A Lost Rite of Passage: Earning Your Name

In many tribal and ancient cultures, people faced a rite of passage into adulthood. One aspect was being given a name at birth by a person’s parents. One carried this name during their childhood. They were allowed to make mistakes, to learn, to discover who they were and what they wanted to be. They would spend time being raised by every mother in the tribe and learning a bit about each path as they grew. They were allowed to play and make time for themselves, be as children are.

Finally, a time would come when they would have to face a great rite of passage. After the rite, they would be failures and face meditation and more lessons, or they would enter into adulthood and full accountability for their actions. Along with that, they would be expected to contribute to the tribe/village. There would be no more time of questioning and wondering, as they would now know who they were as a person, who they were in the tribe, and who they were going to be in the world.

In some cultures, part of this trial included a new name. The individual would choose or find their name. This was a symbolic way of stepping out of your parents’ shadow. Our parents do not decide our fate, what we do with our lives, nor do they choose who we are to become. One’s path rests between the individual and the Universe; that is their own contract with whatever energy or karma they may believe in.

After much meditation, the name River Bastet Morrigan Sunfeather-Fealtman was chosen. It represents many things and one thing all at the same time. It is the elements, it is dual-natured Truth, it is forever just River, and the emotional chaos. As I looked into changing my name in North Carolina, I found that it would be quite an ordeal. While some states required a form or two, the great state of North Carolina required four separate affidavits, two of which require character witnesses, a large filing fee, background checks, and more. This was to be a rite of passage.

During this rite, I learned much about friendship. I realized who I could and could not count on. I also learned that many individuals support what I am doing. I have the backing of my community. I was able to raise the filing fee myself, independent of anyone else. There were more lessons than I can list here, many deeply personal. But I have finally stepped from my parents’ shadow and claimed my own self. It is time to make my own way in the world now as the individual I was meant to be.

Love and blessings,
River

Of Warriors and Faeries

Bravery does not feel like being courageous. It feels like being terrified.

I have reached that awkward stage in my transition. I am doing things that are “traditionally” female, yet I have a body that is still recognizably male. This makes many of those around me, especially those with traditional values, uncomfortable. By being open about my transition and talking about transgender issues, I can alleviate some of their fears and worries. I will not lie. Every time I speak on the issue, I feel a tinge of my own fear rise up.

When I first came out to my closest friends, I was terrified. I expected to lose them. I expected to be judged and ridiculed. When I told my family, I expected the same. Though there was some pushback from family members, my being transgender has not cost me friends or family members. I have been lucky. Though it has put some distance in certain relationships, it has brought others closer. I am aware that many trans individuals are mistreated and many have sacrificed to get us to this point. I am under no illusions I also take a certain amount of risk, and I am grateful for everything I have. But it was not my awareness of other trans folks and their sacrifices that made me afraid but my awareness of gender constructs. It was the social programming from friends, family members, and even complete strangers. All my life, I had been told, “be a man” and been made keenly aware of the consequences of letting people down in that regard.

To me, one of the greatest battles we fight is not the one where we fight for our rights or even the one for normalcy. Though those battles are important and must be fought, it is in my opinion, a far more important battle that is waged in the mind of a trans individual. For us, one of the greatest trials is overcome simply anytime we tell someone. It is the battle we win every time we explain what we do and the details of our transition and our life. If someone comes out to you, they just won a major conflict. Be supportive. Show encouragement. Thank them for sharing this part of themselves with you. And if you know someone who isn’t out yet, do not shame that person. You have no idea what kind of demons that person may face every day of their life.

I believe the ultimate battle that anyone must face is for self-acceptance. That initial knowing and accepting of oneself is crucial. One must face their darkest fears and find self-love deep inside. Either one accepts themselves for who they are, and they are willing to fight, OR they give up, saying something or someone else is in the way. But contrary to what we learned in English, “accountability” begins with the letter “I” and accepts no excuses. This life is about you and no one else. Are you and your dream worth it? Are you willing to fight to make your own wishes come true? It is never too late.

