Telling My Stories

A life lived outside

The Kefir and Me

Posted by catkisser on February 2, 2011

Last fall a woman came to stay with us to avoid a bad situation she was in.  Her name isn’t important and in fact she would rather I not mention it so I won’t but I will mention some of the gifts she has brought to our home.  She is Jewish, not like most you’ve met, she is a scholar in her own right on ancient Judaism and like myself, she lives it in her own way.  Although she would probably never say so about herself, she is a theologian in her own right and our discussions are pure joy to me.

She is also very into textiles, something I also find interesting but she is so far beyond me words fail, she actually makes much of her own clothing.  But the greatest gift she brought was kefir.

I have been aware since we first came to upstate NY that we needed to become as independent as possible, I called it “techno-Amish”.  Because of my own disabilities, I need to wait until women less broken come here to live full time before some of what I wish to see becomes reality.  I want us to have dairy goats for example, and a successful veggie garden.  Instead I have opted for arbor-culture for now and plant new fruit trees and grape vines each year.  This spring I am determined we will finally get some chickens.  We now have a full ceramics studio with a large kiln.  We have a spinning wheel and a couple of smallish looms and a power generating windmill that still awaits putting up.

As a historian one thing about the ancients that always puzzled me was how they cultured the yeast for their breads, cheese and wine/beer.  I’ve made all three a good part of my life and know first hand you cannot count on wild yeast if you are to make any of them decently and reliably.  Many many years ago it was discovered that people from Anatolia and parts of the former Soviet Republic lived much longer than the rest of the world and it was attributed to yogurt being much of their diet.  That is actually what kicked off the yogurt craze in the late sixties but like everything corporate Amerika co-ops it has always been big on flash and missing substance.  And it wasn’t yogurt they were eating either, it was kefir.

Kefir is made by “grains” of symbiotic bacteria and yeasts that reproduce themselves.  All kefir grains today are from the same culture thousands of years old and it is a Goddess given miracle.  You feed the grains a steady diet of fresh milk and you get kefir drink, a drink that you can taste the life in that is like a yogurt smoothie.  Let it culture further and you get a cheese and whey.  Mix your bread with liquid kefir and it rises, slower than with modern yeasts, but it still rises.  Add a couple of kefir grains to a beer must and it ferments it into a wonderful beer.  And it IS probiotics in it’s purest sense.  Practically a miracle food for digestive problems, displacing e-coli and other bacteria and candida yeasts that cause yeast infections.  It is said to stop cancer cells from reproducing.

I started culturing kefir grains a couple of weeks ago and slowly making it a major part of my own diet thus reducing my own food expenses without feeling deprived in the slightest.  By our Season of the Tree celebration this March, I hope to have enough kefir cheese to make our sacred food by the actual recipe of the ancients for the first time for those who participate.  The bread we serve will be made in the ancient fashion using ancient grains instead of modern flour and risen by kefir.  I have been experimenting with different techniques of bread grain combinations rising.  We will drink a kefir mead/beer.  But more importantly, culturing kefir will provide a large part of our diet in the future and if we manage to get dairy goats soon, we will control our food supply from start to finish and for very little investment!  Better yet to me is that we are renewing our ancient roots in doing so making a further connection with our sisters of thousands of years ago.

A word of caution if you wish to do this as well.  Corporate Amerika is now marketing a “kefir” drink and “kefir” dried starters.  They aren’t the real thing and will not reproduce themselves very long.  You need the grains.  You can get them from a couple of sources, do so, it makes all the difference in the world.  Kefir grains are a lifeform in and of themselves, treat them as such with respect and they will provide for you in ways you cannot imagine until you start for the rest of your life.

Blessings.

Posted in autobiographical ramblings, Cybeline, grow your own food, Kefir, Life, sekf sufficency | Leave a Comment »

How I Expect to Save the World- Part 2

Posted by catkisser on December 1, 2010

So suddenly I found myself unable to pursue a career in nursing, disabled physically and unsure of my future other than it probably lay in New York rather than Ohio.  I was disabled in July of 2001, immediately after September 11’th I was able to drive to New York (driving was difficult but not impossible) and stayed with Marina and Laura on the Mountaintop.  This trip was to find “the” place to set up our dream.  The physical requirements of starting a trailer park and building a community building from scratch now pretty much out of the question for me, we expanded the search to existing properties.  We saw a listing for an entire complex in Palenville then owned by the 12 Tribes group and on a lark and basically as a break from the search, Marina and I went to look at it.  Directly across the street was an old Inn with a for sale sign on it.  Paint peeling, porch roof sagging at odd angles and the grounds completely grown over.  It called to me.  I hobbled over and went up on the porch and had the immediate sensation I just had come home.  I could feel the spirits of the place welcoming me.  But this was impossible!  There were three acres, the huge Inn and a smaller caretaker’s house in the back.  Marina didn’t want me to even call the real estate agent but I did.

