immerse yourself in the creative challenge of a project fully and tune out the noise of the world completely.

Even the gnawing on your soul.

Which is what too many realize too late that we were doing. But besides paying a dear price for this Jedi-skill/curse, (disconnection from one’s loved ones being the top of a very long list) the problem is, once you start, you cannot stop, lest whatever you were ignoring, gets the upper hand. Is doesn’t go away simply because you shut your eyes like a child playing peek-a-boo. And no one has been able to maintain “LF” forever… sooner or later the laser will drift from it’s mark and destroy the walls of the tunnel it had bored, and the ocean of life will flood in and claim all.

When my walls crumbled, so too did the myth of security and protection that my laser focus used to whisper as promises to me to keep me separate from the “others” that I was making art for and about. I could no longer let these whispers distort my perception of reality. I knew that we as women have endured misogyny for centuries. I knew transphobia bred murder and hate. But art had hope in it. Hope for change. Belief in humanity. Faith in love. Understanding that we are all one.  Being other wasn’t even part of my vocabulary. Until it was.

The other direction.

Which direction was I going?

To Terry, I was a respected adventure reality showrunner. I suppose, if we kept on going in the “same” direction (even tho’ “Dude” was not going to get a third season), Terry and I might’ve met up “out in the field” together yet again. We still might. But that’s not what he was talking about. And his words “the other direction” and their Doppler effect speak to how far he knows we are from where we were going.

Terry and I shared a lot of things in our three years in a meat grinder.

Beyond our love for the best rock band in history (tho’ he still has a softer spot for Judas Priest… sigh) and Bugs Bunny, chili’ mango, malapropisms, mixed metaphors and dogs, we both knew to the core of each of our beings that our work ethic, our belief in excellence and family first was who we really were. We drove each other to be the best that we could be at each moment. We counted on each other to always be there. Wherever, and whenever that there would ever be.

Which may be in some small way, what he was saying.

Is he wondering, since I went “the other direction,” that I… won’t be there for him?

Or is he saying, where I’m now heading… he can’t go with me?

I know I have a penchant for drilling down too deep. And I can’t blame it on TV, even tho’ the truth is production, especially on my shows, becomes so intense, and so consuming, so us- against-them, that hearts get fused together by the fire of creativity, sleep deprivation and bad street food. Trying to heal the hematoma that appears when the tissue is ripped apart by time and or your next show usually makes people wary of allowing the fire to fuse their hearts anew. We even have the term “showmance” that speaks not so much to this phenomenon existing, but rather to it’s inevitable end.

No. It’s me. I know this. And so do you if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time. I expect human relationships and interactions to always be our best noblest selves. In my world, even casual encounters are supposed to be our best and no one is harder on herself for screaming at that asshole who just cut ME off on the freeway, or idiot tech support person who misgendered me, than me.

So… yes. It’s me. I always place too much weight on what people say or think. But… here’s the kicker. So does Terry. I know this having to have talked him down from several ledges (more like asking him nicely to take his finger off the trigger, being the retired Green Beret and all) countless times. Like the time when the network said that it was the format that was the star of our show, the cast was replaceable at any time. Or that time the network wanted to deduct the Canadian work permit fees out of his and the other cast members’ salaries. Or best yet, when the network came up with the title for the show. Terry was active duty at the time but delaying deployment in Afghanistan where his real brothers were laying their lives on the line. So what did this ever-awesome network think was the best title they had ever heard? The title for the show that was demonstrating to the world what and how and who Master Sargent Terry Patrick Schappert is? Why, thank you for asking – they called our our show, “Dude, You’re Screwed!” as if it was about a stoner teenager who lost his car.

Terry saw blood. I had to be the one to tell him. I had to be the one who said that titles don’t really matter – and “what’s in a name?” and a buncha other BS to chill his ire, but really, what actually worked, was when I put all that aside and did what I always did, which was speak from my own heart, and say not even a shitty inane sophomoric title could take away what we were practically dying for (not exaggerating) and that we were just going to have to live with it… together.

We shared this too. This affliction of caring.  Of overthinking it. Of going too deep.

So. It’s not just me.

So why do his words haunt me so? I guess it’s because I know I haven’t made it easy on myself. The truth is, Hollywood and TV are supposed to be either so enlightened or capitalistic that neither cares if you’re green with polka dots as long as you’re good, and making them money.

But that’s not true.

What is true is that I freak people out. Before transition, I was labeled “passionate” which is network-ese for a “royal-pain-in-the-ass.” But I also had a rep for “getting it done” and bringing home ALL of the story, as a respected showrunner, given the responsibility for millions of dollars of production and literally people’s lives (adventure TV needs adventure, right? That don’t happen on a soundstage) but since coming out?

Well, okay, picture this – I’m a college educated, thirty plus year veteran of almost every genre and format of live and edited, scripted and non-scripted television, who has also taught production to everyone from the CIA to the major network news divisions – okay, hold that image in your mind as… I have had not one, but three people say to my face, “it’s not that we have a problem with your transition, we applaud your courage to be you, but it’s that we don’t want the crews to have an issue with you… for your sake.”

I haven’t worked as a showrunner since I came out in 2015.

I’ve had 10 (in two years) interviews for a showrunner position – each was amazing, went great and then ended with a variation on the above excuse, sorry, reason. I’ve been up for not one but three shows about transgender people, the last was about couples who had decided to stay married after one of them came out as transgender. I was told that even tho’ I was a transgender woman still married after 28 years, they wanted someone with more experience. Which is network-ese for a cis-gender male.

I wish I was making this up.

Terry’s right, it’s okay, until it’s not okay…. And then, it’s really not okay.

Is this what he meant?  Is this “the other direction” I went? People are free to say incredibly stupid and insulting things to my face – because why, I’m powerless to stop them, because I will be so flabbergasted that I will be frozen with the aforementioned brain freeze and they’ll be able to slip out of the room?

The truth is I’m going in the direction I was always heading.

