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.

QUEER HERO: 7 WAYS TO HEAL FROM SEXUAL TRAUMA

In the wake of Jupiter’s transit through Scorpio, sexual trauma has been brought to light over and over again. In his latest “Queer Hero” column, survivor and healer Danny Brave shares 7 ways to process the deep pain and move from #Metoo to I AM … Photos by Tal Shpantzer 

Portrait of Danny by Tal Shpantzer

The #MeToo movement exploded onto social media on October 15th 2017, only four days after Scorpio’s transit into Jupiter (the sign of intimacy, sex, secrets, and power). The hashtag was created by Tarana Burke, the black woman whose brilliant activism started the movement all the way back in 2006. Her decade of advocacy reached mainstream awareness when Alyssa Milano tweeted #metoo in response to accusations of sexual assault & misconduct in Hollywood.

Whether or not we wanted to deal with it, molestation, rape, and sexual trauma was being brought to light over and over and over again. Some of us felt ready for this darkness to reveal itself so dramatically and intensely, while others of us felt ill-prepared for all of the undigested emotions and traumas that these women were bringing to the forefront of our consciousness.

With Jupiter still retrograding through Scorpio, and April marking Sexual Assault Awareness Month (S.A.A.M.), I have been reflecting on all that has transpired since the initiation of this powerful planetary movement … 

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Widening the sexual trauma narrative
The stories of who is sexually assaulting who are as varied as the number of people on earth. I know white cis gender men who have been assaulted by cis white women, and I have met men who were molested by their mothers as boys. Sexual violation has been perpetrated by gay men to other gay men, by queer POC to other queer POC, by fathers to girls who come out later in life as non-binary or trans men, by white people to black people and vice versa.

The list of race, gender, sexuality, body type, and age variable narratives continues, as is reflected by the statistics:

– 47% of transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime
– Of trans people of color: American Indian (65%), multiracial (59%), Middle Eastern (58%), and Black (53%) have experienced sexual assault
– American Indians are twice as likely to experience rape/sexual assault compared to all races
– 1 in 3 women experience sexual assault
– 1 in 10 men experience sexual assault
– 44% of lesbians experience rape
– 61% bisexual women experience rape
– 26% of gay men experience rape
– 37% of bisexual men experience rape

*Statistics are for the United States only, from the U.S. Trans Survey in 2015RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), and the National Intimate Partner & Sexual Violence Survey). 

And the effects are staggering. From persistent and debilitating anxiety and/or depression, to the shutdown of one’s sexuality, and a sense of complete worthlessness and suicidal thinking, the wake of this abuse’s devastation goes on and on.

For the sake of everyone’s healing, we must not confine this widespread epidemic to old stereotypes and the rigidity of the gender binary.

Portrait of Danny by Tal Shpantzer

7 ways to heal your sexual trauma …
To provide some solutions, below is a love letter—a list of tools, rituals and advice that have helped me and my clients reclaim our lives, sexuality, and bodies in the aftermath of sexual trauma …

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1//Make art. Whatever your creative medium, express it! You don’t have to show what you create to anyone at all (unless you want to!), you don’t have to be good at it, and you don’t have to spend much money (writing, for example, costs about $3 for a cheap notebook and pen). The purpose is just to get the energy moving.

Creativity is governed by the sacral chakra, located in the pelvis, genitals, and lower back, and connected to sexual energy. When you are being creative, you are helping to unearth, clear, uplift, and release some of the stagnant or painful energy that got planted there during moments of abuse.

If you are struggling with depression in particular, making art makes you active again. It puts the ball back in your court and helps you remember that life can be beautiful, and that it is okay to feel. Become the transmuter of your own pain through your creativity and I promise you catharsis will be there, and that this will eventually (if not immediately) lead to feeling better.

*Recommended:  The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

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2//Tell someone who makes you feel safe and who you know will believe you. One of my mentors taught me that the lips of the labia and the lips of the mouth have the same nerve endings—they are connected. What this means is that sexual trauma silences us; it makes us somehow incapable of voicing our truth, standing up for ourselves, and asking for our needs (emotional or otherwise) to be met.

Telling our deep dark truths to someone we can trust can be one of the most healing experiences. Here’s a loose structure to get you started:

1 – Contact the person you are going to meet and ask them, in your own words, if they will meet with you in person so that you can vent and get something really difficult off your chest.

