WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF MASCULINITY?

The “divine feminine” is often invoked as a Now Age ideal for our gender evolution. But how to really dismantle systems of patriarchal oppression? Trans man and diversity and inclusion activist, Aaron Rose, shares his vision for the future of masculinity …

Photo: Aziz Acharki

From Parasitic Patriarchy to Abundant Symbiosis 
When Now Age mystics speak of “divine masculinity,” what they are describing is simply: masculinity. Exalted qualities of heart-centered action, fierce loyalty, innovative logic, and earthly strength are what masculinity truly is. Everything else is an aberration, a mistaken idea, and a misuse of energy.

The divine masculine is complemented by the divine feminine archetype: the universal energy of intuition, receptivity, nurturance, creation, and collaboration. These energies are not inherently gendered. They flow within all of us.

So how do we reclaim healthy or conscious masculinity? How do we end our crisis of sexual violence? How do we build a world with true gender equality?

In the #metoo era, it can sometimes feel like the goal is total eradication of an inherently “toxic masculinity,” an embrace of androgyny, or an exclusive exaltation of the feminine. But the destination of our evolution is not about erasing our differences or course correcting from toxicity to divinity; it’s about reclaiming gendered archetypes while embracing an even wider spectrum of expression.

Patriarchy is the collectively held (and externally manifested) idea that men are superior to people of other genders, that there are right and wrong ways to be men and women, and that there are rewards for reinforcing these ideas, and penalties for violating them.

And if patriarchy is a result and a manifestation of parasitic scarcity consciousness, then we’re more than ready for abundant symbiosis.

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A Different Way to Be Human
When I first began my transition from female to male, I was terrified of becoming a man. It was who I was – a person who had been female-assigned at birth and who felt called to a male identity and masculine embodiment – and yet, I could not have been more scared.

As a woman, I had lived a life defined and constrained by male violence – from the abuse of family members, to the harassment of strangers on the subway, and the subtle discrimination at work. The manhood I saw around me did not represent the kind of person I wanted to be. And the people I loved were quick to reinforce this idea: You’ll become a tool of the patriarchy, they said. The world doesn’t need another MAN.

On a physiological level, I knew that taking testosterone (in the form of hormone replacement therapy) was right for me. My body needed it, hungered for it like a too-late dinner after a long day. But on an emotional level, I was paralyzed, wracked by immobilizing guilt.

I was afraid of losing the part of myself that cries at Pixar movies and gathers my friends into huge hugs and composes love letters to my beloveds. The part who really, really listens to my people when they’re hurting. I was afraid of embodying toxic masculinity. I was afraid of becoming (even more of) a stranger to myself.

This deterministic model of gender is one we’re all used to. We’ve all heard “that’s just how men are” and any number of absolutist statements that divide the population squarely down the middle, into two prescribed boxes: man and woman. I was just as trapped as anyone.

But equally, in making the choice to transition I knew I was signing up for a lifetime commitment to proving the idea that there was another way to be a man than what I had been shown. That ultimately, there was a different way to be a human altogether.

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Dismantling the Deal with the Devil
This commitment, this faith in the future of masculinity, has fueled my decade’s plus of evolving work in diversity and inclusion—a key part of which is leading conscious masculinity workshops in which men and masculine people of all genders have an opportunity to take themselves off of cultural autopilot and reclaim healthy masculinity.

Patriarchy invites men to make a deal with the devil: trade your eternal wholeness and humanity, in exchange for earthly and temporal power.

Time and again, I witness men become emotional in my workshops when we talk about gender equality and allyship. When I ask why, they say things like: “I feel like I don’t have anything else to offer,” or “What more do you want from me?,” or “Not everyone gets to be treated so nicely, you know.”

As the conversations unfold, we identify, again and again, that they are fundamentally bewildered about why or how they should be giving something to someone else that they do not feel they have themselves: gentleness, a reason to truly accept themselves, a full range of self-expression, emotional presence.

⁣⁣In my workshops, we inventory our masculinity stories, going all the way back to our first memories. And themes emerge, like the first moment of shame, often attached to a memory of playing with feminine clothing, hugging other boys, or crying when we were sad. We bring loving witness to these wounds, and then we choose again.

If the story was: “when I am emotional, the people I love reject me”—we elect to write a new story: “my vulnerability brings me closer to the people I care about.”

Photo: Sir Moon

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What is your role in this process? Here are 4 ways we can all help bring about the future of masculinity … 

1// Separate masculinity + femininity from gender identity and sex assigned at birth.
“Sex assigned at birth” is the label you were assigned at birth based on the external anatomy your doctor observed. Gender identity is your innate, internal, sense of your gender.

Within our current western gender model, which has its origins in European colonization and white supremacist social control, sex assigned at birth, gender, and gendered energy are all conflated. If you are male assigned at birth, it is assumed you will be a man, and that you will behave in a masculine way. This deterministic model belies the truth of our experience — the truth that indigenous people of many cultures have always embraced — that there are as many possible genders and gendered experiences as there are people.

For example, I currently have a pretty masculine embodiment – short hair, muscles, a deep voice, a flat chest, traditionally male clothing. However, my energy is a blend of masculine and feminine – I am a go-getter who is often charging forward on the next big idea AND I create space for the people I love to be vulnerable, where I too surrender into vulnerability with them.

We all contain both masculinity and femininity. The unique mix and balance of this energy within us is as essential as the flow of oxygen into our lungs and bloodstream.

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2// Conduct a patriarchal thought detox.
What are the stories you’re telling yourself about men and masculinity, and about gender overall? Do an inventory of your beliefs about masculinity and men, and choose some different stories.

Some of our big collective stories that you may have running on cruise control include: men should not be emotional, women are more emotional and nurturing than men, there are only two genders, men are just like that, what your body looks like determines your gender, and more.

Set a timer for 10 minutes, write these old stories out, and then decide what you want to replace them with. Write down your new narratives and reread them out loud every day for 21 days.

One my biggest autopilot scripts was that conscious men are few and far between, and that if I was really myself and spoke about gender the way I do, then I would have few connections with men, personally and professionally. I’m choosing to tell a different story now, to affirm that conscious stewards of masculine energy are all around me. And you know what? Bit by bit that community is emerging.

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3// Understand that this work is not just for “bad guys.”
When I discuss my conscious masculinity work, I often witness men immediately deciding that it’s not for them. Or women deciding that it’s not for their husband or their brother or their friend. Because they’re already “good.” They haven’t assaulted anyone recently. They don’t make gross jokes.

⁣We have this mainstream idea that there are “those guys,” those really bad guys, who have really messed up, who really need to get their act together. They’re the problem. They’re the patriarchy. They’re the ones who need an intensive on conscious masculinity. ⁣But the truth is that this work is for ALL of us. We all have an opportunity and a responsibility to become stewards of a new era of masculinity, of gender, of humanity.

