There is no ritual more gendered than a wedding. I remember vividly accompanying my partner to her sister’s wedding, a blue collar fete, and then jumping in the car and heading to Southern Comfort where I was going to do the keynote speech. The contrast between the traditional & binary gender separations of the wedding and the gender crossing at the conference, much of it echoing traditions in a slightly twisted way, was less interesting than the connections; gender is gender.
A wedding is the ritual where a girl becomes a woman. TantraGal knows that; that’s why she imagined a white ceremony for herself where she could walk down the aisle to claim her own womanhood, a woman even if without a man. I suspect that this is a much better considered idea than the women who get drunk and drive to Vegas just so they can get hitched to their first ex-husband and then get on with the woman part of their life.
TantraGal wonders what my ritual of claiming womanhood would look like.
It’s not the first time this has been discussed; Ann Angell and I spoke about it over a decade ago. She too imagined elements of a wedding; an aisle, a transformation, a claim.
Ms. Rachelle is a kind of expert in these matters; she wrote the text for Omega Institute on Ritual; I just helped edit her forward. Rituals are how we embody connection to God, she said, and I understand that. Hard to remember that it was ten years ago this summer that Rachel had her Bat Mitzvah, four decades after her Bar Mitzvah.
Public rituals are something I support in concept, if not in practice. My secret calling is to be pastor; the church of the divine surprise as I have termed it, a place to come together and be delighted in the surprising magic of the godspark. Yet my public position has been the penitent, marching on my knees towards something, something enlightened and unclear at the same time.
I must admit that the primary ritual I have considered is my funeral. I have never attempted suicide, but for at least thirty years writing suicide notes has let me understand what I want to kill, where my pain is. I even have stories about having them read out in an orgasm workshops, the sarcastic, ironic bit seen as new age affirmations. My laughing jag lasted almost an hour.
Poor Ms. Rachelle has plenty of notes for my funeral in her mail archive; songs, obituaries and more. She handled them gracefully, but that flow stopped a few years ago, and she has to come to this blog to get her portion of hard, brilliant and faceted cutting prose from and about me.
So what would I want if I could actually have a ceremony, and it was one I would actually have to be present and breathing for?
Well, I had a party for my high school graduation. Nobody came. I guess people would have to come. That’s one nice thing about a funeral; if no one shows, you can’t look any more embarrassed than you already are.
And “The Way You Look Tonight.” Have to play that. Probably the Sally Mayes version.
Beyond that, well, anything goes or nothing goes. Do I unveil myself? Marry myself? Do I do an obit for a past? Is their dancing? I mean, I can’t point my toes; Darlene proved that. Hell, even TantraGal’s salon is across from the apartment that both Zipkin and Santucci lived in, at different times.
I suspect that the real key to any ritual for me is that it has to have some “don’t go there” intensity. I remember sitting at the sea wall in Marshfield in the 1964 Chevelle, the pounding of the storm fueled waves calming the beating of my heart, or driving to the top of the hill in the thunderstorm so I could get out of the car, get soaked and get connected. To me, God is not some still small voice, rather she is the crashing sizzle of change, the swirl of power, the rhythm of life.
“I like to kill my audience so that they can enjoy the shock of rebirth as much as I do.” Yeah. I said that.
How do you get that energy into a room without freaking everyone out? I mean, even if you could invite Kiki & Herb, would more than cacophony get though?
For me, the breakthrough is becoming comprehensible rather than being divinely ambiguous. I have done that through finding my own center, through words, thoughts and belief, which have lead to consistent and appropriate presentation. I know that I am centered, and Tantragal — and others – see that.
To do that through becoming apparently normative, though, well, not going to happen.
What is the ritual that affirms, completes and defines a moment of transition? Is it more like a beauty pageant, where Gary Collins kisses you and throws a sash around you: “Ms. Callan 2008?” Heck I know I already have the housekeeper / emotional caretaker part of being a woman down cold.
My need from any ritual isn’t some kind of validation. I had to work that out between me and my mother in the sky.
Instead, I need social permission to make the choices of a woman, choices I avoid for the comfort of others and for my own sense of safety. These may be as simple as wearing the same bubblegum pink polish that TantraGal has on her toes, or as difficult as flirting with people.
You wanna make everyone give me a rose? Wouldn’t that freak them out? Wouldn’t that be as cheezy as The Bachelor, me wondering when I won’t get one?
Yeah, I wonder about what an emergence ritual would look like too, I guess.
But like any good ritual, it’s scary as hell to me.
Scary after a half century of denial.
One thought on “Revelation Ritual”
Reading your fine words about weddings as rituals of womanhood I thought of the Gallae, trans worhsippers of Cybele in the ancient world.
The historians like to refer to them as eunuchs, or castrated male priests, but after they healed from their self-performed surgery they wore bridal dresses for their initiation into the service of the Goddess. Nothing could state how they saw themselves as clearly as that.
Some years ago news came from India that the Hijras had won the right to vote. My friend Annie, who has lived with the Hijras, told me this was nonsense. They were never stopped from voting–they were stopped from voting as women. In India the lines to vote are separated by gender. The Hijras refused to vote if they would have to stand on the male line. What they won was the right to vote as women.
The point of ritual, really, is the crossing over, the marking, and the creating, of internal changes that need a realization in the outer world. They are for us, and they are for other people as well. Trans people suffer from the rigidities of other people’s categories, when who someone used to be becomes who they “really” are.
Ritual is also a recognition that there is something worth recognizing. the struggle for gay marriage has been framed as economic rights among other things, but everyone knows it’s also about recognition.