Being Queer, Poisonous Plants, and Healing Art

As a medium and a witch, I like to work with plant spirits, particularly poisonous plant spirits–henbane, belladonna, foxglove, and datura to name a few. Getting to know these plant spirits and making visionary art through my communion with them has been an important step in healing around my queer gender identity and sexuality.

This is the painting I am currently working on:

Divine Heart Medicine
Heart Medicine

Unpacking my Queerness

There has often been a gender ambiguity in the faces that I paint. From my earliest memories, no matter how unconscious on my part, I have not felt akin to the gender binary. I have flirted on the outskirts of queerness for most of my life…trying to feel valid enough to be let in. So here I am, letting myself in.

How I actually feel as a person living out my gender is somewhere along the the genderqueer spectrum of she-they. How I understand and experience my sexuality is fluid; I identify as bisexual, queer, and sometimes gay. I am someone who feels attraction towards people across the spectrum of gender identities and I do not root deeply into the experience of my assigned gender; by all intents and purposes I should feel completely valid to call myself queer.

So why have I struggled? For starters, I have my own issues around not feeling ‘queer’ enough. I have passed for straight–having been in long term relationships with straight men and because I appear cisgendered. But these are not the only things about me and to define my experience around these two factors is limiting and alienating for me.

My somewhat self-imposed invisibility in trying to approach the LGBTQ community, even when attending queer-specific events, has left me feeling invalid, isolated, and depressed at not feeling comfortable enough to express myself in order to make meaningful connections within the queer community. Out of fear of being rejected, I have hidden myself in many ways, and that has been a painful realization to come to terms with.

Recently, I had a falling out with someone important to me. Part of the reason was he said he couldn’t trust me, given how much of myself I had hidden from him (in relation to other aspects of myself and my feelings, not my sexuality or gender identity). If I could say one thing about this situation for my own self-justification it would be that people are always growing and changing and learning. We need to make space for those of us who are slower to figuring things out, slower to make their feelings known out of fear and/or trauma we may have experienced, for whatever reasons. Graciousness is essential for creating safer spaces for our humanness to be seen, for it to be held and understood in it’s incompleteness.

The hardest part about coming out under the Queer umbrella has been the fear of being rejected; I have found it confusing and difficult to know how to “perform” queerness when it is just how I am naturally–nothing to be done other than be myself. Feeling one way on the inside is one thing, but trying to express yourself in an external way is entirely different–and often comes with an entire set of social cues and criteria. We should not normalize having to perform or act in a certain way to be seen as or self-perceived as valid in our identities, especially in queer spaces.

When I was a teenager and having my first sexual experiences with the gals and guys–I wasn’t able to exactly articulate what I was feeling about my sexuality. I was doing what felt right and natural for me. I was raised in Fundamentalist Christian patriarchy, where being gay was not a welcome sexual orientation.

The regret, sadness, and longing I have for not having been more courageous at that time in my life is something that haunts me from time to time as I go through an internal panic with waves of guilt and shame at my repression. But I have to forgive myself. I have to recognize the internalized homophobia and be kind to myself. This world is hostile to people who do not fall in line. So thinking back to my teenage brain, there were understandable reasons for not feeling comfortable and safe enough to come out to my family and friends. I have done the best I could with what I have and this is where I am at now.

A Deepening Relationship with Plant Medicine

I started taking a class on poison plant medicine with herbalist Kathryn Solie in the spring of 2020. This class deepened my relationship with plants and nature in ways I am profoundly grateful for. The courses also cracked opened something else for me that I was avoiding but deep down knew I was being called to go into a deeper understanding with of both my sexual orientation and gender identity. This was the medicine I needed and have now allied with as part of my spiritual practices.

Prior to this course, I had entertained an intense interest in healing plants and nature throughout my life. At the end of high school I became more interested in herbalism, inspired by a field biology course I had taken. I was also interested in art and plant medicine as it has been depicted in art. One painting, by Vincent Van Gogh shows a Foxglove plant. I learned that part of the plant was used for epilepsy medication. The physician and the plant being shown in the work inspired and fascinated me to learn more about plant medicine, even prompting me to go so far as to purchase my own foxglove plant at the time.

Portrait of Dr. Gachet Vincent Van Gogh 1890

Heart Medicine for Self-Acceptance

Foxglove is at the center of the painting I am working on because they have been making themselves known to me for a long time. My experiences with this plant continues to be a constant in my life, showing up especially when I am going through a major change or transformational period in my life. They* connect me to the spirit of the Fae and have appeared randomly in the wild when I least expected to see them.

Foxglove is associated with the heart, and energetically helps heal the wounds that live in and around our heart spaces. My painting is about healing the anguish, regrets, and secrecy around being Queer, but it is also a celebration of the acceptance and rebirth through the Saturnian struggles of feeling late to the party, taking seemingly forever to have a genuine sense of self-love and worth to get myself to this point–no matter how long I feel that it took for me.

I am working on feeling more aligned and in concert with my spirit rather than feeling like I am fighting against myself so I can be more helpful and in service to the world around me. This is the work I am doing, it is endless and infinite; it is not easy for me or anyone else who wants to get to the Truth at the heart of their being.

The plants I commune with and the art that I make is an extension of being myself in the world as a Queer Jewish witch. My work is a way for me to channel my divinity as a being who sees, feels, and relates to the androgyny of God Herself and the genderless energy of Spirit. I feel this in the soul of my bones, I know this is core to my being.

Blessings and thanks to the ancestors for writing this out with me ♥︎

*I use they/them pronouns for poisonous plants, which was an idea introduced to me in Kathryn Solie’s poisonous plant medicine courses.

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