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4// Embrace and reclaim the masculinity within yourself.
No matter your gender, you contain an alchemical blend of both masculinity and femininity within yourself. How does your masculinity manifest? In the clothes you wear? In the role you play in your relationships? In the way you tackle a project or negotiate a deal? In the fictional characters you identify with and seek to emulate? How conscious is your masculinity? How much have you chosen it, rather than operating it on autopilot? What do you love about your masculinity? How does it symbiotically complement and amplify your femininity? What do you wish others could see about it?

Write a love letter to your masculinity. Honor what you learn about yourself in the process.

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5// Practice inviting others into this conversation.
Where do you see others running on autopilot about masculinity and femininity? Maybe you’re a mom and you see how other parents assume so much about their children based on their sex assigned at birth. Assuming how their child’s body looks determines what their gender will be. Assuming boys will be tough and girls will like pink. Assuming girls will be nurturing and boys will be adventurous.

Just the other day I spoke with a mother who was grappling to understand why her 8-year-old son had been described by a teacher as “sensitive” and “safe” for the other kids to play with, because of how gentle and unaggressive he was. “I would have no problem seeing my daughter this way,” she said. “But it’s hard to compute how a boy could be described like that. It’s not how I see him.”

Maybe you’re a man and you are aware of how conditioned you are to not call out other men when they say something sexist, or to shame each other for expressing emotion. Maybe you’re a woman who feels super supported by your community of women, but feels like your male partner, family member, or friend, isn’t conscious of his masculinity and how it impacts you.

It’s okay to call the people into your life into greater accountability and connection. To do this, get honest about what your unique role is, however uncomfortable or scary it might feel. Whoever you are, your voice matters, and others will resonate with it.

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A Manifesto for Conscious Masculinity 
The work of remaking our relationship to masculinity and femininity is, like all other fundamentally spiritual work, ultimately about restoring our capacity to self-determine our identity, to trust our intuition, and to unconditionally love ourselves.

We are the generational clean-up crew, taking ourselves off of the autopilot our ancestors ran for centuries, mending the wounds they did not know how to tend. As we emerge from the shadow, it is our birthright to embody unprecedented levels of self expression, connection, and ease. It is the work of a lifetime, but it’s why we’re here. And we don’t have to do it alone.

The future of masculinity is not an erasure of the traditional masculine archetype (ie strong, rugged, powerful, action-oriented), but a conscious release of the shadow sides of these traits (domination, control, emotional suppression, violence) and a conscious choosing of what our masculinity means to us. ⁣⁣

The future of masculinity is the reclamation of this true divine masculine archetype, by whoever resonates most deeply with that energy.

The future of masculinity is amends and repair for generations of harm done, the honest reckoning of personal and collective shame and grief for violence committed, or violence not stopped.

The future of masculinity is an embrace of action without aggression, of leadership without dominance, of impetus and initiation without steamrolling, of grace without repression.

The future of masculinity is creation without collateral damage, strength without silencing, devotion without obsession, responsibility without control, power with rather then power over.

The future of masculinity is the intentional embrace of intuition, rather than the unconscious whim of instinct.

In short, it is a human life, fully and bravely lived, with self-love and connection with a Universal intelligence at its core, with nothing to prove and everything to share.

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Ready for more support reclaiming a positive masculine archetype, for yourself, or someone else in your life? Registration is open for my online Conscious Masculinity Intensive. Use code NUMINOUS for 20% off all ticket levels through next Tuesday, November 20th. It’s open to men, masculine people of all genders, and allies; we even have a few parents of male-assigned-at-birth kids joining too! Join us in co-creating the future of gender, together.

CHOOSING COMPASSION IN A CALLOUT CULTURE

A former social media “comment crusader,” diversity and inclusion specialist Aaron Rose is committed to moving beyond the “us vs. them” callout culture. PLUS Aaron shares 7 ways to upgrade your spiritual activism by choosing connection and compassion over fear …

Photo: Alberto Vasari

With 15 years working as a facilitator, educator, and consultant in the field of “Diversity & Inclusion,” my overarching mission is to heal our world’s generational patterns of separation so that we can all thrive as our authentic selves. Though always important, this work has of course taken on even more urgency in the escalating polarization following the 2016 election.

But in the last few years I have had to rethink some of how I was originally trained to approach this work. Namely, that relying on a callout culture of shame and dehumanization—however subtle or justified—as motivating tools of change, will never resolve the isolation and exclusion we ultimately seek to address.

Historically, my work focused on explaining the history of institutionalized oppression and practicing “dos and don’ts” for interacting with different groups. The premise—albeit often unspoken—was that we were there to help the privileged people understand how to treat the marginalized people better. Many people did indeed leave feeling more informed and better prepared to work with people different from themselves. However, when others would express feeling upset, confused, or silenced, I knew something was missing.

Many of my colleagues wrote this off as collateral damage—some people would just never get it, they said. And if a white man left feeling upset, maybe that was a good thing, because lots of people have been upset for a long time. I understood the logic, but this theory of social change felt incomplete to me. It’s a dynamic that has become all too familiar in social media interactions in which people are called out for offensive or exclusionary behavior and summarily “canceled” or rejected without any space for recourse or repair.

Back then, my life mirrored my work. I genuinely saw light and potential in everyone—and wanted to help us all understand each other better. But, truthfully, I usually meant, you (a person with historically more access and power than most) needed to understand me (a trans and queer person with experiences of violence and marginalization).

My approach was that of a pretty typical East Coast liberal. I would passionately launch into Facebook comment monologues, determined to get people to understand how they were hurting others, while distancing myself from people based on their presumably more privileged identities. My tone was condescending at best, and vitriolic at worst. I wanted people to understand the harm they were doing, and I wanted it to stop. Now.

Deep down, I, like so many others, felt scared and misunderstood. In most of the jobs I’d had as a young adult, I’d experienced harassment and discrimination—from prying questions about my transgender identity, to constant misgendering, to sexual harassment and violence—and the pain of my own marginalization kept me in a defensive stance.

I was quick to judge people’s politics, and even quicker to let them know about it—when separated by a screen and a keyboard. In most cases, there was little hope for redemption once someone had acted in a way I deemed oppressive, racist, heterosexist, transphobic, or more. But for all my accusations of division and dehumanization, I too was compartmentalizing people, saying things like “I could never be real friends with a straight guy … he just wouldn’t get me.” It hadn’t occurred to me yet that maybe I didn’t really get him either. I had never thought to ask.

While doing the work of humanizing historically excluded minorities, I had been unwittingly dehumanizing others. It seemed natural to view my work as an us vs. them quest to change some people’s minds on behalf of others. But I’ve come to understand that this approach will only continue to amplify the feeling of uneasy disconnection that characterizes so much of modern life, particularly online: the fear of being judged, the fear of being harmed, the fear that saying the wrong thing will result in excommunication.

