gender

The Naked Goddess III

April, 2018

I’m part of a lot of spiritual groups and on one of them someone posted this.

Well I had a lot to say, because I feel like that gender (which is more complicated than a binary) is absolutely important to talk about. I am never comfortable when someone says we should talk about something. Silence has a very specific power.

My main issue with this is one group or part of the gender spectrum have had the power, privilege and control of everything, including spirituality for thousands of years. We cannot “white wash” this out of spirituality. When you fail to acknowledge this privilege, the differences, difficulties and discrimination that happens, you add to it. There are more than two genders. Yet pretending gender doesn’t have a bias, that wider societies and cultures doesn’t hugely favour one over everything else is wrong. You are ignoring the problem. I liken this to when privileged white people (like me) say “I don’t see colour”. It effectively erases the thing about a person or group you have and historically have issues with. It is literally removing the part of a person or groups identity. It also allows passive discrimination, bias and abuse to occur.

Spirituality can never be divorced from society. The body politic, if you will. That is why privilege always comes in. We cannot ignore the bias towards certain groups or genders. Ignoring what is happen in a larger cultural context doesn’t make it more spiritual. Spiritual is an expression of the sacred authenticity of people. It always has a cultural context. In real life terms this means folks whom are non-binary, trans, LGBTQ+ or female are going to suffer more discrimination, abuse than those not. From harassment to income, to insurance and medical care, one group significantly is more secure, more safe, and better off.

This has an effect. From spiritual courses requiring money and travel to not having a bathroom you can use, it will have an impact. This totally removes the right of those suffering to say anything if there “is no gender”. It robs them of their identity and silences them to the difficulties and joys about their lives that make them unique.

We, spiritual and pagan people should care and recognize gender, in all its diversity. We should care because we should be advocating, creating spaces and being aware that being different is beautiful and a strength.

Spirituality is not passive or weak. Kindness and inclusivity is a strength, it is courageous.

I don’t know, what I don’t know. However I am open to listening. Listening to trans, non-binary and gender fluid people as well as the scores of women around me.

I am aware that the patriarchal hangovers and wider social norms creep into our lives often without us seeing them. There is a darker more insidious message in this short post though. Setting up the Christian dichotomy of “spirit as good and body is bad” that has been used to torture and abuse millions for thousands of years. This body verses spirit things exactly plays to these problems with body politics and gender issues. It robs people of their loving divine connection to their bodies and lives. It villainises healthy sexual desire, normal bodily function, and the power of the physical world. It divorces and stigmatizes the powerful animal instincts that dwell within.

The “animal” within is not a malign influence that must be erased or destroyed or caged. Doing so removes a deep and divine force within. If it is respected and held in balance it is wise. If it is repressed or caged it reacts like any caged wild animal would. Of course if it runs riot we become less, diminishing any part of the whole makes us less. We are instinct and intellect. We are our desires and our ability to wait or let them go. We can dwell within desire, be it sexual, hunger or rage, acknowledge them and not act. Yet unless you learn to respect and listen this animal side will act out. Repressing parts of ourselves (usually out of shame) is deeply damaging and not spiritual.

It might look like it from the outside. It might look saint-like and perfect but it just isn’t authentic to a whole person. Now some folks are wolf-spirited, some are more like deer, or lions or elephants. It is not my place to tell anyone what their inner animal must be. Or their gender. Or sexuality.

Yet I will honour them. I will make space, and listen, most of all listen. I will acknowledge my position of relative privilege as a white bi-sexual female that people are more understanding or accepting of me in certain places than people whom are differently gendered. I will speak up and stand up to the injustices and intolerance. I will bridge my ignorance with kindness and recognition.

 

 

Pagan Parenting

August, 2010

What Parents Can Learn From Angelina Jolie

I stumbled across this article recently and I must admit that I was very encouraged by the comments Angelina Jolie made about her daughter Shiloh’s choice of clothing.

Apparently Shiloh prefers to dress “like a boy” and that has media critics blasting a 4 year old and calling her a transsexual.  While it is beyond shameful to take jabs at a child in such a manner no matter who her parents are I think that Jolie handled the situation with honesty and integrity:

“Children should be allowed to express themselves in whatever way they wish without anybody judging them because it is an important part of their growth. Society always has something to learn when it comes to the way we judge each other, label each other. We have far to go.”

As parents we too often let our child’s behaviour reflect back our own insecurities.     If Jolie was insecure she may have seen Shiloh’s behaviour as reflecting badly on her parenting skills or on her own sexuality.  Instead she makes the choice to see that it is not about her but about self expression and the magic of childhood.

As pagan parents we tend to encourage “dress up” and mystical play.  Children are naturally drawn to worlds of fantasy and if they say “I’m a dragon” or “I’m the fairy of spring,” wouldn’t we encourage that and be delighted?  I have a sneaking suspicion though, that when it comes to our child crossing gender boundaries many of us may start to get a little uncomfortable.  What will the neighbours think?  He will be judged by other children, so for his own good I’ll make him dress masculine.  All girls want to wear pretty dresses and play tea party, what’s wrong with my child?  Our own embarrassment starts to take over our actions and we let society’s silly rules of sugar and spice or puppy dog’s tails influence our parenting.  Instead of unconditional love and space to explore themselves children learn to tow the line, not ruffle feathers and suppress their inner creativity.   That doesn’t sound like a very pagan way of growing up to me.

I realize that it is not as simple as the last paragraph makes it out to be.  There are people out there who are so afraid of gender bending that they become violent.  Our first instinct is to protect our child from harm, so our perception of how others may judge them is an important tool that we need to keep our kid safe.   If you have concerns that your child may be judged or harmed that is something that you need to work through with them.  When they are young you can perhaps encourage them to dress in their special outfits only at home or in a predetermined safe place.  As they grow older you may find that it was a phase that they leave behind them or you may encounter a more serious need within them.  If you do encounter this need I encourage being open minded.  This is your child; they are still whole and wonderful.  There are resources out there for parents to use for support if your child is transgender or confused about their sex.

Within our traditions there are many interpretations of masculine and feminine energies.  Some choose to see the traits in a more black and white sense because it makes them feel safe and ordered.  In my world view though there is a lot of grey area.  We all have male and female traits, energies and tendencies.  When we are children those traits are much less rigid because we have less conditioning.  I do not encourage my son to be masculine or feminine those tendencies are just there for him to act on as he comes across them.

Angelina Jolie is taking the same approach with her daughter Shiloh.  She doesn’t want to judge her daughter and so she is being open to Shiloh’s desires and guiding her towards finding her true self.

Please search out help if you or someone you love is dealing with gender difficulties.  Silence, shame and secrets are not the way to help your child or your family process these complex issues.

The pagan community seems to me to be a perfect example of an arena for openness regarding sexuality and gender.  Being open minded and non-judgemental goes way beyond religion in this day and age and as a burgeoning community we are poised to lead the way towards a healthy relationship with our sexual identities.

TransActive: Supporting children & youth of all genders

Transgender Family Resources

Gender: Gender Roles and Stereotypes