Playing in the River of the Reality of Binary-Relativism, By Jennifer Angelina Petro

Playing in the River of the Reality of Binary-Relativism

By

Jennifer Angelina Petro

 

 

Try and take hold of the night.  What ends up filling your hands is darkness tinged with light, whether that be moonlight or starlight, there will be traces of the coming morning or the retreating sunset.

Likewise, try and take hold of the day.  What ends up filling your hands is light tinged with darkness, whether it be the shimmering shadows of the willow, or your own shadow, or that small, rushing anxiousness that evening is approaching much faster than your plans would like.

Night and day are ideas—in the truest sense they do not exist as opposites—they are ever and always touching, held together by a river that flows both ways.  I know, the “held together,” and “flowing both ways,” seem to contradict the idea that night and day are one.  Words are limited in scope and range.  And it is easier (safer) to write in ideas like black and white and the binaries of male and female.  You can try and wrap words (ideas) around other ideas and, at best, you come up with a poem, and, at worst, fear-based violence.

Why is it safer (easier) to write in terms of binary ideas? Describing day and night as light and dark is strangely comforting to those people who fear stepping into the river.  Describing greys, tones, gradations, the multitude of colors that inform sunsets and sunrises–this type of thinking requires more effort, more consciousness, and an openness to the idea of the infinite creativity of the God they believe in.  It is easier (and safer) to let one’s thinking be governed by ideas that appear to fit their notions of “the opposites.”

It’s the same with thinking of the idea of the so-called gender-binary.  Defining gender by body parts, chromosomes, and reproductive functions is the same basal reasoning as saying day and night can be defined by clocks and the amount of light we see or don’t see.  Reducing genders to body parts invalidates the manifestations of the inner and outer gender identities that so many experience in the reality of their lives.

Life flows in a circular current between the ideas of binaries.  The reality is spectrum, shadows, fading in and out colors, touches, whispers, hints, nuances—nothing exclusive unto themselves—travel West far enough and you slip into the East.  Rise North as far as you can go.  You will only descend into the South, like a waterfall.

This blending and interwoveness isn’t to be feared—not within the notions of day or night, male and female, mania and depression, faith and disbelief.  Everything touches.  Everything mixes.  What is created along that circular movement is peace, life, the aforementioned wonder, and yes, the infinite ways these ideas manifest in the river of the world.

But what of science?  Doesn’t it prove the idea of opposites?  Some people use science in the same way they use bibles—selectively.  While deriding the idea of the gender spectrum they propagate the ideas that climate change doesn’t exist, that the earth was created in six days, that all the animals of the world fit into an ark, and for some, that the earth is flat.

Science is crucial to the future of humanity. So is letting go of fear of change and the perceived threats to the family.  Erasing the idea of gender binaries doesn’t unleash havoc on the family.  Instead it opens up the definitions and manifestations of family.  It doesn’t mean the end of procreation.  It doesn’t mean the end of heterosexual, cisgender marriages.  All it does is threaten the shadow-desires some people feel but are trained to be experienced as deviance and to be felt as shame and fear.

The idea that binaries are ideas sometimes threatens people in other ways—particularly that the world will dissolve into relativism.  What is so threatening about that–whether that relativism be cultural or societal?  If the idea that there are no absolute truths threatens one’s spiritual security then where is their faith?  In reality, one cannot escape cultural relativism.  It’s the same with the ideas of black and white and the gender binaries.  For example, take a look at the word, “relativism.”  It’s clearly “related” to “relating,” ‘relations,” and “relationship.”  And these, in turn, can be traced back to the word, “refer,” which, means, in Latin, “to relate, and to carry back.”  Let’s carry the idea that gender is based on body parts back to the reality that some “men,” are born with vulvas, and some “women,” are born with penises or combinations of both.  Those aren’t ideas—those are realities.  They are not mutations or abnormalities—they are as natural as being born with a certain hair color.  What is the threat if someone knows they are a gender that may not correspond to the body parts that some people associate with a particular gender?  In reality, there is no threat.  The threat is fake news.

In the same way, relativism does not erase decades of fighting for women’s rights and feminism.  However, if modern feminism and the fight for respect, dignity, safety, jobs, pay rates, does not include transwomen and other people on the spectrum that identify as female, then it isn’t truly feminism.  It is as guilty as the extremist Christians that hold the old idea that in order to be female you need a vulva as defined by the confines of reproductive function.

All things are related, in relationship, and we can even have “relations.” These are realities.  The idea of night being related to the idea of day and the reality of these relationships can be experienced in our everyday lives, and no one is threatened.

Knowing binaries are ideas does not blur or muddy the waters of reality’s river.  They liberate us into realizing the infinite facets of the divine radiating prisms of color that touch the world with joy and wonder—in other words—variety—infinite variety.

