When Self-harm Becomes a Means of Survival

21 08 2015

CONTENT WARNING: LABELS

I cannot stress the importance of the I’ll Go With You campaign. The idea that I’d have someone like Anne, my Ally+, guarding me while I attend to a natural body function is a great relief. Anne will protect me and advocate for me, and she’d do the same for any trans person. I have other allies who would do the same.

But, I’m not always in the presence of my allies.

My amended California birth certificate protects me from being convicted under those laws that stipulate the gender on said certificate much match the gender of the public toilet or other gendered facility being used. But, it doesn’t protect me from harassment or from being arrested: only from being convicted. And, as I understand, other laws are being proposed wherein the birth certificate doesn’t matter. Rather, the genitals of the person are what’s important. There have already been cases in which a cisgender woman was confronted because she didn’t look enough like a “real” woman. So, these laws don’t just hurt trans people.

But because of these laws, I frequently avoid public toilets even if I am in the company of Anne or another ally who will stand guard for me. Some places I just don’t feel safe. If there are gender-neutral single-occupancy or “family” facilities, I’ll almost always use those. But they aren’t always available. So, I’ll just hold it until I can get home or to a place that I feel is safe (read “less dangerous”).

As there are very real negative health consequences to holding one’s urine for too long, I and others like me risk self-harm in order to prevent ourselves from being harmed. It’s a no-win situation. We could use the facilities and possibly get harassed or arrested, or we can hold it until we are home and risk harming our bodies.

This is just one of the choices our cissexist and cisnormative society has forced upon trans, agender, and gender expansive persons. We can get hurt even as we try to avoid getting hurt.

And, this is just a day in the life for many of us.





Radical Inclusion: the Boundaries of Contact

18 08 2015

I had the opportunity to be a chaplain-in-training at an adult spirituality retreat during the weekend of August 7 through 9. When we were sharing about spiritual practices on Saturday night, one of those present brought up something I’ve been thinking about for some time now: how can faith communities extend radical inclusion and radical hospitality to persons who don’t want to be touched?

This particular person doesn’t like being touched, and a seemingly friendly hug from behind could send this person into a full-blown panic attack. When I was first introduced to them that Friday evening, something about their body language suggested to me that a greeting from a polite distance would be best. And sure enough, I found out why the following evening.

The concept of radical hospitality in faith communities is something that has been on my mind for some time now. Here’s a few of my experiences that explain why I think about this so much.

  • I’ve been to churches where they invite visitors to stand up, take the mic, and introduce themselves. Being an introvert, I simply stayed in my seat.
  • I’ve been to churches where visitors are invited to raise their hands and a welcome packet will be given to them. This isn’t so invasive, from my introverted point of view.
  • I was at a church once where I felt my personal space had been violated during the passing of the peace. I offered my hand for a handshake and I was told that this was a hugging church. In the church’s defense, when I emailed the pastor about this he apologized and indicated that my boundaries should’ve have been respected.
  • I’ve been to churches where the pews in the back are roped off before the service starts, forcing people to sit farther toward the front. This causes the pews to get fuller. Then, after the ropes are removed, a great deal of open space can be seen at the back.

To an introvert like me, these things describe the exact opposite of radical hospitality. And, no: these weren’t all Christian churches. Some of the above happened at Unitarian Universalist churches, too. It seems to me that radical hospitality is not just being sure that the congregation is warm and friendly, but also it’s about being sure that everyone who’s present feels comfortable. For some people, that means maintaining a distance.

How can this be done? Well, reading body language is one way. If it’s passing of the peace or greet your neighbor time and someone offers only their hand, don’t reach in for a hug. If your church wants visitors to declare themselves, train the ushers and greeters to ask if visitors are okay with that before they’re put on the spot. Give them the opportunity to opt out of such a public thing. And, for the love of the gods, leave the back pews open!

Radical welcome sometimes has to be a more passive thing, giving visitors the chance to initiate and control interactions.





Reblogging: The Emperor and the candidates

16 08 2015

In the linked blog post below, Merri-Todd draws parallels to religion and politics in the ancient world and modern times.





A Year With the Adversary

14 08 2015

At my second-degree initiation last summer, I was elevated from priest and witch to high priest and magus. During that ritual, I and others did some scrying. While scrying, one of the high priest and teachers of the coven saw me in a hallway before a door. When that door opened, she saw the Pentacle of the Adversary hanging in the air before me.