The real estate agent didn’t want to bother to show the place either.  According to her, the owners did not really want to sell and had turned down multiple offers.  The price was 100 thousand, much much cheaper than I expected but much much more than we were looking to spend.  But it was perfect for the dream!  I had a flash and “saw” the third floor before we entered the first time and told Marina and Laura that it would look really bad with the plaster all falling down and peeling wallpaper on that plaster still up.  I told them not to pay that any mind, what we needed to know is how solid the house was, everything else could be fixed.  Having worked the bulk of my life in the construction trades, already having restored one hundred year old farmhouse and having helped friends restore Victorian houses in Columbus, I knew what to look for.  What I found surprised me.  Yes, the third floor roof had leaked and the entire third floor was as I had seen it in my mind’s eye but the floors were straight and level except where a prior porch had been converted to living space.  They did not creak at all.  Neither did the stairs.  I inspected the basement where I could see the rafters.  They were solid hickory, hard as a rock, totally free of any signs of rot and the second and first floors were messy but most of the walls covered with paneling and only needing paint.  All the doors hung true.  There were antique beds in all the bedrooms.  And it lacked central heating.  This was actually important as it made the place basically unable to be bank financed which meant the buyer would have to carry a mortgage.  This was how I had bought the hundred year old farmhouse in Ohio my family lived in after I restored it.

I went back to Ohio but stayed in touch with the real estate agent via email.  She told me that the seller would require we write up something about how we wanted to use the property and our plans for the Inn in particular.  It seemed a strange request but I did so.  I wrote that we wished to restore the Inn to as close to original as we could and use it as a womens housing collective, I left out references to transsexuals.  To my surprise, I quickly got an email back from the agent telling me the owner was interested in selling to us and how surprised she was at that.  Eventually we settled on 25 thousand down and the rest financed by Olindo, the seller.  Marina arranged a lawyer for our end out of Albany and the four of us set about raising our individual shares of the down payment.  I put up my trailer for sale and had a buyer by December.  Christmas of 2001 Marina and Laura came out to Ohio to help me move and by the first of January I was in the Catskills in their apartment on the Mountaintop because we could not take possession of the property until the 15’th.  All my belongings had to be offloaded into the caretakers house when we arrived.

You have to understand exactly how impossible this all was.  Only Katie had the credit to buy anything.  Me, I was disabled with only worker’s compensation for income.  And yet it happened.

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How I Expect to Save the World- Part 1

Posted by catkisser on December 1, 2010

Up to now I have told stories of my past.  Few read this blog but I think it is time to talk about my present and how I got here.  It is no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I was born intersexed and surgically made transsexed at that birth.  That I lived the first part of my life as someone others saw mostly as male while I felt myself an alien to the world around me.  And finally I came to a crisis and “fixed” my body and life to reflect who I always felt myself to be……yawn, typical trans stuff in many ways.  What I have not written much about here is that I am a deeply spiritual person who feels an obligation to change the world by doing my part to awaken Goddess Consciousness in others in a spiritual awakening of humanity as that spreads.  I am a lifelong Pagan who has studied the occult and Paganism my entire life.  That has been combined with an absolute passion for ancient history.

For at least several entries, I’m going to talk about how I live my spirituality on a day to day basis.  I have been reluctant to do so up until now because there is a demented lawyer for the Town of Catskill that seeks out every word I write and attempts to twist them in order to “prove” we are not who we are.  Screw him, he’ll do it anyway and since he recently suborned perjury and perjured himself about us, his career is going to take a turn for the worse soon.

In the spring of 1999 I decided to formalize the religious practices I was conducting for myself and a few others and start holding public rituals on the four solar holidays at the ancient Serpent Mound in southern Ohio.  I was living in Ohio at the time, involved in trans-activism and working with Susan Davis on the recovery of the ancient Cybeline traditions.  The main source of material we were working with at that time was from the Roman period.  We called this new religious reclaiming the First Church of the Goddess and I renewed my clergy certification with the State of Ohio under my now changed name.  Susan Davis also registered as Ohio clergy at this time.  We conducted the Solar quarter rituals together while separately (she lived in Cleveland and I lived in Delaware Ohio) gathering groups together for full and new moon rituals.  I was passionate about recovering the role of transsexual priestesses in the Goddess traditions myself in order to let transsexual women know they had a history, an honoured one and a place outside medicine.  When I registered an internet domain, I chose gallae.com for this reason.  In Roman times, the gallae were the transsexual (post op) priestesses of Cybele, the Great Mother Goddess.

When I transitioned I had lost my family and my business and bought an older mobile home in an older mobile home park in Delaware, Ohio.  I had set up a circle in my back yard with permanent concrete altar.  After an extended period of trying to find employment, I finally settled on getting certified as a nursing assistant having been a psychiatric aide in the mid seventies and loving that kind of work.  It was extremely hard work that paid little but I found that if I worked for an agency rather than an individual nursing home or hospital I could somewhat set my own hours and increase my pay to roughly that of an LPN.  I was also active at the UU church in Columbus and even led, along with two other women, a Pagan lay service restoring the idea of celebration of Cronehood that remains the best attended lay service in the history of that UU church with over 200 people taking part.

