Category Archives: Processing

Open SF was amazing and challenging, both of these are good things.

When a presenter is actively sought out to speak at a conference there is a joy and a trepidation that happens.  Joy in being sought out, but trepidation that the expectation of what you can do has already been set.  At least, that’s how I felt when organizer Juana Tango contacted me about Open SF.  I had watched with interest on FL as talk about this conference started making the rounds and as a polyamorous person, had decided that I wanted to attend if it didn’t interfere with Desire, which I am on staff for.  That fear was assuaged when it was decided by my Beloved and I that our honeymoon expenses would be covered by the same amount we spend on working and attending Desire so with heavy hearts we said we’d see our beloved Desire tribe next year.  That meant that when Juana Tango asked me if I’d be interested, I was free and available.

As a presenter, it is hard to balance the needs of the conference with the needs to keep a roof over one’s head.  As a new conference, and new to the Bay Area for presenting, not charging a speaking fee was the most equitable solution I felt for both parties.  They were still able to get some amazing keynote speakers, Tristan Taormino, Yoseñio Lewis, and Ignacio Rivera were amazing both as presenters and in their keynotes.

Another stumbling block for me as a presenter/attendee was the fact that as a Queer of Color (QoC) I am more than willing to discuss what this means in all my different communities.  So, not only did I present my “Intimacy of Sacred Kink” but I also participated in a panel discussion named, “Poly “isms”:  Addressing Multiple Marginalizations in Non-Monogamous and Kink Community” with Virgie Tovar, Stacy Reed, and Invisibleank, to talk about the experiences we have had as People of Color in the different alternative sexuality communities here and in the broader areas we hail from that was moderated by Irene McCalphin.

Why do I bring up all this backstory?  Because most of the media has been silent on the aspect of the conference that made the biggest impact to the attendees; the inclusion and hard work of making sure that marginalized communities in the majority society (which I define as heterocentric, cissexist, gender normative, male-dominated, and white) were represented.

This article from an attendee has a clear focus (and they’re an awesome blog to follow, IMO) but all I can hear is that the experience was one where the gaze was very much on the things he was interested in seeing and hearing and does justice to the presenters but only notes the keynotes and presenters he attended; all white.  Which is not a bad thing, it’s just a thing.  But, in a way, it also speaks to the experience of a person who isn’t of color and already subject to marginalization by the majority society.

This article does slightly better, but by drawing the focus on the ideas of communication no matter what expressions of sexuality happen in a relationship (kink, poly, etc.) while diminishing the idea that there was a presentation (which they mention) on kink, race, and class by Ignacio and Yoseñio, it lends credence to this being like any other typical conference.  The article even asks that question in the beginning, “One of the first questions that arose was whether such a conference was even necessary. Isn’t sexuality something that comes naturally to most people? Does it need to be taught? Don’t people figure it out for themselves?”  The producers, presenters, staff, volunteers, and attendees certainly felt that the answer was an enthusiastic YES!  Because while sexuality is a personal thing, it is also a very political thing when it is not a part of the majority society, and therefore, being able to ask the questions of privilege within a sexual community, and how to deal with that, is important and necessary work.  I’m not saying that it isn’t fun, sex is one of the most fun things out there, expressing my sexuality (in all its vast ways) is my life’s work; but I don’t live in a vacuum, and I can’t pretend that my sex isn’t informed by my experiences as a woman-shaped genderqueer of color of Mexican heritage of a lower working class/immigrant family.  Even when I’m by myself, who I am isn’t set aside just because I have a Hitachi between my legs.

A big part of my willingness to participate in Open SF was Pepper Mint and the rest of the staff were willing to challenge themselves during the process of creating a line-up.  In talking to him about it, he (I am using the gender pronoun I have seen most often applied, and apologize if this is incorrect.)  talked about how there were people on staff originally who were upset and dropped out when the focus became less about the ‘fun’ stuff and more about the ‘hard’ stuff.  A shame to have lost them, but at the same time, it meant that walking the halls of the host hotel I didn’t feel like I needed to wrap the flags of my intersections tight around me like a cocoon to shield myself from the White Male Gaze.  I attended caucuses and presentations where the question of, “How do I make this work for me as a person of color?” wasn’t answered with there is no change because lalalalalalala I don’t see your color, but with careful thought out consideration for what that means in this country.  And that, is a success to me.

