Tagged: spirituality

Because You Exist

And God saw every thing that He had made, and behold–very good!
Genesis 1:31

To the ones built a little different
Who know the taste of pillowcases soaked in saltwater
Who know the desperation of disappointed rage
That makes us wonder whether we should bother to live

Know that your difference is not meaningless
You are a sacred variation
The indigo glow of twilight
The world would be less beautiful without you

To the ones built a little different
Who’ve been called false, wrong, and so many other names
Know that your true name is Holy Vessel
And your true sound sings

Discard the rejection of confused beings
Hold the affirmation of this:
You exist
The Creator bestows no greater compliment

7 Questions For Transgender Spiritual Seekers

Reality radiating inward from Ein Sof (No End). Source.

For a long time now I’ve wrestled with a recurring question: What is the spiritual significance of being transgender? In my tradition, questions are more important than answers, so I respond to this question with more questions.

Each of these queries points towards possibilities in trans experience, lenses this life has offered me. This investigation is both intensely specific and ultimately universal. I ask about the spiritual meaning of being trans because it is a profound, formative, and raw experience for me. Any experience will do. Circumstances provide us all with doorways, superficially unique yet essentially identical, in that they all lead to the same place. Countless roads have one destination; all of reality empties into the Infinite. All tears, like all rivers, flow to the Sea.

  1. When society turns you away, where can you go?
  2. When axioms crumble, what remains?
  3. Who is this you, whom neither body, nor society, nor life history define?
  4. Who is the one who can accept the unacceptable, do the undoable?
  5. When you are on the outside looking in, where are you?
  6. When you lose everything, what do you have?
  7. When everything changes, what stays the same?

I Am A Cosmic Course Correction

It happens once in a long while, maybe in the steel hush of a winter morning or the live buzz of a summer night. It happens a few times in a generation, a realignment, pieces clicking into place. A different wind blows over the face of the waters. Wait, She whispers.

I am a cosmic course correction. I am a readjustment. I am the intelligence of the organism, searching for homeostasis.

Through wars and famines, exiles and migrations, we endure. Trauma twists us; loss contorts us. And we carry on, one step at a time, on the tightrope over oblivion. One false move and it all falls apart.

If they ask you for a miracle, reply, I am the miracle. If they ask you for healing, reply, I am healed. If they ask where you are going, say, I am here. If they ask where you have been, smile.

I am a balancing act, a rebalancing act. Unfinished creation, we are the artists of fulfillment. The glory of the world rests on our shoulders. We are the restoration.

Now I tremble at the hidden face of the Most Secret.

My Lord, I come to You as myself.

The 3 Things That Saved My Life

Moving forward in my counseling program, I find myself wondering what really helps people. Last night Alma asked me, “What helped you?”

How do people change? Why do some people overcome profound loss, abuse and tragedy, while other people just fade away? This is a particularly sensitive question right now as we watch a loved one struggle with serious mental illness and addiction. We both look back on our troubled younger years and see so many forks in the road where we could have taken a lethal turn–and didn’t. And so many others did. So what made the difference for me?

1. Relationships. I am blessed with an awesome family that has always supported me. I have always had good friends. Relationships are a double benefit. People were there to help me and talk to me, which was invaluable; and just knowing that they loved me was itself a powerful incentive not to hurt myself. Though I considered suicide many times, I never attempted to end my life–as soon as I thought about how I would do it, I thought about the people I would leave behind, especially my little brother.

2. Radical consciousness. I got into social justice at a young age, and it’s been endlessly valuable to me. I learned that just because you’ve been told you’re disgusting and worthless doesn’t mean you are. Society is often wrong. I learned how to see myself as in the same boat as other marginalized people. And I learned that respecting them meant respecting me, too.  I could sink really low, but pretty soon I’d see the injustice of it all, and then I’d get angry–and then I didn’t want to die anymore. Radical consciousness allowed me to adopt a stance of defiance instead of defeat.

3. Religion & spirituality. When things started to get really scary for me as a teenager, I retreated into my religion. I studied Jewish philosophy and kabbalah, and I talked Torah with rabbis ranging from Reform to Hasidic. I read about other religious traditions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. I saw myself at a crossroads, and I had a choice: the path of life or the path of death. I chose life, and clung desperately to every scrap of help and meaning I could find; for me that was God, and my tribe, and my tradition, and mysticism of many varieties. Religion gave me the sense that there is meaning in the universe, the sense of being connected to a tradition across place and time, and a rich repository of narrative and poetry to draw upon in times of need. Ecstatic experiences of awe made me feel life is really worth living. I embraced life as a quest for connection and truth.

So that’s what helped me. But does that really account for it? Through these three things, there is still something unexplained, an x-factor. I always sensed the meaning and value of relationships, radical consciousness, and religion; I was able to take advantage of them. I wanted to take advantage of them. Perhaps that is the key ingredient. But what is it? Did I really just help myself? Why was I able to? Is it will to live, random chance, hope, strength, luck, faith, genetic predisposition, destiny?

I wish that I knew.