Having experienced first hand the extreme financial hit many newly transitioned transsexual women experience I also started thinking seriously about setting up a housing collective for newly transitioned women along the lines of either buying up one of the mostly abandoned towns in southern Ohio or a “trailer park” with a community centre building for common activities and food preparation.  At one of our Solar holidays I discussed this idea with two transsexual women who lived in the Catskills of upstate New York.  They were taken with the idea as well and eventually a fourth woman not involved in our religious activities also expressed a desire to work towards this goal.  I took a vacation trip to spend time with the Catskill women and we started to actively look for a place to set up our “transie trailer park” concept.  I also fell absolutely in love with the Catskills.  Around this time Susan Davis moved to Rochester, New York so it seemed our focus was about to change from Ohio to New York on all levels.

As a lifelong Goddess Pagan I had always known that if I trusted in Her, I would always have what I needed if not always what I wanted.  The price of this was to do Her work since I had been called in the ancient fashion in my dreams when I was only around three and four years old.  I knew I was to pursue this housing collective and eventually restore the ancient Goddess traditions as well.  I knew this on a level that words cannot express.  But being human, I also had a comfortable, if not prosperous life going with my little mobile home and a career I wished to pursue.  So I set about enrolling in LPN classes with an eye towards converting that eventually to an RN.  The Goddess will not be ignored and as soon as I did this, She decided to knock the pins from under me so I would do what I was supposed to.  She did this in the form of disabling me.  I had been rear ended twice a year apart and had to undergo physical therapy both times for whiplash and lower back injuries.  While working at a facility that was understaffed and poorly equiped, I was assigned an entire ward by myself with total care patients.  As I was transferring a rather large gentleman from his bed to a shower chair, the wheel locks failed on the chair and I had to frog march him to the wall in order not to let him fall.  When I did so, I felt something give in my lower back.  I was in extreme pain but could not go home.  Fifteen minutes later I had to transfer another man in the next room.  Just as I had him in midpoint to his chair, he threw his weight backwards and I felt another major pain in my lower back.  This time I was left barely able to even walk so I reported the injuries and went home.  The next day I went to the chiropractor that I was seeing regularly from the two auto accidents and he insisted I have an MRI on my back.  It revealed I had blown two discs in my back and also had spurs pressing on my spinal cord at the same locations.  There was no way I could work any longer as a nursing assistant or much of anything else.

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The Road from Jaipur

Posted by catkisser on August 6, 2010

There were some advantages of being a girl the world mostly saw as a boy growing up but sometimes the two collided in one of those days that stays with you all your life.

I was sweet sixteen and on an extended hike outside Jaipur, India, the Pink City.  Even that seems ironic today.  I was alone, something that never would have been permitted if my sex/gender was known.  Alone, that was the operative word for this day because everywhere I looked, everything I saw that day was paired and I was not.  I was alone and unpaired and hyper-aware of that.  I suppose that was the day I came to feel alien to the rest of humanity, an observer of the world rather than a participant in it.  It was one of those days I took out from my “so what, deal with it” mental file where I kept the fact I knew I had a female brain in a male body that fact and felt it, let myself feel it.  And it was intensely sad and lonely because along with letting myself feel that was knowing I would never actually be pair bonded because in some weird fashion, I already was with myself.  This turned out to be literally true when I learned much later in life I am combined twins.

I have no idea why that particular day and place hit me that hard and before and afterwards I remained someone who craves “alone time” instead of one of those people who does anything to avoid ever being alone.  Later that very year while visiting the Woodstock School in Mussoorie, up in the mountains and again alone sitting next to a mountain stream I had one of my first “peak” experiences of total connection to the entire universe, the polar opposite of that day in Jaipur.  Perhaps one is not possible without the other.

But both leave you with a feeling of being a stranger in a strange land.

I tried to pair bond many times in my youth, even married to achieve it only to be left feeling utterly alone in that marriage as well.  In retrospect all my attempts at dating were extremely awkward and often forced because I lacked the instincts expected in a male dating a female and it literally never occurred to me to turn that around for a better fit although it sometimes happened naturally for a while with a naturally aggressive girl.  But never lasted because she was still looking for a man and I wasn’t one and I suppose on some level I was looking for a man myself and she wasn’t one.

I have never had any problem with finding emotional intimacy and empathy with others, I do so naturally and easily but I never have had much success at physical intimacy with anyone.  And I often remember that day on the dusty road outside of Jaipur when I reflect on that.

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Memorial Day Memories

Posted by catkisser on June 1, 2010

For most of my adult life, Memorial Day Weekend was the “Rolling Rock Festival” held by Tom Nagel every year from shortly after I left college.  Every year a core group of us who knew each other in college and mostly were active in the Cockroach Coffeehouse off campus during that time got together with our families and newer friends to barbecue, play “jungle crochet”, reconnect and finally, in the evening, pull out the instruments and jam all those old folksongs we performed at the coffeehouse as well as the one’s we’d written since then.

Others from that core group hostessed other yearly get togethers, my family did the Wino Festival around Halloween because it was near the time last year’s wine was ready to drink and that year’s wine had just been put up.  Midsummer Ed and Betsy Burke had an un-named gettogether at their farm near Lake Erie, midwinter Terry and Carol Hartley held the Ham Fest.  At all of them the Folk Music Jam was the central attraction.  But Tom’s Rolling Rock Festival was the longest and most consistent and thus the primary event of the year for my old college friends.

