Gnosis Diary: Life as a Heathen

My personal experiences, including religious and spiritual experiences, community interaction, general heathenry, and modern life on my heathen path, which is Asatru.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Rebuttal of TERF Values

This essay was prompted by a "TERF" (="Trans-Exclusive Radical Feminist") statement made in my local pagan community. TERFs usually reference biological determinism, defining being a woman as being fertile and giving birth, which excludes women like me, a "cis" (="not transgender") woman who has never been fertile, and is now in the crone stage of life. Sometimes their biological definitions reference having a womb, which would also exclude women like my mom, who had hers removed right after having me.

(I don't usually use the term "cis" because of its origins in academic papers meant as a substitute for "the normal population" or "the control group" and thus it is inherently binarist. Plus, as a binarist word, it has been used to exclude non-binary people, and has been used as a slur against non-binary people. It is the most appropriate word to use in this particular instance, however, using it strictly to mean "not trans.")

This latest version of TERF philosophy was based on socialization. In this version of feminism, girls are raised to be caring, peaceful, and participate in the gift economy, and boys are raised to be warlike and participate in capitalism, and thus the TERF statement said that anyone raised as a boy can't have women's values because of this warlike upbringing. In this TERF logic, women are raised to be mommies and men are raised to be mammoth hunters, and thus there are men's values and women's values, and those raised to be warlike are not and can never be women. This is my rebuttal, from my personal perspective.

I am familiar with the philosophy that said if women ruled the world we'd have world peace. That was the philosophy of the man who created Wonder Woman. But that was back then and surely we've learned better by now. Margaret Thatcher disproved that. The idea was that women are peaceful and men are warlike, because of socialization. But it just isn't true. There are no women's values. There are only the values of some women, and others are different. It is true that most children are socialized with patriarchal values and that most girls are socialized to be the caring ones, but not all girls. I came to caring very late in life, as a result of life circumstances that put me in the position of caregiver to my mom. I was not raised to be caring. I was raised a warrior. I lived in a martial arts school and I went through the Perfect Warrior Program. Professional mercenaries paid money to go through that program and I was right there with them when I was 12. We were not only trained in martial arts but also given "guided meditation" aka hypnosis, every Saturday after sparring. I sparred with the grown men and I meditation with the grown men. I am a cis woman. The values I was raised to have are fearlessness, honor, and victory. The goal of the Perfect Warrior program was to create a soldier who could chew through combat with blood in my teeth and walk away feeling nothing. I have zero childhood socialization points towards the peace love caring stuff, just as I have zero body points towards the motherhood and sacred moonblood baby-making stuff. Trans-exclusive radical feminists already exclude cis women like me by making childbearing their definition of womanhood, and now here is a definition of womanhood based on socialization instead of biological determinism and it still manages to exclude cis women like me.

As a heathen, the lore of my religion provides examples of divine womanhood that include goddesses with warrior aspects, like Freya and Skadhi. Other pagan religions have goddesses with warrior aspects too, including Athena, Morrigan, Nike, and Sekhmet. As pagans and heathens I think we should look to the goddesses to provide us with guidance on what a woman can be.

Also a a heathen, I look to heathen lore to provide a framework for thinking about transness and gender fluidity. There are various types of trans experiences and gender fluidity written into our mythology, and if we look to our gods to provide us with examples about gender, it is clear that trans people are included. There are also historical examples of trans people accepted into heathen society, and also into other historical pagan societies. Part of becoming pagan or heathen is to strive to attain a worldview consistent with heathenism and paganism even where it differs from the worldview in which we were raised in this modern world.

Saying that either biology is destiny or that childhood socialization is destiny precludes the possibility of positive change. I reject that notion. I embrace change.

Image: Freya, the warrior goddess, driving her chariot pulled by cats, public domain.

Last modified on
Erin Lale is the author of Asatru For Beginners, and the updated, longer version of her book, Asatru: A Beginner's Guide to the Heathen Path. Erin has been a gythia since 1989. She was the editor and publisher of Berserkrgangr Magazine, and is admin/ owner of the Asatru Facebook Forum. She also writes science fiction and poetry, ran for public office, is a dyer and fiber artist, was acquisitions editor at a small press, and founded the Heathen Visibility Project.


  • Victoria
    Victoria Monday, 21 September 2020

    In the case of the mythos of some of the Heathen gods/goddesses is it gender fluidity, gender transgression or that deities were not seen as constrained by social mores. Norse society was not gender fluid it was ordered along gender lines and the laws strictly prescribed the roles of women and men.

  • Please login first in order for you to submit comments

Additional information