In this story I share my experience with a transgender friend and how I feel she was helped in knowing of Meher Baba.
“Yvonne: Your lines, your lines, your coloring book lines. What happens if I scribble, if I scribble, if I scribble, if the girl’s face is green and her eyes purple?” (From Sculpture Lessons, my experimental play, 1974).
In 1973, at the Venice, California Women’s Center, I saw a notice inviting people to a meeting of the Los Angeles Feminist Theatre. I arranged to get a ride from my Santa Monica apartment to the home of Sarah and Michael Sappington-Kuhn.
Sara had written a play, with the hope that she could present a performance at the November, 1973 opening of the Los Angeles Women’s Building, the innovative downtown cultural center for the arts. The meeting was to gather a group of people to participate in the play.
I had recently moved back to Santa Monica, California from Staten Island, New York, where I had attended Richmond College; my 1974 Bachelor of Arts degree a focus on women’s studies.
Now, in my small Santa Monica apartment, I was writing my first experimental play, Sculpture Lessons.
At the Los Angeles Feminist Theatre meeting that evening, I was drawn to a very unusual-looking person who was sitting on the living room floor.
He introduced himself to the group as being Albert Michael Weber, and then explained his appearance. He spoke in his own words, quoted from books, and also gave us printed flyers; a collage of glitter, hand-painted footnotes, drawings and typed messages.
He shared with us that he was, in anthropological terms, “the third sex, the shaman.” He said he preferred to be called Ms. Lily Sabina Fairweather, the name of the maid in Thornton Wilder’s play, The Skin of our Teeth.
That evening, “Sabina” was dressed in costume – including a beautiful black lace top, velvet blue slacks, women’s shoes and stockings. “She” wore make-up, colorful nail polish, and a large-brimmed straw Mexican hat.
“Her” appearance was intriguing to me, since I was also, for very different psychological reasons, “different.” Even in this culturally open theatre atmosphere, Sabina’s appearance was noticed.
As I became friends with Sabina, I learned more about her background. Sabina had grown up in Detroit, Michigan. Her mother was a dancer and dance teacher. From an early age, Sabina, born a physical boy, had yearned to dress as a girl. He wanted to be a she.
She had attended Wayne State University where she had studied anthropology. In her studies, she had found evidence of third sex gender roles and shamans. Somewhere along the way, Sabina had traveled to Eugene, Oregon to meet and study with biologist Dr. Raymond Peat.
Sabina’s journey was to express herself, her essence, carrying placards along the Venice, California boardwalk, making collage art and flyers, attending transsexual support groups, shopping in thrift stores and finding friends.
On her bicycle, Sabina often road into West Los Angeles, exploring the university area.
She often quoted Dr. Ray Peat, William Blake, Mircea Eliade, Carl Jung, Wilhelm Reich, Elizabeth Gould Davis, Alexandro Jodorowsky, Robert Graves and others.
In 1976, Filis Frederick from the Los Angeles Meher Baba Center showed an introductory film of Meher Baba, and answered questions in Santa Monica, at The Church in Ocean Park. The church was an open-minded place where diverse community groups could give presentations on Sunday evenings.
I recall being attracted to the picturesque scenery of India. Sabina was fascinated with counter culture films, holograms, and the vision of each person’s uniqueness.
After that initial encounter, Sabina found her way to the Meher Baba Center, which was then located in West Los Angeles. There, she was given her copy of the Discourses, written by Meher Baba.
In the Discourses and other writings from Meher Baba, she underlined and starred certain passages she liked that gave her courage, support and validation. She would read some of those passages aloud to me and other friends.
I recall that Sabina seemed to connect the mystical writings of William Blake with the teachings of Meher Baba.
The noteworthy sentence by William Blake, “Man in the Resurrection changes his Sexual Garments at will,” also gave my friend Sabina much needed courage and comfort.
However, her unconventional dress, outsider personality, and lack of a solid support system soon thereafter led to her leaving the Los Angeles area.
Eventually, I learned that Sabina had died of a brain tumor at her home in the southeast United States, surrounded by her paper collage and assemblages, wine bottles, glitter, and the lovely large size thrift store costumes and dresses.
Today, we have well-known transgender people such as Chaz Bono (formerly Chastity Bono), and more openness to gender diversity in many ways. In 1976, there was only Ms. Lily Sabina Fairweather, fledgling support groups and a distant rainbow flag.
I am grateful that when she lived, Ms. Lily Sabina Fairweather was able to know of Meher Baba, that His words gave her comfort and inspiration, and that Meher Baba was able to convey His message to her. I am grateful Sabina was able to read Meher Baba’s spiritual writings. I feel Sabina received hope and is now in a place of light and love in eternity.
(Written on February 2, 2014)