Tag: kimbisa

We Are Everywhere

We are everywhere. We are in your homes, your workplaces, your churches, covens, iles and yes, your munansos. We have been beaten, robbed, stabbed, and shot. We have been snuffed, silenced and mocked. Our blood is on the walls and floors of the only safe spaces we have. We risk everything–literally everything–just to love our partners and live our truths, and we continue to do so despite the awful violence being visited upon us. Ask yourselves: is this not what warriors do?

I am a transgender queer man who is in a relationship with another man. And, I am a Palero. I am unashamed of who I am and what I am. I am strong in myself and in my ancestors. I (along with so many others like me) have fought and endured a lot to live and love my truth. Contrary to popular images of hexing, blood and violence, my elders taught me that to be a Palero is to be a healer; to minister to the living and to the dead. Now more than ever we as spirit-workers need to step up to the plate, light our fires and raise our voices. We need to be as lions roaring in the night, broadcasting our truths, amplifying the voices of the living and the dead who have been silenced by violence and prejudice, in whichever hideous form it takes (racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, etc).

Part of what makes a warrior is one’s ability to step outside of one’s comfort zone. People all too often fear what they don’t understand, and Yoda was very correct that this line of thinking only leads to violence and suffering. So much suffering could be avoided if we spent more time trying to understand one another. The tragedy in Orlando should not be further dividing us along lines of religion or gender or skin color, it should unite us. It’s so much easier to harm than it is to heal. But this is the duty that has been left us. We cannot let fear, cowardice and the actions of the broken and corrupted control us.

So yes, light candles and say prayers, but go one step further.  Take to the streets, extend a hand, be there for someone.  To all of my queer sisters and brothers: You are not alone.  You matter.  Your life has meaning and value.  Stand strong in your ancestors and spirits, keep the faith, and reach out.  And know that you are not alone, because we are everywhere.

Resources:
*Pulse Nightclub Victim’s Fund
*Trans Lifeline
*Suicide Prevention Hotline
*Crisis Text Line

Originally posted on: http://ift.tt/1U4Qh4S

In The Lap of My Mother

I rarely have anything serious to complain about in my life, but today was a rough day.  The hearing for my cousin’s murderer was today.  Long story short, he’ll essentially walk.  To add insult to injury, I’m sick with some sort of crud I likely picked up at work, so I’m off for a couple days (thankfully I have a massive amount of sick leave accrued).  On top of it all, my bank is late depositing my check in my account.  It’s one of ‘those’ days.  Times like this it’s easy to sit around and stew in impotent rage, mope, or feel sorry for yourself.  I think I transited all those phases today.  Then I turn on the news or look online, and it’s a long slew of political posts and bathroom bill rants and generally humans being awful to each other.  It’s hard to feel positive or upbeat.  I question my faith, and feel like the whole world has gone mad around me.  So I need to fix this somehow.  I’ve decided to tell a story.  It’s a true story, and I hope in the telling it may bring someone else who’s having a bad day a smile, or some sort of kernel of hope.  I summon up this memory when I’m feeling down, and it never ceases to bring me a smile.

First, a bit of background: I live on the east coast, just a little bit inland from the Chesapeake Bay.  The bay is like a second home to me.  I’ve been speaking to the bay since I was a small child, playing in her waters, eating her bounty.  I called her Mother, and thinking back on it, after initiating into Palo, how ironic that would all come be.  My family had a wooden boat, an Owens Cabin Cruiser, and I’d spend many weekends at the marina with my father working long hours on the boat, playing along the docks, or cruising the bay.  I’d sit at the bow of the boat with my feet dangling in the porthole, because there it felt like I was a shorebird, skimming the water.  I was both flying, and at the same time one with Her. 

One day while we were out cruising the bay, we encountered an enormous ship cruising into port.  It was a merchant freighter, one of the largest of its kind.  A floating city; each one of its propellers the size of our house (a 2-story).  To this day it was the largest machine I’d ever seen up close.  I was awestruck.  My father gradually guided our craft closer, but it was a dangerous gamble, as our little toy boat could get dragged by the wake of this great leviathan.  We drew up to the port side of the ship, and looking straight up, the hull looked like an enormous wall shooting straight up into the sky.  But at the very top of this wall I could perceive dark faces and people moving about.  This ship had come from the African continent, and who knows how long it had been since the crew had seen other human faces other than their own, after being out in the open sea for so long.  For my young self, it was like seeing people from another world.  But see….that was the magic of the Chesapeake.  That was our Mother.  She was a liminal space where people from all over the world could meet.  I remember standing up on the bow of the boat and waving and waving.  To my surprise and delight, the crew looking over the side broke into smiles and waved back. 

