Requiem for the trans dead, movement seven

VII. An ancient dirge

On this night, on this night,
every night and all,
fire and fleet and candlelight,
and gods receive your souls.

If shoes and stockings
were taken away,
at the first gate
put them on

If skirt or trousers
were taken away
at the second gate
put them on

If shirt or blouse
were taken away,
at the third gate
put them on

If hat or wig
were taken away,
at the fourth gate
put them on

If jewels or gauds
were taken away,
at the fifth gate
put them on

If cash and cards
were taken away,
at the sixth gate
take them up

If hungry and thirsty
you may be,
at the seventh gate
there waits for thee

food and drink
fire and friends
light and a guide
on this night

on this night
every night and all
gates stand open
for the trans dead
gods receive your souls


Requiem for the Trans Dead, movement five

V. Communion

Lux aeterna
May light eternal shine on the trans dead
and may the light of judgment shine upon their murderers.
May light eternal shine on the path they take
and may the light of condemnation shine upon their bullies.
May light eternal shine for them, a beacon in their darkness,
and may light like a laser search the consciences of the bigots.
Light can be a blessing, sunlight, moonlight,
a candle in the darkness, a string of tiny bulbs,
but light can also be a curse, probing, searing,
burning, cauterizing the wound so it will not bleed.
May the dead walk safely into the light.
May the living walk safely under the light.
May the guilty find no rest, only the torment of light.
When there is justice, then may the trans dead
rest and remain in peace.

Requiem for the Trans Dead, movement four

IV. Offertorium

Domine Jesu Christe, Rex Gloriae

O Antinous, Liberator of souls,

Navigator of the Boat of Millions of Years,

Lover and beloved of the queers, the homos,

the fags, the dykes, the trannies,

the green carnations and the pink stars:

Deliver the souls and spirits, the bones and shades

of the trans dead from the wandering road,

from the unhallowed place.

May Panprosdexia lead them

out of the deepest pit.

May Pancrates rescue them

from the lion’s mouth.

May Paneros draw them

from the bottomless lake.

May Panpsyche guide them

through the restless winds.

May Panhyle protect them

and their bodies’ resting-place.

O Antinous, beautiful, just, benevolent,

gather them aboard

your Boat of Millions of Years

and take them to the afterlife

of their heart’s desire.


Hostia et preces

To the gods we offer sacrifice and prayers

on behalf of the trans dead, remembered

and unremembered, to all the gods

in all the heavens, in all the hells,

in every purgatory and limbo, on behalf

of all the souls, male or female or both

or neither, that they may be welcomed

onto the Boat of Millions of Years

and taken to the afterlife

of their hearts desire.

Requiem for the Trans Dead, movement three

III. Sequentia

Dies irae, dies illa
This is the day of my wrath
this is the day of my trembling
this is the day when it all goes to hell
this hell on earth
this man behind the podium
this moment
this is what all the prophets were prophesying
this is the day the oracles feared
this is the day of victory
and defeat
and in silence and trembling
I call on the armies of the dead
to overthrow the rule of the fathers

Confutatis maledictis
Confusion to our enemies, my friends
Confusion to the evildoers
Confusion to the patriarchs and the patriarchy
Confusion to men who think that only they are human
Confusion to men who hate women
Confusion to men who hate men they think are womanly
Confusion to the sexists, confusion to the racists
Confusion to the wealthy, confusion to the greedy
Confusion to the bishops and priests and popes
Confusion to the doctors and lawyers and judges
Confusion to all who harm children
Confusion to those who make of gender a prison
Confusion to our enemies, my ancestors, my children
Let there be an army of the dead
surrounding the towers of the mighty
Let there be a hosting of ghosts
Let this be judgment day

Judicando homo reus
In the name of the dead, I judge you
In the name of the trans women who were murdered
because they were not “real” women
I judge you
In the name of the trans men who were murdered
because they were not “real” men
I judge you
In the name of the dead whose obituaries
printed the name and gender chosen for them by others,
I judge you
In the name of the dead who died nameless,
I judge you
In the name of the suicides
who died to escape the unending bullying,
I judge you
Priests and doctors without discernment
Fathers and mothers without understanding
Demons in human form without empathy, without compassion
In the name of the trans dead
and of the queer dead
and of the dead women
and the dead children
and the extinct animals
and the vanished plants
and the poisoned waters, air, and earth
I judge you
I judge you
I judge you
and I am not the only one

