Analysis (Services and Self)

Koan Bremner's view on life as a database and data warehouse professional / addict and non-genetic woman

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

A Can of Worms

In a comment which she's just made on a previous post of mine, Susan wrote:
This is beautiful, courageous, and infinitely inspiring. Thank you so very, very much for being willing to reveal the part of you that has brought you pain, but which brings us, the readers & listeners, strength and hope.

Please consider putting together a book of your thoughts... it's wonderful.

[Via Analysis (Services and Self)]

Oh, if you only knew... There's a whole range of issues raised by this comment; but maybe now's the time to address them. Ever-mindful of James' behest that I keep my posts as brief as possible, I'm going to split this into four posts (i.e. this one and three subsequent posts) because that's the best way I can think of to get all the issues, as I see them, in the open, in realtively digestible chunks; that way, if anyone wants to comment at any point, preferably here but otherwise in private email, I'll try and decide what to do.

The issues that are raised by Susan's suggestion (at least, those that I can think of at the moment) are listed here. The problem for me is that, for each of them, I can think of compelling reasons *not* to write such a book; but for most of them, I can think of at least one good reason *to* write such a book. If I answered from where I am now, with what I know now, I would say that, on balance, I probably shouldn't write it. But, I'm neither in possession of all the relevant facts, nor am I objective enough to make informed choices for some of these issues. So, I'd really welcome some external input.

In no particular order of importance (but numbered for convenience if you choose to make a comment) the issues are:

1) In the very post that Susan commented on, I made the point that I had decided not to dwell on the past. I can't see how I could do such a book justice, without doing just that... and I'm a firm believer in the principle of "say what you mean, and mean you say". I said I wouldn't dwell on the past, so...

2) To me, the idea of a "book" means printed, published and for sale. I would feel uncomfortable about profiting from such a book. Truly. It would be a book born out of pain (my own, and that of people who've shared parts of this journey with me, at various times, and in various guises). I would feel awful about profiting from their pain. Now, given that apparently relatively few books make any significant money for their authors, this might be an academic question; but it matters to *me*, even if only as a principle.

3) On the other hand, to do such a book justice would require significant investment of effort and energy (actual and emotional) to make the results worthwhile. I'm not sure I have the resources to do that, while also doing the job that I do.

4) Do I have a book in me? Sure; more than one, in my opinion; books, plays, screenplays... but the ones I would *like* to write (indeed, have part-written) would not be *this* one, if I'm honest. This is such a fundamental issue for me that I'm going to write another post on this issue alone.

5) To do this book justice, I would need to have a clear recollection of key events that have shaped who I am and what I now think, feel and believe. Sadly, my memory is so challenged at this point that I'm not sure I can recall all those events.

6) If I compiled such a book, wouldn't it be akin to saying "this is how to do *it*"... whatever *it* might be. As a Buddhist, I have a fundamental problem with *telling* people how to do things. Again, this is such a fundamental issue for me that I'll address it in another post.

7) In the post that Susan commented on, I tried to explain why I view this as being, truly, a time of transition in my life. When this transition is over, I'll be living a different life. I won't ever deny that this transition (and what preceded it) took place; but, really, I won't want to keep harping on about it. Writing *anything* on the subject makes that just a little bit harder; I weighed up that question when debating whether to start a blog, and especially whether to write about being transgendered in this blog. I decided that the benefits (primarily, to others, but also to me) outweighed the risks. Somehow, writing a book seems *more* permanent than writing blog posts or recording audio shows, even taking account of web archives like Google. And "more permanent" might imply "more difficult to move on from".

8) Even if I decided to write such a book; is there an audience? Who would read it? What would they be reading it *for*? I've absolutely no interest in pandering to people who just want the juicy details of pain, surgery and the like, for example.

9) If I wrote it; who would publish it? Sure, I could self-publish, as an e-book or print (do I hear the term, "vanity publishing"?) Trust me, my vanity doesn't need massaging by such an activity. If it would just be an e-book, well... there's plenty of my writing out there in e-form already. Everything in this blog is written under a Creative Commons license (the Non-Commercial, Share-Alike By-Attribution license, if it matters) so if someone *else* wants to anthologise it for the public good, be my guest. If you want to make money out of doing that, however, well, that license doesn't permit that. Which is exactly *why* I chose that license. ;-)

10) Suppose I decided to write such a book; what would happen to this blog or the CrossOver audio show? Let's assume a publisher stepped up and said "sure, Koan, write the book and we'll publish it". Are they going to be happy if I continued writing what would end up in the book as posts on this blog? Robert Scoble and Shel Israel are writing a book, in public, via a blog; somehow I doubt that I would have the same leverage with any publisher who might consider publishing mine.

11) And finally, maybe the most important question of all; such a book would inevitably draw heavily on the experiences that shaped me up to now, whether I explicitly write about those experiences or not. But I wasn't the only participant in many of those experiences. What of the other parties involved? What right do I have to potentially expose them to scrutiny or attention that they might, quite reasonably, prefer not to have?

So, it's not a straightforward issue. And before Susan feels guilty about opening up a whole can of worms for me, she hasn't; patently, I've thought about this a lot, on many occasions. I do a lot of thinking; arguably, too much thinking, and not enough doing! But she *has* brought me to the realisation that I don't have all the answers, and I'm not objective on the potential value *to others* of such a book. So here's the deal; I'm going to write three more posts on the issues I've listed here (plus any other issues which subsequently occur to me, or are suggested by others). Two of those issues, listed above, deserve a post each; the remainder I can deal with in one fairly succinct statement of *my* feelings, for and against. I would really, really appreciate any comments, for or against, by anyone who reads this blog or listens to an audio show in which I might mention this subject.

The bottom line is this; if it seems appropriate to write such a book, then I'll write it, and work out the details of publishing, distribution etc. But I remain to be convinced that I should write it; and in the three upcoming posts, I'll explain why I think that, currently. Apart from anything else, there are already plenty of published first-person accounts of people who've transitioned; I truly don't know what I've got to say on the subject that hasn't already been well said. And I certainly don't presume to think that I'm the possessor of some profound knowledge or secret wisdom; if I am, well, it hasn't done me much good, has it! ;-) I'm not fishing for compliments... I *am* seeking a little external perspective.

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  • At 5:45 am, Blogger susan smith nash said…

    dear koan --

    oh i just can't tell you how moved I was by your latest post, which I (rather simplistically) viewed as your personal dialectic in which you look deeply within and try to examine your own motives --

    in the midst of it all, I believe that you're doing yourself a disservice. You're almost seeming to judge yourself - and ask yourself if you are worthy of a book, and you ask yourself if the production of a book would be simply an exercise in futility (or worse, narcissism).

    Dear Koan!!! I see the vestigial remains of the old self -- the ghost-self that still hangs over you like a classic American Western movie's Hanging Judge ...

    You are beautiful. The questions of whether you "should" produce a text are sensitive, conscientious, and I have respect for you for bringing them.

    I don't want to go into a lot of detail -- I just want to say that you're touching people in ways you may not realize.

    It's not the transition or the identity issue alone -- it's about suicide.

    Thank you so much for being willing to talk about this.

    Do you realize that the U.S. Marine Corps has the highest suicide rate of all the military?

    Okay == this is definitely a non-sequitur... but -- what i'm saying is that you're touching people in very positive, affirming ways.

    The simple statement that you make a commitment each and every day not to kill yourself brings tears to my eyes.

    Thank you for your courage.

    You MUST write -- but please don't worry about what you think you "should" write... just let it flow -- yes, let it flow.....

    it is beautiful....


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