Heaven hell, good and evil.  These are ideas inherently couched in relativism—cultural and spiritual.  Killing is wrong unless you’re defending your flag or religion, or the world from abortion; stealing is wrong unless you are trying to save your children; war is wrong unless it is for oil or to get rid of “evil doers,” who believe something different than you.  My religion is right because yours is wrong, my book says so, your book is wrong.  It’s silliness—dangerous, childish, fear-based silliness—and most of it propagated by men insecure of their own sexual/gender identities and possibilities.  Everyone knows how dangerous, cunning, manipulative, and cruel a man can be when scared.  History is full of men scared of losing something or scared of something being revealed and to prevent this they resort to violence.  And it is undeniable that many men who rail against homosexuality are found to possess porn, and or engage in sex with other men.  Why is that?  Because gender is a spectrum and something to be ashamed of.

Ask yourself reading this right now if it inspires you with vehement hatred, anger, and, if you’re extreme—violence?  If it does, I suggest you have little-to-no faith in your god—your beliefs, which are nothing more than ideas woven with communal feelings—are weak.  Indeed, they are relative.  You’re proving it by being upset.  If you’re living in the prison of the idea of binaries and you’re reading this, and you have some twinge somewhere within you—whether that be between your legs, in your heart, or in your mind—that moves you to the suppressed knowledge that you are actually happily gender-non-conforming—that you are perhaps a gender other than what your genitals say.  Most certainly it points to your shadow hiding conscious or unconscious secrets.  What if you’re feeling a secret, joyous sense of freedom as you read this? I suggest that indicates you are a true believer—in the sense that you believe in a god of infinite possibilities and varieties that in no way threatens anyone or anything—only your limited ideas.

Go play in the river.  You can’t drown in a river made of joy—unless you become afraid and slip back into the suffocating ideas that kept you from going near the river in the first place.  Look, there are others already there—splashing, swimming, and forming bridges called Fun and Freedom and Faith.  There is room for all.  Go be baptized in the infinite variety of your god.

 

 


 



Reflections on Clothing, Body Hair, Shaving, Joseph, Mowgli, Spirits, and My Spiritmother from Home, By Radiance Angelina Petro

Reflections on Clothing,

Body Hair, Shaving, Joseph,

Mowgli, Spirits, and My Spiritmother from Home

By

Radiance Angelina Petro

 

mowgli eye

 

I remember, before I came out, going to work wearing a tie, stiff slacks, dress shoes, and getting called, Joseph and Mr. all day; and then, coming home, shedding it all—dropping it all—like unnecessary armor—the clothes, the name, and then putting on my comfortable clothes–the ones I had started buying and wearing in secret, the ones I have always wanted to wear but didn’t know it—the ones that made my body feel alive; and finding myself suddenly breathing again.  I hadn’t realized it, but I had been holding my breath in a very real sense the whole day.  In my silken night gown however–beard and all, hairy everything and all–I felt at home in my body.  And then, add to this wonder, the discovery that I could choose my own name, and I felt like a queen—well, more like a sorceress brewing her own life.

The day came when I found myself shaving my arms for the first time.  I couldn’t believe how freeing it was.  This may sound hard to believe, but the day I shaved my entire body (well, what I could reach, that is), I hadn’t planned on doing it.  I just stood there naked in front of the full-length mirror, took the clippers out, and started.  Some of you may not know this, but I used to be hairy as hell.  When the tufts of hair began to fall from my arms, chest, legs, belly, my…well, other parts—I laughed and wept, and then laughed and wept some more.  I was so incredibly happy.

I wasn’t shaving to try to look like some feminized image in my head—nor was I, nor am I now, against body hair on anyone—but for me, it was a moment of liberation and revelation, and shaving felt like shedding, molting—stepping out of bearskin and becoming human.

Same as when I wore “women’s” clothes for the first time.  Of course there is no such thing as men’s or women’s clothes—I know that now—but those first few weeks I started wearing clothes I thought were women’s, were among the most innocently sweet times of my life.  Yes, you and I both know I am prone to hyperbole and just a touch of drama—but who cares?  It’s the truth.  First time I wore a woman’s blouse and skirt I felt euphorically happy. And when I put a dress on for the first time– hiding up in my room late one Friday night in late winter– I admit I felt aroused, but much more than sexually–I felt blessed, validated, home—a kind of arousal I had never experienced before but that would soon be eclipsed by the watershed moment when I realized what all of this meant (not that it needed any meaning)—the moment I realized I am transgender.

What I saw in the mirror that night was right and good, even though, as I said, I still kept a beard—which in those first few months, felt like an incongruency.  I now know many gorgeously handsome men who wear dresses and sport beards and they look (and are) amazing. But then there came the day the beard had to go too.  And for me, I have done my best since that day, to look and feel as shaven as I can. That is my preference.  Somedays I put on my skirt and a t-shirt, eye makeup and go out without shaving—occasionally I won’t shave for two days, but that is rare.