The work that many pioneering LGBTQ people, people of color, women, and other historically marginalized people have done to legitimize the acknowledgement of our individual pain and institutionalized discrimination is important and invaluable. That kind of self-expression and community accountability is indispensable. But if simply being able to recite our personal and collective histories of oppression back and forth to one another with flawless terminology was going to create true progress, we would not be in our current accelerating state of political polarization and identity-based isolation. If we truly want a more just and connected world, we all have to go a step further.

Today, I no longer take to social media with fear and contempt to catalogue the ways in which others are letting me down. I’ve shifted my focus from what we’re tearing down to an approach that does not calcify divisions but instead catalyzes connection. This does not mean releasing people from accountability or never speaking up against injustice. It simply means setting the intention to treat no human being as if they are disposable, even if they are failing to honor our humanity. It means creating the conditions in which we can, as adrienne maree brown writes, “default to trust on a community level.”

Below, I share 7 ways we can be stewards of this paradigm shift:

Photo: Gwendolyn Rodriguez

1// Heal yourself to heal the world. Your work starts with you – owning your story, and releasing the blocks that stand between you and truly recognizing yourself in another. Regardless of your identities, our conditioned social autopilot reinforces the idea that connecting with people from different backgrounds puts us at risk in some way. For those of us (read: all of us!) who have felt minimized or unsafe because of who we are, leaning into even more discomfort can feel scary. But the more we connect with our own sense of humanity, the more we can extend that to others.

**Action Step: Take some time to meditate on welcoming feelings of safety. The more you cultivate a feeling of security within yourself, the more you will be able to welcome others into your world. You are safe, you are resilient, you are here to thrive and make space for others do the same. This meditation is one of my favorites. You can also check out my meditation series here.

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2// Redefine how you love. We are all called to love each other now as if our lives depended on it. Because they do. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke often about agape love as the driving force behind all his work. He said, “And this is what Jesus means … when he says, ‘Love your enemy.’ And it’s significant that he does not say, ‘Like your enemy’ … There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like. I don’t like what they do to me. I don’t like what they say about me and other people … But Jesus says love them. And love is greater than like. Love is understanding, redemptive goodwill for all men, so that you love everybody, because God loves them.”

**Action Step: Practice silently blessing every person you encounter and wishing them peace and happiness. Your world will begin to transform before your eyes, from the inside out.

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3// Meditate for real. Meditation creates space between external stimuli and our responses, allowing us to act as we choose, versus on autopilot. In the same way that  we cannot change our world unless we face the truth of it, we cannot embody a new energy of love unless we retrain our nervous systems. Meditation is the path to this change.

**Action Step: Practice the Buddhist metta, or loving kindness, meditation. A common mantra is: May you be happy, May you be healthy, May you be safe, May you live a life of peace. Extend this blessing first to yourself, then to those you love, then to the world around you, and finally to the people who you find it hardest to love. This practice is a gift you can give yourself anywhere, anytime.

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4// Know our history, know yourself. We make it a lot easier for others to trust us and give us room to grow when we show up fully. In the context of identity and social change, this means understanding our world’s historical patterns of exclusion and violence. Acknowledge your part and make amends, for yourself as well as your ancestors. Understand both your access and power, as well as your history of pain and struggle. Recognize that we all have inherent biases, and be prepared to acknowledge them as they surface. Learn bystander intervention protocol and be ready for action.

**Action Step: What are your identities? Where do you fall toward the margins and where do you have more access? Explore Kimberle Crenshaw’s work on intersectionality to develop a deeper understanding of how our combination of identities shape our experience of the world.

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5// Release perfection, embrace integrity. We will all make mistakes along the way. Doing this work is about integrity: staying in alignment with your values and maintaining your sense of wholeness in the process. No one comes from the same perspective, and many of us do not have an academic foundation in theories of oppression and liberation. Despite our commitment to love, none of us will have the perfect word every time.

**Action Step: How will you respond when you or someone else messes up? What are your go-to phrases for communicating when a boundary has been crossed? How will you apologize and repair? Practicing ahead of time allows our brains to find the right words when our bodies are in fight or flight.

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6// Reframe callouts as opportunities for connection. When someone tells you your words were offensive, it’s easy to get defensive and push back. And to build a culture where everyone can thrive, we need to reframe how we perceive negative feedback. Humans don’t often take the time to let somebody know they feel hurt unless some part of us cares about being understood by the person who hurt us. Framed this way, each callout is a gift in service of our collective healing and evolution. Show the same investment in the connection by showing up to learn and repair together.

**Action Step: Practice responding to call-outs with grace and integrity. Pick your go-to phrases. Some options: “Thank you for letting me know how my words impacted you. I’m committed to building a community where everyone feels welcome.” “I hear what you’re saying and I will shift my words in the future. I’m sorry I used that hurtful language.” P.S. You really have to mean it, so align your energy with your words before pressing “share.”

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7// Redefine the personal vs. political binary. Who actually benefits from the idea that there is a difference between the personal and political? Certainly not you and me. Taking responsibility for caring for all life on Earth is the most profound investment we can make in our own self-care.

Action Step: How can you realign what is best for you as being what is best for all sentient beings? For example, is your meditation or intention-setting practice exclusively about your individual life? Set intentions not only for personal wealth and happiness, but for white people’s capacity to release our dependency on white supremacy, for example. For the renewing of our healthy relationship with planet Earth. For men’s commitment to repairing the wounds of the patriarchy. And for ongoing guidance about your role within the larger process. The support is there. You need only to tap in and ask.

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Aaron Rose is a writer, speaker, and diversity & inclusion coach. In his spare time you can find him waxing poetic about quantum physics, boy bands, and healing intergenerational trauma. Follow Aaron online at @aaronxrose and learn more about his work, including his upcoming healthy masculinity intensive for conscious men, at www.theaaronrose.com

HOW TO BE A TIDE: A MESSAGE FOR CANCER SEASON

In the thick of Cancer season’s deepest feels, spoken word artist and Moon Club founding member Lisa Luxx’s exclusive new poem, “How To Be A Tide,” reminds us that our most tempestuous emotions are our beautiful birthright …

How To Be A Tide is a poem about the movement and motion of being woman. It’s a dialogue about finding our most supreme beauty in that familiar expansion and contraction. About how much can be gained from seeing ourselves as individual waves in the ocean of sisterhood.

One great purpose of poetry is to turn familiar aches into unfamiliar blessings; to subvert moaning into marvelling. The instability of a hormonal body could drive a person mad if they’re pressurising themselves to maintain a static constant. So for me, as an incredibly tempestuous person, I traversed this tidal metaphor as a bid for freedom.

I’ve been philosophically exploring the nature of beauty for the past year or so – what it is, what it does and why that might be – writing out my revelations and dreams. This piece is about taking ownership of one’s own beauty. When you no longer have the resources to flow outwards, that means your beauty – enriched now – is coming back home to you. – Lisa Luxx 

How To Be A Tide will be published in Luxx’s upcoming collection Breastmilk Martini, which is out later this year with New River Press.

