Spirit, Sex, and Speaking Up: 5Qs with Lee Harrington of Traversing Gender

5 Questions for Lee Harrington

Lee Harrington is an internationally known sexuality, relationships, and personal authenticity educator. An award-winning author and editor on human gender, sexual, and sacred experience, his books include “Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Journeys,” among many other titles. He has been blogging online since 1998, teaching worldwide since 2001, and is a passionate artist and podcaster.

1. How would you describe your spiritual or philosophical perspective?

I am a polytheistic spirit worker and pagan dedicated to Mother Bear, and devotee of the Star Goddess.

As a dedicated spirit worker, part of my journey is being a conduit for good works on behalf of Bear, the Neolithic deity that taught humans to fear the dark and also how to conquer that fear. Some use the term “shamanic practitioner”, but the term spirit worker reflects my perspective and ethnic background.

Star Goddess, God Herself, is the primordial androgynous intelligence of the great void, the womb of the universe. As a devotee, my work is to help the world remember that we are capable of birthing the world anew with our actions, and that we are beings of limitless possibility because we are all from Her.

2. How has your spiritual or philosophical perspective evolved over time? What kinds of opportunities and challenges have shaped your perspective?

I was blessed with parents unable to decide how to raise me. A goddess worshipping Lutheran and a born-again Catholic, they encouraged me to attend every type of faith gathering I could while I was growing up.

It hit me along the way that there were moments that resonated with power and a feeling of yes, of truth: a sensation in my bones, a taste on my tongue, a vibration that snaked up my sense of being.

My various forms of faith have shifted over my lifetime, challenged by death and abuse, as well as grace and beauty. Yet It always returns to that feeling of yes, of truth.

3. How do you see your work (vocation, calling, advocacy, role, etc) in the world? How does your spiritual or philosophical perspective relate to your work?

My Work is that of a doorway opener, a person who will walk with someone on their path. Though my career is that of an educator, author, and leader of rituals, my Work lies in the moments when someone’s eyes open up, and a spark fires. It arrives when I can provide a key for the doorway, even for just one person in the room.

My complex and ongoing journey through gender and identity also provides a resource for doorway opening. Blogging about my relationship to clothing provides a doorway into how each of us carries masks: makeup as armor, power suits as a tool to step into patriarchy, lace as an anarchistic revolt into feminist possibilities when chosen consciously. The act of being nude in a performance art piece, with a complex body that carries stories beyond societal assumptions, becomes a chance for cisgender and transgender people alike to challenge their own stories.

4. When do you feel the most vibrant and alive? What resources or practices do you draw on to nurture your own resilience?

When I see the magic of how our bodies even work; in the quiet compassion of strangers; in good books, or dancing alone at a bus stop; in the illuminated Self found in the spark of orgasm, the depth of ecstatic prayer, submission to the divine; and the beauty found in a lover or deep friend’s eyes.

My tools for resilience include:

  • Pulling on my social network

  • Long walks, hikes, or bike rides on my own or with my dog

  • Spending time in my temple

  • Long conversations over Skype

  • Curling up with my partner

  • Taking myself out for a date

5. What kinds of issues or concerns do you think need more attention in the world?

The world is full of complex issues, all of which deserve attention and action, such as:

  • Access to food, housing and healthcare for all

  • Global warming

  • Wars that breed generations of resentment and suffering

  • ...and yes, more.

So what do we do? We reach out to those who are “others” in our world, including those on our block. The more people who know a trans person – and have a positive association with a trans person – the less likely they will support hateful legislation. Vote. Run for city council (and beyond). Help others get registered, and get passionate about social justice.

Speak up. Even if it’s at the water cooler at work, when someone brings up hateful propaganda, quietly speak first in their terminology and start with where we can agree, and then work towards an understanding. We need *both* those that will hold protest lines, and those who will quietly help people understand what is going on.

Donate time, energy, resources, funds, and more to your local food banks, shelters, and clinics. Show up not just when it’s good, but when there’s a pressing need. Post about resources and events not just online, but on fliers and in newspapers, and post where people without internet access have the capacity to learn about them.

Be compassionate. Don’t try to “out-suffer” others – that is not a game that serves anyone. Don’t assume what support someone will want – ask them. After all, the golden rule doesn’t actually apply… it should be do unto others as they actually want done.

Prayer and will-working is great. But the equation for magic or prayer is:

(Intention + Attention) x Aligned Action = Magic

It’s wonderful to pray. It’s great to reach out. But if we don’t do actions in accordance with that will, that prayer, what good is it? It’s only a start. Don’t just pray away hunger – donate a can of soup. Little steps lead to big steps, which lead to change. So mote it be.

More from Lee Harrington

Learn more about Lee’s Work: PassionAndSoul.com

Books and Websites by Lee:

Profile in the NY Times (2013): A Hush-Hush Topic No More

More Artlcles from Pagan Traditions at Transfaith