Maybe I am biased because I attended more of the presentations by people of color than not, but for me, as a queer of color, as a non-gendernormative person, as a woman-shaped person, talking about how this body and the steps it takes as political acts, are a respite for a world-weary view.  I grow tired of being the ‘one and only’ in a room full of people who when they step out of the dungeon space, or the cuddle party space, appear for all intents and purposes to be the majority society.  I can’t do that.  So, I live my full poly, kinky, pagan, genderqueer life, that’s a political act in itself.  But, Open SF, gave me a platform to show me that I am not alone, and that the majority society types who inhabit these same spaces, now know I am there too.  And I’m not going away.

Thank you, Open SF!

I am still recouperating from Open SF and all the amazing moments I had, witnessed, and luxuriated in.  It is a true testament to a growing community that even with all the hard topics raised we were able to look at them, and ourselves with a critical but compassionate eye.

If you attended my presentation, The Intimacy of Sacred Kink, and wish to talk further, you can reach me at xochiquetzal.duti@sacredprofanity.com.  I try to check that on a regular basis.  I look forward to continuing the conversation and expect to see a lot of posts in the next couple of days about questions that the presentation brought up for me.  Which I will admit is one of the most amazing things that happens whenever I stand up to talk to people about what I do; it always ends up bringing up and showing me new avenues to explore and ponder and try, so thank you for giving me the opportunity to walk my path, together.  You all inspire me.

With deepest and sincerest gratitude to Pepper, the staff, volunteers, and all attached to Open SF, and to you, the attendees.  Without you, I would’ve just been talking to myself.  I do that enough as it is.

Starting in Ordeal (Or How I Learned to Love the Pain)

For Ordealists, one of the big discussion topics centers around knowing when.  When did you know that Ordeal was for you?  When did you decide to mix kink with spiritual practices?  When did you do this for the first time?  One of the things that has always come naturally to me is answering not just the when, but the why that attaches to it.

Why I started in Ordeal is more about where my path was going (and what it’s start was) then anything one person/deity/spirit said or did to and for me.

I grew up Catholic (that’s a common enough start for many pagans, isn’t it?) with a strong cultural tie to the Church.  However, I also grew up with a lot of superstitions and beliefs that weren’t taught at Sunday school or from the pulpit.  A lot of my early childhood memories are of sitting with my mom and staring at the angels and saints and the Crucified Christ and the statues of Mary and ‘talking’ to them.  It was one of those things that one shares in the enthusiasm of youth, yet, my mom always made sure to hush me about it.  The less I said, the better in her book.  That attitude forced a lot of my ‘incidences’ to be spoken to no one.  I spent years cultivating an understanding and a spirituality that connected me to Saints that had strong experiences with the Holy Spirit.  Teresa of Avila and her physical experience of the Holy Spirit was a strong motivator for me and still is.

It is this moment; sublime and humble together.

In her own words, ‘I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying.’ – The Life of Teresa of Jesus, autobiography

My early encounters with angels, saints, Mary, and Christ Crucified were solidified when I turned 13 and experienced the pain of crucifixion in my own body.  The agony of a crown of thorns, lashes to my body, the piercing of nails, and a spear into my lung at such a young age, marked me as a stigmatist, but left no discernible physical symptoms.  It is the one quiet secret that I have kept for a long time; that I belong to this small group of people, and yet have no desire to speak of the experience, for mine is nothing compared to others.  For I am made nothing when the pain and agony of Ordeal happen.

When Ordeal happens, I simply cease being for me, and AM for something outside of me; stronger, larger, more powerful but infinitesimally present.  These quiet stillnesses that come over me, that are distinctly not me, that is why I’m willing to do Ordeal, to use it (wisely and conscientiously), and to enjoy the process.  That is my first step in my own start towards Ordeal.