2 – Tell them exactly what you need from them afterwards. Is it a quick hug? To be held for a while? To say “I’m sorry that happened to you,” to say “thank you for telling me your story”? It can feel weird to make such a clear and specific requests, but people aren’t mind-readers, and our abuse stories are so intense that we often require a very specific type of support to feel just that: supported.

3 – Tell them your story and provide as many details as possible. I am talking about the date and time, who did it, the location of the abuse on your body, how you felt—the whole thing. If it makes it easier, you can write this out all out in advance. Notice the resistance to doing this and try to push through and speak your truth anyway.

4 – Set up something really lovely to do for yourself afterwards—something that makes you feel comforted, brings you back to the present moment, or brings you joy. Do you love to go see movies? To plant a garden? To paint? To go for a joy drive and blast music? After unleashing your powerful truth, make sure you engage with this activity for as long as it takes to get you back to the present moment.

*Recommended: Vagina by Naomi Wolf

Portrait of Danny by Tal Shpantzer

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3//Realize that what happened to you is NOT your fault. Something that tends to get built into the experience of sexual abuse is that we, on some level, caused or created it.

The mind of a child is more straightforward than the mind of an adult, and it does not understand that bad things that happen are not caused by them. If the abuse is being perpetrated by an adult to a child, the child knows that the parent is the one feeding and clothing them and therefore will do any and all mental gymnastics to repress, imagine, or self-blame the abuse away by taking on and in all of the pain and blame.

If you were an adult when the abuse happened to you, it’s still easy to think: “If I hadn’t been drunk, if I had been wearing something different …” If we are spiritually-inclined, we might even torture ourselves with spirituality and the law of attraction, asking ourselves ridiculous things such as: “Why did I create this experience? Maybe I wasn’t thinking positively enough … I wonder why I attracted this abuse?”

Why do we try to make something as awful as this our fault? The truth is simple: it is easier to blame ourselves and engage in self-hatred then it is to deal with the fact that what happened was not in our control and not our fault whatsoever. Doing this also prevents us from having to deal with the emotional reality of holding someone else accountable for their actions.

Hating ourselves or trying to make ourselves responsible for something we clearly didn’t cause or do is an incredibly effective defense mechanism to either defend the memory of our parents because we want to maintain a relationship with them, and/or to avoid holding the perpetrator fully accountable for the painful emotions associated.

It is because of this that I cannot stress enough: what happened to you was not your fault. What happened to you was not your fault. What happened to you was not your fault. What happened to you was not your fault.

It wasn’t.

And coming to terms with this is an all-too-necessary step that needs to happen before forgiveness and letting go (after all, if we don’t hold someone accountable to begin with, then what is there even to forgive?)

*Recommended: Repressed Memories by Renee FredricksonQueering Sexual Violence by Jennifer Patterson; Stacyann Chin’s powerful speech: Not my fault; Diana Oh’s incredible feminist art/activist installation My Lingerie Play (Especially Installation 3/10: “Even If You Found Me Like This”).

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4//Perform a releasing ritual. Ritual is a powerful way that we can find closure and healing for experiences and situations that seem impossible to ever gain closure from. By doing something physical, ritual provides a concrete moment that serves as a bridge for us to walk over and into the next phase of our lives.

Here are a couple of suggestions for releasing rituals that I have found to be incredibly powerful in healing my own sexual trauma:

1 – Write a letterto the person who did it (and don’t send it). I know, it’s intense. The thing is … if you have not done something like this already, it is likely that the thoughts and feelings you would communicate directly to this person are rolling around in your head and your body, anyway, and without an outlet.

What we are looking for here is catharsis and closure. It is not meant to be sent to the person, and that being said, it does not have to be respectful or kind in any way. Get it aaaaalllll out. And then, safely destroy it! Rip it up, or light it on fire. Afterwards, make sure you set yourself up with some really lovely after-care: a relaxing walk alone or with a friend, a gentle movie that makes you feel comforted, etc.

2 – Go somewhere in nature. Preferably a body of water (and especially the ocean). Take a stroll to find either a seashell or rock, and place it in your hand. With the object in your hand, charge it up with all of the feelings and experiences of the abuse, and all of the things that have happened as a result of it.

