Clucky the Two-Spirit Chicken
A friend of mine told me some time ago that many tribes of Africa and Native America have the various words for people born not 100% masculine or feminine. One such word is a term of respect; the Two Spirit is respected as having great, special wisdom, and is indeed often a shaman.
I, my friends, have met a chicken-shaman.
My artist-friend Bill Christman trucks in all forms of junk. The heavier and weirder the better. He turns the junk of the world into beautiful things. His work reminds me of Howard Finster, but without all the preaching written on it. He is the guy responsible for the Museum of Mirth at the City Museum.
One of the more noticeable of his works is the giant chicken outside of his art-gallery/concert venue, Joe’s Café.
One of the less noticeable things is Clucky. On first glance, Clucky looks like any other chicken, hatched in someone’s backyard near Mr. Christman, among other, regular fowl. But hatching with both male and female characteristics soon caused Clucky trouble with the other chickens; they pecked confusedly at Clucky when normal gender protocols were not followed. Clucky retaliated, first by fighting back, then by running away.
Clucky found a home in Bill Christman’s garden of sculptural wonders, a loner, King/Queen of a fabulous, noncompetitive paradise, where no one except the squirrels or pigeons competed for the food the humans provided.
I have never met a more well-adjusted, calm-looking chicken in my life.
With all the brouhaha about gender-neutral bathrooms, and about transgender people in the military, it seems like a good time to bring up Clucky. This bird has a brain the size of a peanut; this means that there is no room for idle deliberations about gender expression. Clucky knows about not being a regular chicken, and not being accepted by the other chickens. Clucky had no choice about hatching with both heel-spurs and egg-laying apparatus. Nonetheless, Clucky has found a place to live in peace.
In the Gospel of Thomas 22, Jesus, upon seeing some babies nursing, remarks; “What these little ones who are nursing resemble is those who enter the kingdom.” They said to him “So shall we enter the kingdom by being little ones?” Jesus said to them “when you make the two one, and make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside and the above like the below, and that you might make the male and the female be one and the same, so that the male might not be male nor the female be female… an image in place of an image— then you will enter the kingdom”
Matthew 8:3 says, relatedly, “Assuredly I say to you, unless you change and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
My interpretation of Jesus’ words is that our souls are what matter, and that the form of our bodies has nothing to say about the state of our souls. The things that disgust certain cultures about the body have nothing to do with what is inside us. Our bodies are temples, but they are also dust; just vehicles for our souls. So why do we fight so hard against believing in those who have “atypical” bodies? They had no choice in the matter any more than Clucky did. I have always been drawn to people who are “atypical” (I prefer a term like “less common”) whether they were gay, bi, trans, effeminate, extra-masculine, gender dysphoric, etc. I have never felt the disgust towards them that other people seemed to feel… I felt only awe and respect for their strength and wisdom in dealing with the cruelty rained on them by others. I am involved with the gay-straight alliance at my school and the kids know I am safe to talk to; I have had a great number of students who did not fall into rigid gender roles. They appreciate that I work to make my classroom a safe space for them to be whatever they are.
The Gay Men’s Health crisis of the 80s was a horrible, horrible, horrible thing. But it had exactly one good outcome. People could no longer deny the existence of gay men, as they died by the thousands. They were real and they deserved human kindness; no one could claim that they didn’t exist. I think that Trump’s calling attention to transgender people is similar. The immediate outcome of these issues may be for good or ill, but at least now no one can deny that two-spirit people exist; they are not figments of the imagination. They are not crazy, and they are not “making it up”. They are real. I know quite a few, and all those I know are beautiful inside and out. Many cultures, including the Greeks (think of Sophocles’ Tiresias) acknowledged that twin-spirits not only existed, but had special wisdom to impart. Clucky taught me something. Let us have ears to hear all those we can learn from.