Did I know that I would be able to live and grow as a mature woman? No. I was, and maybe this is what Tez is alluding to, trying to play out the clock, pretending to be a boy. I was working double time to keep my dysphoria under lock and key while still trying to be a happy person and functioning member of society and…  Tez’s showrunner. Maybe that’s why Tez is still in my corner. Because I was woman enough to be stand up and be myself, despite the world’s callousness to the “others.”

Ironically, I have a sneaking suspicion that if I actually asked Tez what he meant by this, he probably wouldn’t even remember saying it.  But that’s not the point. The point is that by remarking that I went in the other direction, I did go on a journey. And it will never stop.

So, tho’ I am going in a different direction than my dear big brother Tez, it doesn’t mean we still won’t end up in the same place we both were heading together. The way to the destination is never just one road.

And I can’t wait to see you when we both get there, big brother.

 

Part 3 of 3: That. Happened.

Dear Reader,
Yes, its true. I’m back at it, after time off to heal. I have posted the events of March 21st – March 30th in three parts. This part is part 3, and the last installmentof this feature. And tho I was coy with my disclaimers in the previous posts, this time i really mean it. This time I get personal, really personal and write some graphic descriptions that those with modest mores might find a bit over the line. As always I tried to keep it in good tastse. But your boundaries are your boundaries – no judgement here. You be you and I’ll keep it as real as my fingers can type. Without further ado.. Wait! Where were we? Oh yes, I left us at a cliffhanger? Good for me. Dr. Wylie would be proud. And that cliffhanger was… oh, yes, that I had just had the bandages removed from the surgical area and was handed a mirror to see for myself what had been under all that white guaze. Ready? It’s Raised by Wolves 21’s conclusion? Well, anyway, it’s part 3 of 3…
Scottie Jeanette Madden , June 2017


Continue reading Part 3 of 3: That. Happened.

Transcen-dance

I’m trying to hang onto the bulwarks of my inner superstructure, lest my entire being flies apart from the inside out…

Which is a very convoluted way of saying… I’m… excited. Anxious. Antsie. (Or is Auntsie?)

In other words… I’m t-minus four days from the third biggest threshold in my life… namely GCS. Gender Confirming Surgery.

For those of you who’ve followed this saga of a woman raised by wolves, you know I’m given to striking metaphors and colorful imagery to describe my inner state, but even this is… well, defying my best efforts to capture in words.

But I’m trying. So please forgive me if I jump around in my attempts.

The waiting line for GCS is, maybe, by design, a long waiting time – an ad hoc process to weed out anyone who is maybe (and would hugely mistakenly, misguidedly) trying this on a whim.

But here’s where maybe won’t cut it, sister.

Still, those who are trying to wrap their heads around my life have said to me, with the best intentions, “Well, you better be sure, because there’s no going back.”

There never was any going back. But thank you all the same. I’ve never been surer of anything in my life, except, that I had to be with Marcy forever.

But that doesn’t mean my world isn’t getting bashed by wind shear and g-forces – much the same way a rocket gets buffeted as it reaches escape velocity to break free from the gravity’s downward shackles. I am vibrating, shuddering and veering as I press on with a stronger power than I ever thought capable of having… and it’s exhilarating, scary and…

… and I don’t know what.

No. I seriously don’t know what. I have nothing but a blank slate ahead, and absolutely no data other than the edges of the charts which read “here there be dragons.” My entire life, I’ve resisted even looking past my ships’ prow, much less steering for the stars. But now is the time. I’ve put both feet firmly on the accelerator…

It’s not like I haven’t fantasized what could be in that void of my cosmos. And for those of you new to this blog, in these parts the word “fantasy” refers to the wishful imaginings of what real life should be and not the fanciful play without stakes or repercussions that many use as a break from real life. In these fantasies, my life instantly returns to normal, and I’m off and running in my new normal life, where my body is no longer my concern: it’s as it always shudda been – as if it usta was – and I don’t have to spend so much of my waking time in, what my friend Dr. Alie calls, “a salvage operation.”

I say fantasy because the road to here so far was already rife with its measure of physical and emotional hardship. So, being the maturing woman that the world now knows I am, we have done our research and know that life only gets more fun from here. As the surgical contract that I signed clearly states, I agree to a lifetime of “maintenance” (EDITOR’S NOTE: Ms. Madden’s original noun has been edited/modified so as to not scare the living daylights out of the un-initiated. Thank you and sorry for the interruption).

So needless to say, I know what is waiting for me in theory, but…

I have no real idea who I will be when I get there.

I know that I’ve transformed (see what I did there) throughout all phases of my journey, and the girl that is going through one threshold is never the same girl who comes out on the other side. It’s fascinating, yes (from an anthropological point of view), it’s disorienting yes (from a psychological point of view), and it’s… okay, yes, beautiful (from a self-aware/spiritual point of view). But truly, I won’t know what it will be really be for me… until I step across.

And that will happen on the first day of spring. In just four days.

I’m letting that settle in not so much for you, dear reader, but for me.

To prepare for this, I’ve gone through over 2 years of medical scrutiny (not to mention 50 years of denial, introspection, prayer and tears), family/societal rejection, fear, and oh, yeah… 60 hours of electrolysis.  Pain, it seems and it’s endurance thereof, is the dirty little secret of our daily lives.

I give you exhibit A: For those who have never had electrolysis, it’s like, if you took two red scorpions, dipped them in gasoline, lit them on fire and willingly, intentionally allowed them to fight on your face. Of course we girls don’t just have to contend with hair there. The money shot is to repeat the above process (TMI ALERT) and then drop them down your pants.

Yes. It’s like that, and no exaggeration. For hours.

Most of my sessions are three – four hours. Numbing creams and painkillers only make it manageable. After the second hour, I usually just hide-out in mediation like a storm shelter, awaiting the electro-hot tornado to do its worst and hopefully pass without bruising or worse.

