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Thank you to everyone for creating a wonderful space for all! 

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I had an amazing time at queer spirit. Would definitely return! 

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There is not a moment I would not was such a wonderful time... thank you all

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 by Dylan Frances

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.’ -Anais Nin

‘Use your faults, use your defects; then you're going to be a star.’ -Edith Piaf

‘Our stories are not who we are. They are what pass through us. As light passes through stars.’ -Dolphin Starfucker

It feels as if my attendance at the 2023 Queer Spirit festival, as a steward, was the final piece in a very large jigsaw puzzle that I have been working on for many, many years now. From my early teens, I knew that there was something a little queer about me, but a combination of fear and shame made me look the other way, imagining that if I did so, for long enough, these strange and sometimes distressing feelings would all go away.

In the intervening years, while driven by a powerful, creative drive, depression and misery often got the better of me and pushed me into spaces in which I started to experiment with all and every form of healing modality and spiritual practice on the market, in order to find a cure for what ailed me.

But why did I turn away from what was a core aspect of my own authentic and unique being? Most, if not all of the spiritual paths I have traversed have suggested that we need to let go of our stories if we want to know the Truth. But before we let go of them, I think we also need to tell them, and so this is mine. 

My father, who I never got on with, was a reasonable but energetically violent man. Angry Like a volcano is angry. He was also intensely homophobic, as only those who are possibly repressing their own illicit desires, can be. Not long before he passed, we made a kind of peace between us which allowed us to agree that we had never really got each other, and probably never would, but that we wished each other well on our continued journeys. At the same time, he divulged something to me that I didn’t know. The dying often do this. He told me that the moment after I was born, my mother had lifted me above herself and exclaimed ‘Take the bloody thing away!’ And ‘the bloody thing’ was taken away and given to my maternal grandmother, who looked after me for the first 6 weeks of my life.
Later, as I was growing up, I was, on many occasions, witness to my mother’s classic ‘go to’ line with regard how she felt about me. ‘You’re not the son I wanted. You’re a complete disappointment. Why couldn’t you be normal like everybody else’s sons?’ And while social and cultural attack was always a part of my fear regarding my queerness, it was perhaps this, more than anything else that made me turn away from myself for so long, because I desperately desired my mother‘s love and approval, but more on that later.I have always sensed that one’s sexuality is profoundly connected to one’s creative drives and one’s relationship to spirit. This is life force at work. Through the body. But for me, the shame I carried within my body, and the horror I experienced at my own desires, pushed me into a space in which in many ways I just wanted to escape the physicality of my own being.

Creativity can sometimes afford us a sense of escape from the mundane, the straight and the narrow. I worked in a University for most of my adult life, as what Julia Cameron has referred to as a ‘shadow artist’. Someone who struggles to find the courage to produce work themselves, so chooses to support others. I spent many years teaching and supporting undergraduate arts and media students in the context of their practical creative work, while occasionally finding the time to continue to express myself, academically, or creatively, but always stifled by a sense of self policing and oppression, which essentially arose from the rejection of my core identification with sexuality and gender.

Because I was always convinced that there was ‘something wrong with me’ it is not surprising that I invested most of my free time and money into almost every conceivable therapeutic modality and healing path known to man, woman and the 236 different genders that come between them. I have had around six doses of long-term classic psychotherapy. Some of it talk based, some of it mildly experimental and one experience which involved a version of Reichian de-armouring.

I’ve done Vipassana retreats, reiki weekends, shamanic journeying, vision quest and soul retrieval, dipped my big toe in the work of the Osho Humaniversity, been reborn through a naked human birth canal in ceremonial Biodanza, spent two months in Bali, in an ashram, shaking up and down to loud house music, while squirting liquid tobacco up my nose, invested an absurd amount of money on an 18 month Tantra training, which turned out to be disappointingly heteronormative and a little bit boring to boot. I also have a certificate which states that I am a level one Wizard and I am currently traversing a custom made non-duality training which mixes Taoism, Buddhism, Shamanism and the work of GI Gurdjieff.


