This is part of a synchroblog event coordinated by queertheologycom. For more information about what a synchroblog is, please go here. We – me and Colin – practice different religions, so we are doing our blog together but not as a conversation like we normally do. Colin is first and I am second.
I generally think of it as autumn to autumn.
This is inspired by the fact that as a young Pagan, I celebrate a holiday called Samhain, often referred to as the witches new year or Halloween. It is my holiday of renewal and restart. The end and the beginning.
It’s my favourite holiday for many reasons, ranging from the silly decorations and costumes the world outside of Paganism recognizes, to the deep spiritual connection I have with the day.
It, like many Pagan celebrations, has a deep connection to creation.
I also think that something I favour of this holiday is its lack of connection to gender, which might be weird, coming from a gender creative person. As a transman, I feel like sometimes my life gets swamped with that single piece of my identity. I was out and proud in high school, speaking at events, writing as a transperson for mine and my mother’s blog, and answering all of the intrusive questions that often come along with being trans – Wait, are you gay now? Are you straight now? How do you have sex? So you want a penis?
When my spirituality and religion started to become more important to me and I started going out of my way to help the two thrive and feel content within myself, gender wasn’t a thing I wanted to connect with it. Same with sexuality and romantic attraction. Because those are all important parts of my life and big pieces of what creates me, but not how I create my spirituality.
I create my spirituality with warmth and comfort. When I’m doing a circle, a ritual, or meditating, I’ll use symbols, items, and clothes that are meaningful to me, and not what is the ‘norm’ of a Pagan ritual. Such as I have a Life Energy candle that I light, but I don’t light g’d and g’ddess candles.
Outside of the ritualistic side of my spirituality and religion, I create sacred spaces throughout my life. In particular, I have an altar of sorts set up in my bedroom. I change it as it seems right through my journey to change it, and don’t alter it to the flow of the moon or to what holiday is closest – except for Samhain, but that holiday has a lot of specific importance to me.
The items on my altar at times make it look more like an altar – such as right now, it has an incense container, symbols of the five elements, my books of knowledge, a plate with the Knight’s Code of Chivalry on it, my Book of Shadows, and my athame – but sometimes looks nothing like. Previous to the current set up it was a picture a dear friend had drawn for me, a fake flower, a tiny chair with a very old stuffed animal that my mother gave to me, a shell full of little rocks that I like, and a single candle. It depends how my spirituality feels at that moment, and how the world is impacting me.
In the end, I create a lot of my own spirituality because I don’t feel tied to gender whilst I’m floating through the cosmos, and in Paganism, as in all religions that I have observed, there is a strong tie to gender. Which isn’t a bad thing. I do at times light a g’d candle, a g’ddess candle, a spirit candle, or all three.
But the point is I found a religion that fits how I feel, and the fact that I create a fair amount of my expression of it and my words for it doesn’t make it any less important or viable. In many ways, far more, because I created it, and it’s forever a part of me.
Thanks, Colin. I love that you have found a way to express yourself that meets the spiritual needs that you have. I think you know that I disagree with you about how we embody religious experience and that our bodies are central to the story. But, I think it is okay. I totally understand the need for a gender-free-zone. I love you!! Now my turn…
The theology or scripture that I find in scripture that I would like to queer is the creation story in John 1.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
This is a very familiar passage to Christians, especially those from an evangelical background that privileges the Gospel of John over other gospels. I confess that I used to find John “flinch” worthy, but now I am so in love with it – it is beyond ridiculous! The author of the Gospel of John (unknown) was a brilliant person (gender identification is also unknown).
Focusing on the word “Word,” we find the Greek word logos. Logos is tied to two understandings – one in Greek Platonic mythology translated “Reason” but derived from the verb lego which would be “to speak” and the other in Hebrew scriptural understanding translated “Wisdom” (sophia).