But last week, the stakes were higher – it was truly our (Layla’s and my) last shot to get it right. Layla, B-T-Dubs, for over 20 years is not only the best in the biz, but as a cis-hetero woman, she has been the guardian angel of mercy for us transitioning girls. Layla knows ALL of the LA girls. And I do mean all of all of us. She knows us from the inside out, knows us better than we know ourselves, and loves us unconditionally.

But, as I said, we had one last shot to get it right. Let’s put it in perspective: the last thing you want is a hair growing up in there. Nuff said? Good. I don’t even want to think about it which is why I told her to go “all in” and let fly the songbirds of pain.

And sing they did. And in the throes of blinding, searing, white hot…  clarity, I asked Layla, “Layla, do you believe in God?”

“Of course I do Honey.”

“Then, what was She thinking when she made us? Why were Trans people put on this earth?”

“Well honey, you know God doesn’t make mistakes, so why do you think She made you?”

Maybe this was the endorphins kicking in, but I heard myself say, “I can only speak for me, but maybe it’s to have ultimate faith in myself. I have always had to hold onto my heart’s experience despite what my parents told me, in spite of what the world told me, and no matter what even my own body tried to tell me, I am… the me I always was. A beautiful woman.

Layla didn’t skip a beat (and it wouldn’t’ve upset me if she did), and she said,

“Honey, listen. Trans women are the strongest people on the planet. Way stronger than cis women or cis men. You are superheroes. No one has more faith in themself than you do. Nobody is as willing as you are to examine your life and know exactly who you are. You inspire me every day. And when you come out on the other side, nobody lives their life with more joy than you girls do. So, yes, I agree, you are here to teach us all Faith and Joy.”

Well, when you put it that way…

So… those are the handrails I’m clinging to as the clock ticks, sometimes in slow motion, and other times like the clocks in a bad time travel movie. I say clinging because I’m aware that this week is the absolute last one of it’s kind. I will never be here again. The precious time before a momentous change. We rarely get this much advance notice when our life is about to change. I’m not clinging to the past, but I’m also trying (and it’s hard) to not be in too much of a hurry to leave it.

As winter here in LA seems to be a thing of the past already, with 80-degree sunshine making the hillsides explode in green and wildflowers, I’m trying to slow things down so I can enjoy this scorchingly beautiful day without wanting to hit the fast-forward or skip button.  But it’s a losing battle, like trying not to anticipate Christmas morning on Christmas Eve.

The only cloud that darkens the fields of daisies is the fear that something could cancel or postpone this.  Faith. Faith. Faith. Now is the time for this, sweetheart. Don’t let the irrational or the imagined (both are but wraiths of the ego). Still… things happen…

Like a mere month ago, when I was taking a super-hot bath (it was still wintering way back then), and I thought Marcy had fallen, I jumped up too fast… and passed out on the way to my feet and fractured a rib on the side of the tub. Blinding pain, unable to breathe and desperate to rescue Marcy from whatever had befallen her, what do you think was my first thought even before I was able to suck in a half breath?

This better not mess up my surgery. 

Luckily it won’t. I’m better now, but it took a doctor’s note to clear me. Marcy’s fine, too. (Thanks for asking.)

Faith. Yes. I have it. Nothing between me and the threshold now but time.

And Joy. Joy that I’m aware of the significance. Joy that I can feel the Grace that supports me on this journey. Joy that Marcy is with me, side by side as we cross this threshold together. Joy that I know joy. Joy that I stand in faith.

So,yes, I make no apologies that this one is a “to be continued…” because the song of transcen-dance has a backbeat of faith and a melody of joy… and the chorus that leads up to the bridge is building to a crescendo.

I’ll see you on the other side…

Shock & Awe

I am bruised… by self-inflicted wounds. I just got out of a two-day Facebook war with a friend of my, as he put it, adolescence. (That shudda been my first clue as to just how far we had grown apart… adolescence? Who says that about themselves?)

But I digress.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit… no, I am embarrassed to admit that I took the bait with every posting until I finally pulled out of the tailspin.  But I fell to what many smarter people than I have already discovered, i.e. the classic, the liberal fatal flaw of believing that:

if I could say the exact right thing using “facts” (I know, call me Pollyanna), that not only would I win the argument, but also I would change the mind of my opponent for good and for… well, good.

I said I was embarrassed because this is not the first time I’ve made this naïve, tactical error. Chalk it up to the “fool me twice” dunce-cap-kinda-thingy.

But I will also confess that merely knowing this probably won’t stop me from doing it again.

The thing is, I know this strategy will never stand up to what they got on the other side. Facts, as we have seen, are no match for the campaign that seems to be the BFF of those who are on the wrong side of history but the alt-right side of philosophy. This campaign is the Kraken that’s been unleashed onto our society, but it has another name that maybe you’ve heard before.

I call it “shock and awe” or, as it’s probably more commonly known, the scientific name for a statement of such astounding arrogance and audacity, namely “complete and total horsesh*t.”

You’ve experienced shock & awe before. Shock & awe is usually very easy to spot because it is a cover-up for something that is so ridiculously false that it can’t be believed on it surface merit. Sober people usually walk away from anything enmeshed in shock & awe instantly. Few are foolish enough to attempt to use it because it is usually stamped out faster than roaches at a wedding banquet with derision, laughter, and a complete lack of support.

There have been some historic attempts at using shock & awe – and one could understand the lure of its potential to cover-up hopeless compromising positions, and or your garden variety nefarious deeds such as “having a wide spread,” being told “she was 18,” and “that’s just locker room talk.”

But something happened on the way to the democracy of 2017, and somewhere, somehow, President Steve Bannon discovered… the real truth was unimportant to a vocal minority of the American people, but “winning is all there is.”  (Thank you, Paul Newman – not Vince Lombardi.)

And President Bannon discovered something else—blatant disregard for the truth made the liberal left (and everyone with a brain) completely stark raving crazy. So crazy that they lost their minds, and more importantly, their way in every argument.

