Hi, I’m Wren Walker Robbins. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m a two-spirit woman whose familial roots reside on both sides of the Conquest of the Americas, and like many of us who are part of this legacy, my traditions, those of my great grandmothers—Kahnawake or Mohawk and Scottish women—pass down to me through a fragmented lens. What I discover as I explore the traditional practices and beliefs that make up my identity inspires me to rethink spirituality and science; it offers me a map to revitalize my own spirituality and science education as it operates within a time and a place just beginning to recognize and value its own diversity.
My spiritual practice is like a tree in the wall of my life because it supports and connects everything I do. It was 18 years ago that I too began to recognize my own cultural diversity. As I started unraveling the mystery of my indigenous heritage I started uncovering the roots of my spiritual path—that of a two spirit trans woman. I had just met Maria Elaina Baca. Maria was a child of the Conquest too; her indigenous Grandmothers were Apache while her European Grandmothers were from Spain. I speak of Maria now because she deserves my respect and because her gentle prodding got me exploring my own heritage—one that I had so thoroughly denied. Maria’s presence in my life points to a powerful truth—that many of the keys to my self awareness are the people who have touched me along the way—they helped me see this big tree stuck in the wall of my life.
One day, about 16 years ago, Maria told me about a dream. I dreamt of you last night, she said, you were a beautiful woman dancing in a circle. Your skirts flew like flags through the evening breeze as your body weaved through many dancers. In that dream I knew you were castrati. At that time I was at what you might call the zenith of my manhood—I was beautiful man, I was something to look at. So I was taken back by Maria’s dream. I asked her, what the hell is a castrati?? I speak of Maria’s dream now because it deserves my respect and because it points to another truth in my life—that dreams are horizons or maps in my life. Maria’s dream spoke to my future, a future I had been working so hard to deny, from that time I started paying attention to the people in my life and the dreams that we have—I started honoring the Great Spirit in everything I saw and I started my journey as a trans woman.
It was not long after this that my life began to change so fast. I was exploring gender in my life—what was my gender? What a complex question it was… I found out that very often when I was exploring gender in my life, I was also exploring my spiritual path, and the other way too, when I entered ritual or ceremony, when I prayed, I was exploring gender—the two were interlinked elements in the journey of my life. Through this process I’ve come to be who I am, and to see that tree in the wall of my life. One of the most important things about me is that I try to connect all of the elements of my life—that who I am at work, and who I am in ceremony are the same—that who I am today, and who I am tomorrow are linked consciously, spiritually and intellectually. That link is that tree. Its roots are buried, like my ancestors, in the body of the Mother, in my experiences of nature and my community. My spiritual practice and my identity are interwoven and inseparable; they are, like my dreams, continuities that root my life in a great chain of being.