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In nineteen-seventy, I was nineteen, and if the truth be told, totally confused about almost everything.     The fear of nuclear annihilation that had been created in me when I was in elementary school had lingered on and melded into just another prickly paradigm of  my daily middle class existence.    My heroes had been systematically murdered by ‘establishment enforcers’ and it seemed that the nightmarish cloud of violence that descended on the nightly news from southeast Asia would go on forever.

I graduated from Col. White High Schoo, in Dayton, Ohio,   in 1969, and spent most of the time following my release from state custody dazed and confused. Not on drugs mind you, but as a result of thirteen years of informal culturally sanctioned brainwashing. by the state-controlled school system.

The unapologetic truth of my youth was that while so many of my peers were being shipped off to fight and too often die in the horror and inhumanity of Vietnam, I, by virtue of my 4-F status, had elected to attend the well known University of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll.     Back in those days-way, way back -in those bygone days of Hippiedom, and in response to the evil forces of war-for-the-sake of-it, a certain kind of perceptual  clarity was a freethinker’s  tool of paramount importance-a radical shift in perception that would provide  the anti-dote to the poison of party rhetoric.   Mind altering drugs and rock and roll music were a daily cathartic that allowed for a radical shift in personal values. And sex, well…who needed a reason?

I was a typical Midwestern child of the baby boomer generation born, raised in a typically Midwestern house in a typically Midwestern class neighborhood in a very Midwestern city.    And for most of my nineteen years, I had cheerfully swallowed the pabulum that was the American ideal. I didn’t smoke, drink or experience sex for the first time [a dismal failure at that] until I was eighteen years old.  Admitting that I led a sheltered life is an understatement.   I handed in my homework on time and rarely spoke with disrespect to my elders. For all who witnessed my slow maturation, I looked like the All American kid.  And I hated it.

For the uninitiated among you,  let it be known that to be perceived as chaste and wholesome, especially in that time, was tantamount to admission into Geekdom .   And as I teetered there on the brink of the lowest of lows-to be avoided at all cost, in the eye of my late adolescent storm,   I intuited that some kind of drastic personal metamorphosis would be required if I ever hoped to wipe the scales from my philosophical eyes.   Even so, I could not have imagined that my imminent date with destiny would forever alter my view of reality as I knew it.

My girlfriend, and future spouse were living in the converted attic of my family home.    The refurbished  decor  matched the style of the day-think of it as the Thrift store/Hippie look: colored, flashing light bulbs: strings of colored plastic beads: black lights and those beautiful fluorescent posters: a turntable [for those antiquated media known as records] with a stereo amplifier of dubious quality: and of course the requisite incense burner with accompany varieties of exotic perfumed sticks of incense. Edwin Starr was on the radio asking the most important question, and sadly still relevant today: “War!  What is it Good For?” ,  then answered his own question with a thunderous reply, “Absolutely Nothin’! “

On one poignant night that stands out so clearly in my memory despite the passing of more than forty years,   these elements of Hippiedom stood in a state of piquant readiness: records stacked in precise order of relevant themes: ashtrays strategically spaced:  multicolored, overstuffed pillows scattered about: and soft drinks ingeniously suspended from a windowsill in the chill of an early spring evening. The scene was set and the only thing needed to complement this auspicious moment was Rick.

Rick was my best high school buddy, fellow drummer, party pal cum college connection par excellent, and had proven very successful at procuring batches of some of the best mescaline available. Rick finally arrived with ‘THE STUFF’ and described it as something kind of new.    Rick said it was called ‘windowpane mescaline’ and seeing as how he had turned me on to ‘The Scene’, I generally trusted his word on matters of varieties of esoterica, otherwise  known as the purple, brown, orange, clear, chocolate in the form of microdots, barrels, pyramids, paper and cube ad-infinitude-of psychedelia, which  by any other name would stone you just the same.

Naive as I was and inclined to kick caution out the door in the valiant search for mind altering experiences,   I quoted a familiar suggestion from a Bob Dylan song, “Well, everybody must get stoned. Let’s trip,”      Rick carefully placed a tiny square of opaque plastic-like matter on the tip of my index finger, which I painstaking placed on the center-most  part of my tongue  . Then, there was nothing to do but wait for that characteristically slow, gentle  onset of the mellow sensory experience that typified a mescaline high.

In just minutes though, I felt my nervous system begin to throb and hum with the deep pulse of the universe.    I imagined myself aboard a cosmic supertrain departing Planet Earth, sucked off the tracks of reality as I had known it and plunged into hyperspace. Warp factor was soon achieved. Overcome by tidal waves of pure energy, I lay down on the floor for fear of being ripped  from my body and absorbed into a cosmos of pure light. As matter dissolved into magnificent, multi-colored  patterns of swirling light, I closed my eyes and felt the core of my being more alive than I thought possible. At that moment I experienced a freedom-frightening as it was-that I hitherto could not have conceived. Waves of cosmic bliss flowed through and around me until no separation existed between my ‘self’  and the energy that gave me form. In other words, the ‘me’  which I known for all of my life  as a separate living, breathing entity had  ceased to exist.

At that moment, as my rational thought process evaporated into Nothingness, I realized with profound conviction that this was definitely not a mescaline trip. In an effort to confirm my suspicion, I opened my eyes to use an archaic, yet time tested method to measure the potency of the trip. Still lying on my back, on the floor of my little room I moved my hand in a wide semi-circle to observe the quality and quantity of the trails of refracted light created by my fingers as they moved slowly across the ceiling,   I witnessed with complete amazement a dazzling torrent of neon rainbow streamers issuing from five glowing points of light at my fingertips.   I tried with great effort to speak, but my mind was occupied by revelations from the great Cosmos as at a depth of perception that defied description.

The two little six-by-nine inch speakers, which had seemed so insufficient only a few  hours before when preset to a very low volume, now sounded so loud and pure and brilliant that, had I been able to speak, I would have sworn that my ears was pressed hard against Jimi Hendrix Marshall amp. Time slowed to a crawl, then became irrelevant…inconsequential.   As I reached the peak of my experience, my eyes were engorged with  a radically expanded light spectrum of awe inspiring magnificence. Deep, rich hues of light energy flowed and pulsed, infusing the ambiance in perfect cadence with the throbbing, jungle rhythm of rock and roll.

Synchronicity had been achieved in a way that continues to inform me regarding the true nature of the universe.  Looking back, I am convinced by the profound nature of that experience that  I was privileged to witness a very brief, yet life altering glimpse into the nature of material reality at its most elemental level. At the innocent age of nineteen, I had seen and felt the underlying, unifying principle of our common reality. The universe had been revealed to me as vibratory in an essential way that words, by their limited  nature, can not possibly convey. And within the context of these revelations, some mysterious transformation had begun within me.

Looking back, I see this first of many psychedelic experiences as my first tentative step on the path to knowledge, with no possibility for a return to innocence. This powerful new agent of radical conscious change was of course not mescaline. Rick had made a little mistaken in identification no doubt based on the word of a fellow cosmic traveler.This particular little chemical entity was known as LSD-25  [ Lysergic Acid Diethelamide.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LSD%5D

Across the dimensions of time and space, there are many among people-the saviors and the saved, the redeemers and the redeemed, and the self proclaimed, self righteous anti-drug warriors-fearful, evil, mindless twits-with no experiential knowledge upon which they might legitimately reference, who will gladly contradict the positive values of the LSD experience.     D.A.R.E and The Partnership for a Drug Free America are two classic examples which typify this sort of neo-fascist attempt at mind control on a grand scale.

These days in the ‘Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave,   very little opposition is heard to balance the full weight of the massive anti-drug campaign injected into our consciousness by means of the GovCorp mass media propaganda machine. No doubt the truth is out there somewhere, but without the aid of this powerful psychedelic we may never find our way home.   I do not advocate the widespread use of LSD, aka Acid nor a return to glory days of the Sixties, though its radicalism is sorely missed in the present state of geo-political repression.