In one fell swoop, the author of John ties together:
- Platonic reason, form and matter and how the entire cosmos is understood in the concept of the perfected form learned only by application of reason and never experienced as all matter falls short of the concept of its form (form is tree-ness, the matter may be a seed or branch or even a tree-but never the full expression of tree-ness).
- Sophia, Hebrew scripture’s Wisdom in English from Proverbs 8:
8:1 Does not Wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?
22 The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth—
26 when he had not yet made earth and fields,
or the world’s first bits of soil.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there,
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 then I was beside him, like a master worker;
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.
Additionally, the Goddess Sophia, in pre-Biblical literature, dances the world into existence.
- And Jesus, in the Gospel of John in verses 1:14-18, co-identified with the Word as the Word become flesh.
John brilliantly packages the Word (Logos) , the divine feminine (Sophia), and the embodiment of God (Jesus).
Male and female tied together in the person of the child of God as grounded in Platonic thought as the perfect idea or form.
At a minimum, the author of John can be seen as unconcerned with traditional gender roles. In its most expansive interpretation, the person of the Word is intersex.
So all of this is a big “so what” unless it informs my understanding of the Divine and my understanding of the world. What does it mean if the Word, Logos, is non-gender conforming? It brings an incredible freedom to be gender creative and still fall within the concept of the perfect idea of child of God. Who I am is good enough. Who you are is good enough.
And in all of that, our bodies, no matter how we experience them, are good enough.
And God looked at all of creation and said, “It is very good.”
Shalom and Amen.
(c) 2013, Colin and Terri Stewart
I am publishing today without Colin. This is still a conversation we had in the car! But somehow we are very bad at coordinating our blog posts together.
Well, Colin and I had an awesome conversation about gender and spirituality. I am an elder (provisional) in the United Methodist Church which means I am a pastor. He is pagan which means most of his practices are isolated since we live in the boonies.
I asked, “How has gender impacted your spirituality?”
His immediate response as a teen was, “huh?”
I explained a bit. Mark Driscoll, the pastor of a conservative mega church, has said that he needs to worship a manly Jesus. This makes my eyes roll back into my head, frankly. I asked Colin the same question again.
His response was something like…
…well, I have a ridiculous mother that lets me explore what I need to explore and I had a ridiculous confirmation teacher that let me find out who I am, and a ridiculous church that never said anything bad.
Ridiculous = Good.
I then asked him something like, “Reflecting back, you now practice an almost solitary practice of spirituality in your pagan practice. Do you think it could be because you were beginning to transform into who you are and gender boxes in church didn’t suit you any more?”
“YES! Gender does not come up in my spirituality. It is unimportant and unrelated.”
Colin’s spiritual transformation out of Christianity began about the same time he came out to his church. Not that they weren’t fully supportive, they were in the way they knew how which was to essentially shut-up and not say anything good or bad, but to go on as normal. But Colin is a community person, so he found his way to a Unitarian Universalist Church for a while and we will see what happens as he grows into full adulthood (geez, 17 already).
I see a link between his transformation, gender, and the church. Do you see a link between gender and your spiritual expression?
Colin & Mom
Alright! It’s been a while since we posted anything – which is mostly my fault, ger – but here’s an update!
And what about, other than mentality. Everybody has their up days, and everybody has their down days. People get anxious from random shit, depressed from important things, or just blah from not getting enough sun – or vitamin D!
Basically, mental disorders are a thing that vary for every person that has them. I have a friend whose body chemical make up gives her clinical depression, though she doesn’t feel depressed. So when she got put on meds, it helped immediately. It was like she wasn’t fighting with the part of her brain that was saying be inactive anymore when she wanted to do things.
But there are people who become depressed from other things whether it be anxiety, lack of friends, traumatic past, lack of sun, physical illnesses such as cancer, broken bones, or hypothyroidism. Often, people are depressed along with their body’s depressed state, so even medication doesn’t really do much for them for a while, because they are still mentally in that rut even if they’re body no longer is. (Hence therapy is a thing.)
