Approval Seeking Behavior is Time Consuming (and I’m not getting any younger)

(My riff as a transwoman in recovery on the PurposeFairy series 9 Reasons Why You Should No Longer Care About People’s Approval; all creative credit belongs to to that author.)

I and thousands of other Minnesotans are spending gobs of time and energy working to defeat the marriage amendment to the state constitution limiting marriage to one man and one woman.  I believe it’s important to make a distinction here: that investment is not about seeking approval but insisting on rights.  I’m willing to spend those gobs of time telling people why marriage rights are important to me and to our neighbors.  I’m willing to spend that time building bridges of understanding between gender-variant people and the larger community.  I’m not willing to spend time trying to get other folk’s approval.

  • Constantly seeking approval from others takes me down a path where I stop caring about myself.  I stop caring about my own physical, mental and spiritual health because there is no time left for me.
  • Constantly seeking approval from others is not a good investment of time.  The payoff is notoriously poor.  I’ve spent an entire lifetime working to get somebody else to approve of me.  And I have zero to show for all that time.
  • Constantly seeking approval from others misses the grand opportunities of life.  I don’t dare take the time away from other people who aren’t going to give me their approval no matter what to take advantage of positive career moves, traveling through this wonderful world, even the book I’ve always wanted to read.
  • Constantly seeking approval from others feeds on itself in unexpected, perverse ways of spending time.  Addiction robs even more time as it sucks the life out of life itself.

These are all reasons why living a life of constantly seeking approval needs to stop.  I’ve seen dogs who could catch their own tail, not often but I’ve seen it happen.  I’ve never seen a dog who could hold on to it.
Love, Denise


Someone in My Corner

I remember the first time I ever went to lunch as Denise with some of my cis-gendered girl friends.  We’d gotten to know each other in a whole entirely different kind of group and unlike the majority of people today, they knew me both before and after I’d come out as a transwoman.

I really didn’t want to go.  I was certain everybody in the crowded place was staring at me.  And when they caught on that one man was staring and snickering, I thought they were all going to march over to his table and rearrange his nose.

Even if the statistics are better than 1 in 10,000 for MtF and 1 in 30,000 for FtM folks, we all just aren’t enough to impact society at large in matters of health and justice.  Sure, get us all together in one place and include all the gender-variant people, not just transsexuals, it’s pretty amazing.  But separately and outside a metro area, transitioning can be a lonely business.

I had visions of restaurant management calling the police to break up a melee.  Thankfully the yahoo in question wilted in the stares of a handful of angry women directed right back at him.  But I need to know other people have my back.  Every trans person (and for that matter, all LGBTQI folks) need neighbors like ours next door.  I walked past the end of their driveway last night at dusk.  M. and P. stopped searching for where they stashed their reusable shopping bags long enough to shoot the breeze with me.  They only call me Denise, they refer to me with correct pronouns and they are pulling for me to find work.  Wonderful neighbors.

I’ve given up on family in my corner in large part.  I’m luckier than some in that I even have a family left.  But into the emptiness comes a terrific variety of people who often don’t understand all this transgender business and aren’t overly concerned.  They actually like Denise.  They like this sober Denise.  When I talk to them about jobs, discrimination, access to public facilities, they listen.  Nobody recoils in horror at the thought I really do need to use female restrooms.  And I believe they speak up even when I’m not around.

I wouldn’t be half as brave as I am without somebody in my corner.

Love, Denise

PS: I believe this is also true of the entire LGBTQI community.  I need and expect LGB people to stick up for me and I stick up for them.  Enough division already.  And we all have allies who support us.  That’s the only way we’ll win the marriage equality battle in Minnesota.


Why Marriage Equality Makes a Difference to Me

When the question to amend the Minnesota Constitution to limit marriage to one man and one woman appears on the ballot in November, there are a number of sound logical arguments why Minnesotans should vote no.  We could talk about why a constitution should ever be amended and whether this question qualifies.  We could talk about the support for marriage equality from large corporations who want to access a highly-educated work force as well as reap gay dollars.  But as Farhad Manjoo of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society says –

…sometimes getting more information about a controversy doesn’t produce a better foothold on the facts—sometimes, strangely, more information actually pushes us deeper into the cocoon of our long-held views.

So I’m not going to make those arguments unless somebody asks.  Instead I want to tell you what difference marriage equality makes to me, a transwoman.

I’m not crazy to ever get married again.  I now realize that a big reason why I ever got married (more than once) was all about convincing myself and then others how masculine I really was and ignoring my personal truth about my real identity.  A lot of people got hurt in the process.

Unlike most people, I’ve performed numerous marriages as a pastor.  I learned from counseling sessions and wedding preparations that more people than not viewed what we were doing as a cultural right with little attention to the religious significance.  I performed weddings that, looking back, I should not have.  I did the service out of lack of courage in the face of church and/or community pressure and I know the marriage failed.

