Does God care about gender? Transgender people and the Divine

Everyone is talking about Bruce Jenner at the moment. So here’s an interesting thought: does God – or do the Gods – care about gender?

Do our souls – if we have them – have genders?

You know, this never really occurred to me until recently. I remember reading somewhere that hardly anyone has a transgendered friend, and it’s something that few people connect with.

I must be different, because I can’t count the number of transgendered friends I have on one hand – I think I have eight or nine, last time I stopped to think about it.

The thing that strikes me most about people who transition is how little it affects who they are, to we people on the outside. To me, perhaps the most amazing feature of the whole process is how much they remain the same. They’re still the same people.

I remember being worried, when my friends have transitioned, that I’d lose my friends. But my friends have remained the same people inside. Their souls, if that’s the right word for it, have remained the same.

I suppose it’s naive to expect that gender should make such a huge difference, but before I knew people who had become male when they’d been female before, or female when they’d become male, I guess I’d expected their innate personality – the person they are inside – to change dramatically. It didn’t; it hasn’t.

So if it doesn’t matter to me, does it matter to the Gods?

A Goddess for everyone across the spectrum of gender

My patron Goddess is Aphrodite. Of all Goddesses she’s one to have a little fun with gender. She’s the Goddess of switching forms, of hermaphrodites and androgyny, and of playing games with gender roles.

A lot of people, when they think of Aphrodite, imagine this very, very feminine Goddess. But they forget that Aphrodite is also the Goddess who was spawned, so the legend goes, from the sea foam created by the castrated genitalia of Uranus, and her children include Hermaphroditus. She governs gender fluidity and transition, and is accepting of transition and non-traditional gender roles. The Gods aren’t necessarily easy to categorize.

Looks can be deceiving

Nor are people easy to categorize. Bruce Jenner, of all people, was portrayed as the stereotypical All-American male – the perfect athlete, the good-looking man who every man wanted as his friend and for his daughter as a partner. He was incredibly desirable and high-profile. Could anyone have seen this coming?

According to Jenner, it’s been here inside him all his life – inside him, waiting to come out. He started taking female hormones in the 1980s, 30 years ago. This isn’t a new thing for him.

That’s something you hear, again and again, from people who transition. The pressures to remain the gender they were born into are incredibly strong, and it is only once the pain of remaining who they are becomes too intense that they break the chains and push for the freedom to become themselves. Transitioning isn’t a kick, or a fad: it’s something they must do, and have needed to do for many years. It’s only society that has held them back.

We are all in transition

It’s both an indictment and praise to our societies that people feel such pressure to remain hidden for so long, yet are finally able to become who they feel they are meant to be. I think we’re societies in transition too, perhaps. But the signs are good that we’re becoming more tolerant, more accepting, and more positive for transgendered people.

We are transitioning too: we are learning, as a society, to be kind, open-minded, and to love unconditionally.

Do the Gods care? Personal perspectives

So – do our souls have gender? Do the Gods care? Will the transgendered be judged? Does any of it matter, apart from the happiness of the individual?

Or are the Gods, as the ancient Greeks might imagine, just playing games with us all, throwing the dice, making life more difficult for some than for others?

As a woman who, I suppose, is very gender-neutral, I’ve never felt the need to be a man. I can’t imagine what it is like. Yet I certainly fit more of a male stereotype than a female. I don’t own any skirts or dresses – at all. I wear a lot of men’s clothes. I’m a bodybuilder and weightlifter, spent time in the army, own a farm, castrate sheep and do most of the yard work around the property, work in tech, have tertiary experience in software engineering…the list goes on.

I can’t think of anything worse than knitting or sewing or quilting or wearing frilly clothes. But do I want to be a man? No. I’m just me. Somewhere in the middle of the gender spectrum, I guess. I don’t feel confined by any roles. Why should I be? But my experiences are different to those of others. I have no right to judge. My right is that of support, and of friend.

If I have a soul, it’s not pink or blue. It’s probably orange, or yellow, or maybe lime green. I’m not really into the concept of souls anyway, but if the Gods care about gender, then I believe it’s a very small part of what makes a person worthwhile.

So my view is, if a person needs to transition to be complete and whole and happy, then let them. Support them. They’ll still be the same person inside. Because they always were that same person inside.

We just couldn’t see it.

Swings and roundabouts at Mabon

Have you ever noticed how history is cyclical?

I was at a Pagan meeting this afternoon.

