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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in gender issues

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 

For some Christians, apparently “God”'s pronouns are now They, Them, and Theirs.

“God Loves You As They Made You,” says the signboard in front of one neighborhood church that I drove past recently.

(Of course, eagerness to embrace the latest cultural trends has long been a strong signifier of the conceptual hollowness of so much contemporary American religion—pagan as well as Christian. Somehow, I can't help but suspect that God/They isn't going to age well.)

Divine gender has, of course, long been an issue for those poor impoverished souls who worship only one god. (Let those of us blessed with more feel no sense of smugness here, though: the question of divine “gender” is as active a theological category for thinking polytheists as it is for the thoughtful monotheist.)

In some ways, God/They could be construed as faithful to certain streams of Biblical tradition. The most common by-name for Yahwéh in the Hebrew Bible is Elohím, an undeniably plural noun (it's the anomalous plural of eloáh) usually (although not always) paired with a singular verb. The mental disconnect between the two—similar to the feeling that you get when someone says “a scissors”—is nicely paralleled by the (let's just admit it, stylistically inelegant) singular “they.”

I do wonder how God/They Christians deal with their traditional liturgical and scriptural texts. Is “God” a “They” there, too? How about Jesus? Is he also a they?

Still, it's hard to deny that God/They can't help but smack of polytheism which, while it warms the cockles of my pagan heart, must surely set the teeth of an awful lot of conservative One-God folk on edge.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I received an update from drivethrurpg about a supplement for the Runequest about a new book called "The Six Paths" about the six
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Mr. Posch, Yeah, hard pass on one scissor or one pant leg. Good point. We know that Christian conservatives get triggered by the

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

My recent talk at the 2022 Current Pagan Studies conference treated primarily with the Horned God. Afterward, our esteemed Mark Green asked about Gender Essentialism in the Craft. I wasn't satisfied with my reply at the time, but his question has continued to work on me, and I would here like to offer a rather more considered response. Thanks, Mark!

 

Do gods have gender?

What does it mean to say “God/he” or “Goddess/she”?

What does it mean to speak of a deity as a gendered being?

Although Received Tradition habitually speaks of the Gods, both Elder (those of nature) and Younger (those of culture), as gendered beings, must we not accept this, in the end, as metaphorical language?

To speak for myself, I number among my gods a planet (Earth), a star (Sun), a satellite (Moon), and a meteorological phenomenon (Thunder). Since neither planets, stars, satellites, nor meteorological phenomena can rightly be described as gendered beings per se, ultimately, then, we must regard divine gender here as ascribed gender: metaphorical, a matter of relational utility. "Earth is like a woman, in that she...." In the traditional gender ascriptions, like addresses unlike-as-if-like relationally, i.e. for the sake of relationship.

Why ascribe gender to the gods? Well, we're human. As gendered beings ourselves, we find non-human others most relate-able when we do. As such, it's largely a matter of convention. The human mind is wont to project itself. To take only one example, humans are four-sided beings; thus, in culture after culture, we find the world divided into North, East, South, and West. It's the ultimate extrapolation of the human body onto the world around us.

Let me take specifically the case of “Him” that we call the Horned. “Him” I would see as a corporate being, the sum total of all fauna/animal life on Planet Earth. As such, then, “He” may truly be spoken of as a gendered being—as could “His” “Brother”, the Green, the sum total of all this planet's flora/vegetation—but, as a being thus made up of (inter alia) both male and female, one would say best, perhaps, by saying that “He” is pan-gendered. The same, I suspect, may be said—if in a rather less literal sense than here—of most other gods as well. How this may best find expression in iconography and ritual, as one would expect, continues to evolve as the new paganisms find their footing in the contemporary thought-world. One thing I do not fear: that our Received Tradition chains us to an unquestioning gender essentialism. The lore itself, in all its nuance and variability, belies any such claim.

A friend of mine (generally when twitting Wiccan unsophisticates) always says: If you think that the Horned God is only a boy, you certainly don't know him very well. We see this in the iconography of the Baphomet, which combines—if admittedly, for the most part, unbeautifully—both female and male in one.

