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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Angela Brightfeather, January 24, 2002. Interview K-0841. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Transgenderism, spirituality, and power

Throughout the interview, Brightfeather discusses connections between transgenderism and spirituality, particularly in reference to shamanism and deep-rooted Native American traditions. According to Brightfeather, that connection provided transgender people with a unique sort of power. As elsewhere, Brightfeather argues that that power enables transgender people to enact important changes.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Angela Brightfeather, January 24, 2002. Interview K-0841. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ANGELA BRIGHTFEATHER:
The shamans, right. They got into it deeper and deeper and deeper and when shamanism evolved, a great many of the shamans were transgender in nature.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
So, you notice this kind of spirituality in a lot of transgender people? It seems that almost transgender I talk with—I am not a very spiritual person—but a lot of transgender people seem to have a lot of spirituality around them, or a belief system related to spirituality. I think that they are in touch with the fact that they are special, but a lot of them don't know how special. They don't know how much they—how powerful that they are. I think that they gay and lesbian community in many respects has learned—and the bisexual community—has learned how powerful they are, over the last 15 to 20 years. Both politically and otherwise, with gaining their rights they know their way a little bit better. Transgender people are just not aware of how powerful they are and how far back those roots grow to having power. I can empty a men's bathroom faster than anybody has ever seen, when I am cross dressed [Laughter] because I don't have passing privilege, I know I don't. So, if I walk into a men's bathroom, it is out the door for everybody else. Either that, or it's, "Let's beat her up." You know, or "What are you doing here?" Kind of obnoxious things, so that's a lot of power, when you think about it. I can walk across a restaurant floor and I can have every single eye in that place, including all men, all women on me, just looking at me, thinking, projecting towards me all of their thoughts and all of their ideas and all of their power. Just draining themselves trying to figure out what I am, what I am doing there, and what I am made of, and why I am doing this and why I am doing that, as a shaman, as a transgender person, I feel that transgender people have always been able to absorb that incredulous ability about what people have about what they do and absorb that power and act like a sponge and be able to keep that, use that power and pass it on to other people. And I think that is where the essence of the transgender person really is. That they are those type of conveyors, transits, bridges of power, that allow power to pass through them, from them in greater quantities than a lot of other people. I think that the possibilities for transgender people recognizing that power and being able to use that are limitless, are infinite, they can change the world that we live in, which it goes back to my first statement of being able to believe that we can do that we never thought that we really could, we're able to change the world, we are able to make meaningful changes in society.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Right, which brings me back to the idea, you know, talking about some day when you were talking about one of your first transgender parties or whatever, you were out, you were going to conquer the world, and so forth. So what do you see now that you have passed a half a century, where do you see the transgender community in the United States or the south east maybe even ten years from now, twenty years from now. Now that you are more in the position of the person that you were speaking to.
ANGELA BRIGHTFEATHER:
Well, I see the southeast and the central part of America being the ones that are, the areas that are the last to come out. I think that it is similar to all of the other movements before this— [Laughter] There is no difference there.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Right, right.
ANGELA BRIGHTFEATHER:
So, we are at the point where we are talking about having our own March on Washington.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
A transgender March on Washington
ANGELA BRIGHTFEATHER:
Yeah, or having at least a Transgender veterans march to the wall. [Angela is presumably talking about the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, DC] Now how long ago did they do that with gays and lesbians?
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
They might have had that as part of the Millennium March or the other marches, but I don't know, because I didn't participate in that.
ANGELA BRIGHTFEATHER:
But we are that far behind. In all other respects, I think that we are as mature as gays and lesbians in our thoughts and our actions. The problem is being able to be together as much as we should be. Being able to consort.