drumming females

theunicornsuccubus  asked:

Hello! If you're still in the mood for questions, and you're comfortable talking about it, I would love to hear more about your experiences in the religion as a trans woman. I'm really interested in the religion myself, and I'm trans (nonbinary) and I haven't found a lot of information on the religion from a trans perspective, so I would love to hear anything you're comfortable talking about. :D

Sure. So, it’s a complicated situation and really depends on the house that you’re in. Before I get into how we’re treated today, let’s talk history a bit first.

The religion itself is not anti-trans. It actually has a long reputation as being a haven for LGBT people in general, and some people estimate as much as 40-60% of Lukumi Orisha priests are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trans. You literally can’t swing a chicken without hitting someone gay. This reputation started in the 19th Century, and Cuban newspapers ran racist articles and cartoons making fun of the religion for being full of homosexuals - causing a backlash from straight men, many of them Babalawos and Paleros (two types of priest who can, at least according to the official party line, only be straight men). A lot of straight male Lukumi priests avoid being mounted by Orisha, because of its implied (homo)sexual connection - and gay priests are said to mount spirits more easily due to this same connection. That backlash is really important for understanding how trans people are treated in the religion.

In Cuba, whether we like it or not, the religion absorbed Catholic sexual mores, though it still remained a much more queer-friendly place than anything outside the religion.

It’s worth also noting that in Yorubaland, some of the “male” priests of Oshun, Shango, and Oya would “ritually cross-dress” for the rest of their lives - plaiting their hair in female styles, taking on female names, and even marrying husbands - as part of their initiation. I have one photo of such a priest from the 1960s, and there’s a fascinating book about this called Sex and the Empire That Is No More by J. Lorand Matory that I highly recommend. I believe that some “female” priests of Shango also ritually cross-dressed and became men, as well, so it’s not just people we would call trans women.

All that said, while gays and lesbians are totally normal within the Lukumi religion, trans people have become a sticking point over the past twenty years. While trans people have always been able to be involved, that involvement has a few areas of intense debate among priests.

The first is clothing. In Lukumi, male and female priests are treated mostly the same, though there are a small number of tasks only male priests can do (and a smaller number only female priests can do), although women essentially rule the religion in Ocha-centric houses (houses that deal with Oriates rather than Babalawos). The real difference between men and women is simply clothing - male priests wear pants during initiation and at fundamento drums, whereas female priests wear long skirts (and bloomers). So many Orisha priests question what to do with trans people, particularly during initiations and fundamento drummings. Do we wear pants or skirts based on our genitals? Or based on our identities? It’s very controversial to let trans people wear clothing based on our identity rather than our birth assignment - so much so that when my original Godfather was trying to make my Ocha, many people slammed the door in our faces. However, this has changed in a major way since that time, and it’s becoming very common for trans people to wear the clothing they are most comfortable with. In my house, there are now tons of trans people, and we’ve all been initiated in clothing we’re comfortable with. I was initiated in a dress. But there are still some houses that will not do this because of tradition.

The next thing is hormonal and surgical changes. Any change to the human body of an Orisha priest is controversial. This is because when you become a priest, your body is no longer your own - it becomes your Orisha’s. So, during the 1970s-90s, even getting tattoos or piercings was controversial after initiation. This has changed a lot, although most people will still ask their Orisha’s permission before any kind of change, including surgery. Some people try to argue that changing our sex goes against the body Obatala made for us, and that the Orisha will be offended. This is absolutely not true. However, it is true that Orisha may say no to certain surgeries, or you may have to bargain with your Orisha for them. It’s like talking to your parents about surgery - they may disapprove (on an individual basis) but at the end of the day it’s your body and, like the best parents, the Orisha will still love you anyway.

That said, the Orisha has never, ever said anything negative to me or any other trans person I know in the religion about the fact that we’re trans. Much to the contrary in fact! Ochosi came down at a drum just a couple of weeks ago and talked about how our ilé (house) is revolutionary because we accept “the community” and that we’re doing the right thing. The Orisha have little patience for human hang ups, like transphobia, because they only care about people’s character. If you show up with a heart full of love, and work hard, and try your best to follow their advice? Then they’re happy. That’s all it takes. They do not care about your genitals, except insofar as you remain healthy.

