In a little under a week and a half my partner and I will be off to Pagan Spirit Gathering, a weeklong Pagan music festival/camping trip down in southern Illinois. I went to it last year and then several years ago to the weekend version of it (this isn't available anymore but it was a good stepping stone for me while it lasted). Here I'm going to introduce some planning stuff, what workshops I'm excited about, and some gender-related hesitations and anxieties I have.
Most of the planning for this is already complete, and I've been starting to Tetris the stuff into the car. Said car Tetris probably won't be as big of a problem as last year, because I hadn't taken the Saturday off the day before the event and had left myself zero time to pack. This year I took off that Saturday for any last-minute stuff, I'll be spending the night at my parents to cut an hour off the drive, and I've already gotten a good idea of what things I won't need when I'm there. So hopefully I won't be in a rush and me and Nakiiya can get on the road right away. Last year I left at like 10:30 in the morning, which is way too late.
I'm anticipating that we will have a really sweet campsite as long as people don't steal my spot from last year; I wound up in the middle of this open-sun camping area that nobody else wanted to camp at, and it turned out to be perfect because it was equally close to everything and had fewer ticks than other places. So I had this really nice, open area all to myself.
(That reminds me, I need to find something to do about ticks. I have a natural bedbug spray I might bring, it has the same essential oils that would be used to repel ticks. The only problem is I now associate the smell of geranium with a bedbug infestation I suffered, so it makes my skin crawl when I smell it.)
I invested in a couple things I'll be able to use next year (and I fully intend to, at least as long as I'm well-employed, going to PSG every year going forward). The fanciest was a portable fire ring (I used bricks last year which took up a lot of space and weighed down the car). I got some good chairs, Nakiiya got a grill. I'm bringing some fire starters because finding kindling was not easy last year in my location.
A new thing this year is I'm bringing decorations, which is a big part of Pagan camping culture. I have a big purple wall-hanging to drape over the tent and am considering maybe getting a chalkboard sign or something. No idea if that will come to fruition.
I really pared down the ritual tools I'll be bringing. Last year in a panic I brought my entire big orange crate of ritual stuff, which took up loads of space. It worked out for me last year as it contained everything I needed for the activities I forgot to plan about, but it won't work space-wise this year. I always have the instinct to want to bring ALL the ritual tools, because I have the mentality that having them in highly magickal spaces will charge them, but I rarely use anything but my statues and offering dishes (and some candles and incense) so it makes no sense to pack a bunch. Plus, if I do, I can't buy any from artisans and have space to bring them home.
Speaking of which, I think I want a drum. I saw very nice drums at the mall recently that I can afford and that aren't tiny, so I may make a last-minute trip there when I get paid.
Finally, I've decided--by "decided" I mean I already knew last year that this is totally my thing--that I'm going to be a healer again for my work shift. It felt super fulfilling last year to be able to use my healthcare knowledge, and since I'm aspiring to be a street medic it's excellent experience to me. I actually took twice the work shift time I was required to last year, just because a healer was needed and I happened to be available. I'll also be donating some glucose tablets, I think, because last year during my two shifts I had a lot of diabetics show up with blood sugar issues. That reminds me, I should make some sole water for the electrolytes (not for the first aid tent, which should have electrolyte tablets).
Workshops and Events I'm Looking Forward To
Last year I forgot about the exchange so I gave one of the wands I incidentally brought in my big orange crate.
I have a couple gnomes for the gnome exchange (one for me, one for Nakiiya)... one was the gnome I acquired at the gnome exchange last year, the other I got at Goodwill recently. I actually brought last year's gnome on accident; I had a little flowerpot gnome that I was using to represent Earth in some fairy magick thing I was doing and it was, of course, in my large orange crate.
Somebody picked that gnome up right away, probably because it's small and they wanted to conserve space.
