The subject of gender in spirituality – men’s mysteries, women’s mysteries, has come up on the Druid Network facebook group this week. I have no problem with people doing anything that makes sense to them or that they find useful, but this is one I struggle with personally.
Biologically speaking I am straightforwardly female – and always have been. I bleed, I carried a baby, I managed to produce milk, I curve in places maidens and mothers tend to curve. I can talk about bleeding and babies and feminine sexuality no trouble at all if it comes up, but I tend not to seek out the spaces designed for such conversations. I have a sense of not belonging in those women’s spaces, of not being properly qualified somehow. I do not know why that is, and I’ve given it a good deal of thought.
Psychologically speaking, I’m androgynous. Back when I was at college, I minored in psychology and spent some time looking at ideas of gender and gender identity. I did some tests, I know what I am. A great deal of gender is social construct rather than biologically determined. I had quite a gender-neutral childhood – no playing princesses, nothing of the pink and glittery, and culturally no kind of exposure to the sort of femininity that does heels and makeup. Critically, no television and no glossy magazines. So I grew up without having any idea about how to be *that* sort of girl. That aspect of my teens was perplexing, as I tried to figure out what the rules were and where on earth I fitted. As much of my social life revolved around being a drummer in a band, and other musical options, I tended to hang out with guys a lot. I had a couple of close female friends, but they had tomboy tendencies too, so the things regular girls seemed to be doing remained mysteries.
I’m a geek – another area of life dominated by guys. Geek girls were few and far between back when I was a girl. Every music performance space I’ve been involved with has been male dominated. Guys with beards and guitars are a bit of a folk cliché, but just what you want if you’re a fiddle player looking for someone to jam with.
One of the things I really like about Druidry is the way we don’t automatically polarise along gender lines. Most of the rituals and groups I’ve been involved with have simply never made gender an issue. Biological gender, psychological gender, orientation, life stage… none of it matters usually. I’ve only seen a few spaces that did seem polarized, and I stayed away from them. I had a keen sense of there being no space for me in a circle that seems to be about ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ in a very straight sense. I don’t want to try and act out that part and I have no idea how to relate to anyone on those terms.
Being female is not my defining spiritual experience. Being human is not my defining spiritual identity, either. I like it when circles have dogs in them, when cows and sheep turn up to watch, or birds get involved. Being alive is not my defining spiritual identity, because I have a growing sense, of and affinity with the dead people who also show up sometimes. To be a Druid, is to be present. The rest is just detail.