I wonder how I must have looked to them, perhaps like some tiny monkey clinging to the front of a little toy boat.  But I wanted more.  I thrust my tiny hand in the air, making a fist at them, then pulled it down, gesturing someone pulling on a lever.  I wanted them to blow their ship’s horn.  For awhile I gestured, until one by one they left the port side of the ship, disappearing into it’s fast depths, presumably to return to their duties.  Several minutes passed.  Alright, I recall my father saying.  Show’s over.  For a ship of that size, blowing the horn on a whim was something that wasn’t done.  My heart sank, but I understood.  My dad started the engine, and made to angle the boat back out and away from the ship.

Then it happened.

The sound slammed down on us like a hammer, vibrating throughout the bay and bellowing through the air, drowning out the sound of other boat engines, the calling of the birds, our own voices.  It made a long blast and several shorter ones.  What I recall is a feeling that I can only express as utter joy and ecstasy.  I was laughing and crying at the same time, I threw my arms wide, looking like the character Jack from that “I’m king of the world!” scene from the Titanic.  And then there they were–smiling faces, laughing, dancing and jumping up and down and waving.  I waved back.  I bounced, I cried, I shouted.  And it was there, that singular moment, where people from across the world connected.  For them to break protocol in order to bring joy to a strange kid on a boat whom they’d never met and would never see again, it was at once paradoxically such a small and yet such an immense gesture. 

To this day I’ve not forgotten their kindness or their smiling faces.  But now that I’m much older I think about this and compare it to a darker time hundreds of years ago, when Africans sailed into the Chesapeake Bay not as merchants, but as chattel.  I compare that time to what happened when I was a child, and what a strange dichotomy it is.  But it’s one that gives me hope.  I think about the magic that is the Chesapeake, and I think about how strangers from another part of the world performed an act of kindness for a kid they would only ever see in passing.  I think about it over twenty years later, and I still smile.  It’s a precious memory, one of many such gems I keep tucked away in my heart.  But it’s also a learning experience.  When I find myself becoming too bitter, I summon up that memory, and I smile.

In the lap of the great Mother Chesapeake, in that moment, we traded not in goods or human bodies but in joy and smiles.  And also, maybe perhaps, hope as well.

Originally posted on: http://ift.tt/24nHX72

Palo and Homosexuality

Recently I listened to an episode of Candelo’s Corner entitled ‘Palo and Homosexuality‘.  I’ve been listening to the show for roughly the past two years.  It had been recommended to me by my yayi who found it a good resource for learning outside of the munanso.  This summer it’ll be a year since I’ve been initiated ngueyo.  But here’s a fun fact: I’m also transgendered and queer.  So, when I found out Candelo finally decided to tackle this thorny subject, I decided to take a listen and see what he has to say about it.

What I found interesting right off the bat was that, although Tata Candelo mentioned that there were other prominent gay paleros, he did not mention who these gay paleros were.  I can understand from a safety or a privacy standpoint, or perhaps not wanting to ‘call anyone out’.  Which, to me, beggars the question of what kind of environment people are cultivating, that to be “out” as queer in Palo is a bad or dangerous thing?  What I also found interesting was that there was not one Palero within the GLBTQA that called in to speak out and share their story.  The entire show was other heteronormative people discussing homosexuality in Palo.  Most of these people aside from the tatas speaking on the show had very little or no experience with Palo, their experience falling within the circles of neopaganism and wicca.  Neopaganism, wicca and satanism has no bearing on Palo, and can’t even be compared.  Where are the queer Palo voices, and why are they not speaking?

Of course you understand these are rhetorical questions, presented to the reading audience.  The answers seem obvious.  In this case, silence speaks louder the answer to said questions.  But silence isn’t going to work.  Silence also perpetuates bullshit.  I think it’s high time we cut out the bullshit and start the discourse.  Ultimately, I don’t care what you do in your munanso.  Your munanso, your spirits, your business.  But who are we to judge who is and isn’t to be initiated based on sexual orientation?  In another broadcast, Tata Candelo discusses how sexuality has absolutely no bearing within the ATRs.  He is, of course, entirely correct.  So, the question I would like to ask is, if sexuality and sexual matters have no place within the ATRs, why is it such an issue what someone’s sexual orientation is?  In fact there are quite a few issues, which I’ll break down nicely.  These I pulled both from my observations of co-religionists, from the radio show, and from discussing matters within my own munanso.