Blessings,
River ♥
May all your wishes come true.

blue-fairy

Coming Out

Just to let you all know, I am a trans woman. I know many of you are family and friends with questions about this journey. So I have put together this FAQ, based upon questions I have been receiving from you, the family and friends. I understand that this is not just a transition for me, but for everyone in my life as well. Please, remember I write this with all the love in my heart. ♥

Q. Are you and Laura staying together?
A. Absolutely! Laura has been supportive as I have gone through this exploration of self. As it turns out, she has done some self-exploration as well, and I have been supportive of her changes. We believe people evolve and change, and that it’s what it means to be human. We are still very much in love and still hope to grow old together.

Q. What about your daughters, Lilly and Aiyana?
A. We have taken steps to ensure they have support as they adjust to the changes. So far, they seem to be doing just fine. In fact, they both seem happier with the new me.

Q. Does that make Laura a lesbian?
A. Yes. Though according to this article, most women have been attracted to the same sex. It’s really nothing new.

Q. What do I call you? What pronouns should I use?
A. Thank you for asking. I prefer to be addressed as “River” and the pronouns “her” and “she.” I am going to work on changing my legal name at some point, but it is a process for many trans folk. Perhaps we can make a deal. How about I practice patience while you adjust to my new name and pronouns, and you practice patience while I go through the process of changing my legal name?
Name change and pronouns can be important for some trans individuals, as it helps them adjust and become comfortable, as they transition into their new lives. Little things like this also help them to see that they are supported by the people around them.

Q. What steps are you taking?
A. Transition is not a straight line, but rather a long check list of gender-affirming activities and actions. Some of these things one individual might deem necessary while another does not. And a few of these things may be easily attainable for some, while out of reach for others. “Transition” is the process of going through one’s personal list and getting all the things they feel necessary for them to fit their target gender. It is a process that usually lasts years, if not a lifetime for some. It can include hormones, voice training, electrolysis, relearning social queues, counseling, name changes, surgeries, and much more.
I began with meditation, counseling, and then electrolysis. I try not to think of what has to be done, but rather what is being accomplished. Otherwise, it can be rather intimidating. For instance, the electrolysis will take 18 months or more. If you wish to stay updated on my transformation, simply subscribe to this blog.

Q. Have you always felt like this?
A. Answering this is not simple. When I was younger, I knew that this was who I was and what I wanted. For years, I longed for it. But because of certain circumstances, I felt that I had to take this part of myself and bury it. I did not feel I could survive and still honor my female self. All I can say is that I grew up in a harsh environment. Many years later, I began meditating and these feelings came bubbling back to the surface. So for about two years, I have explored various gender energies in meditation. At the same time, I have reconnected with those old parts of myself that were buried so deep inside. Meditation is a wonderful way to heal old wounds. Now in order to continue, I must live authentically and be who I was always meant to be, instead of what was wanted for me.

Q. What prompted this?
A. When I peeled back enough layers to see myself for who I really was, my dear friend and teacher, Alfred Willowhawk put a figurative mirror in front of me. It was then that I realized that I had been chasing everyone else’s dream for me. I had never truly pursued what I wanted for myself and had to become what he calls a “spiritual warrior.” We all have a tendency to do this, and this applies to things other than gender. To learn more about this kind of thing, please visit his website, Warrior. He has a radio show, devoted to such topics as becoming a spiritual warrior and your authentic self. It can be heard here, The Cauldron, Fridays at 9 pm eastern.

Q. Does this new life make you happy?
A. It feels like being home after a really really long grueling day. I am unsure of how else to phrase the feeling. It is similar to the feeling of wearing your favorite jacket on a chilly day, or one of those days that makes you realize how grateful you are just to be alive.

Q. I miss the old you and don’t want you to change. How can I express that?
A. By speaking with me. You can tell me exactly what you miss and why.

Q. Are you getting the surgery?
A. That is between my wife and myself. I love you, but I don’t ask you about your plumbing, as I see it as being irrelevant to my life.

Q. Is it true that once you join a pride movement, there’s a musical number?
A. LOL This is my choice. Here is Laura’s. Enjoy!

Q. I have more questions!
A. If you are curious, try googling it and doing some research. If you have personal questions or would like to know more, just ask or message me. If you are interested in seeing my transformation, please just follow the blog. I am also working on a resource page with a list of transgender internet resources. If anyone has more sites to add to the page, please let me know. Thank you!

Thank you and blessings to you all,
River and Laura

Ankle-deep in Transition

I saw the shores of transition and got my toes wet. We spoke. We spoke on the ramifications and my feelings. I thought long and hard about the impacts. I prepared to take this journey alone. I understood that the people around me will need space to get used to the changes I make. Others will not support the new version of me. I understood… And I waded in.

I’m now ankle-deep. I’m learning to self-administer electrolysis. I’m training neck muscles to feminize my voice. I’m waiting for a referral for an endocrinologist. And that’s just the physical. Certain people are now addressing me by new name and chosen pronouns. I’m going through my list and figuring out who should be informed before I go public. If you don’t get informed and think that you should have been, know that I’m going through a lot. It wasn’t personal.

I am the only transgender person on my island that I know of. When you live in a community this small, going “stealth” is pretty pointless. Everyone knows your business and your history. It becomes a matter of when I feel comfortable making the switch. When one is in ankle deep water, it is a little early to try swimming, but that does not mean one cannot drown. I need to take it slow. Things are already overwhelming. Family members are drawing lines. I have found love and support in unsuspecting places. It’s a crazy time and place to be a trans-woman.

This blog is going to document my transformation. It will also be a place for venting and occasionally for bragging. If any of you are worried about me or where I’m headed, I take leave of you with this quote.

“I am old now: gray, wrinkled, tired, bloated, and my joints ached, too. But I am ready to come into my full destiny, as my childhood dreams predicted, as a Neo-Amazonian Pirate Queen of my own vessel: firing cannonballs at the worldwide culture of patriarchy in the name of all that does not suck.” – Roseanne Barr

Good night and blessings to all,

River

A Day of Silence

Silence

I decided to give up speaking for a day. What I gained was acceptance.

It began with me noticing that we speak to change things. We only speak to change something in our external environment. Even when we only seek to inform, we are seeking to change the perspective of another, if only temporarily. It reminded me of cats. Adult cats never meow at other cats in the wild. They learn only to meow at humans, because it’s a language we understand. They learn to speak up when they are hungry, need attention, or something of the sort. Meowing gets the human to change the environment for them in a way that they cannot. We taught them the great language of complaining.

I speak the most in my house, so I decided I needed to give it a rest. I told my family what I was doing. It is not until you silence your voice that you realize its power. I made sure we didn’t have any big meetings that day. I hugged my wife and wrote one last note on the white board for our two girls. “You may speak. I will not. I love you, both.” Then, I began to listen. I contemplated what it really meant to listen versus to speak. What had I been missing? If I had been trying to change things, what if I spent more time just learning to accept? I carried a small notebook with me when I absolutely needed to communicate. I also stayed off of my phone and facebook. I spent a great part of the day in meditation. The meditation didn’t make it easier to stay silent. The silence made it easier to meditate.

A further experiment came out of this. It would become a game of shadow. Times when I would want to correct or change things in my environment, I would write it down in my book but not show it to the person. If one of them forgot their manners, I would write down “manners” instead of saying something to her. When they began arguing, I stayed out of it and allowed them to sort it out themselves. But I wrote it down. This is an excellent way to really get to know the true you. All the stuff we tell others not to do? We do it. At some point, we learned from someone that these behaviors were “bad,” “evil,” or “wrong.” And because we just can’t keep your personal expectations to yourself, we go around trying to fix everyone around us or complaining about what we think is wrong with them. Those horrible behaviors might make them happy, keep them sane, or might even do us some good, but we are too often on our high horse to think of this perspective.

To sum up, I’ve learned most communication is unnecessary. Most people are just looking for someone to listen, not someone to fix their problems. I vent from time to time when I’m stressed. It happens. More importantly, I learned every single thing you could possibly say to another person, you should say twice. Say it once to them and say it again while looking in a mirror. It will make you think twice before speaking too harshly or directing negative energy. Some people are difficult for a reason. Other people are nice for the same reason. Their methods get them what they want. Somewhere along the line they learned that their particular method worked best. Returning the favor reinforces the lesson. And yes, there is always a time to be difficult and a time to be nice. Balance is being flexible. But it is not our role to fix everybody else or their life. It’s our role to fix ourselves. Lend an ear when it’s needed, but your words have power. Use them sparingly and lovingly.

In the future, I will seek to use mine with more love. If there is a perspective I think people need to learn more about, it is one of gratitude. I am very happy with my life. I am glad that my throat chakra is catching up with my heart chakra. 😉
Thanks and blessings,
Waterfall Sunfeather

Listening

Should Men Paint Their Nails?

Explaining my actions is not part of my job description. I do what makes me happy, so long as it harms none. If you have a problem with something that I do, you can go home and rethink your life. It is your lesson, not mine. That said, there is an exception to every rule. I paint my nails, and I do it, partially, for your benefit. I paint my nails, because we live in a society where straight men can’t be pretty. We live in a society where women are expected to be pretty and unintelligent. We have done ourselves a great injustice. Let me back up a bit.

Let’s start with “gender constructs.” Gender constructs are expectations that we have been taught by society for gender. For instance, we have been taught that men and women think differently and like different things. Women are sensitive, and men are logical. Women like dancing, and men like sports. Yet, if you start talking to young children who have not been taught social norms, you’ll find a mix of interests between both biological genders. Little boys and girls like all kinds of things. They are both thinking AND feeling individuals. So, how do we end up with gender constructs? I was talking to my six year old daughter about colors. I informed her there were no boy colors or girl colors. She could like whatever colors she wanted. Up until now, the only color she has ever talked about was purple, a typical “girl” color. All of a sudden, I heard “My favorite colors are purple and blue.” We get these ideas in our head and repeat them like facts. And then, we repeat them like lessons. It’s really not helping anyone. Stop making assumptions. Stop having expectations. Stop thinking in terms of gender roles and constructs. We can only limit ourselves.

Gender constructs can become dangerous. How dangerous? Let me introduce you to “repression.” He has two friends, suppression, and oppression. Along with the idea the men are not feeling, we have gotten the idea that men are not supposed to be feeling. We have also gotten the idea they are not supposed to be in touch with anything feminine, such as compassion, intuition, or real spirituality. We oppress these things in young boys, discouraging their creativity or actual discussion of their feelings. We chastise them for being “girly.” We punish them for expressing themselves, and this leads to suppression of their own feelings and their own feminine energy. After we have been punished (by ourselves or others) for a trait often enough, our subconscious takes over. But the subconscious cannot discern between inside the mind and outside. So, when we repress something internally, we often oppress the same energy externally. Essentially, hurt children turn into traumatized adults, who do things like calling a man who paints his nails “gay” or even something as extreme as abusing women. And this is why women will never be seen as true equals in the eyes of men, until we start seeing more men in touch with their own feminine. I suspect that as more men begin to get in touch with their own inner feminine energy, we will stop seeing the oppression of women and the LGBTQ community. But change is slow and happens one individual at a time.

Women have risen up and empowered themselves when need be. They have often had to realize that they are a combination of Beauty and Strength. Because of this realization, they have made the push for equality and have done a pretty damn good job. The idea that men are in charge is in a way, an illusion. Empowered women have been been leading this world toward a future of balance. As more women join the call, the question becomes will men finally see their own inner Beauty? Imagine the world when all people find balance. Your feelings are wonderful and divine. You should get in touch with them more often and honor them, even the ones you don’t like. By honoring your feelings, you honor your beautiful self. And who knows where else it may lead? Spirituality? Meditation? Writing? Painting? Music? The possibilities are endless!

So, why do I paint my nails? Because too many young boys have been told they couldn’t do “girly” things. Because too many men lash out at women as a result. Because our society needs to change. And for the same reason that women do it: because it makes me feel pretty. Perhaps you should try it.