Be Good To Yourself

Be good to yourself
Miss no chance for kindness
Neglect no small favors

You alone are the guardian of this sensitive being
Of this loving heart, fragile form, and many aches
Do not prolong pain when it may be soothed

Do not belabor anguish when peace is waiting
Never go hungry when food is available
Never overwork when the work can wait

Enough misery to last a lifetime
Will find you of its own accord
Why invite more?

For the task of life, try this:
Add no more pain to the universe
Begin with yourself

My Goal

My goal is to be present in my life.

My goal is not to be perfect.
My goal is not to avoid pain.
My goal is not to never make mistakes.
My goal is to be present in my life.

My goal is not to finish what I am doing.
My goal is not to have everything go as planned.
My goal is not to achieve goals.
My goal is to be present in my life.

My goal is not to be right.
My goal is not to be successful.
My goal is not to be comfortable.
My goal is to be present in my life.

My goal is not to change things.
My goal is not to solve problems.
My goal is not to get through the day.
My goal is to be present in my life.

My goal is not to do.
My goal is not to find.
My purpose is the purpose that is no purpose.
My goal is to be present in my life.

Since the purpose of life is to live, ask only, Am I alive?

Am I alive now?

Loving Broken Things

Primordial tragedy. The vessels of light that shattered and scattered into everything.

Once again I found myself contemplating the brokenness of the world. Sometimes I get engulfed by that bottomless grief. The ruined body of a hummingbird smeared across the asphalt with the dead leaves, styrofoam cups, and condom wrappers. A man with dead eyes staggering down my street with a needle still in his arm. Headlines. Teenagers beat two homeless men to death. Parents kick nine-year-old boy to death. Photographs of children killed in Gaza. Why, why, why.

And our own lives, our own bodies, all that lesser brokenness. I read that the ancient rabbis said it would be better for humans to never have existed, there is so much pain in the world. But since we do exist, they concluded, we must try to do good.

Why, why, why? Once again I found myself contemplating brokenness. And realized: No brokenness equals the disavowal of all imperfection. Broken things would have to be forbidden, a ruthless test imposed on all forms in the universe.

What is the greatest act of love of something broken? To forbid it, deny it, destory it, uncreate it? No.

The greatest act of love is to allow it to be. To cradle it, honor it, let the light fall upon it. What we call broken is held in the infinite embrace of Reality, no less than what we call good.

Brokenness, too, is a testament of love.

Opposite Of Opposites

But there is a magic aspect in abnormality and so-called deformity. Maimed, mad, and sexually different people were believed to possess supernatural powers by primal cultures’ magico-religious thinking. For them, abnormality was the price a person had to pay for her or his inborn extraordinary gift.

There is something compelling about being both male and female, about having an entry into both worlds. Contrary to some psychiatric tenets, half and halfs are not suffering from a confusion of sexual identity, or even from a confusion of gender. What we are suffering from is an absolute despot duality that says we are able to be only one or the other. It claims that human nature is limited and cannot evolve into something better. But I, like other queer people, am two in one body, both male and female. I am the embodiment of the hieros gamos: the coming together of opposite qualities within.

— Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera

The enforced boundary between male and female is among the deepest cuts in the human soul. How did that ancient play of opposites twist from a dance into something much more sinister? The dividing wall has become an idol, and you and I, the sacrifice. They have forgotten that wall once was a bridge.

They have forgotten the most important truth, the secret underlying everything: all opposites are one. Opposite pairs are interconnected, not mutually exclusive; allies, not enemies. Opposites complement, transform into and create one other.

And what of us? We are questions, dreams, possibilities. We have healed the war between the genders within our own bodies. Like the poles of a magnet, male and female are opposites with one source, one body, one life, wholly interdependent.

We are the promise of a new paradigm. We are the example of healing.

We must be for ourselves, or who will be for us? Yet we cannot only be for ourselves, or what are we? We have also come for them, the others, our sisters and brothers. The delicate glow of our light will heal them, too, if they can bear to see it. We have come to bring a thousand years of peace between men and women, if only they will make a little room for the rest of us.

We are only messengers; they shot us. We are doves of peace; they gutted and ate us. We are born in every generation, bellwethers of their compassion. They crush us, and only crush themselves. They try to snuff us out and they snuff out their own souls.

But there is another way. There is another way, and we must be her champions. It is the way of open hearts and open borders. Someday they may yet see us in their mirrors, and remember we were sisters and brothers once. Someday they may listen. Our voices will wash over the desert, and if the acequias run with blood, do not be afraid. It is only all the blood already spilled these 500 years convulsed with violence. Those tiny rivers will clog with brine, the tears of the dead seeping at long last out of the soil.

The light of love will wash that away; water will flow again. We will eat piñon and cactus fruit, and let doves be.

Then we will know, and we will remember. They are us, we are them.

Paradise is ours when all of us want it.

Border-Crossing Is A Verb

Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them. A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants. Los atravesados live here: the squint-eyed, the perverse, the queer, the troublesome, the mongrel, the mulato, the half breed, the half dead; in short, those who cross over, pass over, or go through the confines of “normal.”

— Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera

Before transition, I was a proud outlaw. People grimaced at me in the streets and were rude to me in restaurants. I guarded my heart closely, and I found solace in the knowledge I walked in a long line of rule-breakers, exception-takers, border-crossers.

In the crucible of my transformation to male, I hit a wall of resistance to this queerness. People began to smile at me and pat me on the back. I discovered the pleasures of easy social acceptance–life as a regular guy.

But a terrible fear gnaws at the edges of my good fortune. Suddenly I had a secret. The carpet of straight male privilege could be yanked away at any moment. Suddenly I had something to lose. Mixture of shame, disgust and gratitude at the new-found easy warmth of strangers. In a way, all their kindness was mine by accident. It was never intended for people like me, and it is constantly on the verge of leaving.

Within fear, the gnarled face of hidden resentment. Why me? Why this burden? There is nothing queer about me, I silently protested to a jury box of thoughts. There is nothing wrong with me, I really meant, and nothing especially peculiar in my essence.

And that is true. Trans people are a small share of the population. But there is nothing so strange about us, and certainly nothing bad or wrong. We are simply a few more shades in nature’s infinite palette.

It is the militarized perimeter between male and female that leaves us outcast. That arbitrary line drawn on the human body, a failed attempt to define us out of existence, to will us away like a bad dream.

I suppose we did cross the border, but it was the border that double-crossed us. Arbitrary, unjust, imposed and maintained through violence–that is the nature of borders.

I was born a little gender-variant human being. I wasn’t born a queer, a border-crosser or an outlaw. I was shaped that way by the sex/gender regime. I am a sloping hill carved by weather and time into a jagged cliff. My body is a crime; you can call me a criminal. Our violation is in the very word for us. Trans: across; gender: category. We are rule-breakers, exception-takers, logical impossibilities.

I am as I am. I was born a stranger in a strange land, and now I dwell in a land still stranger. I thought I could go home. But you can’t uncross the border. The crossing itself changes you. You can only cross, be crossed, and crisscross it again.

Hebrew, ivri, one from beyond
I find Sefarad in the heart of Aztlán
No state on the face of the earth is my home
My home is the One who goes where we go

Every Piece Of Chalk

Feeling numb to experience is caused by the false perception that you are caught in the wrong experience, as in if a predicament. This perception is caused in turn by the false belief that you need to pursue experience. You do not need to pursue experience. You are experience.

J. Jennifer Matthews, Radically Condensed Instructions for Being Just as You Are

Old hurts beckoned me and I went to them, searching the subterranean labyrinths of my heart. The memories come broken, twisting toward wholeness. I unlock their secret meanings and let them fly away. I have the sensation I am getting to the bottom of something. Age 12, staring hard at my face in the mirror, thinking, “When will I look like myself?” Unable to picture how that self might look. I think of myself as a depressed, insecure teenager, an overwhelmed 9-year-old. I think of myself now, a man with a transsexual body. I realize that for my whole life, my greatest dream has always been to be normal, to live a normal life. It seemed so out of reach. Then I get to the core of it, to the single thought that has tormented me so long. I’m not how I’m supposed to be. Sudden tears warm against my cheeks. Then, sudden laughter. It’s only what I know all over again. I am trans. To be trans is to know in your bones that something is very wrong–that somehow you were supposed to be different.

Everything is wrong, and nothing is. This is the truth of the experience–to remember the mistake over and over. I laughed then, giddy with freedom. I’m still trans; that’s all. In that moment a few weeks ago, I felt I had finally accepted it.

What is truth for the transgender person? The truth is we are really and truly trans. We’re weren’t supposed to be different. We are the ones who walk across/between genders. That is one journey our spirits make in this life.

Spiritual questions related to the artifice of the ego or self speak directly to the trans experience. But which self is false? As transsexual people we can get caught between competing false selves. We are haunted by twin ghosts: the cisgender son or daughter we were asked or forced to be, and the cisgender girl or boy we wanted to be instead.

The truth is that neither is us. We are real, and we really are trans.

I had a strange thought. Make no sense of it; it is a spiritual truth that defies ordinary logic. I thought, God must have really loved me to have made me trans. In that moment, I felt my transness as a beautiful gift from the eternal, an endless kiss, a point of encounter, the memory of wholeness, intimacy itself. It is no better and no worse than any other kiss. It is only the particular kiss that we receive, we few who meet life at this unusual angle. In some strange way, being trans is how I know I exist, since everywhere I go, there I am, trans again.

When I was small, whenever I broke a piece of chalk–a common occurrence that greatly distressed me–my dad would make it whole again. He would take the two pieces, hold them together, get very quiet, and then hand me back a whole piece of chalk. By some sleight of hand, he’d pocketed the shorter piece; I accepted the longer half as the whole thing. A whole piece of chalk.

Of course, it is a whole piece of chalk. Every piece of chalk is a whole piece of chalk. And goddammit, I am a whole piece of chalk too.