International Transgender Day of Visibility

TAGR visibility

I’m sharing this imperative here as I have on Facebook and as it has been on the TAGR website.  Visibility is just as important to Paganism and other minority groups, in my opinion.

(The image is the symbol of Trans Alliance of Greater Rochester, a trans symbol interlaced with the fivefold flower of Rochester, NY).

Unless we’re visible people won’t know that we exist. Unless people see us as their family, their neighbors, their coworkers (and bosses, and employees) they won’t be seeing us as human. Overwhelm them with our presence so that they can’t ignore us, can’t forget about us, and can’t shame us for our numbers and our pride.

I’ve seen people be terrified of being found out all their lives, spend a couple of years transitioning, and then disappear again, terrified for the rest of their lives. I want to work towards creating a world where that fear isn’t there anymore, where it doesn’t matter anymore. The main catalyst for this change will be visibility.

We have to be visible. For those of us who can’t pass because of physical features. For those of us who are non-binary, whose identities won’t let them fit safely into one or another of the socially acceptable gender boxes. For those of us still living in fear, post- pre- or non-transitioning.

Yes, there are situations where it is not safe to be visible; where people have to hide because the fear is justified. For any of us in a position where being visible is merely a discomfort I encourage, and challenge you, to visibility. Until people know that we’re people too, until they see our human faces in their spaces, we will be othered and made into outsiders.

For allies, I challenge you to be visible too. Speak out against transphobic behavior or speech that you see. Stand up for trans friends. Share memes. Do whatever you can to let people know that folks that aren’t trans still support us. That means a lot a well.

For myself, I’m going to try and be as visible as possible today. I will not tone down or androgynize my appearance when going out. I won’t just shrug and deal when a stranger uses the wrong form of address or pronouns. I won’t be afraid to tell people what I think or how I feel concerning being transgender in modern America (which is about a billion times better than being trans most other places in the world).

Visibility is the catalyst to this change. It is the medicine that will help to wipe the fear away and expose the mindless hatred for what it is. Education will fill in the gaps. Don’t back down, don’t give in to the fear, because if we’re fighting, that fear is what we’re fighting, not the people who experience it.

Unsettled and Settling In

This has been a difficult couple of weeks for me.

My fiance and I have broken up.  There were arguments and fights and lines crossed that cannot be uncrossed.  I’ve moved out of Rochester and back home to Buffalo to get out of a toxic and dangerous situation.  I’ve left behind responsibilities, opportunities, lovers, and friends.  I’ve made painful and difficult decisions, made even more painful by the fact that I didn’t want to make them, that I shouldn’t have to make them, that there were no good answers, just some answers that were better than others.

The biggest irony of the situation, as far as I’m concerned, lies in the fact that there is so much here that is good for me that I (almost) feel guilty about it.  Friends opened their homes and gave me a room, a mattress, and promises of food and shelter till I get back on my feet.  People were telling me about trans-friendly workplaces within the first day or so.  I’ve connected with people in ways that I’ve never connected with them before, and it’s filling my heart to the brim and over with gratitude and love.  I love.  I feel loved.

Of course, this isn’t just limited to human Kindred.

The third day I was here, I woke up feeling golden-amber light pouring over my body as I slept comfortably alone on a mattress where I can really stretch out.  I called out the Freyja, feeling her presence and feeling her draw closer to me.  While I basked in that glow I loved myself in ways that I never have before.  I loved my body and I felt beautiful and sexy without him being there to tell me that I was.  I loved myself as a complete being, not a composite, not a transitional creature, but as who I am.

She and I had a talk.  Being in desperate straights I asked for help and a deeper connection to her.  Later that day, after taking omens from myself and others on the matter to make sure that it was the right thing, I dedicated myself to her in ways that I haven’t before, and I’ve felt her arms around me ever since.

So now I have a new life where I’m healing and learning to love myself, where I’m growing into a new person, a more whole and healthy person than I was before.  I have a new dedication (my Matron still sits on Her throne, approving; she still loves me but was nothing but encouraging regarding the new relationship) to a Goddess I’ve loved since childhood and who has done more to help me to flower than nearly anyone else.  I have a lot of wonderful things coming into my life, and as I said in the update a few days ago, I want to embrace those things in joy and gratitude.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  I don’t know what will come a week from now.  For once in my life, I’m okay with it.  I’m making myself be okay with it – one of the mantras that has kept me on track lately has been “It’s what I need to do.”

Freyja Altar

(The bare bones of my Frejya shrine, having just been set up.  I shared Kraft mac and cheese which is a comfort food for me, and poured her some Krupnik and lit some amber incense.  It felt like the sort of meal you share after just moving in to a new place, while you’re still sorting through boxes and trying to find space to sit on your bed, but you still invite a friend over because you want their company.  As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what it was.)

Update

I haven’t been posting very much lately not because of a lack of material or thought but because I have been going through one of those transitional periods.  It’s going better than I ever could imagine and I hope that it continues to, but right now I’m still kind of devoted to getting my life back in order.

We’re talking altar-taken-down-and-in-a-plastic-moving-tote transitional periods, folks.  I am safe in the hands of my kindred and my Kindred, but things are changing rapidly.  I’ll return to blogging semi-regularly once my head stops spinning.

I normally hate these sorts of times, but this time I’m loving it.  I want to keep riding this positive energy for as long as I can (or at least until it takes me somewhere that I want to be).

