Healing Ourselves, Reclaiming Our Ancestral Lineages

When you imagine resistance, what do you see? Do you picture images of melanin rioting and glistening in the sun? People of Color wearing business suits? Do you picture men or women? Can you imagine people beyond the gender spectrum? Can you fathom Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC), reclaiming our ancestral healing practices as a means of resistance and survival?

For many queer and trans People of Color, the paths to uncovering our ancestry and cultural healing practices are filled with Google searches, conversations with family members, elders, and library loans. For most queer and trans People of Color who reclaim severed connections to cultural healing practices, access to spaces which encourage deconstructing colonial, capitalist ways of navigating the world are crucial. It is through community and access to radical knowledge that QTPOC are able to rebirth ourselves spiritually and energetically. This allows for our unapologetic QTPOC self love to continue to grow and honors our ancestors seven generations forward and backwards.

Through access to organizing, education and underground QTPOC arts and culture, QTPOC are exposed to new ways of thinking about self care and healing. Through access to radical types of knowledge and exposure to expansive, decolonial thought, QTPOC are able to heal ourselves. Practices expand along diasporas, ranging from herbal medicines, traditional dance, incense burning, and prayers. When QTPOC are unapologetic, we are able to reclaim and create access to forms of healing that were created without us in mind. Barriers including lack of access to quality healthcare, citizenship status, and housing prevent QTPOC from using westernized, socially acceptable forms of healing and rehabilitation.

When we heal ourselves, QTPOC are able to better hold space for our communities and those we are in solidarity with. Ancestral healing practices allow QTPOC to unapologetically assert themselves in the world for ourselves and for our communities. By implementing cultural healing practices, ways of dress, music, dance and foods QTPOC are able to reconnect to cultures, ancestors and beauty that are meant to be forgotten as generations pass and the U.S. occupation of indigenous land continues on. When we reclaim our ancestral healing practices, it asserts that our existence as multiply marginalized people is inherently an act of enduring resistance to cis, hetero, Eurocentric, patriarchy.

When QTPOC reclaim ancestral roots meant to be forgotten, the immediate result is the fracture of capitalist, Eurocentric standards of American assimilation. Under capitalism, multiply marginalized people , are compartmentalized and encouraged to erase parts of ourselves to be relatable. Under colonialism QTPOC begin to unconsciously believe that we are not meant to carry our histories and futures with us.

Yet when QTPOC have access to ask what our cultural and ancestral healing practices are and where they stem from, it inherently uplifts our wholeness and multiplicities. As QTPOC, race, language, ethnicity, place of origin and culture are at the constant intersection of expansive gender and sexual identities.

As this rebirth continues to ebb and flow, new relationships could look like honoring the Orisha, burning Palo Santo, burning candles, or sage in addition to many other spiritual practices. When QTPOC are better able to understand and relate to the world through our ancestral healing practices, we are better able to root ourselves in relation to the society around us, which can solidify our existences in our own minds. When we reclaim ancestral healing practices, we no longer allow the claws of colonization and capitalism to tear away parts of ourselves that have been erased for generations. To reclaim and practice ancestral healing methods for queer and trans people of color, asserts that our narratives will no longer be erased or forgotten.

QTPOC with these points of access are often privileged to be introduced to alternative lines of thought. This is because Capitalist values are indoctrinated into the mass subconscious to eliminate critical thinking and to keep multiply marginalized people; especially queer and trans People of Color scrambling to survive. For many queer and trans People of Color, the side effects of oppression are burdens which are often pathologized and dismissed. So, as a means to not only connect with ancestral roots and cultures, many queer and trans People of Color turn to ancestral healing methods as a means to grieve, retain hope and thrive.

To survive under capitalism, we must deconstruct what it means to heal and cope with frequent trauma without safe and affordable healthcare options. This is why many QTPOC seek out communities where they can heal, cope, celebrate life and find connections. Finding other QTPOC to learn from and heal with allows the reclamation of ancestral healing practices while simultaneously deconstructing and decolonizing perceptions of what it means to actualize self care.

For many queer and trans People of Color, reclaiming and practicing once forgotten methods of healing, allows QTPOC to exist within a world that wants to erase our existence. It is through reclaiming our forgotten identities, that queer and trans People of Color are directly confronting the compartmentalization of our lives, cultures, bodies, and histories. By reclaiming ancestral healing practices, queer and trans People of Color are not only resisting colonialism and oppression but refusing to be erased.

Habló Rodríguez-Williams is a proud Mexican and Colombian gender queer warrior, who is a radical, intersectional feminist, activist, published poet and organizer. Who speaks publicly and recites poetry with emphasis on decolonizing constructs of gender and emphasizes the resilience of women and queer/trans/non-binary folks of color.

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