What’s funny to this girl is that this shock & awe strategy truly puts the cart before the horsesh*t, in that normal, intelligent people are so “awed” by the sheer audacity of these incredulous arguments, they:

  1. Let their guard down, thinking that there’s no way to even justify stupidity and lies, so why bother?
  2. Dismiss the information as so irrelevant that it is something that no one could possibly ever agree with. (So again, it’s not taken seriously.)

However, this sets the stage for the shock portion of our show…

Intelligent people are shocked that the above works. Progressives scramble to come down to Bannon’s level, which shelves all of the intelligence and thoughtfulness and more importantly good intentions of their position.

This shock knocks the progressives off their game so much that they find themselves playing defensive “Catch-up” on “solutions looking for a problem,” “False equivalencies,” “fake news,” and “alternative facts.”

This even has the Progressives questioning their own intentions. Maybe we were wrong to think that people are basically good. Maybe we did underestimate the middle of the country’s ability to ignore racism, sexism, and homophobia for the false promises of jobs. Maybe we should’ve played to their fears and lack of tolerance?

And here’s the deal, President Bannon is smart. He saw how some clever people learned from the big tobacco failures (in court with massive payouts) that you don’t need to enter into a debate.  All you need to to is sell the world on the idea that there is a debate, where one hadn’t existed before.

You don’t even have to waste time creating counter arguments (that’s too much work, and requires research and footnotes). No all you have to do is conjure a myth that “others smarter than us all are not convinced.” Wasn’t that fun?  See how that works? You don’t even have to invent a lie that can be struck down with facts.

And it works. We now have an entrenched view on the so-called right that there is a climate debate, which is all the daylight they need to drive a wedge into.

Why am I only now fired up about this?  Because not only is shock and awe being used to try and wrest our country from us, but people are trying to use it in everyday life.

Which brings me back to my past FB skirmish with my so-called conservative-leaning former friend. This experience showed me the very personal face of astounding arrogance and audacity and I responded exactly the way I those of on the left classically do.

It started when I shared a posting on FB describing Evangeline’s protest to President Bannon’s “beard” (whom some are referring to as simply “45”) about his recent executive order to rescind the guidance by President Obama’s protections for trans kids using the bathroom in public schools. Evangeline has a trans sister and she felt (maybe naively) that her singing the national Anthem at the inauguration bought her a piece of 45’s ear. That she feels betrayed and appropriated is not getting her any sympathy from those who suffered at the hands of men, especially this man, but hey, she tried. Good for her.

And I pointed out to all of those who said give 45 a chance, that these were his true colors, he is a coward who will sell out everyone, breaking promises to the most vulnerable, in order to play to his base.

And then the comments started to flood in. One man (who I went to high school with) asked a genuine question about the legitimacy of this issue and was answered by several of my Facebook friends. In this case, they were all real friends of mine who were also FB friends, because they jumped to make it clear to this guy “what was what.”

But then “the friend from my adolescence” who I nicknamed “Stever,” decided he was the new authority on all things trans. And he let his opinion that this issue (transgender) was a mental illness, a “disorder” that didn’t require a society to accommodate, and therefore didn’t require the protections promised by Title IX.

Before I could answer, he was buried by my FB posse. But… he doubled down.  Each attempt at argument revealing more of his arrogance, misunderstanding, prejudices and biases.

It was… mind-blowing. And I was shocked at his arrogance and awed by his audacity.

I struck back. I called out his misunderstanding and irresponsibility in perpetuating these lies that not even Fox News agrees with.

But he continued.

And I was immediately taken back to countless hours spent defending him to our other friends in high school who never could understand him. But I did. And I stood beside him, fought for him. And never abandoned him.

And… I admit. He hadn’t changed a bit. Even in high school he was an expert in everything we talked about. Back then I though of his arrogance as confidence, his audacity, charming. Inspiring, even. But here, now, I also hadn’t changed, and my old Pollyanna self was blindsided that he was could be so “in bed with the enemy.”

So I tried three separate times to get him to see how just “out of line” he was.

If I could show him how silly it was for him to negate my lived experience with something he read on the internet, we would both have a good laugh. He would thank me for opening his eyes. And we would listen to Rush (the Canadian Power trio, not the Pill Popper). And then his mom would call us to dinner and I’d have to call my mom and ask if I could stay.

But something has changed in all these years. Not just between friends, but our desire to be friends has eroded with the acid rain of social media. What’s happened to us?  Maybe it’s because it’s anonymous. It’s not like a real conversation. We can’t see our words reflected in the actual face of the listener.

Marcy even tried to knock some sense into Stever, posting in very plain language that there was no way he could ever know more than I on this subject.

Would he see that?  Could he ever recognize his folly and hubris if he couldn’t see my face?

But… I still had faith that the years spent dreaming together of being in a rock band (he plays guitar, I was supposed to be the keyboardist, even tho’ I would’ve preferred to be the drummer), sword fighting together in the forest (with homemade katanas we made in his father’s woodshop), and writing screenplays for the fantasy epics (that I would direct and he would star in), would amount to something. I just knew that he had to have an ember of the “me” in his heart that I could blow on and get my friend back. I didn’t dare hope at this point that he would know what living in my life was, but I did have hope that he would see how silly he was to think he could possibly know more than me and that his opinion could really hurt me physically and emotionally, and, if nothing else, I had hoped that he would at least…

… stop working against me.

But… no. He tripled down, if that’s possible, choosing instead to make it my job to convince him that I and my community are valid and worthy. Rather than do his own inquiry to find out where he got it so wrong, was at odds with the world’s medical community, the US military and decent humans everywhere, was so, let’s face it, out of sync, Stever was holding out… holding on. Digging his heels in…

So I… opted out.

I lost a friend (probably one that I never really had?) and I learned that nothing is ever going to change his and his brethren’s minds.

