ON TO THE FIFTH & FINAL WEEK OF GENDER MONTH!
Each week of this month I’m focusing on a different theme in relation to Queer/Trans/Intersex fabulousness. If you missed any of the last four weeks on NATURE, MULTICULTURAL AWARENESS, INDIGENOUS HISTORY, & EARLY US HISTORY check those posts out here.
This final week will be done in two sections allowing a pause in the middle to call in your full holistic self.
WELCOME TO the first part for this WEEK – THE BINARY & THE HOLISTIC SELF!
WHY A WORLD OF FALSEHOODS?
As we review the last 4 posts from this series, a new world begins to form in our imaginations: a queer/trans/intersex INCLUSIVE world reflected in nature, global cultures, indigenous America, even early US history. This includes 3, 4 and more genders with multiple sexual identities and family formations. Perspectives that are fluid and inclusive to accommodate the breadth of nature have always existed, throughout the world, including North America. Perspectives like these are often associated with matrilineal or matrifocal, communal or nature/land based communities, common among many indigenous cultures. These communities once existed across the entire world. They certainly existed in large parts of Europe and the Americas pre-colonization.
In fact, today the patriarchy can seem so firmly embedded in reality that it appears as TRUTH, as if it is THE WAY THINGS ARE, even if it means that upon closer examination, there is a universal lie going on.
Why would a shift away from a matrilineal, communal, nature/land based perspective entail such a drastic measure as to recreate reality into a false one? One that denies the reality of what is and always has been?
Power and economics.
It took a very long time for the patriarchy to develop and there were numerous contributing factors along the way, but many significant philosophers and researchers believe it was rooted in war, violence, conquest and the domination of land and women as property. Like queer scholarship, study focusing on women in more and more truthfull ways is growing exponentially and providing greater understanding to our current culture. Here is a significant example of the shifting landscape long ago.
“As class divisions deepened in ancient Roman society, the sexes were assigned an increasingly unequal status. Once property-owning males ascended to a superior social position, those categories could not be bridged or blurred without threatening those who owned and controlled the new wealth. Ownership of property and its inheritance, paternity, legitimacy, and titles became vital legal questions for the new ruling elite. The heterosexual family, headed by the father, became a state dictate because it was the economic vehicle that ensured wealth would be passed on to sons.
Everyone who was not born a male heir to property bore the wrath of the new social system. Just as the status of women was degraded, so was everything that was ‘not male’—transgender, gender-bending, sex-change, and intersexuality. A woman could not become a man, any more than a slave could become a ruling patrician. Males who were viewed as ‘womanly’ were an affront to the men in power.”
– Leslie Feinberg, Transgender Warriors
This system evolved and firmed itself over centuries as it spread far and wide.
“The very fact that… rulers were still trying to ban any form of trans expression demonstrates deep beliefs still persisted from communalism. But the repressive laws aimed at further oppressing trans people, gay and lesbian love, and women formed part of the Corpus juris civilis—Roman body of law that was later used as the foundation for religious and secular law in Europe, England, and the United States.”
– Leslie Feinberg, Transgender Warriors
Indigenous European culture was decimated by the Romans and later by their law. Eventually, colonized Europeans went on to spread patriarchy across the globe through colonizing other indigenous communities. In order to maintain power and control, they used the same systems that had been effective in controlling them by manipulating ideas about women, nature, gender, sexuality and indigeneity.
Looking at the indigenous Americas and the European colonizers’ actions within this context makes it clear why our community was specifically targeted. It is documented that queer/trans/intersex people often held positions of more power on multiple levels in their communities, had greater resources, be it economic, spiritual, social, healing, etc… Third and fourth gender people, or what is currently called Two Spirit by indigenous, Native American people were consulted and valued. They greatly impacted their communities. Targeting queer/trans/intersex people is integral to patriarchy, to Western culture and to colonizing.
Still queer/trans/intersex people persisted.
MAKING SENSE OUT OF MADNESS
With many centuries in the making, combined with system upon system created to firm and confirm Westernization across the globe, it can be challenging to step away from Western thinking and its patriarchal perspectives. That’s why uncovering and calling OUT the truth is so important. It has a way of clearing the path of false debris and clearing the mind and heart to feel more free.
Remember the queer/trans/intersex truth about nature—documented in over 1500+ animals so far
and global, multicultural awareness—to varying degrees, legal third gender already in Austria, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Germany, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand, United Kingdom, United States-Oregon, California, DC
and indigenous history in North America—2 Spirits documented in over 150 tribes in United States
and early US history—countless records of queer/trans/intersex ancestors including the possible queering of 3 US presidents.
This larger, more complete perspective of reality brings into view the truth. Queer/trans/intersex people and experience are everywhere, all the time because we are a part of nature. It is toward this direction that we now turn.
