Jan. 19th, 2011

My Zendo

Jan. 19th, 2011 12:52 pm
Okay, so my relationship to Zen has been kinda complicated lately because I've been dealing with my Zendo and my Sangha - I haven't been going to the Zendo regularly in a long time, months really. I just can't make myself anymore. The act of stepping in there is pretty much a trigger at this point.

How did it get this way? Well, mostly because of the community, the Sangha, and how they've handled my transition. Now, I know that most people in the community probably think they've handled my transition fairly well...but that's not really the case.

I've been asked about the status of my genitals, I've been called "he" on a number of occasions, people have talked about "women in the Sangha" and it's been pretty clear they don't typically think of me as one of them, I've been asked about whether my girlfriend and I are staying together, I've had people use the word "tranny"* etc. etc.

However, I think there are two things that hurt the most: the first is that I was told by the Shusso at the time that, when I felt uncomfortable and wanted to leave after someone said something particularly heinous, I should just keep in my mind that they didn't mean it like that. Oh yes, she inadvertently pulled the classic "Intent: It's Fucking Magic" derail. I wasn't upset about it at the time, I just felt shameful and guilty that I was such a petty person...for wanting people to respect my basic humanity. In retrospect, I realize that's probably always the effect of the "intent" argument as a silencing tactic. It's a form of victim blaming telling you that you don't have the right to be upset, that your feelings are somehow illegitimate. That hurts. It really really hurts.

So, yeah, that's one of the big things that stung. The other is that I don't feel welcome up at the monastery. Why? Because I was asked to compromise on the issue of dorms and that I would be put in one of the single person rooms rather than be allowed to sleep in the women's dorm. Now, I went along with it at the time but the end result is that I haven't been back to the monastery since I transitioned...I don't know when I will go next. It depends on if they'll let me sleep in the actual proper dorms like any other woman.

Why did this hurt so much? Well, because it put their interest in not upsetting people who might have issues with my existence on the same footing as their interest in not treating me like shit...and they tried to compromise on these points. What hurts so much about that is that there was nothing to compromise about in the first place. Bigotry is not a different legitimate point of view or a way of life to be respected: it's bullshit, straight and simple bullshit, and it needs to be treated like bullshit by making obvious efforts to combat it. They didn't make those efforts. Instead, I felt like I was an inconvenience - like I was a diseased individual who needed to be quarantined for the good of the whole. As you can imagine, dear reader, that fucking hurt. It still hurts. I feel sick just thinking about it.

The end result is that I almost gave up on Zen entirely. I hadn't sat regularly for a good month until this week. It feels good to begin meditating again, to start following that path. What's sad is that I really want to have a relationship with a Zen priest and get that instruction and that help in furthering my study, but I don't feel safe going to that place again. Zazen puts you in your most vulnerable state: complete, deliberate openness to the world. It strips away all your defenses, purposefully. It is not truly possible to do this in a place where you don't feel safe, where you don't feel respected and comfortable. That's just traumatizing.

* Okay, yes, I know some people are okay with it (e.g. Kate Bornstein); however, there's plenty of us who have only ever known the word "tranny" to be a pejorative and I think honestly people should know better. I mean, really, how often is the act of turning an adjective into a noun a particularly flattering thing?

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