Date: Wed, 25 Sep 1996 23:25:41 -0700
From: (Laura Werner)
Subject: Spirituality

This post has absolutely nothing to do with sex or spanking, but since I feel like a.s.s is one of my homes, I want to share this story with all of you. It's something that I feel like I had to write, and I hope it touches at least a few people here.

I've had to remove or change all of the names in this post (and abuse a few pronouns) to preserve some people's anonymity. Please respect that.

Powerful Women

The experiences I want to write about happened on a trip I took earlier this year. I spend some time on another newgroup, and I've gotten fairly close to a few people there. When I came out as being transsexual there I got a lot of support and made one very good friend. She was touched by my coming-out post because she had had, and lost, a close friend who happened to be TS.

Her dear friend was a Native American. She transitioned sometime in the seventies, I think. When she later came back home she met some initial resistance, but she was eventually accepted and she became a respected elder of the tribe. My friend met her sometime in the eighties, and felt like she had found her "indian mom." A few years later she developed heart trouble and other complications from diabetes, and my friend helped take care of her as her health declined. When things got really bad, she decided to turn off the life support and let herself die, and my friend was there with her for the whole eight days it took her to pass away. She says it was the most difficult, but most important, experience of her life.

My friend knew that her Native American friend had been TS, but had never really talked to her about it. I think she partially saw me as a way to learn more about that aspect of her dear friend. I saw her as a special friend who could give me some of the love and caring that I never got from my own parents. So when I got so stressed out at work that I needed a vacation, I took a chance and flew up to visit a woman I'd never met.

It was worth the risk. Things were a bit tentative on the first day I was there, as we got comfortable with each other, but we quickly developed an even more intense friendship than what we had had via email and on the telephone. In many ways, I feel like I've found a new home, a place where I belong. I have very little contact with my parents any more, and I never felt all that loved there in the first place, so feeling at home is a nice experience.

The first weekend of my visit, my woman friend and her husband took me on an overnight camping trip to a "barter fair" up in the mountains. Basically it was sort of a hippie swap meet and flea market held in a big clearing in the woods. I had mixed feelings about it. It was a cold and wet weekend, and I was afraid that a spoiled city girl like me would be miserable. I was also a bit afraid of being thrust into such an alien environment where there would be a lot of people (and types of people) I had never met.

It turned out to be one of the most intense, profound experiences of my life. I did end up being a bit cold and wet, but far from miserable. As soon as we got there, my dear friend started introducing me to a number of her close women friends, people who are very special in her life, and I began to see why she wanted me to come. I haven't had too much experience as part of a community of women, especially that type of grounded, down-to-earth women, and she was trying to give that to me.

I'm starting to view womanhood as a journey rather than a short-term destination of my gender transition. I'm a woman, but I'm not finished growing and changing. Part of the journey of being a woman is the transition from girl to woman, which I never got to experience in my adolescence. That is my biggest regret about being TS. In a sense, I feel like my gender transition has left me in an intermediate half-girl, half-woman state, and I'm now in a secondary transition to full womanhood.

My womanfriend thought that meeting some of her friends would help me on that journey, and I had given her permission to "out" me to those she trusted. These were women who she thought would be able to help me more if they knew about my past. A few had also been friends of her Native American TS friend, which made me feel less awkward about being outed to them. Again, I was right to trust her judgement. She introduced me to an amazing group of spiritual, self-aware, grounded, and, yes, powerful women who affected me deeply.

There are two women I remember fairly clearly from that initial meeting. Well, actually three. The first were a woman named Leah and her daughter Osha, who live in a remote area far from civilization. Osha is perhaps 13 or 14 years old, but her mature looks and personality made it apparent that she is as much a woman as she is a girl. I haven't spent much time around children, so it was very interesting to meet someone who is at a point in her life's journey that is in some ways similar to where I am on mine. I got the same feeling from one or two other young women I met there. I'm not sure whether it's the simple rural lifestyle, good parenting, or some combination, but something was different about these kids. They were a lot more grounded, self-aware, and just plain real than any others I've met.

The woman who I remember the most clearly, and who affected me the most deeply, is named Melody. I'm having a hard time writing about her; she's very hard to put into words. When I met her, she almost seemed to have an aura about her. I feel almost crazy writing that, but the word "aura" tends to come up whenever anyone talks about her, so I know it's not just me. When I met her she was wearing a long, maroon colored, coarsely knit wool dress that looked almost mediaeval, especially with the intricate brooch on her chest. That contributed to my original strong impression of her, but most of it was just her force of personality. This woman has presence. It is so obvious that she is deeply and spiritually in touch with herself, with others, and with the earth that just being around her is a powerful experience.

