Telling My Stories

A life lived outside

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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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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.

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Confessions of a Deeply Closeted College Co-Ed, circa 1969

Posted by catkisser on June 18, 2009

There really is only one word that sums up being a woman in a male body…..weird. I lost my virginity in 1969 during the age of “free sex” under bizarre circumstances. But first some background. (they are my stories after-all so you have to indulge me)

Being born with a female neurology (central nervous system) means regardless of the attempts to make a man out of you, you still think and feel in female norm fashions. Knowing since I was very young what my situation was, I was intensely interested in the differences between men and women and the mechanics of sex were mysteries to learn everything I could about….intellectually. Being bisexual and knowing everyone expected me to be interested in girls, it was fairly easy to just not think much about being interested in men. For some reason I never had any homophobia which apparently was required for hetero malehood, but then other than having every chicken hawk (old men who cruise for teenaged boys) who encountered me trying to bed me, it just didn’t come up much. So, as I was expected to do, I pursued girls as romantic interests. Looking back it was pretty pathetic. As a total sexual submissive by nature, unless I encountered a very sexually aggressive girl absolutely nothing happened at all. In lesbian circles this is sometimes known as lesbian sheep syndrome. Female sheep indicate sexual availability by standing perfectly still, you get the picture.

So, although every one of my circle of friends both in India and the US thought I was quite sexually active and experienced due to my knowledge of the mechanics of sex, I wasn’t, the instincts and my sexual responses worked against that. This was also the time of my first dysphoric “crisis”. It appears these strike women such as myself at roughly ten to fifteen year intervals until they finally get so bad you finally transition or suicide. Many of us of bisexual or lesbian nature can make adjustments (deals with the devil) through several of these crisises before they finally reach the breaking point. Mine was stepping up the adjustment I’d made as a child of honouring a parallel, but totally closeted female life. But I wanted, craved and was overwhelmed with the need for estrogen and seeking desperately for a reliable source of birth control pills, the estrogen levels of which were magnitudes greater than the ones today. As a friend today has pointed out to me (she suffers from PCOS), due to my actually having ovaries that had shutdown during the great puberty hormone wars within my body, they might have actually killed me had I succeeded. No place for the flow to go = blood poisoning.

This was at the height of the military draft and my induction center was in Kentucky, across from Huntington W. Va. They made multiple attempts to draft me despite my 2-S student deferment. Ah the blindness that comes from keeping a deep dark secret. It never once occurred to me that the answer to the draft was simply tell them the truth! Instead I did things like paste one of those enormous plastic flowers made to put on VW bugs on my chest and answer questions on the forms that asked badly worded questions such as “have you ever committed suicide?” Figuring they couldn’t draft you if you were dead, I answered “yes”. That led to an interesting session with a draft board shrink.

So here I was, sexual confused, a female libido fueled by testosterone, (that particular brand of hell is known only to classic transsexuals and women suffering PCOS) and instincts that worked against my ever having sex. A tri-delta sorority girl decided I was just the thing to make her pre-yuppie boyfriend jealous and her uptight family crazy. After all I was a genuine hippy activist who lived in a basement apartment we oh so cleverly called the A-P-T with a beer tap frig and was on the crash pad circuit. A crash pad was a place that traveling hippies told each other about that let anyone sleep there. Gross Glenn and my roommate, Fred, travelled around spreading the word so at any given time my place was filled with strangers.

The sorority girl, who’s name escapes me, and I were chatting away in the living room when Debbie and Gypsy from Arizona appeared at the door looking to crash for the night. Ms. Tri-Delt found that just too weird and immediately left. She and I had been drinking heavily, so I showed the two hippy girls how to set up the couch as a bed and retired to the bedroom and basically passed out. When I woke Debbie was on top of me and we were having sex. Talk about mixed emotions! I was pissed my body had betrayed me by responding, felt I was being raped for all practical purposes and aware I could not express that to anyone….all while having an orgasm. I did get up immediately afterwards and shower.

Three weeks later my friends told me Debbie was pregnant and it was my child. Actually she had left Arizona because she was pregnant but this cruel joke on me was continued right up until she gave birth. The other joke on me was I was practically sterile so the odds it was my child approached zero but I had no idea at the time.

My second attempt at sex was stoned with a good friend. It was a disaster. Third time being the charm, I drove down to Huntington from Columbus on a tiny 150cc motorcycle to spend a weekend with a woman I’d dated in high school…finally I experienced sex.

