Author's Note: This is a long article, not a blog post, so you may wish to grab a cup of tea and settle in. In my latest PantheaCon blogs, I wrote about two of the three themes that wove through the event for me. Power and service I've already covered. Here is my take on the third—gender.
Gender is not one thing or another. Neither is sex. Or sexuality. Nor, for that matter, humanity. Theologically, I speak of God Herself as All, or Void, or Fabric of Existence. And then there is a division—"for love's sake"—and then, a coming back together. There is, in the midst of this all, multiplicity of form, function, and expression. There are many Gods, Goddesses, plants, ancestors, trees, humans, and stars. And we are connected by our molecules even when we feel divided by our bodies or minds. And all of this, even, is a convenience of thought attempting to reflect Reality.
The theme of gender at Pantheacon started for me on Friday afternoon, when I was able to catch most of Dr. Charlie Glickman's presentation on "The Mystery and the Masculine." I walked into a lively discussion about stereotypes, gender, and where we might find a place inside or outside of the box, and how breaking out of the box sometimes offers a full range of deep and powerful archetypes. Why was I drawn to this presentation? Not only do I like and respect Charlie, but I carry a great deal of the masculine within me; as a matter of fact, I used to get mistaken for a man with great frequency. I don't anymore, though most people still recognize that strand of my energy signature. I feel comfortable presenting in a more "female" way these days and my power is more fully integrated so my overall energy outlay is smoother. But you still won't catch me in a skirt unless I'm doing high femme drag. And that is rare.
I spoke in Charlie's class about Z Budapest saying last year that I was not a masculine woman, presumably because I wear lipstick now, and my jeans are no longer two sizes too big. No, I'm not butch like my butchest of friends, but the reason I identified as masculine at the first was in an attempt to do damage control around some masculinity bashing that had been going on. As I still swim strongly with that current, I outed myself on the panel and was then smacked down. Not for long, as you might imagine.
To Charlie, I also spoke about my discomfort with masculine identity because I am suspicious of identity in general, and because I wonder what masculine and feminine means, and in one way wish we could just say: "There is a whole range of energies and behaviors that men, women, and others can manifest, so what does this arbitrary polarity matter, anyway?" And though I hold this as a reality and an ideal, there is still some emotional attachment to these very terms: Masculine. Feminine.
Friday night, at a Meet and Greet for Solar Cross Temple and the New Alexandrian Library, I spoke with a woman who was interested in pitching in to help our project, but wanted to express some concerns about the treatment of transwomen by ciswomen in another local organization. One of my partners and I assured her that the Solar Cross mandate explicitly states that we oppose "discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sex, race, religion, age, ethnicity, gender, physical type or ability, sexual orientation or gender expression." Unbeknownst to us, perhaps at that very moment, transwomen and some cismen were being turned away from a ritual at a different door.
The next day, I taught "Battle Goddess: Self-Defense and General Kickassery" with my lovely assistant, Robert. One thing really struck me about gender in that class, and that was this: my examples included gay bashing and Westboro Baptist. That is where I go: anti-queer violence. It took two ciswomen in the crowd to bring up anti-rape techniques and women's defense. I was floored by this, because, despite being biologically female, those examples never even crossed my mind. Gender? I'm a woman, but neither cis nor trans, really. Neither is one of my primary partners. We are just denizens of what the '90s would have called Queer Nation.
So I'm back to my concerns in Charlie's class: what do masculine and feminine mean, anyway? We inhabit these physical bodies that express one thing, sort of, and we both love and are attracted to women and men, cis and trans. Look at each of us in a certain light, and in certain clothing, and we look one way. On a different day, something else might appear. So, Z might not consider me to be a masculine woman, but my subconscious doesn't think of myself as exactly female either. My non-gendered identity is a bit George Sand and Oscar Wilde. In other words, call me a Dandy. And what song was a hallmark of my youth? The gay male techno-ballad "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat. Of course, Jimmy Sommerville isn't very masculine, either. But I digress.