Unpacking Our Monotheistic Baggage

As someone who grew up in not one but two monotheist traditions, this article has some important advice. I’ve often seen the reactionary, “No, don’t worry, we don’t worship more than one god!” from Pagan type people and other people who are made to feel uncomfortable do to monotheist bias. That’s just one example of monotheist baggage that this fascinating post explores.

Strixian Woods

God-by-Monty-Python

The intolerance of narrow monotheism is written in letters of blood across the history of man from the time when first the tribes of Israel burst into the land of Canaan. The worshipers of the one jealous God are egged on to aggressive wars against people of alien cults. They invoke divine sanction for the cruelties inflicted on the conquered. The spirit of old Israel is inherited by Christianity and Islam, and it might not be unreasonable to suggest that it would have been better for Western civilization if Greece had molded it on this question rather than Palestine.    – Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

We are a new movement.  Despite claims of ancient lineages and unbroken traditions, the Pagan movement is in its infancy.   Most of us that fall under the problematic umbrella of Pagan are first generation pagans, coming to this collection of paths from a variety of faiths and beliefs…

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Finding Our Space (Trans Women and Pagan Culture)

rainbow female symbol

(***Edit/Update*** MY conflict regarding ADF’s Chenille Canopy below has been resolved; it’s not only trans inclusive but trans welcoming.  All women are encouraged to join.  More detail on that in my Wellspring 2015 post.)

The reason that I’ve been absent for weeks has mainly revolved around my need to post this and the endless revisions I’ve put it through.  I’ve finally put my foot down and told my Virgo self “Good enough!” (something that I have to do all too often).

The first time I was accepted into women’s space it was in 2002, for a study group on women’s spirituality.  This was long before I came out as transgender.  This is long before anyone had anything other I than an inkling.  Yet, without me asking first I was approached by friends who were starting the group and asked to join.

What could I say?  I was still terrified of being “out” and being myself.  They only had vague reasons as to why they invited me.  “You have a feminine spirit.”  “I think that you could contribute a lot of important things.”  We had a ceremony where we each received a necklace of red beads – mine was the darkest, the color of older, drying blood.  “You have the knowledge and the experience.”  I was told.  “You’re our Crone.”

Without ever identifying myself, other spiritual-type people picked me out and came to me, knowing who was looking out from behind my eyes.  No tests or justifications were needed.  The warm spirit of sisterhood that filled that relatively short-lived group will stay with me always.  There were no divisions made based on the shape of people’s genitals.  We were all women seeking the feminine divine in our lives, our histories, and our identities.

Spirit has always pushed me forward in being true to myself.  My Matron allowed me to take my time, her only encouragements gentle and heavily laden with awareness of consent.  Frejya, on the other hand, was far more direct.  In a meditative rite to greet her as a Goddess, I saw myself as I truly am, and she was seriously no-nonesense about it.  “Yes, you’re a woman.  What did you think?”  She encouraged me to stop pretending, and taught me a way to give my heart and feelings and desires fire and strength that they had not had before.

So why is it that I feel uncomfortable in so many women’s spaces nowadays?  You might imagine that given my history I would want to embrace every women’s space that will have me (given that trans women aren’t always welcome).  It’s pretty simple: I need to justify my presence there nowadays.

When I was invited to the women’s spirituality study group, there was no question from anyone of whether or not I deserved to be there.  Now, even if the official rules of an organization and the majority of their members approve of me (or even better consider it a non-issue) there will be people there who feel that I don’t belong.  The sideways glares and stares, the whispers… all of these things that I have to put up with in public (on a bad day) in my day-to-day life … I go to special spaces to escape that sort of thing!

The reason that this is coming to a head now is that I’ve been invited to attend the Chenille Canopy event at Wellspring (one of ADF’s big festivals).  The Chenille Canopy started as an ADF women’s retreat and has since evolved into a sub-organization, open to all who identify as women.  I don’t know how I feel about it – I don’t want to venture into another women’s space and have to justify myself all over again.

Due in part to response to a very real need for women to learn to embrace their identities and their bodies and have their own space and power, Pagan culture has become very binary.  The sexual polarity embraced by Wicca and many non-Wiccan Pagan offshoots is responsible for still more of it.  Both things are signs of where we’ve come from and as such should be honored, but the social binary that they reinforce creates difficult situations for people like me.  Folks who are very much into polarity often feel the need to impose their own definitions of a person’s gender onto someone who knows better about themselves, often for reasons as (and yes, I’m woo-ier than many but still) vague as how a person’s energy feels to them.  Space for women to feel empowered based on their identity that discriminates against women like me isn’t space that’s truly inclusive.  I have body shame issues from coping with gender dysphoria as well as a dozen other factors, and I also need space where I can overcome them and start healing under sacred aegis and with community.  Between those two factors and the background radiation of patriarchal values and bone-deep misogyny that everyone in our society needs to contend with, I find myself feeling less and less welcome in spaces that accept me.

I don’t expect there to be any consensus on this.  Trans people are as varied as cisgender people.  Whatever it is that makes people trans does not seem to cluster too much around any particular set of characteristics that I can determine.  We’ll have different needs and different opinions and different levels of comfort when it comes to direct confrontation of authority.  I do want people to think about it, though, because we’re still Pagan and not going away any time soon.  As more and more people feel safe coming out and being themselves, more and more communities and spaces are going to need to find ways to integrate us respectfully.

I don’t know where to go with this, but it’s important.   I will follow up with more thoughts and potential solutions later; I needed to get this post done so that I could get it out of my head and move on to other things.  Please share this with anyone who you might think might be interested in the discussion – there are a lot of us trans pagans out there, so boosting signal strength would be helpful.

celebrated