HOLY F*CK: FINDING MY SPIRITUAL PRIDE

Spiritual and queer? It’s on us to create places to practice that reflect every shade of spiritual pride, says Alexandra RoxoPLUS 3 ways to create more inclusive healing spaces.

Some of my favorite summer memories were in my first Pride month in New York City in 2009. I was falling in love and my girlfriend was ecstatic to be bringing me into her community. It almost felt cliche to fall in love during Pride! Finally coming out as bisexual/queer, after years of closeted same sex encounters not deemed appropriate in Marietta, GA where I grew up, I finally was able to be the whole me.

During this time though I veered away from some of my spiritual growth. Not because I actively thought I couldn’t be in a lesbian relationship and also be spiritual, but on a subconscious level I had internalized this belief. Why? Because none of the spiritual traditions I’d studied said anything positive about same sex partnerships or sexuality. When I asked some of my yogic teachers about this, they frowned and avoided the question.

There also weren’t any spiritual leaders I looked towards who were openly queer. So in a sense, during those years I shunned my own spiritual devotion in order to express my true sexuality.

It is difficult to stay committed to a spiritual practice when your leaders and teachers don’t reflect your experience. Deepak wasn’t queer. Yogananda wasn’t. Marianne wasn’t. The tantra books I was reading all featured hetero couples so I stopped reading them. In spiritual circles or in yoga communities and retreats I felt out of place. So I nixed them for a while and made plant medicines and gay nightclubs my church.

Alexandra at her first Pride

As I matured however, I realized that just because Krishna and Radha aren’t gay, or Jesus and Mary Magdalene, that being queer doesn’t make me less devoted. I turned my attention inwards and began to focus again on my practice. Even though the retreats and spiritual communities I was in remained mainly straight and white, I stopped giving a fuck and showed up anyway without looking for a validation of my experience there.

When teachers assumed hetero preference as we discussed sacred spiritual sex practices, I would get hot and nervous and want to speak up. It always took me a moment to raise my hand and say I was bisexual/queer identified, but it was always worth it. And not only for me, but also so the teacher could consider including diverse experiences in the class.

On my path, I’ve also been deeply inspired by every other person who shows up to retreats, yoga classes, and ceremonies despite not seeing their experience reflected in the people there. Who raises their hand and stands up for their experience, too. Not to prove a point. But to feel seen. To begin to shift an outdated paradigm and create change. It takes a brave soul to willingly highlight your difference, but it is worth it—for each of us personally, and also as a collective.

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The below queer leaders and teachers are going one step further by shifting the face of wellness to open the gates for way more inclusion and love in the spiritual scene. Here they are offering some words of wisdom, spiritual teachings and personal experiences for you this Pride month …

BUNNY MICHAEL. @bunnymichael. They / them.
“When I think about it now, coming out queer at age 15 in Texas was probably one of my first spiritual experiences. It was the first time I had to trust what my heart was telling me, not what I was conditioned to believe in. It was the first time I had defined for myself what Love was. It was the first time I was truly afraid. Afraid to lose the people who were most close to me. It was the first time I questioned my worth. Being queer gave me an early insight that the spiritual path isn’t always easy … and it’s not supposed to be. It shows you your limits and how to break free of them. It challenges your foundations and builds a bridge to step into a peace within yourself. It shows you that in every space you walk into it is your responsibility to stand up for Love.”
Bunny is a healer, writer, musician, activist and artist.

SAH D’SIMONE. @sahdsimone. He/ his.
“A little residue of the collective prejudice [on being queer] still creeps up in my mind once in a while, and in the past it would leave me with a knot in my throat, followed by thoughts of guilt and shame around being myself. Now after 6 years of spiritual work I can see that unconscious reaction taking place and I can pause the downward spiral — breathe it out, and wish myself and everyone that could be getting hooked in this collective trauma to heal and be okay with being themselves so fully! Truth I stand by is that when we are truly ourselves without the baggage of shame that was passed on to us, we are actually inviting other people to be themselves fully too. And wow that’s a powerful spiritual gift you’re sharing with everyone around you.”
Sah is a gay identified meditation teacher and transformational coach.

DANNY BRAVE. @hellodannybrave. He/his.
“Spiritual practice allows me to get into alignment with my soul, and sexuality is my favored way of embodying that soul with the fullest pleasure and power. Being queer, as it turns out, means just being me. It means I don’t follow the ‘rules’ with gender, with relationships, with clothing, or with essentially anything. It means I am just me.”
Danny is a trans identified healer, writer and activist.

LISA LUXX. @luxxy_luxx. She/her.
“My sexuality IS my spiritual position: I’m daughter of our elemental earth, all my relationships are seasonal, and I desire women who view all levels of intimacy as a conscious practice where we can exercise our subconscious and unconscious paradigms, ultimately making every connection a space to grow in …”
Lisa is a queer writer and activist and poet living in the UK.

AARON ROSE. @aaronxrose. He/him.
“My gender & sexuality have been evolving my whole life. The more I heal, the more I develop my spirituality, the more me I become. These days I identify as a gay trans man. When I was 7 years old I was obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio and I always wondered: do I want to be him or date him? Turns out the answer is both!I feel deeply that there is a very specific reason that I am a man who experienced socialization & abuse as a child who the world saw as a girl. Those experiences have allowed me to grow up into a healed and whole man, with a deep capacity for nurturance and emotional presence. I am called to celebrate both the divine feminine and masculine within myself and lead from that place of integration.”
Aaron is a gay trans identified coach and leader who works on diversity and inclusion strategies for businesses and individuals.

Alexandra and Sah D’Simone

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Ultimately, it’s up to us to revolutionize the modern spirituality scene to become more inclusive, diverse, and celebratory of healthy sexual and creative expression, dialogue, and freedom. Regardless of your own sexual, political, or romantic preferences, here are a few things we can all do to make spiritual spaces more inclusive:

– No assumptions! You can’t assume someone is male or female or gay or straight. Ask! If they wanna answer then great, if not all good. Respect the boundaries.

– Take out gender referential language. You can still honor masculine and feminine of course. But saying directly “hi ladies!!” Or “hey guys!” Or “hey goddess!” Can hurt hearts if this does not speak to the experience of someone in the group. Claim what works for you.

– Update for the Now Age. If you’re leading or teaching from ancient texts consider modifying language for 2018 to be more inclusive.

Thank you to everyone out there stepping up, stepping out, shining bright, risking, shouting, asking questions, listening, and shifting the old paradigm of spirituality and wellness into more inclusivity and diversity to reflect the world we live in.

NON-BINARY BEAUTY FOR GEMINI SEASON

Treat yourself to the full Gemini season rainbow with Eunice Lucero‘s non-binary beauty picks …

Photo: Rawpixel

Thankfully, we’ve begun to embrace that gender is anything but a binary concept—it’s not black and white, or worse, pink versus blue—and Gemini season is prime time to embrace the full spectrum of the rainbow. No shade to feminine frills, but this month we’re feeling sleek, minimalistic buys that are as sassy as they are inclusive.

