Third eye sees
Third sex heals
Third eye, no eye–
Third sex, no sex–
Three upends pairs
Massive wall of water, suspended. Narrow space of dry ground, an alley through the sea. I am standing on a ladder in the sand, leaning against the liquid wall. I am frantically laying tiles on the water, one little square at a time, trying to hold it up, reinforce it. I am madly laying the tiles, covering up just a few feet of this massive surface that stretches on for miles. Suddenly, I stop. There is no need for me to cover the water, to build a wall against a wall. God has already parted the sea.
This recent dream pretty much sums up the pickle I’ve been in lately. I am feeling immeasurably better since my last post. I have reoriented myself internally and, though I am just as busy, I am far less stressed out.
I realized that I have been suffering from a severe case of trying too hard. Indeed, trying too hard seems to be at the root of much of my longstanding anxiety. I have a habit of constantly trying: trying to be polite; trying to be good; trying to be perfect. I try at everything. I try hard in school, work, relationships, life. I try hard in my spiritual practice. I try hard, very hard, to relax (what an oxymoron!).
There is a hilarious irony underlying all this, in as much as trying actually undermines both being and doing. This stressed out, effortful trying is an expression of basic fear. It communicates a fundamental lack of trust in the world and in oneself. Far from improving one’s performance or helping one to meet goals, trying diverts energy, corrodes calm, and goes against the flow of life. All in all, trying makes action inferior, cramped, inhibited, uninspired, and it is incompatible with wellbeing.
So I have stopped trying. I am not trying to be a good student, counselor, partner, friend or employee; I am not trying to be healthy, happy, or perfect; I am not trying to relax, be present or meditate.
Quitting trying feels like a great big trust fall in which I am both the one falling and the one catching myself. I feel I am just sitting back and watching the actions of the mysterious intelligence I call myself. With no effort whatsoever, I do all the things I need to do, know all that I need to know, and more than that. Words just come out of my mouth spontaneously, and they’re often very appropriate words; I walk out of my house and directly to my workplace, somehow knowing the way. It’s amazing. And it really underscores just how little good trying does me. It seems I can completely stop trying and, far from my fears of my life crumbling into a twisted mess of pain, the only immediate consequence is that I feel a lot better.
I am still doing. I go about my day; I attend to the tasks that greet me. When tension and anxiety arise I remind myself: I am not trying. I am not trying to do an excellent perfect job at this or that, so if I screw up, if it doesn’t turn out right somehow, what’s the big deal? At the same time, I am not trying to be a super present spiritual person, so if I am worried and preoccupied, who cares? I’m not trying to do or be anything in particular–so whatever I’m doing and being is fine.
If a single star were missing
The night sky would grieve
If you were someone different
The world would be less
In former lives now forgotten
You were kind and loved mystery
It was in this way you attained
This fine coat of many colors
If God were a bird
It would be this bird
And the Promised Land
Is this land
A moment of clarity recently. Sitting deeply in my body. Thought in the form of words, spontaneously.
I am a hermaphrodite. I have no idea why.
I laughed for a long time. I am baffled and I am whole.
I am letting go of the need to be as close as possible to the system’s ideal of a man. I am okay with my ambiguous body. I am proud to be a member of a secret tribe. I am comfortable moving through the world as a man. I am an undercover outlaw. It’s a condition of my life: very well.
I am a man. I see a man’s face in my mirror. Other people see a man when they see me, hear a man when they hear my voice. The best part about this is how little I care. Sometimes I feel a pleasant sense of affirmation and belonging; sometimes I feel the gnawing pangs exclusion and isolation. Both are okay. Most of the time, I just don’t think about it. What a goddamn relief. As Amy has said, the best part of alleviating dysphoria is forgetting about gender and just living.
I am not a man. Not because I am transsexual–because I am a soul. In my essence I am an open eye, perceiving, no content. In our deepest essence, no one is a man, woman, nonbinary person. I am a man, as much as anyone is, which is to say, superficially. Gender exists on the level of form; it’s about human bodies, human personalities, cultural lenses, social roles. Nothing wrong with that–it’s part of life. One part.
It’s good to do what we can to be genuine, to be at ease, to be ourselves, to enjoy life. But we don’t want a Pyrrhic victory in which we imprison ourselves in our bid to be free. So we need a right relationship with the project of self-discovery and self-expression.
The experience of being trans can potentially reveal what is transient and what is solid, what is real. This is a twofold realization. First, we realize who we are. We might be feminine, masculine, androgynous; we might be men, women, genderqueer, genderfluid, agender, etc. It is healthy, courageous and invigorating to be honest with ourselves. We then begin a process of evolution and manifestation is which we express ourselves in the world. Beautiful. This is a very good thing.