What’s maybe the most troubling is that Stever’s shock & awe campaign had no discernible goal, and maybe that’s the worst of all. What could he have possibly hoped to gain? What was the point of demonstrating to the world (at least the FB world on my feed) how misinformed, arrogant and audacious he is?  With others who use this tactic, they are bulldozing toward financial gain, as with President Bannon. But Stever would only, could only lose once he chose to stay in the fight.

And he did. He lost me. And I’m not sure that even matters to him. But he didn’t gain anything.

So what to do?

This isn’t an area where we can “agree to disagree.” My identity is not “up for debate” nor is “the jury still out” as to whether Gender Dysphoria is real. However, Stever, with all his outdated and misguided opinions, can still vote. He can still support any number of the attempts to institutionalize discrimination. So… I have to care what he thinks.

I guess this is why we have to enact laws to protect us from the obvious. My father used to say that locks only keep an honest man honest. If the general goodness of humanity would always prevail, we wouldn’t need locks, we wouldn’t have laws and we wouldn’t have wars.

But we do have laws, and the one that rules our land is a set of principles that make us the United States of America. Our constitution. You would think, the mere spirit and philosophy of it would be enough. But because there are always those who will try to bend the rules away from the shared collective good to a zero-sum gain of individual power and wealth, we have to enact amendments. Even these should be enough. But when they haven’t been (as in the civil rights act of 1964, which cited not only article one, but also the 14th & 15th amendments), we had to create laws that spell out what everyone should’ve known, but elected instead to bend.

So, even our laws aren’t enough? Apparently not. Our morals and American values are under fire again by those who want “freedom and justice for those who think and look like me,” instead of the true American values of united we stand, and liberty and justice for all.

How do we get back to that?

And where did this movement to dismantle our principles come from?  More importantly, where are the patriots who would protect these sacred values?

Um, that would be US.

Where are the patriots?  Well, we’re easy to spot. We’re out in the streets. We wear pink knit hats. We show up at the airports. We are flooding the town halls, and we’re the ones who will vote your devisive, discriminating, hate-filled hearts out of office in 2017 and 2018.

But until then, how will we deal with shock & awe, both on the national level and in our very own homes, or even with those whom we ourselves have stood up for and with in the past; our so-called friends?

Keep knitting.

It worked for Gandhi.

 

 

 

Guilt by Association…

I sat down to write this week’s posting, and realized…

I had already said  everything (this week) in an interview for another woman’s blog.

So I decided to throw light (the opposite of shade) on a fellow blogger for the great work she does, which is this: She interviews the Heroines in her Life, and as of this week’s count, I am honored to be number 362.And in the three days since my post dropped, she added three more…

Yes, it’s some amazing company. You’ll find the “usual suspects,” great women whom you have heard of, who have lead our community (either metaphorically or by real world sweat and tears) but it’s also women you need to know. Women who have made a difference doing nothing more than the greatest act of courage – truly, being themselves.

Which, we’re learning, is even more mystifying than previously thought.

I received an invitation a week ago from Monika Kowalska – and this started our journey together. Monika paid me one the greatest compliments I had ever received:”Scottie, I was reading and reading (your answers) and I started to feel that…

I am no longer cursed but I am gifted to be a transwoman! Thank you so much!!!!”

Well. What can you say after that other than – Thank you God that I have something to give.

So. This week, I direct you to Monika’s great blog dear readers and see for yourself what all the hoopla is really all about…

Please read my responses to her insightful questions at:

http://theheroines.blogspot.com/2017/02/interview-with-scottie-madden.html

And see you next week –

scottie jeanette christine madden

Knit one, march too.

Okay… really. Where to start?
Yes. We marched along with the millions of people around the world – including Antarctica… for women’s rights.

Seriously. Antarctica!

And, while a millions stories and posts are and will be written about this proud moment in history, and many will be trying to understand it, quantify it, lionize it, and rationalize it, I want to just revel in it.

The bask in the brilliant light of community, sisterhood, and graceful power of us. Of we. Of all.

And, before we go any further, there are so many people to thank. The organizers of every March. The speakers at every march. Whoever started the pink pussy knitting circles. The unbelievably creative and clever signs. The men who marched alongside. The police who kept us safe. The parents who brought their children. And everyone who participated from home. And everyone who marched for marching with our respect, caring, joy and intelligence. Not one incident of violence or vandalism.

And this simple act of gratitude speaks to why I was marching. I marched for and because and to insure our rights. These and many other virtues and values of women were in crystal focus for everyone to see. Yes, I started with gratitude –, because that’s who I am and I believe who we are. And yes I thanked everyone for marching, or as we’ve seen marching from home via the interwebs – because this was not, as the organizers stressed many times just a woman’s march, it was a march for women’s rights.

And here’s the deal. Say what you will. The Gracious Power of Women has been and always will be, the creative, nurturing, sustaining the power of life. So though this was almost overwhelming, it should be no surprise that we stood together. For women’s rights are human rights. (Thanks HRC!)

I first heard of the March in Washington D.C. via the posting that announcing there would be a sister March in Oakland. I immediately responded. Not only is the Bay area near and dear to our hearts, but it’s the spiritual home of our marriage, and so many members of our vast extended family are there. So, what better way to celebrate than with our peeps?

Now, of course hailing from La La Land, it could be a little strange, to make the trek north, even after LA announced their sister March., (750,000? So proud of us!) Stranger still to go even when Snow snow threatened to close the Grapevine, .

But I felt the call of sisterhood beaconing us ever north.

I will confess as “the new girl” I had no idea what to expect. I only knew to follow my heart. I had to let my feet and spirit do the talking. I had high hopes for something, but I specifically stopped those in the “inkling stage,” so any of my preconceived notions wouldn’t get in the way of the Grace that would arrive.And I wished I could say (because it would make me seem so darn smart) that I intended to march for all of the above reasons. But I can say that I was truky letting my heart lead the way…

Mylove and I had a very simple agenda. Get there. Hug. March. Hug some more.