And yet I do intend, with the full weight of my personal knowledge and experience, to contradict the propaganda of those powerful, well monied anti-drug cartels,  with the provable assertion that in a historical, cultural context responsible drug use by capable  individuals has been the rule rather than the exception in its potential to benefit humankind. To heal the body, to inform the spirit, and to promote enlightenment, hallucinogens remain our benevolent allies throughout human history.

This consciousness raising entity known as LSD is technically a neutral  chemical compound without an intention of it own. The danger it poses is that of its potential  revelatory nature in that it shines a bright light on the contents of human consciousness. When Leary told us all to “Turn on, tune in and drop out”,  he became an advocate of change at the deepest level where-through a chemically assisted exploration of our psyche-we might begin the process of achieving psychological autonomy. Further, I will state unequivocally that any government , church or other authoritarian agency who assumes the right to dictate the direction or modality of individual or collective  human consciousness presents a far greater danger to the notion of conscious autonomy than any hallucinogenic substance available.      I  am neither proud, nor ashamed to say that I have employed many mind altering substances, both legal and illegal, for more than forty years with the only apparent negative effects manifested as a reasonable fear of authoritarian governments who enact legislation based on their assumption that I am not capable of making decisions regarding my own drug related safety while continuing to sell me dangerous pharmaceuticals with the potential to kill me.

History does prove that many therapeutic and beneficial drugs owe their illegal status to the tendency of the state to habitually forbid its subjects access to the self knowledge that might liberate them through a greater understanding of the mechanisms of power and control which seek to dominate culture. In this sense prohibition reserves and allocates the most effective of these mind expanding drugs for use by the dark forces that continue to guide us down a gloomy road of self-contained fear and ignorance.

The desire to nurture, and maintain the the internal flame of enlightenment remains the responsibility of the seeker. To accept this reality…this illusion of LSD as a dangerous drug  at face value is to continue to submit to the grand illusion of the conditioned mind. When one realizes that  the question becomes the answer, then you become the teacher, and achieve psychological autonomy-which I consider a prerequisite for all human beings on the path to self-realization. The road to ourselves is a lifelong journey, and to be successful, the individual must be free to choose the tools of their personal enlightenment based on their need and effectiveness. To accept any external authority who would limit our ability to journey inward is to submit to tyranny of the most insidious kind.

If you feel the calling to employ psychedelics on your path toward enlightenment, please be judicious by first practicing right thought and action. Use your mind to its fullest capacity to make this decision. These tools are not for everyone. Many other avenues exist in our search for inner truth. Whatever you choose to use on your path,I wish you the best, with the hope that your search inevitably leads you the light that shines within.

I send you vibrations of peace and love with one final caveat:

REALITY IS FOR THOSE WHO CAN’T HANDLE DRUGS?

The subject of this rant is Wal-Mart. I hate Wal-MART  [http://www.walmart.com/].  To me it is representative of decline of the American economy.  . The reason behind those low prices is outsourcing, a euphemism for removing the means of production from this country and relocating them to totalitarian states where people have very few choices regarding their acquisition of capital. This is apparently irrelevant to the American consumerist society Based on the U.S. economic policies of the last three decades, the opportunity to buy really cheap stuff is way more important to us than the lives of a couple of Chinese folks run over by tanks for demanding democracy in Tienneman Square.

 Based on my own interviews with a random sampling of Wal-Mart employees, most respondents claimed to enjoy their jobs as much if not more than having their nose hairs plucked out one by one. Incidentally Big Wally carries a tool a tool just for that . Buy one get one free. The tool that is, not the nose hair.A quick check of certain related online sites indicates that there are at least thousands of disgruntled employees ready and willing to share their job related misery with their lawyers and anyone who cares. Last year thousands of women brought a class action lawsuit against the WalMart.

 Last week with the onset of a serious Twizzler jones -I desperately needed the two-pound professional Twizzler pack  [http://www.walmart.com/ip/Twizzlers-Strawberry-Licorice-2-lb/15686619]  so I gave in to my hedonistic desire. Assuming the glazed visage of a frequent WalMaRT shopper, I shuffled across the endless, melting tarmac, dodging shopping carts of sweaty, sticky sullen shoppers, past the somnambulist greeters and the other blue smocked employees, mooing and braying up and down blandly innocuous isles of generic consumables, gizmos and watchamacallits searching in vain for something…anything made in the good ole U.S.A. At my wit’s end, a location with which I am much too familiar, I decided on a most dubious solution. Against probability and all my instincts, I decided to ask a clerk for directions to the junk food aisle. When I got tired of chasing  blue-smocked employees around the store, I grabbed a jump rope from the toy department and used it like a bolo. An assistant manager went down with the grace of water buffalo. As he lay there gasping for air, I asked politely if the SupermegaWalBeast sold one thing …anything made in this country , he simply gurgled and nodded toward the gum.

 Walmart and its attendant economic philosophies epitomize the last stages of capitalism. Goodbye free market economy, competitive wages -many Wal-Mart employees, especially single working mothers are on public assistance and cannot even afford the company insurance plan- local industries, rural character, clean air [see traffic projections for the next decade], beautiful, bejeweled starry nights and all hope for resurgence of American determinism.  Sadly while we console ourselves with well founded discussions of the merits and demerits of this behemoth run amuck, our options are illusory. Wal-Mart will come. There is little we can do about it and you may thank the Supreme Court., While we pondered the aspects of the latest celebrity on trial, the Supreme Court  ruled by a margin 5-4, that local governments have the right to seize private property and give it to other private owners, so long as it is in the “public interest”, another euphemism meaning corporate dictum.

 As for me I will adhere to the famous quote by the famous statesmen Patrick Henry, who said “I know not what course others will take, but as for me, give me liberty or….hey wait a minute. Is that a Wal-Mart? I need an albatross so bad I can taste it.”.

Rosie Schneider

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From the Mind of a Radical Humanist–[aka. April Rose Schneider]

Greetings from the Far Reaches, where the men are macho, and the sheep are nervous. I am April Rose-Trans author, activist, iconoclast and agent provocateur. And I’m proud to be here as a contributor to the premier issue of Proud Times but with a caveat: I’m a fly in the ointment…a dissonant note in an otherwise beautiful chorus…and a pimple on the ass of the conformist society. In otherwords, I am a troublemaker. If I had a rabble I’d be quick to rouse them. So be forewarned: I detest political correctness in all of its pervasively shallow, dogmatic, debilitating urges to qualify, quantify and otherwise restrict the full expression of our human-ness. If diversity is the color of the rainbow, political correctness is color of mud.

Rather than promote a personal identity, I eshew the concept of the fixed persona, much of which is purely the result of unconscious, involuntary cultural conditioning. This sort of calculated obtuseness invariably places me at odds with so many others who walk the Trans path where the movement from one extreme of the male-female paradigm to the ‘opposite’ end is de- rigueur for so many Trans folk. But for reasons unknown, and in consideration of the possiblity that my mom dropped me on my head as a baby, I got the whole thing backwards.

Over the course of my plus sixty years on the planet as aTrans person, my perspective has moved from polar extreme to the center. Picture that ubiquitous symbol for Yin Yang which, to most people, represents the male/female duality. See that tiny little black line that separates the black and the white? That’s where I live-The Abyss, the Void…the place of pure undifferentiated spirit.

Thus in search of an all inclusive description of my perspective, I call myself a Radical Humanist, a label that serves two very important functions. First, it assigns me to the only group identity that describes the entirety of my existence. Secondly it draws a distinct line between me and organized religion which I consider the enemy of human potential. One can only imagine the immense contribution of human potential lost to the historically documented, violent repression of diversity by organized religion everywhere.

