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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wards & Shielding

As someone who was socialized as a woman, I've long been aware of the dangers that faced me due to my gender. I got a lot of what might be considered standard safety advice: don't walk alone at night, shout for help, don't leave your drink alone. And then I came out as genderqueer and faced a new host of gendered dangers. Questions I'd never had to ask myself before came up. Is the bathroom here safe to use? What sorts of clothes should I be wearing for the day? Should I try to pass? As what? Trans* folks of various stripes are intimately familiar with these questions. We're one of the most-targeted groups for hate crimes and we make thousands of safety/danger decisions every day.

The things we do to keep ourselves safe fall into three categories that I want to discuss today.

Visibility

When we choose visibility as a strategy to stay safe, we depend on the group. We march in Trans March. If we sense a problem, we duck into a store, head for a crowded area, or call the attention of other people we think will be allies. We come out. We let people know where we'll be. If we try to pass, we pass as the gender we are, rather than the one we're most likely to be perceived as. A transman binding his chest is choosing visibility. A crossdresser passing in public is choosing visibility. A genderqueer person who turns on someone following zir and says, loudly, "Stop following me." is choosing visibility.

In magical terms, I perceive visibility as light, illusion, and strength. I use light as part of my shields, as part of my personal magical safety network, when being seen will keep me safest. I incorporate light by taking deep breaths and connecting to the sun, seeing that light come down to me and fill up my aura, expanding to about three feet past my body. I use illusion as part of my shields when being what I am will keep me safe. I incorporate illusion by holding the clear image in my mind's eye of what I want to be seen as and infusing that image with energy. I use strength as part of my shields when being seen as stronger than others will keep me safe. I incorporate strength into my shields by visualizing myself as enshrouded in black with sharp silver spikes protruding. When you use any of these techniques, pick imagery that speaks to you.

Invisibility

When we choose invisibility as a way to stay safe, we disappear. We evade the notice of others. We retreat, we pay attention to exits. We lock the door. We lie, either outright or by omission, to people who might be dangerous to us about who we are, where we're going, and what we're going to do when we get there. A transman who wears bras and feminine attire at work is choosing invisibility. A genderfluid teen who tells their conservative parents they're going to a movie with some friends in order to attend the LGBTQ Film Festival is choosing invisibility. A post-op transwoman who doesn't discuss her past with one-night stands is choosing invisibility.

Magically, I associate invisibility with darkness, misdirection, and disappearance. I use darkness and disappearance together in my shields, usually when walking alone through a dangerous area or situation, by picturing a floor length black cloak on myself. I pull the deep cowl up, over my head, until my face is hidden and my body is wrapped entirely in it, and envision that I am slipping under the radar of anyone who means me harm. Misdirection in my warding practice looks a lot like the Star Wars "These are not the Jedi you are looking for" trick. Just as you might charge your aura with light to be seen, you can charge it with other, subtler energies. I put off a vibe of "probably not worth bothering with." Other variations include "you heard a sound/saw something from the corner of your eye in the other direction" and "I look like someone you wouldn't want to hurt."

Klaxons

Much more directly than visibility or invisibility, klaxons are when we sound the alarm. We scream. We call 911 or wave down a cop. We physically repel our attackers. We shout for help. We make noise, do something big and loud to draw attention to the fact that there is someone violent in the area. Klaxons are also when our own internal alarms start going haywire, alerting us to danger.

On a magical level, my klaxons are actual alarm systems. I use them two ways. First, I put up tripwires (laser beams, pyramids of cans, whatever works for you) outside where my personal energy ends. I lace my home, workplace, and anywhere I go frequently with them, keyed to my presence. These tripwires warm me when something bad is coming that I'm not picking up on yet. They serve as an advance warning system that I need to brace for something incoming. Second, I leave activated alarms right up against my skin. These are designed to go off if someone physically gets to me. As scary as it is to imagine, they are meant to work even if I'm unconscious. They blare the alarm at top psychic volume. People I'm magically connected to are most likely to hear my alarm, but nearby people also hear it, usually as a niggling sense that something is wrong. It has the opposite effect of invisibility, drawing people to see and hear that something is going on and tipping the odds that they will interfere in my favor.

I, and many others, are working for a world where we do not need to fear, where these ideas are interesting concepts that we have no personal need for. In the meantime, I use all of these techniques, in both mundane and magical ways, and I respect the right of all people to do so. We all have the right to be safe. I hope that some of what I have shared is useful to you.

Please leave comments, questions, and other feedback in the comments.