Sometimes, the ordeal is just living.

I was walking to the grocery store, catty-corner to me and about to meet me on the same corner I’m headed to, is a man who is shuffling along mumbling to himself.

He holds conversations with anything his eyes light upon.  First it was the bicyclist going downhill in one direction, “There goes Lance Armstrong and his seven yellow jerseys.”  The bicyclist is wearing yellow accents and riding a bright yellow bike.

We’re walking down the hill in the other direction and he passes the flowers, “Linda.”  I perk my ears up, my body’s gait changes, I straighten the shoulders because from behind me, I feel a wall of something that’s about to make itself known.

“Gorgeous flowers.  Greg get out of the sidewalk.  There’s no Greg.  Greg’s gone.”  Here is where the sob hits his voice, and the pain lashes into my heart, and BURNS all the way through me. “All my people are gone.”

In my heart, all I can hear is the chorus of voices reassuring him that, no.  No, his people are NOT gone.  I turn back to say this to him, but then, something stills my vocal cords.  It’s the voices in my own head, my OWN people, who are quietly looking at me, having joined this man’s people, to tell me to hold still.

It was enough to have  heard him, and us.  So, I just kept walking, hearing his anguish, living with him.

Where was the ordeal in this, you might ask?  No one made you bleed, or cut you, or hit you til you shut down all the parts of you that make and connect and do that spiritual thing that you do, so why is this ordeal?

I ask myself that all the time.  I live a life with so much uncertainty- will today be a pain-free day (bad weather and inefficient sleep leave my joints all messed up)?  Will there be another problem with my current job situation that I need to overcome (besides the usual, not having one that’s full time)?  I breathe in the new day, and I relax myself into it, I try to maintain a fairly regular routine about it, but sometimes, it’s just the day itself that hurts.  At night, I’m left holding the tattered remains of my day and wondering how it got so botched.

On those days, the ordeal was in getting through it.  And rejoicing in watching the sun dip down below the horizon, watching the clouds drift in across the Bay, the way the room instantly cools and yet brightens, as the sun sets.

The ordeal is in living, the ordeal is in being present and witnessing that living while it happens.

On the Front Burners

1.  Raising funds for the Pagans of Color hospitality suite at Pantheacon next year.  Goal is 1000$USD through WePay.  Click here to donate.

2.  Intersectionality.  As a person of color, from a low-mid to low working class, female presenting, able-bodied presenting, nonheteronormative, nongendernormative, non-Abrahamic religion practitioner, and in a relationship with a female, there are many things that I know aren’t counted in my favor.  However, I can enjoy the intersections and the work inherent in each, strive to make injustice a thing of our collective pasts, and live an authentic life.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t days when I feel like crap and want to give up and crawl under a rock and wait for it all to be over. . . I have plenty of those days.  Some days though, much better than others.

3.  There have been days here in the Bay Area lately that have been cold and despite the sun the warmth just doesn’t sink into my bones.  On those days, I grit my teeth and move as best I can, my joints are swollen and stiff, sometimes they lock up and won’t move.  On those days, I’m grateful for tea and my wonderful cats (how great to use the plural again) and I am glad to not have to be at a job where I would be required to move much more swiftly than I am able to.  But then I remember that I have expenses and I have bills (like we all do) and it hurts to not be able to pay them as quickly as I wish I could.   On those days, I try to remember to have compassion for myself.  Compassion for myself then emanates and becomes compassion for all who are job-searching, and for those who have jobs, and for those who work at finding others jobs, or manage the job market. . .the world.

Sometimes, this job, this being that coalesces sex and Spirit, it isn’t sexy in the way we’re conditioned to see sexy. But it can be highly charged and motivating, and make our breath quicken, our lips purse, and our sex throb a bit.  Why?

Because, better to eat of the forbidden fruit of knowledge then watch it rot from ignorance.