Every human being born, past and present, represents a brilliant spark of divine life. Our personalities or identity combine predetermined gentic influences with a powerful, relentless program of sociological imperatives that shape our identity and the course of our lives in myriad mysterious ways. This refers to a paradigm traditionally known as Nature versus Nurture, though more precisely we are Nature bullied, subdued and re-formed by Nurture. And the main tool of oppression is so basic, so effectively built in to our social conditioning that we rarely consider its creative power. I call this tool is ‘agreement’.

Through our agreements to the conditions of our survival, we become, perform, behave, and are rewarded for ‘appropriate behavior’. Here is the genesis of the virus that corrupts the human spirit. Profoundly influenced by the superficial nature of perception, consciousness is easily seduced into dualistic thinking by language which creates a false duality. Words set up a dichotomy which implies the existence of the absolute: black and white, good and bad, hot and cold and of course the first and foremost of these….man and woman.

Concepts outside of this duality-like homosexuality or Transsexualism-receive far less agreement. Thus this imposed dream of dualism presented me, as a young trans person with a linguistic, performative conundrum which could not be resolved in a social context. Without the words to describe myself, I wandered alone in a fearful, neurotic limbo, the pain of which would only be lessened with drugs and alcohol.

As a human with basic education, I know what defines male and female -the presence of specific genitalia. But as a Trans Woman, I have no idea how to define man or woman. No absolute exists which clearly defines the the two groups despite the linguistic persistence of the concepts. Now comes my personal medicine, and my power as a self identified Two Spirits person : Having traveled from one polar extreme to the other, I now stand with one foot on yin and one on yang and peer into the void and see a vision Ifeel compelled to share with you.

We are one spirit…one being manifesting as beautiful, diverse wildflowers in the field of life. The same beautiful sun shines down upon us all. Our bodies, our language and the distance between us may lend credence to the illusion of separation so often exploited by politics and religion,but this is the BIG LIE that perpetuates our loneliness and isolation. The truth, and the path to our salvation lies in the realization that we are one race of human beings sharing one planet.

What empowers you empowers me. That which imprisons you imprisons me. That which diminishes you, and what lifts you up does the same to me. The universal binding force that has the power to save us, all of us, is love. Without love, we die. How we love, whom we love, the clothes we wear to invite love stand incidental to what the heart requires.

Love is the medicine that will heal a fractured world, so here is your prescription: Love yourself completely, without judgment, without reservation…without condemnation. And if you persist this love will flow outward from your heart-erasing superficial boundaries and healing the fractures between us. And you will begin to see what I already know. I am you. You are me.

WE ARE ONE

Image

My Angel Love

My Angel

April Rose Schneider

Nineteen-eighty was, for me, the culmination of three decades of chaos and misery. The wages of life as a closet transexual had left a typical wake of ruination. Friends, families. jobs, and self esteem turned flotsam in the stormy sea of my gender dysphoria. Even according to my devalued standards my life was a sham The decade of the seventies had be an exercise in failure and humility in which I had burned tenuous bridges using drugs and alcohol as implements of destruction. I had arrived at a place in my life where there was little else to live for, or so I thought. Regarding my love affair with alcohol, it was a small miracle that I wasn’t in prison. Drinking and driving, that was my specialty

By the spring of 1980 I spent most of my time in a pool hall in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida trying with every beer I guzzled to figure out what to do with the disaster I called my life. In a concerted effort to survive, I had become a master of the disguise. Anyone who saw me sitting in the sordid place would have typecast me as just another beer drinking, pool playing, rock and roll biker type. I had long hair, a beard. and bad teeth. I wore dirty jeans, a cutoff t-shirt and carried a knife purely for the sake of image. I donated plasma and used the money to buy beer. A 29 year old drifter, I had no friends no money, no job and no prospects. My life was rapidly gaining tragic overtones but with my flair for drama I was adjusting nicely. I would be the tragic muse whom no one cared to understand, quietly drinking my way to a sad demise. . In the program of Alcoholics Anonymous this is referred to as the jumping off place. I didn’t know it then but I was standing on the precipice of my very own doom…staring into the abyss

In the dark, smoky confines of my favorite bar, I sat often and stayed late. My goal was solitary pursuit of a level of intoxication that would enable me to forget the folly of my tortured existence. On a typically balmy night in April of 1980, I had hitched a ride to my favorite bar with a couple of friends. I had one thing and only one thing in mind for the duration: to get blotto. It wouldn’t be easy with the amount of money I had to my name but I love a challenge. I took my seat facing the door and ordered my first beer.

 

 As a caveat, I should say that by this point in my decline that I had become a confirmed atheist. I held closely to the infamous quote by W.C. Fields; “ Everyone believes in something, I believe I’ll have another drink”. What I didn’t believe in was the existence of miracles. Or angels. I vehemently rejected the whole concept as the province of addle brained zealots scrounging for good press. And even if good things did happen to certain religious types, they would never happen to me. I was beyond redemption.

I was on my third beer when an angel walked into the bar. Admittedly a most unusual place for angel, I would have missed her completely had I not been vigilant. To be very honest she didn’t look like an angel. That realization was to come much later. On that particular night she blazed through the front door with a vengeance and headed straight for some guy sitting at the end of the bar. Uh-oh I thought, here comes trouble. Turned out it was just her cousin. When the dust settled, I realized that I was hypnotized by her essence. I couldn’t keep from watching her.. I was intrigued by her fiery spirit….. and the palest Florida skin I had ever seen barely covered by a hot pink, mid-thigh length spaghetti strap sun dress.. I watched with amusement as the act played itself out and eventually she left the bar but stuck in my mind..

Three days later she came back and I was still there, leaning against the juke box rippin’ a funky solo on my beloved air guitar. Our eyes met and later in the bliss of an alcoholic haze we struck up a casual conversation. We discovered mutual acquaintances among the local riff- raff .Otherwise I cannot recall one tiny sliver of the conversation we had that night. But I do know that nothing I could have said should have caused her to trust me as much as she eventually did. Had I been in her place I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have trusted me. Desperate for a ride as I was I imposed on her with no other motive than to get home. Adventurous young thing that she was, she gave in without a fight. She fell asleep behind the steering wheel two blocks from the bar and I drove the rest of the way from the passenger seat. A few more drinks at my place and we gratefully passed out. The following day brought a welcome surprise. We liked each other sober… enough to spend the day together. And the day turned to weeks, the weeks to months and months to years.

Thus began one of the most wondrous love stories never told. For one must delve beneath the  shallow facade of political correctness that permeates modern culture to appreciate a love so unique, sotranscendent. Ours is a love that surpasses the ties that bind “ordinary’ couples. Beyond the familial, defiant   of the authority of church and state, and despite the finite limitations of the gendered bodies we inhabit, our love is the embodiment of spiritual love. And this is my tribute to that mystical, ineffable force that binds us beyond the limitations of time and space To the special one who shares my heart, my joy, my sorrow and my life. For I am only a transexual with all the rotten smelly baggage that is de rigueur for the gender dysphoric But the light and the love of my life is so much more. Indeed she is friend, lover, and confessor. An angel who loves beyond my flesh

Within the edgy borders of the ever changing geography of our relationship, sex has never been paramount.. We were friends from the very start. She was nineteen, weighed ninety-two ringing wet pounds and had recently extricated herself from an abusive relationship. I still remember the way she would flinch every time my hand came near her face. I was a twenty nine year old drifter generally too drunk to get it up even if I wanted to and I rarely wanted to. I was a miserable failure at playing a man and the many losses had taken their toll on my desire My urge was only to protect her from predators of the human variety.. It was maternal instinct that guided me and nothing else .

I was astonished to find out that she had never really been out of the state of Florida. Her parents had been advocating a change of environment for the sake of her mental health.. We hitch hiked to Ohio only weeks after we met. It was my idea. I took it upon myself to test her mettle and she came through with flying colors. Just as I had surmised, she was a tough little package with plenty of moxie.

