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Just before I turned 30, I booked myself a professional tarot reading. This wasn’t a novelty purchase; I’ve been reading tarot cards for several years as a journaling and self-care tool. Still, no matter how intuitive I feel or how blunt I’m willing to be with myself, we all have blind spots when it comes to ourselves. My birthday is just before the winter holidays and it felt like the ideal moment to get a birds-eye view of what was to come, at the close of both the calendar year and a significant decade of my life.
When I arrived at the shop, shivering and damp from mid-December rain, I was ushered into a concrete-walled nook outfitted with pillar candles, Palo Santo incense, a threadbare armchair for the reader, and something a bit less comfortable for the querent. (The querent, or “one who seeks,” is any person who consults an oracle for guidance.) I know better than to ask simple “yes” or “no” questions, unethical questions about others, or questions that diminish my own agency. I also knew I wanted to leave the reading with more certainty about where I had come from and where I was headed.
Every reader has their own style, their own way of conducting a session. I’m pretty good at going with the flow, but it was clear early on that this person’s style was not a great fit for me. Fast-paced and probing and a touch accusatory, they made assumptions that occasionally resonated but often did not, and by the end of the 30 minutes, I felt overwhelmed, teeth still chattering from the cold as I tried to breathe through a steady flow of snot and tears.
As we were wrapping up, they took another look at the upturned cards: The Magician flanked by The Shipwreck and The Devil, and The King of Wands in my future. The first three are major arcana, which represent significant energies, turning points, or road markers throughout our lives. The Fool’s Journey of the major arcana is similar to the widely understood Hero’s Journey, with triumphs and temptations, a path that brings us through fear and pain and out the other side to hope and renewal and growth. The King of Wands is a court card, not unlike the royals you would find in a standard deck of playing cards.
In tarot, there are pages, knights, queens, and kings, and these cards more than any other are thought to represent either the querent themselves or significant people in their life. With these cards on the table, the reader said, more gently than before: “We don’t have to talk about this, but I can tell that your relationship with your gender isn’t as resolved as you’d like it to be.”
I was still using she/her pronouns, then. On my social media profiles, I listed they/them as a second option, but I wasn’t out as nonbinary or trans because I wasn’t sure what I was. I didn’t feel like a woman, but I felt no certainty about my other options, either. I lingered outside the door to womanhood with fingers clutching the handle, hesitant to shut it because there was light behind me while the hallway before me was dark as pitch. I read essays by trans writers and felt an ache in my bones that said this is part of me, I know this but had no words to articulate why I felt that way. I only knew what I wasn’t, not what I was, and I knew that was an unsustainable way to carry myself forward. However, I also didn’t know how else to exist.