But, Mylove was also trying to be “the adult in the room.” She knew we should be concerned with the immense rain storms in the forecast. That’s it. I didn’t think too far ahead. I didn’t plan out every second – make a bunch of appointments, nor a serious of checkpoints. I didn’t even have an exit plan – and with e. With even bigger storms threatening the Grapevine for our return drive homereturn, this was not “good drills,” as my survival expert pedigree should dictate. And… I really didn’t care.

Get there. Hug. March. Hug some more.

Now, for any of you who know me, you know that this in itself is very strange behavior for moi.… As “adventure girl,” I am usually the designated field marshall – yes,. I know how to move a large crew (20-50) people and 100’s of cases of equipment into and out of remote countries around the world – so I better know how to pack the car, right? I better have the back-up battery chargers for our cellphones, the appropriate foul weather gear (not just for me but spares for whomever joins whatever leg of the journey) and yes, I get a little, ahem, “passionate” when someone strays from the rendezvous point(s), even if it’s “just for moment” to get a better look at the signs going by. And tho’ I did do all of the above as expected, it was more because it was left-over in my muscle-memory, not the consuming “strategery” (thank you Bugs) that had been my M.O. for my professional career and reputation.

And… it did give me pause… as it was noted in it’s absence… so I’m either maturing as a woman, and confident in myself to get sh*t done, or… I’m no longer defining myself by what I do, but rather how I do it… (but maybe that’s a subject for a future posting – stay tuned.)

And, I will also confess that I am as realizing (or rather coming to grips with) that I am usually the resident “Amazon” of almost every grouping of female friends that we have., i.e I am usually, the one woman in any group of women in our circles thatwho was raised by wolves. And, though estrogen has seriously and lovingly reshaped my… shape, I’m still almost as physically strong, and almost as physically large as I was… that. And more importantly, I still have that protector gene that rises up when we’re out in any crowd.…

But. I hadn’t allowed myself to think too far down any of the above roads.

Because for the last few weeks, I had been so consumed with keeping a dull pounding ache at bay.  I felt that I had been kicked in the heart… and that the kicking would continue for the next four years, or until it ended in it’s certain impeachment.

For the first weeks of this brand new shiny year, I could only see divisiveness. I could only see strife. I could saw only disrespect, disservice, and just plain, ol’ dissing of anyone (and everyone) who is not a redstatered-state, rich, white, male corporation.

And my Amazonian tiara felt heavy.
As, I too, took my seat at my own pity party of one (and I’ve heard from a number of my dearest and strongest women friends –, my sisters -, that this table had more than one single seat), I didn’t care that I had been allowing myself to dine regularly on the sour gummy worms of insanity, anger and acrimony streaming from every news source, social media platform and even closest friends. And I knew, that I knew better. I knew what I was doing wasn’t right. I knew I would never be able to continue at this pace – t.These gummies are hard to chew, they ruin your appetite and they make your tongue swell… (not unlike Capt’n Crunch rash! Remember?).

So, I knew I needed to change. I needed to do something to pull myself out of this tailspin. I knew I needed to fill the tank and head north. Like millions of people all over the world, I put on my raingear and, locking arms with Mylove and my dear sisters, leptleapt out into the sea of love that in our case flowed like a river through the downtown streets of Oakland… .

… and despite our agreement to stay on the edges of the crowd, we – found ourselves right in the middle of it all…

… were swept alongside the pack of twenty ten-year-old girls – carrying their signs and wearing their hand knit pink hats…

… were captivated, as a young mother patiently explained in great patience (and, (I might add, with great insight) to her six-year-old son, why “we shall overcomb” made everyone laugh…

… cheered, laughed, chanted and walked in yes, the truly festive atmosphere….

… marching for Women’s rights, human right’s, Black lives’ rights, Environmental rights, Native American rights, Muslim-American rights, American-American rights. …

… and wasWe were all were baptized with love, with respect, with the Gracious Power of women.

This is my “takeaway.” I still feel our power. It has cleansed my heart. It has given me hope. It has washed the sour taste of those gummiegummy worms from my palate.

Today. T, the Monday after, the White Hhouse debates are already changing tone from the combative defensiveness of this weekend’s missteps.

Was it because of the March?

Probably. No one will probably give it credit. And it doesn’t matter.

The Republicans will be taking a retreat this weekend where they will strategize getting away from “small ball.” Is that because of the pink knit hats?

It doesn’t matter. Because, as women, we don’t give two hoots about “small ball.” And yes we know what it is and yes, we still don’t care.

This was not a movement to be judged. Success wasn’t depending on someone else or anyone who beieves themselves “outside” to validate.

None of the metrics men concoct can measure the power of what happened.

And, as a few have stepped forward to try to throw shade on the movement, to try to undermine and attempt to divide us for whatever reasons, (including those, who, as women felt they were being shamed for not wanting to march. N (newsflash –, we don’t care that you didn’t march, we marched so that we all have the choice to be and do what we feel is right for each of us in our own lives. If you felt shame –, I’m sad for you. I’m sad that you felt the need to shame yourself. And please know: we didn’t do that to you.)

There were pundits (even women pundits) who asked the same questions and made the same accusations that were levied against the Occupy movements. “Yes, but this will only mean something if now, you take this energy and do something with it” “Yes, but they better get the one message or this will be for naught.” “Does everyone even o know what they’re marching fo?” “They need a clear leader or their movement will die.”

Again. It doesn’t even matter what they say. W — what anyone outside thinks. All we cared about was that it was showing how many of us there are. How many of us are watching. How many of us will stand up for our rights.

More than anything, I learned so much about myself from just being in the company of us. I can place too much “belief” in the fallacy that bad can have its day, despite my faith that good will ultimately prevail. (who wants to live thru even a bad having a good inning? Still too much.) But, what I learned, even more, is how easy it was to allow the acid of hopelessness to erode my resolve.

