When I first came out, well over thirty years ago now, I refused to identify as crossdresser, a transsexual or a drag queen, instead just trying to claim my own self, just as I told the therapist who pressed me on what I dreamed of being when I was thirteen.
Reading “What You Need To Know About My Transgender” (2002), it’s easy to figure out that I don’t fit neatly into trans models. I don’t think I was born in the wrong body, don’t think I just have a hobby, don’t believe in the end of the system of gender. In fact, I like gender, for what it is intended to do at base (protect children) and for the communication it facilitates about what we know ourselves to love (Eros).
Immersing myself in trans issues over a lifetime has been an attempt to understand how others who have a nature like mine have striven to find a place in this society. It has not, however, shown me a comfortable way to take my place.
The last time I called Holly Boswell, it was to have her remind me of the three ways that one could become a shaman in native tribes. One can be born of a shaman, fall ill and have your senses opened, or be two spirit with a heart and mind existing in the liminal space between social boundaries.
I don’t have a perfect word to describe someone who stands out of the routine expectations and instead speaks and acts for connection, for transcendence, for spirit. Whoever those people are, though, they challenge the status quo, demanding wider vision and seeing past comforting cultural boundaries that most prefer to see as real. The conventional, even the conventions we call religious or new age or fundamental, are not what seers, sages, gurus, change-makers and the rest ever speak for.
My calling, though, the acorn in my heart, well, it has always seemed to be that of a healer. The wounds of my childhood and the love inside of me lead me to deliberate and exquisite sight, searching for meanings and patterns, while the demands of my family required me to learn how to facilitate growth & healing from a very humble place.
Now, I need to be bigger and more visible in the world. To do that, asserting a story is vital; who am I and what can I do for you?
After a lifetime of playing from the shadows, asserting my power in an oblique and hidden way, changing into visibility feels exposed, vulnerable and arrogant. I have seen too many people caught up in their own egos and spent my life silencing my own ego to be comfortable with the truth that only by being present can we attract what we need in the world.
In my experience, finding support for being a bold shaman in the world is difficult while finding resistance & rage that acts out to silence transcendent and challenging voices is easy. That traumatic experience is written on my soul and my body in various kinds of scar tissue.
It takes a whole heap of queer to affirm choices that you would never make for yourself, choices that scare or confound you. Supporting people in being big, being powerfully themselves requires that you be comfortable with big, with power, with boldness.
As far as I can tell, there are no shaman pride events. Instead, those who want to claim shaman by being preachy preachers, offering salvation by compartmentalization, tend to attack anyone whose presence seems to challenge their assertions and identity.
Carrying your own individual pride, your own knowledge of calling & mission, while being present & humble enough to avoid being captured by ego or rationalization is a tall, tall order. Long ago I learned to doubt my inner self, the feminine heart that I knew I had to hide as just part of me even as it informed every choice I made.
The world has come along, though, and it seems time to trust that womanly energy I have kept under wraps for so long. Showing on the outside what exists on the inside, my style and view, my choices and caring, is a way to be more seen and more present, which should bring me more presents. Simply not having to switch away, hiding one bit or the other, can bring rewards of immersion, growth and deeper presence.
Training to stay discreet and hidden, which I coded as gracious and safe, without the armour I have seen so many transwomen wear like iron or the policing that kept them playing small to stay off the radar is hard to reverse. It is very hard to peel back the habits of a lifetime, especially when the goal is being exposed, speaking queerly, going to the front of the room and being in the spotlight as a shaman, a trans shaman speaking powerful truths wrapped in wit & wisdom.
In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity. I instantly knew that was my mission statement when I heard it in 1993. However, if society wanted the gifts we bring back from our heroes journey, they would already have them, as Joseph Campbell reminds us. Returning the gift is always the hard part, harder than death and rebirth, harder than going though hell to burn away the false.
The problem is that I appear to be built for the purpose of being a shaman in this world. My mother in the sky gave me the wiring to see beyond the obvious, making deep connections, and my training forced me to understand the linkage between thought & emotion. I absorbed stories and language, decoding and coding essential & eternal messages in colourful, engaging language.
All my years writing mean that I have a wealth of considered notions at my fingertips while my performing nature lets me share them by asking just the right question or offering a strong quip. If you want to stay where you are, projecting your fears and expectations on the world, you just want to shut me up, but if you are ready to open your eyes, your mind and your heart, ready to move beyond, to grow and heal, I am an amazing gift.
In short, I’m damn good at being who my mother in the sky called me to be. I have known this for a very long time, but I learned to resist calling to the point of self destruction (2003). It was what I had to do to stay connected to my family, to stay hidden enough to be of service and observe the world, listen to how our human stories are shot through with powerful connections, and that includes even the stories we label as lies. Finding my own voice and knowledge wasn’t easy.
That strong voice and shimmering knowledge, though, are now firmly in my posession. Apparently, I’m supposed to do something with it. And soon. (It’s well past time, if you really want to know, or maybe its exactly the right time. How am I to know?)
I have never been a very good tranny, going along with the expectations and assertions of the others around me, be they transsexuals, transvestites, drags, non-binary feminists or any other model.
But a corporate shaman, a guru, a prophet, a priestess, a change-monger? That I have always been, striving for integration, connection, actualization and the treasuring of the possibilities in each individual acorn.
That is where my core lies, even when I don’t proudly show it, keeping invisible in the world to be a watcher, coming out of the shadows to help and then fading back again. I avoid tiny labels that feel like they trap me, cut back on noise generated by fear, ignorance, assumptions and separations to keep a kind of freedom of action.
Someday, though, I really should go to the front of the room, take the spotlight and trust what I have never trusted, that I can be attractive and move the minds and hearts of people. Taking all the fragments of affirmation and trusting them, rather than keeping my head down, well, it seems a worthwhile thing to try before I leave.