There is a well know platitude that reads: When the gods close a door, they open a window.
Admittedly, I took a few pagan liberties there with my pluralization, but I am confident that the essential sentiment remains unchanged.
While undeniably clichéd, this sentiment has an element of truth (or perhaps truthiness) about it. However, there is a inverse truth that has failed to achieve quite the same level of Hallmark success.
When the gods open a door, they close a window.
Most people know me as “Wintersong Tashlin.” Granted it is not the name I was given at birth. Nor is it the name that adorns my state and federal ID. I was given this name in February of 1999, and in 2005 my legal name was amended so that “Tashlin” became my legal surname. For a number of sentimental and practical reasons I decided for the time being to leave my first name alone. However, the list of people who call me by my birth name is quite short. Nearly all of them are related to me by blood.
My life and Work as “Wintersong” has open many doors. Regardless of what community I am in, this is the identity I am known by. The freedom that has allowed me made it possible to establish a reputation working at the intersections of the communities that I hold dear: pagan spirituality/magic, kink/BDSM, queer/LGBT. With separate “scene” “circle” and “real” names, it would have been impossible to do much of the Work I am proudest of. Additionally, I have never made much effort to separate “Wintersong” from my legal identity. It seemed a loosing battle and one that I could never be happy while fighting.
The question of identity has always been one of interest in my life. The collection of poetry I wrote as an adolescent (some of which is surprisingly decent) asks the question “who am I” and “where am I going” with the frequency one might expect of a disabled queer kid that age. There are times I wonder, would ELL see his own future in WST? Would my childhood self understand the path our wyrd took? Or instead would he resent me for such gross deviations from the course he had envisioned for this turn of the Wheel?
In his wildest dreams, my younger self could not imagine the doors the gods have opened for me. Starting with those gods themselves, and continuing to spouses, lovers, friends, community, and a family of choice that, along with my family of birth, has made it possible to experience richer joys and weather greater pains in the last twelve years than some people experience in a lifetime. Of course there are moments I would love a do-over for, but never have I regretted the path itself.
Not regretting one’s wyrd however, doesn’t not prevent mourning what has been sacrificed to make it possible.
For instance, my life as a godatheow (god-slave) does not allow for children. I was raised to believe that as a parent, one’s children have to come first, an idea incompatible with my oaths. Service to the Lady is my highest priority, before my partners or potential children. Germain to this essay moreover, my public identity as “Wintersong” effectively eliminates having children in our society. I am sterile, and someone on record as an openly unabashed polyamorous pervert has little chance of getting approved for the adoption process (note: I’m open about being poly AND a pervert, one does not automatically equal the other). A part of me longs for children, but even if an arrangement could be reached with my patron, there is no feasible way to become a parent with the openness my Work requires.
Career options have their own limits too. A friend and colleague of mine recently raised the prospect of some potential employment that would dovetail well with my current Work while fitting with my disability and schedule needs. However, the position requires being able to pass a level of hostile scrutiny that my legal identity cannot withstand. Googling my legal name ties it to “Wintersong” on the very first page of search results. Taking that into account it was obvious I was unsuitable for the position. Disappointing as that was, there was also relief. For most of my life I lived openly and doubt I possess the fortitude for a closet. My brief experiment working as a car salesman would indicate that I do not. Hiding under the refuge of my legal name was an emotionally distressing experience (I should note that, to PCN’s credit I was out as queer without issue).
At present there are a number of projects vying for my attention: The first is to achieve greater market penetration and financial success as a presenter in the kink/BDSM and spirituality communities, which includes writing two books that will ideally improve my name recognition. At the same time I am working to complete and find a market for an unrelated writing project that must not be tied to the first task due to its subject matter. If, in defiance of the odds, the second writing project finds an audience and publisher, I will not be able to publicly take ownership of a work I’d be rightfully proud of. Changing gears between them would be hard enough without the knowledge that in the best case scenario I will still be unable to claim credit for the second work. The added pressure of teaching private students and trying to grow a nascent magical clan has not improved matters.
If an opportunity presented itself, I would certainly not go back in time and prevent myself from going out stargazing that night in mid-September of 1998 with the first friend I’d made at college. The encounter we had that night opened an incomprehensible door for us both, and even then, a part of me recognized our wyrds would entwine as part of something bigger than either of us. Returning home that evening battered and drained, but also exhilarated, I could sense the barest glimmer of an unimagined possibilities.
Perhaps it is merely my knowledge of what the future would bring, but I fancy that in that moment we both also felt a hint of sadness, recognizing on some level that by embracing those unimagined possibilities we were forever forfeiting a great many imagined ones. The Fates had opened a door, but over the coming months and years would close a great many windows.