Category Archives: Educational

transgender as cultural appropriation

TransGender – the Ultimate “Cultural Appropriation” – A slightly satirical teachable moment.

Wikipedia says: “Cultural appropriation is a sociological concept which views the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture as a largely negative phenomenon.”

Cultural appropriation has been often associated with White-person wanna-be’s – wannabe cowboy, wannabe Indian. Wannabe’s buy a big Western hat, get dressed up in stereotypical and ceremonial regalia, buy some painted feathers, leathers and beads, buy a pow-wow drum, a buy a “peace pipe” and hang on their wall. Their ignorance of the origins and purpose of those cultural practices and sacred objects makes the behavior come off as trivializing and disrespectful. Pretending verses authenticity, and ignorance verses respect, are what qualify as cultural appropriation.

But what’s the difference between cultural appropriation and cultural exchange? It is easy to notice that over the long haul, cultures have always spontaneously mixed themselves when they get exposed to each other’s food, art, music, customs and traditions. In fact, the diversity and strength of our country’s “Melting Pot” comes from cultures exchanging, borrowing, and sometimes even ‘stealing’ from each other. That’s stealing in the good-natured and competitive way, the way comedians steal jokes, cooks steal recipes, and musicians steal melodic phases and lyrics. In ordinary cultural exchange, “imitation is flattery” – it makes you feel proud that someone thinks that highly of your customs that they want to incorporate them into their lives. And you are happy to share. So what makes one form of cultural mixing a favorable melting pot? And another form of mixing an unfavorable cultural appropriation?


The answer is: The Long-Story [history] of Power and Politics. When artists, cooks and musicians borrow/steal from each, it is a competitive exchange among people who are on most levels, politically “equal”. On the other hand, our world’s longstanding racial and ethnic divisions have provided harsh multi-generational experiences of social/political inequality and economic discrimination. For the past few thousand years, the European-origin Whites, have shown persistent distain and disregard for the rights and cultures of all Peoples of Color. It is within this long-story of injustice within this “Majority/Minority” dynamic which gives rise to the very real experience of “cultural appropriation” – where imitation is not experienced as flattery.

When the Majority casually and unthinkingly “borrows/steals” a cultural practice or art form from an oppressed Minority, it is an overt re-enactment of the already long list of injustices and mistreatment extended by the already intrusive hand of the Majority. Once again, in one more way – there is a “taking” – without permission or understanding – of something which originated and evolved from within the Minoritity’s household, community and culture.


Even more, what is being taken – its inception and evolution has often largely come about as a response to the inequity experienced by the Minority from the hands and minds and words and actions of the Majority. So the “ownership” of this Minority cultural practice is a precious source of pride, a claiming of invention and uniqueness that is delibrately intended to not be easily understood by the Majority. Comedian Richard Pryor was once asked by a White interviewer why he talks Black jive lingo so fast making it hard for a White person to understand? “Done took everything else MotherF_ _ _er.” he easily quipped.


When you don’t understand the story and the purpose and the function behind a cultural practice, that’s when your innocent imitation can become painful “appropriation”.


So how do you avoid being an appropriation ass? Avoid mimicking/borrowing/stealing badly? The answer is: “Don’t imitate what you don’t understand!” If you see or feel a cultural practice that you like and want to try out, and maybe incorporate it into your life, seek first to understand its origin story; its evolving purpose, and its meaning and effect on those who already embody it. It’s really as simple as adhering to the discipline of “all my relations”, seeing everything, every cultural practice, every art form, every recipe, as a living being worthy of your honor and respect. And then taking the time to understand its long-story, where it came from and why. Get to know it before trying to have an intimate relationship with it. Really just common sense. And good self-care.


So now TransGender – the ultimate cultural appropriation – in reverse. [A slightly satirical teachable moment.]

