With our understanding of gender and sexuality transforming, it’s going to take more than biology to answer that age old question:
Is it a boy or a girl?
As a young child, I climbed trees and rode horses, squeezed my athletic rear into Ditto Jeans—the fashion statement of the times— and got in trouble for fighting with boys. Running free and making wild nourished my spirit, which was part “Indian warrior,” part nature freak. Swimming in the sea and playing baseball with my dad came second nature. Later, I found myself laughing at the wrong sort of jokes, and thinking there must be something odd, like I fell out of the raunchy tree and hit every branch
Did that make me a Tomboy?
Not if you were to ask the men in my life. I still recall the night a significant other referred to my sashay as “well oiled hips,” and my abandonment for pleasure a “soulful trip between the sheets.”
With one short detour, my hair has always been long and wavy, a crowning glory to go with my kitty kat eyes, and there’s no denying my penchant for girly girl makeup, hippie chick cloths and love of flirtation. I’ve been on a quest to claiming an inner femme fatale, ever since I caught wind that integrating all aspects of a woman’s essence is at the heart of healing our wounds, sexual and otherwise.
Does that make me a Goddess?
On the days I climbed the corporate ladder with the big boys, one would have hardly thought so. Those professional suits and squared shoulders were a testament to my desire to accomplish tangible results. I am capable, hear me roar was the mantra of the times, though there was that one day I chanted “Ooh rah!” when I was interviewing along with 20 former military men, all of us vying for the same position in sales and marketing. I closed each interview that day with, “I’m the best man for the job,” and was given the offer the next day.
Did that make me a dude?
My children are evidence of a softer, nurturing side, the one keen on preparing home cooked meals, snuggling under blankets and kissing imaginary monsters away. Love for children is a perpetual ache in the heart. Motherhood brings out the fiercely protective and deeply intuitive sides. It’s also the least controversial aspect of womanhood—everyone needs a mom—though what we do in the role is scrutinized, leaving us on an endless search for approval and answers to questions we never knew we’d ask, exhausted from the lifelong commitment.
Does having a womb make me a woman?
The idea of gender used to seem simple to me. I was born female and never had doubt that the rest of me identified as female too, even when throwing a ball or a punch, pinning my partner with my body or his tie, swearing like a sailor or kissing the one in uniform. A few times, I had visceral reactions, and they were pleasant charges, to women obviously butch, the feminine in me responding to the masculine in them. None of them dislodged my sense of self. Still, our current understanding of biology and gender makes me think that modern society could learn a thing or two from ancient cultures. Who and what we are at our core and our nature is a many-shaded tapestry.
Two-Spirited Hot Mama
Mixed gender roles are part of the Native American traditions, with documented stories of two-spirits found in dozens of tribes and every region of North America and native cultures. The term Two-Spirits can be used abstractly, to indicate contrasting human spirits or identify someone who embodies both masculine and feminine spirits within one body. For the sake of clarification–I’m not an expert, only an intrigued student of life—one could think of women like me who are born and identify as female (female-female), men born and identify as male (male-male), women born female with strong masculine traits (masculine-female), and men born male with strong female traits (feminine-male). This is an example of a four-gender system, though through my reading I’ve come across many suggested classifications that have as many as nine genders.
One example is traditional Navajo culture. It describes five, the four above and an additional classification reserved for those labeled (inaccurately so) as hermaphrodites, now also known as ambiguous genitalia. Individuals born with ambiguous genitalia have external genitalia that don’t appear either male or female, genitals that aren’t well-formed, external organs don’t match the internal, or have characteristics of both sexes. Though rare, it’s consistent among humans and other species, suggesting to me at least that it’s more than a biological accident. I’m not one to argue with nature, and what interests me more is the focus away from the sexy bits and into the realm of spiritual experiences of gender.
What would happen if we embraced a two-spirited gender system in the mainstream social milieu? What if we understood that most people are comfortable on the outer edges of the male-female continuum, but many were just as naturally suited to love and play in the two-spirited realm?
On matters of gender, sexuality and spirituality, it comes down to this for me: some are born male and identify as such, some are born female and identify as such, and many are born queer-like and identify their own way too.
The idea of Two-Spirits suggests a deeper wisdom and compassion for what it means to be human, sexually and spiritually so. How our desires pulse is bigger than biology or the mind, neurochemicals and hormones, personal sexual experiences, aches and pleasures. Something grand, the divine architect of it all, must have known exactly what she was doing. To think gender fluidity is not part of the divine plan may really be a man-made fear, and “modern” at that.
Tinamarie Bernard is an internationally known intimacy specialist, author, coach and educator who helps her clients go from burnt-out to bodacious by embracing a Naturally Healthy and Sexy Lifestyle. She blogs at [email protected]
Editor: Seychelles Pitton