Allow me to introduce myself

What defines a living being?  Certainly more than the outward appearances we fuss so diligently over.  Categories and labels aid in expanding awareness and making connections, yet they are not reliable.  Words, visual aids, art, expression, touch…how can one adequately communicate that most inner of their core?

In pondering life and death, as I stumble through concepts of meaning and value, I grasp for understanding.  Although I aspire to live and act consciously, exploring each and every potential as I wander through life, there is still so much I do not know about myself.

Experiences of life have made me aware that there are aspects of myself that I do not or cannot openly, or at least obviously, convey.  This is an attempt to share those bits of myself which may be more difficult to perceive.  I am creating this blog with the intention of sharing my emotion and most inner being.

Queer in the Age of the Queen: Gender and Sexuality of the Mid Modern Period in Victorian England and North America

Between the Lions

This June the Molly Brown House Museum has created a Thirsty Thursday event to coincide with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month titled Queer in the Age of the Queen. These events are an opportunity for professionals to mingle while learning about the history of this time period. This event will take a look back at queer culture in Victorian England under the rule of Queen Victoria and here in the U.S. We are very excited to celebrate this history and provide a unique peek at the lives and accomplishments of the powerful people from this community during the late 1800s and  early 1900s. It is said that for Western based culture this is the era in which sexuality itself was “invented.” Learning the historical origins of concepts surrounding gender expression and sexuality illuminates patterns in current Western society.

The Victorian period has been described as pivotal in…

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Resources on Gender, Sexuality, Survivorship, and Empowerment

Now that my application for graduate school has been accepted I find my time being consumed by…well more applications which need to be filled out. Welcome to the bureaucracy of higher education, please complete this form and we’ll be with you shortly. Even so I am quite excited to return to school and to continue my studies. While applying for teaching assistant positions I was reminded of some readings and resources that I would like to share.

The first, itspronouncedmetrosexual.com, is an excellent free educational resource that addresses concepts of gender and sexuality. Here is one of my favorite graphics from the site:

Genderbread-2.1 (1)Next is yet another fabulous writing by Julia Serano: Why Nice Guys Finish Last, which started from the assertion of the virgin/whore stereotypes placed on feminine people, then postures the challenges of what she calls the nice guy/ass hole stereotype for masculine folks. This brought up some difficult concepts which were well presented. This piece suggests a very holistic approach to addressing misogyny and rape culture.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the workshop on Sexy Survivors presented by activist, artist, and educator Ignacio Rivera and left feeling not only empowered but inspired by the strength of other survivors. I later came across a piece titled Radical Pleasure: Sex and the End of Victimhood by Aurora Levins Morales. I feel this reading is important not only for survivors or the partners of survivors, but for anyone who has a loved one struggling with these issues.

And now for the heels clicking in the air, heart light as a feather, spirit strong as ever writing by none other than Audre Lorde; Uses of the Erotic as Power. I highly recommend this piece for pretty much everyone.

Community Stitched into a Patchwork Poem

Today I received a letter of acceptance from the University of Oregon’s Folklore Program to study gender and sexuality within traditional folk practices. To honor this joyous day and those who have supported me on this journey I would like to share a poem.

When I wrote this piece I was tapping into some strange sense of displacement coupled with a longing. My intention is not to romanticize any certain place or time. While there is an expressed desire for simpler times more removed from the many demanding technological distractions of today, I also wanted to emphasize the importance of human connection. There are moments when I catch a whiff of this essence and must pause…and breathe deep.

It’s about climbing a roof to gaze at the sky with a group of people you adore.

1382187_567699753303161_443778455_nAbout cultivating a garden and raising tiny feathered dinosaur beasts (you know, chickens) in your backyard.

10645272_10203968000814590_528404186007480586_nAnd those moments when you are gathered around an absurdly long table to celebrate life with some amazing people.

1474388_10201884194240728_1927018990_nAt its core this poem is about a longing for and love of community, which is undoubtedly the reason I am on this path.

~Patchwork Wanderings~

pigeons on wire
metal and grit

smoke stack sting on a hazy day
~
wherefore hast my era come and gone

never before has a lost time lived been so dearly missed
held only in the hidden chambers of my heart
~
I live and breathe of ancient foreign antiquities
air of a time that never was

in a land far from cold hard pavement
and drab rectangular structures
~
I set my pace in cobblestone
and well-worn winding trails

through mountain villages, cozily tucked in forest valleys
woven of brightly colored threads
~
the brilliantly shining nights interrupted
only by the occasional yet courteous gas lamp

hearts and hunger rightfully filled by the hearth
kitchens framed by hanging herb bouquets
blossoming with enchanting aromas
~
while artisan skills are savored daily
clock and calendar hung by sky and season

walks of life lived by people who respect the souls in their shoes
for those are sacred steps taken

~
the memoirs of an orphan in a strange land

until there was you, and the I became we
and as we grew together our souls became free

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Queering Canaan: Reflections Following Creating Change

My head and heart are still spinning from the events of the weekend I spent at Creating Change: The National LGBTQ Conference on Equality. Such a whirlwind of passion, enlightened concepts, anger, and everything in between and beyond. I am always inspired and brought to a state of awe by the great potential of this fiercely brilliant community. It has been a time of reflection, looking back at our history and honoring those who did the work to pave the path before us, and generating momentum which inspires us and carries on through the generations.