With full and sad acknowledgement of the dangers of being a TransGendered Person, [very high rates of depression/suicide/harassment/beaten/killed] I say TransGender is the ultimate form of cultural appropriation because we TransPeople are a tiny 0.5% minority, and we are asking the other 99.5% majority to be nice to us as we violate our culturally and legally official birth certificate and the collective cultural understanding that “men are masculine/, and women are feminine” Instead we say “I am not a woman, I am a man”, and then we go and sit with the men. Or we say, “I am not a man, I am a woman”. And then we go and sit with the women. AND we want you to accept us!

When a TransPerson imitates [or more likely spontanously emanates] the “other side” of the majority-culture’s sex/gender understanding, two reactions from the majority culture are predictable and natural:

  • The group who were born with the same gonads you were born with will revile you for betraying the group.
  • The group who you are resonating with and spontaneously emanating will feel like you are trespassing, and trying to steal/co-opt their group’s sub-culture.

“How can you possibly know what it is like to be a woman or a man, when you were not born that way, or did not grow up that way?”

It is that initial sense of indignity and annoyance that signals what “cultural appropriation” feels like – only in this instance, it is the “majority” who feels trespassed against, and it is the “minority” who is doing the trespassing. It is a very interesting teachable moment – with many subtleties.

A few weeks ago, I was raving with my usual amazement about how good it feels for me to be living trans to a very good woman friend. She said, “I love your joy and your insight into the feminine, AND you are lucky because you get to “play” being a woman.”

That word “play” stuck out for me as a bit of a sting. Even though, I have often and freely acknowledged that I didn’t come of age experiencing the pressure of young female beauty, I haven’t had to tiringly fight off perpetual and humiliating sexual harassment, I haven’t had to rise above all the cultural discounting and trivializing of women’s ideas and ways of being, and I have not been beaten, and I have not been raped. Even though I do recognize and acknowledge all that privilege, there was still this stinging feeling in me to hear that my newfound sense of authenticity of self could also be reduced to “play” in the eyes of another.

My friend wasn’t being mean. Actually, she was simply “right”. From her lifetime of lived experience and shared culture as a woman, it was easy and accurate to characterize my trans-gendered interloping as “play”, even though to me, I am feeling I am my most authentic Self.

So back to cultural appropriation: “the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture as a largely negative phenomenon.” TransPeople are inherently “cultural invaders”. We invade the largest culture of humanity – the otherwise universal culture of masculine men and feminine women.  It takes a great commitment to the Self to do this.  Fortunately, an ever-growing number of “majority” people are empathetic and supportive of the transgender experience. It is, I believe, a sign of important cultural evolution and of good things for all Humans to come.

All My Relations.


HUMANURE – compostable sawdust toilets

HumanureToilet1“There isn’t enough fresh water in world for everyone to use a flush toilet”                           Joseph Jenkins, author of: The Humanure Handbook

Note: If you are become interested in using humanure toilets you are strongly advised to read The Humanure Handbook . Humanure can be a bio-hazardous material and may contain bacteria or parasites that can cause disease in humans.

This is what a humanure toilet looks like.  It is an easy-to-construct wooden box that is exactly the same height as a commercial porcelain toilet, and it fits nicely over a readily available 5 gallon plastic bucket. You can paint and decorate your toilet box to your liking and you can use in your home [odor free!], or you can set them up outdoors for events, like parties, concerts and weddings.



Here is how it works: sawdust contains lots of carbon. Carbon absorbs odor, as in carbon air filters and carbon water filters. You pee or poo into the bucket, and then you cover it with sawdust! The carbon in the sawdust absorbs the odor. No odor means it doesn’t attract flies or vermin. It’s that simple. One bucket will last one person about one week. Keep an extra bucket or two on hand so you can swap buckets as needed.

Composting Humanure: when your bucket gets about 2/3 to 3/4 full, things begin to get too close for comfort. It’s time to empty the bucket into your carefully managed humanure compost bin.  Remember, humanure can be a bio-hazardous material containing disease causing bacteria or parasites , so your compost bin must be carefully managed to keep everyone safe. A typical humanure compost bin is an easy-to-construct bin that is usually 4’h x 4’l x 4’w. It can be a bit wider or longer, but keep the height 4 feet or less for easy dumping of your humanure buckets.

