Xanthra Phillipa MacKay. I never met her. Surprisingly, hadn’t even heard her name until she died in February of 2014. I went in to work one morning, and, when I asked my boss how he’d spent the previous evening, he said “Mourning”. I wrote a little bit about it here. Xanthra MacKay is, among many other things, an artist, a sexworkers’ rights activist, a poet, and dead.
In so many ways, she is my ancestor.
And, yes, I’m using her as an example because her name starts with X. This could have just as easily been titled “W is for Wendy Babcock”, “L is for Leslie Feinberg,” “M is for Maria Callas,” “S is for Sappho,” or “N is for Nizzi”. Just as we can choose our families, we can choose, or find, our ancestors as we go.
Del has a post on ancestors & beloved dead who are not blood-relatives, and this is, in part, whence this post of mine stems. It also stems from Kathryn Payne’s essay “Whores and Bitches Who Sleep With Women” (in Brazen Femme) wherein she asks her readers “Do you know your lineage?” and last October’s sacred desire ritual at Unholy Harvest wherein we had the opportunity to acknowledge our sex-radical forebearers – our queer and trans (and both), sexworking, and kinky chosen ancestors – our lineage.
My ancestors include my bio-relatives, for sure. When I burn candles for the ancestors, I burn them for the people who gave me my face, my skeleton, my skin. But I also burn them for the chosen family who came before. The sisters and grandmothers whom I never knew, but who showed me my reflection in their poetry, their stories. The aunties and uncles and cousins who put words around my queer, bloodsoaked desires and let me name them.
So here’s to my ancestors, the ones who bore me and the ones who brought me out.
Thinking of you always.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 A local leatherman we lost to suicide this past year.
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