At least, that’s what my morning meditation showed me.  What might you see?

About time, I say.

This article* has opened up a lot of my misgivings in talking about my sexwork as another service I offer.

In talking about sexwork, the first thing people imagine is something like Pretty Woman, the next thing people imagine, almost simultaneously is a woman on the corner who is doing it to feed some sort of drug or alcohol habit.  I am neither of these things.  If anything, I am a person who is more closely tied to a courtesan of the Medieval Ages.  I know and learn many different skills (besides bedroom or sexual skills) and have a broad range of knowledge in a variety of topics, because I want to be a companion for the time I am asked to share with someone.

If I could get more people to understand this work by seeing past the Julia Roberts or the innumerable faces arrested for doing these acts on public streets, I would want them to think of it more along the lines of Inara Serra of Firefly; but we diverge into fantasy so seldom in real life.  Where her clients were mostly affluent, rich, upper class, I am interested in the working man, the ones who are working day-in, day-out and do all the usual day to day grind and need a respite.  For an hour, for a night, for as long as they have need of me.

Can I be those other two examples?  Sure.  That goes without saying.  Part of the work entails becoming a blank canvas, something the other person can draw on, can imagine what they need onto me, without touching into that core sense of who I really am, because they don’t need to see that part of me, they need to see what they WANT to see.  Sometimes that isn’t pretty, or even appealing to me.  But it’s not about me.  It’s about the intimacy that is created with a fictive person, with someone who isn’t really there.

A therapist is someone who is there, but it’s like the trope of the disembodied voice that parrots back to us what we say, because sometimes we need to hear it from something outside ourselves in order to really get at whatever it is that’s troubling us.  So much of that ability to just give back and gently prod more from a client revolves around remembering that who you are isn’t more important than who is before you, that takes a willingness to look deep into yourself, to see that part of you that you don’t like at all, and still be okay with who you are.  There is so much power to be gained from that process. . .

I feel like I’m barely scratching the surface of this topic, and I will definitely be exploring and expounding on it, as I continue to talk things out and tease out the ideas in my head.  Right now, it’s one very large ball of knots and twists, but I’m a patient sort and I like unraveling, in so many ways.

*The original author of the article, Stanley Siegel has been summarily fired from his column (after inexplicable censoring of this article and others), and would appreciate your support.

Finding My Voice in Giving It to Others

I want to write about the gender issues that have been talked about almost ad nauseum since last year’s SNAFU with CAYA’s Amazons and Z Budapest’s vitriolic and hateful words, and how that all came to light and what a change that wound has become to the greater community.  But I am doing it from the place where I can.  Last year, I jumped into that fray as a witness to the Rite of Lillith, the aftermath, the planned and unplanned actions and I spoke often, long and LOUD about the need for civility in our words and language because spewing more hate and vitriol wasn’t going to get us as a community very far, if anywhere at all.

I wrote the following in the PantheaCon Facebook page, which can easily be found by going onto FB from your own acct and searching for PantheaCon.  At this moment, there appears to be an issue and I don’t know if my words will make it to the discussion or not on there, but they will live here.

(These words are written as a direct comment and thus have the bit in the beginning and reference earlier comments in that discussion.)

I realize that Thalassa and many other staff members have jumped in here and spoken and asked for this to be moved to a place where it doesn’t disrupt the flow of the other ideas surrounding Pantheacons for years to come. But, someone pointed out the PoC Caucus and that was mine (as in I put in the paperwork for it, and will continue to do so as long as there is a need for it) and I want to speak to what someone said about it and the larger things surrounding events like mine and Z’s and the trans issue because I was there last year, right in the middle of it all, and I remember very clearly the aftermath (and am still struggling to regain myself from all that, you have no idea how much vitriol was spewed on both sides of that fence).

Yes, the PoC Caucus was listed as PoC and allies; but really in the end, the only voices that were really heard, were from Pagans of Color. Allies who attended listened respectfully to our tales and our issues and our grievances and our triumphs, because as allies, they recognized that their main job isn’t to be the torch bearer for Pagans of Color, but to be BETTER allies.

