The Butterfly Effect

I took a Method Writing class with the well-known Jack Grapes last fall, and I noticed a deep parallel with one of Jack’s writing techniques—called transformation lines—when I look at my life.

He encourages us to use our transformation lines to go deeper, to find our voice, our narrative. I know I’m still new to this writing technique, but I feel quite comfortable going deep.  And I know why I feel comfortable.

Transgender people have to risk being visible.  We have no other choice.

In order for me to survive every day, I choose not to parry myself back, instead showing the world who I am.  I make my choices to be aligned with my inner self, visible every day.  I might as well be a piece of live political activism walking around, personified and interacting with others on a deep level.

Many people I encounter who aren’t ready yet, don’t want to engage.  Even if I’m very nice to strangers and coworkers, sometimes people find me just too queer for the room.  I bring up their shit, and they don’t want to deal with it.  Instead, they blame me for bringing up their shit.

It’s different for me, though.  I have always been a seeker.  I revel in it.  From as young as I can remember, I liked the idea of treasure maps.  It wasn’t only because I was inspired by the hit 80s movie Goonies.  Sure that played a part in it, but I knew something deep inside my bones was rattled the day I saw that movie, jostling me awake, into action.

But I didn’t want to look for physical riches or treasures.  I never wanted to explore money in that way.  Never had an interest in it.  I even recall my mom taking me to the bank when I was a kid, and I asked her why people couldn’t just get along and help each other for nothing.  She rolled her eyes and told me “You will get it when you get older.”

Thirty-one years later and I still don’t, but whatever, to each her own.

Regardless, I’ve always liked seeking.  I want and like to get to the bottom of things.  I like finding answers, but I cherish the questions that are generated by the answers even more.

The questions to me are like finding the reason the treasure exists in the first place and getting back to the source of my spiritual core.  Fuck the treasure. Why the treasure is even there to begin with is more important to me.  That’s what’s really shiny for me.

I probably would have been just as determined as a seeker had I not been born transgender, but either way, seeking and teasing out what’s in the question always intrigues me.

And that’s the point.

I find the transformation line an intuitive way to organically probe, seek, and let things cascade as they may.  There is such inherent beauty in doing so, if we can get over our damn selves, that bear in the closet, that inner critic who fools us into thinking we are better off not betting on tomorrow.

Fuck that.  I want to bet on tomorrow.

And I’m willing to bet that most everyone regrets not taking the chances we had than the ones we took.

I still giggle at the notion now, in retrospect, when I called a girlfriend for reassurance because I felt so nervous attending the first Tuesday of Jack’s class.  My friend reassured me with her well-timed humor: “What’s the worst that can happen, Natalie?  He doesn’t like your writing and breaks your fucking laptop over his knee.”

“That would be bad,” I said. “Fortunately, I don’t bring my laptop,” I added, laughing without being able to stop.

Betting on tomorrow is all we have as humans.  I always think about our explorations as humans.  Whether we go into space, into uncharted territory, or have a picnic at the park, we bring our inner tool bag of wisdom and pack extra supplies to bet on tomorrow.

We spend our whole lives planning, even while we are intense and present in the moment.  There is beauty in taking those chances, in exploring what’s scary and unknown while maintaining a presence of mind.

I found it incredibly difficult to let go of my old persona, my old gender identity, and presentation.  I fought letting it go for 31 years.  I didn’t strive to keep my old identity in tact; I fought letting it go.

I made choices in trying to avoid loss by holding on instead of going towards what I wanted. I let myself go into unknown territory, encompassing my goals, my desires, my heart.

For so long, I made mistakes and held onto the shame of making them instead of being grateful for the inherent lessons made available by the universe where I stumbled.  I kept that burden far too long, the burden of judgment in labeling my actions not being right the first time, the burden of letting down my parents, my friends, myself, all the while crucifying myself for not being perfect. I let who I was, not dictate my identity instead of acknowledging who I was inside.

I became scared to bet on tomorrow.

As time went on, I became even more afraid to make further mistakes.  I thought it would be easier to let myself survive under the radar, undetected and hidden.  I planned to coast through life doing as little as possible, to play small, to modulate myself, to not be too queer for the room.

“People wouldn’t get the joke anyway,” I rationalized to myself.  “It’s no loss on your part if no one hears or sees you anyway,” I said to myself. “If no one is there to affirm the real me, do I really exist?  Just like the tree falling in the forest, if no one is around, I guess it doesn’t really fucking matter then.”

For so long, far too long, I believed that about myself.  I believed the bullshit rationalization about myself, about staying small and disconnected from the world.  That my gifts were meaningless and unworthy of being shared with the person next to me.

But a seeker has to be who they are.  We can’t fight our hearts.  Just like I couldn’t suppress and suffocate myself my entire life — I eventually had to show my feminine heart to the world — likewise, I had to show my seeking prowess to the world as well.  How we do one thing is how we do everything. My innate desire to seek brought me so many adventures, lessons, heartaches, and joys, and through it all I burned through the shame and stigma of my transgender nature, and I decided to show my feminine heart, align with my innermost self.

My seeking rekindled my life, so now, in addition to the blessings and challenges resulting from crossing the hetero-normative gender boundaries, I now just merely seek the next transformation line, both in my writing and in my life by betting on tomorrow.


Photo Credit: DrPhotoMoto via Compfight cc

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Natalie Yeh

Liminal Spaces with Natalie Yeh -- aerospace engineer with a penchant for the spiritual, artistic, and cerebral -- is an attempt where she tries to accept her own messy humanity in exploring the gifts in her everyday stories and milestones with compassion, gratitude, and mindfulness. Gifts she believes we can all share and learn from when we choose to see our continuous threads of connection in our common humanity rather than uphold paper walls of illusions of separation that some treat as real. When she has free time, she loves to cook, shoot landscape photography, practice martial arts, write and dance. Her Chinese American background, bilingual upbringing, and transgender history all lend to her experiences in exploring the liminal spaces where her history, her present and her future are at odds and of a piece, creating herself and her writing as unique, cross cultural art.

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