I have probably drunk enough ayahuasca to drown a small army, both here and in the UK, primarily with the Church of Santo Daime and in Peru, with an outrageously gay shaman called Javier. For anyone familiar with this medicine, you will know the joys of filling a bucket with all of the poison that our culture and society often forces us to swallow, along with the ability to move out of this world, literally. Something that has been particularly helpful for me, brought up in a culture in which the message, from an early age, was that we live in a soulless, clockwork, mechanical universe, free of all magic and wonder - so get used to it! I have so appreciated the opportunity to be in spaces, in which I could leave the mundane world behind and dance with precious and delicate beings from what I could only imagine was the fairy realm. San Pedro helped me release so much more of the poison wounding I had been carrying in my heart, and Iboga showed me (in a reclaimed scout hut in Hebden Bridge) that my soul family and ancestry is made up of magnificent self-transforming light-beings whose aesthetic genius is paralleled only by their finely tuned sense of humour.

Often occupying a space which is socially perceived as a place of ‘mental illness’ I discovered many things that helped me make sense of my experience on the road to wholeness. CPTSD (or Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a relatively new label/model which suggests that much mental illness is not illness at all, but rather a profound wounding of the central nervous system. And that it is a natural response for anyone who might consider themselves as ‘highly sensitive’ and ‘emotionally intense’. I could write much more about this and probably will one day, but essentially, I concluded that I was one of Jacob Nordby’s ‘Weird People’. The artists, the poets, the magicians, the shamans, the outsiders, and yes - the queers.

And it is they (us) who are so badly needed in the world right now, for it is they (us) who can sing a song, of transformation, that will take us into a light and loving future. 
In 2018 the University I work for, along with many, if not all of the other universities across the globe, rolled out the ubiquitous ‘corporate plan’. A new head of department asked me ‘So what is it that you believe you uniquely bring to your role here?’ And I replied (quite naïvely, I realise, with hindsight) that I brought ‘a certain emotional sensitivity to my work.’ ‘Well’ he retorted ‘ We’ll just have to kick that out of you won’t we?!’ I knew then that it was the beginning of the end of my university career and I was right. I was as good as frogmarched out of the building three years later. But again, that’s another story.
After that, I had a brief period working for a homeless hostel, but sadly, my aging mother, who on some level I was still craving to be loved and accepted by, was needing more and more care in the home, and so gradually, without really thinking about it, I became my mum‘s carer.

In early 2022 she had a stroke and what the hospital doctor’s refer to as a her ‘baseline’ changed dramatically and irreversibly. I was now a carer 24-7, and again, that is a story in itself. She sadly passed in October 2022, and in many ways it was her death that allowed me to touch base with the core of who I am in a way that I had never been able to before. For when she died, after the initial shock, the first thing I thought was - ‘I’m next’ - and it was then that I decided that I didn’t want to die, having never fully explored the truth of who I am. After all, having spent my entire adult life trying to convince myself that I was straight, I really hadn’t done a very good job of it and still wasn’t convinced.

And so that’s why I came to the festival. And it was fantastic and fabulous. Because finally I was able to grant myself the permission I needed to be queer. To be me. To just be.
In all of my travels and all of the modalities I have explored over the years, healing, spiritual or otherwise, I do not think that I have ever encountered such acceptance, such love, such a heart-opening community and such a plenitude of courage and life-affirming wonder than I did at Queer Spirit. And it moved me, to tears.


At the festival, I made many beautiful new connections. I spent some time in the Temple and took audience with Quill, acting in his role as queer pastor. It was quite early on in the proceedings and I felt completely out of my depth and appreciated his ability to hold space for me and support me in exploring what was arising. We talked for some time and I explained that this was not only my first Queer event, but really the first time I had ever consciously chosen to look at these aspects of myself in a more accepting light. I explained that I was unsure about where I situated myself with regards my (dis)orientation to gender identification and sexuality, but went on to say that if I was honest, the best way to describe what I felt was to suggest that I am a in fact a profoundly magical creature, shoehorned into a human meat suit. Quill responded ‘That is possibly the most trans thing you could say.’ And these words opened the portal of my heart and something that had been stuck and calcified for so many years started to melt.

