21 September 2008


This cold. Yeah, it's all about that now. This cold, and the way my nose feels like someone poured epoxy into it and stuffed it with brown paper. I've been feeling drowsy, so I haven't gotten much of anything done.

But I did something interesting this afternoon. Millie and I went to a dance program at the LaGuardia College Theatre. My friend Michiyo Tamaka, a.k.a. Tami, choreographed a few pieces in which there's a wide range of music and visual imagery. And the dancers are of varying shapes and colors.

In one of the pieces, "Compartments," a particularly expressive African-American dancer shows the ways in which fitting in, and the pressure to do so, can warp our senses as well as our bodies. At the beginning of the dance, there are four cube/boxes that look like the milk crates we used to use for dorm furniture would look if their sides were solid rather than perforated. Those cubes--the compartments--were yellow, red, blue and purple. And, on a rack a few feet across the room hang dresses in each of those colors, and another in green.

When she enters the room, she's wearing a black bikini of the same kind of cut worn by the beach volleyball players in the Olympics. In her frenzy to--I'm not sure of what, and maybe that's how it's supposed to be--she tosses takes each of the dresses, except the green one, off its hanger and tosses it into the compartment of its color.

Then, she panics over what to do with the green dress, which is also longer and gauzier than the others. She tries to put it on, but it curls, snags and in every way defies her. When she finally pulls the hem down past her waist and to her knees, she clasps herself at her breasts, as if someone had seen her naked. And, after she turns around to walk out, we see that the dress is bunched up in the rear, exposing the rear of her bikini bottom.

Displacement. Trying to find a place. Trying to fit into. Sounds like the story of my life, or much of it, anyway. Trying to fit into the right compartment, the right box, only to find that you can't fit any of them. And then you try to fit something someone hands down to you, and that doesn't work, either.

That's how it is when you're transgendered, at least until you "come out." Then, at least you have some chance of finding a place where you can fit in--or better yet, of creating it.

Maybe that's why I always loved hearing and reading the stories of immigrants, of strangers in strange lands. I have been what most people think of as l'etrangere at various times in my life when I was living in another culture--that is to say, speaking another language--from my own. But even when I was with people who communicated in all of the ways I understood, and whose backgrounds mirrored my own, I felt like l'etrangere, the outsider.

And sometimes I really got into a frenzy over trying to fit in. Those compartments, no matter how big or what shape they were, never seemed to fit. And even when I covered myself, physically or metaphorically, I felt naked and exposed and wanted to run for cover.

I ran, and the only shelter I found were those comparments. That is exactly what those compartments were, and all they could ever be. They could not be homes, no matter what I or anyone else did to them.

So here I am, out of the compartment. At least you don't have to worry about fitting into the open air. And that is exactly the reason why sometimes it seems overwhelming: Freedom always is when you've known only dysmorphia and claustrophobia. The thing is, when you have only those conditions, you think they're your normality, which means you can't see them for what they are.

Out of the compartment and into the flesh, toward the spirit--my own, of course.

Could it be that leaving compartments that don't fit anymore (if they ever did) is the first requirement for giving birth to one's self?

Well, now that cold has got me in its grip. I'm really tired now. Back to a compartment--my bedroom, which is just barely big enough for the bed on which I can spread myself while I'm dreaming or otherwise escaping from compartments.