Take a moment to really feel all of that energy and pain moving through and out of your body and into the shell or rock. Then, THROW IT IN THE OCEAN! Boom: it’s done, it’s over. Give yourself some time to sit and have a leisurely walk or maybe even journal after you release this- again, with everything involving your recovery, taking the time for gentle after-care is important.

*Recommended: She Let Go by Rev. Safire Rose (adjust pronouns accordingly, brave ones!)

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5//Adjust your sexual expression accordingly. While it may not be the case for everyone, it has been my own, and many of my clients’ experiences that sexual abuse tends to create a polarity of subsequent sexual expression: either way too much, or way too little (basically non-existent).

This is not an invitation to judge yourself, rather to become self aware of your sexuality and sexual patterns from a place of unconditional love. Remember, the extremity is not your fault (re-visit bullet point #3 if you’re beating yourself up).

*For my way too much-ers: Take a vow of celibacy for 3 months (it’s ok: you can still masturbate). During this time, when you do masturbate, take a few breaths and ask to connect to God/Spirit/the Universe (whichever term you prefer) through your sexual energy (and prepare to be blown away!!)

Make a list of 10 other ways to feel loved, outside of engaging in sexual activity with another person, and commit to exploring one of them each week during your temporary celibacy.

*For my non-existent/way too little-ers: Make it a non-negotiable commitment to exploring your sexual nature and opening up to sexual experiences on a bi-weekly basis, working up to sharing yourself with a consenting partner, if it feels right.

Also, dance. Yes, DANCE. Take dance classes that bring the energy down into the lower chakras: African dance, hip hop, pole dancing, etc. Get out of your comfort zone!

*Recommended: Why Mother Nature is the Ultimate Goddess of Love by Tirzah Shiya

Photo of Danny by Tal Shpantzer

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6//Invest in healing that is holistic and takes your body into account. We know that the conscious mind governs only 10-20% of the totality of our consciousness. Traditional psychotherapy is typically working with the 10-20% of the conscious mind to try to get to the 80-90% that’s less conscious. Unsurprisingly, I prefer methods that go straight to the 80-90%: reiki, shamanic healing, and meditation. You might also try sound healing, hypnotherapy, tapping, somatic experience, or any other mind-body practice you feel drawn to.

The site that is typically inflicted with a sexual trauma wound for women, trans men, and those assigned-female-at-birth is the vagina, or “yoni.” Mystics and shamans know this place to be the gateway to the universe, and the key to creation of life itself—not only human life as in childbirth, but also the creation of all things, such as personal dreams and manifestations.

In my personal shamanic healing practice, I use a tool called a shamanic extraction, which uses the intelligence of crystals to safely extract pain, fear, and any other energy intrusions that were inflicted on the individual’s yoni during the time of abuse out, followed by the channeling of reiki healing energy into the area. This allows the individual to have agency over their yoni, one of the deepest and most powerful tools for us to create our lives from this place- a place of health, clarity, and integrity.

Another incredibly effective tool I use is shamanic cord cutting, which is a powerful ritual in which we take the cord of energy that is usually still subconsciously or unconsciously connecting the client to their abuser via a vibration of pain, and we release it, and follow up by channeling reiki or healing energy into the area for deep healing.

*Recommended:  My one-on-one healing workMoon Mysteries by Nao Sims & Nikiah Seeds & Boundaries by Henry Cloud & John Townsend

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7//Connect with community. The patriarchy thrives off of separation. Pain and darkness prevail when we are in isolation. This is not normal or natural, and we need matriarchy now—a matriarchy that is for all genders, races, body types, and ages.

It is imperative that in your healing journey, you find some sort of community to join where you feel safe enough to be seen. It can be a shamanic community, a monthly women’s circle, AA, a hiking club—there are tons of things to do and join in this world, both in-person and online.

Don’t do this alone. You can’t do it alone. Other people need you and you need them, and that’s okay. My hope is that we start to live in a world where our emotional needs are no longer judged as being “needy.” We all need each other, and we all heal each other. So let’s do that.

*Recommended:  If you’re located in NYC, sign up for my upcoming 6-week transformational community group HERE; also check out the Red Tent MovementMoon Club, and Meetup.com

QUEER HERO: HOW TO CAST A NAME SPELL

In the first official installment of his monthly column, Queer Hero, Danny Brave shares his journey to discover the name that reflected his true identity. PLUS how you can cast your own name spell …

Photo: Tommy Venus. Jewelry: Gilded Lily.