During my time on the edges of the shamanic community I had become familiar with the Native American idea of ‘two-souls’ and how those of us who experience different degrees of gender fluidity, because we have transcended the cultural dictate (and taboo) that ‘men must be men and women must be women’ also generally find it much easier than most to transcend the duality of matter and spirit. Through both a mixture of short exchanges and his talk at the festival, I was delighted to see how Shokti was fully immersed in this way of thinking, that he had obviously done some excellent research and that for me, all of my hunches were starting to pay off as a profoundly deep truth. That we are magical creatures, divine, holy and here as one very positive answer to healing the world’s many ills. And that for me is the key that opened the door to liberation. It was on the lips of Shokti for much of the festival. That the transgression of culturally constructed gender roles facilitates the ability to move beyond those roles, and this is as much a spiritual calling as it is a question of identity.

I don’t know that I am any more certain of my own identity than I was when I first arrived at the festival, but what has changed for me is my ability to be way more at peace with the contradictions. I have thought about this and reflected upon it since I returned home, and I’ve reached the conclusion that if I am transitioning myself, then it is a transition not from one gender to another, but from the mundane to the magical. And while I have every respect for the journey, the trans-men and trans-women have to take, with such courage and fierceness of spirit, and would champion them at every turn, I feel, at least for now, relatively comfortable in the body I was given, or at least as comfortable as anyone can be, if they are indeed a magical being, shoehorned into a human meat suit. For me ‘trans’ suggests to go beyond the binary opposites into magical space, liminal space, a space in which all things are possible. All things can flow through me. I am a portal for everything. A mystery within an eternity. A wild, pure heart.
That said, I am also a stocky, hairy bloke who a new friend I made at the festival described to his husband as a ‘typical South London geezer, only with so much more.’ I used to see this as a real handicap. As an adolescent I so wanted to be tall and slender, with high cheekbones. But now I see my ‘geezerness’ as a positive advantage. It’s my superhero disguise. My Clark Kent. And I love the fact that no one knows just how much more is going on behind my skin, unless I choose to share it with them.


Towards the end of the festival, I reflected upon how many people I had found desirable, in so many ways, and so many different permutations of gender. And I was able to do this because I had myself opened in ways that I could not have imagined were possible in the past. And I fell in love. Okay, I’ll be real about that. I met someone who I was utterly infatuated with in a way that (with a little wisdom) you come to see is mostly about falling in love with yourself. Something to do with coming into your truth, coming out to the world and seeing so much of your own magic mirrored to you. .
A young trans-woman who embodied power, beauty, creativity, intelligence in such a way, as it moved my spirit. She sat around the fire on the final night, with friends, and I did something I don’t know that I’ve ever done in my life before. I found the courage to take myself to sit next to her and open up a conversation, which my stifling self-consciousness would normally have nipped in the bud long before any actual action had been taken. And while I landed next to her with all the grace of an elephant falling out of a tree, I am still, to this day, blown away by her beauty, not just a superficial skin, deep beauty, but a beauty of the soul. A fierceness and a vulnerability, all wrapped into one.

Sadly, she left soon after I arrived. I do hope it wasn’t something I said? And I found myself sitting at the front row at the fire right at the centre of things. This is not my way. I’ve always felt to be an outsider. Traumatised, misunderstood and hiding behind my favourite Groucho Marx quote - ‘I’d never join a club that would have me as a member.’ But here I felt genuinely welcomed, accepted, comfortable, as if I had come home. And I probably would’ve stayed sitting in that space for much, much longer, if it hadn’t been for the fact that my shoes had started to melt.

And after every expansion, there must always follow a contraction. And so, what now? A deep desire to fully inhabit the truth of myself, sans shame and the toxic curse of self-hate. I crave connection and community. Connection and community that can help support and nurture this great adventure that I now find myself on. That we are all on together. After so many years of shame and self loathing, isolation and loneliness, I just may have finally found my family. My tribe. You see I need people in my life who will help me continue to see and bring out the best in me. A warrior of the heart ready to stand firm and protect and stand up for all that is vulnerable, beautiful and true in the world.

I used to think sometimes that all of the therapy and healing and spiritual work that I had committed to was a waste of time, but now I see that it was all leading me here. I was being ripened. For the more we are able to compassionately hold space for ourselves, the more we can create space in which others can flourish. As Ram Dass once said - ‘I want to be a space in which every one I meet can grow.’
And so I have learned that one should never underestimate the importance of inner work and the healing effect it can have on the world. For if we are to save ourselves and look after (steward) this planet, I believe that a positive outcome much depends upon our ability to hold a nurturing, nourishing, warm and loving space for ourselves and for each other. Just like we did in that field in Devon.


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