Friday Philosophy: The Task at Hand

(I goofed the time. – promoted by Robyn)

I got over being angry many years ago…around the time that I stopped being depressed, I would suppose, but if there is anything I have learned in this life it is that depression is really not totally evident until after it ends.  I’ve relied on the analyses of my therapists.

Ralph and Kurt, two gay men I will love forever, did not agree with the depression diagnosis, except as how it might be true that the act of transition creates an induced state of depression.  And my MMPI evaluation pronounced me entirely sane.  I have papers.

My own belief is that the difficulty lies in the fact that in order to acknowledge who I was required a different world view, one which was totally at odds with the world I encountered in my off-line life.

That off-line existence became quite ugly when I came out in Conway, AR on September 30, 1992.  If a 15-year old boy can be murdered by a 14-year old boy in California in 2008 because he dressed effeminately, imagine what it was like to be a 44-year old being a known transsexual woman in Arkansas in 1992.  I decided at the time that I had a duty to do my best to ensure that nobody else should be treated like I was…ever.

That’s why I write.  What else can I do?  One uses the skills and talents which one has.

It’s been a multi-part job.  As in a quote my sister pointed me toward, changing the world takes millions of intricate maneuvers.

I spent time and effort…many years…talking with transfolk about how we can find acceptance and support in this world, which included writings about how we have to learn ourselves and deal with what that means philosophically.  Eventually, one learns that people will have to grow into themselves in their own ways.  I live my own life and if someone wants to adopt how I do that as an example, that’s fine with me, but it made me uneasy to have groupies.  It still does sometimes.  I’m just a person.

Some transfolk have had a choice about whether or not anyone knows their status.  That has not been my path.  That differentiates…and separates…me from many folks.

I managed to open some doors.  I’ve had the honor of the fact that people have liked me when they have gotten to know me.  But it has also been a curse:

I don’t like transwomen, except for Robyn.

How does someone respond to that?  I responded by going places where transwomen were unwelcome and doing things transwomen discouraged from doing.  I had the honor of working with and thereby helping to educate some pretty influential women and changing some thinking.  But there is always a personal cost.  It’s not easy being called am Aunt Jemima/Uncle Tom for trying to make sure those doors stayed open for others.

So I let go of part of my effort, hoping that some other people would push onward in their own ways.

I’m a teacher.  That’s what I know how to do.  One can only do so much of that locally.  So I became a writer.  And to teach requires sharing those writings.  So I’ve been doing that.  I’ve gone back and forth between the poems and the prose.  The purpose of the prose has been to teach.

Individually the poems have points of course.  One definition I have of “insane” would include writing stuff that didn’t have a point.  There is also a point to the poetry as a whole.  Sharing the words is sharing who I am, sharing what it means to be this specific transwoman.  I can be no one else.

Sometimes those words I express apparently make people worry about me.  I think that means I didn’t choose the correct words to make my point.  That point is to display that disparity between my life as perceived by me and the world as it occurs, between what can be and what is.  I choose to live in what the world can be, by assuming that the world already has changed and living that future.  As much as possible.  The problem is that so many people disagree.

And people like me find ourselves having to wait until the rest of the world catches up, assisting it do so by contributing here and there.  What other worthwhile purpose is there than to change the world?  

So I have this task I have chosen for myself to bring this future world into reality.  It is a very rewarding job, but one that comes with some heartbreak.  The biggest heartbreak of all is the knowledge that I will not succeed in my lifetime.  It is a challenge trying to find ways to explain feelings to people who by definition do not and cannot experience them.

But that does not make the performing of the task any less joyful.  The beauty of life’s journey lies along the side of the path, not in the destination.

Great Ball of Fire

Alternate Analysis


that you perceive

my state of mind

so utterly


than I do

My time is spent

mostly amused

rolling my eyes

at the weirdness

of the human


While I bide time

waiting for the

blind to see

the deaf to hear

and the heartless

to start to feel

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–February 15, 2008

For those who have expressed some concern, I appreciate it, but I’m fine.  Mostly.  🙂  Yes, I was ill for awhile.  Hey, I’m 48 days short of turning 60 years old.  It’s remarkable to me that I’ve even gotten this far.  I could be better physically, but that would require either finances I do not have available or changes in lifestyle that aren’t likely to happen until I can retire…unless someone makes me and people like me too much to do that.  🙂  It’s all the downside to being a teacher.  A teaching career is a harsh mistress.  One is a student, then one they they start paying you to teach while you are learning, and before you know it, you’ve become the equivalent of a nun.

Sometimes we need to refocus.  This is probably one of those.

The political thing has been a distraction.  But people have managed to turn me off from it.  Thanks to all who have contributed.

It was the racism thing.  As I wrote to my lesbians over-40 list, OWLS, when asked to explain what I meant when I mentioned it:

It has largely been white people…and largely young people…who are supporters of Obama, who have decided that everything said by the Clintons or anyone who supports them should be interpreted to paint the Clintons as racists, no matter what the Clintons have done in their lives to promote racial equality.

