Queering Herbalism: Why Hello, Hello!.
I’m Toi, a community organizer for food, health and economic justice. I’m also an artivist, a healer and a visionary. My commitment to being an organizer and activist for social justice for my community and my on-going passion for and ancestral ties to healing work has led me to pursue a path as an herbalist. As many may know, there aren’t many (visible) herbalists of color in the U.S.- especially in Austin, TX. Medicine today is also not always affordable and is inaccessible and toxic. I’d like to be part of the alternative to our inefficient American medical system.
I started this blog because I get really bored not having much cultural context in the carefully crafted “herbal revolution.” C’mon- people of color are responsible for a lot of the botanical knowledge we have today and not many are really saying this. Not many folks who are writing these popular books on herbalism are committed to trying to know more about the true (her)story. I’m interested in knowing more about the healing work of our ancestors and rediscovering, restoring and reclaiming their healing legacy. While it’s great to learn about western herbalism- the very eurocentric view is not really my cup o’ tea. *pun intended. I am interested in the work of curanderas, medicine women and men, sangomas, inyangas, and other indigenous healers who work with plants and herbs and spiritual/emotional/physical/ and mental health.
As a queer-identified, gender non-conforming herbalist, I am also interested in the ways that two-spirited and gender variant healers have been involved in the healing of their communities throughout generations. It is said that in the past, queer and transgender folks were often healers in their societies. In past research I’ve found that two-spirited, gender non-conforming people have a long past as healers. (Leslie Feinberg’s Transgender Warriors is a good resource.)
Being between genders- neither male or female, or maybe being both, was thought to be a gift in the past, and still is considered sacred in some societies today.
In many “shamanic” traditions, there was the idea that combining the characteristics of both sexes and both genders could connect one to a transcendent spiritual realm. Two-spirited folks were messengers of the Creator, visionaries, dream interpreters, keepers and teachers of spiritual principles, and medicine people. They were called on to do burials, bless unions and births and perform other ceremonies. Because they embodied both Mother Earth and Father Sky and held both a masculine and feminine heart within their souls (two spirits), they were perceived as having twice the power.
They were thought to be more able to be fair and to be able to see into the hearts of males and females. Since they inhabited both masculine and feminine in one body they were thought to be able to “see” with both the eyes of men and women. This made them mediators and bridges. They were also seen as mediators between two worlds- that of Spirit and the human world, as well as between partners, tribe, and nations. In older world religions, the gods and goddesses in-between genders were viewed as whole-gendered and therefore balanced.
As I do this work I am honoring both my ancestors and my predecessors. I will document my journey here as I research and practice the oldways and come into my path as a healer.
Here is the vision I am co-creating:
I’m using the knowledge I gain from my community herbalist program to provide much needed healing to communities far under-served by “modern medicine” because of race, gender, sexuality, ability and lack of funds/economic status. I will build with other holistic healers- herbalists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, yoga and movement instructors, and other spiritual healers to assist in the healing of communities of color, the queer community, and low-income communities on all levels- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I will not only assist in healing, but also pass on knowledge through skillshares and freedom schooling so that this wisdom is reclaimed and made accessible to the People. My emphasis once again is on affordable, holistic care for low- income folks, especially those who are of color and also those who are queer/LGBT.
I am asking for love offerings to complete my community herbalist program in order to do much-needed healing work in our community. Please go here for more info.
I’m looking forward to traveling with you on this journey. Stop by from time to time. I will post more of my story soon.
Love, Healing, and Solidarity,