She, her husband Jim, and their children live on a remote mountain miles from the nearest town. They refuse to let any power or telephone lines on their property, so they live with well water, fires for heat and cooking, and a tiny bit of solar electricity for light in the evenings. I think they want to lead a simple, spiritual existance and are afraid that technology would be too distracting. Jim is an expert on old bookbinding techniques, including mediaeval restorations, and Melody is an artist and craftswoman. I saw a few of her paintings and sculptures, and they were wonderful.

I met a number of other women that first afternoon, but I don't remember many details of those initial meetings, or of the unpacking that we did for the rest of the afternoon. After we finished setting up our camp and eating dinner, it was time for a jam session around the central campfire. My friend's husband and granddaughter went down to the fire fairly soon after eating. I was feeling a little down, or perhaps just very emotional, so she and I hung out in the tent for a while.

While we were talking and holding each other, people began to sing and play music around the campfire. At first it was mostly drums, but others joined in with guitars, trumpet, trombone, and accordion. The music was nice background noise, but I wasn't paying all that much attention to it. Then Melody started to sing. Her name is appropriate; she has a very nice singing voice. Her spirituality really comes through in her singing, and I was so moved that I began to cry. I don't remember what songs she was singing, and I'm not even sure what I was crying about, but I was feeling very emotional. I think that it's sometimes hard for me to be around so much love and spirit, because I've had so little of it in my life.

A bit later, Melody came by the tent where we were, probably to see why we weren't down at the campfire. Another woman named Sabina stopped by a few minutes later, and the four of us sat around and chatted. Occasionally a kid would stop by to cuddle or sit on someone's lap for a while. It was all very nice. It helped me calm down and get more comfortable with the whole new environment. It also helped make me a little less in awe of Melody (and her aura :-) and more at ease talking with her.

Eventually, Melody and Sabina went back down to the fire, and my friend and I followed a few minutes later. She joined the jam session with her flute. I sat around and soaked in the music and the warmth from the fire, sharing a blanket with her granddaughter. It was a nice night, and we didn't get to bed until 1:30 or 2:00.

When we woke up the next morning it was raining, so we just hung around under our tarp, ate breakfast, and served cake and coffee to anyone who stopped by. (my friend likes to feed people.) She had been hoping to take me to an indian-style women's sweat lodge ceremony where I could be around the other women in an intimate setting, but it was cancelled due to the rain. Fortunately, the rain stopped at 1:00 or so and my friend organized a "women's circle" to make up for it.

Seven of us got together under our tarp. Melody, Sabina, my friend, me, and three others named Marilyn, Mary, and Anne. After Mary got us started with a nice bit of ritual, we took turns talking about whatever we were feeling. I talked a bit about feeling like an adolescent girl trying to become a woman, and just about feeling so touched by and grateful for the opportunity to share with and learn from those amazing women.

A couple of the things that people shared really moved me. Marilyn, who hadn't even known that I was TS until my friend or I mentioned it in the circle, said "You don't need a uterus to be a woman", and said that she hasn't had hers for over twenty years. Anne told a really touching story about her own hysterectomy. She insisted that the doctor give her uterus back after it ws removed, and she buried it in her yard in the same place she buried her children's placentas. My dear friend talked about how close she and I had gotten in such a short time and said that she thought her departed TS friend had sent me to her. The others shared some of their own equally strong feelings and stories.

That circle was an incredibly intense experience for me. I felt totally accepted by, and as one of, the most amazing bunch of women I've ever met. It's taken me quite a long time to digest the experience enough to be able to write about it. Even now I'm not really doing it, and them, justice. That forty-five minutes or so had a deep effect on me. It helped me accept myself a lot more, and I think it's helping me turn into a more spiritual person.

Sometime after the circle when I was sitting under the awning again, Melody came by and asked me to ask her for some advice. I did, and she said some nice things about how I shouldn't feel pressured to be any particular type of woman or to act in any particular way but should just be myself. I had basically figured that out for myself already, but it was nice to hear it again from her. After that, we talked about how hard it can be to recognize that you have a lot to give to other people. I have that problem because my self esteem isn't always what it could be, while I think Melody is more afraid of becoming too full of herself (which I think is pretty unlikely).

Mary then stopped by again, and my friend dug out her camera and took some pictures of Melody, Mary, and me. Then her husband snapped one of the three of us plus her and her granddaughter. My copies of those photos, plus this post, will help me remember the experience in as much detail as I want (and need) to. I'm sharing it here in the hope that it will resonate with the way some of you feel about being women.

The whole experience has taught me a lot about myself and about my femininity. I've realized that being a woman doesn't start and stop with how I look, talk, or dress. Sure, it's nice to be feminine in those ways, but they're not what really matters. For me, it's a lot more important to have an open heart and spirit and to make strong, deep, loving connections with other people and with the world around me. And that doesn't stop with my SRS; it goes on for the rest of my life.