As pagans, we habitually maintain a certain collegiality with our gods and goddesses, and—as is our kind's wont—we tend to treat them as we would treat other human beings.

But though as human beings we may participate in the gods, we wrong both them and ourselves to forget that, in the end, they are far other as well, and that our inherited god-language, love it as we may, is primarily, at thirteenth and last, a beautiful tapestry of shimmering metaphor.

 

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 

 

I worry about the sissy-boys of the Earth.

Call us whatever you like (gender non-conforming, non-binary...), it used to be that sissy-boys got shit from bullies, and from those who, when the world outside doesn't match the world inside their heads, respond with hate.

We still do, of course. But now, I fear, sissy-boys face yet another—if different—kind of violence.

I was a sissy-boy. I liked dolls and dress-up and imagining. I wanted to be a dancer. My friends were mostly girls. If you had asked me, Would you rather be a boy or a girl, I could easily have told you.

Goddess bless them, my family (mostly) let me be me. It was only outside the home that I learned that it was wrong to be who I was. Believe me, sissy-boys get shit from pretty much everyone, adults included.

That kind of opprobrium is in itself a motivator.

Now I worry that sissy-boys are facing a new kind of social pressure: not the pressure to conform, but the pressure to transition.

If, as a child, they had offered me hormones and the prospect of surgery, I would probably have taken them. Goddess help me, I would probably have taken them; and that decision would have ruined my life.

Why in the world does anyone care so much? Why are they so insistent that we change our bodies, or our souls, to meet their stupid expectations? We're part of the natural variability of things. Why can't they just let us be as we are?

The world is cruel to sissy-boys. Many of us don't survive.

But let me tell you something about sissy-boys, and what I tell you is true: those of us that do, somehow, manage to survive the hatred, the bullying, and the well-meaning but ill-considered attempts to “fix” us, are some of the strongest people that you will ever meet, anywhere.

We are, because we have to be.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Sissy-boys, Asian-Americans, Pagans, etcetera if people want to be heard they have to put out the art, music and stories that say
  • Kile Martz
    Kile Martz says #
    The day is coming when technology will allow people to be physically genderless. Some will chose this path in life and how will we
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks Katie. It took me a long time to figure out that there's not just one way to be a man. To this day, in the pagan community
  • Katie
    Katie says #
    Beautifully written. It expresses so much that I’ve thought, over the years. Similarly, I worry that strong, independent girls, o

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
“Our Gods Do Not Have Genitals!”

Reading what one can only call a Hellenismos salvation pamphlet a while back, I came across one of the more jar (sic)-dropping claims that I've seen in my 50 years in the pagan community:

Our gods do not have genitals!” Sic: italics, exclamation point, and all.

Of course, we can't assume that the writer is speaking for anyone besides him- or herself here. Still, on the face of it, this might seem a strange claim for a Hellene to make. Greece is famous for its naked gods, as a glance at pretty much any ancient art will show. Among the males, at least, virtually all have genitals, or at least did before Time and mobs of marauding monks got to them. So what's with the claim?

I presume that the writer is making a point here about the nature of the gods: that Their reality is spirit, not flesh, or some such philosophical mishegoss.

Well, the Genderedness of gods is surely among the Deeper Mysteries, and I won't go into it here. What does it mean to say “Goddess” or “God”? Is the gendered language that we use when speaking of the gods mere metaphor, or does it point to some richer, deeper reality?

As for me, I'm a witch of the Tribe of Witches, and as to whether or not gods have genitals, our response would be clear:

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Two Spirits, Two Sexes, Many Genders

 

Z Budapest once stirred up strong feelings, ending in a demonstration, by holding a biological-women-only ritual at Pantheacon.  The previous year another group had also excluded trans-women from an all women ritual.  Some people decided it was time to challenge the legitimacy of such practices. It was quite the kerfluffel for a while. I was one of Z’s defenders. 

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There's been a powerful disturbance in the Force the last couple days.

Yesterday, the group that calls itself the Asatru Folk Assembly left a Facebook post which I have screen-cap't at right. 

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