I’m a real person many of you know personally who is as apt to be attracted to a man as a woman.  (Sexual orientation has no correlation with being a transsexual and I may understand it differently than you.  But in my life it is as real as your orientation is to you).  If I ever fall in love again, if lightning should strike and I find another to grow old with, I want to be able to do it.  I want to have the same rights and status as other people, no matter who it is.  I want that person to be there to hold my hand as I pass into whatever waits beyond.  In short, like every other human being, I need to be loved. It’s…personal.

So when you fill out that ballot, whether it’s marriage equality, gender non-discrimination or public access for trans people, think of me.  I’m a real person and I count.

An Unapologetic Intellectual

That’s right.  I won’t apologize for 4 years of college with a dual major in psychology and history, a Master of Divinity degree from 3 years of seminary and most of a Doctor of Ministry degree from multiple trips to California.  In fact, I’m rather proud of what I’ve accomplished with a lot of sacrifice not only from self but especially from family.  And I hale from the East Coast.  I’m doomed.

An education was a thing of considerable value in my family.  It was a ticket to additional respect and upward mobility.  It also was not something to flaunt.  In a paradoxical way I am not somehow another person’s social superior.  When somebody from my growing up remembers me as “smart”, I am uncomfortable.  As a pastor I moved with relative ease from some farmer’s machine shed and welding on a combine to stages shared with governors. I would much rather two-step than go to the opera.

I won’t apologize for an ability to read and generally understand and when I see an argument that draws on the legitimate past history of the church that says yes, the Church has indeed joined people together of the same sex, I intend to speak that.  This church history marriage link stretches the mind.  The link could be dry and difficult going.  But the truth of the matter is that conservative arguments about same sex marriage depend far more upon Victorian morality and 1950’s American culture than they do upon either scripture or the actual history of religious people, Christian or not. 

Be responsible.  Make the effort to at least tackle it.  What you don’t get, ask me or somebody else and I’ll try to help.  But don’t accept at face value anybody who makes broad, blanket statements about any controversial subject.  You have the freedom.  Use it!

24 Hours in a Day…Every Day

I’m not going to get hung up on a fairly predictable marriage equality vote outcome in NC.  Although I actually graduated from high school in Charlotte, I’m not going to waste a lot of time indulging in questionable pokes at southerners and just irritating people who could still be willing to change their minds.  I have a waking share of 24 hours today in which to work on marriage equality right here in Minnesota and secondarily in Maine.

I believe the best antidote to fear mongering is first to stay calm, cool and collected myself.  When I stay sober and under control emotionally, I have a much better chance of being respected by intimates and the community at large as a person who contributes to the world around her and not as an exotic object.  If you can see me as another person, I’m that much less a threat to your family, your marriage, your faith.  And once you see me as a person, the odds are that much better that you can see other LGBT folks as real people as well.

Make no mistake: I support marriage equality as a basic human right in American culture and citizenship.  I work for fair, non-discriminatory treatment of gender-variant people in public access and employment.  I resist with all my energy the notion that minority rights should ever be put to a public vote or that discrimination become enshrined so casually as a constitutional amendment.

But I have today, this moment, to live as a person of faith in my own community and that life is more important and more effective than anything else I do.  So that’s my agenda for today.  And tomorrow morning, I start it all over again.



Do I Know You?

As a matter of fact, you most likely do know me personally.  You and I have worked together.  We have been bound together in family ties and we’ve worshiped together.  We went to school together, grew up and played sports together. I won’t have to explain to you what it means to live and to struggle with the disease of alcoholism because you and I struggle together through recovery. And if we’ve never met face to face, you read my Facebook and blog posts.  You know about my successful days and the days I’m relieved to leave behind. We’ve lived together.

North Carolina is voting today on a constitutional amendment designed to keep me and folks like me from making a legal, loving commitment to another person of same sex and calling it marriage.  Minnesota is waiting in the wings.

I can recount for you hours of stories about the low heterosexual regard for marriage that I have sometimes witnessed as a pastor.  We can debate various interpretations of scripture.  We could together try to face our mutual fear of change, fear of life that seems to move too fast.  None of that matters until you and I together confess that we do know each other. 

Nobody can vote on this issue anymore without it getting personal because we do literally know each other.  We all know people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and, if you know me, a trans woman.  Forces that want to deny me this basic human right want to keep this argument on some larger cosmic scale.  But when you pull the lever, when you mark the vote, I sincerely doubt you’ll be able to exercise your democratic responsibility without seeing my face or your child’s face or somebody else you would sacrifice for.  The question is not some larger societal issue that feeds political bias and talking heads.  It’s about you and me.