But in itself, it’s incomplete. If we get trapped in a rigid idea of ourselves as our labels, we will be back in the box all over again, if perhaps a somewhat friendlier, roomier box than before transition. I have observed that trans men and women often run directly from the box of assigned gender to the box trying to fit in perfectly as the more suitable gender, trading a cage for a carpeted cage. (Not sure how this plays our for nonbinary people–let me know in the comments!)
This is what I did and it seems to be quite common. We get lost between competing false selves. After beginning medical transition, I became very hung-up about my gender, feeling a completely overwhelming desire to be gendered correctly by others and to be not one iota different from a cis man. It’s perfectly reasonable to try to express one’s gender and want others to recognize it. But the painful need to be seen, and, more troubling, to be the same, was actually rooted in transphobia. On some level, I accepted the bullshit line that being trans is inferior, that we are less real and less legitimate; I thought I needed to be as close to cis as possible in order to be okay. But I don’t. I just need to be me.
It is totally understandable that we try desperately to “pass”–our very lives depend on it, and assuming a person genuinely wants to live as a woman or a man, there’s no deceit involved, just the intense desire to express ourselves honestly at long last. The danger is getting stuck there. By getting stuck I don’t mean simply living as a particular gender–nothing wrong with that–but getting stuck in the belief that our very worthiness and even existence depend upon our gender.
We also need the second realization: what we are not. We are not our personal histories, our genders, or check-boxes on a form.
What are we? Deep, alive, mysterious. We are exactly how we’re supposed to be.
I make my home right here, in the shadow of the wall. Mother of the desert, cover me with cactus fruit. Shaggy dog, wind-chimes, turquoise paint on wood. I find the secret place where waters gather. Coyotes, crickets, white flowers that bloom in the moonlight.
Call me and I will come to you.
She chose me and left a sacred scar on my soul. I am her peaceful warrior. The sons and daughters of the desert are my own.
Remember the forgotten people.
Outcast, misfit, don’t cry over spilled fortune. Don’t linger long at the gates of the city, watching the people who live their little lives between the walls. Don’t be jealous of their colorful costumes and precious security. Leave them to their small minds. Do not envy delusion.
Be a creature of the desert forest. Wild and alive. Savor all that is given to you.
You among all the others were chosen for this strange purpose. We are the people of the underbelly. Cry your wanderer’s tears. Smile your outlaw grin.
Memorize the mountains. Find gleaming garnets scattered in the dust. The treasures are wild and numberless.
Mother of the desert, pull the cactus needles from my skin. Kiss the tiny wounds, uncountable.
Cold air, pounding heart. Run through the hills by starlight.
Cut the fences.
All of that is fine. Actually, the difference between such choices is trivial, in the long view. All that matters: decreasing pain. The only imperative: live well and help others do the same. There are a lot of border towns along this wall. Fit in wherever you can.
Don’t get stuck too long in the swamp of your own indecision. If you’re not ready to choose, don’t choose yet; if you know what you need to do, just do it. Don’t torment yourself for not knowing or for knowing, for being different or the same, or tall/short/normal/strange. Whatever the case: don’t torment yourself.
Here is the situation. We are misunderstood, which only means, they have failed to understand us. We are misfiled, which only means, their filing system has failed to account for us. This is in many ways a burden. It’s also a gift. This facade comes pre-cracked. Don’t patch it.
Don’t get trapped again in chasing breezes. Having liberated yourself from one set of made-up standards, don’t hold yourself to another. Don’t test yourself with rulers political or gendered. That would be to squander the incredible opportunity of the border-dweller. So they threw you out–don’t get sucked back in. It does not matter what you guess a cisgender man or woman would do–grasping for someone else’s answer to your own question. Nor does it matter what you imagine is the radical thing–taking your own answer to one question and trying to force it to answer another. Don’t trade a cage for a carpeted cage.
Hold your new self lightly. It is a baby bird. Do not horde it or crush it or demand things of it. Admire it. Bestow the gentlest kiss.
The secret isn’t that they got their definitions wrong–although they did–nor that we need more and better definitions, though that is also true.
The secret is: here: the definition. And far, far away: the truth. Not just for gender. For everything.
Whoever you think you are–you aren’t. Who you are: clear, clear, clear. No one knows your name.
We live like stumbling drunks, always falling down again on the unforgiving concrete of our own self-judgment. We are walls to ourselves, barriers; we are the rock and we are the hard place. We refuse to forgive ourselves for our failings, no matter how small. Then fences proliferate, and with fences, separation, and with separation, misery, misery.
Have you failed? Is there something you cannot do or should have done? A memory that makes you wince? We berate ourselves constantly. Talk about intimate violence. We mistreat our bodies, our hearts and our souls.
I come up over and over again on the hard edge of transsexualism, that bizarre state of defiance and perpetual surprise. Shame, shame, shame, that endless well of pain rising up once more and once more still. Shame rears its head and I become like a trapped animal chewing off its own tail. But unlike that wild creature, I have escaped my cage, haven’t I? Why do I gnaw at the stump and prevent the wound from closing?
