Sometimes, I forget the power of being a visible transperson in the world.
I felt it one Halloween walking through the mall during the kid’s costume hours. As the kids gabbed candy from the shops, some moms were dressed as witches to shepherd the flock around.
I was there, in the same kind of outfit, but the difference between us was that I walked with the power of a real witch. I had walked between worlds, though walls they think are real, and transformed in ways that seemed magical and a bit terrifying to those around me.
As a shaman, I know that every human has their power, a place where they connect things in the world. Most of them haven’t deeply engaged that power, instead choosing to stay one of the gang rather than doing the work to be profoundly and visibly exceptional, but the seeds are there in every human.
The work, the discipline, the practice has been crucial to me, my only salvation. It was what I had to do to save myself.
Other people, though, see the effects of that ownership and they catch the vibrations. It may scare them, it may fascinate them, it may thrill them, it may make them see me as not really human, it may make them act out against me, it may make them want me to heal them, but somehow, they get the inner power that I have had to polish and embrace.
The cost and the fragile humanity which lives inside of every wounded healer is not visible to them. They are aware of the strength, the power, the ability to do something which is beyond what they see as possible for them, beyond their experience.
Courage is never the absence of fear, though. Courage is about facing your fears and transcending them. Courage just shows that you value something more than fear, be that service, commitment or love.
How do we, as people who move across genders, show our vulnerable humanity? How do we fit in as just people? Do we do it by saying we are just dressed for the show, by showing how abject and broken we are, by working to hide behind any veneer of normativity that we can manage?
Even when I forget, mired in my own feelings, I know that I am still a powerful healer. I can go out and make thunder in the world, just by my vision, my approach and my voice.
People crave what I have to offer, though rarely with deep understanding or even with respect. They want to be fixed, want someone to heal them, and if I can do what is hard for them then surely I can also do what is easy for them. I can take their brokeness.
I can. But, as the question I have been asking for decades goes, who heals the healers? Who offers understanding, affirmation and safe space for those who walk with the elements, fire, wind, rain and earth?
How can it be so hard to be a healer in the world, people wonder. After all, you are smart, aware and powerful enough to emerge, brave and strong as “who you really are.” How can just being that person in the world be hard for someone as amazing as you?
One reason people see me as powerful is because I can understand without words. I look at a face or hear the tone of voice and I can often read what people want to communicate. Even when they are acting out, I look beneath, finding a way to communicate and connect. That is immensely potent and incredibly scary to people.
Who understands, mirrors and affirms me even with the best words I have ever been able to pull together? Where is that understanding with compassion?
My call is always about the requirement of doing your own work. I just pull out the questions that separate you from your defensive callous, asking you to be naked and present in the moment. This suggestion, I have found, is scary, especially to people with scarce attention, bandwidth, time and support for transformation beyond the expectations of the market.
I am powerful in the world not because I am invulnerable, rather I am powerful in the world specifically because I am incredibly vulnerable, am deep, connected and open-hearted. That’s difficult to explain to anyone who really wants to believe that if they just get one more thing they will become so strong that their life will be perfect, but I have found it isn’t walls that make you safe and powerful, it is the connections between your mind, your heart and the world which do that.
Being potent isn’t about the strength of your armour, it is about the intensity of your humanity.
Real witches have always been a challenge to the status quo, and trans shamans are no exception to that. No matter how people try to commercialize us, try to assert our respectability over our queerness, we will never, ever be just one of the normies.
We hold a kid of rock-star power, somewhere past simple gender, because we claim our unique wildness over our assimilated tameness. This is what people glimpse in us, the transcendent boundary crossing which makes us both so very potent and so very scary.
This week, the week of Halloween, brings back a sense of the power that transpeople hold in the world. It also brings back a sense of the cost of that power to one who manifests it, separating them from the sweet and easy.
It’s a good memory and it is a tough memory, but it is my memory.