“When I sit in the alehouse, I am a woman, and I am an exuberant young man. When I am present at a place of quarrelling, I am a woman, a perfect figure. When I sit by the gate of the tavern, I am a prostitute familiar with the penis; the friend of a man, the girlfriend of a woman.” – “A shir-namsub to Inana,” The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature
over the maiden’s head
she makes a sign of prayer
hands then folded at her nose
she declares her manly/woman
in sacred rite
she takes the broach
which pins a woman’s robe
breaks the needle, silver thin
consecrates the maiden’s heart as male
gives to her a mace
for this one dear to her
she shift’s a god’s curse
a blight reversed
out of nothing shapes
what has never been
her sharp wit
splits the door
where cleverness resides
and there reveals
what lives inside
–from “Lady of Largest Heart” by Enheduanna, circa 2300 BCE
This has been a bit of a slow burn for me; generally speaking, when people I know to be foolish on some subjects open their mouths and start talking, I don’t waste any more time trying to teach the pig to sing. I have got other things to do. But honestly…and this is no fault of his, particularly…when Erick DuPree started talking about “respecting our Elders” it just broke me.
We respect our elders, when we do so, for their wisdom. And that respect has to be earned; it is not automatic. Nor can it be coerced. Not to put too fine a point on it…they have to actually be wise. I will tell you this: The problem is far, far beyond signing one petition (however mean-spirited), or a few ill-considered remarks. I’m glad that Erick DuPree has had such positive experiences, but many other people have not. There is a toxic history of hostility towards queerfolk there that goes back decades…from people who damn well ought to know better.
The petition that Macha Nightmare signed is to “remove the T” from LGBT organizational support, citing a bunch of scare-mongery nonsense. It claims to be from “gay and bisexual” signatories but I am smart enough to know that any group of people trying to pry trans people loose from the chain of queer solidarity are going to be coming after me next. We as groups are barely tolerated in some gay and lesbian circles as well as the wider culture as it is, and by “barely” I mean “openly viewed with hostility and/or actively erased.” I fled that hostility as baby queer and landed in the Pagan community partially because it was the one place I felt being bi was a non-issue. Oh, the irony.
And to answer Erick’s question about whether we are to assume she is trans-phobic because she signed it…yes. Yes, we are. It’s a transphobic document; it claims among other things that women get regularly attacked in bathrooms by “men” ie trans women. It’s nonsense, and it’s hateful nonsense. She put her name to it willingly. What Luisah Teish and Rose Barrett said likewise. They are grown-ass women, and responsible for what they say and do. You can’t claim or advocate respect on the one hand and make excuses (or call names) on the other; it doesn’t work that way.
Look: age is no excuse. If you could draw on ancient sources to help restore the sacred feminine, a deeply radical notion in the 1960s and 70s, you could certainly have noticed that those same ancient sources make frequent reference to the sacred androgyne…Gods, Goddesses, and their priesthoods alike. We aren’t talking about some “progress” that hasn’t quite happened yet and that we need to be patient for; nor yet about disrespect for elders, forsooth. We are talking about Ancestors, who are the most Elder of all, and reading the source material.
And that is what I came here to tell you about. Let stupid be stupid. What I want to say to you…especially those who are trans, genderfluid, bisexual, or any variety of shapeshifter queer…is that we aren’t some peripheral afterthought of the sexually polarized Mystery. We aren’t the next down the priority list of being seen as fully human, and for some a bridge too far. We are at its core.
That core is expansive. No matter who you are, I need you to go think about the fact that physical sex, sexual orientation and gender identity are demonstrably not fixed and immutable qualities parceled out in discrete and complete packages tidily by nature, that they are tidal, they are in flux…and that’s true for you even if your compass needle never swings at all personally, except it does because nobody in this world is exactly the same sexual and gendered person they were born as. I need you to go and ponder that until you get it. It will be easier for some of you than others. And when you do get it you will know because it will feel exactly like the touch of a Goddess, fire and breaking open, a curse unbound. You are not a fixed object. You are a transformation in progress, always.
Even if all that is a little too mystical for you, consider that “The Lady of Largest Heart” which is literally one of the oldest works of literature in the world, written by the first named author in human history (a woman) describes a ritual in which Inanna removes the symbols of womanhood and “consecrates [a] maiden’s heart as male,” then does the same with a man, granting each the role and status of another gender by divine fiat and simultaneously inducting them into her priesthood. She herself appears as whatever gender she pleases, and pays no regard to expectations while doing so. Inanna is no minor deity; she is Queen of Heaven, Priestess of the Gods, winner of the holy me from Enlil, pre-eminent Goddess of sexuality, battles, and all of the arts and sciences and skills of rulership and the social order. That is to say…ancient Mesopotamia was the foundation, the cradle of Western civilization, and the sexy mama rocking that cradle was a cross-dressing, gender-shifting, sovereignty-and-victory-granting Goddess who would make love to anything that moved, male, female, or androgynous, with bells on and drums playing. If we as a civilization want our groove back, I know Who has it. And she is not about to put up with any of your trans- or bi- or homo-phobic blather, misogyny, or ignorant hateful nonsense.
May your door be opened, and your truest self revealed; may it manifest like a flower blossoming out of nowhere. That is Inanna. That is her.
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