Sisterhood of the Traveling Ya-Ya

Dreams serve to help us resolve day-to-day problems while we sleep. Upon waking, dreams most often vanish into cerebral thin air while the effect of the dream, the mind’s resolution, goes on with the person into their day. It is also known that vivid dreaming will often happen during periods of personal emotional upheaval and stress. They have for me. One dream in particular stands out. I am living it.

In 1995 I struggled with the issue of gender-dysphoria. I had struggled with this issue since my early childhood. But that year, the question had become the pea in the princess’s bed: I could no longer sleep, eat or work properly. I was deeply unsettled about the matter. Being in a relationship with someone at that time made the issue all the more acute. When I finally did sleep I had many dreams. One dream stands out as being clearly prophetic in all of its symbolism.

The dream: I am standing at the end of a long dark tunnel, a tunnel deep underground. My sense is that I have been on a subway train for a long ride. I get off the train and was face the exit. Looking up (since I am way below street level) I see light coming through a long rectangular opening. I start walking up the slightly pitched exit ramp towards the light. As I walk I notice, appearing directly in front of me, a tall chest of drawers. I open the top drawer and inside there are women’s things and jewelry. I close the drawer. I feel good.

The closer I walk to the entrance, the better I feel. At last I stand at the large rectangular opening. The dark tunnel is behind me and a bright sunny day is out in front of me. I see tall buildings and behind them I see Lake Michigan. I see myself working in trenches along the shore of Lake Michigan. Unlike the tunnel I just came from, the trenches are open to the blue sky and warm sunshine. I sense that I am extremely happy working in these trenches. I feel a sense of peace. Then I see myself lying in a lounge chair on a sandy Chicago beach. I am looking out at the water, a great open expanse before me. My journey has ended and I have reached my final destination.

This dream, of course, is rich with symbolism. Carl Jung would call it an “archetypal dream” – it is mythic and grand, completely vivid. Within the dream I seek to integrate my feminine and masculine qualities – the anima and animus. Compared to my life at hand, it was the impossible dream.

This dream occurred during a time in the 90’s when I attended a church in the Chicago area. The church was, at that time, coupled with two local para-church organizations. One of the organizations is a ministry directed toward helping homosexuals leave the gay life style. It is led by a former homosexual. The other church ministry is dedicated to the “healing of the soul”. “Healing Prayer” teaching seminars were led, at that time, by a Kathryn Kulhman type figure – a self-styled prophetess.

The prophetess wrote books which were filled with quotes from notable Christians such as C.S. Lewis. Her writings spun off into different directions using her own spiritual experiences to formulate a point. After reading several of her books, I wasn’t exactly sure what her point was. It seemed to me that she tried very hard to appear intellectual and bookish and to be taken seriously. An aura of mystery surrounded her person. This invoked an image of a feminized Elijah who was often whisked away by her crew to pray in the Spirit out in the wings.

To give you an idea of the confusion that was wrought when she spoke I’ll share with you a conversation I had with someone in the lobby of Wheaton College’s Edman Chapel where she spoke. I was there attending a healing prayer seminar given by this woman. I was seeking some kind of resolution to the gender issue in my life.

During one of the healing seminar sessions, I got up to stand in the lobby. I was tired after sitting for several hours. Out in the lobby I met the doctor who was also attending the session. This doctor had delivered my son. We struck up a conversation.

Like me, he had been sitting and listening and he had also decided to get up and stand in the lobby. Standing in the lobby together, he asked me directly if I knew what the prophetess was talking about and I said, “She keeps saying it will make sense later, but I don’t know. It hasn’t made sense yet” The doctor looked puzzled. He was hoping that I could bring some meaning to the mishmash of words spoken in the auditorium that morning but I couldn’t. In fact, my own confusion was becoming deeper. I gave her the benefit of the doubt because she talked about gender issues and self-image issues, applying healing prayer to wounded-ness.

The soul healing seminars (and books) offered by this ‘prophetess’ would deal with a host of psycho-sexual issues including homosexuality. Many of the people who came to the seminars had been wounded in their youth. The wounding would include rape, abandonment, neglect, beating, mistreatment and even a possible traumatic birth (breach births, cord wrapped around neck, etc.). In essence the seminars were like spiritual LSD. Through healing of memory prayers, the attendees would relive some of the painful memories and then have those memories prayed over and then supposedly vanquished, leaving the person to go on with their life without the burden of the past. At least that was the idea.

Having been around this woman for many years while attending the afore-named church I can say that she is a wonderful person with discernible good motives. She seeks to help others who had been wounded as she had been early in her life. Her seminars bring many hurting people together including homosexuals who desperately want to leave the gay lifestyle. The healing prayers offer a place to start looking at the core issues of homosexuality, issues born out of deep neurosis and family life situations.

Her seminars would talk about the re-symbolizing. Re-symbolizing is important when a person wants to leave a bad pattern or life style behind. It helps someone, with a ‘healed’ imagination, to focus on what is good, pure, noble and true. In this process, re-symbolizing replaces the image previously fixated on and even idolized and gives the person the image of the cross – the suffering Servant, arms open, who seeks to embrace you. This message was always abundantly clear from her talks and writings.