We’ve listed our selections for each Gemini placement, but these products truly are for everyone. Curious about what Gemini rules in your chart? You can do you birth chart HERE for free. Oh and bonus, we also put the spotlight on product pairs and groups—as Geminis know, twinning is twice the fun …

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1// Sun in Gemini: Panacea The Aegis Daily Facial Moisturizer, $46 for 50ml, and The Aegis Daily Facial SPF, $38. Named after the Greek word for “all-healing,” you love witty products that talk the talk, but that have integrity too. This line is made of premium ingredients all in a straightforward, easy-to-use formulation—appealing to your smart, ingredient-based approach to skincare. The moisturizer’s potent yet streamlined cocktail (hyaluronic acid, Japanese seaweed, fig extract) delivers lightweight nourishment and syncs up with your penchant for thoughtful content; the SPF is scentless and non-greasy, allowing you some hassle-free fun in the sun, as you can’t let UV rays cramp your networking steez. Best yet? They’re both TSA-friendly, because, of course, you’re all about leaning into that natural wanderlust.

Panacea Moisturizer & SPF

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2// Moon in Gemini: Meant The Absolute Balm, $45 and The Wonder Polish, $43. Multitasking is the name of the game for this delightfully chic line, which totally simplifies your shower routine—and gives mood-groomers like you a break from overthinking! Your decisions, particularly with beauty indulgences, are as mercurial as your mile-a-minute convo skills, so dual-purpose winners take the anxiety out of choosing between style and substance. Prep with the polish, which is an organic body scrub and an in-shower moisturizer (it has coffee, sugar and avocado—basically brekkie for your bod), then indulge in the anti-oxidant-filled balm, whose soft formula doubles as a sexy, cozy salve that treats and soothes.

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3// Ascendant in Gemini: Schwarzkopf Professionals BlondMe® Instant Blush Blonde Beautifier in Steel Blue and Strawberry, $22 each. Your youthful looks and charming open-mindedness give you the moxie for the latest trends; you’re not afraid to try new things, which is why you were probably first on the candy-hair bandwagon when it hit the scene years ago. Prolong those rainbow-unicorn vibes while giving your look a current spin with a pair of non-committal pastel sprays specifically formulated for lightened or blonde locks. Spray and comb through for a fest-best ’do, or even use the light blue shade to help tone that on-trend dusky platinum when it turns brassy. The colors last up to five washes—enough time to stay breezily on-point for your next soirée.

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4// Mercury in Gemini: Cydney Mar Wellness Energetic Body & Mind Adrenal Support, $38, and Jecca Correct & Conceal Palette in Medium, $21.80. A ball of restless energy, you’re undoubtedly at home in an intellectually stimulating environment. Eclectic, versatile and super quick on the uptake, life can definitely burn you out if you’re not careful! A supplement that gives a gentle energy boost via rhodiola, a.k.a. nature’s secret weapon against fatigue and mental burnout, is great for nervous types. Fun fact: Rhodiola also helps improve allergy resistance, which is clutch for you Mercs in Gemini who are so plugged into their social surroundings. Once you’re set on the inside, fine-tune any remaining imperfections with a concealer palette that impeccably neutralizes, because as you’ll learn time and again, life is nothing but a play on balance.

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5// Venus in Gemini: Pinrose Pillowtalk Poet Eau de Parfum, $65 for 50ml, and Bite Beauty Limited Edition Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Gemini, $26. Words are the way to your heart; lively, sparkling conversation is what you consider the biggest turn-on. Communication is also the main vehicle for your charms, making you an expert in the art of smooth-talking and flirty conversation, not to mention that perfectly placed double entendre. Maintain this seductive signature with a perfume that’s made for morning-after banter—a powdery, fresh-laundry scent evokes a light, gender-neutral vibe—and seal the deal with a two-in-one (!) lippie, in shades that mirror both sides of that quirky Gem personality.

Pinrose “Pillowtalk Poet” Parfum

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6// Mars in Gemini: Context Nude Balm in Heartbreaker, $20, and dōTERRA Basil Oil, $26.67. Gentle reminder to all you Mars in Gemini firecrackers: The pen is mightier than the sword, particularly where you’re concerned. An impassioned orator and writer, you are SO not one to shy away from a healthy debate to get your point across—so perhaps a muted, non-threatening lip balm can help soften those blows (also try and keep your convo nasty-free, just like the balm’s formula). For that changeable energy though, go for an oil blend that heightens focus and keeps your social ADHD from going haywire. Tip: Rub on your pulse points and inhale with three deep breaths, especially when you start feeling fidgety.

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7// Jupiter in Gemini: Non Gender Specific Everything Serum, $65, The Art of Shaving Engraved 3 Blade Razor, $175. You’re genuinely curious and outgoing, leaving you with no shortage of friends, and perhaps even a handful of admirers who enjoy your “the more, the merrier” approach in social situations. Your magnanimous vibe is echoed in your choice of self-care too: You love starting with a positive, clean slate, and a clean shave, with a quality razor, is as tabula rasa as it gets! Follow up with an equally high-minded serum that’s not afraid to go big: As the name suggests, this optimistic formula targets nearly all major skin issues, from lines to pores to hyperpigmentation, with a lovely, all-folks-welcome smile on its face.

Non Gender Specific Everything Serum

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8// Saturn in Gemini: KNIGHT CO. Exfoliating Face Scrub, $30, and Complete Moisturizer, $30. Crisp and simple, yet with an exacting attention to detail, it’s no surprise that you resonate with expertly curated products that don’t waste time on frivolities. Not only is this no-nasty exfoliant too chic not to flaunt on your shelf (you’re all about understated, almost curt-like quality), it’s also made with natural and organic ingredients. Same with the moisturizer, which wears so light on skin and imparts a soft matte glow, which people know is a hallmark of your cool confident look.

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9// Uranus in Gemini: Herbivore Botanicals Travel Set for Combination/Oily Skin Types, $48. A bit dry one day, crazy-oily the next? Sometimes travel can wreak havoc on a complexion, as changes in temps and hormonal levels can be zany AF. Thankfully you’re no stranger to unpredictability (and frequent flyer miles!), and even welcome both with a gregarious, offbeat spirit. Thank your innate good-naturedness, or, you know, having a handy, backpack-friendly, beat-anything set of natural face and body boosters in tow. Just saying.

Herbivore Botanicals Travel Set

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10// Neptune in Gemini: Fluide Blue Trio (liquid lipstick, glitter and nail polish), on sale for $35. This wonderfully inclusive brand’s lip, nail and glitter set is made for nebulous Neptune Gems, who practically embody sparkle in thought and deed. For this wildly imaginative lot, communication is more intuitive and facts are more like suggestions anyway, right? And besides, anyone who doesn’t get your big-picture mentality can immediately be waved off, stat, with a perfectly pigmented, 7-free vegan mani and matching pout.

