ShamanGal’s spiritual adviser wasn’t moved by the empowerment she felt dancing at a gay nightclub last Saturday night.
“Would you have felt the same way dancing at home, alone in your bedroom? If not, weren’t you just acting in a carnal way, to attract men? Is that really empowering and spiritual?”
When spiritual advisers make a binary — dancing alone is spiritual, dancing at a club is carnal — I find that hard to take.
Clubs are a kind of cathedral to queers, it is true, designed to mirror and amplify our own energy, with music, lights and community. They create a safe space that liberates the ecstasy inside, pumping us up for unleashing power.
For queers, the basic lesson from liberals has always been simple: We don’t care what you do in your bedroom, but why do you have to make a show of it in public? Isn’t that just un-spiritual, indiscreet and rude?
The shared experience of all queers is being shamed into the closet. Even those who had “no problem” with our nature often demanded that we keep it in our pants, make it invisible, hide it from the children, deny it in public.
“Why do you have to have a Pride Parade?” I imagine that spiritual adviser saying. “Isn’t that just venerating the carnal over the spiritual? Wouldn’t it be better if everyone just marched in their own bedroom?”
One of the fundamental spiritual tenets of many beliefs is that our spirit becomes incarnate for a reason. We enter flesh, living a human life, to experience the finite and separation, being forced to make choices that reveal ourselves, that offer lessons to inform our spiritual nature.
Transpeople have learned that until they bring their nature into the carnal side of life, exploring it in the world of flesh, they cannot grow or develop into full people. That which stays hidden and denied also stays static and twisted, never really having to integrate into a full and blossoming life.
The closet is not a place of spiritual growth and never has been. It is only being in community, with all that means, that allows us to really have the mirrors and lessons that help us divine good from bad, blessed from cursed, self from ego.
Relationships may play out our own twisted ignorance, but it is through that playing that we get the insight into where we must grow, what we must let go of, and what we must polish.
I learned to be spiritual and cerebral very early in my life. The carnal was denied to me, from a mother who didn’t know how to be present and tender with a child, from a father who didn’t enter emotion, from a world that demanded my transgender nature be denied and hidden.
In SATC terms, I went right to Miranda & Carrie, missing Samantha & Charlotte.
And that gap in my experience still haunts me today. I own my voice, my mind and my spirituality, but my enforced denial of emotions and carnality, my joy in romance and desire, still create a hollow space inside of me.
I know that most spiritual advisers want to tell you that you have to let go of desire to find something higher, something more grand, something more celestial. This is truly the path of enlightenment, of maturity, coming to detachment and awareness.
But for those people who never learned attachment, who had to deny their own carnality, well, for us just learning to detach will just leave us empty and hurting.
There is a reason that queer clubs celebrate carnality, and that reason is because people shamed into the closet need to learn to celebrate incarnation. We need to be in touch with our own humanity, those messy bits we were told we had to learn to deny to be anything other than a pariah in the world.
For me, personally, I am at an age where the flesh is getting weaker, where most people have to let go of their carnality and find something deeper. We can’t just be young and fresh anymore.
Not having owned my own desire and desirability when I was young leaves me with big gaps in my own human heart. I took the spiritual and intellectual route and something is missing.
Becoming selfless is a great and venerated goal, but achieving that goal without loving the self underneath ends up being hollow and inhumane. You end up feeling alone and isolated, empty and unloved. There is a profound loneliness, a deep sense of missing connections, of lost opportunity.
Humans, it is said, are more prone to regret chances they didn’t take than risks which turned out badly. It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, in other words.
And when people who think they are supporting us tell us that carnal desire, our following our bliss in the flesh and not just in the spirit is rather unholy, sick, or twisted, they miss completely the experience of a trans life, shaped by denial and stigma, rather than by indulgence and connection.
“Thank you,” she said, “but do you think I am pretty?” Those are the words of someone denied the essential human comforts of the flesh, the nurturing, skin contact and desire that not only affirms us in the world but also teaches us who we are and the power we have by putting is in real, present, out relationships.
When we have gone through the fugue state of getting ready for an evening, leaving a pile of less than perfect clothing on the floor, gluing on our lashes and pumping our hair as big as it can go — the higher the hair, the closer to God — then we enter a hot club full of pulsing music, tasty drinks and other who are open to the heat, we affirm part of ourselves, part of our power and part of our humanity.
To be trans in the world is to be forced to live in detachment, the detachment that many spiritual beliefs venerate.
But to achieve detachment without ever really being attached is to be less than human, less than alive, and less than divine.
And that “less than” can really eat away at a girl.