The third thing is: which Orisha can trans people be marked to. So, this is much less of an issue today, but it used to be a big issue. Some people used to say that trans people could only be marked to a specific road of Obatala called Alagemo - the chameleon. I’m sure you can guess the justification there. Others would say we could only become priests of Obatala because Obatala owns all “deformed” bodies, due to the pataki in which he gets drunk while making human bodies and thus creates “deformities.” (I don’t like to use this word because it seems negative and cruel - when I tell this story myself, I prefer to say that he makes different bodies.) But this, in my opinion, is hogwash. Trans people can have any Orisha for their head Orisha - I know trans priests of Oshun, Yemaya, Shango, Obatala, Aganju, Oshanla, Inle, and more!

Now, as for the cosmology of the religion itself, it actually has wonderful things to say about trans people. Firstly, there are a number of Orisha who are androgynous or live part of the year as each gender. Inle and Olokun are notoriously androgynous, for example. And Orisha such as Logun Ede and Laro live part of the year as men and part of the year as women. More importantly, there is Ideu (Idowu), the child born after twins. Here’s the pataki of Ideu.

After Oshun had had her twins, the Ibeji, taken away from her, she lost everything. She was inconsolable. She cried all day and all night. All she wanted in life was a child. Finally, after some struggle, she became pregnant again and had a little boy, Ideu. Ideu brought the love and happiness and wealth back into her. He was the light of her world. Oshun was overjoyed. However, Obatala had just found out that Ogun had raped his mother Yembo, Obatala’s wife, creating rape for the first time in the world. Obatala, the normally cool and calm Orisha, went into a fury and declared that he was going to kill all male children to prevent rape from ever happening again. He went from house to house, killing all the boys he found. Someone came and warned Oshun. Oshun was distraught! This innocent baby, Ideu, had given her her happiness back and she loved him more than anything in the world. She couldn’t let Obatala kill him. So, Oshun being a very resourceful woman, she set about sewing a skirt. She put the skirt on Ideu and when Obatala arrived, she told him that she’d just given birth to a daughter and didn’t have any male children at all. Satisfied, Obatala left. From that day forward, Oshun raised Ideu as a girl in order to save her life. Many Orisha priests to this day make a small skirt for the male doll that is received with Ideu, to honour the fact that Ideu is now a girl.

This story is the genesis of trans people in Lukumi cosmology, in my opinion. The take away here is that Oshun loves trans people so much that she’ll do anything to protect us. And, in my experience of Oshun, this is very true.

So, to conclude: the Orisha love us just as we are, but how you get treated as an individual will depend on which house you join. Some houses are more accepting than others, but in general things are rapidly improving in most houses. You will have a better experience in most Ocha-centric/Oriate-centric houses than you will in most Babalawo-centric houses, but again it’s very individual and there are Babalawo-centric houses that are wonderfully accepting and Ocha-centric houses that are unfortunately not. Go where you will be loved, don’t put up with being treated as second-best or inferior. The Orisha don’t want anyone to be treated badly - they love all of their children.


Cindy Blackman (Lenny Kravitz) - Let’s begin with one of my biggest influences behind the kit. Cindy Blackman is not only one of the most BA drummers of all time, she’s also married to my favorite band leader of all time (Carlos Santana). This woman transcends stylistic boundaries, locks it in the pocket like it’s nobodies business, and not to mention that hair-do is pretty BA as well! Hahaha.


On a completely different note than last time, here’s something not depressing!
In the Stanley Parable Discord chat, we created the best possible AU: a band AU. Narrator is on guitar and vocals, Stanley plays the drums , the Curator/Female Narrator plays the keyboard/piano (and possibly backup vocals), Mariella plays the banjo, and Line™ plays the bass (they’re a “bass line”! …. please laugh I’m very witty and funny).


Lucian - Need U (ft. LIA)


I have this weird theory that if you’re a female drummer. When asked “What is your favorite part about playing the drums?” and your answer is not “Helping little girls break down the stereotype that drums are only for boys and showing them just how badass they can be when playing them.” Then maybe it should be. I love watching the excitement in a little girls eyes when I tell her “You want me to show you a little something on the drums?” It’s one of the best feelings really. Because that moment helps her realize that she can do what any boy can.

Tae, Hongbin, Wonwoo… I’m starting to see a trend in my singing preferences. Rough, deep voices?


WE ARE FURY - Signal Fires (ft. Alina Renae)


Era Istrefi - Redrum (feat. Felix Snow)