When Tom and Judy divorced, Judy was no longer there even though she was one of our college crowd.  Later she and I ran into each other occasionally, I wish it had been more often.  These get togethers kept us connected and I expended a lot of personal effort to get as many as possible to attend all the events.  It was also where the annual fishing trip was planned.  Some of those trips were incredible adventures, most just camping and fishing and good times.  My function for those trips was organizing, planning, cooking, cleaning up camp etc.  Years later I realized I was functioning as the group wife for them.

Before I transitioned I considered Tom and Glenn my best friends in the world.  Tom and I would often take off for a weekend fishing trip or canoe trip or even both combined.  Every year it was a given that I would be with Tom on opening day of hunting season.  Tom and I shared very similar political points of view, Glenn was our political opposite but that never seemed to matter that much.  Robin, Ed and Betsy were all very very Christian, me a lifelong Pagan.  That didn’t ever seem to matter either.  Often they would joke that if I entered a church it was even money whether the church or I would burst into flames, but I did occasionally support some church activity important to them.  I would have done almost anything for this circle of friends and in fact often dropped whatever I was doing to come help them in some project or emergency.  When I transitioned, I died in their eyes.

I attended exactly one Rolling Rock Festival after I transitioned, then I was no longer welcome, no longer invited while my daughter and my ex continued to go and would tell me I was mourned as if I had died.  They still attend them.

Most transsexuals try to erase the lives they had prior to transition because of a mental disconnect between seeing themselves as male and then female.  I was different.  I always saw myself as female, did male as an act but among my friends, I was myself so I was hurt more deeply than words can express that my entire circle of friends cast me out just because the exterior changed.  Nothing else drove home the nature of the differences in social interactions between the sexes more than that did.

There is no happy ending to this story.  Fourteen years later I am still estranged from the circle of friends I maintained for over thirty years and even acted as “social secretary” for.  Glenn died a number of years ago.  Apparently without me pushing him to stay in contact, he had dropped out of the events shortly after I “died”.  Terry and Carol, whom I’d introduced to each other in college and intervened many times to keep their marriage together, just divorced recently after more than thirty five years of marriage.  Of all the get togethers, the Rolling Rock Festival was the first and now the last.  I try to stay very busy on Memorial Day weekends but still those memories at some point come back.  And it still hurts.

When someone asks me what the hardest thing about transitioning one’s life from “male” to female my answer is learning the true nature of the relationships you are in.  Most live an entire life without having to do that and that is a blessing.

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Freedom of Religion means Freedom of ALL Religions, except in Catskill New York

Posted by catkisser on May 9, 2010

Our 3 1/2 year battle with the Town of Catskill for our mandated property tax exemption is now making the news.  Town attorney, Daniel Vinceletti, is spinning wildly trying to brand me personally as an angry old lady who’s anger is misdirected.  Town assessor Nancy McCoy is telling reporters they never challenged our status as a legitimate religion.  They are both lying through their teeth.

From day one of this battle they have challenged our legitimacy over and over and more so, my own as well.  Vinceletti barged onto the property after lying on the phone to me about who he was and what he wanted.  He then wrote a legal opinion for the Town justifying not renewing our exempt status.  A legal opinion the town absolutely refused to show us for two years running leaving us no way to answer his lies.

For 2008, despite our being IRS certified as a 501 (c)(3) Religious Charity, they forced us to submit all that information to them and then wrote a following up letter challenging my ministerial credentials, my educational background, my credentials as a historian and more.  They did this again in 2009.  We have copies of all correspondence.  In 2009, in the Board of Review hearing, McCoy handed us a copy of a memo she had just written to the board stating we were being denied on the basis of zoning violations (ludicrous as our property is zoned commercial and the third standard of commercial listed in the code is Religious Institution).  She also mentioned building code violations as in not getting permits.  We never, since the day we moved here, had any communication from Catskill, formal or informal, verbal or written indicating a problem in either of these.  None of the work we have done on our property required a building permit under the zoning code.

She’s been forced to change her tune yet again to “land use” because I have pointed out that zoning and building code as a reason to deny property tax exemption is a violation of Federal criminal law that opens every one of them involved to individual criminal liability as in jail time, Federal prison jail time.  She’s changed her tune but we have the memo. And on land use, they are misrepresenting caselaw about parsonages and willfully ignoring the New York Real Property Services legal opinion regarding Convents.  A legal opinion we have made them aware of for two years running.  Further, under the legal definition of “Religious Institutions” in their zoning code, religious retreats, camps etc are all included as well as churches and temples.