The Pagan scene in Dunedin, New Zealand, where I live, has been very, very quiet for a long time. It was very active a few years ago – a little over half a decade ago – then it all died off for various reasons to do with a conservative element and a few nasty elements in the community – and everything went really quiet.

Until now.

greenman

Interestingly, I’ve also got a Munch (social gathering) tomorrow for the kinky community tomorrow. The kinky community in Dunedin has also been very. very quiet for a long time.

It was very active a few years ago – a little over half a decade ago – then it all keeled over for various reasons to do with a few nasty elements in the wider community – and everything went really quiet.

Until now.

At the Pagan meeting I went to, I heard how the University Women’s Officer used to do Womens Rituals. I just about died from shock when I heard that.

Imagine that! In conservative Dunedin! That all stopped of course, a few years ago. About the same time as everything else.

About that same time, the conservative city council of Dunedin began closing down student pubs, tightening up student behaviour they deemed inappropriate for various reasons, and generally restricting anything they considered to be not “suitable” for a staid and stodgy town.

To “clean it up”, was the excuse given, among a number of other excuses.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

Pots boil over

The thing is, life goes in cycles. And as much as a conservative trend may try to close down stuff it doesn’t particularly like, pots will always boil over in the end.

You can’t bully whole communities into submission and expect things to last that way forever without dissent and uprising and change.

I think that’s what’s happening now. The wind is changing.

eclipse

Written in the wind…

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the sub-communities are struggling to their feet again at the same time, afetr being all but killed off.

I don’t believe that you can close down pubs and venues for fun and letting off steam for students, and just expect that they’ll stop needing those outlets for fun and relaxation. Life doesn’t work that way.

Life is swings and roundabouts. Life is change. You can’t keep the Old Gods down.

ivyruins

Too conservative stifles our breath!

In Dunedin, there’s a really strong and powerful element, and it’s in charge, that would like to see Dunedin as nothing but a conservative, neat, polite, vanilla town full of suburbanites who wear suits and go to Church on Sundays and watch TV in the evenings and never, EVER would consider going to a Drumming-Trance-Pagan event or a play party.

Oh no, not ever.

That same element doesn’t approve of student pubs and student experimentation and kink and creativity and challenge and free thought, because those things are scary and uncontrolled and can’t be made a profit from easily.

But what it forgets is that we’re human. Not machines. We don’t come in little boxes, one size fits all. A fair number of us like to party. And drink. Some of us even like to do Pagan ritual, or kinky sex.

Or both.

The lid has been kept on the pot a little too long. All the while we’ve been here, quietly simmering away, but now we’re boiling over, and expanding out into the world again.

We're coming out of our closets again - but not quite like this! ;)
We’re coming out of our closets again – but not quite like this! 😉

Swings and roundabouts.

The more you restrict a subculture, the more it will grow and expand and thrive. Right under your nose. You just won’t see it happening until – bang! – suddenly it’s on your doorstep demanding rights.

Dunedin may seem a conservative town on the surface, but beneath that surface things are beginning to get really interesting.

I don’t know what will happen, but I’m sure looking forward to finding out.

And Happy Mabon! 🙂 May the Old Gods rise again!

mabon

50 Shades of DAFUQ?

I’ve been re-reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

50-shades-of-grey-cover_300x400

Before you go cringing at me reading it let alone re-reading it, let me explain.

I first read the book about a year and a half ago. I have a background in literature, and I generally try to keep up with what’s it the bestseller lists. Especially when a novel comes out of nowhere, the author is unheard of, and suddenly everyone is talking about the book.

Fifty Shades (soon to be a major motion picture – ohhh, aren’t we lucky!) matched all of the above criteria. Plus it was rumoured to be about BDSM, a topic of personal interest (to put it politely), so it piqued my curiosity.

I grabbed an e-copy, and started reading. And was appalled.

Fifty Shades of Stalking! Fifty Shades of Creepy! Fifty Shades of I’d Call The Cops!

The first thing that struck me was that the love interest, Christian Grey, was more of a stalker than a Dom.

What Christian Grey REALLY looks like!
What Christian Grey REALLY looks like!

He was downright creepy, and I’d have been more inclined to call the cops on him than take a roll in his “Red Room Of Pain” (major LOLs at that!).

But also, the whole thing was just wrong. It got everything wrong. (Except for the playing to Spem In Alium thing – that was kinda cool actually…)

Fifty Shades of So What Was Wrong With It?

It made kink out to be some sort of mental illness. Like people who do this sort of play have something wrong with us, and it takes a good vanilla girl to set things right. It supported the old, and completely wrong, assumption that kinky people have all been molested as children and suffer from mental illness.