There's going to be a queer ritual put on by the Rainbow center folks; I volunteered to represent trans people in it although if there is a trans-feminine person who goes and wants that position I'd give it up (I know at least one trans woman will be there because of an event that's occurring for her but I don't know if she's into the idea of being in this kind of ritual). I think other than the lesbian representative the speaking parts are dominated by guys. I already got my inspirational ritual moment last year by participating in the main ritual.
The trans programming looks good this year, it's all put on by a pair of nonbinary folks I met my first PSG. I don't want to go to all of their workshops but I'll probably go to some, and definitely the magenta luncheon which is for trans folks. They improved the luncheon from last year by making it for trans folks and not just about trans folks (I still need to ask the organizers if my partner can attend this; my impression is that it's set up the way it is not necessarily as a "trans only space" but because last year it was dominated by cis people who wouldn't shut up). There will also be a daily "gender liberation check-in" I'll probably go to.
I'm looking forward to the men's ritual. I don't identify as 100% male as I did last year, but I definitely identify as mostly male or at least culturally male, so I feel I count. I'll talk about some related anxieties in the next section.
As far as general workshops I'm interested in... if it's anything like last year I'll probably wind up not going to most of them and only going to like one workshop a day (especially if it's super hot and I just stay in the lake!) but there are several I'm interested in. There's one on Dionysos I'm interested in (Dionysos being one of the gold standard cult Gods for gender variant people), a Tarot workshop (I "know" how to read Tarot but I don't practice enough), a polyamory/nonmonogamy discussion, and a couple others. I'm still deciding whether or not to go to the fiberphiles meetup (I do knit and crochet).
The Hesitations and Anxieties
I may have mentioned a while ago that PSG last year was a big part of my evolving gender identity; it's basically the only place I feel reasonably comfortable topless around strangers in spite of my lack of top surgery and my expression changes a lot while I'm there (mostly because it's really hot that far south compared to what I'm used to). I take it as a huge opportunity to dress differently than I normally would (notably, wearing less clothing than usual).
I'm actually very comfortable with my body as itself, due to divergent philosophy about manhood, femininity, and the origin of transness, but I'm also a product of culture like everyone else, so the prospect of people's opinions of me is scary... I can't go into a mode where I don't care what people think, and to make matters worse, the Pagan community in particular has some very deep strains of rabidly transphobic crap. To give a mild example, last year I was at a vendor and had this whole mess of stuff that I was going to get (I was looking for some very specific things they had) and I overheard the people running the stand start going on and on about how the trans woman who brought up the exclusionary women's ritual a couple years earlier has been "looking for her fifteen minutes of fame" and some other insufferable garbage. I didn't buy anything there, but seriously, it can be total garbage at times. And I get off light, as a trans man (the men's mysteries folks are less exclusionary than the women's mysteries folks), somebody who passes fairly well (so nobody knows I'm trans right away), and somebody who--although genderqueer and gender non-conforming--doesn't really require myself to be treated different from any other men (my pronouns are easy to remember, I'm unbothered by being called "dude" or "man" or "guy"). The nonbinary folks who use neo-pronouns or singular they, or who don't fit at either of the gender mysteries rituals, wind up feeling very alienated.
Because I'm aware of the level of alienation, being very openly queer-bodied in the way I am is a stressor, even if I do want the same freedom as everyone else. Last year I spent a lot of time outside of clothes, but it was mostly at night or right by my campsite, and mostly I was "lightly clothed" with sarongs. Every year I also intend to go to the skyclad ritual, but never do, because I'm very nervous about it. I suspect it may be easier with my partner there (confidence is half the key, after all) but we'll see.
Another issue I'm slightly worried by is if I wind up triggering any other trans folks, but the reality is that how we deal with people who are triggered by just the physical configuration of somebody's body is very nuanced, and denying myself the right as a trans person to carry myself and dress like a cis person would in this situation is unfair and cissexist in and of itself.
Part of me is probably just scared I'll wind up being the conversation somebody else hears at a shit vendor.
We'll cross these bridges when we get to them, I guess.
(Also, no way I'm swimming in clothes.)