“And then it came to me. That we were wonderful traveling companions but in the end no more than lonely lumps of metal in their own separate orbits. From far off they look like beautiful shooting stars, but in reality they’re nothing more than prisons, where each of us is locked up alone, going nowhere. When the orbits of these two satellites of ours happened to cross paths, we could be together. Maybe even open our hearts to each other. But that was only for the briefest moment. In the next instant we’d be in absolute solitude. Until we burned up and became nothing.”—Haruki Murakami, Sputnik Sweetheart
On pp. 123-124 of the civil liberties book, I discuss transgender identity. As part of the discussion, I write: “Many people could be described as at least very mildly transgender. I, for example, do not enjoy beer, sports, or most action films, and most of my friends are women. Men who live fully into their assigned gender role do not tend to identify as well with me as they do with most other men. To this extent, I am mildly androgynous — that is, less cisgender than the norm.” (There’s actually a lot more to it than that, but I didn’t want to spend much time in the book talking about myself.)
My experience of what people tell me about transgender identity is that whatever it is in theory, in practice it is primarily about clothes, bodies, and mannerisms (based on whatever standards our culture might use to define gender). If I feel comfortable being born with male genitals and wearing a man’s clothes, and I basically present as a man, then I don’t meet the definition of transgender identity that most people, as a practical matter, seem to use. Many of my fellow hets, and a majority of the gay men and lesbians I’ve come to know, are in the same boat I’m in.
If transgender identity could be just about personality, social/bonding style, and cultural identity, I think there’d be absolutely no question that I’d be transgender. But as a practical matter, it isn’t; it’s about how we present ourselves. By that definition, I am most definitely not transgender. I don’t personally feel oppressed by this fact (people who do meet the practical definition of transgender status have to deal with more discrimination, higher risk of physical violence, etc.), but it’s something I’ve slowly had to realize in recent months. Not everybody who violates gender norms qualifies as transgender, and the line between who does and who doesn’t seems to be drawn based on how we feel about our bodies and the way we move and decorate them.
Why I Didn't Become a Religion/Spirituality Writer
Back when I first started out as a writer, my dream was to become a spiritual teacher of sorts. I figured if I studied religion at the graduate level long enough, it’d make me wise. It didn’t. It just made me skeptical of spiritual teachers.
So I don’t really aspire to be a spiritual teacher anymore; I think you should be your own, and try to listen to the people in your life (not on TV, not on the bestseller list, but in your life) who bring out the best in you. (Though “listen” does not necessarily mean “obey.”)
This isn’t to say that I don’t get meaning out of a lot of spiritual writing—from the really credible stuff to the bubblegum. Some of it inspires me. But this stuff doesn’t steer me anymore, to whatever extent it ever did, so the possibility of writing it myself doesn’t excite me as much as it used to.