When cisgendered people refuse to use terminology that isn’t vindictively attacking transgendered people, it doesn’t make for good allies. When cisgendered people ‘hate’ the term cisgendered, it doesn’t make for good allies. It makes for allies who refuse to see that transgendered people have to fight EVERYDAY for the right to use the correct gender pronoun. That is a matter of import, survival, and acknowledgement of who a transgendered person feels they truly are. Yes, some of us will just want to say you are male or female because you say you are, and that should be all that matters. Sadly, there are some who don’t see it that way.

Earlier, someone said that what the PoC Caucus was doing was self-segregating. In a way, that’s true. In another way, I have to ask: why wasn’t my room packed with allies? What fear did you have at coming into the room and listening to Pagans of Color? I didn’t say you couldn’t come in, hell, that’s the opposite effect I wanted SPECIFICALLY because I asked for allies.

As a genderqueer individual, who has struggled with being female-bodied and the minor privilege that gives me, it pains me to read Z’s words about my trans sisters and brothers, it also pains me to read people defending her hate speech and vitriol. She has the right to say, believe, and call to worship whomever she wants. But her history doesn’t make her immune to criticism for the hate speech she uses to get her point across. I did my Blood Mystery work, many years ago. I found that while it may hold some power and be evident to others, because I am a body that menstruates, there is more there that can be mined, and new treasures abound. There are many women who no longer menstruate (whether age, medical reasons, etc.) who would love to create a Mystery cycle in ‘mourning the loss of that blood’, I think that having trans Dianics and allies come together to create this Mystery cycle would be a new direction for Dianics that takes into consideration the great work done early on in the Dianic movement but also acknowledges the new direction it COULD branch into.

I struggle to remember, on a daily basis, that all sides in this issue deserve compassion, because we all are born into a world that has very little compassion to offer, but I do try. I recognize that Z is a person deserving of compassion, that the trans women and men she has insulted are also deserving of compassion, that the people who sit on the sides of this issue and don’t understand WHY it’s an issue, also deserve compassion. I fight to hold onto my compassion, when the insults are great, the pain is palpable, and the confusion abounds.

In discussing this topic, or any other topic that brings up strong emotions, I beg of my greater community, let civility carry the day.  /endcomment

This is the only voice I have to give, my own, colored by the brush of those who have no voice left, who have shouted themselves hoarse into pillows, against walls, in rage at not being heard.  I found that my voice has strength because I am a Pagan of Color, genderqueer, female-bodied individual.  I am capable of using this voice to speak compassion, because I need to speak to greater injustices amongst these groups I belong to.  This is what my work looks like, when it isn’t about me covered in blood and crying out for my Deities.  My work looks like others work in social justice, and that’s what it’s about at the end of the day.  Feel free to join your voice to mine, or not.

Wherein, I do admit. . .

I want to thank the people who showed up at Pantheacon this weekend for attending.  I want to thank you for carving that block of time from an amazing schedule line-up of over 200 different choices and coming to my lil ol’ things.

I hope I provided you with food for thought and consumption, opportunities to explore new avenues, or at the very least, a place to get off your feet for at least 90 minutes.

There was a lot of willingness to be bare and to open up to the others around us, a dropping of the shields as it were and in that moment, I saw Beauty.

I hope that if you have any questions or if there was something that you wanted to talk to me more about that you will drop me a line at Xochiquetzal.Duti@sacredprofanity.com, I enjoy hearing from people about the most random things but please be sure to use subject line: Pantheacon and then the presentation you were at so that I know where I have met you.  I work in a lot of different groups and remembering that much information, isn’t a skill I have.

Now, here is where I apologize if you didn’t receive what you thought you were going to when you read the program description, I can only do so much with the time allotted me.

I will be back next year, for one of the presentations: we will have a bigger room, and more time, and quite possibly (if I can play the cards and the Fates smile on me with the Norn’s blessings) a hospitality suite.  I am excited to start these new ventures!