 

Fluide Blue

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11/ Pluto in Gemini: Context White Charcoal Detox Mask, $45, and Absorb Skin Care The Face Oil, $110. Detoxing, whether physically, mentally or energetically, is a requisite in this day and age, and Pluto Geminis embrace this purge like a fish to water. Keeping things fresh and cutting edge highlights your love of renewal and change, and a luxe charcoal mask, followed by a refreshing serum made of all of nature’s best stuff (organic pomegranate and other omegas and antioxidants) is all the doctor ordered to kick-start your skin—and psyche—into gear.

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12// Chiron in Gemini: MMXV Infinitude Universal Facial Treatment, $225, and The Better Skin Co. Zit No More Acne Treatment, $18. Maybe you never got over that niggling middle-school bout of insecurity keeping you from speaking your truth; maybe it’s just a paralyzing self-doubt of not being articulate or well-versed enough, or being the subject of other people’s toxic gossip. Squash all these irrational bad news bears and start building your confidence from the outside in, with a skin saver that gives you one less thing to feel anxious about. Follow it up with a game-changing miracle cream that also tackles seven main concerns, literally making your glam as foolproof as can be.

DREAMING ABOUT SEX WITH STRAIGHT DUDES … WHEN YOU’RE QUEER AF

She’s queer AF … so what are her dreams about having sex with straight men trying to tell Wolf Medicine Magic? Portraits: Sandra Hong

Photo: Sandra Hong

It was around 2015 that the “man dreams” started. I don’t remember the details or the exact date, but basically for the past two years, and at this point on a weekly basis, I have had dreams about being attracted to, having sex with, seducing, pursuing and being good friends with straight men.

Probably not a big deal—except for the fact that I’m queer AF and haven’t slept with a straight man in years. More importantly, I’m not just a queer feminist. Calling myself a feminist seems like choosing Diet Coke. It’s kiddie stuff. Feminism light. It’s cute but it’s a label that cannot describe my deep, deep yearning to eradicate all traces of the patriarchy and toxic masculinity from this planet. If womyn’s separatist lands were more inclusive I’d sign-up in a minute.

For realz, my feminism is intersectional, queer, gender fluid, anti-racist, anti-apartheid, pro-trans, and realizes that all lives won’t matter until we are all free. This means that the patriarchy and our currently fucked up notions of who “owns” masculinity (hint: what if we are all free to be masculine/men at any time and on any given day?) needs to end.

I have also spent the past several years carefully carving out a life for myself that doesn’t involve *men. I absolutely love female energy, and being around those who are tapped into both female and male energy in a harmonious balance. To me, being in environments dominated by straight men feels like being wrapped in a wet blanket in sub zero temperatures. I become exhausted from having to deflect misogyny, sexual objectification, and struggling to be heard and seen.

The walk to the subway can be a battle against misogyny for most women, trans, and queer folks. So I’ve taken great care to at least make my work and social life free from gender oppression, and it feels amazing. None of my employers or co-workers are men. I don’t have any men as friends.

Occasionally I’ll have a man in one of my yoga classes but for the most part my world is queer and female. To me, my trans/gender fluid friends exude a harmonious energy that is devoid of toxic masculine energy. Meaning I’m never interrupted, talked over, or forced to take up less space.

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In fact, the gender scales of my adult life have tipped so far towards the feminine, I really don’t know what it’s like to be masculine or have exchange with masculine energy anymore. And I used to be totally fine with this—but I’m beginning to see the negative impact of this imbalance on my life.

This is most evident when it comes to asking for what I want from people (and mostly when it comes to my career and work related situations). I’m so used to tapping into a soft and gentle way of being, I am terrified of seeming too aggressive, too entitled to take up a lot of space, or of being too demanding—since I’ve learned to see these as negative traits.

But I’ve realized that what I want so badly for this world is for ALL PEOPLE TO BE SOFT AND GENTLE AND AGGRESSIVE AND DEMANDING WHENEVER THEY WANT. For these qualities not to be deemed “male” or “female.” I mean, right now I can hear a voice in my head saying: “stay in your lane. You must ask gently and with kindness and not too loudly. If you demand things from people and don’t consider how this demand affects them then you are a mean, privileged, entitled MAN. And you don’t want to be like that.” The struggle. Is. Real.

And did I mention that my own philosophy around gender is that it’s fluid AF, and something to be played and experimented with? To clarify, I love masculinity—just not when it’s being projected at me in the name of protecting some dude’s fragile ego.

I don’t hate men. I repeat, I don’t hate men. What I hate is that our society has told us that men have more privileges than women, and that masculinity needs to be protected at all costs (because it is fragile, and women/feminine power will destroy it). And I know not all men are exercising their privilege and exerting a toxic masculinity onto the world. Many men are great people, who want better for the world—but it is a FACT that all men benefit from and can use their privilege at any time. Sometimes it’s handed to them, whether they ask for it or not. Thus, the phrase “male privilege.”

At a young age, men are also taught all the masculine tools they need in order to be men—i.e. be powerful, aggressive, strong, commanding. Take what you want, take up a lot of space, talk as much as you’d like, make people listen to you. Your opinion matters most, you’re smart and clever (even if you aren’t), and women don’t matter as much.

This is changing, thank Goddess, because I see the up and coming generations fucking shit up and challenging all notions of sex and gender. So there is hope, but things are slow to change. Down here in 2017, we’re still in the thick of it.

Photo: Sandra Hong

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My own gender representation is that of masculine sissy fag. I don’t wear dresses or skirts or shave my legs or underarms or any other body hair below my neck. I haven’t worn a pair of heels in who knows how long. On the surface one might think “oh there goes that soft butch.” But five minutes into knowing me you’ll clearly see a swishy, prissy teenage boy. Who wants to be a fabulous girl. Who wants to be a gay teenage boy.

I couldn’t be any farther from “butch.” I can’t even put together IKEA furniture, let alone chop wood, fix a leaky faucet, or start a fire. Or whatever else our society has deemed as “masculine.” I hate contact sports and could care less about watching them.

And yet my subconscious is evidently desperate for me to connect with my masculine side. Or as I like to think of it, my more aggressive, entitled, demanding, space-taking side. Why else am I dreaming about having sex with a dude? At the time of writing this, the dreams are happening at least three times a week.

So I have begun exploring ways to start integrating more masculine energy into my way of being. The first being to notice when I’m avoiding aggressive, demanding behavior—easiest to notice and correct when emailing and texting. Instead of “I’m just emailing to ask about my workshop proposal…” I correct myself and write: “When will my workshop proposal be processed?” To get right to the point. I’ve had a few opportunities to put this into practice in real time, too—and I find it to be so difficult. It just isn’t my natural way of being. But it IS helping me get what I want—and faster!

