Tracy and Robin

two 2

Tracy and Robin had joked for years before they got married that people never knew who was “he” and who was “she” of the two of them. They decided that it was nobody’s business, so they never let on.

Their friends had hoped to learn the truth on their wedding day. Surely they would wear the traditional clothes? They were in for quite a surprise when they arrived at the event. They wore the traditional clothes, but not in the traditional way. This was in line with everything they stood for, so it made sense after all, but it still didn’t answer any questions.

Tracy and Robin were drawn to each other not out of a sense of finding their other half, but in finding another person who was whole. Both were perfectly comfortable repairing a car or knitting a shawl. Both could mow the lawn as well as cook. They felt lucky that their parents had taught them both how to be people first and foremost. Their gender was never used as a reason for or against learning anything.

They both hid their gender, not out of a sense of privacy or shame, but out of a sense of rightness. They wanted people to relate to them as people. The first item of prejudice was gender. Sure, you could add race, religion, creed, national origin and a host of other things up to and including what football team they rooted for. People used any excuse they could to pigeonhole you, to decide who you were before you even opened your mouth. Tracy and Robin figured that the more you can avoid those markers, the more people would have to make up their own minds for a change.

They were mindful to shop only where the bathrooms were genderless. Sometimes the buildings were old and only had one restroom with a single toilet. Sometimes they had family restrooms. They didn’t want to have to out themselves if they could avoid it.

They shopped at thrift stores, getting whatever clothing that struck their fancy and wasn’t too snug. Both were equally comfortable in pants or skirts. They were pleased when they could find clothing that was from immigrants because it was often loose and ambiguous. Comfort was the most important thing.

It was always assumed that one was female, but it wasn’t a given. Both could have been. Or neither. Or one or both could be intersex. Did it matter? Nobody separates by eye color or height, so why separate by something as equally meaningless and random as gender?

Jumping – on inclusion and exclusion

I was at a gathering once where there was an opening ceremony that was not inclusive. It was a breath exercise that had us chanting the name of Shiva, a Hindu god.

The group was mixed, and nobody was Hindu. Some were Christian, some had no religion, and some were openly pagan. Some people were quite opposed to Christianity, having been harmed by the church as they were growing up.

After the opening exercise, we were all asked what we felt. We were asked this after all parts of the event – not just here. Several Christians said that they felt uncomfortable with this exercise, because it sounded like they were being asked to pray to Shiva. Some Christians said that they said “Alleluia” instead, and one chanted “Do Re Me”. Some did it for a few chants, but then stopped. They were uncomfortable, so they didn’t want to participate.

I was one of those people, but I didn’t say it at the time. They were saying it for me. I didn’t want the participant who shared this thing which was important to him to feel like we were jumping on him. I did want him to be sensitive to the feelings of his audience, however.

What I did was pray beforehand. I thought of different Bible verses that would apply to this situation. I thought of how Jesus says that if we are connected to Him, nothing can harm us. We can be bitten by snakes and drink poison and we will be safe. This wasn’t that dramatic, but it seemed to apply in a way. Then I was concerned about giving the wrong impression to others. The apostle Paul tells us that we can eat meat that has been consecrated to gods – that it won’t harm us. But he also says that we shouldn’t, because it might give the wrong impression to new Christians. Our actions might cause them to stumble.

I chanted along for a little, but honestly it went on a lot longer than I thought it was going to. I got tired of it and stopped. I opened my eyes to see the teacher looking at me– she thought it was going on too long too.

We had a break immediately after our discussion and the lady sitting next to me stood up and started jumping up and down vigorously and shaking her hands and wrists. She looked a little manic. After a minute of this, I asked her what she was doing and she said that she was shaking it off. She was “so upset” by that discussion, and that it represents her “life’s work”. I got the impression that she thought the Christians were closed minded. She had said earlier that she participated in something called “Dances of Universal Peace”. Right then her “dance” looked like she was ready to jump off a cliff.

I am now very glad that I didn’t say anything before so I could see this happen.

Later we had a time where we were singing wordless sounds. We were given a few open chords, and we started adding in our own sounds – some drum, some shaker, some intoning. Eventually it all became the sound of “Alleluia” over and over. After that, we discussed it again. Several non-Christians said that they felt very uncomfortable with it. One even thought about leaving.

It seemed like an interesting counter to the opening. Now the other half of the room felt awkward. I didn’t notice any Christians jumping up and down, shaking off how angry they were at the non-Christians. Later, at lunch, I happened to sit with several Christians and we talked about

There seems to be an interesting dynamic happening these days. Christians are expected to be considerate of non-Christians feelings, but non-Christians aren’t expected to do the same.

I recall how I created a Thanksgiving dinner prayer that was inclusive and considered the feelings of relatives who were openly against Christianity. They don’t have a faith tradition – they have a visceral reaction against Christianity. The prayer didn’t mention Jesus or God at all, but did give thanks. I took quite a bit of time to make something that would work for both sides. Meanwhile, at all other gatherings, they don’t think about the fact that the Christians feel obliged to pray before a meal. I feel that to eat a meal without giving thanks for it is to act like a dog – just lunging in and devouring food. A compromise would be a moment of silence beforehand, where the non-Christians don’t have to hear a prayer, but the Christians can say one quietly to themselves. They don’t consider this.

I feel like this is happening more and more in our society.

Sure, plenty of Christians have been thoughtless. They have been pushy and aggressive. They have given people judgment and condemnation rather than love and service. They have not been Christ-like. We have had to soften our approach, certainly. But we also have to meet in the middle.

I’m OK with someone not being Christian, but I expect the same courtesy from them. If I’m OK with you living like you want to, I need you to also be OK with me living like I want to. I don’t need everybody in the room to pray to God, but I do need everybody to understand that I am going to. I don’t expect them to pray along with me. I’ll try to do it in a way that they don’t have to hear it. But if I have to participate in their belief system, then why do I have to be silent about my own?