Perhaps I am still imprisoned after all. I escaped my external trap of body and role. But inside, I remain my own jailer, and I am cruel. Cowering in fear of others’ judgment and rejection, I am crueler to myself than anyone else has ever been.
Twisted fate, sweet absurdity, I am a testament to the failure of all language and the limits of all forms. I must become beautiful to myself, scabs, scars and all of it. I am tiny, flawed, and terrified. I drink from the cup of the Infinite, yet I am forgetful. I am broken, miniscule, crooked–and perfect.
To be is to be radically limited. From the Endless Endless we are hewed into minute fragments. We feel small, abandoned, and horribly alone. But our condition is no tragedy. The One is endless, complete, unchanging. We are finite, fragmented, in constant flux. The One in its deepest majesty is complete already beyond understanding, yet longs, mysteriously, to crackle into countless forms. If we were unlimited, we would be God.
Every form, because it is one thing, is not a trillion others. Of all possible creations, we are that we are. On this level of reality, limitation is the precursor of beauty.
Radical limitation: wood and fiber brutally cut out of the heart of the Earth and meticulously fastened together in an exact formation. It’s mostly not: not a ray of light nor a star nor stardust, not a hummingbird, not a submarine. And yet the violin, that profoundly constrained and specific form, is a thing of sweetness and purity, a gift to the world. There is no infinite violin, for it would be no violin at all. There is only the tiny, limited, finite instrument, one thing and not countless others. All that it is results from the most severe limitations.
We are not worthwhile despite our limitations. Insofar as we exist in the world, we are our limitations. And we are wonderful.
My current mission in life is to do less. I am slowing down, I am letting things wait. I have boarded up the factory that once manufactured a permanent urgency for every item on every to-do list. I am savoring the holiday break, sleeping in, taking long baths in the afternoon. It’s not hedonism. I have a debt to repay.
Self-loathing is a terrible way to live. It exacts a deep toll on body and spirit. Years of tension and silent, simmering hate have left their mark in scars, bad dreams and worn-down molars. I intend to repair all that.
I have found a tenderness towards myself previously unknown. I handle my body gently; I complete tasks without panicking or forcing it. There is a subtle, graceful way to live, in which one does not create enemies.
I owe the most to my body, that faithful servant, sustaining me, surviving everything. For years and years I despised it, and I gave it the blame for all that I endured and wished to escape. Yet my body remains pure and perfectly innocent. No resentment. Just movement, steady and constant, the metabolic miracle that carries me through this realm of time and space.
I had a vision of myself naked and glorious, encircled by flames. Reflecting later: my body appeared just as it is, atypical, transsexual, scarred, but in the image I had no glasses. As if to say, in the higher realm are we made perfect, with perfect vision, and a hermaphroditic form needs no correction.
So I have issued myself a blank check for enjoyment. For now, I will take every excuse, no matter how small, to nourish, honor and indulge my body. I take long, deep breaths and slow sips of wine. In this way I praise the Lord’s creation, and bit by bit pay back my debt of love. I will love my body faithfully, persistently, until I have removed every brick of the border wall in my heart, and unleashed the well of love imprisoned there. Then no more intention will need propel my acts of kindness, for love has found love, the same love.
Child’s charcoal drawings
Sketch out something missing
Or hopelessly malformed?
Edge of water
Gemstones in my pocket
Bathed in light
I never intended all this
You were meant to be a prince
We share one
Nothing else is true
I am you
If I could have, I would have given you the body that you wanted.
So my mother told me, wincing sadly, in the first year of my transition. It was sweet of her to say; her intentions were good; and I didn’t miss the pained note of guilt, as if she ought to somehow have controlled this.
And yet the sentiment entirely missed the point. First, I have never blamed my mother for the fact that I’m trans, and I never would. God made me this way, and she had no say in the matter, or she surely would have made me different. Indeed she said as much: she wished she could have given me “the body that I wanted,” or as I would put it, the body that my mind and soul expected. In other words, she would have made me cisgender.
That’s not what I wanted from her, or from life, or what I’m hurt with her for. I wanted her to give me the right childhood. To recognize her trans son when he was still a boy, and to love him for it; to not wait for me to fight it out and tell her; to know somehow, and to raise me that way.
I do firmly believe I was created this way. I don’t regret being trans. It is my struggle, my uniqueness, my gift. Most importantly, it is my real life. This is the experience: to be gender-variant, to be different from other people, one of the strange ones, queer, to change my body to manifest my soul. We have always existed, and I think we are on purpose.
What’s not on purpose is the silence, violence, and rejection. That is human error. Deep in prayer on a recent occasion, I saw with clarity what it means that God made me like this. Like this: this body, this soul. Not what the world did with it. That wasn’t part of the plan.
I don’t want to be cisgender. I want to be loved.