at a wedding in Delhi

One of the most amazing experiences of my journey into womanhood occurred when I attended a wedding in Delhi.

The bride knew me before I transitioned, but immediately embraced my identity as Emily when I announced it. We quickly became extremely good friends, and I therefore eagerly attended her wedding when the time came. I was so happy for her that I even wrote a string quartet for the couple to celebrate their union:

The wedding rituals we performed during the two-day ceremony appeared more gendered to me than those of the American weddings I’ve attended. The women did many activities together with the bride, such as application of henna (see my hands on the photo below) and the anointing of saffron, while (presumably—I wasn’t there so I can’t confirm) the groom participated in activities with the men.

What stands out for me is that the women fully embraced me as one of their own, allowing me full participation in their rituals, knowing full well that I was biologically male. Result: An extremely happy moment in my life. Core validation!

After the anointing of saffron, still among women only, we danced to Bollywood songs for about half an hour. Felt very spontaneous.

Today I watched Kaouthar Darmoni’s TEDx talk “Dare to be feminine for guts sake!” (below). She begins by telling a story about growing up in Tunisia where women would gather together, away from men, and simply dance. She then describes how this practice traces back to Mesopotamia 4,000 years ago. Perhaps the dance ritual I participated at the Delhi wedding described above traces back that far; perhaps it inspired the Mesopotamians, or perhaps the Mesopotamians inspired it.

But I realized immediately upon starting this video that I participated in something ancient and profound.

prophet with a lowercase “p”

‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. – Acts 2:17 NIV

So I don’t believe these are the “last days” as the above verse implies. But I do believe that God speaks through each and every one of us, essentially making us prophets in the barest sense. I call those who embrace this experience “prophets with a lowercase ‘p’”. (Uppercase “P” is reserved the big ones like Moses).

But let’s look at two individuals that I view as modern prophets with a capital “P”: Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

I visited the Baha’i faith’s Lotus Temple in Delhi last December, and engaged in a fascinating discussion with one of their holy men (every one of the many spiritual leaders I spoke to in India was a man). He said that God regularly sends (capital “P”) prophets as needed to respond to changing times and to correct humanity’s course. So I asked him if he considered Gandhi and Dr. King prophets. He said no because they did not work miracles—they did not control the elements. I argued back that their social achievements were much more important and much more miraculous than controlling the elements. But I guess people want fancy signs from the supernatural before they’ll see direct evidence of liberation.

In my work to write in support of the transgender community, I’m going for lowercase “p” here. I’m not trying to be Gandhi or Dr. King, but I am working hard to courageously deliver some of our community’s truths to the world.