Friday, March 28, 2014

PBP- Week 13: Gender

Gender and gender identity is something that I think is starting to become known to the greater public. Assumptions that people used to hold are being challenged, and a lot of people are coming to understand that gender isn't as cut and dry as they may have thought.

When I was little, I didn't know there was anything besides boy or girl. I was lucky enough to be raised by parents who didn't push me one way or another. Biologically, I am female. All my parts are in working order, and I have born and (mostly) raised a child (he is nearing adulthood, how scary is that). I consider myself very blessed to have never hated my body for it's bits.

And yet, my gender identity is very fluid, and has been for as long as I can remember. I don't always think of myself in feminine terms. It's more than just challenging gender roles, because I am very okay with strong women. My mother's side of the family is Chinese, and in the home, women pretty much run things. I have known strong, capable women all my life.

But there are times where I definitely self-identify as masculine. I have been dreaming (and sometimes remembering) things as a male since childhood. There is a sense of rightness to it for me. This is why I consider myself gender fluid though, because there is never much of a feeling of wrongness, so it isn't that I am transgendered, more that I just do not feel that I am solely female.

And while I have never disliked my female body, there are a lot of the more traditional aspects of femininity that I just don't get into. I love my son, but I would not consider myself a motherly person by nature. I can be polite and civilized when I wish to be, but by nature I am outspoken and quite bawdy. I embrace my sexuality with open arms, and if you don't like it that's not my problem (however I do not make it a habit of going out of my way to shove my business in other people's lives).

When I first got into Paganism, there were pretty distinct gender lines that didn't always make sense to me. The model I learned first was that of a mixed-gender coven that was mostly equal with a slight tilt towards matriarchy. The ideal was a group, led by a High Priestess and High Priest, and broken down into working pairs made of a man and a woman. Several sources even mentioned that if there were homosexual people in the coven, their sexual preference wasn't a key factor in the working pairs, but their biological gender was.

I never really liked the concept of these working pairs being male/female mandatory. I do think that men and women have different energy typically, however I think that some people blend those lines to the point that if you have a highly feminine woman and a highly feminine man who are working together, they might find that they are lacking on the male energy side, even though one of them is a man. Honestly though, I think that it is more important to work with someone you are compatible with, than to focus on one aspect like gender (because that really was the only factor that was considered necessary to balance).

I have had an interesting journey finding deities that I connect with, especially in regards to gender. I wasn't raised properly Christian, but we did go to services for Christmas and Easter. Around high school, when I was just starting to find my own path, my father got really into visiting different churches, so I went with him to a wide variety of services, and we went fairly regularly to one church that catered to teens and young adults. The pastor was wonderful, and the messages of the services were very well tailored to my age group. I did feel somewhat lacking however, as I had been doing a lot of reading about Paganism and the concept of deity in both a male and female.

This led me to a very Goddess focused practice for a while. I was never entirely devoted to the Goddess, there was always a place for the God in my practice and my life, but my primary deities for a lone while were female. They tended to be warrior or huntress Goddesses (or associated with fire). I didn't feel I had much in common with the more gentle and motherly Goddesses.

After a while, I realized that I was trying to reach a more masculine energy through these Goddesses. I had to rethink my whole concept of Gods, and try to separate out the more traditional (Christian) God concept and find my own understanding of male deity.

I also work with beings that I don't view in gendered terms. Beings like Raven, who to me is much more than an animal guide, and who doesn't come to me in either female or male forms, but neutral.

There has been a lot of discussion in the past couple of years about gender identity and how this effects the magical community. There have been events that have brought these thoughts into the general mind, and even though the events must have been traumatic to those involved, and have often led to quite heated discussions (and even arguments), I think that they were necessary to help us grow into something new.

I believe that a lot of modern Pagans aren't learning the same gender roles as were very prominent even a decade ago. There are a lot more options for 'standard' working groups. And yet I think we still have a long way to go. A lot of people are still breaking free from a more masculine religious model (even if their personal family weren't highly religious, we mostly live in a very book-religion society).

If you look at things like rituals, spells and chants, the number that are devoted to Goddesses or female energy and experience vastly outnumber the ones that speak to males or Gods. There are a lot of chants that assume female chanters. I think this is sad for a lot of reasons. Firstly I think it reinforces an old idea that women lead the groups in Paganism and that men are kind of secondary, which I think is a horrible standard.

But I also firmly believe, that no matter how firmly you identify with your gender (whether it matches your biological body or not), you can benefit from exploring the opposite gender. The lack of masculine influence effects both genders in my mind. Men may feel marginalized, and women are not being given the opportunity to experience masculine energy.

I don't think it is something to be fixed easily or quickly. There are still a lot of barriers to break down. Gender identity can be a very personal thing, especially if you don't identify with a traditional body aligned gender (or if you fit outside the binary division). It can be hard to understand another's gender identity, especially if it is very different from your own. It can be hard to deal with genders that might trigger memory of abuse. But I think the more we can look at and attempt to reconcile all these differences, the stronger we will be, both as individuals and as a global community.


  1. Very thoughtful, thank-you for sharing. I echoed some of the same thoughts in my own entry for this week's PBP, so I was delighted to hear that another blogger is thinking along the same lines.

  2. Thank you! I saw your blog post too (since it was the same topic), good stuff you wrote as well.