Over the course of my journey as not only a transgender man, but also as a shamanic healer, I’ve discovered the power of our own names (both given and chosen).

I lived most of my life being called Katie Greene, moving through several different iterations and identity crises, only to discover, or rather re-member, that I am Danny Brave. Now when I say “re-member,” what I actually mean is the opposite of dis-member: to put myself back together, to become more whole.

Read on to discover my name changing story, and discover how you can cast a name spell on your own life …

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Releasing my ancestral line
In the Fall of 2015, “Katie,” first started to feel like it was not really me any more. After remembering the sexual assault I experienced as a child (read more about my sexual reclamation after incest HERE), the name was feeling more and more like a fake smile—something that I did often when I was living that identity. If you say “Katie” out loud, you’ll notice your mouth even takes the shape of a smile at the “ie” part.

After remembering what had actually happened to me as a kid, there was, not surprisingly, no more fake smiles left in me, and my full birth name “Kaitlin” began to feel more appropriate. This name felt darker, more serious, and more powerful—a reflection of my energy at the time. This was the name I was called when the abuse happened to me, and it facilitated me in re-membering and reclaiming some of the darkest moments of my life.

With “Kaitlin” in place, I started to search for a replacement for “Greene,” a name that belonged to my father and his father—a name that to me denoted false Irish family pride, toxic Catholicism, and all of the lies and abuse that had been passed down my ancestral line. This line would decidedly end with me, and it would end via the ritual of literally releasing this last name and claiming a new one for myself. This change-of-name spell happened gradually over a long period of time …

Photo: Tommy Venus. Jewelry: Gilded Lily.

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Was I “Brave” enough?
“Brave,” first came to me in December 2015 at the Barnes and Noble in the town where I grew up, where one fateful night I noticed a little green book with the gold shiny words titled “Brave Enough” by Cheryl Strayed winking at me from the shelves.

Strayed’s memoir “Wild” had come to me a few months prior, shortly after the volcanic repressed memory eruption and was like a little twinkling ray of hope from God, a love letter to my soul. It was a story that had a lot of trauma, death, and addiction—that was totally true, and often brutally honest. In her memoir, Cheryl literally gives herself the last name “Strayed” and changes it legally to reflect more honestly whom she knew she really was. Someone who had, in more ways than one, strayed.

I opened “Brave Enough” and read: “Hello, fear. Thank you for being here. You’re my indication that I’m doing what I need to do.” I wasn’t leaving without the store without it.

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Dancing in my own words …
“Brave Enough” came with me in my bag to India a month later, where I was attending a women’s dance-healing retreat, and a self-imposed writer’s retreat.

Every morning I would dance for 2-3 hours with a beautiful group of women, and every afternoon I would write alone, mostly poetry, and sometimes for hours and hours. It seemed like the energy of “Brave” had already started working on me, giving me the courage to re-claim my authentic voice, and I wrote and wrote about everything as honestly as I could handle at that time. I transmuted abuse memories that spontaneously arrived in the morning dance class, channeling those feelings and vibrations into words, vomiting the poison out of my system.

During my time in India, without thinking much about it, I switched my email address to reflect the last name “Brave.” My old last name just kind of slipped off—like the wind blowing a piece of fabric off of a rock. It was just so ridiculously obvious that “Brave” was my name, and that it now belonged to me.

As I prepared for the journey back to the States, I realized I could never go back to my parents’ home. No longer sharing a last name with any family member, “Brave” carried me onward, forcing me to individuate myself from my family and preparing me to stand on my own two feet.

Photo: Tommy Venus. Jewelry: Gilded Lily.

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Becoming Danny Brave
When I started to realize that I was a guy (which is really a whole other story), I was initially so uncomfortable with myself and scared that I wanted to die. At the same time, there was an immediate ease with which my first name arrived—it was Danny. I just kind of knew, it was a lightning bolt that zapped the crown of my head in meditation.

But the name and my body and life at that time felt too at odds, and I was living too far away from where I knew I could  feel supported enough to transition. Desperate for some sort of change, but not yet able to feel safe enough to fully step into Danny, I switched my first name again, this time to “Kate.”

