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September 3rd, 2006


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04:37 pm - Identity, Physical Disconnection, and Community
I am neither transsexual nor multiple, but given both the odd nature of some of my supernatural connections and my gender oddities I am most definitely on the edges of both communities. Also, and perhaps far more importantly, I also know a significant number of transsexuals and multiples, both on-line and in person.

I was also somewhat active in the pagan community for most of the 1990s and keep at least some (almost exclusively on-line) contact with it since then. The pagan community is very accepting of many people – geeks, including some slightly socially inept geeks seeking spirituality, people who have had unusual mystical experiences and who seek to move beyond mainstream definitions of the world, and people who seek to live outside narrow definitions of gender. However, as I discussed in this post on the pagan community and queer culture, organized paganism, including everything from the OTO to Wicca, remains ultimately heterocentric. More than that, the organized pagan community also remains exceedingly focused on binary gender, which is somewhat problematic for many transsexuals, and completely excludes transgendered people of all sorts – if there are men's and women's mysteries, where exactly is someone transgendered (or even someone rather dubious about binary gender like myself) supposed to go?

Similarly, I have never met someone who was out about being multiple in any pagan forum, either on-line or in-person. A few times, I attempted to discuss multiplicity or intense spiritual connections with unembodied beings with various pagans and the reaction was in all cases either skepticism, or (more commonly) a belief that the situation being described was inherently dangerous, problematic, or unhealthy. I have heard that some pagan communities are more accepting of trans people and multiples, but have never encountered such and would be very interested in anyone who has encountered such communities posting here about there experience.

In vivid contrast, the otherkin community is exceptionally accepting of both trans people and multiples. The impetus for this post is thinking further about the fact that the section of lupagreenwolf's upcoming (and wonderful-looking) book about otherkin that she has posted includes a substantial number of quotes and anecdotes by various trans people or multiples. Also, I encountered both groups of people at Walking the Thresholds, just as I have among the Otherkin I know here in Portland and on-line. I've been pondering this fact and have come to several possible and non-mutually exclusive conclusions. The most obvious is that unlike any other community I have encountered, the otherkin community is vastly accepting of people who deviate significantly from accepted norms of thought and behavior. I have not found this level of acceptance in the queer community, the pagan community, or SF fandom, but in the otherkin community it is not only universal, but expected.

Of course, while true, the very fact of this acceptance is also perhaps worthy of exploration. The best explanation I can come up with is that people who define themselves as otherkin may come to it from a wide variety of ways, but most share some level of disconnection from their body, or at minimum from social cultural expectations about themselves and their body. A moderate number of otherkin keenly feel their body to be in the wrong species, much like transsexuals feel their body is the wrong sex, which naturally sets up a commonality there. However, that experience is far from universal – I have on many occasions known the feel of wings on my back and even felt the glories of wind blowing throw them, but I do not feel that my proper or correct body is that of a dragon. Being a medium-sized biped suits me find, wings would be nice, but I'd take vastly increased longevity and memory, and greatly improved and expanded senses first. On a related note, I have also found an unusual (but admittedly not very large) number of transhumanists in the otherkin community. Given that much of my own disconnection with my own body is related to my own obsession with transhumanism.

In any case, while body dysphoria is far from universal, some level of disconnection from one's body is almost universal. Trans people of all sorts know this disconnection, as do all of the multiples I have talked to. It is however, an experience not shared by the majority of people, including the majority of pagans, queers, or the members of most other related subcultures. I am guessing that as it grows in size and visibility, the otherkin community is likely to continue to attract people who feel a significant sense of disconnection from their body, which makes me quite hopeful for the future of the otherkin community and also the fact that unlike the pagan community, it is unlikely to attempt to become part of mainstream culture, unless and until mainstream culture has changed in very significant ways.
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

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From:tlttlotd
Date:September 5th, 2006 04:51 pm (UTC)
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Your body passes extremely well, Solo. You and your brother have always registered as 'male' to us.

I think that the body, when developing, conforms to a certain extent to the expectations of the intelligence inhabiting it. The body can be manipulated to some extent by the mind, though the limits of this phenomenon are as yet untested.

It would require a number of genotyping tests to see if your body is indeed mosaiform chimaeric. It happens but rarely, but when it is confirmed all hell breaks loose. Read this news article...