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Bronze figurine believed to depict Anat, circa 1400-1200 B.C.E.

My feet are firmly planted in the present and my eyes are on the horizon of tomorrow. As I prepare my heart and mind for what is to come, I find myself thirsty for spiritual nourishment rooted in ancient traditions. While studying these topics historically and academically is fascinating to me, honoring these manifestations of the Creator serve an important role in my personal practice. During a meditative art session over the weekend I contemplated which construct of the Creator I felt best honored non-binary genders for me.

I recalled that within the pantheon of the ancient Canaanite traditions is a fiercely independent and empowered goddess known as Anat who garbs herself in the clothes of men and acts in the capacity of a warrior deity. Anat embodies assertiveness to the point of aggression and acts as the rescuer to her cohort in a death/rebirth legend which correlates to the changing of seasons. In this tale Anat rescues Ba’al from the depths of the underworld by defeating Mot, the god of death himself. How’s that for challenging and overcoming the demons lurking in the shadows by using your power to defend those you hold dear? While retaining this remarkable strength Anat is also framed as a maiden who is simultaneously virgin and sexually engaged. In her stories we also find a deity who exhibits deep compassion.

Jewish ethnographer Raphael Patai has made the correlation between Anat and the Matronit representing the base of the ten Sefirot of Kabbalistic theory. Similarly, this Matronit maintains the four basic traits of chastity, active sexuality, compassion, and bloodthirstiness. Again a path forged by way of these common themes may be traced through the ages, linking various traditions and belief structures.

My interpretation of the Kabbalah Tree of Life created during the conference. Anat would correlate to Malkut which is represented  by the black and pink leaf at the base. Note that Keter, the highest point of spirituality, is represented by a spiral all genders symbol.

My interpretation of the Kabbalah Tree of Life created during the conference. Anat would correlate to Malkut which is represented by the black and pink leaf at the base. Note that Keter, the highest point of spirituality, is represented by a spiral all genders symbol.

Regardless of my gender expression, whether I am feeling compassionate, or if I find the need to stand in my power to fight for what I love, I know the varied roles held by Anat can support the very real complexities of my holistic being. May we all emulate those traits which best serve and empower our self image and personal journeys through life.

Sacred Scribes and Ancient Grains of Nisaba

Nisaba, 2430 BCE

Nisaba, 2430 BCE

After months of study, composition, and filling out on-line forms I have finally submitted my application for graduate school to study gender and sexuality within the realm of folklore. Throughout my studies, writing, and seemingly endless tweaks to my personal statement I found myself thinking a lot about Nisaba (sometimes written Nidaba). Who is Nisaba you say? She is the ancient Sumerian Goddess of writing, agriculture, and grain. This interesting combination of attributes stemmed from the need to track agricultural surplus in the fertile crescent. Thus cuneiform, a writing system based on shapes made in clay using reeds was developed. With roots in what is essentially accounting, this deity expanded to encompass scholarly pursuits and became the matron Goddess of scribes. Nisaba was known as the Goddess of the reeds; the mighty tools which were used to make pipes and flutes for music, pens for poetry and calculating mathematical and astronomical equations, and to write out formulae for medicine.

Art nouveau Nisaba

Art nouveau Nisaba

On one of the many days where I found myself staring at my computer screen trying to cram more obscure vocabulary into my mind then could ever possibly be absorbed in preparation for the GRE, it suddenly hit me; what if Nisaba and Saraswati have similar roots! Saraswati, an Indian Hindu deity, also known as Benzaiten in Japan, is a Goddess of writing, poetry, academia, art, and the river. She is mentioned in one of my earlier posts. The similarities are striking, the only missing link I could think of initially was Saraswati’s affiliation with rivers. Then it occurred to me that this is precisely where reeds would be collected. A search for scholarly articles turned up research on links between Ancient Mesopotamian and Dravidian (South Asian and Indian) cultures, and languages. Indeed there is evidence of contact between the two groups as well as linguistic parallels. Through further internet research I came across an interesting post considering the possible linkage between the two Goddesses.

In a similar vein of cultural sharing and in the spirit of creative explorations, I feel I must make mention of Sailor Nisaba, who appears to be a fan designed character in the style of the Japanese anime series Sailor Moon. So thus we come full circle from ancient Mesopotamian Nisaba, to the Indian Saraswati, Japanese Benzaiten, and finally Sailor Nisaba of the contemporary cartoon world.