Hope to see you again, next year!

Back from Pantheacon, the work continues.

I am sad to report that there is still no Olivia-cat.  I have amazing neighbors who are offering great ideas and lots of help to search for her and that luckily, there has been no deceased animal pick-up matching her description!  She hasn’t been brought in to the local shelters, but our hope is that she will be found soon.

I also want to take a moment to say that I have developed the infamously dreaded ‘con crud.  😦  Fighting for my health while looking for her has been a struggle but these things must be done.

I will be posting a big thank you in a few days for everyone who attended my workshops last week, along with the google group invite for the specific one that requested it.

I will say thank you! to all who attended.

Defining my practice in terms of my culture, or not.

So, as I prepare to moderate (at least, I hope it’s me moderating as opposed to presenting, though I’m prepared for that possibility) the People of Color Caucus at Pantheacon, I recognize that it is forcing me to look at my own practice and how I work within the contexts of the cultures I am, and cultures I am working with.

My Fearsome Foursome™ are Aztec, Celtic, Hindu, and Norse (why yes, I put them in alphabetical order, not order of importance) and I have been made aware (more than once, by each of them in turn) that I can’t hide behind the argument that I get a pass because I am a PoC (Pagan of Color).  If anything, I am compelled to work harder because I can’t be lazy about my practice and about recognizing its origins in my own work and the work of those who belong to the cultures I am drawing from.

Even the fact that I am Mexican (with Indian, Italian, and Spanish heritages feeding it) doesn’t let me slack off on the Aztec side.  I am pushed (and currently gathering resources) to learn Nahuatl, to study what my Matron wants me to study, to research and correct the erroneous information about Aztec practices that perpetuates the New Age talk out there.  I’m the gnashing of teeth you hear miles away whenever someone starts talking about the “Mayan Apocalypse” because first: they ran out of room on the stone, if you look at it, you can tell, there’s an end to how many days they would be able to fit on it.  Second, why would an ancient civilization attach itself to Christian terminology?  Yes, in Mayan, Aztec, and Incan mythos there is talk of ending the worlds, but not leaving them obliterated, but to recreate them.  The end of the Mayan Sun Calendar is the assumed destruction of the current world and the recognized beginning of a new one, one they assumed would be an attempt by the g*ds of their pantheon to make something better.  /endrant

No, really, it was an issue with space.  Think about it, someone had to lug that thing!

And this truth was costing you 300$ two years ago at some cheap Hilton conference room!

 

In working the Hindu pantheon, and my being in Sharanya as an initiate means I have to make sure that I work closely with current organizations that are working on issues like the AIDS epidemic amongst sex workers, freedoms for trans/alternate gender expressing people (which some worshippers are, as part of their worship) because it is part of my path as a genderqueer Spirit sexworker.

Working with the Celt and Norse though; that creates a kettle of fish I have to try and fry sometimes.   It makes it difficult for me to feel like I connect sometimes, despite what Odin and the Morrighan tell me (which is that I’m doing just fine) but this ties into my feeling of not achieving enough and thus overachieving to make up for the self-doubt.  So when it comes to these, I tend to take the path of an academic, I read a lot of reconstructionist works, because I have friends who are big in recon and because that academia is important to learning about civilizations, not necessarily to do their rites as they’ve been discovered (except when requested, I have a format, it works for me) but to acknowledge the work being done there.  To support it when I can by buying a book on a part of it that interests me (runes, ogam, and cultural/historical findings), and collecting all these tiny facts and resources for when someone might have need of them.

But I still feel like I don’t do enough.   I think of all my issues, this one ties into my cultural background the most.  I don’t feel I do enough, I’m a workhorse (my maternal family were ranch hands, it’s in the blood to work hard is what my Mama would say when I was up late studying) and sometimes, I push too far or too hard and wonder why I’ve been knocked on my ass. . . it’s still hard for me to deal with knowing that I do enough.  One of these days, I will know that I have.  This is part of that learning.

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