Vinceletti is telling reporters my anger is “misdirected”.  Hardly.  It is actually directed with pinpoint accuracy at him and McCoy who have engaged in a conspiracy at the direct request at a yet unnamed member of the Catskill Town Council (as per McCoy herself in the 2008 Board of Review hearing) to deny us equal treatment under the law for religious bigoted reasons.  Vinceletti’s so called “legal opinions”, obtained under freedom of information act action, indicate an extremely personal investigation of myself, everything I’ve ever written and private communications.  No fewer than four lawyers who have read them have shook their heads in disbelief at the overt prejudice openly displayed in them.  Past experience with those who engage of this level of stalking behaviour of women with a history similar to my own would indicate someone with deep seated gender issues, probably deeply unresolved internal homophobia and psycho-sexual disorders, but I cannot know this for certain. Misdirected anger?  At someone who went out of his way to make this personal?  Vinceletti has told reporters I am ignorant of the law.  His associate, Hannalore Smith, was so incompetent as to not even get correctly the name of the Town she was representing, the court she was addressing or even the right county in the last hearing.  When pressed by the Judge for the actual reason we were being denied she stated Catskill did not want to “open the floodgates to similar exemptions”.  ON THE RECORD.  I stand amazed at the apparent non existent standards for passing the New York Bar given her and Vinceletti’s apparent total lack of knowledge of the law.

In ancient times we were known for our ability to predict the future, cure, bless and curse.   The Cybeline Revival does not curse people.  We do, however, turn those like McCoy and Vinceletti over to the darker aspect of the Mother Goddess for justice, the ancient justice.  We have done so.  Misdirected anger?  I don’t think so.  In the ancient time Boudicca of the Icenni of Britain took on the Roman Empire and nearly defeated them, Catskill and Vinceletti are no Roman Empire, but I have the focused anger of Boudicca aimed directly at them at this point.  On some level I pity them.  Two future generations of Cybeline leaders are also willing to take this as far as needed.

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The Rise and Fall of the Illiterati

Posted by catkisser on May 4, 2010

Part 1, Global Viewpoints and How I Arrived There

I have to begin this with some personal history.  The phrase “stranger in a strange land” has special significance for me because it sort of sums up much of my early life experiences.  There was a time when I believed that those with similar unusual life experience would be freed by them as I was.  The increasing fullness of years taught me yet another lesson, it’s not the experiences as much as it is whether or not you learn from them and the sad conclusion that most simply don’t learn.

My father, with whom I have many never to be resolved issues long after his passing, was an educator of the humanities who went to Dartmouth and Yale and studied both psychology and history.  I grew up surrounded with all the classics of literature, history and psychology as well as a pretty good collection of the golden age science fiction novels.  The psych eval done on me in first grade indicated I was reading on a seventh grade level then.  I remember in seventh grade having to fight the local Liberian for the right to check out Solzhenitsyn’s “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” because it was a commie book only an adult could handle.  She lost that argument and I got to expand my understanding of the Soviet people.  Not to mention learning quickly that her understanding of a “commie” book was totally divorced from reality.

I grew up at the very tail end of what is sometimes called a “liberal” education that included an expectation of exposure to Enlightenment literature and the classics.  I was part of the last generation that was taught the difference between democracy and a representative republic, something the average American today has no apparent understanding about.

In short, I grew up feeling I was a stranger in a strange land but schooled in the ideas that knowledge and it’s pursuit were desirable and valuable in it’s own right and no field of inquiry was off limits as a result.  For example, my seventh grade science project was unique.  Already having delved deeply into so called occult subjects and so called fringe science I decided to explore whether or not psychic ability measured by the Rhine cards being used at Duke University would be influenced one way or the other by hypnotism.  The answer was yes by small but statistically significant amount.  I got an F on that project because it wasn’t “real” science given by the very asshole who approved my doing it in the first place thus learning a much greater lesson than the work itself but far different than the one he thought he was teaching me.

A year later we move to New Delhi India.  We traveled slowly throughout Europe and the Middle East to get there using a very out of date version of “Europe on Five Dollars a Day” which meant we were always well off the beaten track the tourists took.  And I got to see a world that doesn’t exist today, one prior to the homogenization of Western/American culture.  And we lived in an India that still was much more similar to Kipling’s India than the India of today.  I explored that India outside the Western enclaves where most stayed and did so with relative freedom.

I attended school with kids from all around the world, not just Europe and America and I met some of the great minds of the time like Joesph Heller of Catch 22 fame, future Ohio governor and first lady Richard and Dagmar Celeste, future Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi to mention a few.

So, due to a perfect storm of a unique neurology and a unique childhood I view the world much differently than most people do.  I learned to see the world though the eyes of an interested, even fascinated alien observing the wider human condition.  I see the world globally and work down to specifics, understand human nature in wide concepts.  The ancients called this “as above, so below” and today it is expressed in fractal mathematics and demonstrated by breaking a hologram which then has each piece a smaller but complete version of the original.

I put this first part here because of the autobiographical content.  the following parts will be at http://radicalbitch.wordpress.com

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Where I am today……..

Posted by catkisser on April 30, 2010

I started this blog, not to be yet another diary, but to share the stories of a fairly weird life.  Today I am sixty years old, not well off moneywise, but quite comfortable in my situation.  And in terms of what most people would consider normal, my life is still pretty weird.

I’m a Pagan Priestess, I revived an ancient religious tradition and I live a life consistent with all that.  While I lived a large part of my life alienated from my body, I was never alienated from my essential self, my philosopy of life has always been, I want to like the person that looks back at me from the mirror.  I still do.  While living on poverty level SSI payments from being physically disabled, I live a nice, comfortable lifestyle anyway.  The Goddess has always provided what I needed when I needed it and my wants are fairly simple. I like to joke that I wanted to be the strange old lady who lived in the strange old house with all the cats. We have seven cats and an 18 bedroom former Inn…..dreams can come true.