I took a part-time gig as an assistant to a jewelry designer. “Ooo, I love your last name … I think that ‘brave’ means a female warrior” the woman I worked for told me. I Googled it and discovered that it in fact meant MALE warrior. “Oh dear god,” I thought with terror. I was being called out, pushed out of the closet, by my own last name! As I started to prepare myself to face the fact that I was not, and never have been, a woman, I knew that “Kate,” a female name and the one my dad would use whenever he yelled at me, would have to go.

When I showed up to my first trans-masculine support group, late and shaking, I simply said “I’m Brave.” As I would to the random barista, just to practice having a different name with no clear gender. Just to have to say it out loud to remember I was courageous, to cling to the one true part of me over which I had ownership.

The affirmation of my last name would eventually lead me to admitting to the real first one, Danny, a month or so later in my support group.

The vibration of Danny has lead me home to my ultimate truth: that of a flamboyant little gay boy who loved to play dress up, loved watching figure skating, loved to paint, draw, and dance. The real me, only now a man. Sometimes the most loveable parts of ourselves are the most hard-won.

I was recently joking with a new friend, saying to her that I gave myself the last name of “Brave” so that I would constantly have to strive to live up to it. “I don’t think that’s true,” she said. “Names are spells. You don’t even have to try, it’s just you now, and it’s how your life will unfold.” Looking back on this story, I can see that she was right.

Photo: Tommy Venus. Jewelry: Gilded Lily.

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How to cast your own name spell
Your name(s) (past and present) carry a meaning and vibration that is worth exploring! Being curious about what is underneath your name may lead you to a deeper understanding of your family dynamic, about what remains to be healed within you, and about your life path and purpose.

The following exercises are for you to explore your true feelings about your name(s) so that you can either reclaim it with your own meaning, intention, or vibration, or maybe even choose a new one for yourself!

1// Call your own name
Start with either your first or last name—whichever one you want to explore and play with first. Then, if you wish, you can follow up with your second name:

Close your eyes. Put your hand on your heart. Take a few deep breaths. Say your first name three times. What do you feel? Does this name feel like you? What do you feel in your body when you say it? What comes up for you? Honor whatever it is and trust your feelings. Know that if your name doesn’t feel like a match for the real you, there is one that is.

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2// Free associate  
You can do this with your current name, or play with a different one that you have in mind.

Take out a piece of paper and a pen. At the top, make two columns if you don’t have a middle name, and three if you do. Under each column, without thinking, write stream-of-consciousness based off of each of your names (if you are trans-identified, I recommend you do this with both your birth name and your chosen one).  Then, take a moment to read your associations. Our names carry so much energy, don’t they?!

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3// Take an inner child name inventory
You may want to use a pen and piece of paper for this one as well:

Consider or write down answers to the following: Was there a name that you really loved as a kid? Is there a name that you really love now? What did you name your pets, your dogs, your dolls when you were little? Is there a celebrity or friend whose name you admire? Is there a name you have always loved and wish that you had? What would happen if you tried it on for a minute, like trying on a new dress or shirt?

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4// Play with your gender identity
Don’t take this one too seriously or freak yourself out—try to have fun and maintain an attitude of light playfulness! Now, let’s do some name-drag:

If you identify as a woman, imagine for a moment that you are a man. What would your name be? If you are a man, imagine for a moment that you are a woman. What would your name be? What does it feel like to call yourself by this pretend name? What spell would this name cast on your life?

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5// Know that you are worthy of your real name 
In the USA (in the larger cities in particular), we are so privileged to live at a time where we can exercise our free will to become more of the person that we really are. Know that if you are unhappy with your current name, or if you don’t feel like it is truly yours, you can, in fact, change it. The same goes for your life!  If you don’t like it, you do, in fact, have the power to change it.

Beyond gender identity, I hope that you feel you are worthy of the real you. You deserve to love your name, which is to say, you deserve to love yourself. I know that if you follow your heart and trust your gut, you will find (or re-member) your real name.

**If you are a transgender individual living in the U.S., please visit my list of resources for trans individuals HERE

Danny Brave is a shamanic healer, writer, public speaker, and artist. In his private practice, he specializes in helping women and individuals assigned female at birth overcome the affects of sexual trauma. He conducts monthly LGBTQIA Shamanic Healing Circles at Brooklyn’s Maha Rose (sign up for the next one HERE) with the intention of creating safe, sober spaces for queer people to heal, and to amplify marginalized voices. He loves to paint, dance, and spend time in nature.

