My Story Revised: Part 1.

Hi, my name is Ikaika Torres….

I come from a long line of island people. My mother’s ancestors are from the Illocos region of the Philippine Islands, and my father’s family is from the Caribbean island of Boriken.

I’m proud of my biological heritage, and I do my best to honor my ancestors and learn about those island chains. However, I am 4th generation Kama’aina, born and raised on Oahu. I identify as “mixed.”

I grew up along the West Lochs of Pearl Harbor, making bottle-cap spinners and slingshots, when I wasn’t stealing kalo from the kalo patch next door.

I spent 3 days a week in church where I learned how to pray the Christian way. This was both a safe and very dangerous place.

Being Christian also meant that I couldn’t do the same things cisgender boys could. Like wear pants every day. Or play baseball. Or watch Nickelodeon.

I prayed a lot. I got good at that.

I spent my formative years terrified of the real monsters that lurked around every corner, feeling like a ghost that people could see, but not touch. I was afraid of adults, but also afraid of my peers. I rarely spoke unless spoken to. Such is the effects of early childhood trauma.

My parents had 5 kids before they turned 25. None had high school diplomas until my dad went to night school. He still brags about how they gave him a diploma instead of a GED because we was “so smart.” To be fair, my dad is a fairly intelligent man. It’s too bad he never had the opportunity to further his education.

Such are the sacrifices of parenthood.

After 40 something years of marriage, my parents are still together. There were many things they couldn’t give me, but the example of a successful marriage proved itself the most value gift they had to offer.

Unfortunately, my mom became disabled during her pregnancy with me. My family received food stamps and we always had free lunch. I remember the time we received a box of food from the thanksgiving drive.

Being poor didn’t bother me much.

No, that was a lie. Of course it did. I was ashamed of the clothes on my body. I felt unworthy of the food I ate. I dreaded the birthdays I knew would be forgotten. Yet, I earned some pearls here.

In a world ravaged by greed, and disillusioned by the power of money, the absence of it allowed us to reap the more valuable things in life, stuff that cannot be bought. Like family values, laughter, and love.

In high school, my stoney friends and I would cut class and disappear in the sugar cane fields, smoking $5 joints. I remember the stinging fiber glass, like tiny needles all over my arms and legs.

Breaking the rules brought some kind of relief, like when you’re famished but instead of getting a meal you get a slushee from 7-11.

I played sports because it felt healthy, and I wrote for the paper because my English teacher insisted.

I was a troubled teen. Switching from Masculine to Feminine every year, not knowing which was my true gender. They had their own personalities, their own perspectives, ideas, and mannerisms. I felt like two different people.

I also struggled with depression, low self-esteem, and anti-social behavior.

Did I mention my dad was addicted to meth? And both my older sisters became teen mothers?

Family life was stressful, but it felt good to be needed by the rug rats of the new generation. Perhaps they were my saving grace.

I know this sounds heavy, but bear with me. I actually survived all this shit!

At 16, I struggled with my faith. When my first love turned out to be a lesbian relationship, I had to choose between “God” and “Love?”

Hmm. Okay?

This mystery would would take another ten years to unravel.

I joined the Air Force right out of high school. I thought I’d retire at 37 and get some fancy uni degree to show the world how important I was. Instead, I had a mental breakdown while I was stationed at McChord AFB.

The Pacific Northwest has a tendency to cause downward spirals for the pathologically impaired.

At 19, I suffered my second major depressive episode and was honorably discharged from the military. They diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder. A year later, a civie doctor changed it to General Anxiety Disorder. Later it became Bipolar Schizoaffective Disorder, then finally Complex PTSD.

From 19 — 31, my entire young adulthood, I was in and out of the psych wards, doped up on psychiatric medicine, seeking God in religion, drugs, achievements, whatever.

The biggest issue I had was not knowing how to safely connect to others. The more I expressed myself, the less relatable I seemed.

The smallest issue was my gender.

The Feminine wanted drugs and dangerous sex, ultimately to self-destruct, while the Masculine was inclined toward education and spirituality. She carried the burdens of rage, pain, grief, and torment. While the Masculine was free of this, he could (kinda) think clearly.

I remember the day I was in Vipassana meditation, around Day 7 of silence and celibacy. The Feminine was listening as the Masculine broke down, saying things I had never heard before. He revealed information that was completely new to my conscious mind.

“I wish I was born a man. If I was born a man, things would be different. People would see who I am.”

If I had ever denied feeling this way, it couldn’t be denied anymore.

The Feminine’s heart was moved by his grief, and she felt gratitude for his sacrifices. For the way he gave his entire being to protect her, how he suffered so much in her body without complaining (until that moment), and without so much as a thank you.

The Feminine grew from a little girl to a teen on that day. She chose to end a bitter 30-year war with the Masculine. She decided to trust him.

The Feminine then gave her heart and body over to me, that I may create a temple that serves the both of us.

Thus, I am transgender. I am Two Spirit (Taino). I am Kama’aina Mahu Kane.

In this Masculine body, she feels safe. The Feminine is more present and expressive than she’s ever been before.

I want to write more but it seems my time is limited tonight.

Shall I continue?

I guess we will see….

Decolonizing Spirituality

I went to a school for neo-shamanism because I didn’t have access to medicine from my own lineage. I learned a lot of techniques that work, but I also learned things that were not congruent with my natural instincts or the ways of my ancestors. This can be damaging because neo-shamanism is essentially white shamanism. This means that the culture is taken and interpreted through a Western lens.

The problem is that Western ideas are not always sustainable, reverent, or even accurate. Western civilization has brought us to the brink of extinction. It poses its definition of sacred as absolute superior to others, its sense of progress and righteousness. So when BIPOC show up to these circles, they either get white-washed or victim-shamed. This is why decolonizing spirituality is important. It’s about creating safe spaces for BIPOC and LGBTQ folks in spiritual circles.

Cultural appropriation hurts BIPOC. It is a form of genocide.

That being said, the medicine I bring through my bloodlines and from past/other lives isn’t really aligned with any institutions. It comes from my roots and the convictions of my heart. It comes from the wisdom of past experiences. It comes from Creator.

I don’t believe that a certificate makes a medicine person. I believe medicine people are born and initiated through trauma(s), and every time they conquer another obstacle, they create medicine to share. This is experiential learning that accumulates in wisdom and humility. Creator chooses these people, not humans. Sometimes I wonder if these shamanic schools do more damage than good…. but who am I to say?

To be clear, I am grateful for my teachers and all the valuable lessons I have learned. I’m grateful for the beautiful people I’ve met. I bless the path I’ve walked and that others may be walking now. I’m letting this go now. I let my heart light the road and my soul lead the way.

I pray for guidance….

Blessings of clarity, peace, and joy. 💙