I’ve also tried to have more compassion and empathy towards straight, overtly masculine men. So, so difficult. I really do feel though, that evolving spiritually and getting where I want to be in life as I ease to the other side of 35, that this is a process I need to go through. I am receiving a very clear message from spirit to start being everything that I don’t like: meaning more aggressive, taking up more space, being demanding. But with compassion. These qualities aren’t always bad. In fact, less labels please; balance is the key.

I believe this is why the feminine IS rising. We. Are. Tired. Of. This. Shit. I’m ready for a gender fluid, queer, anything goes kind of world. It’s not girls to the front, or down with me. It’s folks to the front—and wave your gender representation freak flag high.

*For sake of space and to avoid repetition the use of the term man or men refers to cis-gendered, straight identified men. When referring to women I’m referring to cis-gendered and trans women unless otherwise noted.

HOLY F*CK: LIVE AT THE MOTHERSHIP FESTIVAL

Ahead of her appearance at the MOTHERSHIP festival in Joshua Tree, Alexandra Roxo chats to founder Laura Wise about feminism, kundalini, and kink…

High vibe festivals are everywhere. From Wanderlust to Symbiosis to Spirit Weavers—there’s a festival for ever breed of seeker. Or is there? MOTHERSHIP—happening November 4-6th in Desert Hot Springs, CA—is unique in that it’s feminist AND queer AND spiritual. You can do yoga , celebrate sacred adornments, and then go to a Kink workshop. Amazing, right?

I sat down with the founder (who is also an activist and therapist) Laura Wise to get the deets.

ALEXANDRA ROXO: What can we really expect at a festival like MOTHERSHIP?
LAURA WISE: Women are so typically the caretakers. It is engrained in us to be sweet/kind/giving and that is why self-care is so important. Mothership is full of healing elements and ways to explore your spiritual side. Sierra Dowd is running a “Circle of Release” exercise in which participants can work to release negative aspects of their lives. We have reiki healers, chakra aligning yoga, punk rock yoga, meditation, nature hikes, stargazing (there will actually be a meteor shower during this time!) and lot’s more…

AR: How did the idea for Mothership emerge?
LW: MOTHERSHIP is the event I’ve always wanted to attend. After visiting some pretty magical festivals and gatherings and learning that the pool of women’s festivals is teeny-tiny and nearly extinct, I knew that this was a need I wanted to meet. Women thrive when we unite and work together. We learn from each other and we empower one another. I knew that if I created something fun—with a side of empowerment—there would be an audience for that. This is the era of a fresher, more inclusionary feminism, and I really want to have a hand in building that.

AR: How is it different from other female-focussed festivals or retreats?
LW: One thing I knew was crucial in the creation of MOTHERSHIP was that it was trans and gender-queer inclusive. If you take a look back at the history of women’s festivals—the most established being the Michigan Womyn’s Festival which ended several years ago—there was a clash in new and old thinking. They didn’t allow trans women to attend and the younger generation wasn’t okay with that. We wanted to correct that and update the idea of a women’s festival.

AR: What kinda gal is your typical attendee?
LW: She doesn’t exist! The MOTHERSHIP crowd is  diverse and forward-thinking. But our participants all have an appreciation for idea exchange, art and letting loose. We have a lot of interesting, smart women involved and the thing I’m most excited about is seeing all of these great minds culminate & celebrate!

AR: What are your wildest hopes for the weekend?
LW: My personal goal is that everyone leaves with a little less shame and self-doubt, and a little more personal pride. I hope that MOTHERSHIP can serve as a reminder to us all to celebrate & empower the women around us. I hope that the gal who thought the event sounded fun, and didn’t know much about feminism, leaves saying “yeah I’m a feminist and I have every right to be proud of that.”

AR: Any must-see workshops?
LW: Gosh I really want to brag about everyone involved, I am stunned at the level of awesome-ness!  We have a lot of unique workshops happening, including a self-adornment area with tons of free costumes, accessories and body paint/glitter etc. paired with a Self-Love Photographer, to help you get just the right photo to document your experience. There’s also an intro to kink and BDSM sex workshop, which I know a lot of people are curious about. Late-night we will be having a silent disco…and then there’s the musical lineup—which is also pretty epic!

 

PLUS our very own Numi Alexandra Roxo will be speaking on Saturday night at the HER Talk: Women’s Sexuality in the Media panel. Get your tickets at this link—Numinous readers get 10% off with the code “MOON”!

5 GENDERS: THE STORY OF THE NATIVE AMERICAN TWO-SPIRITS

Prior to Christian intervention, fluid gender identities of the Native American Two Spirits were seen as a gift from the gods, says Pearson McKinney

Celebrated Lakota Two Spirit Osh-Tisch (left) with his wife.

It wasn’t until Europeans took over North America that natives adopted the ideas of gender roles. For Native Americans, there was no set of rules that men and women had to abide by in order to be considered a “normal” member of their tribe.

In fact, people who had both female and male characteristics were viewed as gifted by nature, and therefore, able to see both sides of everything. According to Duane Brayboy, writing in Indian Country Today, all native communities acknowledged the following gender roles: “Female, Male, Two Spirit Female, Two Spirit Male and Transgendered.”

He goes on to describe how: “Each tribe has their own specific term, but there was a need for a universal term that the general population could understand. The Navajo refer to two spirits as nádleehí (one who is transformed); among the Lakota is winkté (indicative of a male who has a compulsion to behave as a female), niizh manidoowag (two spirit); in Ojibwe, hemaneh (half man, half woman), to name a few.”

As the purpose of ‘Two Spirit’ is to be used as a universal term in the English language, it is not always translatable with the same meaning in native languages. For example, in the Iroquois Cherokee language, there is no way to translate the term, but the Cherokee do have gender variance terms for ‘women who feel like men’ and vice versa.”

The Two Spirit culture of Native Americans was one of the first things Europeans worked to destroy and cover up. According to people like American artist George Catlin, the Two Spirit tradition had to be eradicated before it could go into history books. Catlin said the tradition: “must be extinguished before it can be more fully recorded.”

And as Brayboy also notes: “Spanish Catholic monks destroyed most of the Aztec codices to eradicate traditional Native beliefs and history, including those that told of the Two Spirit tradition.” As a result, Native Americans were forced to dress and act according to newly designated gender roles.

One of the most celebrated Two Spirits in recorded history was a Lakota warrior fiercely named Finds Them And Kills Them. Osh-Tisch (see main image) was born a male and married a female, but adorned himself in women’s clothing and lived daily life as a female. On June 17 1876, Finds Them And Kills Them earned his stripes when he rescued a fellow tribesman during the Battle of Rosebud Creek, an act of fearless bravery.

It’s an example of how in Native American cultures, people were valued for their contributions to the tribe, regardless of the gender attributes they exhibited. Parents did not assign gender roles to children either, and children’s clothing tended to be gender neutral. There were no ideas or ideals about how a person should love; it was simply a natural act that occurred without judgment.