Misogyny, the hatred of women, was one driving motive behind the origin of the ‘prophetess’ healing prayer seminars. As she recalled in one seminar, the prophetess had endured misogyny early in her life. Her mission, she felt, grew out of a need to help others who had endured oppression, hatred and worse from misogynistic people, mostly men, but women could also be misogynistic to other women and to themselves. This calling was made clear from the beginning of her writings and talks. When she related in one of her talks that she considers her misogynistic uncle an “Ass” you knew she has an axe to grind and a hatchet that needed a burial.

What wasn’t clear to me and to others are her words about the “true self”, the “true masculine” and the “true feminine”. She pointed to God as having “the True masculine and the True feminine”. What was the “True self”? What was the True Masculine? The True Feminine? And, why parse things so finely?

Many of the seminar prayers (and writings) included prayers prevailing upon God to bring a person out of their wounded past and into their true self, into a true masculine or true feminine identity. I have since learned that there is no true masculine or true feminine identity, only the sexed body, male or female, that you were born with. Gender identity, though rooted in the sexed body, is fluid and mostly a social construct. Consider these words from Miroslav Volf, a Christian theologian and currently the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale University Divinity School:

“Nothing in God is specifically feminine; nothing in God is specifically masculine; therefore nothing in our notions of God entails duties or prerogatives specific to one gender; all duties and prerogatives entailed in our notions of God are duties and prerogatives of both genders…”
Men and women share maleness and femaleness not with God but with animals. They image God in their common humanity. Hence we ought to resist every construction of the relation between God and femininity or masculinity that privileges one gender, say by claiming that men on account of their maleness represent God more adequately than women or by insisting that women, being by nature more relational, are closer to the divine as the power of connectedness and love.”
Miroslav Volf from Exclusion and Embrace, 1995

I attended many of these healing seminars. I did so because I was desirous of walking in the Spirit and hopefully finding a reason for the gender disconnect within. The teaching/healing prayer seminars were described as praying the soul into well-being. The prayers were not a one-shot fix but a starting point from which the soul which had been wounded or cut off from its “true self” would bring God’s touch to a place of deep wounding. Then, the process of healing could begin.

Back to the dream. During the healing prayer seminars participants were prayed over by the ‘prophetess’ and her prayer team. I was prayed over several times with prayers spoken in tongues using holy water and a crucifix. It was during this week of healing prayer sessions that my lucid dream occurred. I considered the dream, at that time, to be symbolic and nothing more. Recently, I now understand the dream to be a prophetic dream. I’ll explain.

Several years ago I made the decision to live as woman. When I did, I understood that God had given me the grace to do this and to be in a relationship with Him. God was willing to embrace me as a woman. God was not threatened or put off by my change. In fact, I have certainly been blessed throughout the process.

Recently, while riding the train to work, my tunnel dream and its fullfillment came to mind: I am a ‘new’ woman; I work (in the trenches) in Chicago near the lake front; I am settled and laid back (as the dream’s lounge chair would symbolize). I am at rest. A dream come true.

But, my dream is used as a nightmare by my ex. In my ex’s hands, my change has become a wedge between me and my children, a way of alienating the children from me. It is my ex’s ‘normalcy’ argument that hammers the wedge deeper and deeper: my ex’s position is that she is normal and that I am not. She tells my children this in so many ways on a regular basis. I know. I hear back from them. Children will learn prejudice from their parent/s over time. This is true wherever there is any off-putting’ of people and groups throughout our world.

My change, by the way, never absolved me from responsibility to my children. I continue to parent my children and give them what they need.

While the attempt to heal the soul is a massive undertaking, I see any desire to heal the soul as laudable. At the same time I am concerned about the specific ideation of the true self, the true masculine and the true feminine identities. These definitions could drive people into further confusion and perhaps into more despair. Perhaps, it would cause a return to a bad or broken symbolization because her teaching embraces the new idols of the masculine and feminine: her teaching identified the “True masculine as the man being the initiator (thrusting, pushing forward, aggressive) while the True feminine is the woman receiving (actively passive), relational and integrating life.” More mishmash. Each of us has masculine and feminine qualities and their amounts are negotiated within the society each of us live in.

On closer examination, the true self, not seduced and influenced by TV and the media, is the person who finds his or her identity in a relationship embrace with Jesus Christ. Gender identity, anchored in a sexed body, free-floats. It can be active and passive, giving and forgiving (think marriage of a male and a female, an Adam and Eve narrative). Harbored in Christ this identity is able to be open to others. It is known for its ability to accept changes in the other and to do justice.

A prophetess, a dream and a reality. The Divine Secret of the Traveling Ya-Ya finally makes sense.

“Now you can understand the quantity of love that warms me toward you, so that I forget our vanity, and treat the shades as the solid thing.” Dante’s Purgatorio 21.132-135

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: