Inspired by a comment posted on Trans Is A Teacher For All Of Us, I posted the following status update to Facebook:
“I wonder how my Wiccan friends might respond to the idea that the Lord and Lady gave us our form, or that a trans person transitioning is the greatest insult to them.”
The feedback I received to this one status update was proof to me that we need more discussion about gender essentialism in Pagan communities.
[Full disclosure: I'm not a Wiccan, nor am I a believer in deities who, in any literal sense, gave us form. I'm also the parent of an amazing trans kid who just underwent top surgery, so I'm biased.]
Below are some of the responses to my status updates. I’ve left people’s names off of this post to keep the emphasis on the ideas.
“I am not Wiccan, but I find it incredible hubris to think that we could decide what is the “greatest insult” to any deities. How does that person know what the wyrd of a trans person is?”
“The presence of a hard and fast gender binary in Wicca was kind of a turn off for me. In the Radical Faeries in DC we expanded this concept into recognizing God-Forms as Male, Female, Both, and Neither. When theology fails you, change your theology.” (emphasis mine)
“As a Wiccan, I find that idea very belittling.
We have a way of working in Wicca that makes a heterofocal use of sex differences. And personally, I love it – connecting with the way male-female pairings are how the natural processes that give us people (including trans people, gay people, straight people with no interest in ever reproducing, and so on) and food (again, eaten by the lot of us) is a very powerful thing to me.
But to take that way of working, and turn it into a single minded view on sex, gender, sexual orientation, and/or sexual expression I don’t just find bullshit in itself for its quite obvious disconnect with reality, but also an insult to that fertility focus that I love in its implication that others of us who find spiritual expression in focusing on it share their inability to see beyond it. The wonder of fertility is in the fact that we *can* see beyond it – that it leads to things beyond itself. Otherwise it would just be an interesting machine.”
“Personally, I think a trans person making the physical transition is taking the path they were meant for. Each soul has its own journey of discovery and growth, and trans people have a harder road than some other people. They should be nurtured, welcomed, and accepted for who they are. I may not understand the trans person journey, but that isn’t required for me to be supportive and caring, one human being to another.”
“Trans is the manifestation of analog gender. It’s produced by nature. I wonder how animals manifest it, for it must occur in them. And as below, so above.”“This is what I love & honor so much about trans & two-spirit nature. They destabilize so many fixed notions. They make everything more complex & interesting. Fundamentalists of all stripes are forced to gracefully bend or clumsily break.”
“When my spouse of ten years came out to my as transgendered, I stayed. The small community where we live views us a different, some of the people most offended by the transition now are great supporters. If nothing else Andrea has shown people that we are all the same deep down just in different wrappers. I’m pagan, she is working on her own spirituality.”
“Any theology that doesn’t take the realities of both biology and human social structure/culture into account is just superstitious nonsense. Saying that any deities “made” us a certain way and have some sort of “plan” for what we’re supposed to do with our lives is just nuts and might as well be fundamentailist *xian* thinking re-packaged into a dualistic concept of deity. Harumph and phooey.”
“My theology is that of co-creation with the Gods, not submission to their will. If I were to embark on that kind of change, I would consider it a dance of co-creation with the Gods, not a defiance of them.”
“Many of us pagans converted from religions in which the godform(s) were authoritative rule-givers and have a hard time giving up that paradigm. Personally, I don’t have much truck with deities who demand obedience or subservience to their will; if that’s what I wanted, I’d have stayed with the religion of my birth.”
There is a lot to sort through here, and admittedly I don’t have the space or perspective to work through it right now. But, that doesn’t mean the conversation can’t continue!
Please share your thoughts about gender essentialism, its connection to Pagan traditions, and how you think it needs to be embraced, adjusted, or rejected altogether.
Then, after you’ve updated your feed, show your love of this newly independent blog by sharing this post on the social network of your choice!
(P.S. Thank you to everyone who sent love and prayers to me and my family. We really appreciate it.)