When we returned to Florida, I bought a nineteen seventy- six Plymouth station wagon for seventy-five dollars. . I had lived in California in the early seventies and fallen in love with the place. I suggested we take a trip and use the road the get acquainted.. There’s nothing like adventure to put things in perspective and light a fire to the soul. She agreed but I’m quite sure in retrospect that she got a lot more than she bargained for..

 

 

We had only made as far as the panhandle of Florida when the alcohol kicked in and guilt forced me to confess that I “ liked to wear women’s undies‘. This was akin to saying that there is some water in the ocean.. She seemed to be okay with it but we were pretty drunk that night. Actually we were drunk for about three years. After three years with adequate motivation, a person can adapt to just about anything. After we had been in California for a couple of months, she started to notice that the nail polish I wore surreptitiously, never came completely off. She remained unperturbed .and our love continued to flourish.

We quit drinking together in nineteen eighty-three and by the late eighties we were living in Jacksonville, Florida. I was cross dressing with a vengeance but it was never an issue between us. At least as long as it was our little secret. In nineteen ninety-two I acquired Grave’s disease, an autoimmune disease of the thyroid, and began a slow descent into madness. For a couple of years I underwent severe temporary personality disorder and it put a serious strain on our relationship It was at this pivotal point during the height of my affliction that I realized that keeping a secret had caused me to become dis-eased. I finally faced the truth that I had ran from all my life. I was a male to female transexual. I knew intuitively that staying in the closet was no longer an option.

We began an ongoing discussion of our relationship from every conceivable angle. As these nightly deliberations continued, fourteen years of true love lay bare on the kitchen table. I realized in a nanosecond that I had few options from which to choose. I was back at that metaphorical jumping off place courtesy of fate’s little peccadillo. I would be virtually back in the same straits as the day we had met. This realization was somewhat comforting. Angst ridden transexual that I was I had always secretly envisioned an early suicide with a dramatic flair. As the nightly discussions dragged on ad infinitum, I began to lose hope. I felt the love that had become the fabric of my life begin to shred. Things looked bleak. I prayed to the patron saint of transexuals, Our Lady of Perpetual Suffering.

During the next night’s discussion I played the last card I had. In a move no doubt designed to salvage what little dignity I had left. I told her that I understood her predicament as well if no better than she did. The life of a transexual is a psychological minefield. The life of a spouse of a transexual is equally problematic. I told her that I loved her deeply for the time she had spent supporting me. I told her that I loved her so much that I didn’t want her to suffer anymore. I said I was giving her freedom and would love her no matter what. We cried rivers of tears together.

Now so many years later, I drift back in time to that day back in nineteen-ninety four when my happiness hung in the balance for one terrifying moment. I casually ponder the implications of a darker outcome of those intense nightly discussions. Clearly I see how love, in human form, saved my life. For without love, my life would be as barren and cold as arctic tundra.

We have been married now for thirty-two years. She says that an epiphany caused her to realize that if I was willing to let her go then I truly did .love her deeply. And that she always knew I was “different’ She tells me I’m beautiful and I pretend that I believe her. In 2001, she supported me as I worked, saved and flew to Bangkok for SRS She graciously accepts the monumental lifestyle switch from heterosexual to lesbian These days we kiss only in private. . She says that’s the hardest part.

And so it is that today I am a woman transformed– a convert. saved by the grace of a love beyond my understanding… a non-believer with a value system make over. A reluctant wayfarer stumbling blindly down life‘s rocky road, where I found an angel to help share my load..

.

From a former web page project…Called ‘Awaken From  the Dream’ [of conditioned personality]

Hi!   I’m April Rose….A human being.

First I will dispense with the requisite self-promotion, and try to make this presentation  as painless as possible. A  partial description of my life, a kind of biography-lite if you will, entitled ‘A Rose in Bloom’ was published in a soft cover anthology entitled
“Finding the Real Me: True Tales of Sex and Gender Diversity”  published in 2003 by Jossey-Bass and edited by  Tracie O’Keefe and Katrina Fox.

But there’s much more to this story than that 5000 word synopsis of a ‘boy trapped in a little girl’s body.’  On these pages, drenched with the blood, sweat and tears of perhaps the first self-proclaimed, full time Trans philosopher, writing  without the benefit of respectability conferred by a long list of meaningful initials-although my therapist/friend/muse Ms. Lotta Hope says I would have a PHD in Transsexualism if such a thing existed-you  will find the  lessons lived, and the wisdom gained from a life spent in the shadow of a culture terminally infected with the virus of dualistic thinking.

Sometimes I’m surprised I’m still alive. I was born into the repressive sexist culture of the 1950′s. The now infamous Stonewall Rebellion-which marked the emergence of the gay liberation movement-was more than a decade away. Effeminate men and butch women lived in closets of carefully constructed lies designed to protect them from the savage, often violent reaction of extreme homophobia. Transexuals were unknown to the general population. People who strayed too far into the forbidden zone of cross gendered dress or behavior were condemned as mentally ill.  Even today as we enter the second decade of the 21 rst century, the condition of being transgendered is defined by the diagnostic bible of the psychiatric establisment, the DSM [Diagnostic and Statiscal Manual],  as a mental illness. And the assertion is not without merit. In the broadest social context condition, transgenderism is so viral that it frequently causes  mental instability in the conventionally gendered, resulting in a wide range of violent behaviors directed at the slightest hint of transgendered behavior.

In the language of the medical model, I am a post operative male to female transexual, although  my use of the term transexual  refers specifically to the fact that my physical being has changed from mostly male to mostly female.  I did not hear the words TWO SPIRIT  until I was in my mid-forties, yet on a deeper level of awareness, as my being emerged from the subconscious soup of infancy, I sensed a profound, yet undefinable contradiction about myself. I could see two halves of my self like a deep fissure in heavy crystal, but I could not touch them. In the confusion, I was compelled to keep a safe distance from this  misplaced body and I began to drift, hovering outside of myself, as an observer,,, as the other.  By the age of ten, I was convinced that some horrible cosmic mistake had occurred.

Eventually, I found the visual evidence of this incomprehensible contradiction the first time I looked in the mirror, around age seven, and did not recognize the person looking back. A persistent sense of me/not me confronted my awareness every time I went to the looking glass.  As this sense of psychic rupture emerged and persisted, I experienced an acute sense of panic that remained with me for many years.  During this most crucial period of personality formation and integration, in the grip of profound trauma,  my young self floundered on the edge of spiritual disintegration.

Like  pebbles dropped into clear calm waters of my being,  the resultant  waves of confusion and pain would eventually touch all the shores of my being for many decades to come.  I became lost in a chaotic realm where  personality development wasn’t an option-but mere psychic survival was a challenge. The implications of this developmental glitch on my mental stability were, and continue to be  far-reaching.  This sense of depersonalization that engulfed me eventually pushed me to the brink of an abyss of psychic dissolution.

As disturbing as this realization was to me on a personal level,  the societal implications were equally daunting.  By the age of fourteen,  I had internalized so much shame that I wanted to die.  There was no one like me in the world.  I wasn’t a round peg in a square hole, I wasn’t a peg at all. But how could this be? What was this sense of self that was I was so defective that I would rather die than reveal my horrible truth to anyone-especially the people who held my young fate in their hands, my parents. This dark matter of complete abandonment remains with me to this day,  though disempowered by my intention to make friends with it as a useful component of my consciousness. But I am getting ahead of myself.

In a supreme effort to escape my miserable fate, I failed at every manner of risk taking behavior, including drinking and driving, taking almost any drug that passed before me, putting the barrel of my .357 Magnum in my mouth, hitching thousands of miles, taking rides from anyone, stumbling through the night, on the dark streets of human misery. Along the way, I lost four decades of friends, family,  human experience and a male disguise that I had grown to love.

