To a correspondent who is beginning to put together an inclusive women’s gathering:
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Your note made me think about what I might say to a diverse gathering of women. I was at the first “Full Circle Of Women” and have watched the inclusion movement continue such as it has.
It’s my sense that the big lesson contained is the lesson of conscious womanhood. It is moving away from compulsory gender, assigned by dint of genitals and trained into us, most often by our peers, to conscious gender, a mature expression of who we know ourselves to be, as revealed by the choices we have made in our own journeys.
We can no more directly see our desires, our heart, our mind or our spirit than we can see the back of our head. That makes it easy to believe what people tell us we should be, what others tell us we must be, or have to do to be a good woman. This kind of trained womanhood is often shaped by fear, of the fear of being not woman enough to be one of the girls, the fear of being not woman to be attractive to others, the fear of being not woman enough to be a good daughter or a good mother. If we were only more womanly, more female, then everything would be better, or at least that’s what we are lead to believe.
For those of us who have claimed conscious womanhood, we understand that the only way we can learn to be better is to be more ourselves. That comes not from fear but from love, from discovering what we love and following the path to being more loving. It is a life of Eros, of following bliss, not the purchasable substitutes that Clarissa Pinkola-Estes talks about in “The Red Shoes,” but our own authentic desires, the desires that don’t look for someone or something to fix us or to stuff our empty places, but rather the desires that challenge us to reveal more of ourselves, to become more naked, confident, trusting and empowered.
The lesson for all women comes when we realize that we can’t get what we want by following the rules, by grabbing or buying more, by being more like the norms, but that the only way to heal, to be healthy and to grow is to open our hearts to others, to test our assumptions, and throw out the ones that keep us small. We need to deconstruct the training to open the space for learning, and that learning always takes us away from being one of the crowd and back to ourselves and our relationship with our creator.
It is the women who have begun to open their hearts to this lesson that come to inclusive gatherings, who seek to seek beyond their own training and assumptions. The biggest block to growth is always the clinging that comes from fear, the resistance to change, the pain of seeing yourself reflected in a way you do not yet feel safe seeing.
For transpeople who have engaged their own womanhood, who have embraced their own surrender to the person in side of them at the cost of having to walk beyond all the assumptions, hopes and defenses sewn into a persona who can hide in the world, we bring insight to the process. Unfortunately, the truth of living the life of a woman born trans is the truth of being exposed in the world, always vulnerable to those who need to project their own constructed certainties onto our liminality. That means many of us haven’t opened up, and still offer blocks to the revelations we don’t want, that we cannot yet accept.
I heard my own personal mission statement years ago. “In cultures where gender is rigidly bi-polar, rituals of gender crossing remind us of our continuous common humanity.” To me, this doesn’t mean there aren’t differences between people, but that the differences that count aren’t in the color or shape of our flesh, but rather in the scope and the choices of our mind, heart and spirit.
To me, the place where transwomen offer the most insight is in the area of conscious womanhood. We haven’t just got trained in woman rules by those around us; in fact, we were trained in other rules. Our womanhood had to come in a mature, conscious way, learning to drop the old assumptions and create an expression that respects both social conventions and who we know ourselves to be.
What are the assumptions we hold about being a true woman, a real woman, a good woman? How do we feel when we don’t meet those criteria, from the shape of our bodies, to the desire of our loins, to the power of our own knowledge? How do we have the strength to move past those assumptions to find a way to be powerfully and consciously woman?
Those are the questions I like to ask.