My 15th anniversary approaches but not like you might expect. I’m not talking about my wedding anniversary though my first will be in October also. It isn’t the anniversary of my name change. That’s on the day before Yule. It isn’t even the anniversary of my surgery. That followed Epiphany in 2008. But this anniversary changed my life forever, even though I didn’t know it at the time and even though I had been living it all along.
That anniversary began with an online friendship that would last for many years and we still e-mail each other now and then. He’s Dr. Kenneth Dollarhide, a long time ally of transgender people who has spoken at many trans conventions over the years and lectured on Native American connections to the modern transgender.
But that anniversary was not from when Ken and I met. The anniversary I’m talking about was when he sent me an e-mail in an attempt to encourage me because Ken was and is a compassionate man. He said, “You are beautiful, smart, and also innocent.”
I could not accept what he said. There was too much wrong in my history for which I had never forgiven myself so I fired back an e-mail saying, “I am not innocent.”
He said, “You might not see yourself as innocent because of your past. But no matter where you may have been or what you may have done you are innocent because you never lost the capacity to dream and wonder, even as a little child.”
His words still didn’t make sense to me and they wouldn’t for a long time. But in one respect I could agree with Ken. I’m a prolific dreamer. I even served 2 terms as a Gnostic priest because of my proclivities; and being trans is one reason for my cultivating my dreams.
I was 8 years old when a dream awakened me to some harsh truths. The story found its place in the book Transgender Voices:
“Growing up I preferred dolls to sports. As boys attacked me I developed friendships with girls. One night I had a dream where I looked in the bathroom mirror and a pretty girl looked back. I felt my hair, my skin. I was certain I had turned into a girl. I was happier than I had ever known. Then I awoke and saw it was a dream and wept bitterly. I began two things: a lifelong study of dreams and cross dressing. In both cases I was desperate to bring back the girl in the mirror.”1
I must have cried for hours that morning when I awoke. I prayed desperately to God for him to turn me into a girl. I began my first dream diary in a little paper book I filled with pictures with stick figures so I could remember my dreams. Many apocalyptic nightmares haunted me. One night the sun exploded into a nova while voices beckoned out of the constellation Coma Berenices.2 In other dreams I found myself under attack by dogs or by spiders with grins of delight as they closed in on me… much like the hostile schoolmates who bullied me every day in the Lutheran school in which I was raised. But again and again I was either a girl in those dreams or the girl in the mirror was there, at times giving perspective as she watched me.
But my dreams and dreaming grew with me on many levels. I observed many types of dreaming mechanisms, recording and cataloguing 40 of them in 5 genera. Some even had application in waking life. At times when after the rain and auras burn brightly I might be struck with awe, driving others nutty while I have a great time feeling the energy of plants a couple of inches away from their leaves. It’s all part of dreaming phenomena, enriching life. I had even dreamed so intensely and intentionally I eventually served a couple of terms as a Gnostic priest… and eventually my dreams really did become me.
I realized it as I was ready to leave the hospital after my surgery. I looked into a mirror and a pretty woman looked back. I felt my hair and skin. I smiled. I was certain that I had turned into a girl and was happier than I had ever known because this time I knew it was physically real. That was when I chanted a prayer of thanksgiving: “Atah Malkhut v’Geburah v’Gedulah l‘olam! Amen!”6 and I cried again, this time not with tears of bitterness, but tears of joy and fulfillment.
Over the years I met a great many other girls who remembered similar dreams. For some, dreams took Gnostic proportions like mine. For some, dreams were simple and mundane. For still others, dreams were something to be set aside in preference for pure physicality and so their dreams passed into the oblivion of forgetfulness. But even the hidden dreams drove them on to express gender from within, often at odds with what society demanded. True to the uncanny ways dreams work into mundane aspects of life they spoke in my early dating life when I attempted to live as a man despite my failing badly at it. In 1975 I had broken up from my last dating disaster, pondering the girls I had dated so far. I noticed a peculiarity. Every last one of them had “Lynn” for a middle name: Joyce Lynn, Debbie Lynn, Judy Lynn, Sally Lynn. No exception existed at all. Struck by the synchronicity3 I asked myself about what seemed like the work of an archetype.4 Being a Latin student I wistfully said, “Ubī est Lynn ea?”5 Soon I realized that “She who is Lynn” or “Lynn-ea” was the woman within struggling to get out.
