Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Make Me One With Everything

A friend of mine who spends a lot of time in the far East said the following when he found out I'd changed genders. "Well, I'm glad she's happy, but, you know-- isn't that bad Zen?"

I've had occasion to reflect on this comment recently as I read Liz Gilbert's delightful memoir, "Eat Pray Love." (currently number one on the NYT paperback bestseller list, I believe.) Gilbert's book is about a quest for fulfillment--she gives herself over to pleasure, mostly in the form of pasta, in Italy; she lives in an Ashram in pursuit of divine love in India; and seeks equilibrium--and find romance--in Indonesia. The India part of the book ("pray") is the most serious, and gave me reason to think over the connection between zen and harmony and all the trans stuff.

What my friend meant, I think, with his "bad Zen" comment was that it's escape from the demands and the "attachment" of the body that we seek in meditation; that true "divine love" and harmony means letting go of our bodies altogether. And so, to "give in" to this mismatched sense of spirit and body through the business of transition--and surgery in particular--well, that, one might think, is not the path to enlightenment.

I'll quickly say that I'm about as sarcastic and cynical a person as you're likely to meet, and when people start talking about their gurus and their yoga and their "practice" I can get very fed up with it all. I hate the idea that some people either are, or might be considered to be "more enlightened" than others, and that the only way to attain enlightenment is through some crazy set of hurdles; I would like to feel that we all have equal access to god-- or whatever you wish to call it.

Still, I'll also say that I am indeed seeking for "divine love," if you'll pardon the expression. And that I wonder, now and again, how the path I am on connects to that search.

I would like to say you can't find solace in your soul if your body is aching. And sure; sometimes I have a very biological approach to gender disphoria, at least in the way I experienced it. I am not ashamed to compare what I suffered as akin to someone who was blind, who had an operation by which her sight was restored. There's a way in which I don't feel that zen enters into that at all.

But there are other ways in which sometimes I wonder about the body and its demands. I do feel that the more selfless I can be, the more focused on All Things Not Me, the happier I am. Or maybe it's a sense that I am connected to all things, and that I am here, ultimately to serve something so much bigger than myself that the only place it can reside is inside me. OR, as Gilbert quotes one yogi as saying, "God lives inside you, AS you."

And when I think on my trans embodiment in this manner, I feel funny. As if all of the effort and sturm and drang had, in the end, exactly zero to do with the quest for divine love.

But I also know that I am happy now, and that gender issues are not so much at the center of my life. Like a lot of people, I have found that the long journey brought me to a place where I was free of gender. And by "free of gender" I mean two contradictory things: on the one hand, free like, I understand how random and contructed gender is now; but yes, I also mean free of gender like most other women are-- free in the sense that most of the time I DON'T THINK ABOUT IT CAUSE IT'S NOT AN ISSUE.

I am realizing this post might seem a little demented to some of you, in which case, I hope you'll forgive the gnostic mysticism of it all. I was raised in a Christian Quaker tradition, and I don't have any problem squaring that belief system with trans issues. But the zen stuff, the desire to be selfless, all-one, everywhere. That's a little harder.

1 comment:

Melanie said...

qhoufquhI count myself among the cynically spiritual. If Nature, AKA Creation, AKA the Divine Body comes from and/or moves toward Chaos, and all is possible; how can physical transition for those who desire/need it possibly be wrong? But then I have issues with the whole "life is suffering" thing where you have to transcend this banal existence in order to find some blissful Nirvana. I hated Nirvana. Pearl Jam was so much cooler.

Anyway, what about the Tao. Life is meant to be lived - however it is meant to be lived by whomever is living it. Only when we break from this path that is "best" for us do we create pain and suffering. I went against my Tao, and I was suicidal. I accept myself, and I have peace. Beats the hell out of that ascetic aesthetic.

Eh, just my thoughts.