Our 130+ year old home will provide more than enough “to do” until the day I can no longer hold tools so I do not lack for things to do.  We are restoring it to it’s 1890’s glory and that is very satisfying.  Our Path requires us to do charitable works so being outwardly focused is our reality.  As a woman’s spirituality centre, we have a steady stream of women and men visiting to renew their spiritual batteries or just heal up from the outside world.  It is a good life with many rewards.  It is not without challenges.  One of the primary challenges is a three and a half year quest for legal equal treatment of our religion by our town.  Another is occasionally a sociopathic tranny will decide to focus on me because of my history.

One is doing so right now.

When I got involved in transsexual civil rights many many years ago, my primary goal was making it easier for people born transsexual to get information, get through transition and go on with their lives on a more or less equal basis with the rest of the world.  That battle pretty much has been won.  I still “mentor” the occasional woman directly.  I did a lot of “changing the dialogue” behind the scenes in the psych professions that has paid off and about to become official.  I did this for over a decade while several sociopaths targeted me, sometimes doing serious damage to my life in the short term.

This particular sociopath has demanded I apologize for and renounce all I have learned and share about both the birth condition transsexuality and about “transgenders”  My reply to that is one of my old signature lines:

In the larger scheme of things, it might not be smart to piss off a witch.

if you came here from the WaterShed News article, please read this as well

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The Last Time I Wore Camo’s

Posted by catkisser on January 12, 2010

Life is full of weird little ironies, one of them was the circle of “guys” I hung out with, mostly dating back to my college days, was a mixture of Yuppies and those from rural backgrounds.  In college, I actually taught most of them how to shoot and later, how to track and hunt.  True confessions time, one of the ways I coped with my “issues” was to hide behind a beard much of my adult life.  This was actually quite liberating in an unexpected way, you see it allowed me to be reasonably true to myself, a woman, while bearing that unmistakable male marker that deflected attention to the fact.  Ask any female to male transsexual about that because the very first thing they typically do is grow a beard when the testosterone lets them for that very reason.

The summer of 93 I shaved it off….and a funny thing happened as a result, to everyone who knew me, I was still male but those I met for the first time, I either confused the hell out of them or they simply saw me as a butch woman.  And it scared the hell out of me because here was my big, dark, forbidden secret and people were seeing it without trying!  The next couple of years I got a crash course in how people gender other people and the ability of most to absolutely not see things happening right in front of them they didn’t want to see.  I would go with one of my male friends to do something either gender neutral or downright macho and I would immediately be taken by all we met as the wife…..and the male friend absolutely would not acknowledge it was happening at all.  Trips to the flea markets and farm auctions with Terry this happened but most surprising to me was hunting, fishing and canoing with my friend Tom.  Tom’s wife, Nancy had inherited a cabin at Lakeside, Ohio.  Lakeside was a gated Methodist resort area on Lake Erie and Nancy’s family mostly just rented it out during the summer but every spring and fall Tom and I would go up to open and the close the cabin for the season and make an extended weekend of it so as to get in some fishing.  Without a beard, and especially when we brought his young son, Andrew, with us…..I was the wife…to everyone…and Tom never once allowed himself to see this even when older couples would come up to us fishing on the dock and ask him “who catches more fish, you or your wife?” and point to me.  Or when some other kid Andrew was playing with would say something like “ask your mom if you can join us for dinner.”

But it was the last time I went deer hunting with Tom that it got really really strange.  I was a master cabinetmaker with my own business and it was very hard to take time off if someone had a job in process.  But deer hunting was one excuse everyone in Ohio understood.  Opening day was pretty much considered a holiday and high schools even were frequently shut down for it.  For me not to go hunting on opening day of deer season with Tom was literally unthinkable.  So that year, even though I’d gotten a puncture wound on my hand that was getting infected and not responding to my home remedies, I went.  Even though I was running a fever of over a hundred.  I really didn’t want to go so I made sure I picked a spot for Tom where he’d be assured of getting a deer right away and sure enough, around 11 am he did and after helping him dress it out, I was free to go home and did.

My business had been slowing down all that year and the only health insurance I had covered emergency room visits only.  I was three counties away from home and was driving past a county hospital so I stopped in to have my hand lanced and get a prescription for anti-biotics or so I thought.  Ok, let me paint a mental picture for you.  I was driving a pickup truck with an easy rider rifle rack with a shotgun and black powder rifle.  I was in hunting camos from head to toe with the hunter orange vest.  Heavy camo hunting boots.  This was literally the most butch you could go without pissing in public.  I was told they had to admit me for treatment and was given no choice in the matter even though I kept telling them, I’d drive to the hospital near my home and get admitted and that I absolutely wasn’t covered by insurance and would not be able to pay for this.

I was there for three days, put in a private room which made no sense to me at the time and in retrospect absolutely no one on staff checked out any part of me other than my hand.  Working several years later as a nursing assistance, and ironically sometimes in that same hospital I can tell you this was not standard treatment.