And even now, as I watch “alternative facts,” executive orders try to dismantle Sanctuary cities, and even the Republicans like Paul Ryan try to invent a new definition for, “there’s a lot of ways for Mexico to ultimately end up paying for the wall in way or another,” I am held up by a Gracious Power that stands even if I might waver…

The millions of people who stood together around the world are the Gracious Power.
This Gracious Power plays by its own rules.
This Gracious Power is undeniable.
This Gracious Power will overcome.
This Gracious Power wears pink knit hats.
This Gracious Power wears what it wants.
But this Gracious Power is love. Is inclusive. Is Respect. Is Intelligence. Is creativity. Is Inspiring. Is nurturing. Is sustaining. Is the force that makes, holds, and supports this universe.

This Gracious Power is Woman.

March on.

Eighty percent

 

Each morning my workout is to “power hike” (no other word for this – it’s not quite running, and way faster than hiking) in the hills that are the northern border of the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy. Locals here call it “dirt Mulholland.” It’s the stretch of the infamous Mulholland Drive between Topanga Canyon Boulevard and Havenhurst – a fire road that’s the mother artery for hundreds of smaller trails that feed off of this idyllic length of paradise between ocean and valley.

It’s a favorite for a morning cult of dog walkers (I’m one), mountain bikers (one of those too), trail runners, casual strollers and… well, it’s as a diverse a group of humans as the wildlife that call it home.

Why am I telling you this?

To put you in the same morning-sunshined, ocean-caressed, crisp-aired, rosy-cheek-kissed bliss that could only be made better by Return to Forever’s, “Romantic Warrior” pouring from my earbuds and marinating my soul…

You there?  Ahhh, yes, there you go… now, breathe in and…

Cue the hawk. Her shadow kisses your face first and you look up – she waves with a curt tip of her wing as she soars out over the valley. And… something else passes by … and before you can even ask yourself what…?

She backs up and re-enters your field of vision, blocking out your hawk’s majesty… and as Stanley Clark’s bass line seduces your attention like warm maple syrup,  a bright-faced, blond, brilliant light of a woman is talking… to you… she doesn’t seem to notice the earbuds…

So, you pull them out, and you hear her say, “… and would it be okay, I know this is terribly forward, but my daughter is a film student at USC, you see. And she’s making a film about a transgender police officer…”

Now, I am, and have always been, really good at inference. Sometimes to my downfall. All I need is a seed of a thought to deliver you a forest of a story. But as I struggled to hang on to this woman’s breathless story about her daughter, and the efforts she’s making, and the support she’s getting from the LAPD, and the officer himself who served in the Marines as a woman but transitioned after a distinguished tour of duty and is now quite happy as a male police officer, and the rest of the officers have been great with accepting him…

… my own thoughts were starting to drown out her voice. I realized I was desperately trying to figure out why is the woman, whom I have never met, who seems very nice and earnest, and proud of her daughter…

… why is she telling me this?

And when I still hadn’t heard a question in this waterfall of information and detail, nor even a request, a cold shiver went through me that I could not stop. I heard myself asking her,

“How did you know I was trans?”

Instead of a direct answer, I heard instead that she actually has other friends who transitioned years back and struggled, and are very brave, and after two in-depth stories about these friends, she confesses that she has seen me many times up here.

Now, for those of you who have never seen me. I am working very hard to reclaim a body that spent 50 years being Raised by Wolves. I’m happy to report, it’s working. And so is the estrogen. I have hips, and I am starting to get an hourglass figure. A woman is emerging In place of all the sweets and carbs I have given up.  On this day, in fact, I am looking quite cute (ask Mylove) in athletic tights and red trainers (way better word than sneakers, I think) and, my hair is pulled up into a cute top spray. I’m wearing my Audrey Hepburn oversized sunnies…  I tell you this so you too will have the same vision that she had. That way, you too should see my crest falling…

Which makes her talk even faster, and I hear her say:

“But really honey, you are so close, you are at least 80 percent. Yes, 80 percent for sure.”

Now. I don’t want you to misunderstand me. First, yes I was thunderstruck. And we’ll talk about that in few paragraphs, but I need you to know that I was so blown away by her blunt honesty and matter-of-fact brightness, that I kept talking to her and actually walked the rest of my morning hike with her (albeit more the stroll mode).

We parted ways at my home trail. I agreed to talk to her daughter and help her in any way that I could and when the subject of my career path came up (30 years in television, I know a thing or two about documentary filmmaking), she was overjoyed and proclaimed this meeting “meant-to-be.” I can’t lie, I felt that way too… I found out all kinds of interesting and wonderful things about her and, yes, we could be friends.

When I got home and told Mylove about the whole encounter, just as I was about to say her name, Mylove said it with me in stereo, “Oh, you met Lenka. She’s amazing, isn’t she?  A brilliant light.” Hmmm, where have I heard that before? I guess it was meant to be, just as she said. And so I followed-up, and I’ll let you know how it goes. It feels weird after all that to confess that, as wonderful as it was, I was still… “unsettled.”

Okay, I promised, so here goes…

Eighty percent? Eighty? Eight-o percent-o. A solid “B.” A nice, “thank-you for playing” rating?

Eighty percent of what? Of womanhood? Of physical femininity? Of you’re almost there, but not quite? I’ve heard of measuring up… but really?

Why did this number rock my world?  Well. It couldn’t have come at a more intense time or as they say, happen to a nicer girl. In the week leading up to this, I’ve had to endure whispers behind my back that the timing of my “choice” to be a woman was ill-timed. (This was from someone who should know how wrong at all levels that thought is.) I had direct in-my-face accusations that I haven’t “paid my dues – by working at sh*t jobs, like most women.” With these, I have no idea where to even start to correct these misconceptions. They are deep judgments that all my good deeds and my past efforts can’t seem to cleanse.

I was accused of conflating make-up, hair, and clothes with being a woman.

It doesn’t matter how many disclaimers I put out, this is the gum on my shoe that I can’t shake for love nor money. And, if I’m honest with myself, I have to confess that the number of references I make to the above, with all their requisite rationales and justifications, don’t quite add up to making the case for acquittal.