CompostSpongeHere is how composting humanure works: All plant material contains lots of carbon [not just sawdust] straw, hay, weeds, grass clippings, leaves, etc. Decide what plant material is most handy for you to use and gather a bunch of it near your compost bin.

To get started:

  1. Place about 18 inches of plant material on the bottom of your empty compost bin. This acts like a biological sponge holding the humanure  away from the soil to prevent contamination, or attracting flies or varmints.
  2. Likewise, arrange plant material around the sides of your compost bin to create a “nest”. This nest will prevent any humanure from leaking out the sides of your compost bin and prevent contamination, or attracting flies or varmints to your humanure compost bin. Now you are ready to dump the contents of your first humanure bucket into the nest in your compost bin.
  3. With one hand on the handle and one hand on the bottom of the bucket, dump the humanure into the middle of the nest inside the compost bin. Once dumped, your humanure will release a very strong odor. Use a barn fork to spread it evenly within its nest.
  4. Then cover it with more plant material until you can’t smell it any more [usually 3-5 inches of plant material is sufficient].

That’s it! Next time your humanure bucket is full and ready to be dumped, use your barn fork to pull back the plant material from the center nest to the sides of the bin until you can see the humanure pile in the bin. Then dump your fresh humanure in the middle of the nest on top of the existing pile and add more plant material to re-cover the nest. Repeat until the compost bin is too full to add any more [about 1 year], then build a second compost bin [bin #2] and start again. Allow bin #1 to cure for 1-2 years [the pile will shrink to about  half its size as it composts]. Then empty it and begin the process again while bin #2 cures.

Note: If you are become interested in using humanure toilets you are strongly advised to read The Humanure Handbook. Humanure can be a bio-hazardous material and may contain bacteria or parasites that can cause disease in humans.

Questions? Contact

Singer Report – 3rd Annual Life-for-Life Ceremony

chicken headMedicine Singer Report of 3rd Annual Life-for-Life Ceremony 2014

  Reminding us that all Life-eats-Life to Live.

 This year we were very pleased to have master hunter, Don Carlson offer many years of expertise as a Hunter and Teacher. Also new this year, our Life-for-Life ceremony included 4 training conference calls held every 2 weeks during the months of September and October. During the off weeks, the Seekers were given “homework” assignments to spend time in the woods gradually training their ability to listen the way a hunter needs to listen.  Initally, there were 9 Seekers, but as the training unfolded, scheduling conflicts caused all but 3 Seekers to step away for this year.  This is not unusual, as few People are aware of the time commitment needed to prepare oneself for the sacred hunt.

The chicken harvest (Nov 1-2) was coordinated to proceeded the archery deer hunt (Nov 3-5) so that new hunters could have the important experience of taking the life of an animal up-close-and-personal, before venturing into the more emotionally and logistically complex and impactful deer hunt. All 3 of our Seekers participated in the chicken harvest, and 1 Seeker remained for the deer hunt. (Read notes of their experiences from our Ceremony Debrief below.)

Next Year 2015 Life-for-Life Ceremony Schedule

September 13 & 27; October 11 & 25 – 4 training conference calls

October 16-18, 2015 – Chicken Harvest

October 25-Nov 1, 2015 – Archery Deer Hunt

Ceremony Debrief December 16, 2014 – 7pm Conf Call

3 rounds

  1. Global overview – what have you noticed about what you expected this ceremony experience to be like vs your Past – Present (what, if anything has shifted) – Future (what do you see yourself doing in relationship to this ceremony experience?
  2. Ceremony Experience – What worked well? What could be done differently?
  3. Appreciation Round

Round 1. Overview

StarSinger – Past: felt right to be part of the ceremony. Felt pulled to it with no expectations.

Bleeding Out

Present: it was emotional and difficult. Became so aware of Life, Beauty & Mystery. Felt the responsibility as a predator. Felt gratitude and sorrow for the chickens. I knew when it was time for me to be done with my part in the ceremony. I had the sensation of Big Aliveness! I prepared my chicken for Thanksgiving meal with my family.