Without a negative stigma attached to being a Two Spirit, there were also no inner-tribal incidents of retaliation or violence toward the chosen people simply due to the fact they identified as the opposite or both genders. If anything; “Traditional Native Americans closely associate Two Spirited people with having a high functioning intellect (possibly from a life of self-questioning), keen artistic skills and an exceptional capacity for compassion,” writes Brayboy.

We’wha (1849-1896), of the Zuni nation. We’wha was biologically male and engendered with a female spirit.

Once outside religious influences brought serious prejudice against “gender diversity,” openly alternative or androgynous people were forced into to one of two choices. They could either live in hiding, and in fear of being found out, or they could end their lives. Many of whom did just that.

Imagine a world where people allowed others to live freely as the people nature intended them to be, without harm, without persecution, without shame. Imagine a world where we are truly free.

This article originally appeared on Bipartisan Report. For further reading visit Indian Country Today.

WHY IS GAY TANTRA SO TABOO?

Why is gay tantra so taboo? It’s time to call an end to the dogma of patriarchy and traditional gender roles, says Lisa Luxx

Credit: Concha on Behance

Here we are at a mountain top tantric yoga retreat on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. The love of all my lives is trembling in zen beside me. Class is about to adjourn after our first day and it’s been enlightening; a breath of fresh mountain air into the depth of my ‘yoni’ after a year of undiagnosed vulva pain and gender delusions.

Then the goddess leading the workshop goes and says something that brings the screeching banshee of psychosexual trauma right back. “Your homework is to think about having sex with the opposite sex.” A fellow dyke raises her hand and asks, “Why has it got to be the opposite sex?” The goddess, unmoving, diverts her eye line from the gays and announces stoically, “Because tantra is for man and woman.”

Oh. I wonder why no one ever told me that before. I’d e-mailed the school ahead to tell them, “My girlfriend and I would like to do the practical tantra retreat,” and they opened their pockets wide for us to dispense our money. But they never said, “Tantra is for man and woman.”

On our walk home my girlfriend expresses how uncomfortable she is to have been given these instructions, I argue that it’s probably okay, trying to diffuse the upset. And start to think about having sex with men. It plays out like a Kung Fu fight in my head until some element gets thrown through the stain glass windows of my eyes and I see in front of me that it’s way too 2016 for this kind of disheartening heteronormativity.

It seems, this super straight approach to tantra comes from the misled belief that Shiva and Shakti literally represent man and woman. However, I got mulling this over with my friend Stephanie (who’s written a book called Sex Drive on liberating her orgasm) and she introduced me to the cult icon Barbara Carrellas who wrote the first ever book on queer tantra: Urban Tantra.

“Shiva and Shakti, in Hindu tantric philosophy, are actually huge entities representing consciousness (Shiva) and energy (Shakti). When Shakti and Shiva had sexual intercourse it gave birth to the world. How this got confused with vagina and penis, I do not know,” Barbara explains on the phone to me, after I’ve returned to England.

Back at Hridaya in Mexico, Antoaneta’s teaching became more cracked and twisted as we went on. By the second day she had termed, and continued to refer to, the clit as the “little penis.” An offensive that landed like the shells of warfare in the trenches of my creed.

I’ve toured spoken word performances that educate women on the facts that may empower their clit and one facet of this is that the clit is not small; it can extend up to 9 inches within us. The clits of many straight women will be bigger than their partner’s dick.

The course leader – who began the retreat glowing in light and by now had morphed into this disheveled, haggered devil of a being – proceeded to laugh off lesbian sex as something that only happens in yoni therapy, not a real manifestation of love on this earth. We walked out. My girlfriend cried all the way back to our cabana.

The next day we bumped into another lady from the course who was quite distressed. She told us she too was gay and what we’d missed in the final day was a ceremony whereby many unknown men had entered the space. Men who had not been on the course but who were marched in to save any woman having to pair up with another woman during the sensual massage.

This lady we spoke to, who we’ll call Kirsty, had left in floods of tears, “I feel stupid because I don’t know why I came back to tantra. I thought it was worth giving another chance but discrimination is all I’ve ever experienced at tantra schools.”

When I spoke to my queer friends about my experiences in Mexico, they had all nodded solemnly and said, “Yeah, homophobia is a real problem in mainstream tantra.” And, that was the key lesson for me to learn; there is a mainstream tantra, which doesn’t have the social awareness that some of us expect.

For anyone who has ever experienced ‘energy genitals’ they’ll know that the line between owning a dick and a pussy can be smudged. I’ve had a dick before. Insomuch as I’ve felt the erection rise from my pelvis and enter my girlfriend, and she’s felt it inside her. I wouldn’t have had the linguistics to explain this before speaking to Barbara, who coined the term ‘energy genitals’.

“There is a position called Yab Yum where the person on the bottom could have a physical possession of a vagina and the person on top could have a physical penis. But the person with the vagina experiences a penis. Once they start rocking and holding eye contact the man feels he’s being penetrated by the woman.”

This is a genderless phenomenon. And for someone who exists in the grey area between genders and doesn’t always feel wholly assigned to the physical sexual design given unto me, tantra appealed because it focuses on energy rather than physicality. And tantra does exist as beautifully open as that. Barbara Carrellas runs her own courses which allows for magic to happen off-script.

For example, “One guy came to a women’s class because he couldn’t make it to another. So he was doing the breathing technique for women and he was flying just as far and as fast as any women in the room. To which I realised, there’s a lot to this I don’t understand and I think I’m being fed a lot of myths and lies.”

The Radical Faeries, once a gay male counter-culture network in the US is now opening up to all gender and sexual identities. Within their discourse is tantric teachings. The network has now spread globally too.

When one embarks upon a tantra course they lay themselves open and become ultra vulnerable, any teacher who is insensitive or who makes you feel invisible can emboss serious damage within you.

It’s important to find a workshop leader that is emotionally equipped to the complexities of sexual identity. When humans come together and open themselves up in a small space it’s bound to get messy and as my friend Jessie says “you just have to hope for a great facilitator”.

Jessie is part of women’s only tantric program called Shakti Tantra which she tells me is a great place to heal. But the divide should not be a must for us to feel safe. For any tantric workshop to serve its purpose it needs to be free of patriarchal dogmas. That doesn’t mean being free of men.

Ask lots of questions before you book your space on a course: will I get split up from my partner, will I have to be paired up with anyone I don’t want to, will I have to reveal details about my sexual past, and so on. If you don’t get the answers you’re looking for then keep searching for the right tantra course. There are retreats friendly to all persuasions, genders and sexualities (including polyamorous types).

Tantra began as a deliberately transgressive art form. It was the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll of its day. It was a political movement. So take these homogenous tantra fundamentalists with a pinch of salt and reclaim the art form. As Barbara says: If you want to practise the semen retention that’s fine but, don’t tell the rest of us that’s the only way to do it!