Written by Kris Littlesun October 2010 after attending the Dion Fortune conference in Bristol
My experience of being a transgendered man is an important part of my identity, as well as being the thing that allowed me to begin to open up to forces beyond the surface world. It gave me the opportunity to step outside of the culturally upheld binary gender system and recognise how it binds people into ways of being and prevents them from being all they can. One of the reasons I was initially drawn to shamanic practice is the lack of dogmatic gendering found in the workings as well as the history of queer and transgender practitioners in many shamanic cultures. Within these cultures the transgendered person has their own role, they are valued for who they are and the gifts they bring. I feel that transgender people, and those who blur the gender line in different ways, are lacking a role of their own in western cultures, a cultural position that has worth and importance, in the same way that cisgendered men and women do. I found a comfort and acceptance within shamanic working, but ultimately I find myself being drawn away from this kind of practice.
I know that I chose to be born into this world as a transgendered person. It was a position that needed filling and I stepped up to it. This is both for the lessons I am learning from my experience and for the lessons I can then offer to others through this experience. It is most likely due to my inexperience within the western esoteric qabalistic mystery tradition I now feel drawn to that I feel myself floundering to see where I fit into the system. I found myself with a craving for a path with structure and progression, but the problem with such a path is that it is invariably designed by and for heterosexual, cisgendered people, and while it may be accepting of queer and transgender folk, its roots cannot be got away from. The problem I’m feeling now is that, while I have been looking for a structure that I can settle into for a time, I have found a structure into which I can’t work out how to comfortably fit, and so I still find myself flailing somewhat without grounding. I think that one of the problems is that I don’t have the language to express myself adequately to the hetero world in general, therefore it’s unsurprising that I would have difficulty in this area also. I don’t want to be part of a religion or spiritual practice that accepts or allows my transgenderism, but one that actively celebrates it, and sees the worth and gifts in my experience as it does for cisgendered folk.
Generally when I try to bring up the discomfort I feel with such things I am either told that I should just ignore it and take only what fits me, or it’s implied that I simply don’t know what I’m talking about and that’s just the way things are. Either way the conversation is quickly moved on. While it is tempting to pick and choose from different paths as and when it suits me, this does seem to be a bit of a cop out, and I would much rather go deeper into the teachings of the direction I have chosen and see what place I can make for myself there rather than simply gloss over the difficult parts and look somewhere else. I feel that searching will prove eventually fruitful, and will lead to a deeper understanding of myself and my place in the world of humanity and spirit as a transgendered person. As for the later response, I am aware that I am very much at the start of my path and therefore don’t have the knowledge and experience of these things, but I do have the rare experience of living as a transgendered person, and I have spent much time thinking about and discussing the issues around it, and so it’s disheartening to have my thoughts on the subject so quickly dismissed.
I don’t want to simply gloss over these issues, either by simply ignoring the bits I don’t like or by accepting the heterosexual, cisgendered paradigm. I want to find my own place as a transgendered man. I am curious about whether there is any history of female priests and male priestesses within the esoteric mysteries as there are within many shamanistic cultures, or whether any of the well known writers on the tradition have anything to say on the matter (other than claiming it to be a pathology). I want to know if there is a place for my transdgenderism within this tradition or if this part of me will have to find nourishment in different places.
Who knows where I will finally end up in this particular journey? Maybe I will find a spot for myself, maybe I will get so far and realise that it’s not compatible with my own experience, take my lessons and move on. Maybe I will even find myself able to work within the hetero framework and gender will simply stop being an issue with magical working. Anything is possible. I do know that Queer Spirit is very old and strong as well as being very pissed off, and it is a fool who ignores the power and gifts they bring.
I have read in my recently acquired copy of Cassell’s Encyclopaedia of Queer Myth, Symbol and Spirit about the ideas that some people have had about the different sephiroths on the tree of life being symbolic of different gender identities, including the androgyne, the Amazonian woman, the effeminate man, and the gay man and lesbian woman. While I am cynical about putting these ideas onto the map when they may never have been intended to be seen there, I have realised that the diagram of the tree of life is reflective of my own attitudes towards gender. The sephiroths are points which one can inhabit at different times, with lines of energy between them which create tension and hold the points apart in a network of multiplicity, rather like the arrangement of sub-atomic particles. Likewise, the genders which exist in the world are a multiplicity of spaces that can be inhabited at any one time, and which exist as a network which can be moved within. The obvious difference between the two is that the tree of life is a specific, limited, size and shape, and has a directional flow with the Crown at the top and the Kingdom at the bottom, while the gender network is either on a horizontal plane or is constantly undulating to allow the shifting of energy in different directions. Each connection between the points is a line of energy and power, and it is through this power that gender based magic is worked. The simplest form is to use just two points, and therefore one connection, which is why gender magic is all about polarity. I believe however that it would be possible to do gender based magic with more than two points, it would be more complicated to work out but could ultimately be very powerful and satisfying. I can see that this is similar to polyamourous relationships; while it is simpler to have a romantic relationship of just two people, there are people who wish to have relationships involving three or more. While these will be more complicated, because we live in a society that sees monogamy as the only option for a real relationships so there isn’t the support for other kinds, and that there are simply more people involved, for those people who are better suited to this kind of relationship they will ultimately provide a large amount of power and satisfaction. But these are just musings, I have no idea whether this kind of poly-gendered magic has ever been tried out and if it has what kind of outcome has been had. I would be interested to know if there were people with both the power and the inclination to make it happen.