Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Transgender Day of Remembrance

It was Transgender Day of Remembrance 3 years ago, 2008. I attended a candlelight vigil that night at a Metropolitan Community Church in Fort Worth, Texas—and it was the first time I attended a church service as Sophie. There were several of my transgender friends attending and I thought it would be a welcoming place to go.

I also had a friend at work who suggested that I try out the Unitarian Universalist church because of my spiritual experiences that did not line up completely with the spiritual doctrine I had grown up under. I had already outed myself to her and she was fast becoming a good friend. So, in early December, I checked out the local Unitarian Universalist Church, Westside. I went as male and confided to the person who greeted me that I was transgender. She told me about how they had a program for the kids to help them understand lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. I decided that I would alternate between the two churches. I wasn't brave enough to show Sophie in public to people I hadn't met yet. I decided I would go female to the MCC and male to the UU.

A few weeks later, I dressed up as Sophie to attend the MCC and was on my way, when I felt an incredible spiritual pull to go to Westside Unitarian instead. I thought to myself, Oh great. I'm not ready. I followed the compulsion anyway and was greeted with warmth by the ladies of the church. You know, I never made it back to the MCC church, and I never told them about my former male experience. The Unitarian Church embraced me, kissed me on the cheek and gave me room and encouraged me to grow into the person I was meant to be.

Since Sunday was Transgender Day of Remembrance, I wrote a poem a couple of days previous to share with my congregation the feelings it engenders in me. It's called, “I Cried” and I also posted on the green project board I put together in the foyer before moving it  the reception area.

I Cried

I cried.
When I read
How you died.
How your body was mutilated
Beyond recognition.

I cried
Because you died
For who you were

You had the courage
To Be

I cried
Because I lied
Because your fate
Might Be mine.

They identify your body
And I cry.

I don't feel safe
When I read
Almost daily
The same
Sad tale.

Because you might have been me,
I cry.

They can't find
Who took your life,
Or when they do,
Blame you
For being true
To yourself.

I light a candle
To honor the spirit
The courage
The hope in the darkness
So I don't have to cry

Sofia Jean Featherwind, November 18, 2011, For Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today, when I got home, I received a pleasant shock. In an envelope in my mailbox was a letter from my health insurance essentially approving coverage of the hormone therapy that was prior to my surgery in May and tagged as a complication. It's been more than a couple of weeks since I appeared before a grievance committee to present my argument of why they should cover my surgery. I'm taking this as a positive sign.

You need to make sure you carve out time for yourself. And if you're going to work crazy hours at something, make sure it's something you can feel compassionate about.

I'm done leap frogging jobs, because I found that I didn't have the passion to sustain the loyalty I kept throwing into companies just to have it betrayed when they needed money.

I leave between 4 and 5 pm every day and live my life outside of the office where I find my true meaning. Yeah, from 8:30 to roughly 4:30, I guide the team and run it when the lead is absent, handling all the tech issues, etc. But when I walk out that door, I breathe because I have dreams and aspirations to work on.

I have been performing. I lost count of the number of solos I did, and I did one with an ad hoc troupe. Three of us may be forming up to create a more permanent troupe named Desert Mist. I am so excited. Almost every day sees me practicing, unless I am taking a couple of days off for muscle recovery. I just got done with two back to back solos on the last two weekends. I did one choreography and a couple of drum improvisational dances for the church carnival and three choreographed pieces and another improv at an art gallery as part of the live entertainment for an after conference party.

I am signed up to perform at the January Winter Festival with Desert Mist, a couple of solos in February and in March, my performing class Azalea starts doing performances until September. So, I've been keeping myself busy.

The one thing I have learned is that things almost always go wrong. The best thing you can do is smile and keep on going, remembering that you are doing it for fun.

I've had a couple of articles posted in biweekly periodicals. One was about my battle with my insurance company and the other was a piece about me and my book.

My kids will be with me tomorrow through Sunday morning for Thanksgiving break. I'm planning on taking them shopping, to the movies and to Thanksgiving dinner at Golden Corral.

Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving,

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Creativity out of Chaos

The Censor is part of our leftover survival brain. It was the part in charge of deciding whether it was safe for us to leave the forest and go out into the meadow. Our Censor scans our creative meadow for any dangerous beasties. Any original thought can look pretty dangerous to our Censor.

The only sentences/paintings/sculptures/photographs it likes are the ones that it has seen many times before. Safe sentences. Safe paintings. Not exploratory blurts, squiggles, or jottings. Listen to your Censor and it will tell you that everything original is wrong/dangerous/rotten.

Who wouldn't be blocked if every time you tiptoed into the open somebody (your Censor) made fun of you? The morning pages will teach you to stop listening to that ridicule. They will allow you to detach from your negative Censor.

-- Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way

I totally miffed it last night. When the world goes to chaos, it's time to just go with the creative energy. "Indian Outlaw" didn't go as planned. I could barely hear the music and it was well on its way before I could get in position on the floor.  The audience was fairly empty because everyone was in line to get food, and I started missing all my musical cues. Everything that could go wrong seemed to do so. All of my isolated mistakes from previous practice sessions seemed to all hit at once. I got confused at The Huntress and couldn't keep my balance in The Bow. I had to make up filler content on the spot to get back in sync. I just smiled and kept on going until I got backstage and beat myself up in my frustration.

But no one seemed to know about my mistakes. I was told, "I like your costume" and "That was a pretty dance." If I had done it right, I should have been feeding the energy to the audience and hearing "That was awesome."

I waited what seemed like forever for the clown I was to follow with my Shakira number. There were a lot of lulls between acts. The sound that seemed to be working was that coming from the live singers. Even the guitarist could barely be heard. And as much as I scanned the crowd, I could find no clown.

I danced by the silent auction table to the singers on stage, reminding myself very sternly that I do this for fun. It served as the warmup I needed, the one I missed just trying to get to the church in time to do  an equipment check before the auction began.

Then the drumming circle took the floor, but only right after I was asked if I wanted to go ahead and perform my next piece. I knew their improvisational rhythms were great--so I asked if I could dance with them. They indicated the space Deborah had cleared out earlier for my dance in front of the drums and I stood just outside the last drum on stage left until I could mimic the first beats with my body. I made my body a visual drum, trying to anticipate the next beat, shimmying, bumping and turning to the audience, dancing to them. I picked out groups of faces in the well lit audience and smiled my ecstatic pleasure at them as I let the energy course through my muscles.  

When I had started, the audience was half-packed. When the song was over, it was standing room only. Women in the back were dancing along, someone was clapping out the beat, ululations were very clear, and after a very long grueling of channeling the creative energy, the last beat was struck.

I figured I just barely had time to rest before my next routine if I bowed out immediately. I also thought that I had borrowed enough of the spotlight from the drumming troupe. As I stepped away from the floor into the audience, someone yelled, "Encore!," and it was clear the audience would not allow me to stray without another round. Not sure if I could repeat, I released myself to the gathering beat.

My improvisational ecstatic dance was light-years ahead of my choreographed routine. The frenzy was awesome, but I was starting to feel the sweat, loss of breath, and aching muscles threatening to overwhelm me. It was clear I was done for the evening.

Belly dancing takes a tremendous amount of energy. This was the first time I had ever performed more than one routine in public, and I did three! Not the two I expected, but still...This time I was approached by so many more people and started hearing my favorite phrases: "That was awesome!," "I know how difficult that is," and "How long have you been doing this?"

And there's the rub, the reason I shouldn't be beating myself up. It's been only four months since I started taking serious lessons. In that time, I've lost track of the number of performances I've done, as well as being admitted to a dancing troupe, and encouraged to keep performing! What has seemed like forever to me has in reality been a very short time. I just had major surgery almost 6 months ago!

Of course, I think I've hit my maximum amateur audience size. I can't think of any events I could appear at that would host more that 200 people, except maybe the pride festival next June. Joni has already reserved the space and is expecting me to dance. I will definitely want to dance with a live band playing.

Next weekend, I am performing at the Gender Conference After Party. I've got my workout practice cut out for me. I can't wait to share all this with my private instructor tomorrow. Wait until I tell her someone videotaped my performance and is emailing me a copy.

Hugs and God Bless,
Sofia Featherwind