Starting with a historical reflection allows us to remember what historical events Pride came out of, and what intersecting systemic oppressions existed, and continue to exist, that led queer and trans people to resist, fight back, and organize for lasting change. The posts, as well as this article, will move through ways of healing, expressions of queer love, and finally toward queer and trans celebration, joy, and pride.
Balm in Gilead Tea
Our first herbal recipe comes in the form of a healing tea. If you grew up Black and churched, you may know the African American spiritual, There Is a Balm in Gilead, whose lyrics serve as a sweet balm themselves. “There is a balm in Gilead/to make the wounded whole/there is a balm in Gilead/to heal the sin-sick soul.” Pride month may not immediately make you think of the spirituals, but I can’t help but wonder if Stonewall-era activists, Marsha P. Johnson or Stormé DeLarverie, grew up singing these very words.
This community action was a catalyst for the gay rights movement, and eventually, Pride. A Black trans-led movement, Stonewall was not only about queer and trans liberation, but also about confronting systemic racism, femmephobia, cissexism, and classism that work in tandem to become life limiting. The fight that began in the 1960s still remains and needs an even deeper intersectional and social justice analysis as Pride becomes a capitalist venture (see also this article and this one), and less about human rights.
Our Balm in Gilead tea blend is a comforting blend that soothes the nervous system and supports emotional and somatic calm. Brew and sip in the evening.
Our first ingredient is lemon balm. The lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) we used for the brew was grown locally in Sarah’s garden where we live in Louisville, Kentucky. Lemon balm is use for easing anxiety, relieving stress, and supporting cognitive function and focus. A main outcome of trauma and societal stress is a loss of memory function and an increase in anxiety and depression. Lemon balm is a helpful herb for queer, trans, and otherwise marginalized persons who would benefit from its healing properties. Similarly, chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), our second ingredient, improves anxiety, aids in digestion, and reduces inflammation.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), our final tea ingredient, grown in Brydie’s garden and one of their favorite medicines, offers mild pain relief, especially related to migraines and menstruation. Feverfew works best for migraines if taken on a regular basis but offers some acute relief. Both the leaves and flowers of feverfew can be steep for tea. Use caution before using feverfew if you are pregnant, on blood thinners, are heavily bleeding or allergic to ragweed. Consult a healthcare provider before using any new herbal medicines.
Our optional ingredient, that we particularly love, is locally source honey: honey, local to your area, boosts immunity, soothes allergies, and is use for its antioxidant properties. Agave nectar can be alternate for those following a vegan diet, or for those who may benefit from agave’s many health benefits, as it contains folate, vitamin k, as well as B6.
Healing Herbal Bath
In the book The Salt Eaters, Toni Cade Bambara’s character, who is a healer, asks, “Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?” Often the healing journey is too heavy, especially for queer and trans folks, particularly those of color, who have been forced to carry more than their share of harm and the burden of changing the conditions of the harm being perpetrated against them. The burden of carrying both trauma and the hardship of repairing a society oriented against you is a daily, heavy reality for queer and trans people. Often legal victories, such as same-gender marriage, cloud the reality of how far we have to go. Communal care and join comradeship are antidotes to the ineffectual call of “self-care,” which becomes just one more thing for the individual being harm to have to carry.
Healing must be both an individual and communal process, but we can only carry so much. What can we, queer and trans folks, put down? If you desire to join in comradeship with the oppressed, what can you pick up to shift the weight of the load? Audre Lorde, a Black lesbian feminist, taught us that we can use our own erotic center as power.
In this healing bath, the second of our recipes, we invite you to awaken the senses, tap into your erotic, and get ready to spiritually cleanse from all you have been carrying; heal, get your goods, and be well.