Most Others do not regard their physical forms as the end-all-be-all of their existence. "My body is human, but I am this.." Because many of these roles are at least influenced by genetics (physical sex and the ever-debated hardwired structures of the brain, for example) and thus are physical, the nature of the controlling intelligence gets the lion's share of attention.
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From:heron61
Date:September 5th, 2006 08:19 pm (UTC)
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Your body passes extremely well, Solo. You and your brother have always registered as 'male' to us.

I completely agree.

I think that the body, when developing, conforms to a certain extent to the expectations of the intelligence inhabiting it. The body can be manipulated to some extent by the mind, though the limits of this phenomenon are as yet untested.

In addition, as highly social beings, humans take many cue about our environment from others. Much of looking male, female, or for that matter attractive has to do with the person's confidence and their body language. If someone acts and thinks "male" they are far more likely to be taken as such, regardless of any "objective" features of their appearance, just as my own experience is that I gain compliments about my own appearance regardless of how eccentrically I am dressed, if I am happy and feeling confident and comfortable with my appearance.
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From:heron61
Date:September 4th, 2006 12:45 am (UTC)
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I also think that the attitude of acceptance of the strange within the kin community may have arisen in part, from the practical need to deal with so many similar yet unique paradigms.

This is clearly not a sufficient explanation, since the organized pagan community accepts everything from hardcore Norse, Celtic, and Egyptian reconstructionists to both Brit-trad and Dianic Wiccans, to members of the OTO and the CES. That's a fairly diverse group and yet I've not seen anything like the level of acceptance in the pagan community as I have in the otherkin community.
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From:tlttlotd
Date:September 5th, 2006 07:11 pm (UTC)
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One may feel dysphoric toward one's body and yet not wish to modify it to so extreme a degree (vis a vis, sex reassignment surgery). While it is not spoken of very often, it is more prevalent than one might think.

I agree with the sentiment of wanting more than one body. If cloning technology develops sufficiently in the lifespan of our current shell, it is an option that we will seriously debate. Whether or not it would work is another matter entirely...

Flexibility can be developed through exercise.
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From:teaotter
Date:September 4th, 2006 12:42 am (UTC)
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Strangely, this relates to one of the points I've been trying to make with you and my other close friends lately -- but I feel a *stronger* connection to / identification with my body than most of the people I know (especially once you consider gender and sex). I wanted this body, I paid for it, and it's *mine.*

The worst thing about being depressed, for me, was finding a separation between myself and my emotions. Suddenly, there were emotions moving through me that were from my body but had nothing to do with *me.*

What I feel more distantly connected to, more than anything else, is this *world.* Or at least, I am not invested in this world as the only one I'm operating in at the moment.
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From:silvaerina_tael
Date:September 4th, 2006 02:33 am (UTC)
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Spirit may be considered malleable, but it is mostly seen as either female or male. The way it was described to me is that "everything" is a gemstone, a perfect diamond, say, where one half is femine and the other is masculine. Take a look at the correspondances most use for their ritual tools, herbs, stones, astrological "stuff" etc, etc... They are all either male or female. They also have a specific focus within that basic format, for the most part, even though there are a few differences. The vast bulk of Pagans also see diety the same way, as either male or female imbued, and have a difficulty with "gender fluidity" even amoungst those dieties who are - most are reviled in some way or discounted as being silly (even though they aren't). The same goes for the depiction of form. The gods are seen as either male of female, and usually human.

Someone coming from outside that box sets off what I would consider the "fear response", which part of the problem. We who are otherkin, multiples and transgendered are saying that we don't fit the mold. This is seen as a challenge. Everything has to fit the mold, is what most people have been told. Wnat doesn't fit the mold is "outside". What is outside is inherantly "bad". What is "bad" must be feared because it upsets the status quo.