I was in a mental hospital earlier this year because I have a “mood disorder” – number 365 or something like that – which causes general anxiety and episodic anxiety bursts, and I also have PTSD. Basically I was having huge anxiety driven panic attacks which would wear me down and make me tired, but because of insomnia being a horrible things, I couldn’t sleep. Pretty much everything was a trigger. I was always anxious. It made me physically sick. Nothing fit. I went several weeks with having at least two of these debilitating panic attacks a day where I couldn’t control what I did or what I thought, and during which I legitimately thought I was going to die. I finally turned to my mom for help because I couldn’t do it any longer. I didn’t feel like I could go to school, face my friends, get out of bed, face the world. We put me in mental hospital for a week. I didn’t even get put on meds. But for me, being taken out of the situation that was making me super anxious helped me more than anything else could’ve.
My anxiety stems from my PTSD from bullying I went through at my old schools, and something minutely along the lines of OCD. When I get super anxious, it is OCD through and through. Side effects being, the fact that I don’t sleep well as it is changed to practically never being able to sleep, messes freaked me out, but were too big for me to deal with, and made me more anxious, debilitating panic attacks, hearing voices and sounds as if they were really there that I could interact with even though there was nobody and nothing physically there, and the standards in my head running rampant. It was not a good time in my life.
The standards are the more mental part of the OCD-ish part of my anxiety. Basically, in my head I make standards based off the norms of our society, and I try to meet them. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or anything, but I’m not really the norm of society. Really? Meeting these standards was hard, because I just couldn’t. Even in the queer community, I’m not the norm – if there even is one? My brain said there was. And me being trans, ace, (asexual for the masses) and panromantic did not fit that norm that I’m not even quite sure what it is. The voices in my head didn’t help. They made fun of me for not being able to make the standards.
But for g’d knows why, they were obnoxiously supportive of my being trans.
Physically, I just had to be even, and during the worst part of my anxiety, everything else had to be too.
Now a days, I take vitamin D because I’m severely low – or was – which my doctor says probably made the anxiety worse. I’ve also noticed, if I go a couple days – between five to seven – without taking it, I start feeling not depressed or blah per se, but like I don’t have the physical energy to do what I want to do and think about what I want to think about. I also start getting kind of anxious. So I take my vitamin D, because I don’t like being anxious.
That’s how my anxiety panned out, but in the mental hospital, there was another person there with the same diagnosis as me, but an entirely different way of it being for him.
Bipolarness is another good example of that. On the interwebs I found a person talking about her bipolarness. For her, it’s that one day she could be presented with a problem and go at it for hours until she figured it out. And then the next day she could be presented with the same problem and go at it for a while before becoming fed up with it. The next day she could look at it and say it’s impossible and go do something else. The next day, she could look at it and burst into tears and have a manic fit about it. Here’s her actual post if you’re wondering.
One of my fairly close friends also has bipolar disorder. Basically, it starts at a high with her being very happy, and in a few days time, works it way down being severely depressed, she freaks out, and the loop starts over after a few days of feeling blah.
The two are similar but still different.
I guess this is a lot about how I’ve met people that try to shove everybody that has one thing into one box, when mental disorders are like people. It’s never the same, even if they have the same name.
So, here you go! Hope this was helpful in some way or another! I’ve been kind of into researching this type of stuff lately, so I guess that I could make another post at some later point about other mental disorders, the fact that I dislike that term, and other various things in this subject. I don’t know. What do you want?
The bridge, by the way, has been slow. Traffic from the new construction I suppose. Maybe that’s why we’ve been not updating. 😛 Colin, you’re perfect, you know that?!
Posted July 6, 2012on:
This is just fabulous!
Our family has been stretched tremendously this year, our own emotional yoga practice. Since the inception of My Purple Umbrella, I have watched my personal community expand ten fold. Generosity and support have deeper meaning, my gratitude knows no boundaries. I have witnessed courage, bravery, honor, compassion, trust and personal responsibility through the eyes of my first grader.