As I reached my late twenties, I felt myself dying spiritually. My sense of victimization was so great that I fell into deep depression and despair. My life force had dwindled to a thin thread of hope. In my hometown of Dayton, Ohio. I had become an embarrassment to my family. So they donated a car, a 1967 Chevy Impala station wagon, and waved happily as I departed for San Francisco. Ten miles out, I stopped to shave, apply make up put on a dress and buy beer.  Lookout San Fran. Here come da Tranny.

I was going to the Bay City, with just enough money for gas, to find an infamous transexual therapist, Laura Cummings, whom I’d met there in 1971. But Laura was charging $125.00 an hour, and had no time for us lowly non-chromosomal transsexuals. And from that point, it was all down hill. I drove around San Francisco looking for a $35.00 room. Rube that I was, I found myself lost in the Mission District looking for a safe place to hide-much like a bleeding mackeral seeking respite in a shark tank.

The first night there, upon the manager’s request, I parked my car in the back lot of the building. In the morning, everything of value that I’d brought with me for a “new start” had been stolen. Twenty five years of pictures, clothes, make up…every material thing I owned. Gone. The second night the manager, who apparently thought I was gay, tried to seduce me.

Here was my bottom, my life was a personal pit of suffering that I thought I should end for everyone’s sake. No more would I be persecuted by a cruel world. My moment had arrived. Wait till THEY found out what I had done. They would be sorry. Finally all of my suffering had provided me with a temporary identity of sorts- not my first choice for an identity-but better than none .  At last, the role I was destined to play. I’ll PLAY THE VICTIM..

Fortunately life, or spirit, does yield to the expectations of drunk transexual girls. I remember the day that I stopped being a victim with startling clarity. I was at the end of a 29 year old rope that was fraying badly at both ends and the in middle. Standing on the Golden Gate Bridge without hope, full of despair and vodka, I yearned only for the courage to jump to my death.

Then as I stood transfixed by the mental image of my body floating down from the bridge to the bay, a most curious shift of perception infused my consciousness. A voice in my head, a loving voice spoke to me and said, “You have still have choices.  Make a different one. The end is the beginning.” In a moment a subtle shift had occurred. The end is the beginning? I was so confused by this metaphysical moment that I wandered off the bridge in a daze. I have since come to view this life saving incident as an encounter with shamanic power- a mysterious power beyond my grasp, that  demonstrated a principle so profound that I have studied it since and made it the foundation of my being.  I call it “The Dream Principle.”

From that moment on the bridge to this one,  I have dedicated my life to the liberation of all sentient beings, especially my fellow transgendered humans. The blessings of the transgendered life is that we come to know suffering from the two polar perspectives: Yin and Yang. This awareness of the transcendent nature of suffering expands our potential for compassion beginning with ourselves–for we must first offer to ourselves that which we intend for others before we begin to appreciate our lives for the courage, strength and integrity that we embody as unique human beings.

And so, I offer you, brave reader, this, my Two Spirits Medicine.

Namaste

My “official” trans-gendered transition began in 1994 in Jacksonville, Florida.  The year of 1995 found me relocating,  perhaps fleeing is a more honest appraisal, from Florida to Albuquerque, N.M. in an effort to escape the oppressive effects of the bible belt mentality.   There  is also some intangible weirdness that develops when one begins gender transition right in front of the people who knew us in our  disguises . Somewhere in that strange murky, grey space I lost much of my past.    Suddenly the people I had hoped might at least join me in my struggle to be myself had all disappeared.    Their absence  left a large hole in my heart .
I  lived in Santa Fe for a couple of years in the mid-eighties and had fallen in love with the land and it’s quirky denizens.   The more I thought about it, the more it called to me.   It whispered of star filled nights and safe haven.   I inexplicably knew that I was being drawn to this enchanted land the way a moth is drawn to the light.    As I contemplated this latest dogleg on my spiritual path,  I began to look forward to returning to such a unique and culturally diverse place.   My destiny awaited me in that beautiful desert and knew that I must go.
As careers go, prior to 1994 I had been employed more times than I could recall.   I lost count at one hundred fifty.   I had done quite a few things that I’m sure I repressed due to trauma of doing men’s work and pretending to like it.  There’s just so much a  transexual can take before a  meltdown.   I mean, my god I had dirt under my nails for years! Can you imagine?    Oh it was HORRID!
The year 1995 was a chaotic time of sorting packing, saying goodbye and watching my breasts intently for the first sign of expansion.   By 1996 I had settled in Albuquerque and faced the daunting prospect of finding work as a transperson.   The first thing I noticed was the lengths people went  to hide their emotional reaction while trying to figure out how to  dismiss me.   The second thing I noticed was how many people dismissed me.

