Saturday, January 23, 2010


One of my favorite scenes in Dead Poet's Society involves the Robin Williams character asking his poetry students to stand on their desks. Initially thinking the exercise silly, the students comply with wondrous results. An otherwise ordinary classroom looks very different from an unfamiliar position. The idea is of course that a change of location, even something very simple, produces a very different view of the world.

Contra dancing has somewhat of a similar perspective element. You're always in motion with regards to the dance floor and the people around you. However one move, the swing, has the wondrous capacity even while in motion to make the world stand still. It all depends on where you look. If you point your eyes in the space around you, the world becomes a literally dizzying confusing place. It is near impossible to maintain balance. Looking at your partner's eyes produces the opposite effect of calm and stillness. He/she is in the same place for the whole move with respect to you. Your partner becomes your rock, your solid place. Looking at your partner also gives both of you a greater connection during the dance. That connection is something I'm still learning. It is more than learning the moves of the dance. It involves an unspoken communication that is quite beautiful when fully realized.

My perspective living in both the female and male worlds also changes as I move between the two. While I consider myself the same person no matter which gender I present, the roles are so different to make it seem like I'm a different person. It is one of the more difficult aspects of living a 50/50 life. In my mind, I know who I am which goes well beyond my transgender identity. I do many other things in life. As a transgender woman, it is often problematic for a person to look beyond my presentation. Those who do take the time to see the whole person have become amazing friends. When presenting as a male, I have to act many times in a way that is contrary to my inner being. It is as much survival instinct as anything as I still work in the male world. It is an unusual perspective that few ever experience. I believe in the long run as I move towards more of a feminine presentation that it will be useful. For the time being, it takes much energy to maintain that balance.

Time is one element that is constant. It moves at a consistent pace. Yet, our perspective of various events whether personal or global is always changing. Certainly some events such as September 11 or Pearl Harbor lose little of their emotional impact and intensity for those that lived through them. Most wounds do heal over time. Each day, each week's issues and problems will fade in the overall tapestry of our lives. That is why I am thankful for friends who help me maintain a proper perspective. Keeping my eyes on my partner during a contra dance swing reminds me that in the midst of a group dance, peace and lasting friendships are formed by being focused on the one you're with.

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