Friday, December 18, 2009

Gender schmender -- in dealing with my demons and a touch of magic.

I've been in a creative rut the past few months, not to mention being horrendously busy.

I went up to Wolf Creek with a crew of folks (we rented a van) at the end of October, and it ended up being a very mixed bag. It was nice to get away for a weekend, but Lily was unhappy and uncomfortable (the Land isn't very accommodating to preggos), and I was distracted by something I'll be blogging about later.

When we returned, there was some discomfort with our houseguest and PanFeri Samhain was happening. I put in a tremendous amount of work for that ritual, and thankfully I got my energy's worth from it.

Since Samhain we've been focusing mainly on prepping for baby Rowan. We received good news that the previa is gone and that we can go foward with trying for our VBAC at the Birthing Center. Yay! (now we just have to come up with the $$ for it!)

So, I wanted to write a little about some personal demons I've been struggling with, demons I didn't even know I had, and which are a direct result of prepping for Rowan's arrival.

A few weeks ago we brought up all of the 0-6 months clothes from the basement. We've an entire year's worth of clothes, both donations/hand-me-downs and gifts, and we -- with the help of my friend J -- rearranged the bedroom to accommodate the co-sleeper and a small dresser for Rowan's clothes. We were going through the clothes we'd been collecting for the last six months, before we knew what the baby was packing between his legs, and a good handful of what we had are what some would call "girl" clothes. Several pink things, a skirt, some sparkly shirts, etc.

Now, both Lily and I are queer -- in our sexuality and also in our gender. Lily has a history organizing with Queer Nation in Boston and we both were involved in some form of queer/trans politicking, and I majored in (essentially) queer theory in college. We'd made a decision earlier this year that we were going to raise the kid in a Faerie-as-a-gender context and let the kid make their own decisions about gender and presentation. They'd get to decide and change their mind every day. Fuck the rules. But as we were sorting those clothes, I noticed, deep down inside me, this really fucked up reaction to keeping the "girl clothes," and knowing that (at least Lily) was going to dress Rowan in them. And I was shocked that this reaction was a part of me. I was talking with our doula (a female-bodied, long-time Radical Faerie and Feri student) about it later, and she nodded sagely, and reminded me that a lot of our early socialization remains buried deeply within us, and it is only through diligent, compassionate confrontation with these hidden parts that we can begin integrate them into our Whole. And I knew this, but the shock was strong and that advice did little to dampen it.

I never expected that this was a part of me after all the work I've done since I came out, went to college, organized, found Feri and Faerie, grew. But it is. I've struggled lifelong with body image issues, not just as a queer man, but as a fattie. All those voices of my father urging his bookworm (read: sissy) firstborn to play football and to dress conservatively, to be a real man. All the messages of the monoculture that expect a fat man to hide himself under big, plain clothes -- my size is hard to find, and a lot of the cute things I want to wear just aren't made that big. All the unspoken messages in body language, facial expression, behavior from gay men (and even Faeries) that let me know I'm not sexy or deserving of attention, so why would I dress with flare and call attention to that which is an anathema? And even the messages in the Bear community that have a hypermasculinized aesthetic, where deviation tends to be censured. Word of honor, I thank you that this is not my truth!

This wasn't just gender trouble -- this was a demon around expression that deviates from social norms, expressions that aren't "safe." So I made a commitment to what I believe in -- that we were going to raise Rowan in a Faerie context, and that meant that I needed to work through these issues now. (I'd like to note that my views on gender are complex, so I won't be getting into their subtleties here, but if any readers of this blog are really that curious, I'm down for a real-time conversation.)

I spent the evening after clothes-sorting in contemplation, feeling that uncomfortableness wriggling around inside me. I made Kala and aligned and decided that I needed to turn to my shaman's toolkit for some help; I decided to cast a spell.

Now, my approach to spell casting stems from nearly ten years working in the Feri Tradition. My teacher taught magic as a suppressed dimension of the human being and the world, magic as a mode of perception and relation -- not so much as a fix-it, but as journey of transformation.

I got some inspiration from my Godsoul, and I went into the bathroom cabinet and rooted around until I found what I was looking for: nail polish.

It was just right -- a few months ago I bought a sparkly saffron-colored nail polish at the Emery Bay mall called Note to Self. I lit the Star Goddess Candle and cast the Feri Circle and sat on my bed, painting my nails. I did three coats, and I was breathing mana into the polish as it dried between coats.

When I was done, I stripped off my clothes and stood in front of my bedroom door and looked at myself. I let my eyes travel over my body, with its masculine features, until I reached my hands, and flashed the sparkly orange nails in the mirror. I let my hands glide over my face and body, through my chest hair and down my tummy, and wrapped my hands around my genitals and then looked myself straight (haha) in the eye and said, "How fabulous you look, darling!" bringing my hands to my face, the color bright against the backdrop of my dark beard. And I laughed. My spell had been cast. The polish did look pretty good on my nails, being my favorite color and all, and I set my intention to not hide my hands in public, and not react to the reactions I might get from strangers or acquaintances.

I wore the polish for three days, even going to our childbirth class with it on, where we're not explicitly "out" as a queer couple. I went shopping, applied to a couple of jobs, and took the car to a mechanic for an oil change. Most people didn't notice, but when they did, the reactions were diverse.I tried not to pay attention to any of them. This was me, a reflection of Beauty, a part of me, a part of my queer, Faerie-gendered soul. So Mote It Be.

When I took the polish off, I set the intention that I'd do this more often and that I should spend more time adorning myself with beautiful things, spend more time dressing in ways that make me feel good about myself, not conforming to any social ideas of what I should look like. I'm going to rock my own aesthetic. To quote Joseph Campbell: follow your bliss.

Walk in beauty, run in freedom.


  1. i have some cute barrettes that you can borrow... and some big girl clothes that might fit you... let me know if you are interested.

  2. NOTE TO SELF!!!!!! Now that right there is magic! I love your self exploration here, and your little ritual sounds totally hot. I'm sure we could gather some lovely clothes for you, as well. Love, Max

  3. I'm just reading my way through this blog and there are powerful sharings here! Thank you! "Follow you Bliss" sounds just really good to me!


  4. hey Oberyn, it's great to read your writings here and especially good to hear someone else discuss Fae ways of embodying gender.