Between nineteen-ninety six and nineteen-ninety nine, I was most often employed as a caregiver in the field of developmental disabilities..I enjoyed the many challenges it had to offer and  resigned  myself to making seven dollars an hour in service to those less fortunate.   Eventually I became aware of an opportunity to work with troubled, at risk youth.   I grew excited at the prospect of  interacting at this emotional level. Who is better equipped to deal with this adolescent angst than a wordly transexual with a firm grasp and control of her own anger, I reasoned.
As I began my preparation for what I hoped would be  a fruitful interview, I allowed myself to feel really positive for the first time in a long time.   I had good reason to feel confident,.   I had prepared a portfolio of all job interiew prerequisites; a verifiable work history in a related field, excellent references, related training courses etc.   I even passed a drug screen, something I had passionately eschewed for my entire life adult life.  Such was the sacrifice I was prepared to make.  Things were looking up.   Maybe this new life wasn’t going to be as tough as I thought.   So  on the appointed day of my interview, I put on my best face.    With more courage and optimism than I thought one transexual could possibly muster, I marched forth to face the two supervisors who held my immediate future in their hands..
We sat in a typical conference room on typically hard plastic chairs across a typically plastic conference table.   I was confident, enthusiastic…ready!    I can do this, I thought.   I eagerly anticipated their challenging array questions that I would handle so deftly.    Perfunctory introductions out of the way, the female half of the interviewing team, Ms. Smith,  seemed to hesitate for a moment. She  gave the impression of  a wary explorer, cautiously creeping up to the edge of an abyss to risk a glance into the eternal darkness of the  a bottomless pit.. She cleared her throat nervously and asked me the one question that I could not have prepared to answer
“ Ummm….this is uh….well please   understand  that we don’t mean to be indelicate about this but we were wondering …uh just exactly what is between your legs..?”
“ I beg your pardon?”  What she actually had said was ‘Where are you in your transition‘. But the difference is negligible. With one casual, blatantly  sexist question, I had been stripped naked and reduced to a sex object.
“ The thing is uh, Mary Jo, who you may recall having supervised in another company,….well anyway, she said that one day while you were monitoring her she saw your testicles when you crossed your legs.”
Huh?   The Titanic had just made the acquaintance of the iceberg and the iceberg held the upper hand.   I was stunned.   First by the implication that I would spread my legs far enough for anyone to see the last wretched remnants of my disappearing  masculinity.   The next realization was that the interview had begun with an accusation made by a client who had a documented history  of pathological lying.   This was almost too much to bear and we were still on the first question.   Hours ticked by with each second.: the silence was deafening.
Somehow I managed to pick my lower jaw up  from the table and with sufficient incredulity said ” I can’t believe you are asking me this!  Could you please tell me what this has to do with anything?  I mean, I don’t recall in reading the formal job description that genital verification was mandatory.   I would at least worn fresh panties.”
Mrs. Smith squirmed ever so slightly  and tentatively proceeded to explain the finer points of the company policy.”   Well….uh you see it’s mainly to protect us from lawsuits. we have a policy that guarantees our clients and their guardians an appropriate match  regarding gender….you know boy to boy and girl to girl.” A look of smug self satisfaction settled slowly  over her face.  She looked like a housecat who had just cornered a mouse for supper.  Except in this case the mouse was not prepared to capitulate.
“This is really quite amazing.  How do decide who’s male and who’s female?,”  I asked in a huff. “Is it company policy to check the genitals of everyone who applies?    Or do you just wait untill a client needs a reason  to persecute someone ?   If there are only two categories of humans then I must fit into  one or the other. And if I don’t fit into those two categories maybe we need to create a third one for the rest of us“.
I was on a roll.   Anger from my transexual heart felt fine as it gained momentum.    I forged ahead with evangelical zeal.  I had their attention and I was determined to exploited it to the fullest. I shifted my focus to Mr. Jones, the male half of the interviewing team. I had met Mr. Jones, an Afro-American, previously during orientation where he was responsible for  teaching us the code  of ethics  associated with client rights.   As it turned out the disabled have more constitutionally protected rights than transexuals.
I poured out my rage.“I must say  that I am very disturbed  by the realization that I represent the only minority whose character can be questioned on the basis of our genitalia.   Surely you must know that transgendered  people are the only minority in this country who are not protected  from discrimination by federal law.   Beyond that,  your company’s mission statement, so noble in language that seems to promote the rights of all people obviously falls short of protecting the transgendered.”
I felt the pride of eloquence rising in my bosom.   I was saying things that I had previously only thought to myself.. For a brief exhilarating moment I felt empowered as a transperson.    A ponderous silence fell over the room. The tension was palpable. In my heart and soul I held closely to the hope that I had touched these two people with my need for validation. and gainful employment.   The looks on their faces, corporate masks temporarily forgotten, told me that they had indeed understood my plight..
Mrs. Smith cleared  her throat and glanced at me furtively, “Well … I do sympathize with your predicament Rose,   When I worked for the company back in Oklahoma, the company agreed to  provide  gay foster parents for a gay client. But this…..I, I just don’t know .”
So gay people good, trans people bad?    I didn’t really know what to make of her declaration. I had started out with a wealth of optimism. Suddenly my confidence  had turned to confusion.. Success, once so eminent, had taken wing only to be replaced by the  notion that I would somehow be better off gay.   Still I clung tenaciously  to the my last morsel of hope while the evil wind of despair rustled in the distance.
“So where do we go from here,”  I asked tentatively.
“Don’t worry, Rose, we’ll find a place for you,” Mrs. Smith assured me
And so, testicles not withstanding, I was hired as a ‘probationer”    But only after I made  repeated calls in an effort to torture them into giving me a chance to prove myself.    Then I panicked Failure was familiar territory for me.    Success was trickier.    Success require the application of character.   I knew that I had passed the preliminaries but the gauntlet  of  fire lay directly ahead.
All this pressure to gain employment was mere folly compared to the reality of trying to interact positively with these future masters of mayhem. Many of them had one foot in the group home and the other in youth detention. Ah yes, it was indeed a challenge befitting my unique collection of talents. After all, who is better acquainted with anger than a transexual?
Fate is a cruel dictator.  My effort to find suitable employment was the epitome of  the psychic masturbation–a one act play with a disappointing conclusion.    One day before the end of my probationary period I was summoned to my superior’s office and terminated.   Apparently, the main reason was the fact that I was a transexual.
The company’s official reason for terminating me was never stated though it quickly became apparent.  As  they were not legally required to employ me as a  transexual, I was imminently expendable. I was a liability from the outset.   A few complaints from the paying customers, the parents, clients or both, was more than enough justification for my dismissal.   Blatant discrimination  and sexism aside, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the immense irony of it all .
Eventually,  it occurred to me that I had always been pretty good with a mop, a dust rag and a stick of dynamite.   Based on these revelations, I started my own cleaning business. The whole idea was a nudge from the cosmos, as it allowed me to create the ideal work environment for my personality.   Short hours, good money, as many breaks as I desire and best of all I have the final say so in EVERYTHING!  As a bonus,  I love my boss.   In conclusion, I will speak a truth  painfully learned .   There isn’t a silver lining to every cloud.   But sometimes if you keep your head up and eyes open wide, you just find your own personal rainbow..

The Sacred Fire

 

Greetings to all human beings and their ancestors and to all sentient beings who honor their connection to Mother Earth. My name is Rosie and I am a Two-Spirits healer. I come to you now with an open heart and a passionate desire to share the vision and wisdom of two spirit medicine. The medicine of my tribe is powerful because it symbolizes balance and harmony. But more than that, the power of my medicine provides the context for the re-unification of the duality of opposites. In simpler terms, mine is the medicine of non-duality.

These words fulfill my responsibility to share my spiritual journey with the receptive hearts and minds of those who need to hear them. For readers unfamiliar with the subject, I offer a brief description of two-spirited consciousness, followed by a short history of that tradition. In the end, I will weave them together in a cosmic mandala for your meditation.

The expression “Two Spirits” refers to the manifestation of masculine and feminine energy in one individual. It is a relatively new way of describing a tradition that has existed in indigenous cultures around the world prior to the development of western civilization. In order to understand this tradition, this different way of viewing gender, we must first be clear on the distinction between sex and gender. A popular saying describes the difference as follows: Sex is between the legs, gender is between the ears. In other words, gender is not about sexual preference, rather it is the expression of our unique sexuality.

The expression of two-spirits in one individual is, more accurately, one’s spiritual expression of two polar aspects known as yin and yang. The ancient symbolism of yin and yang, together referred to as the Tao, symbolizes the fundamental principle by which the Great Spirit animates and informs every thing that exists on this material plane. At its most elementary level, yin and yang describe a balanced energetic relationship where yin is the passive principal and yang is the active principal. Because yin defines yang, and yang defines yin, these opposing principles hold equal value in an idealized state of balance. Relativity, interdependence and harmony provide form. From this original concept of the duality of opposites springs all other artificial concepts of division.

I was born into the body of a male baby in 1951. By the age of five, I became aware of a subtle disturbance in my energy field. Within five years of this realization my young personality floundered in the turbulent waters of a gender identity process gone horribly awry. A feeling of non-ordinary reality, accompanied by a growing sense of detachment, infused my daily existence. I became depressed and withdrawn.

Over a period of years revelation came to me in dreams, where my spirit showed me the reason for my discomfort. Each night as I lay in bed, I closed my eyes to find my spirit inhabiting the physical form of a happy little girl. I didn’t know, or care at all how this transformation occurred. I was happy for a brief moment of peace. As natural as a falcon taking wing, I accepted this dreaming aspect of my personality as an integral part of my being

Eventually, I found creative ways to stay home alone and express my other-gendered nature with the help of my mother’s wardrobe. But these occasional interludes created another dichotomy: my joyful affinity for feminine expression would cause me great pain upon discovery. Though I knew little of the ways of the world that lay beyond the safe confines of the post World War II, working class, cookie cutter neighborhood of my youth, I did intuit one of society’s essential, unspoken principals with profound clarity: good little boys did not live for stolen moments of cross-dressed glory.

In the American middle class of the1950’s, the world was divided into two kinds of gendered people: men and women. Any hint of cross-gendered behavior invited violence and humiliation. L found proof in the daily newspapers of America and felt the violent undercurrents of misogyny. The realization that I could be the target of such hatred frightened me at the deepest level of my awareness.

From the very beginning of my conscious awareness I was caught in a moral dilemma of immense proportion. In the place of healthy childhood development, my ravaged young personality resembled a rudderless ship being sucked into a maelstrom of sexual energies that I could feel but not articulate. I intuited that some cosmic mix-up had occurred between my mind and body, yet I had no words to describe the sense of disassociation that I experienced on a daily basis.

Beginning in early adolescence and throughout the most crucial period of personality development, neurosis and self-loathing poisoned my spirit at every step on the path to adulthood. Contradictions that would not yield to logic confronted me at every turn, on every level of my being. I had “awakened” in this present incarnation with extreme dissonance of mind and body that I dare not reveal on penalty of death. While my spirit whispered an awareness of my two spirited nature in one ear, the societal voiceof sexist bigotry screamed shame and fear into the other ear. Imprisoned by fate in this physical form that I could not accept or change, I suffered in isolation for many years.