In our desire to make a more inclusive society, we have to include everybody.

The center where we were meeting was a treatment center for addictions. It had elements from many faiths there – Buddhist and Native American being the most prominent. There were Tibetan bells, yoga mats, sage smudge sticks, and carved masks. There were books on mindfulness from Asian religions. There was only one thing that referred to Christianity, and it was a small painting of Mary. It was high up above the lintel of a door, and it was around a corner. There were things there that represented the wisdom traditions of the world – but with one prominent exception.

So much for equality.

Most of the people who were going to be coming to this center normally weren’t going to be members of those wisdom traditions – they were going to be middle-class white people from America. They were going to be surrounded by images of peace from cultures they aren’t part of. Meanwhile, their own culture wasn’t represented, out of a desire to not offend. Something seems odd about this.

I believe that we can share. I believe that we can all participate together. I believe that we can all get along. I believe that for one group to dominate the conversation is to change it from a conversation into a monologue. Yes – Christians have dominated the conversation for a long time. But the answer to that isn’t to silence the Christians and raise the voice of the non-believers.

We aren’t equal unless we all are equal. This applies to everything – belief, gender, race – everything.

Poem – Made in the Image

There is something honest
about babies and old people.

They don’t look like any one
gender. They just look like
themselves.

Perhaps this is what is meant
about
being made in the
Image of God.

Perhaps these beings
that are before or beyond
the need
to be
a specific gender,
before or beyond
sex

have it figured out.

Perhaps being intersexed or unisexed or unsexed is it.

When we are past the need
to be female or male
and we get down to the business
of being human

maybe then is when we start
getting to the good stuff

the God stuff.

Gender roles.

What is it about gender roles? Are they nature or nurture?

Is there something about being a girl that means you like ponies and princesses? Is there something about being a boy that means you like trains and trucks?

How much of this is programmed into them? How much of it is reinforced or suppressed?

I was at a craft store recently and noticed that a young boy was there with his grandmother. She was buying beads for a project. He asked her to buy some beads for him because he wanted a necklace. Rather than being pleased that her grandson was interested in a craft that she enjoyed, she told him “Boys don’t wear beads!”

I, of course, had to disagree. I mentioned that there are cultures all over the world where men wear beads. I mentioned that there is nothing about beads that says a boy can’t wear them. I could tell that grandmother had been programmed too because she immediately changed her tune and started to help him look for beads.

Why are boys taught that anything “girly” is bad? Boys are steered away from pink. They are told that dolls are for girls. Then the worst – boys don’t cry.

I think we do children, but especially boys, a huge disservice when we try to shape them into something they are not. I think we need to let them be who they are, and not try to force them into a pre-made form.

Meanwhile, girls are allowed to play with boy’s toys. Girls can be tomboys. But boys who play with girl’s toys are sissies.

This is terrible. This is dangerous. We are creating boys who are tough and hard and are not in touch with their emotions or feelings, and have no way of getting them out. This is the source of many problems. We have to undo this. We are teaching boys to be boys at the expense of their souls. When we give them “rules” about how things must be, we don’t let them use their own creativity or insight. We stop them from growing.

I remember one time while I was working in Washington DC. I was at a Balinese shadow puppet show. The men were elaborately dressed in long flowing robes. A young boy was sitting near me and he was a little freaked out by the idea of “men in dresses.” Hello, teachable moment. I pointed out that Scottish men wear kilts. I also pointed out that women didn’t wear pants in America as recently as the 50s. Things change. What is now a given will change.

And then there is the idea of Jesus. He never wore pants.

I have a student this year who got very upset when I mentioned that boys can wear pink. This is the same student who says the teacher sings the alphabet song wrong. My husband looks very good in pink. African American men look beautiful in jewel tones. I’m concerned that this student has been given very definite rules that he is constantly going to butt his head up against. He is doing very poorly with his schoolwork, and has no friends. Life is hard when you can’t adjust.

Let boys be themselves. Let girls be themselves. Teach them both how to change a tire. Teach them both how to cook. We need to stop gender stereotyping them. Everybody needs to learn useful skills if we are going to have fully realized people. Perhaps this will mean we will have more discoveries, as people open up their minds to the “what ifs”.

Perhaps it will mean that people will marry out of strength and not weakness. They won’t have to marry someone to complete themselves. They will be two strong people who can both mow the yard, raise the children, pay the bills, and get the chores done.

God is neither male nor female.

God is neither male nor female. God just is. God is both and neither. God has no need of gender. God does not need another half. God is whole. God is the Creator. It is our human minds that need male-ness and female-ness to God. God has both qualities together.

I believe that to promote the idea of “the Goddess” or the “divine feminine” in order to achieve parity is a bad idea. I understand why some women feel it necessary to have God be female. People tend to want to make God in their own image. But if it is rude to women to have God be masculine, then it is rude to men to have God be feminine.

Our human brains can’t handle something not being definable or limitable, but that is at the heart of what God is.

God is the alpha and the omega at the same time. God is, was, and shall be. Our human minds cannot handle that. We can’t handle something that is beyond our concept of time. So we certainly can’t handle something that is asexual or bisexual or omnisexual. We don’t have a box on the form to check off for that.

God was described as male, as father, in a time where being male was seen as superior. This is why God was described as male then. But God is above all of us. Our language does not have a third person gender neutral pronoun other than it, and that sounds terrible. “It” just doesn’t have any weight to it. But s/he is weird too. And it still subtly promotes one gender before another. God is the perfect balance of both, and neither at the same time.

It is us who are divided, but God is one. God is complete and unified.