Cut to several years later when I had just transitioned.  The hospital sued me for the fees, no surprise.  Tom, who was an attorney, represented me but refused to see me in person after I’d come out to him.  One day he called pretty upset and said he had just received the admittance form from that visit and couldn’t talk about it so he was emailing it to me.  These forms are a checklist of the exams done by the admitting physician.  It all looked pretty standard until you got to urinary/genitals exam.  Handwritten in (instead of checked) was “exam deferred, normal female”.  At least that last time, Tom saw it.

Posted in autobiographical ramblings | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Standing In Balance

Posted by catkisser on September 25, 2009

This is the interview I gave Raven Kaldera for the second edition of Hermaphrodities Raven’s works are utterly fascinating and well worth a read. Crossposted at Riding the Second Wave

1) Tell us about your gender identity.

My gender identity is woman/female. Sounds simple doesn’t it? It is far from so. I’ve been told by both intersexed people and trans people I don’t exist, that the conditions of my birth are impossible or at least impossibly rare enough I could not possibly be who I am…..and yet I am. Up to now I have mostly kept these things private to myself and those who came to study with me for this reason. I was born a tetragametic chimera which means in simpler terms, born during the sign of Gemini, I am, literally, twins in a single person with two different sets of genetics in one body, in my case fraternal twins, one male, one female that combined around the second or third cellular split. At my birth I embodied Agdistis. I was born at a “cottage” hospital in 1949 and presented with both an apparent penis and labia, the doctor sewed up my labia and declared me male. From the time I was first able to grasp the concept of male and female, I knew I was female and the circumstances of my birth having been kept from me, when I ran across the concept of “transsexual”, I thus assumed that was what I was and “transitioned” as an adult within that context. It was only after I first transitioned that I learned of my own nature although I had suspected so my entire life. Today my body reflects the Divine Feminine.

2) Tell us about your spiritual path. How did you get to where you are now?

Again, simply put, I was called from my earliest memories. Once again that sounds simpler than the reality. Around the same time, age three to four, I became aware I was not the boy everyone said I was, I was also having very vivid dreams, many of which I remember to this day as if I had them last night instead of some 56 odd years ago. I had a lot of nightmares and quickly learned the technique of lucid dreaming to turn them around and make the “monsters” into allies instead of enemies. But the most vivid dreams that reoccurred over and over were of an enormous, much larger than life beautiful woman dressed mostly in white robes. In those dreams She comforted me, told me things I could never quite remember upon waking but those dreams were incredibly peaceful and soothing and had a profound effect on me. Today I know that is the traditional way She called Her daughters.

Up until I first was enrolled in kindergarten, my childhood was relatively free of gender policing and playing dressup with the girl from across the creek was allowed and not discouraged. By the age then that children were allowed relative freedom from constant parental oversight I was spending almost all my time in whatever wild area was nearby and thus spent most of my early childhood forests and woods. The adults I sought out to learn from were the women that today I would call crones in the best sense. My family tree on both sides is mostly old New England, my father’s side the pragmatic down to earth, my mother’s side eccentric free thinkers, spiritualists and proud as punch of our ancestors such as Susanna Martin, a Salem witch trial victim from Amesbury, Mass. and William Wood who wrote the book “New England Prospects” that launched much of the immigration to that area in the 1600’s but had his own property taken away for going too native. I grew up with spirits, ghosts, tales of witchcraft and devoured any books I could find on those subjects. I grew up a Pagan in other words hidden in plain sight for my fathers side of the family mostly rejected me and my mother’s embraced me. I had a personal feminist awaking around 1958 just as second wave feminism was in it’s birth as a reaction to my own father’s patriarchal treatment of my mother. While the world saw me as male, I was within my own head female always and made as much peace as possible with that.

At age fifteen, our family moved to India traveling leisurely throughout Rome, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, the Middle East both on the way to India and the way back. I “knew” all these ancient places we visited. My father leading the way with an outdated “Europe on Five Dollars a Day” book, we found ourselves over and over off the beaten path of the tourists. We vacationed in Kashmir, I was allowed to travel alone to places like Dehra Dun, Agra and Jaipur. I explored wild places infinitely wilder than I had before and an India which at the time was closer to the India of the British Raj era than the India of today. I met and spent long hours with “gurus” and Muslims and Hindus of all social classes. I was aware I would not have been allowed to have any of these experiences had the world seen me as female while knowing I was and the inequality of that. Strangely enough my actual gender seemed to be clear to many of the Indian people I encountered who reminded me that my auburn hair would get me in trouble in many remote villages I visited if I were seen as female as it was considered the mark of a witch woman for example. Our cook, a live-in position, never called me by my birth name but only “Jackie” after Jackie Kennedy who occupied a place in world culture then immediately after JFK’s assassination similar to the one Princess Diana later had. It was his way of telling me he knew who I was and that was fine with him. I most likely met some hijra during that time, but was unaware of who they were. Had I been aware there is little doubt in my own mind I would have gone native and joined them.

My college years were at the height of the counter culture movement of the late sixties. Paganism was coming of age at this time as well and more and more material was coming into my hands. So much so that by the mid-seventies I found myself teaching a course at the Free University at Ohio State for several years on the history of Paganism and the Occult. It was around this time I discovered a sporadic wealth of material on the Mother Goddess traditions but it was years later before the specifics about Cybele Herself came to hand due to my eventual path being the most ruthlessly suppressed of all the Pagan traditions by the early church.