Future: Big change in my around awareness of my food. More respect. Considering becoming a vegetarian. May or may not repeat the ceremony. Holding the question: “If I can’t kill a chicken – then what?”

BearWoman – Past: went into the ceremony thinking it would not be difficult for me as I had experience of hunting and trapping.

Present: When I held the chickens they relaxed, and I noticed ho ready and willing they were for their giveaway. I also noticed how the eyes of the chicken were just like the eyes of my pet parrot. Both of my chickens took a long time to die. I deeply felt this as a healing gift as the people in my life who have died have gone quickly without my presence. My chickens gave the time to be with them and witness. It was easy for me to skin the chickens. This felt familiar. On my drive home, I felt sooo horrible – “I really took a Life!”  And it was difficult for me to eat my chicken – but the flesh tasted so full of Life the I didn’t need to eat much.

Future: Now I am very conscientious about my food.  Is it fresh? I found a local butcher shop – ‘The Conscious Carnivor’ where they do all killing in house in a good way. Everyone raved about my chicken lasagna! This ceremony will work me for a long time. The constant question in my mind is: “How alive is my food?”

StillLance: Past: I knew this ceremony was something I want to do. I had done the chicken ceremony one time before, and have hunted before. I would like to find a way to personally harvest all of the meat I and my family eats.

Present: Killing the chickens was not hard for me as I know that is their purpose for having been raised.

Making Toast

Future: The sense of predator has become very strong and instinctual within me. I have an internal knowing that this is right for me, even though I have several friends who do not share this understanding and are completely against hunting and killing for food. Nothing makes me feel more alive than having a deer come into bow shooting range! I appreciate knowing everything about the meat I kill and eat. This knowing completes an important life circuit for me.

Round 2. Ceremony Design

StarSinger – appreciated the 4 training conference calls and home work which lead up the actual ceremony. The calls eased me into the ceremony, and without them it would have been too impactful and I wouldn’t have gotten as much out of the ceremony because it would have emotionally shut down.

I like that the chicken harvest was integrated with the deer hunt, as it was important for me to hear about the predator concept needed in hunting.

I appreciated the Purification Lodge (sweat) as it made the whole ceremony feel more sacred and deeper. I also appreciated that we cooked and ate some of our fresh chicken. That felt very important to do. I also appreciate this debriefing as it brings the ceremony full circle and brings a soft landing closure to a very impactful experience.

Do Differently: maybe have the conference calls earlier as I fell asleep once.

BearWoman – I appreciated the flow and the design of the ceremony and thought it went well. I was at first uncomfortable with taking my chickens for a walk with the twine leash around their legs, but once I stopped and just sat with them, they were very calm and relaxed. It became very clear to me that they knew what this ceremony was all about and they were willing to do their part.

Do Differently: after the Lodge it would have been good to have more wood as the fire was low and I got chilled. Also, wondering about the use of dry cedar on the hot stones – it got really smoky for a while.

StillLance – I appreciated the flow of the ceremony. I love the Lodge. The whole experience felt deeply honoring of all of Life for me.


Do Differently: it would be good to have an equipment list for what is needed for the Lodge as I made several trips back to the Barn for needed missing items.

Round 3 – Appreciation of the People

Everyone was deeply appreciative of our mutual willingness to enter into this “currently lost realm” of Life-for-Life cycle of reality that in an inherent and essential part of our Creation and daily Lives.

The Seekers were deeply grateful to Don for his life-time commitment to the sacred hunt and his generous willingness to share that experience with anyone who asks.

The Seekers were deeply grateful to RedHeart for his commitment to make this ceremony experience accessible to the People and for beautiful land in his care for which makes it all possible.

The Teachers, Don and RedHeart were deeply grateful for the willingness, courage and natural wisdom of the Seekers in stepping into this rarified realm of Life-for-Life.