I saw someone the other day use a comment about “doing the spade work” as being racial code words.  I thought that was a reference to gardening myself.  This is what the race has become about, so I have stopped listening or being interested in the election at all.  A pox on them all.

I didn’t March in Washington after Martin’s murder for this.

I feel better.


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    • Robyn on February 16, 2008 at 00:05

    Peace and Love,


  1. we can form such firm on line perceptions in absence of personal contact.

    I have ( fairly or not ) cast you in the “voice of reason” box because your positions, your offerings always seem grounded in a carefully thought out framework whereas mind still seem scattered.

    Many people do not apply philosophy directly from their own life experience. Philosophy, in popular culture, is reduced to clutching at a few beliefs that are often not examined or cast aside as being academic and not applicable to our existence.

    • KrisC on February 16, 2008 at 00:32

    is remarkable, Robyn.  You made a very true (but not always evident) point that being heartless is just as physical of a condition as being blind or deaf.  I’ve never looked at it that way, interesting, and something to ponder longer on about.

    I have recognized in my own life, that in times of depression it wasn’t always evident to me until after the fact.  Maybe, you say to yourself, I’m not as depressed as (fill in friends name) and it’s something I can work out myself.  

    Looking back at the time my mother was passing away while I was pregnant, I saw the possibilities of getting depressed but tried to stay strong for all parties involved.  Two weeks after the birth of my daughter, my mother passed away.  It never occurred to me that post-partum depression would be stronger than I thought, stronger than my true self.

    Four years after the fact, I see how deep I went into the abyss and how much better I feel looking down into it now from a much healthier mind.  So I believe you hit the nail on the head when you said….


    …depression is really not totally evident until after it ends.

    Peace to you and thank you for your beauty~Kris

    • pfiore8 on February 16, 2008 at 00:55

    I don’t like transwomen, except for Robyn.

    you transcended being defined solely as a transwoman to this person. huge..  and that brings them one step closer to seeing all people as, well, just people.  sure, we all some strange little things…

    and writing… what else can you do?

    holy moly. it’s not just writing. the writing is huge. it’s staking out territory. it’s saying I HAVE A RIGHT TO STAND HERE. TO BE HERE.

    more than that, it announces I AM HERE.

    there aren’t many things as powerful then standing here in open daylight when people would rather not deal with the reality you bring.

    I AM. further… I AM HERE.

    don’t put the stress on the wrong notes, Robyn. it’s not you. you’re fine. it’s so many of the rest of us who need salvation.

  2. I never thought in my wildest dreams I would live past thirty!

    At this point it is “fun” to, as Lennon said, watch the wheels go round….even if they don’t always turn the way I’d like….

    • Robyn on February 16, 2008 at 02:19

    …I posted this essay to Daily Kos.


  3. … and I am not a groupie.

    Tho I have to say when you write like this I come awfully close!

    I never sense anger in your writing … at most it’s sometimes grumpy or impatient, both of which qualities I enjoy, because you don’t exclude folks when you show any particular side of you in your writing.

    Exquisite essay, Robyn.

    • plf515 on February 16, 2008 at 02:35

    “I don’t like transwomen, except for Robyn”….

    well, in my younger and nastier days….

    “I don’t like bigots, except for you”

    but these days, I’d probably keep quiet.

    A more judicious response might be “How many do you know?”

  4. and although im usually pretty generous with the 4’s, i apologize that i didnt go back through the comments and even read them much less rate them…

    i thought i understood depression…and maybe i am depressed…but i almost think i have a VERY mild form of ptsd at this point.  i really apologize and dont mean to belittle the seriousness of battlefield ptsd…but there’s no other way for me to describe how who i thought i was splintered the night of my daughter’s accident.  there are times when i refer to things as ‘a few months ago’ or ‘recently’ when i hear myself and have to remind myself that the thing im referring to happened in 2004.  a part of me stopped moving forward in time that night…just like a part of her did…

    and now there’s just what’s left of us….stuck with each other..and for differing reasons unable to change much of what we’re stuck with…

    which is why, despite the beautiful essay, the poem smacked me between the eyes.  we (my kid and i) spend so much of our energy just getting people to see what we are…fighting their pre-conceived assumptions…that by the time we get there, we’re almost too exhausted and frustrated to even put forth what it is we need.  spending ourselves just to break even…or something like that…

    so while i cant possibly ever understand you…or any other person…really…at least i come to the table (all tables) with the knowledge and certainty that i dont.  and i would really like to have that from other people, y’know?  for people to put aside what theyre sure we are/arent/need/want and actually see, hear, and try  to accept….im well past trying to be understood (despite the wordy comment 😉   i would really just like people to trust that i know me better than they do…  

    • RiaD on February 16, 2008 at 03:48

    i’m sorry

    • RiaD on February 16, 2008 at 05:04

    did you see this?? found it in pfi’s pony…plz read to the very end…

    there IS hope… the world IS changing

    ever so slowly but……  

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