I recently read a copy of Raven Kaldera’s open letter to transgender spirit workers ) to a good friend of mine. (Warning: the language is dated, and some may find it offensive, he apologizes for it but refuses to change it because it is an artifact of another time and he thinks it should stand as a record and I honor that decision. It’s still very much worth reading if you’re transgender, a spirit worker, an ally of either or some combination thereof.) We both wept, and both knew what he was talking about, as we’d both felt it. We’ve felt the Kindreds tear at us until we acknowledged who we are. We’ve heard the howls of rage and fear and sorrow of the transgender dead, the demand of “Let me be the last one!”. We’ve felt alone, and we’ve told other people that they’re not alone. In light of Equality and Justice Day in New York and the recent efforts being made against conversion therapy nationally and worldwide, along with Raven’s letter, I wrote this:
I believe that you can pray the gay away. Wait, hold on, don’t make any assumptions and listen to what I have to say.
I believe it because it happened to me. No, seriously, please hear me out. This is not what you may think it sounds like.
Well, it wasn’t “the Gay”, it was “the Trans” but I was so poorly educated on the subject back in the early 2000’s I didn’t know the difference. I hadn’t been exposed to the idea that gender identity and sexual orientation were separate things. Indeed, everyone that I knew conflated the two things (too many still do). So I thought that I was a gay (or maybe bisexual) man who had some kind of confusion about their gender. I was desperately wrong and painfully confused and I didn’t know any safe or healthy ways to manifest my nature and identity.
So I did something that I’ve been good at over my life. I prayed.
I prayed and prayed to my Goddess, begging Her to take this from me. Despite the fact that I had felt her be supportive of the part of me that knew that I was a woman, I asked her to strip me of it, to cut me off from it, to let it go. I felt Her asking if I was sure that I wanted this, and I, in pain and miserable, assured Her that I did.
So she did.
I don’t know how it happened. I’m not sure what exactly happened, other than that when I woke up the next morning, I had no issue reconciling with my body. I went about life as a man with absolutely no conflict or issue with my body. For a few hours it felt all right, even good. It was a relief. A relief to not have to think or worry about it.
Over time I started to notice a flatness to my perceptions. A creeping emptiness started to invade my heart. Over time it felt like color and with it meaning and value were being leeched from the world. It crushed me like a slow vise. At first I thought that it was something that I just had to tough through, but I discovered that there was nothing that I could “tough” with. I was missing the essence that held me firm, the djed of my soul. I suppose if there was any turning point it was when I realized that I was missing an essential part of myself – that the part of myself that I was cut off from was truly essential. I was dying inside.
I finally broke and begged Her to give it back to me. I apologized for my foolishness and plead ignorance. My Lady is a forgiving one and let me feel myself and live again. I felt an ineffable, irreplaceable part of my Self flood back into contact with the rest of me and I collapsed in tears and gratitude. I knew from that moment on that I couldn’t get rid of it without getting rid of myself, something that I was not willing to do.
This is much gentler than experiences that other trans spirit-workers have reported when they try to keep their gender locked into a box and deny it. I have faced depression, loss, self-destructive urges and even potential suicide in my journey. Living and overcoming those things did not have as much of an effect on me as this experience did. That deep-rooted knowledge that my gender identity was an inseparable part of who I am was something that helped carry me through the darkest of times. There had to be a way to reconcile with it.
That’s why Raven’s letter resonates so very strongly with me. I’ve heard the Gods and Spirits for as long as I can remember, some times better than others. I’ve learned to work with them through childhood trial and error and adult study and practice. I know that my community needs people like me to help us through some of the most difficult periods of their lives. It’s not to say that I won’t help anyone who asks if I have the spoons and know that that’s what you need. I will help anyone that I can if they need it.
It does mean that I will go out of my way to help other trans and gender-variant people if given the opportunity. Like with other professions, so many of us are turned away by those who reject our identities and our selves. Many of us also encounter those who are willing to help but in the end are unhelpful because they simply can’t understand our experiences, not having lived them themselves. I have been a trans person all my life (though my coming out was more recent) and have heard from the Kindreds all my life as well. If you feel that you need someone that fits those qualifications I will do whatever I can. If I feel that I can’t help you, I will do my best to find someone who can. As my Matron is my witness, I promise this to you; may She help me remember and fulfill my promise should I ever forget or slack off. I will be there for you. You are not alone.
– For Asteysa.