HOW IT FEELS FOR A TRANS SOUL TO COME HOME

As the 2018 Leo Lunar Eclipse asks us to stand up in our fire and be truly seen, childhood abuse survivor and joyous healer, Danny Brave, shares his journey and reveals how it feels for a trans soul to come home …

Danny Brave. Photo by Tommy Venus.

“I remember the moment
when I came home to
my body

what a lovely reception 
that was
(though emotional) 
. . . ”

While working with a sexual empowerment coach in 2015, this was the beginning of a poem I wrote entitled “coming home.” In the exercise that inspired it, I visualized that pieces of my soul were perched over my head.

My coach then instructed me to reach up with my hands and pull these pieces of my soul back into my body with my hands. After a few minutes, the coach then instructed me to call my soul back into my body by placing my hands on my heart and saying my name out loud, three times: Katie. Katie. Katie.

And I burst into tears, because I felt in that moment a tiny piece of me came home, along with a deep knowing that I had never actually, up until this moment felt at home within my body. Not once in 28 years.

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:: MEETING DANNY BRAVE :: 
This session took place just a month after recalling memories of my father sexually assaulting me as a child, an event which completely altered the course of my life. The memory shattered the fabricated reality of the cheerful, healthy relationships I thought I had shared with my immediate family members up until this point.  

As a result, my journey home into my body has also felt, and still sometimes feels, extremely challenging. In fact, at times, this would be an extreme understatement.

Between July of 2015 and now I have, almost relentlessly, uncovered countless repressed memories of being sexually assaulted and abused in a multitude of ways. Not only by my father, but also my mother and grandfather, along with some deeply questionable evidence that I was not in fact a woman.

I remember being in the thick of my repressed memory recall and looking in the mirror and talking to myself, and hearing a voice in my head say to myself, “I want to be a boy.” I thought I must be insane, and shut that voice down for an entire year before I would allow it to re-emerge and accept it as truth.  

Fast forward to today. I now know that my true name is Danny Brave, and I am a gay trans man. I discovered the trans part in June of 2016, but was too terrified to come out until that November. And the gay part I wasn’t even too sure about until about a week ago.

Photo: Tommy Venus

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:: I WANT TO BE A BOY; I AM A BOY :: 
The reality of my gender identity came crashing down that June, when I decided to, once again, look my inner child in the mirror and have a conversation with them and really listen this time. This is a practice I had adopted from the amazing work of Louise Hay as I found it to be deeply healing (and for those who are brave, I cannot recommend it enough!)

I asked my inner child what was wrong, as I had been feeling deeply depressed, and I had long hair at the time that felt droopy and heavy. I asked what I could do to help them feel better. In response, I heard the voice of my inner child scream: “I want to be a BOY!! I AM A BOY!!  I want to cut off all of my hair!” 

It was that same voice I had heard a year ago, a voice that I could no longer ignore or discredit as crazy: this was the real me, the one who as a kid tried to pee standing up, who felt confused about why he did not have a penis, the one who loved dancing, singing, and fabulous shoes, and had dreams of being a visual artist.

This moment in the mirror was the moment I finally decided to listen to myself. Two days later, I cut off all of my hair and immediately felt so much better, so much more like me. I began to realize that I could not visualize myself in the future as a woman without wanting to die.  

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:: FROM TERROR TO TRANSITION :: 
At this time, I had dug myself into a hole by moving to a small town an hour and a half outside of Los Angeles, where I was making little to no money, had no car, and no health insurance, let alone access to trans health care or support groups.

I was terrified, and had created this situation out of that same terror. I knew I had to get back to a city to gain access to support for figuring out my transition. I thought my choice would be Los Angeles as that would be the most convenient, but shortly after moving to LA and not being able to land a job with decent pay, I took the little money I had left and moved back to NYC in August of 2016.

It was in NYC that I was able to take my old job back, and gain access to the support I needed to come to terms with myself and transition: trans masculine support groups and free therapy via the Center on 13th Street (for which I am forever grateful). I came out in October 2016, and lost a majority of the “close” friends I had at the time.

In the winter of 2016, I met up with a friend from one of my support groups and told them I was having suicidal thoughts and that I couldn’t get out of bed. They gently pointed out to me over a cup of coffee that not being on testosterone was “not working for me,” (to put it mildly) and I started hormone therapy shortly thereafter, in January of 2017.