Each area of learning nested within the last. It goes without saying that each area is a brief introduction meant to hint at larger realities that warrant further study. This establishes a pattern of learning and awareness that is expansive and connected. Learning like this and drawing our awareness to it are ways that we can begin understanding how Western thinking has affected us and how we can gain perspective on it.
The patriarchy is by its very nature and necessity, predicated on division and not just any kind of division, but binary division in particular.
“Binary opposition is the system by which, in language and thought, two theoretical opposites are strictly defined and set off against one another. It is the contrast between two mutually exclusive terms, such as on and off, up and down, left and right. Binary opposition is an important concept of structuralism, which sees such distinctions as fundamental to all language and thought. In structuralism, a binary opposition is seen as a fundamental organizer of human philosophy, culture, and language.”
“Typically, one of the two opposites assumes a role of dominance over the other. The categorization of binary oppositions is “often value-laden and ethnocentric”, with an illusory order and superficial meaning. Furthermore, Pieter Fourie discovered that binary oppositions have a deeper or second level of binaries that help to reinforce meaning. As an example, the concepts hero and villain involve secondary binaries: good/bad, handsome/ugly, liked/disliked, and so on.”
When we place the cultural shift into perspective
From matrilineal to patrilineal,
From communal to individualistic,
From indigenous to Western,
we can see a pattern of power-over and can imagine the imperative for binary thinking to develop and become firmed. Eventually this extends into every area of experience, through its relation to gender and sexuality, as well as race and ethnicity. This is the foundation of Western thinking. Individualistic. Patrilineal. Eurocentric. Dominating. And it’s deep.
Being able to see through Western culture and fully see through patriarchy must by necessity happen in steps. It is an evolving process or maybe an un-processing, as we become raw and natural again, healed from the effects of a system designed specifically to oppress queer/trans/intersex people, nature, indigenous people and women. It may be for sanity’s sake that it comes in steps. As one belief falls, it makes room for another to fall and another. Once the large lies are exposed, all the small lies unravel leaving everything exposed for what it is.
It’s not about one huge change, but a series of steps, a daily practice even, because what we need to change is quite literally how we think, because now, the patriarchy lives within.
Every step counts in a dance like this. It’s not about one huge change, but a series of steps, a daily practice even, because what we need to change is quite literally how we think, because now, the patriarchy lives within.
What helps with something like this? What makes sense out of madness? One of the most powerful antidotes to Western culture and the patriarchy and the impact it’s had on our thinking is a holistic perspective. This begins to change everything. Fundamentally. While giving you something to hold onto. Truth. Nature. Your whole self.
TOWARD A HOLISTIC PERSPECTIVE OF THE SELF
How do you come to know your whole self when judgment, conformity and performance are culturally embedded and valued? How do you find truth about yourself when rational, empirical, logical thinking are your primary options for thought within a Western frame of reference? How can you understand your own unique dance when linear, rigid, externally approved formation is generally required for physical survival?
what can you hold onto as you learn your way through Western thinking back to your fully fabulous queer/trans/intersex self?
I’ve learned that honing a holistic perspective means beginning as large as possible, with the intent of full inclusion. And then slowly and thoughtfully, you create the path inward, imagining as whole of a perspective at each step as possible.
To this end, I teach what I’ve learned about myself.
The HOLISTIC SELF includes: BODY, SPIRIT, MIND, HEART and the UNKNOWN.
CALLING IN the WHOLE self helps make sense out of our experiences. Many of us have had to separate or silence parts of our true self because of Western, patriarchal thought and society. In fact, a split between body and spirit, body and mind, even body and heart are as imperative as a split between humans and nature, males and females, queer/trans/intersex people and cis, straight people.
To become more aware of what the whole self is consider the following questions and perspectives. The more whole, the more present and embodied queer/trans/intersex people are in the world, the more true our world will be.
How to make it real? You can gauge the personal impact our Western culture has had on you by asking how free do you feel to be your true self? In your heart of hearts, are there places that you suppress and silence yourself to feel/be safe and supported in the world? Never judge. Just see. And feel.
There are disconnects between all of these aspects of self in Western culture. Research in multiple disciplines show the importance of reestablishing these connections, for example body/mind medicine, social/emotional learning in schools and more. Expanding and calling in the whole self makes a huge difference in our ability to heal ourselves inside and out and negotiate the world. It locates agency and authority about who we are within ourselves, but there’s more.
The self, however whole, does not exist in isolation. The self is not WHOLE until seen in CONTEXT.
Context includes: FAMILY, COMMUNITY, SOCIETY, HISTORY, ANCESTRY and the UNKNOWN.
Similar to the holistic self, consider the following questions and perspectives. The more queer/trans/intersex people know our own history within each of our own racial/ethnic communities, the more our purpose and meaning will be understood.
