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Reading Tarot for Trans People

Hello! I’m Hanlon, Andrew’s life partner. I haven’t written on the Hermit’s Lamp blog before (although I have done editing and proofreading on most of them) so this is my first post! Let me start by introducing myself as a reader here at the Hermit’s Lamp and also as a transgendered person. So I am a tans tarot reader who also reads for trans people sometimes. Andrew and I thought I should write something about how that can or could be different and what would be a good way to go about it. So for the purposes of getting this thing going I have invented a pretend audience member who is asking me for advice about reading. So, here we go…

What I want to know is – how do I read the cards for someone who is Trans?  

Well – it’s just like reading for anyone else isn’t it? I mean we’re all people so…

But how should I handle gender in the cards or talk about love?

Um, I can try to talk about some of that, but I’m not able to speak for anyone but myself, really. 

Ok well what do I do when someone comes in and I think they are transgendered?

Ok wait. Let’s back up a little. 

There are many different of genders people identify as, (one could go so far as to say there is a different gender identity for each person!), and a reader may not even know someone is trans unless they volunteer their pronoun preference. If anyone mistakenly uses the wrong pronouns, apologizing and handling it with grace is key, because it is about respect. I am transgender myself, so I can easily bring up pronouns by talking about my own gender: “Hi I’m Hanlon, I identify as male, I prefer male pronouns…” If you are not transgendered then you are cisgendered, meaning your gender matched your outward appearance at birth. For a cisgendered person, reading for a transgendered person and trying to be respectful can feel awkward. But if you are open – your openness will be a breath of fresh air. The best service you can give a trans client will come from a willingness to tread into territory that is unique to that person. That acceptance and positivity is palpable and will allow the reading to be more powerful.

Ok so I will be respectful to the person and remember to use their pronouns – but what about the actual reading? What about gendered cards?

When I go to the cards I don’t just throw gender out the window entirely, but I also don’t sort each figure that appears in the reading into a binary. I see a character, or a set of characteristics, rather than a body type. I operate on the assumption that my subconscious and higher self and spirit are going to pick up on the important images and filter them according to what needs to be said. And because for me gender is not binary, I wouldn’t simply flip a card’s gender. I might see a Queen as a woman, or a queer man, or a man who happens to like wearing the colour depicted in the card and also – and this part is key- is someone who embodies that personality type. The client might look at a card and recognize it as a particular customer or co-worker. Some people might know that the Knight of Wands that has shown up is definitely their Dad. In contrast, the Knight of Cups could be their Mom, because, like no-one else in their life, she is reaching for her goals and is on her path and truly lives the spirit of the card. In other words, gender can play the role of a simple piece of identity information, or sometimes it may not be relevant at all.

Why is gender there at all if it’s not to tell us about a person?

There are codified magical ways of looking at gender’s significance in a reading –  historically gender was often used to speak of energy being either passive/receptive or active. So, I would translate it, like I might mentally edit an out-of-date children’s book that has sexist, racist, or other inappropriate legacies that are no longer expected in our culture. Gender sometimes refers to an element – like water or earth for ‘feminine’ cards and fire or air for ‘masculine’. For example, the princess, representing earth could make reference to grounding oneself or even represent a farmer or gardener. When I read the cards I often look past the gender of the figure in the card for information about energy or elemental influences that may deeply inform what is going on in the life of the client.

The bodies don’t matter?

Hmmmmm. The bodies. I’m not sure what you mean. Have I not answered that yet?

The bodies can matter. The bodies can inform something.

I ask my clients about what they see in the cards. I also look at the attitudes of the characters – where they are looking, how they are inter-related in the spread. There may be two characters gazing at each other across the spread and that may be more meaningful than the gender of the depicted characters. Remember, I’ve not entirely thrown gender out the window, but it’s not my most immediate filter either. I find that, fairly often, a single element may leap out. A mask. A sceptre. A shoe. A tongue. All of which may give me more information about the path of the person I am reading for, that takes the focus away from gender and onto the message: “There will be deception (mask). You will hold power (sceptre). Someone wants you to be fired (given the boot)(shoe)! There is gossip happening (tongue).” And when I sit with a trans person or any person I read for I feel deeply honoured to look into their lives with them and see where they are facing challenge, what they are blessed with, where they might focus their energies best to grow through the next space of time. 

Are there ever times when gender is just gender – straight up (no pun intended) like when you are reading about love for instance?

Love?

…Love!