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The People’s Army of Ohio State

Posted by catkisser on June 18, 2009

It was a Friday, May Day, 1970 at Ohio State University. The night before a fire had been set at the ROTC building, a national student strike had been called for over the invasion of Cambodia announced the day before….but it was a beautiful day, spring day at OSU and May Day was the traditional start of the annual spring demonstration on the Oval.

I was in Botany class near the south gate of the campus and just as class let out, the march was on it’s way to the gate so I found myself at the head of the crowd leaving class. It was a happy crowd of laughing students doing something against the war and enjoying the fun of spring all at once. We were set up as it turns out. Jim Rhodes, the republican governor of Ohio wanted a major confrontation to put down the student anti-war movement. National Guard troops were already in place just outside several campuses. Just a few days before a number of us piled into Jeff-freak’s 38 Buick for a road trip all dressed up as Bonnie and Clyde characters complete with toy machine guns and ran into the Guard unit on it’s way to Kent State. We cruised along side the convey pretending to shoot. I’ll never forget that.

When we arrived at the South Gate, we were confronted with the Columbus Police “Goon Squad” as they were called then. They literally read us the riot act. That was apparently the signal for four undercover State police posing as students to close the gate. Literally the first tear gas canister landed at my feet and I was overcome as the police proceeded to advance and start clubbing everyone. Several people grabbed me and dragged me back to the Oval at mid campus. It was a pitched battle all the way back to the Oval where the public address system had already been set up for the day’s rallys. Someone got on the podium and started yelling “It’s our campus, push the pigs off!” and everything changed. We’d had enough, we fought back. Every building around the Oval was stripped of the CO2 fire extinguishers. We learned quickly to cover our faces with rags, grab the tear gas canisters with another and throw them back. Seems the police hadn’t figured on that and didn’t have gas masks either. If you hit a cansiters with the CO2, it held the gas in place and didn’t disperse.

A pitched battle went on for what seemed like hours all across the campus. We gave at least as good as we got. Dorms and Frat houses were gassed making instant radicals of those who would have be neutral. Some of us were able to rip the electrical tape covered badges off the cops for IDing them later. At the end of the day we slipped off to our apartments and dorms…I lived off campus back then near the Fairgrounds where the National Guard was camped. We smoked dope and planned for the next day. A lot of us had been hurt, some badly. I came up with the idea of a student medic corps and called my contacts at the United Christian Center to see if we could set it up there since I worked there on weekends as a janitor, Friday nights as a receptionist and Saturday nights as MC of the Cockroach Coffee House. It seems the Center was gassed during the day and they refused out of fear, so did the Newman Center (Catholics) but the Hillel Center said yes.

The next day I was on the Oval and got up on the podium and announced what we were trying to organize. By that evening we had a full scale “MASH” style unit set up complete with nurses, medical students, the first CB radios I’d seen set up in mobile units (people’s cars) and tonnes of donated medical supplies! That was one of the proudest moments of my life and never again did I ever witness that level of organic, spontaneous organizing in almost no time flat. That evening I was on the phone to the police, campus officials and the University Hospital arranging recognition of our white armbands as “neutral non combatants”.

Saturday night and Sunday the area around the campus was literally a war zone. Checkpoints everywhere on and off campus, helicopters circling endlessly, National Guard everywhere. On Saturday, right after I spoke the Guard commander spoke and announced the Guard recognized it was our campus and would get between us and police if necessary to the cheers of the crowd. Pitched battles were still breaking out all over the campus. We viewed them as our allies and Saturday and Sunday students were bringing food and drink to the Guard. This was the day before Kent State. Monday, as classes tried to resume, all hell broke out. The police were major pissed off. We had dozens of their badges and they were desperate to get them back and invading apartments, bashing students on their way to class and shooting…some rubber bullets, some live ammo. Some had rifles with fixed bayonets. While trying to aid injured students I was shot at several times and in one case, while bent over giving first aid to an unconsious student, a cop tried to run me through with a bayonet ignoring my yelling and pointing at the white arm band and the clearly marked medical bag. He was apparently pissed off I had a surplus gas mask.

I didn’t like cops much before then having had several run ins with rogue pigs, mostly over “driving while hippy” offenses, but from that day on I never trusted any cop I didn’t know personally ever again.

Four people died at Ohio State in those four days. No one but a few of us ever heard about it. All died from injuries inflicted by the police ranging from gunshot wounds to being beaten to death. There was never any justice done.

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