Apparently in Books 2 and 3 of the series, Ana (the protagonist) “heals” Christian Grey from his kinky habits and they go on to live happy, vanilla lives. Presumably with 2.3 kids, a white picket fence, and a BMW in the driveway.

Major vom voms.

Kinky people are normal. Just kinky

I look at myself and my play partner, and we grew up in very typical, normal, healthy families. No broken homes. Not molested as children. Or ever. No horrible “Uncle Fester” types grabbing a grope the moment our parents’ backs were turned.

We’re just kinky because we like to play that way, just like people who are gay are born that way too. Or people who are straight are born that way too.

From my observation, we’re no more likely to have mental illness than the rest of the population, although there does seem to be a higher percentage of geeky / nerdy types among the kinky set than the general population.

Fifty Shades of She Didn’t Do Her Due Diligence!

How the author of Fifty Shades could have got it so completely wrong is beyond me. All I can think is that she’s not the slightest bit kinky herself, and did a minimum amount of research with Mr Google before deciding to write the novel.

fifty-shades-of-fucked-up

It’s a shame too, because had just a few things been changed (okay, well, quite a few things!) she could have used the novel to educate instead of denigrate.

Fifty Shades of OMG it’s a WHIP!! Run!!! Run for your life!!!

BDSM can look scary to the untrained eye. Yes, we do play with people’s comfort zones and boundaries. It’s a way of living life on the edge. Living a little bigger and brighter and darker. Seeing the world in all shades of the spectrum – not just shades of grey, you might say.

It’s not for everyone. Most people are happier without kink. It doesn’t suit them. That’s fine.

A lot of things that people do can look scary, or even crazy, to the untrained eye. Strapping a pair of planks to your feet and shooting fast down a snowy mountain (skiing), or taking a running jump off a cliff with only a few nylon pieces of fabric to hold you up (paragliding), or sitting in a metal tube thousands of feet above the earth with nothing but air between you and the ground (flying in a jet aircraft) – all these seem foolhardy to the uninitiated.

Some people like to live life safely while others like to experience everything life can offer. We all live life along a spectrum of what we want to experience or are willing to experience.

The choices are ours alone – it’s only when those choices are taken away from us, as portrayed in the Fifty Shades book, that experiences move from being consentual to being abusive. Ana is in an abusive relationship with Christian, not a healthy kinky one.

Fifty Shades of A Complete Disgrace

So what has all this to do with Aphrodite? Quite a bit actually. As you might remember from the Charge of the Goddess,

All acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals

Yet this book twisted something that is usually about pleasure, and often about love, into something that was more about mental illness and stalking and insecurity.

Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t portray a loving, kinky relationship. I should know – I’m in one. It portrays a relationship of mental abuse and stalking, of complete mental manipulation where the recipient is NOT consenting or enjoying what she is receiving. It’s abusive, plain and simple. Everyone I know in the kinky community would advise Ana to get the hell out! I sure would.

Kink is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be pleasurable – otherwise we wouldn’t do it. It’s supposed to be cathartic, and a way of finding release, and experiencing sensation, and moving towards a deeper experience of reality.

It is often about Dominance, but not in a petty, stalking sort of way. Fifty Shades might have done the world a service in the end, by encouraging lots of newbies to experiment. But I can’t help thinking the overall result will be negative, because the vanilla, majority world will believe that the kinky world is one of stalkers, abusers, and the mentally ill.

In closing, if you’re intrigued by BDSM, don’t believe a shred of what you read in Fifty Shades. Instead, go find your local kinky community leaders, and join a local group. You’ll find they’re a lot more normal than Christian Grey. Or join an online community like Fetlife if you find face-to-face too intimidating at first. Above all, though, go with your gut.

Play safe. And have fun. That’s what it’s all about 🙂

Paganism, Sex, Ritual and Kink

Mainstream culture and religion have RULES about sex.

Sex should be…

– private.
– between a man (singular) and a woman (singular).
– in a bed.
– between married people.
– for procreation only.
– in the missionary position only.
– penis in vagina.
– between people who love one another.
– a relationship where women are submissive and men are dominant.
– between people of the same race, age (roughly) and demographic (roughly).
– something that men initiate, and women never ask for.
– something that women don’t actually enjoy, desire or actively search for.

The list goes on. It’s all so confining and restricting that you have to wonder that a) any sex ever happens at all and that b) when it does, people are able to enjoy it.

Then there’s Paganism and Kink.

What If?