True to platonic experience, my dreams led me to ethical questions and even a moral theory of my own. One day I revisited what Ken told me and my mind flooded as it were with light. So in my dreams I also knew my innocence. It was something to be cultivated, not something that, once lost, could never be recovered It was in this genre of thought that I began to relate to transgender people everywhere. I could relate to the girl who first came out to experience who she is, perhaps at a makeover. When she looked into the mirror to see that girl in the mirror for the first time, tears often flowed… just like mine did when first I saw myself as a girl in waking life, remembering that dream of the girl in the mirror.
In those dreams are some of the richest storehouses of personal and interpersonal myth, those tapes recorded from our earliest breaths. We’re a narrative species and our dreams voice those stories as much as our waking selves express them through the ways we tick. In fact, we come to realize, isn’t waking life also a dream? If so, aren’t we a people of dreams from beginning to end, whether we actively decide to remember our dreams or not and even our unconscious pursuit of dreams of transition become a vehicle to more refined forms of spirituality?
It’s no wonder that spirituality forms an important core of the trans experience and as a result transpeople have in recent years been reasserting themselves in the religious arena, reclaiming what was undeniably our from antiquity. More often than not, transpeople have intense spiritualities regardless of what spiritual languages might embody them: whether Abrahamic, Dharmic, Shamanic, or otherwise Telestatic such as Gnostics have been before Christian versions muddied the whole affair.
Likewise, it’s no wonder that there have been so many transgender priesthoods from antiquity to the present day. We find them among Pagan, Gnostic, and Shamanic orders worldwide. We even discover versions lurking in Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, many having been compelled to go underground to live them. For when matters of spirituality arise, there are no finer connections than the dreams that inspire them, all arising from a larger collective dream from which we unconsciously or consciously draw from day to day.
What is it about being trans that drives such spiritualities? Being transgender is a transformative experience in which one touches his, her, or eir true self, and in so doing, reaches toward a Higher Self. It’s a Self that’s often described as godlike or even as God. In this respect, I believe trans spiritualities represent something far more active than what many religious environments offer to people; spiritualities that reach beyond the pale of dogma or ritual to something vital.
Of course many go through transformative processes that don’t involve physical transition from male to female or vice versa. The difficulty of the trans struggle forces one to come to terms with some of the darkest issues of life and identity, challenging at every step with enhanced difficulty from what most face. It’s a process not for the faint of heart or for the cynical. Not all can or should transition. But each who does often has a story to tell that may reach over the heads of those who have yet to wrap their heads around the idea of transition.
Knowing that struggle, how can I not love such a people? How can I shun those who reach out in brutal honesty to this end? How can I dare not to dream such stories that inspire and heal? How can I not admire those who found their healing from within?
That’s what my anniversary is all about: the first indications of the realization of a collective innocence in the context of dreams and wonderings while holding truth as objective to face what one must become.
The dream is compelling. So are transpeople, veritably a people of dreams.
Image: Montage of public domain images and a sketch by Lynnea Urania Stuart. Text from The Cry of the Name by Lynnea Urania Stuart and referencing Yahu as a primordial name of God and version of the Tetragrammaton that appears in Hebrew.
- Girshcick, Lori B. Transgender Voices: Beyond Women and Men (2008) University Press of New England. ISBN: -`3: 978-1-58465-645-6, p. 51.
- Latin: “Berenice’s Hair.” I had begun to study astronomy at a young age.
- Jung, C.G. Man and His Symbols (1968) Laurel Books, Dell Publishing. ISBN: 0-440-35183-9, p. 226 defines this as “meaningful coincidence.”
- Ibid, p. 58 states: “What we properly call instincts are psychological urges, and are perceived by the senses. But at the same time, they also manifest themselves in fantasies and often reveal their presence only in symbolic images. These manifestations I call the archetypes. They are without known origin and reproduce themselves at any time or in any part of the world…”
- Latin: “Where is she who is Lynn?”
- Hebrew: “For You (are) Kingdom, Might, and Greatness to the universe! Truly!” or according to some: “For thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever! Amen!” This is a commonly used prayer used in certain Gnostic rites to this day.