Samhain: in the witching hour
The last time I went trick-or-treating, I was 20 years old. I dressed up as . . . a boy. Well, I guess a young man. I bound my chest. I wore a baseball jersey. I pinned my hair up, underneath a baseball cap. And then I went to my ex-boyfriend’s parents’ house to ask for candy. My ex-boyfriend answered the door, as I hoped he would. I deepened my voice to a grunt. I’ve never been certain he recognized me.
I went to other houses in his neighborhood. I was tall enough, and looked old enough, that there were . . . comments . . . about someone so old trick-or-treating. As if by dressing up and collecting candy, I was doing something shameful, or least embarrassing. It never occurred to me until now that part of their discomfort might have been because no 20-year-old male would ever be caught dead trick-or-treating. Maybe I upset their world order.
Less than three weeks before that Halloween, I had converted to Paganism, as a solitary. I knew no other Pagans (and would not learn for 3 more years that there was a national movement towards earth religions). So emotionally and spiritually/metaphysically, I was in a liminal space where Halloween — always my favorite holiday because of dressing up — was transitioning to being a high holy day.
22 years ago today (10.30.1992), I met Spouse in person for the first time. (We’d been writing to each other.) It was a Friday, so when I went to pick him up at the airport, I was still wearing the costume I’d worn to work: not ‘out’ as a Pagan to anyone I worked with, I’d daringly (in my own mind) gone as a dryad. It felt . . . sacred somehow. Not only did none of my coworkers guess my costume, but when I told (a few of) them, they didn’t recognize the word or the concept. Spouse didn’t either: Kentucky public schools didn’t teach mythology, but I’d expected better of people raised in Chicagoland. After all, I was raised there too, and I loved mythology.
Today I bought myself a bunch of shirts, both men’s and women’s, in “river colors”: mostly blues, blue-greens, greens. Things that suit the person I am right now. Things that look good on this body.
I like my body. I don’t want to change it.
I looked at the women’s shirts first, then thought to compare available colors with men’s shirts. To get to the men’s department, I had to cross through the boys’ department. And today, that was unexpectedly difficult. There were boys shirts I would’ve won, today, if they had been remotely big enough.
I was never a boy. I never wanted to be a boy. Exactly. It’s complicated. Today all of those uncomfortable feelings were very close to the surface. I didn’t push them away. Sometimes I had tears in my eyes, and I just let them be.
What does it mean, what has it ever meant, that when I dream of “my heart’s desire”, it’s a character that I recognize as my cousin J. A boy. Someone who was my best friend for years, but also someone who tried to kill me. Someone who terrorized me and raped me. What does that “costume” of his likeness mean?
For years and years, I’ve begged and pleaded with my unconscious mind not to continue inflicting this ordeal on me. But it keeps happening.
I don’t know why.
The Lithuanian goddess of the forest, Medeine, is in my personal pantheon. But she’s nonbinary, like me. Connecting with her, in fact, helped me realize I was nonbinary-gendered. I didn’t deliberately re-name myself something rather close to her name — that’s synchronicity. Or maybe entanglement.
Some of my other gods are tricksters, and/or problem solvers. I think they’re all Chaotic; mostly Good, but slowly I’ve been making my peace with some being Chaotic Neutral. In some ways it feels like giving up; in other ways, it grants a wider latitude of available behaviors. That ongoing tension . . . is probably good for me.
I have envied tricksters for walking between worlds. But I’ve done that all my life. I don’t recall ever being so completely a thing that I felt unassailable. That I felt safe.
I have always had to save my self.
The usual shame spiral is gearing up, but tonight of all nights, I will not say those things of myself. I will not bring them into this sacred space. I refuse their power.
I want to be . . . myself.
I don’t think safe spaces will be created so that I can explore my contradictory aspects, without having to fear attack, or worse. I don’t know of any (social) place I can go to be amongst people who don’t think I’m an abomination. Or just someone who “makes them” feel uncomfortable.
Unconsciously I’d hoped AROHO would prove to be such a place. If that was only for me personally, while being ‘out’ is still so new, so raw, so excruciating, my inner trickster would allow just enjoying it. At least for a while. Before beginning activism once again to help others.
But I never heard back from them.
I’m going to apply anyway. Despite everything. It still . . . feels . . . like it could be just what I need.
But the possibilities for social rejection from a place I loved, from people I grew to care for, . . . give me pause. And yet, I know of no place where my specific gender identity, embodied as me, is welcome.
I must push forward.