Throughout my lifelong studies I was far more interested in the essence of Pagan theology than I was in the trappings and abandoned ceremonial magick as a personal dead end in favour of a gnostic approach. In 1989 I ran across a copy of Merlin Stone’s “When God was a Woman” in a flea market and suddenly things clicked into place. I started going back and re-reading the occult “classics” with new eyes. I suddenly kept seeing the name “Cybele” literally leaping from the pages for me in one semi-vague reference after another. The thing that struck me more than anything else was all the Mother Goddess traditions, presented as totally different religions, weren’t. They all shared the same symbols, the same essence and many of the exact same trappings of practice for literally thousands of years.

At the same time, my final bout with the dysphoric imperative (need to transition) was also coming to a head. Several times in my life I had managed to come to an accommodation with it short of out and out transition. I had learned I could “be” a woman and have others see me as male. At this time, that stopped working entirely and those I met were seeing me as a woman regardless of how aggressively male I tried to appear. Further, it was becoming very distasteful personally to be seen as male.

I transitioned and the Mother Goddess started knocking me around whenever I varied from Her path. I was directed to first establish a reclaiming of Her worship in the form of Cybele and then after literally throwing the missing pieces of the various puzzles in my face, move to the Catskills of upstate New York and establish a centre for that tradition. When I balked somewhat at that last, She took away my ability to not do so by handicapping me physically. When the Goddess directs you, She will prevail.

The Cybeline revival began with what Roman and Greek materials we had easy access to. Since then we have expanded that further back to the essence of all Mother Goddess traditions and then advanced our theology to reflect what we would have been today without the 1500 year interruption resulting from our wholesale murder by the early church. We are not a reconstructionist path in sticking only to Roman or Greek practice but a living extension of our own traditions throughout the world and history. As our knowledge of pre-history expands, we absorb and embrace that.

3) What’s the most important thing for trans people to know about spirituality?

Balance, the single most important thing for anyone, but especially trans/intersexed people spiritually is the concept of walking between the worlds and standing in balance. That is the position the Mother Goddess occupies and She is within all of us. “Walking between the Worlds” is so much more than just gender/sex. It is the intersection of science and magick, the living and the dead, the seen and unseen worlds, the darkness and the light. The gift of being different, and I do see it as a Divine gift and obligation, is the ability, if we only open our eyes widely and actually see that cultural impositions are not the laws of the universe, a “leg up” as it were, on understanding what it means to actually put yourself in the place of another and see through their eyes by virtue of having to see the world from a different perspective altogether ourselves.

I teach from within the concept of the Mother Goddess but often those very words are misunderstood today. “Mother” brings visions to the modern mind of stay at home moms all nurturing and devoted to children. Goddess implies a larger than life version of the christian God somewhere out of reach perhaps sitting on a cloud watching our every move. Both fail if you do this. The image of the Mother Goddess in every tradition I have studied is the Divine Feminine principle. The image is one we can grasp but She is also the Mother who never gives birth, the Goddess of wild places and of lions and birds of prey. Her essence is present in the now know fact that all higher level life starts off first as female as the default setting in fetal development. She is that within ourselves, male, female, other, that is the spark of Divine and if you do not find what you seek within, you shall never find it without because She is with us from the beginning. The word Nameste is a Hindu word now seeing wider use in the West. Literally it means “the Divine in me acknowledges the Divine in you.” Most fascinating of all to me has been the discovery that at the root of all Mother Goddess traditions you find hints She was, in the beginning, a female identified hermaphrodite and the maleness then cloned off to a “consort” later on.

Trans and intersexed people have a rich and ancient connection with the Divine as teachers throughout almost all cultures of the world. You can even find references to it in the Christian Bible in Isaiah 56 3-5. Several years ago I wrote a series of essays on the transsexual priestesses of the ancient world, I did so as a gift to those who followed me of their heritage. Today, I would write a different version given additional information, gained insight and having witnessed attempts to turn my own hard won path into a “tranny” religion when it never was any such thing. Balance is the key.

4) What do we have to teach the rest of the world, spiritually?

We have the power to challenge gender roles merely by being. This is vastly different from destroying the essences of male and female by rendering asunder all good about maleness and femaleness but rather teaching others it is possible to become fully human whatever that means to any particular individual. As a dyed in the wool feminist, my opposition the the patriarchy is a given but my beef with the Dianic movement born of Pagan radical feminism has been the desire to replace the patriarchy with a matriarchy and a rewriting of history, particularly of the Goddess cultures, to reflect that. Two thousand plus years of a totally patriarchal ascendancy over the world can make equality of men and women appear matriarchal, but my own lifelong journey into ancient history and spirituality teaches me that it was equality, not female dominance that was the hallmark of those cultures. And thus we return to the concept of balance and standing between worlds and embracing our personal Goddess natures. Once you truly accept that everyone and everything around you is also a part of yourself linked by your own Divine nature, you do not need rules to tell you harming others and all around you is harming yourself.

Posted in autobiographical ramblings, Life, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

 
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