What both do is ask, What If?

What if we throw out the rules that somebody, somewhere told us we had to attach to sex and communication?

What if we just explored our bodies and our minds with curiosity and fascination, and experimented with what feels good, what feels bad, and what our responses to various stimuli are?

What if we made our own rules, instead of accepting, without question, the rules that society has given us and expects us to accept in our lives?

Hieros Gamos
Hieros Gamos

Throw away the rule book

Mainstream religions, to my way of thinking, are about accepting dogma and rules. They give us guidelines and boundaries, and say: Here you go. This is how things are. Accept these rules, and give us your money, and we may choose to accept you. Or not.

Yes, that’s a very cynical viewpoint, but I haven’t seen anything to discredit it.

And mainstream sexual ethics tell us, from that first sex ed class in school through to what is reinforced in movie love scenes and advertising and cultural tropes everywhere we look, that some ways of enjoying sex are more equal than others. Anything outside a fixed set of narrow practices will mark you as a pervert, as a deviant, as somehow wrong.

If you’re a man that finds other men attractive you’ll be scorned. If you’re a woman that loves women, you’ll be abused. Experimenting in bed is frowned upon. Anal sex is sodomy and a sin. Sex between partners of different ages and cultures is disgusting. Women who actively seek out sex are whores, and those women who enjoy sex and are open about the fact are sluts.

Men who prefer the submissive role are unmanly, and sex where there is no penis in vagina penetration – well, that isn’t sex at all, as the thousands of so-called virgins in the Bible Belt who are enjoying regular anal sex with their partners will be quick to point out.

Why we have these rules is an interesting question. I think it’s all about control. Not content with control our finances (job laws and taxes) and our living arrangements (through marriage laws, housing laws etc.), governments and mainstream religions have sought to control our sex lives too.

Telling people how to behave sexually is just another form of control, of subservience, of domination. Do what you’re told, even behind closed doors. Controlling what people think and want to do is the highest form of absolute manipulation.

Aphrodite
Aphrodite

Finding connection

Paganism and kink are, for me at least, intrinsically connected. They’re both forms of free thought and experimentation. You don’t have to like or accept eveything available – not by a long shot. They’re not about conforming to the Church Of Wicca or to the House of PVC, if that doesn’t float your boat. When you enter the world of Paganism, you don’t have to go buy your cape and wand, and when you start in kink you don’t have to go buy a set of handcuffs to be accepted. Everything is valid between consenting adults.

Paganism doesn’t have to be kinky, but it’s a lot more fun when it is. Because, in the end, life is about sex. And so is religion. Religion should be sexy. For too long we’ve been used to the stale, sexless, Godless churches, which thrive on taking away the physical from the spiritual – separating the two and neglecting the needs of the body.

Yet our bodies are Temples – beautiful, sacred temples. To ignore their needs and their desires is foolish and ignorant.

I’m not suggesting that every ritual needs to contain a sexual element. It doesn’t. Or that religion is always about sex. It isn’t. But sex does need to be recognised within religion in order for us to be whole, complete, satisfied beings. Our bodies need to be recognised and fulfilled for religion to feel complete and whole.

With Perfect Love and Perfect Trust

I believe it’s time to put the sex back into religion. Yes, I’m a sensualist, but I do believe it’s time to put the curiosity and the bliss and the spirit back into sex. It’s time for Paganism and kink and sex to all come together within sacred space, and to connect again. It can be done, and it can be done well. “With perfect love and perfect trust” not just as empty words, once again having real meaning in our lives.

Paganism has become tainted by puritanism and consumerism. So you see circle after circle, coven after coven, all geared up with the nicest of trinkets, yet afraid to talk about sex. They’ll discuss everything and anything but. They’ll comment on one another’s latest greatest toy scrying mirror, but won’t share any deep ritual that can truly help them find the Divine God and Goddess within.

Sex is a scary topic. It should be. We bare our souls, and who we are, when we go deep and open with others. We show others who we truly are, and that can be a frightening prospect. There is no turning back, once another person has seen the light that guides you within, in a sexual, spiritual setting. Yet there is so much more to be gained than lost, the fear is worth the risk. Because we risk losing so much more if we remain forever afraid to share who we are.

So yes, I’m advocating our putting down of the capes and the wands and the pretty knick-knacks on the shelves. To truly connect with the Divine, we need to start by exploring our own bodies – what they do, how they respond, how we can connect with others. The human body truly is a miraculous, Divine thing.

It’s time we learned, once again, how to experience our own Divinity.