But, this was flung at me like the bag of trash that sprayed the feet of the teary Iron Eyes Cody, and… it hurt.

Do I celebrate my femininity every day with the way I now freely present myself to the world? Oh, heck yes! Do I still have a sense of urgency to make up for lost time? Without a doubt. Does it matter how I look?  Well, yes honey, it does. Just as much as it does for the next girl: okay, maybe a little more enthusiastically than the average middle-aged woman, and just shy of obsessed, but not for the psychotic reasons that would land me in therapy. I care because I can now fully, freely, care about how I look. I can look into a mirror and see me. Caring and taking the time to do something about it does not define or confirm my womanhood, it glorifies it. My womanhood. Not yours or hers or Mylove’s. Mine. It also doesn’t say a thing about your womanhood. It doesn’t comment on what you should do or not do, just as yours doesn’t, mine.

Especially since it’s apparently only at 80%, anyway.

This was the frame of mind that was my “plus one” as I went to my friend Tarrah Von Lintel’s Art Gallery for the opening of Mark Seliger’s “On Christopher Street” Photography Show. My iPhone crapped-out on the way there, killing my GPS and sense of direction so much that I got horrifying lost. (I actually had to resort to orienteering survival skills, thanks, John Hudson.) Finally, I arrived 15 minutes before it closed (I missed about 80 percent of the show?) and, together with close to 300 people, I was taken by the portraits of transgender people who live in the Christopher Street neighborhood of New York. These portraits were stark black and white, with the soft-focused background urban textures, like armor worn proudly by these people. There were singles and duets; a quartet my favorite. They were from all walks of life, and all pure New Yorkers. The camera caught their steely, worldly, been-there stares. They are Loud. Proud. Out. 100 percent there.

The crowd appeared to my 80 percent perspective to be 50-50 percent “cis” to trans split. There was a spectrum of the trans community present. So many faces I had never seen before. I glommed on to my new BFF Ashlee (whom I met thru Tarrah), and she was a friendly life raft in a sea of anonymity. Ashlee,who was live on Facebook as I hugged her hello, spent the rest of my fifteen minutes introducing me to everyone who came with ten feet (she’s like that). And I met some amazing people, doing amazing work for our community. It was a vibrant, happy, hopeful vibe, and I was sorry when the lights began to go off, effectively “brooming us out “of the gallery as the show closed. As I drove home, I had to admit to myself that I haven’t really been involved in the LA community maybe as much I should be. I’m an author and speaker, darn it, helping the world understand our experience – and the world out there is so… big.

A few days later, I had lunch with Tarrah and we talked about this. Now, she is a solid pillar of grace and calm wisdom. She admitted she had never had such a happy, hopeful vibe at any of her openings before. As the conversation got deeper regarding my experience of the portraits, I confessed that as amazing as they were “technically,” some of them were actually a bit “on the nose” (LA speak for “expected,” i.e. clichéd) with regard to the transgender “narrative.” (Also LA speak, but also used by many to describe the commonly held belief that we think we invented it. But really, it’s a collective story we tell ourselves to document and ascribe meaning to our various groupings.) And by this I mean that there are several “tropes” (this one is ours – LA speak, I mean) such as “trans street walkers,” “trans overcompensators,” and “trans body alteration.”

To be transparent (I couldn’t – but maybe shudda – resist), the niggle in my tummy was that too often these tropes become truths – that is, they become “prejudices” or, at the least, “preconceived notions” about any sector of society. In this case, our trans community that can impede equality. That’s the fear anyway, and, I admit, it was sorta mine. It’s why GLAAD exists. It’s why we try to bust stereotypes of all kinds. It’s the first steps toward (my fingers are gagging on the word as they type), normalization. We’ll talk later about why, if I take a breath, I try to never buy into this fear or oversimplification, but for this post, Tarrah is the hero…

So without further ado…

Tarrah defended her choices (after all, she is the curator for the show, and those were her choices) saying that that was precisely why she chose the more provocative shots (a few were the professional sex workers in the neighborhood). These photos asked us all (especially trans people) to confront internalized transphobia. We are not the choices many of us have had to make to live – and we certainly better not be judging those choices as the measure of character. In our community, the hard options between life and obliteration are never easy, never cut-and-dried, never the easiest path. Our choices are never between being what we are and hiding. but rather, how we will live as who we are with the world often not only in our way but actually conspiring against us.

And, all of that, our history, our journey, our legacy, in the glare of the streetlamps was on display in all it’s glory in the denizens of Christopher Street. As Tarrah says, “These people completely owned their authenticity, 100 percent.”

Really. 100 percent.

Well then, and tell me you saw this coming if I’m 80 percent…?

Was that what Lenka was talking about? Did I just presume (shut-up, Tarrah) that she meant I was 80 percent woman when she meant I was 80 percent … trans?

80 percent authentic?  80 percent both?  (Um, ain’t that 160 percent?)

Nah… I’m sure she meant… well, she must’ve meant… Come on, as a cis-woman, she had to mean… (Gosh darn you Tarrah! How dare you make me… think!)

Shoot, okay, so now, I’m confused. And why am I allowing myself to fling myself down this rabbit hole? Well, actually there’s a very good reason. Because that’s also who and what I am. When I realized that my real survival mechanisms weren’t the ones that had me believe that I could finish out this precious gift of life from God as “half of a man,” but were the ones that finally, blessedly kicked in when annihilation seemed truly imminent to live life as a whole woman.

But if Lenka’s right. Let’s say I am 80 percent. That means I still have work to do. What 20 percent should I start on? The woman part? The trans part?  Both? (And never mind that I am already devoting all of me to working on both. As my writing partner always reminds me, the biggest room on the planet is the room for improvement.) So… it’s a poser, yes it is a real stickler.

Maybe Tarrah is right. Maybe I should get to work right away on that part that cares too much about what other’s think.

And in that case, maybe Lenka is right… I’m almost there.