Many have asked what happened the day I dropped Morgan off at school wearing a pink tie-dyed skirt, for me it was a lesson in trust. The definition of trust is the trait of believing in the honesty and reliability of others. My trust showed me that the community I have worked to foster with school staff, families and Morgan’s peers came together that day. When I picked him up I asked him how his day went and he told me it was great. What he didn’t tell me is that afternoon…
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Terri (mom) and Colin
Pronouns have taken on greater importance since your coming out, right? And I know that we have discussed it ad nauseum. It isn’t as easy as most people would think, though, is it? There are the traditional gender pronouns, he/she, him/her. Now there are new gender pronouns, ze, zim, zer. These are all concepts that I understand. It took me a while to accept that they/them could be a chosen pronoun for a single person. Really seems like multiple personality disorder when a person refers to zimself (Themself!) as a they or them. But, you have persuaded me. I still won’t use it in an academic setting. 🙂
However, what we discuss back and forth and round and round is other chosen pronouns. You have told me that whatever someone identifies with, they can use as a pronoun. If they identify as a tree, they can use tree as their pronoun. Now, darn it! This is just confusing. Will you please tell me why that is okay? Why isn’t it confusing? Isn’t it confusing to you? Do you know someone with such a gender expression? If anything can be a pronoun, how can we navigate language?
I don’t actually see it as that difficult. Maybe that’s just the way my mind is wired. Maybe not. I’d probably say yes to the way my mind is wired. At my school, when PGP’s are explained to new students you see a few reactions typically. There are the few that know what you’re talking about, and either help explain or roll there eyes and wait for you to be done because they already get it and can we move on now? There are those who just light up and sometimes ask, “Wait, so I can use anything as my gender pronoun? Wow – that’s so cool!” It just makes sense, no questions asked. There are also those who after ten minutes of explanation still give you the what-the-hell-are-you-talking-about look and say, “Wait, so why is my PGP he and him? I don’t get it.” Of course, there are other reactions, but those are some of the typical. It’s always just made sense to me. I don’t know why, it just does.
By the way. PGP stands for Prefered Gender Pronouns, and is the words you use to call yourself or have others call you that describes your Gender Identity. My Gender Identity is male. Typically male identified people have the PGP he, him, and his. I personally describe my Gender Identity (male) with the PGP he, him, and zy.
I have a friend whom’s Gender Identity is Tree. This individual uses different types of trees to describe their gender based on how they feel about treeness today.
An individual I have not met, but have heard about – they used to attend my school – has the Gender Identity Rainbow. This persons PGP is the colours of the Rainbow, and changes day to day.
What are your recommendations when using pronouns? What should people never, ever say?
Recommendations are just try to remember. If you are in a fight with somebody never purposely misgender them. That is asking to not ever have that friendship again. Mistakes are forgivable. Just try. I will say. Unless a person specifically tells you they identify as it, never, EVER, call somebody an it.
What is the hardest thing for you, regarding pronouns? I suspect it is the mistakes a few people constantly make, repeatedly. What is your greatest joy?
It’s really frustrating when the same person messes up constantly. If one specific person can never get you pronouns right, even if they apologize when they do, it’s so frustrating. It makes me personally feel a bit underappreciated and disprespected. It’s well appreciated and enjoyed when people just, get, pronouns.
How can we help you? And what can you do to help us?
Um… listen? And I guess if you’re listening, I’ll talk. 😀 I like talking. 😛
I know that this “tree” discussion causes some heated arguments because I have a hard time accepting a person using tree as a pronoun. It makes me think they are a bit loopy. I’m sorry. I can’t help my reaction, but I’ll try and listen and hold your point of view.
All’s well that end’s well.
The weather on the bridge today was stormy and blah. And our conversation was too.
That’s because broska was in the car. 😀 Good day sir!