Every week since then (with the exception of one month during which I completely panicked) I have been injecting myself with a needle filled with testosterone (also simply referred to as “t” within the trans community).

This simple act is slowly but surely transforming me externally into the person I have always been internally, which feels a bit like becoming sane and going crazy at the same time. I am going through a literal and a figurative process of transformation in order to become the person who I have also always been. Quite a trip!

Photo: Tommy Venus

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:: WHOLE, LOVING, JUICY :: 
Last week I had a more triumphant and joyful moment of homecoming, when I attended a dance class with my loving partner (who is also a trans man) shortly after having anal sex for the first time (for hours on end, I might add).

Something so essential about who I was clicked into place while with him: I felt like my soul actually landed it my body. It felt really good, and really whole and loving.

Running late for the class, I looked into his big, beautiful eyes on the train on the way to class and felt he was really seeing me for the first time, and I him. Beneath the boobs, we were, and are, two gay men, despite all of the “ma’ams” and “misses” and the lifetime of being perceived differently by everyone, including ourselves. Our truth felt so simple in that moment, and I felt truly beautiful in his eyes. Really real, and really me.

Looking in the mirror in the dance class, I could see how recently my arms, wrists, and fingers had gotten so much more masculine looking, and how flat my chest looked with my binder and the grey t-shirt I was wearing. This made me smile, as did acknowledging how much I love to dance—always have, always will.

I glanced over at my partner in the mirror, and saw a beautiful person who was somewhat scared to be themselves out in the world, but who was doing it anyway, just like me. I saw someone who was willing to go outside of their comfort zone to try something new, something they always wanted to do, like take a dance class, or write this article, and the simultaneous nervousness and courage behind his eyes made my heart swell.

Then I looked at his juicy butt doing the warm up and felt my genitals wake up once again in my stretchy pants. This also made me smile. I realized and accepted in this moment that I was gay—that I REALLY was a man who liked men (cis and trans). Always have been, always will be. And that despite all of the incest, I always have been and always will be a deeply sexual person (after all, my Venus is in Scorpio).

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:: IT TAKES COURAGE TO ENJOY IT :: 
It has taken years, a village of trans allies, sensitive artist friends, therapists, Reiki attunements, shamanic healers, dance/movement therapy teachers, sexual alchemy teachers, yoga trainings, sexual empowerment coaches, random acts of kindness from strangers like the lady in the Starbucks who told me that who I was was really beautiful and that the world would love the real me, and thousands of dollars worth of credit card debt to get here. But damn, I did it. I’ve done it. I’m here.

And I love sex. Yes, I love sex! says the man who had his first orgasm from masturbation when he was 27 years old, because he thought sexual energy meant being hit, yelled at, and penetrated without consent. Says the man with a female body who didn’t want to look down or touch himself there because it would mean realizing that my mind and body did not match. Says the man who was, as a child, anally raped by his father and grandfather and molested in a bath by his mother, and taught by the Catholic religion that sex was a sin and that my body was something to be ashamed of. Says the man who was not allowed to share a bed with his boyfriend when he visited his parents’ house at the age of 26, being not-so-subtly shamed that they lived together before marriage.

Yes, I love sex. And I have reclaimed sex to the extent that it now makes me feel alive, loved, present, powerful, and best of all, real. What once made me feel terrified now allows me to feel safe. It takes me from that idea of myself in my head perched above my body to actually being an embodiment of self. It is teaching me to trust life again.

In the words of Bjork in her song “Big Time Sensuality”: It takes courage to enjoy it. I hope that everyone who has been through what I have gets to experience this particular kind of courage.

I hope that everyone gets to experience the pleasure of coming home into their own sexuality, their own body. 

Tommy & Danny. Photo by Lyndsey Kamide.

Danny Brave is a Writer/Public Speaker/Educator on the subjects of Gender/Transgender, Overcoming Trauma, and Ascension/Spiritual Living. He is a Master Shamanic Reiki Practitioner/Psychic Healer specializing in helping people of all genders, ages, body types, and races overcome the effects of child abuse/sexual assault via various healing modalities which he has come to term “Brave Healing Arts.” He conducts monthly LGBTQIA & Allies Community Healing Circles at Maha Rose in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (1st or 2nd Wednesday of each month). He is 100% sober, vegan, and loves to paint, take photos, dance, and pet dogs. 

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!