The thought of wearing a tie now, or the old clothes I used to wear, sickens and saddens me—or rather, makes me feel like it’s a violation of my being to even think about wearing them.  And I know that is still stinking thinking—that it doesn’t matter what I wear—I am a woman through and through—fuck what anyone else thinks a woman should or shouldn’t be or wear—I get it—intersex complications all rolled into one me—I am a woman—no matter what I wear, how I dress, or how much body hair I choose to keep on or not.  And yet the feeling remains that to wear those old clothes would be like wearing fire.

And today, alone in my house, but not alone inside—for I have you and others—I no longer have to hide anything.  This is me (of course, yes, there are still things I hide just for the sake of the joy of mystery).  For the first time in a long time, I am OK with me—with who and what I see in the mirror.  I am not where I want to be in many ways with regards to my physical appearance, but I am moving in the direction that feels right for me.

Wednesday, at therapy, I had the most profound sense that Joseph was ready to leave—that he had done his work and was ready to go back into the light.  He had protected me; did his best to keep me safe.  Even as the abuse piled on—he hid me, sheltered me from the blows—he took me into his soul.  And when I told him I was ready to give birth to myself he acted as midwife and wept with joy the hardest when he saw me standing in front of the mirror all dressed in satins and silks holding a little girl in my arms.

His spirit remains in me, but his soul has gone home.  This may be hard to understand—this difference between spirit and soul.  All I know is that spirit is like another mind—another voice or breath, while soul is the like the essence behind that mind or breath.  It is like the music of the voice and its meaning.  Spirit is mist, soul water, body earth holding all of the above.

I live with two spirits with my own soul in one body.  It’s hard to explain but it makes sense to me.  Yes, each spirit has its own, individual soul, but their souls are their souls and have little to do with me.  My soul is my soul, like your eyes are your eyes, and this body is mine—a woman’s—even if it has shades of Joseph shimmering through.

It would not surprise me in the least, by the way, to find out one day, sooner or later, that I am not two-spirited—but many spirited.  Just as there are many genders made manifest in our waking conscious lives there are many gender-spirits swirling about us—and they are all—each and every one—beautiful and scented with earth and dappled with stars, and, with my luck all looking for a home (for that is what many spirits do—they look for homes to dwell in while others are content to travel through the trees and across ponds never settling down anywhere).

Last night, Joseph sent a firefly into, and then out of, my room.  I know it was him checking up on me.  And when I blew him a kiss I felt myself grow taller into my own being.

I know too that it was my mother—my spiritmother—who sent Mowgli to me (well, she is more than my spiritmother, but that is another story—she is also more than my most recent earthmother, but that too, is another story).  Spiritmother wanted me to know I am loved and that I needed to allow myself to be loved by people here.  She wanted me to know that freely accepting and giving love with vulnerability, joy, and wisdom—is OK—even though it will always mean heartache at some point or another (there are worse things than heartache—there is heart emptiness, heart sickness, and heart rage—I have experienced all of these and at very least heartache cooks up along with it poetry and the longing that pervades the best poetry). Spiritmother sent Mowgli to me to let me know she was thinking of me, and that I am with her always, and she with me, and that, unlike I had been wrongly thinking for so long, I can bewith her whenever I wantneed.

Looking at pictures of Mowgli today, his eyes betray the source of the mystery that is the love of my spiritmother.  And, even as uncertainty swoops and dives around my head, I am safe—here—in my own true self, together, with you.

When that watershed moment came when I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that I am transgender, everything I knew and didn’t know, bloomed into that one divine, precious moment, and the joy from that moment echoes today through my entire being—right through my fingertips and toes.  Yes, the watershed moment caused a mud-slide and many houses turned on their foundations and careened down the hillsides of their lives. Yes, the watershed moment flooded the streets of many hearts and preconceived ideas of who I am or was.  Sure, the watershed moment washed out many old yards littered with the shells of old cars and rundown sheds.  Nature is like that.

That moment though was the single most soul expanding moment I have ever experienced thus far in this life, and I stand today in deep gratitude and humility that I was picked to experience a second birth in my own being, my own body—that my own soul got to realize itself while in a body—that the spirits within me have a chance to sing, dance, to revel by the fires of passion and purpose.  They get to live as freely inside of me as they want—which, is a lot—is totally—is completely—is without reservation or hesitation—is without shame—is without malice towards anyone—is with utter simplicity and fullness of breath and room to explore and to wonder and simply be.

There is more to the story, of course.  It is still writing itself in the sand and on the water and in the wind and in the fires and bones of the world. This is where I am at this moment, Friday, August 05, 2016.  As I go about my day today, looking for work and a place to live, I am also playing detective trying to piece together the intersex narrative that has been running through the pages of my life like an unseen river which is only now beginning to rise, spilling forth over the banks of the ideas I used to think held me—even as a transwoman.  The mystery continues and more shall be revealed.

 

 

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Thank you for supporting my ongoing transition.  Yours, Radiance