End Debrief###





Gender ID Card – 8 aspects of gender

It is very common for many people to use the words “sex” and “gender” interchangeably. Strictly speaking, “sex” refers to biological aspects of one’s physical body. Whereas, “gender” refers to culturally accepted ways of expressing the sex of your body. Interchangeably using the words sex and gender only works if you and everyone you know is “straight” or “cis-gender”.

 [“Cis” is the Latin prefix meaning “on the same side of”. Cis-gender is the antonym of “trans-gender”, “trans” meaning “beyond or across from”].

Cis-gender people [commonly thought of as ‘normal’] naturally conform to the established or enculturated gendered ways of living, working, dressing and loving. The cis-females dress, work and love as “enculturated women”, and the cis-males, dress, work and love as “enculturated men”. On the other hand, if you or people you know – if they live, or work, or dress, or love, beyond the bounds of these enculturated “straight gender roles”, then the biological sex of their bodies may not conform to “normal” gender roles and behaviors of living, working dressing and loving. In other words, they are, in one way or another, “trans-gender”. They are living beyond the enculturated “cis or  straight-gender roles. They are living beyond the bounds of “normal”.

Today on Facebook, one can find over 56 different self-defined gender catagories. Facebook is a self-defining arena and individually people are following their hearts, their hormones, their instincts and their preferences, and allowing all of these to inform themselves about who they are on the inside, and how they are wanting to live their lives on the outside. From this highly personal and highly individual place, they are creating their own space in which they know and understand who they are inside their being, and they are using that inner experience to determine how they want to show-up outside in the world around them.

Simply put: “I am who I say I am.”

‘I am who I say I am’, can be perceived by some as a very radical statement. “You can’t just claim you are a woman, when you were clearly born into and live in a male body”. On the other hand, ‘I am who I say I am’, is also an epitome of individual freedom, and individual freedom is a keystone value of our democratic society and culture. What can be more elemental than the freedom to follow and live One’s felt inner sense of personal identity? You were born with a uterus and vagina and you want to be an astronaut and explore outer space? Go for it! You were born with testicles and a penis and you want to be a high fashion model? Go for it! You have big bones and lots of body hair and you feel most at home wearing a slinky silky skirt and full length hose? Go for it! The freedom to be who we feel inside we are called to be is fundamental to our sense of happiness and well being, both socially on the outside, and spiritually on the inside.

The value of personal freedom is so high in our democracy that  it is morally difficult for society to say, “You cannot live, dress, work or love the way that feels natural to you. Instead you must live, dress, work and love in a way that feels “unnatural” to you, because we believe it is “normal”.  The reality is, “normal” simply describes a statistical tendency for more things to be alike than different. But everything that is described as normal, is always accompanied by a smaller group of outliers on either side of normal. These outliers also inherently belong to the group, even though they are naturally and normally some what different from most members of the group. Their difference is normal. It is normal for every normal group to have non-normal outliers.

The ability of each of us to respond to our inner calling of who we experience our selves to be is essential to our experience of personal happiness and spiritual fulfillment. Simply put: You have the freedom to be who you are. And you are who you say you are. It is radical, and it is also true!

The following table may be helpful as one way of understanding the various ingredients or components comprises one’s gender identity. This model shows 8 aspects, 4 of which are external and observable, and 4 of which are internal and not publically visible, but rather a part of one’s inner experience of themselves. The subtitles in [italics] help describe the 8 aspects.

  Gender ID Card

8 aspects of gender identity

(adapted from

 External Observable Internal Experience
 Biological Sex     [Female or Male]  Gender Identity    [feel inside like a Woman or Man]
 Gender Traits   [Bone Size/Body Hair] Gender Expression  [naturally prefer and express Masculine or Feminine movements, postures, dress, work]
 Gender Roles   [Preferred work roles /  e.g. Wears the “pants” in family]  Affectional Preference   [Cis/Gay\Lesb/Bi]
 Culture’s Gender Story  [Culture Says: “This is who you are”.] Your Gender Story   [You Say: “This is who I am”.]

Some may say this list is overwhelming and too complex. Others may say it is incomplete to describe who they know themselves to be.  My hope is it is helpful to many.

 written by REDHEART