My sense of abandonment became a prison-fort where I became angry, suspicious, and withdrawn. Despite a natural tendency as a child was to seek relief through the wisdom of my parents, I knew intuitively that they weren’t emotionally stable enough to deal with these feelings that I could not describe. Even more injurious to my tender young ego was my conviction that to speak my truth would expose my young spirit to the violence of a world locked in delusion.

By the age 15, a huge gaping chasm developed between the carefully constructed, socially acceptable male image that I exhibited and the overpowering impulse of my secret feminine self. I was paralyzed by an irreconcilable contradiction. Caught between the maxim that “Jesus loved me, because the Bible told me so” and the knowledge that if anyone discovered my deep, dark secret I would be burned at the stake, I teetered on the brink of madness with little hope for resolution.

I trusted absolutely no one including parents and friends, aunts and uncles, teachers or preachers. Artifice contaminated all of my relationships save the one I had with myself. A deep sense of dread prevented me from even thinking about communicating this delicate issue to anyone. As a result of my universal mistrust-cum- paranoia, I found myself utterly alone, holding onto suicidal ideation as an antidote to the pain.

A few months after I graduated from high school, my life fell apart. The flimsy masculine image I had employed as a disguise began to deteriorate. Without a high school audience to appreciate my impersonation of a young man, I was an actress without a part. Severely depressed, I retreated into my own world–a sheltered, sacred world of intense intellectual exploration into the mechanism of human consciousness…

In 1969, scant information was available on the subject of transgenderism, the psychological model of people with a non-conforming gender identity. Psychiatry, from the male dominant perspective, continued to treat gender identity as a sort of minor psychosis. For hundreds of years, institutionalization was the treatment of choice for people who were not comfortable in their assigned gender. I struggled to maintain my male disguise while searching for a right path to understanding.

Despite my baptism as a good Lutheran boy, and a lifetime of half-hearted supplication, my prayers went unanswered. This dubious god of the pious masses had abandoned me. Two spirited people were not mentioned in the Bible, or any other religious text. Logically then, I abandoned the notion of this cruel God, whose biblical omission continues to cause untold suffering and needless death. By the time I had reached my early twenties, as an antidote to the spiritual toxicity of right-wing fundamentalist religion, I embarked on a life long study of the ancient belief systems of indigenous peoples.

I began my education with Native American tribes who perceived the energetic relationship of humans to their environment in a profound way that, as a result of genocide, may be lost to us forever. From the documentation of explorers and anthropologists, I found that indigenous cultures around the world valued the manifestations of the spirit so infinite in its diversity. The Great Spirit’s creative authority was not questioned in matters of divine expression. The Native Americans accepted all expressions of the Great Spirit as containing a wisdom nature that provided essential balance in every aspect of their environment.

One-hundred fifty years before I was born, the dreams of my youth would have been a sign from the Great Spirit that I was meant to be a two-spirited medicine person in Native American culture. An apocryphal story of one North American tribe points to this sort of implicit acceptance of the will of the Great Spirit regarding gender: According to oral history, a young boy or girl who showed the slightest indication of cross gendered behavior was placed in a grass hut with one male toy and one female toy. The hut was then set on fire. If the child’s gendered choice was ‘opposite’ their natal sex, the Great Spirit had spoken in affirmation of the child’s dual gender/nature thereby placing them in high esteem in the tribal society.

Each tribe had a name for these special people: The Lakota referred to them as Winkte [would-be woman]. The Navaho called them “nadleeh“[one who changes time and again]. In the Crow tribe, they were named “bade”, and the Zuni called them “ilhamana”. Though the names of the Two-Spirit people varied greatly from tribe to tribe,   the trans-national similarities of their two-spirit traditions were remarkable considering the territorial nature of tribal life.

Native Americans in general recognized the two-spirit folk as divinely imbued with a special insight regarding human nature. Based on this gift of the spirit, tribes conferred much honor on them in terms of their position and responsibility to the tribe. The spiritual gifts of their dual nature promoted them to positions of reverence in the role of hunters, story tellers, shamans, warriors, medicine persons, informal marriage counselors, and leaders of naming ceremonies.

Male born two-spirits were considered especially valuable in the sense that they performed the duties of a woman with the strength of a man. Many woman born two-spirits were fierce warriors, respected by their fellow male warriors for their high level of skill in horse riding and counting coup. Indigenous society did not judge, chastise, ridicule or kill the two spirited person as did white society. They celebrated the gifts of diversity.

This indigenous appreciation for the necessity of balance through the interplay of yin and yang came to a sad end with the genocide of the North American Indian. With the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and zealous Jesuit missionaries, the two spirited tradition of the North American Indians was destroyed by the violence of enforced acculturation.  History now provides us with a tragic account of the many sordid ways that Spanish Conquistadors, driven by a belief system that married white supremacy with  pseudo-pious religious imperialism, began a murderous, systematic war of cultural attrition against the “brown skinned” cultures of the North American continent.

When the Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca landed in Florida in the year 1530 and discovered the Timicuan Indians who lived there, notations in his diary indicated that he had witnessed “soft Native American males dressing and working as women’.    The Timicuan were a small elegant, artistic tribe located in northern Florida. Far from the violence of the northern and western tribes, they had little reason for weapons and no shame about these soft males whom de Vaca referred to as berdache– from the Persian “bardaj,” a derogatory term whose origins refer to a passive homosexual partner, usually a “pretty” or feminine young boy. A famous lithograph reveals de Vaca’s murderous sentiments toward these “sodomites.” The proud conquistador celebrates while two-spirited people are thrown into a pit, mauled by wild dogs and suffer a slow painful death

Beginning in the 1880’s, as proper American society moved across the Great Plains and into the mountains and deserts of the west, people encountered more of these “odd savages” and became determined to recreate Indian society in the image of Euro-American culture. Native Americans were taken away from their homes, their villages, their tribes, and families and acculturated into white society en masse. Dressed and shorn in fashion of white culture, they were often imprisoned where they were beaten like animals for the slightest indication that they might not wholeheartedly embrace the ways of their captors.

The intentional destruction of Native American culture and the subsequent violent imposition of European Neo-Victorian values signaled the beginning of the end of   the two-spirit tradition on the North American continent. By the early 1900’s, their proud tradition was little more than a footnote in a rare historical text.      Ironically, while religion succeeded in destroying the two-spirited tradition in indigenous North America, the essence of two spirited wisdom persists despite its detractors. I am living proof of this assertion. From my earliest memories, I have known myself as a human being with a male spirit alongside an equally prominent feminine spirit. Long before I had heard of the term two spirits, I experienced it as a psychological context of my existence.

As I delved further into the anthropology of pagan/indigenous spiritual belief, I began to draw strength from the images of proud two-spirited people–celebrated for their diversity, wisdom, bravery, courage, and spiritual power in indigenous tribes across the globe. I found numerous examples, both mythological and historical, of people with androgynous character. In these colorful pan-cultural narratives, I read of both men and women who were transformed into members of the opposite sex, either permanently or temporarily, for the sake of punishment or education. From their legacy, I found liberation from the applied stigma of an intolerant, judgmental society

This new perspective empowered me with the knowledge of my inherent spiritual strength, but with validation came responsibility. No longer was it possible to play the victim. I made the conscious decision to recreate my self image based on a model of the two spirited elders who had gone before me. My warrior’s spirit, suppressed for so many years by internalized shame and bigotry, found inspiration in the knowledge that people   like me were validated in ancient history. I embraced this new manifestation of the spirit and resolved to let it guide me in my search for enlightenment

Buddhists call it maya; the Toltec call it the Dream. The Dream of the planet is the collective conditioning that creates duality where none actually exists. Maya is the conditioning that justifies war and poverty, abuse and oppression, judgment and punishment, right and wrong, and murder for the sake of ideology. Regardless of the name, the process that no humans can avoid in varying degrees is the non-critical internalization of information as directed by the intention of the Dream world we inhabit. As I assimilated this unified theory of consciousness, my life began to make sense.   In his book of profound wisdom, “The Four Agreements”, Don Miguel Ruiz makes the point succinctly,

“Humans are dreaming all the time. Before we were born the humans before us created a big outside dream we will call society’s dream or the dream of the planet dreams which together create a dream of family, a dream of community a dream of city, a dream of country and finally a dream of the whole humanity The dream of the planet includes all of society’s rules, its beliefs, its laws, its religions, its different cultures and ways to be, its government, schools, social events and holidays.”

At the crux of the process is our agreement to the terms of our survival. With the capacity to dream from the moment of birth, our attention is contingent upon our need to survive. Thus, when you are lying in your crib at the age of two, cold and hungry,   without the benefit of personal boundaries, you will agree to any ordered condition of your specific environment in order to live.

At the moment a parent or guardian, who orders or allows the conditions of our little world, enters our sacred space and infects it with negative energy, we internalize those conditions. The absorbent yin nature of infantile consciousness provides the ideal context for the establishment of layered patterns of dysfunction. This patterning describes the process of random input that determines personality. As this initial layer becomes fixed in time, self awareness is built on an endless loop of a conditioned patterning and reactive emotion.

With no discrimination possible upon our entrance into the Dream, our attention is hooked by the intention of a world committed to sustaining this conditioning. This process of indoctrination begins to shape our young personality. All of our values, institutions, familial obligations, and sense of self are creations of the collective dream state. By our agreement to this persistent imposition of conditions, we project a reality in which we become our own judge, jury and executioner. Our words become the weapons of the indiscriminate process by which we spread the toxin of judgment and endless suffering.

Our investment in this illusion of consciousness perpetuates our sense of isolation and separation from the whole. This process, from a psycho/societal view, referred to as identity politics, is the antithesis of a cohesive peaceful society. Identity politics divides and subdivides human beings into an infinite number of categories based on superficial characteristics. This elevation of ego by insidious, subliminal propaganda causes great suffering by creating a false hierarchy of values that celebrates neurosis, negates our humanity and establishes a context for oppression.

Invigorated by this new, liberating model of conscious development, I began to review my personal involvement in the Dream to gain a more rational perspective on my two-spirited condition. In a life changing epiphany, ancient wisdom pierced my heart like a lightning bolt –illuminating the darkness of a life lived in the shadows. The raging river of caustic rhetorical hate and judgment, that had infected my consciousness for so long, was transformed into a harmless trickle that merged with the Tao of knowing.

Like so many indigenous two spirited folks before me, I had entered the world with a Dream of my own. I am one of the few–chosen by the Great Spirit to manifest this noble Two Spirits tradition in a society predicated on lethal sexism. The simple act of being born with equal parts masculine and feminine renders me a social pariah. In a world so heavily invested in the duality, I represent a threat to the power structure– doomed to a life lived in the shadow of mainstream society, or any society at all.

Throughout many years of suffering, I wandered blindly in the darkness of my own illusion. I have survived the perilous conflict between the world Dream and my own   personal dream by deconstructing my sexist conditioning through the lens of my essential humanity. Through the warrior’s act of intention, I have recreated my “self” based on the gift of Two-Spirited medicine that guides me on this personal journey of transcendence. Personality, based on illusory thought–produced by a shared corrupt ego state–burdens me no more. The Dream of the world has lost its steely grip. My spirit shall not yield to the deception.

My life as a two spirited person today is full and rich because I honor myself in my Two Spirits tradition. No longer am I afflicted by the illusion of the duality. Within me, yin and yang are one, undivided–undifferentiated. I am neither this nor that. I represent the unification of the first binary–the primary subdivision that occurs at the moment of birth at the whim of a stranger in white. I reject this arbitrary distinction based on a cursory inspection of my genitalia. I am a human being and that is enough. Endless subdivisions of identification only enhance my separation from other humans.

All sentient beings enter this material plane with the essence of their luminous character momentarily intact. Our consciousness is tabula rasa–a blank slate upon which is written the disparate elements of our future personality. Within minutes of our birth, we are assigned a gender based on our genitalia. At the precise moment of this declaration, the infant is set on one of two very different paths whose parameters determine flux and flow of its life. By the time we reach first year’s end, we are baptized by delusion. The Dream clouds our vision, separating us from the source of our essential brilliance. And we forget.

We forget that before we internalized the identity that causes us to feel the immense pain of separation and isolation we were united as light beings in an energetic dimension of non-duality. We forget because human consciousness produces a false ego-based concept of gendered duality that is perpetually reinforced through violence and other forms of coercion. Before we know what or who we are, sexism becomes the engine of social control. By the dominance/submission agreement into which men and women enter, this dream of sexism creates and perpetuates the suicidal imbalance of power and ensures our future disharmony.

While the dream of sexism continues to inflict pain much of man’s violence toward women cannot be understood in a rational sense. Perhaps this murder by misogyny is man’s way of killing the feminine within himself in an effort to reinforce his self image of manhood. Regardless of the motive, the prevalence of misogyny is the best evidence of our nihilistic tendencies. While the Dream of sexism is too powerful to confront directly, its negative consequences are too destructive to ignore. Until we as a global society are willing to confront this shadow side of our collective unconsciousness, we wobble on the brink of self destruction

. We live in a very potent, extremely perilous time. With the passing of each decade the world, precariously out of balance on the fulcrum of time, slides inexorably into the darkness. With the aid of industrialization and technology, we are losing our humanness under the immense burden of our artificially inflated egos. What we refer to as culture is a euphemism intended to disguise the totality of our conditioned violence   that includes man’s violence against man, against women and against Gaia. We are ‘civilized’ animals who have forgotten what is sacred.

The mysterious, awesome spirit of life that animates and gives meaning to everything ironically empowers the mechanism of its own demise. Unbalanced, unbridled ego imbues the individual with the necessary rationale to commit the senseless destruction of life for the sake of ideology. These are discomforting truths, yet we have no choice but to confront them while we still have our collective human will. As conscious beings, we must take responsibility for our behavior, or perish in our apathy. No longer is it practical to externalize authority. No god will save us-none but the one we find within ourselves.

As spiritual warriors, we must use all of our intention to pierce the veil of illusion that defines our lives, reinforces our sense of separateness, and perpetuates our suffering. For as long as we are dominated by egocentric politics, a fatal imbalance of yin and yang threatens us with extinction. A return to balance requires a commitment to a fearless, non-judgmental exploration of the self from earliest memory. Most of the agreements that we have made since our first moments of life must be broken. Our numerous defense mechanisms, all of our deepest darkest fears, all grasping, and all of our attachments must be reviewed in the context of the Dream. Only when these subconscious negative obstructions melt away will we find the light within ourselves.

If we are serious about becoming a spiritual warrior for the benefit of ourselves and the collective, we must first focus on the healing nature of unconditional self-love.    This can only happen when we break with the subconscious, self limiting agreements of our past. Believe that you deserve love, and with time the many layers of accumulated toxic patterns lose their negative power to dominate us. Your commitment to begin your own healing with the power of love is the most important agreement one can make, for logic dictates that one can not give away something one does not possess. Begin now. Make a vow to love everything about yourself everyday. Demonstrate self-love in every moment with every act.

Personal freedom requires a firm commitment to renounce the oppressive conditioning that leads us into the darkness of despair. I ask that you join me now and everyday as I renew the vows that produce beneficial karma. For the benefit of all sentient beings; I invite you to join me in a vow of non-violence in our words and deeds. I vow to practice compassion toward myself that I may then extend it to others, I pledge to be ever mindful of the rotten fruits of desire, and I will do whatever I must to transcend the illusion of personal identity. Towards that end, I vow to polish the mirrored lens of my spirit that I might reflect the sun’s perfect light that shines within you.

Namaste: The Divine Light in Me Honors the Divine Light within You.

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