Requiem for the Trans Dead, movement two

II. In memoriam et Absolve Domine

In memoria æterna erit iustus,
ab auditione mala non timebit
The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance
but you have been forgotten
you have been called unrighteous
iustus, the just man, the righteous man,
iusta, the righteous woman, sancta, the holy,
sanctus, a saint, but you have been called
unrighteous, unholy, unjust, unworthy
in English we must choose our pronouns
gender lies in the body, in the basin of the hips,
at the join of the legs, gender is
at the crotch, the crux, the cross,
chairs and blackboards have no gender,
only men call cars or ships or storms “she”
and the names, the pronouns you gave away
like old clothes no longer suitable
were smeared onto you like excrement
I call you righteous
I call you just
I call you holy
I call you Mothers and Fathers, elders and saints

Absolve, Domine,
animas omnium fidelium defunctorum
ab omni vinculo delictorum
Absolve, dissolve, resolve, O gods
absolve the sins committed against them,
the culpability of the victim, the burden
we make them bear; dissolve
the pains of their last moments,
the agony of crossing over; resolve
the dissonance, resolve the disharmony,
Sing, just men and righteous women
No rest for your voices now
you who have counted measures of silence
and if you cannot sing
if you cannot shout
if you cannot scream
I am listening for you

(For the Rite of Elevation of the Trans Dead)

Sacred Nights: Antinous in the Underworld

I don’t have any music to offer you today, not yet. Unfortunately, when I think of death, funerals, the afterlife, my musical associations come from my Anglo-Catholic background; I think of the traditional Requiem Mass texts, and of musical settings from Gregorian chant to Faure to compositions by my ex-husband and by a friend of ours. If I could, I would offer you my friend’s setting of the Offertory, inspired by traditional Irish music as well as plainsong; these words with his music echo in my mind:

libera animas omnium fidelium defunctorum
de poenis inferni
et de profundo lacu.
Libera eas de ore leonis
ne absorbeat eas tartarus,
ne cadant in obscurum;
Sed signifer sanctus Michael
repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam,

“Deliver the souls of all the faithful departed/ from the pains of hell/ and from the deep lake./ Deliver them from the lion’s mouth,/ let them not sink into Tartarus/ nor fall into obscurity,/ but let St. Michael the standard-bearer/ lead them into the holy light….”

I have been thinking a lot lately about the afterlife, and about the descriptions of our mortal fate across various cultures and traditions. What strikes me is that there is actually a certain amount of commonality, a broad pattern. In most traditions, the dead may go to a place of peace and happiness, or to a place of punishment for ill deeds, or to a place where they are forgotten. Dante, for example, gives us vividly the heavens and the empyrean Rose, the horrors of hell, and the noble but sterile peace of Limbo, where Virgil and the other virtuous pagans go. His purgatory leads on to the experience of heaven, and the dead there are not forgotten, though they fear to be; they continually bid him to pray for them and promise to pray for the living.

What has struck me recently, though, is the idea that in most traditions prior to Christianity, the destiny of most human beings is neither beatification nor punishment, but oblivion, forgetting and being forgotten. Without performing certain rites, the dead forget who they are and all they have known; without being honored by their descendants, they dry up and blow away like old leaves. The human being breaks down not just into body and soul, but a body composed of the elements and a soul of multiple parts. Some parts of the soul are re-absorbed into the cosmos; some reincarnate; some experience an afterlife in which the earthly ego and personal history may or may not be maintained.

It seems to be possible to control what one’s post-mortem fate will be, and not merely by choosing to act virtuously and eschew evil. The ancient Egyptians relied on the rites of mummification and the instructions of Coming Forth by Day, known to us now as the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Tibetan Buddhists have their own “Book of the Dead”, the Instructions for Hearing in the Bardo, as a guide for the ordinary practitioner; the advanced yogin becomes capable of choosing the place, time, and circumstances of rebirth, as do the Dalai Lama, the Karmapa, and the other tulkus.¬† For the Greeks, and to some extent the Romans (being influenced by the Greeks), death was oblivion for most. An exceptional person, a hero, might go to the Elysian fields; a person who had committed vile acts would be tormented in Tartaros. Someone who was neither, however, might escape the fate of forgetting by entering the Mysteries at Eleusis.

Antinous was an initiate at Eleusis, as was Hadrian. This day commemorates his passage into the land of the dead as one who had Seen, who had already met Persephone and was known to her. Yesterday’s sense of tragedy and loss is muted a little by our knowledge that he is not lost; he will not fall into shadows, nor sink into Tartaros, but the great caduceus-bearer Hermes will lead him to the Queen of the Underworld.

The words of the Offertory in the Roman Catholic Requiem are very old, probably older than the better-known Dies Irae and its fear of the last judgment. Michael the standard-bearer, the signifer, is perhaps not so different from Hermes the Psychopomp, leading souls with his caduceus. I hope to enter the Mysteries of Antinous, that after my death, I may be led into the presence of the Beautiful God, the Bithynian Boy, who will recognize me as one of his own, and I will neither forget nor be forgotten.