Sunday, March 15, 2015

Living the Spectra with Jaina Bee

A quarterly exploration of issues and events related to gender diversity in the context of a Pagan practice.

After a year of seeking out and announcing "trans*/pagan" events, I'm redirecting my focus toward this new series of posts wherein I share about my recent adventures and discoveries in service as a metagender member of CAYA Coven's clergy. I am hoping to include book reviews, interviews, events listings, event reports, and anything else that may enlighten and inspire those who, like me, value the wisdom and well-being of Pagans Beyond the Binary. Please let me know if there's anything you'd like me to check out. Blessed be!

Happy birthday, Kate Bornstein!

Pantheacon 2015: Seeking and Co-Creating Gender Variant Hearth & Hospitality

When I was very kindly invited to share what "metagender" means to me at the evening session of Dee Shull’s excellent roundtable discussions on gender diversity and safe spaces, I was speechless for a moment. Then I awkwardly stuttered through a paraphrasing of descriptions written by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, who was sitting right next to me. How could I be so nervous and shy in a room full of Pagans representing so many unconventional genders?

Because I'd never before been in a space where everyone was Pagan and no one was cisgendered. Because for the very first time, I was speaking to a crowd where I didn't have to deal with resistance to the idea of non-binary genders AND my Pagan practice was as accepted as my need to stay hydrated. I was speaking to "my people." It was a completely weird experience for me to feel so normal. I didn't know how to handle it.
Until I’d read PSVL’s Transmythology (mere months ago), I really didn’t have a satisfactory term for my own relationship with gender. I’d very casually been trying out genderqueer for a few years and half-heartedly considering “they” pronouns. For decades, queer has been my default identity on many fronts—sexual, gender, spiritual and just about any other part of my life that needed an adjective. All of the various terms I tried on fit me like off-the-rack garments from a discount store—parts of me did not squeeze into them and hung out awkwardly and often shamefully. Queer was my identity muumuu.
It was the story of Paneros that finally hit home.

Born of a MTF deity and an FTM deity, Paneros is the first non-binary deity of the group. Not half-male/half-female, like Ardhanarishvara or Hermaphroditos, but something else entirely. Meta means “beyond” and gender means “type.” (The character actors of the gender world, who cannot be typecast?) Paneros is much like a mirror to every individual e meets. Eir mother calls em “she,” eir father calls em “he.” Even the few who know what e is, such as eir grandfather Antinous, cannot speak eir name or pronouns until the child speaks them emself. Pushed to the edges of everything and beyond, the child finally releases all forms of sex and gender hatred from emself while simultaneously freeing their antidotes into the world. E is Paneros: ALL LOVE. (my synopsis is so bare and stilted, please read the original!)

So I’m reading this on a packed plane, laughing and crying and kissing the book and frantically underlining and circling and drawing stars and hearts all over the pages. After years of inklings and doubts, I’ve finally got some language that clears the air like a thundercrack. I finally know my name and my pronouns. I never knew what a difference that would make until it happened.

What I wished I could have said to that beautiful roomful of gender variant Pagans: metagender opens up uninhibited freedom to be myself; a one-size-fits-me label that is no particular gender but neither is it agender. It is a slippery, slithery gender that evades every attempt to define it; a trickster gender. (Every person in this conformist culture who does not identify with their assigned gender is forced in some way to become a trickster, even if they would not be otherwise. Metagender is trickster to the core.) Ask nine metagender people what metagender means and you'll get twelve answers. Wow, wouldn't it be amazing to be in a room with NINE metagender people!???!!

All of this is a rambling explanation of why Dee Shull's two round-table discussions (neither of which were in the main program, by the way) provided a desperately needed service at Pantheacon. When one finds oneself in a safe and hospitable space, deeper understandings and vaster opportunities open up. Many closeted Pagans experience this joyful feeling of inclusion and community by attending events such as Pantheacon. The conversations Dee facilitated brought forth the challenges and solutions we need to consider in order to expand that generous spirit to include currently marginalized members of our community. One wise and wonderful participant posted this excellent clarification of the essential differences between accommodating and providing accessibility.

In my explorations of gender-related issues, I have found the most useful language and questions in the words and works of our many brilliant Pagans of Color. In Bringing Race to the Table, Crystal Blanton drops this mindblower into our laps, "If the mainstream within Paganism is not cognizant of the effects of racism in the overculture, and does not become active in promoting a culture of change that is inclusive of people of color, then we should be honest that diversity is not our goal." Once you read that, you cannot unread it. Enjoy!

Many thanks to the Pandemos Hospitality Suite and to the Pagans of Color Hospitality Suite for opening their spaces to host these events! You lead the way with heart and soul.

With hospitality and safe, sacred space in mind…

CAYA Coven's newest ritual offering: Rainbow Moon Circle at The Sacred Well


Come As You Are to…
The Journeying Moon
Presented by CAYA Coven’s Rainbow Moon Circle
Saturday, April 4, 2015, 8pm
The Sacred Well
536 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-444-WELL
by donation—no one turned away for lack of funds

Join us for the inaugural rite of our newest moon circle to explore and honor gender diversity in ourselves, our communities, and in deity. We will Journey with the Hindu god, Hanuman—who is noted for his ardent devotion and trickster qualities of transformation— to find our healing powers within and dance with joy to celebrate each of our unique gifts. You are welcome to bring a contribution to cakes and ale, but most importantly— bring your beautiful self!

The Rainbow Moon Circle is a safe and sacred space for all to explore the spectrum of gender and identity. We honor the holistic experience of self-determined identity and its infinite intersections. We celebrate the glittering prism of Divine existence that is powerful, delightful,  enthusiastic, playful, transformative, magickal, compassionate, and reverent. We co-create rituals and hold space for supportive, loving community. We reflect and uphold the Mission and Vision of our shared CAYA Coven community.
The Rainbow Moon Circle offers rituals and sacred services which honor and celebrate the full spectrum of gender diversity.

Book Review

Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels

Justin Vivian Bond

2011; The Feminist Press; New York, NY

Told in v's signature chatty, witty, and astonishing style, Mx. Bond lays bare the most tender and quivering bits of a childhood that may or may not be as uncommon as some people think. Oh, it's certain v is a most unique individual—as a writer, a performer, and a fashion trendsetter—however, I am beginning to wonder if suburban neighborhoods are rife with children doing strange and unspeakable things to each other. Or maybe it reveals more about that bygone era of the mid-60's, when family members were protecting their privacy from the nosey neighbors rather than soliciting "Likes" from them on social apps. No one really knew what the kids were up to in that treehouse. Or if they did, no one was publishing a book about it. It seems that the adults of Hagerstown, Maryland always knew that there was something different about the chatterbox young 'un that would grow up to be an award-winning performer. Justin's beloved Pop-Pop called his grandchild "twinkle toes" with nothing but affection, but Mom threw a fit when she caught her 6-year-old son leaving for school wearing lipstick. All of us who grew up uncertain about living up to the gender expectations around us know how such inconsistency leads to second-guessing our every impulse— completely thwarting our childhood spontenaeity. Justin Vivian unpacks all these closets and more in v's little book.