I thought today’s post would be the second one discussing reasons for having Agreements. I had it all written, posted, formatted and scheduled. But I’ve delayed it for day, because today I got some very bad news, and I need to write about it. It’s a bit long, but I feel that’s fitting in some ways, to balance out a life cut short.
A couple of years back, I was in a 9 month training program called Shamanic Soul Coaching™, created by Francesca Gentille. This method is her own, created from her own personal experiences, and her experience with a number of other psychological and shamanic systems (e.g., Inner Voice Dialogue, Gestalt, Shamanic Depth Psychology, Shamanic Soul Retrieval, Jungian Psychotherapy, and Caroline Myss:Sacred Contracts.) It also bears some resemblance to another system that Francesca did not study, called the Internal Family Systems Model. Each of these systems can work well for some people; each of them have their own flavor and particular applications. One thing all of them share, is that they agree that within each individual there are multiple parts to the Inner Reality. The work of the individual, of the soul, is to engage in conscious integration, compassion, and internal dialogue, in order to bring these parts into harmonious interaction and balance. It’s a journey that most people never complete, because there’s always some small way in which we can improve ourselves, treat others and ourselves more kindly, or communicate more clearly and compassionately. That said, as we engage in this work, through sessions with others, through training, and through our own daily practices, we gradually heal our traumas, and we become more whole and complete, happier, more alive, and more able to share our own gifts and talents with the world. Not an easy journey, but highly worthwhile.
Two years ago, I spent nine months in this training with a very special group of seven students. We became familiar with each others’ traumas; we grew to know each other well, and to understand our strengths and weaknesses. I consider my fellow students to be part of my “tribe,” and I care deeply about each of them. Two of them, “Deanna” and “Lilith” (the names by which they were known in their community), immediately took their training and followed their hearts to establish New Pagan Journeys, a pagan community and store in OR. I admired their courage in pursuing their dreams and passions so fully. On the way to Loving More‘s Poly Living conference in Seattle last year, I arranged a layover, and managed to see their store—though I almost missed my flight to do it! Deanna’s calm and good humor while facing the intense traffic was amazing, and we shared smiles in the sunshine of the drive, despite the tension. It was the last time I would see her.
Today I found out from one of our fellow journeyers that about a month ago Deanna had taken her own life.
You see, Deanna was transgender, and her life was hard. She struggled in many ways, living a life precariously balanced on the edge. Not only that, but, for various reasons that I won’t go into here, Deanna found herself in prison in the final days of her life. It was (so I am given to understand) due to her treatment there that she became sufficiently despondent to choose to end her life. She was, I believe, still in her 20’s.
I find it ironic that all of this was taking place (unbeknownst to me), right about the time that I was writing about the need to keep working toward the obsolescence of the “It Gets Better” campaign. Of course, it’s situations similar to Deanna’s that inspired the campaign in the first place, with Dan Savage and Terry Miller recording the first message to struggling teens (see below), encouraging them to stick it out. In their experience, once they’re done with the horror that is public middle and high school in this country, most GLBTQ folk have found that indeed, it gets better. They start to have more control over their lives and choices, and find groups of like-minded people; they build communities and families, homes and lives. The message of course, is not to check out early, before all of that can happen. It’s a good message, even if I wish it weren’t necessary.
The shadow, though, is that as hard as life is for the gays and lesbians in our culture, there are other, even more oppressed groups, for whom the likelihood of it ever getting better is slim. Transgender, Gender-Queer, Two-Spirit (and many other gradations and names)—these are amongst those for whom it is often beyond difficult to make that transition successfully from bullied teen to independent adult. Sex workers of all varieties are another group at high risk, in part due to the extreme shame we in our culture bear around sex, and in part due to the lack of protections for this “oldest of professions.” In her struggles to survive, Deanna was these and more, putting her on the fringes of the fringe, in a place where she could neither trust, nor gain access to, those who might be able to help her. In today’s economy of course, many are already struggling, and safety nets that once existed are gone, with more and more people landing at the bottom of the heap to find that there’s no way up again. The System, once it has you in its grasp, is relentless at making sure you know your place, and know your worth… or lack thereof.
So what can we do about all of this? On the one hand, not a great deal: what’s done is done, and nothing will relight the flame of her soul in that body now that it is gone. The best we can do is to hope that she has gone on to a place without this constant tormenting pain.
On the other hand there are causes that we can get involved in, places we can donate time and money, activities, things, and services that we might be able to do or buy that will support Deanna’s partner Lilith, or other at-risk teens and adults. Here are a few suggestions (not all cost money!), if you’re interested.
For those of us without money who wish to acknowledge Deanna’s passing, I have lit a virtual candle. Feel free to light one of your own and add it to the group “DK” (or not, as you choose).
One way to contribute financially would be to purchase items from New Pagan Journeys. That would not only support Deanna’s partner Lilith, but also would provide funds for Lilith to pursue whatever redress she may be able to seek. I’m not sure what the status of the store is, now that Lilith has been forced to close the brick and mortar address, so you might want to write or call her first, to make sure she can accept orders at this time.
The folks at It Gets Better have merchandise to purchase, and links to charitable foundations aimed at ensuring that GLBTQ teens make it to adulthood, and the opportunity for things to get better. If you buy stuff from them and feel moved to do so, you might want to mention Deanna’s name. You can also volunteer for them. Check it out on their site.
The Sex Workers Project has a list of projects (including their own) sharing the aim of bettering the lives of those “who by choice, circumstance, or coercion remain in the industry.”
The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom is another organization that is “committed to creating a political, legal and social environment in the US that advances equal rights for consenting adults who engage in alternative sexual and relationship expressions.” In particular, they serve the BDSM-Leather-Fetish, Swing, and Polyamory communities in the United States. You can donate time or money.
Last but by no means least, anyone who purchases a full price session with me in the next month (by the end of August, 2011), and mentions Deanna Silverkrow, I will donate half of my fee to the charity of your choice (on this page, or another related organization). This is my personal favorite option, not only because it helps me financially, but also because it honors the training that both Deanna and I received. I think she would like to know that this knowledge was continuing to help others. If you’re not local to me (SF East Bay), know that I am happy to do phone and/or Skype (or other) sessions. The miracle of PayPal allows payment from afar. If you’re interested, please contact me at dawndsquirrel [at] gmail ( dot) com.
For myself, this evening just happened to be the Oakland Symphony Chorus‘ Summer Sing-In of the Mozart Requiem under the direction of Michael Morgan. In the past 9 months, I’ve lost at least four personal friends to death, so I’d been planning to go already; but this sealed the deal for me. I walked in a few minutes late, to be surrounded by over a hundred wonderful voices singing the Lux Aeterna (the Requiem itself). I caught my chest, but managed to keep walking, and start singing. The music was healing, and although my voice held a bit of extra heat on the Dies Irae (“Day of Wrath”), I left the group feeling my spirits lifted, and some of my grief lightened.
To those who have managed to read all the way to the bottom of this entry, I thank you for your patience.
Blessed Be, Deanna, whereever your spirit now resides.
Blessed Be, all. May your day be full of love and wonder, and may you remain in touch with and ever grateful for this precious gift of life we share.
[PS: according to the OSC website, this concert was a sort of a “preview” of the “9/11/11 Project: A National Requiem of Remembrance – Looking Back, Moving Forward, a free participatory memorial concert at the Cathedral of Christ the Light to honor the victims and heroes of 9/11/2001.” I plan to be at that concert as well, 9 years after singing the “Rolling Requiem” that took place on 9/11/02. If you want to join in, you can find out more on the OSC website.]
∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥
[© 2011 Dawn M. Davidson]