The gays will fall in love with the ngangas!
I’m starting out with this one first, because it is, by far, the most ridiculous.  The idea behind this being that, since the ngangas throw off so strongly such masculine and macho energy, the homosexual will fall in love with the nganga.  This, to me, is a nonissue.  What about the feminine gendered ngangas?  They do exist, and they aren’t to be trifled with.  There isn’t an issue with tatas falling in love with female ngangas, is there? Also, why is this not an issue for women within the
religion falling in love with ngangas?  Is it because of an
assumption that women are seen as objects with no sexual assertiveness
of their own, or is it because men are more hypersexual and thusly
unable to control themselves?  Both assumptions are equally problematic.  But then again, to me the issue boils down to this: If you have someone (anyone, regardless of gender or sexual orientation) getting as randy as a damn horse over ngangas or other spirits and spirit-vessels (let alone the serious sexual misconduct that can occur between heterosexuals in munansos), then this is a serious issue with the person independent of any sort of orientation whatsoever.  This person should have been weeded out in the beginning, NOT for being a homosexual, but for having some sort of sexual and/or impulse control disorder, in which case said person should be seeking professional therapy instead of initiation! 

Why is sexuality being brought up AT ALL, if sex has no place within the ATRs?  But moving right along.

Gay people aren’t part of the balanced lifecycle/Homosexuality is unnatural/etc
This statement also makes absolutely no sense.  Same-sex interactions exist everywhere.  They are found in nature in numerous animal species.  To the people who subscribe to this sort of thing: do these people mean to say that Nsambi makes mistakes?  What made these people the final arbiters on what the natural lifecycle is or what it should be?  Much of this line of thinking falls into the whole reproduction argument, which I will be addressing in a later section.  But to pronounce that someone or something is “unnatural” just because it threatens your sense of manhood only betrays a severe ignorance and lack of comprehension on how the natural world actually works.

It’s Tradition!  It’s always been this way/The Ancestors were never gay, etc.
How do you know that there were never any queer ancestors?  To assume that there weren’t is the highest form of arrogance and presumptuousness.  Basic logic and facts point to yes–there were many queer dead, just as there are many queer people living now.  Abrahamic faiths, colonialism and slavery are really damn good at completely fucking up entire cultural dynamics and spiritual systems.  Do these people who perpetuate this line of thinking dare to be the final arbiter of ancestral will?  Or so they only pick and choose who they will speak for, because their supposed manhood would obviously be too threatened?  It all goes back to the whole idea of sorting the wheat from the chaff, of sorting what is in fact true messages from the Bakulu, and what is meatsuit nonsense–personal opinions and politics and insecurities.  There are some that may say that’s exactly what I’m doing, and so be it.  But their argument would be entirely irrelevent.  By completely ignoring or denying the existence of queer ancestors, what right would they have to judge me?  That those who are queer are so “unnatural” that they can’t leave ancestors?  An argument that stands on very shakey ground when you consider that even basic human familial ties transcend genetic relations and breeding.

This all then brings me to my final argument…

Fertility and Reproduction: Homosexuals cannot create life, birth, and etc
There is quite a big difference between “birthing” in a ritual sense and birthing in a literal one.  People in same-sex partnerships can and do have children, this has been happening throughout recorded history and beyond.  There is a very prominent double-standard at play that persons who are sterile due to medical reasons are still welcome to seek initiation into Palo.  In many munansos, a woman isn’t allowed to receive an nganga until she reaches menopause.  So clearly, medical ability to produce children has no bearing in initiation status.  It only seems to become an issue when LGBTQ persons are involved.  However, if sexuality has no place within the ATRs, then who someone is attracted to (or not attracted to), and what the structure of anatomy a person has, should have absolutely no bearing upon birthing in the context of ceremony.  Sexuality and attraction should have no bearing and no place in ceremony.  Full stop.

Let me make this clear: This isn’t about trying to soothe hurt feelings, or putting on kid gloves or powdering asses.  This isn’t about being ‘politically correct’.  I’m not here to strike down tradition or go against the grain.  But what is ‘tradition’ needs to evolve.  I don’t give a fuck what you do in your house.  What you do with your spirits and your people is your business, and I’m not about to jab my nose in your business.  So hey, don’t jab your nose in mine.  Gay and queer Paleros DO exist.  Whether or not you feel they are or aren’t legitimate is entirely irrelevant.  The final arbiters are the Nkisi, Spirits, and Bakulu.  They have final stay on who goes and who stays.  Regardless of your feelings, this isn’t going to go away.  Let actions and let the manifestations speak for themselves.  And I would like very much to thank Tata Candelo for having the coconuts to bring this topic up and get people talking about this.  Dialogue is important, and ultimately the only way for traditions and human bonds to strengthen is through the vehicle of dialogue, which hopefully will give way to understanding in time.  For those of you who read this far, thanks and Nsala Malecu.

Originally posted on: http://ift.tt/1cGORhK

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