Many Paths, Many Genders

When it comes to gender, Paganism has the advantage of not being saddled with an allegedly infallible, unalterable book. This means that we are not doomed to be stuck trying to define ourselves by or adhere to laws written down millenia ago, before the advent of germ theory, toothpaste and cable. Not only are we liberated from first-century middle-eastern views on gender roles, we have the advantage of more than one deity, so none of that “God only has one gender” bias to make one sex superior to the others.

Yup, others, plural. Surely the time has come to get over the polarity of strictly dividing every being into male and female camps? After all, there are plenty of third-gendered folk about who fall somewhere in the middle of the continuum. Forcing them to “pick one” is like asking if they wouldn’t mind amputating a limb so as not to make anyone else uncomfortable.
While there are many Pagan paths with various views on gender, our community with its diversity should set an example for all faiths by valuing the lives and contributions of people of every gender identity. We of all people should be able and willing to question the dominant paradigm. And make no mistake; no matter what culture we grew up in, we absorbed an awful lot of ideas about gender roles and dynamics. This is fine, as long as we are able to recognize that we all come with baggage that it behooves us to examine and question. This includes what we grew up seeing as well as what we grew up not seeing. For example, if you are over a certain age, you probably grew up with zero third-gendered or transgendered role models. Third-gendered people face the additional invisibilty of having no option other than “male” or “female” with which to identify themselves on all their legal documents. How can you be visible when the government says you don’t exist?

In a community that inherently understands what it is to be different, we must offer safe space to individuals who are stigmatized and marginalized. To do less would be to dishonor the Holy Powers who create and sustain life in all its complexity and diversity, including the full spectrum of gender.

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  • I think this is a great start to this series on Gender and Paganism. I like that it also leaves room for real discussion on the true nature of *Pluralistic* viewpoints that can be found in many Pagan Paths.

    Lady Bless,

  • Well said! I hope this discussion continues. I’m continually looking for more ways to blend the lines.

  • Thank you for this, Laura.

    I would note, though, as someone who is outside the usual gender binary, that the spectrum of other options for genders (third, fourth, fifty-ninth, or otherwise) do not fall in between “male” and “female,” and in fact can be somewhere on the spectrum “behind” either of these, if not entirely off the spectrum. Government (or other) recognition of a “third” gender will not make things automatically easier for people like me.

    In Australia, after a government-approved examination by a doctor, someone recently was deemed to legitimately be of “neutral” gender. Government and medical recognition of gender is utterly irrelevant, since (as many people have said before), “sex is between the legs; gender is between the ears.” And, no matter how sophisticated their instruments or subtle their legal distinctions, neither government nor medicine can see into, much less quantify, the realities that each of us experience in terms of our own gender identities.

  • Laura Patsouris

    Yes…I have always thought of gender as a fluid thing, full of variation. As a nurse I am constantly surprised at how reactionary much of the medical establishment can be about this, even in 2010. Medicine has a long way to go to treating individuals who don’t conform to expected norms holistically and respectfully…as does society.

  • “After all, there are plenty of third-gendered folk about who fall somewhere in the middle of the continuum. Forcing them to “pick one” is like asking if they wouldn’t mind amputating a limb so as not to make anyone else uncomfortable.”

    Absolutely true. Thank you for this article, Laura.