Keeping with the standards of Sumerian literary compositions, I shall end my piece with the traditional doxology: Praise be to Nidaba!

Sailor Nisaba

Sailor Nisaba

Digital Word Flow

I discovered a spiffy little website that generates a “wordle” based on the frequency of word use on any given blog. I love that what stands out for me in this delightful little snapshot of my blog is “creative times force hopes.” My second favorite is “education becomes environment.”
Scrupulously Savy Wordle Snip

Women’s Space & the Process of Healing

There are times I feel foreign in my own skin. Moments in which my sense of self becomes detached from the physical realm and I feel like an empty husk. These periods of disassociation tend to be brought on by the external environment. Maybe it starts with a billboard I see along the roadside, a book sitting on the table in the kitchen, or a movie some friends are watching in the next room. Suddenly it becomes clear that the person being depicted in these mediums is denied the dynamic beauty which makes us all uniquely human. People are delightfully complex; when we are fed oversimplified and highly stereotyped versions of ourselves it becomes debilitating. Women may be reduced to being defined by their bodies which are highly sexualized as tools of enticement.

This imagery affects the way I feel about myself and my body, it also affects the way I am perceived by others. In many ways I have rejected femininity as an attempt to protect myself. The more “pretty” or “feminine” I look, the more I feel harassed in public which can make me feel less visible as a human being.

‎”The thing about patriarchy is that individual men, gay and straight, are often really wonderful people whom you love deeply, but they have internalized some really poisonous shit. so every once in a while they say or do something that really shakes you because you’re no longer totally certain they see you as a human being, and you feel totally disempowered to explain that to them.”
~Womens thread: the thread for women – wddp.org – Page 47
(Source: wddp.org)

Men and masculine folks make fabulous allies and I believe that the role of an ally is invaluable. Being an ally is no easy task and there are times when there appears to be some confusion regarding the role of an ally. As there are inherent privileges granted to men which makes awareness and understanding of feminism more difficult, I feel that it would be more appropriate to use the terms ally or profeminsit for a male identified supporter.

There have been instances in which the terms feminist and ally have been co-opted. I have encountered men who proclaim themselves as feminists in response to being called out. If a person engages in actions which are harmful to me as a woman, they cannot absolve themselves of criticism by saying “I am a feminist/ally.” An ally should not use such terms as a means of insulating themselves from having to consider their male privilege. “If “ally” is simply a position that can be self-proclaimed, it can and WILL be used as an excuse, distraction and absolution as people perpetuate their pre-existing biases and act COUNTER to the movement forward that ultimately benefits that group.”

Here are some resources on being an ally:
On Being an Ally
The Do’s and Don’ts of Being a Good Ally

I would like to highlight this piece: “Don’t expect a pass into safe spaces because you call yourself an ally. You’re not entitled to access as a result of not being an asshole. Sometimes it just isn’t going to be about you or what you think you should happen. Your privilege didn’t fall away when you became an ally, and there are intra-community conversations that need to take place away from the gaze of the privileged.”

Women’s space is difficult to come by. To me women’s space is sacred and precious, but more than that it is essential for healthy community. Women’s space is not only needed for healing, but to build relationships, to laugh, celebrate joy, and to grow. My experience in attempting to create or maintain these spaces has been very challenging and even painful at times.

Finding a supportive women’s space with folks I could connect and relate to has been an ongoing challenge. A number of times I have created women’s groups with minimal success. As a queer identified individual I have worked to make these spaces inclusive and accessible to gender variant and trans folks. The LGBTQI community has been a place of great healing for me already, so to bring that dynamic to a women’s group creates more opportunities for much needed growth and exploration. Ultimately the only restriction I have put on any of my women’s groups was to request that cisgendered men not attend.

This brings up yet another crucial aspect of reconstructing a healthy sense of self for women and feminine folks; recognizing the need for and setting healthy boundaries within our interpersonal lives and communities. Women are socialized to put other’s desires before their own, and taught that social niceties are to come before needs. Creating a safe space for women is not about being accommodating, it’s about asserting our needs.

So women and feminine folks need to be in control of their healing processes and spaces, with boundaries and parameters that they can define, and be allowed to explore their issues and needs in a safe and supportive environment. An ally, profeminist, or friend would hopefully respect this. If a person is in a place in which they do not want to discuss their privilege, then they certainly should not be seeking to be included in a support group for people who need to processes their experiences of oppression. These groups are created with the intention of allowing a safe space for folks from an oppressed community to gather and have their own time, to be fully inclusive to the point of allowing members of the privileged group to engage would completely defeat the purpose.

Sometimes people need space to go through their own processes. Asking for such space is not an attack nor is it out of disrespect. It is simply a part of the healing process for some folks. After all it is man’s world, is it so much for  some women to ask for a little space to heal?

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