Personally, I don't see being otherkin, and Elven specifically, to be limiting. If anything it gives me a wider view than it would otherwise, and widens the continuum because of these experiences. For me, I see the dualistic view most pagans hold to be limiting because it doesn't take into account enough.
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From:heron61
Date:September 4th, 2006 06:04 am (UTC)
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I did not start out seeking a community that fit any theme. My problem is that while (as your (quite impressive and enjoyable) discussion with Silvaerina eloquently proves) there are most certainly pagans who have gone beyond a limited and binary view of gender, that in my experience has been exceedingly rare. Even eliminating the fluff-heads and the (far too many) people who seek to make Wicca or similar faiths into religions that are far more about divine edicts than personal spiritual quests, most pagans I have encountered very much buy into a notion of gender I have trouble with, just like almost all pagan rituals I have encountered are highly gendered. The Gilgamesh and Enkidu ritual I mention here is both one of only three non-het neopagan rituals I have ever heard of and something that from all reports was surprising and revolutionary to all who were involved in it or witnessed it, and this ritual was held in the San Francisco area, the center of the most accepting and open-minded pagan communities in the US. The situation is even worse in the midwest (or at least it was 15 years ago, when I last lived there, and from everything I've read, it hasn't changed much). If a community uses models and metaphors that do some degree specifically exlude me & almost half of the people I know well, I don't find this community particularly accepting. There are exceptions, but from everything I have seen, in general Wicca, Thelema, and the other major neopagan faiths are fairly rigidly gendered faiths. This works well for most people (both straight and queer) who have a fairly rigid concept of gender, but far less well for those of us who don't fit into such definitions.

Until I found the otherkin community, I have never really considered the question of multiplicity and spirituality, I just (for no obvious reason beyond perhaps the ease with which I accept such people) kept meeting multiples, then I find the otherkin community and find far more of them there.
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From:lupagreenwolf
Date:September 4th, 2006 02:23 am (UTC)
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*nods* There is still some queerphobia and transphobia in the pagan community, thoguh again I think it really depends on the group of pagans. We just spent the weekend with a bunch of bi-poly-kinky pagans out at Gathering of the Tribes in Virginia.

I do think you make good comparisons in the various types of dysphorias and I also agreee that one does make the other easier to understand in many cases.

As for where the pagan and Otherkin communities are going? That remains to be seen. I Am a Pagan Reject has been my most popular Witchvox essay thus far, and I've gotten tons of good response on it--in summary, I defended keeping paganism diverse. I think that it really depends on which group of pagans you talk about as to what's acceptabler; however, as we do become more visible and mainstream, I think it is crucial that we not kick out the "less acceptable" people in the manner that more mainstream gays are gentifying the GLBT community by trying to oust anyone who isn't cisgendered or a perfect Kinsey 6. I think Otherkin *could* become more tolerated,m at least, though I think it'll probably happen on the coattails of other communities, like pagans and furries.
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From:heronheart
Date:September 4th, 2006 03:27 am (UTC)
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We haven't had this discussion around Otherkin, but the NeoPagan community I'm most involved with tries to draw a distinction between accepting a practice/belief and affirming it. Accepting something means "We don't oppose that even if we find it wierd". Affirming something means that we consider it "to be a good idea". This might be some of the difference between the Otherkin community and the NeoPagan community. Most NeoPagan communities are implicitly or explicitly trying to promote "good ideas" whereas I suspect the Otherkin community is more about sharing experiences.

My apologies if I have unintentionally offended any Otherkin. As I said, this isn't a discussion that's really occured in my local NeoPagan community.
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From:silvaerina_tael
Date:September 4th, 2006 03:30 am (UTC)
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I think you will find more acceptance amongst the spirit worker comunities. A great many of them are far more accepting of gender fluidity, and even see those who are to be better able to deal with the spirits. It is with both the Lokean and Seidh communities, at least with regards to Asatru, that I've had the most acceptance. In the Lokean community in particular, it seems to be a matter of course for the vast bulk of us to be gender fluid in some way.

We had an entire panel relating to gender issues at the Gaia Gathering (National Canadian Pagan Conference), a few months ago, where some of these very issues were discussed, including transgender issues. Aside from "coming out" as otherkin, and Elven specifically, I also asked where people like me, who don't identify with gender at all really fit, and who don't identify with "asexual" as a descriptive either. Essentially, there is acknowledgement that something needs to be done, and that, perhaps asking what a person wants to identifie with, instead of assuming based on physiology will go a long way towards that. In otherwords, people need to get over the culturally indoctrinated physiology equals gender.

For those of us in the otherkin community, we've already made that leap. By our very nature we are fluid. Gender is just one of those things.

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