Western culture often wants us to compartmentalize, simplify, reduce, assimilate, sublimate our true selves only to be rewarded with living in survival mode.
Seeing the HOLISTIC SELF makes you strong because it naturally helps you see through Western culture and the patriarchy. Through your own experience and understanding of yourself, you begin to transform Western culture and the patriarchy from a concept, a theory, something far away–into a personal story within the context of the larger sweep of history and consciousness. You step into history. Which means it is yours to change.
As Gloria Anzaldúa says, “We change ourselves, we change the world.”
Once you see, you can’t unsee. Once you know, you can’t unknow. There is a world of truth and beauty that includes queer/trans/intersex people and experience and always has. We have been invisiblized. We have gone underground. We have coded ourselves into history. We have hidden ourselves even from ourselves at times.
There is no place on mamiearth that does not have queer/trans/intersex expression in nature, including people. We are. We always have been. We always will be.
But always, we have persisted.
There is no place on mamiearth that does not have queer/trans/intersex expression in nature, including people. We are. We always have been. We always will be. That is truth. Our presence is a constant reminder that we as humans are a part of the power, mystery and diversity of nature.
The patriarchy and Western culture took a very long time to develop to this point. In some ways it seems that we are at a pinnacle moment. A heightened expression of the binary. But simultaneously, there is an awakening in the makes, gaining momentum. Lines are being cast, webs are being woven, bridges are forming between what is natural and true, between ancestors and spirit. We are becoming WHOLE again.
I ended this series at 1899 for US history because I wanted to court that moment when it seems gender and sexuality were still very fluid, before they tipped over into a more highly Westernized frame. I wanted to feel that moment before the binary became so deeply entrenched. When third, fourth, fifth genders were still singing through the edges of Western culture across the globe. Before colonization had obliterated or sent everything far underground.
The Bugis of Indonesia still sing today. They continue to believe that all 5 genders must be held in unity. Only if everything and everyone is connected can the whole world remain balanced and safe.
A MOMENT OF LOVE FOR YOURSELF before we fly on
Let’s pause here to try some exercises before we move on to the second section.
Calling in your Holistic Self:
- 1. Learning to think HOLISTICALLY. This is the best trick ever! Gaining as large of a perspective as possible on whatever I’m dealing with has become my style. I learned that if I’m suffering or feeling great discomfort, I can ease it up a little if I can get a large enough perspective on what’s going on. It can take a moment, but it changes how I think, how I feel, how I deal. I call it ‘sitting on the moon.’ It works wonders. (I only teach what I know personally works!)
- Then, when it’s time to drop back into real life here on mamiearth, I keep this bigger perspective and my place in it alive by seeing reality in concentric circles. I don’t always draw them out on paper, but sometimes I do! I’m committed to seeing the bigger sweeps in my life because I know they help me learn through my personal lessons. I begin to see the circles, the connections, the patterns, the larger sources and results in my life and from there in the world around me.
- Thinking holistically changes everything, including gender. Every step away from the false binary dismantles the patriarchy’s effect, frees the mind and heart, and moves us closer to the truth of the world. It is a constant practice. And totally worth it.
- With this in mind, here are two worksheets from my online school that you can use to explore your HOLISTIC SELF and your HOLISTIC SELF IN CONTEXT.
Writing things down and using your creativity are powerful ways to integrate your experience.When looking at these worksheets you may also want to look back at the questions presented from above for each of the areas to help explore yourself and your experience more deeply.
- 2. Extending it OUT. Thinking holistically is a whole new, true way of looking at everything, from the biggest perspective, nature all the way to the most intimate, your own personal experience. That’s how vast the impact of Western culture and the patriarchy have been. So truly-uly, every step counts. It’s personal. It’s global. It’s societal. It’s everything and every person has their own individual doorway into understanding it that is relevant to them. Personal experience that interrupts the falsehood of the binary is vital to deeper understanding. With that in mind, make it personal! Pursue holistic pathways in whatever ways speak OUT to you. They could be:
- Holistic health and medicine
- Holistic business and problem solving
- Holistic education
- Holistic spirituality
- Holistic philosophy
- Holistic parenting
- Holistic therapy
These exercises and explorations will be useful as we move into the next section for this week.
Read PART 5: Section Two on “THE HOLISTIC SELF & THE GENDER WHEEL”
Resources and References:
Maya Gonzalez is a ferociously quirky queer femme with a deep love for daily drag and dress up. She’s also an artist, progressive educator and award-winning children’s book illustrator and author. She has been a close ally of the trans community for over 30 years and her partner is trans. Her work focuses on art and story as powerful tools of reclamation and transformation both personally and culturally. Currently her primary tool of activism is creating and publishing radical children’s books that tell the truth of who we are and what we can be. She invites grown-ups and kids alike to do the same through her online school and free kids program that teach a holistic approach to creating and publishing children’s books.