The Trans Ecology of "For Wildness to Bloom"
Josefine W. W. Parker is a witch of many talents, and For Wildness to Bloom, her new series of essays, or "tracts" as she has come to call them, is a manifestation of her reintegration into the natural world. Josefine's zine SSSY BTCH blended the ecological, personal, and historical essences of trans identity. One of the most provocative ideas espoused by SSSY BTCH is the tranimal, which she says was "germinated tremendously [from] Qwo-Li Driskill's poetry and the relationship between the body, ancestry, and ecology; by the ways of every tranimal in [her] life; and Christian Xtn Hansen's art."
Tranimality "comes from early 2000s drag and performance art, which built off freak queens." It can be surrealist and post-humanist; as a way of life, it is closely linked to "radical faerie communities, woods loving freaks, performance art scenes, and punk." She goes on to describe it as "a feral way to understand trans-ness." Tranimality, to Josefine, "move[s] beyond binarized gender... without throwing out the medicine and infrastructure we need" and brings "trans liberation back to the land."
This new work is concerned with the body as a site for magical realism and transformation. For Wildness to Bloom "is a body of essays" that grew out of Josefine's experience of "undergoing medicine within transition." "After my first laser hair treatment I had to stop everything and turn completely to writing about the energy of that experience" she explained. That was three years ago, and now the project has grown to two tracts, containing two essays a piece. In that time, Josefine traded life in Philadelphia for a rural existence in Tennessee, which had major effects on the budding manuscript. "Moving down to Tennessee and starting to live in the country, my writing started to change; how I wrote, the pace of it, how other things took up my day like cooking, or cleaning, or gardening, or farming" she told me. "Now it's hard for me to write without a nature based perspective. Anything I write without it feels foreign."
For Wildness to Bloom centers around how to live and work with the body in all its states, and takes Josefine's experience with laser hair removal and orchiectomy as its impetus. It also serves as survival literature for those preparing to undergo medical transition in a way that considers the spirit -- not just the body. She began to write the essays in response to her first experience with laser hair removal. "I was not prepared" she said. "My friends tried to explain [the physical pain] the best way they could." She found that the pain associated with medical transition wasn't easily explained, and had to be witnessed. "The amount of trauma I held in my body afterwards -- I didn't have any models for addressing that trauma." After the procedure, she found that writing helped her "transform" the spiritual harm. But in order for the process to complete its cycle, she needed to find a spiritual practice that would withstand a period of change.
The traditional trans narrative is linear; you start your life marked as a gender the trappings of which you wholly despise and, through a series of successful medical interventions, you can finally love yourself for the gender you always knew you were. Josefine disagrees with this model, lamenting how "much of transness is framed in hating the self." "The celebration is supposed to be about how the body has changed and the community we come into. Something to me seems off about that" she mused.
Josefine works with In Sacred Balance, an organization which has linked feminist activism and shamanic practice for over twenty six years. In partnership with In Sacred Balance, and through the teachings of ShuNahSii Rose, Josefine has been able "to go deepest into women's experiences, especially a trans experience of womanhood." For Wildness to Bloom is deeply concerned with elevating the sacred feminine and women's mysteries. She exalted the "fiercely feminine place" she goes to in order to "really understand what's happening" as she transitions.
In addition to studying magical practices rooted in the sacred and divine feminine, Josefine is committed to two saints: Saint George and Saint Tekakwitha. "Part of my writing is teasing out the indigenous underpinnings of these saints" she added "and also associating two herbs: the iris with St. George, whose connection is to Jarilo, a slavic deity of spring and summer, and [the lily with] Tekakwitha [who] was a (Kanien'kehá:ka) Mohawk-Algonquin woman who was made a saint in the past 15 years. I understand them both through flowers. The energetic impact is planting these lilies and irises in me. I understand my hair as plants, and flowers, and little forests."
The mystical realm of trans possibility is also a major influence on For Wildness to Bloom. Josefine is enthusiastic about the creation of trans identity, rather than its solidification. "What's really juicy to me about trans experience is that we're still really figuring out what these energies are" she insisted passionately. She found the medicalization of transness "really daunting" until she learned "look to the past to make sense of the present." "What I figured out through reading and conversations with people like Joi Wolfwomyn, there's a really incredible unfolding right now around trans identity and spirituality. I'm looking forward to it and feel really blessed to be part of it. Something is coming to fruition, the trans community is coming into its own spiritual power. I don't know what it is but I'm really excited to see what unfolds" she said. "We change, not because we hate ourselves, but because we love ourselves and have to see what emerges. I'm eager for wildness to bloom, and for us loving ourselves so deeply we have to change."
Cyree Jarelle Johnson is an essayist, poet, and librarian from Piscataway, New Jersey. They are a Poetry Editor at The Deaf Poets Society, Managing Editor at Transfaith, and a candidate for an MFA in Poetry at Columbia University.