Gender may well appear in an obvious way. The Knight of Wands may be leaping to find his husband. The Queen of Cups may be showing her girlfriend only what she wants to see in order to keep her. The Knight of Cups may be searching for his queen. This is where, as a reader, listening to the inner voice comes in. Often as not, though, love actually shows up through the trump cards – in which case the gendered court cards do not need to dominate the arena of the heart. Perhaps the Sun card is revealed in the spread in a position that points to finding a life partner. In the minor arcana romance can appear, when the Love card (2 of Cups) emerges. The cards have so many ways to express information. Gender may, or may not play a role. We have so many ways of gazing, of receiving.

But I feel like maybe there is a question behind your question.

Well, how do I know what sort of love connection they are looking for? How do I know if they are going to be looking for a guy or a girl or…

It is important that readers don’t confuse a person’s sexual orientation with their gender. As a lot of people in our culture have probably absorbed by now – Sexual Orientation [straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual] refers to who you are attracted to, whereas Gender [male, female, transgender ftm (female to male), transgender mtf (male to female), gender fluid, gender neutral, and many more] refers to who you ARE. So how do you know who the person sitting in front of you is attracted to? If they don’t tell you, and if you do not pick it up from the spirits, you may have to ask…

Is it really different, reading for trans people?

It doesn’t have to be, but it can be I suppose. 

Sometimes themes emerge. Recently one card kept surfacing and resurfacing in the readings I was doing for transgendered people. The Justice card – and when it appeared it was pointing to a common process going on in the lives of myself and my trans clients, which was a weighing of what is important, who is capable of meeting us and respecting our truth, and who should be allowed to have a piece of our lives. In some cases this was accompanied by the feeling of being scrutinized and tested and put on trial, or even rejected. It was a difficult card, but an important message about the nature of the social shifting going on in our lives. It is easy to see the Justice card in action in the events around the coming out as trans of Caitlyn Jenner, which has resulted in a public scrutiny, lots of judgements and trolling, but also hopefully wider understanding and acceptance. The appearance of the Justice card could be giving us permission to trust in our own assessment of others, stick up for ourselves, and also to allow the process to unfold and accept and make peace with the results.

Is there anything to make sure to avoid when I’m reading for a trans person, I mean, what if I don’t know if it’s OK to talk about what I’m receiving or seeing in the cards?

Well, it depends on the client. But you need to be sensitive. Reading for a trans client requires a reader to be flexible about what they may think they know about bodies, about stereotypes, about hearts and minds, and asks them to look for a less pat answer. The trans woman may want a baby, so the womb imagery or even breastfeeding imagery will become relevant. The trans man may be struggling with affording a surgery, and there may be ways to discuss that without prying. For example, if you are receiving the message that surgery is needed you may choose to broach the topic broadly. “I am getting the sense that there is a medical procedure looming, but that money is an issue.” The client can then choose to engage this aspect of the reading, or, if it feels uncomfortable, or is too private they may decline. Having sensitivity about bodies is very important. Trans people are often bombarded by questions and expectations about their bodies – assumptions are made that they are going to have certain surgeries, procedures – but the reality is they may not want or need any of that and it is none of anyone else’s business. They may be 100% happy with who they are and all they need is for everyone to use the correct pronoun. And their body is none of anyone else’s business. Bringing any assumptions about surgery or procedures into a reading could be very very jarring or even alarming. As could any judgements about wether or not someone ‘passes’ or is read by others as the gender they identify with. Again none of anyone else’s business.

So, what SHOULD I do?

Asking directly if there is a burning question that brings them there, and also if there are any topics that are off-limits, can go a long way to helping the client set the tone and also let the reader know about their boundaries as well as any expectations or wishes they may have. And it is worth repeating that being open and respectful are the most important things you can do.


I hope you have enjoyed this blog post. I thought I would continue a Hermit’s Lamp tradition and close with an exercise!

Gender Rethink Exercise

  • Pull all of the court cards out of the deck and shuffle them
  • Write a list of 6-12 people in your life – you can include yourself.
  • Lay a card for each of person.
  • Turn them over – chances are at least some of the cards will have a gender mis-match with the person.
  • Take each card and look at the similarities the information in the card has with the person. Be sure to notice any details that jump out at you.

My results:

Hilariously, when I did this, all but two of the cards were a match for the person’s gender. And all of the cards seemed pretty apt for the personality of the people and also their energies and attitudes at this particular moment on their journey.

However, I’ll speak briefly about one of the gender -swapped cards, the person who came up in my reading as the Princess of Wands is a cisgender male (male since birth) and is someone who is embarking on a new chapter in his life. He is starting again from scratch. This card suits his current situation perfectly and I thought it was a positive sign for him to boot.

If you are trans or not, I would be honoured if you decide to come see me at the Lamp for a tarot reading (you can book online here) or mediumship reading (by special arrangement). If you aren’t in Toronto, we also offer Skype and phone readings. 

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