Over the last year, I’ve certainly felt the presence of the Adversary. I’d lost my job in July 2014, had the EDD deny my claim for unemployment benefits, and have struggled to find work. Even temporary employment agencies hadn’t been helpful. The FAFSA gave me student loans that only covered about two-thirds my school expenses for last year, and the school itself didn’t award me any need-based assistance in spite of the fact that I was unemployed. Thanks to friends and strangers contributing to my GoFundMe as well as a last-minute student loan from my bank, I was able to pay off the outstanding balance and will be able to register for Fall classes.

But Adversarial things continue to assail me. There’s no need to bore you, O Reader, with the details, but good ol’ Be’elzebubba isn’t done with me yet. Good. He keeps me on my magickal toes. Unemployment might soon be a thing of the past for me, as I had what I’d consider to be a successful job interview earlier today. Even so, that won’t magically or even magickally end all my problems.

My life is intertwined with Adversity. Uncertainty has been a companion of mine for quite a while. It’s just another reason why I consider myself to be a Chaos Magician. While I won’t openly challenge the Adversary to hit me with whatever he’s got, I won’t run from him either.

I will continue to work with the Adversary, as Mark Twain allegedly said it best: “But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the sinner that needed it most?

Amen, and Blessed Be.





[Sharing] On Hiroshima Day: A prayer to Panprosdexia

6 08 2015

Merri-Todd offers the following prayer to Panprosdexia (All-Acceptance), the sixth deity in the Tetrad++, on this the anniversary of the Bombing of Hiroshima.

Ave AntinoĆ¼s, of the Beloved Dead!
Hail Panprosdexia!
Hail the Tetrad++, the Trans deities for all!





Ministry, Introversion, and Self-care

28 07 2015

Between a conversation with a mentor a short time ago and the sermon by seminarian Joliene Wade Gatlin this past Sunday at the Congregational Church of San Mateo, I’ve had a lot to think about regarding being an introverted minister and self-care.

There is much that needs to be done regarding trans ministry. The attacks (verbal, spiritual, physical) are endless, and some even take place at my seminary. My mentor has been trying to lead the resistance to this abuse, but he’s only one person. We spoke of other trans persons that I’d been talking with, and their varying levels of participation in trans liberation. He expressed exasperation with some of our peers, saying that maybe some of them have been taking too much time for self-care.

Part of Joliene’s sermon at CCSM this past Sunday suggested that Jesus had an introverted moment in John 6:15:

When Jesus realized that they were abut to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

In some ways, it’s similar to the idea of the log in one’s own eye versus the speck in another’s eye. Usually, it seems that this is taken to mean, “Don’t correct another’s sin when you’ve sinned yourself.” The interesting thing is how often this is thrown at me for being queer and trans. Folks like to forget that G’D created everything, including orientations other than straight and all manner of gender identities. But another way of reading the logs and specks in eyes is that we should attend to our ailments before we can really help what ails others.

Throughout the Bible, we can find instances where spiritual health is elevated above physical and mental health. Reading these passages from my current social location, I can’t help but find them to be ableist in nature. There will be times for people when just giving it up to G’D will not be good enough when suffering from axiety or depression, or when recovering from substance abuse or an illness or injury. Yes, it’s possible that a measure of comfort can be obtained through prayer and praise, but taking care of oneself cannot be undervalued.

Joliene asserted that this was what Jesus was doing by withdrawing to the mountain: attending to his own spiritual self care. There are times when there is ministry to be done. But if we are not at our spiritual peak, will we really be able to fulfil that ministry? That which one can successfully undertake could cause another to spiral into burn out. This might seem like an undue amount of the work will fall upon some folks. But not everyone can or will be able to respond to the same situation in the same ways.

And that needs to be okay.





Reblogging: Confirmation of the Tetrad++ 2015

22 07 2015

I first encountered the Tetrad (Panpsyche, Panhyle, Paneros, Pancrates) at PantheaCon 2013. Since then, two more deities have been added, Paneris and Panprosdexia, to create the Tetrad++.

As P. Sufenas Virius Lupus says:

Hail and Thanks to you, Antinous, first father of the Tetrad++!

Hail and thanks to you, the Deities of the Tetrad++ Group!

Amen, and Blessed Be!








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