The Third Gender?
By Hollis Taylor
Androgyne, Transgender, GenderQueer, Two-Spirit, or whatever name you want to use for the third gender we can all agree that the community at large is barely ready for us. One of the places that many of us Androgyne people have a hard time finding safe space is in spiritual community. Many of us have unusual perspectives about the divine because of our inner work with gender. As a result typical religious groups can be a struggle. Clearly some of us are prepared to carve a path for the 3rd gender in our church groups and so on. Some of us seek and seek and then end as a solo practitioner. Many of us would like spiritual community but are not willing to bend in our basic identities to conform, its not worth it to us. For me, I already conformed and when I did I found myself to be suicidal, depressed, bi-polar, anxious, and addicted. I did everything I could to comfort myself because my internal self was struggling to conform. After a deep physical, emotional and spiritual transition I was faced with being an Androgyne, GenderQueer, and also often called in the Native American cultures as a Two-Spirit. That transformation lead me to a confident inner self with a clear path. I still lacked something more…connection.
During my transition I found it challenging to connect with others because I barely knew myself. Although I am still transitioning to the androgynous genderqueer I am…I know to continue my full holistic and natural transition I must plug into community. College is a safe place to begin but eventually people move, have families and careers. Soon enough we are looking for tribe again. When I was conforming to the gender binary I fell in love with the fire circle community but only stayed a few years at first, it transformed me so deeply I had to separate during my deepest internal workings. While I was separated I did a lot of work both internally but also with a Myan Teacher, T’zec. He taught me many things including to honor my ‘two spirit’ path. Now I am solid and confident about my gender expression – or lack there of – instead I identify as a Two-Spirit, Muxe or Androgyne. The more educated we become about the third gender in other cultures and past tribes we can easily see how our culture needs us GenderQueers to arrive as Androgyne Non-binary people. We are needed in order to help bring authentic change, healing, bridge building, and peace to our communities. Our communities need us and we need them!
Historically many cultures have had the option to choose a 3rd or even among 5 gender choices. The Native Americans have many names depending on what tribe. Most of them will identify 3, 4 and even 5 genders. Two-Spirit communities are about spiritually feeling like the person has both genders within them or no gender. There are other terms used for 3rd gender around the world including the “Mahu” people of Hawaii. The term includes a 3rd gender for their culture that struggles for their rights in todays modern Hawaii. The Bugi of Indonesia celebrate 3 sexes (male, female, intersex) and 5 genders (men, women, calabai, calalai, and bissu). Calabai are male bodied people that present in a more feminine nature. Calalai are female bodied people that present in a more masculine way. The Bissu are, sometimes intersexed people, express through both gender expressions. Culture after culture we have examples and in fact you can read about this at this great map offered through PBS.
Our history shows ancient cultures that celebrated their androgyne spirits as healers, caregivers, medicine people, teachers, shamans, and entertainers. Kate Burnsteins book “The Gender Outlaw” she talks about the jesters of the past royal families twisting gender as a form of entertainment and as an expression of themselves. Today gender outlaw entertainers show up as Drag Kings & Queens, together we push gender boundaries and erase them. Now that we have overcome issues around who we should love, the world begins to embrace the transgender community. Many trans people have chosen to present as one gender or the other but there is still a large variety that don’t identify on either side of the binary gender scale. As a result we end up being the minority, third gender, and to find spiritual community is not always easy. Gender pushes a lot of boundaries for most religions and paths. Many of us don’t identify with religions as a result. For me, I prefer the fire community. The article “The Alchemical Fire: An Inclusive Spiritual Community” is a good look at why I hold them so dear to my heart. I hope to help them grow in diversity so that all of us can benefit together! I truly see that they are ready and open to accept the 3rd gender as a big part of their community and so far they have already modeled their acceptance.
I have been visiting many spiritual communities and have been practicing totally showing up as a 3rd gender. I am certainly rarely faced with others as out as I am, although I talk to many people in the closet that identify with the third gender expressions. These people I always feel so deeply for, many of them male bodied. I arrive as a counselor and guide for those that are ready to arrive as the third gender. I find myself constantly listening to story after story about how they feel like they have two aspects of themselves. Some people need guidance with family and friends, acceptance of thyself and reassurance that the world is ready for the third gender! I inspire to be a good example, compassionate friend, and spiritual guide to my fellow Androgynes.
One of the ways I have had to present to community is an explanation and education. I have to ask for the proper pronouns in order to even feel like part of the community, otherwise it is not different than the general public. I cannot be my complete self unless I am seen as an Androgyne, Two-Spirit, and GenderQueer. I have had to explain that I am not male, not female but instead both. One way of explaining is that I have a masculine soul and a masculine mind inside a female body. Since I am usually misgendered as “she” I also have an upbeat way of asking for fairness in my gender pronouns. After an explanation for neutral pronouns like they, them, their – I say “But if you ‘she’ me now….that’s okay just please ‘he’ me later” Followed with a smile and a wink. Often people smile at this and are then more aware of how important it really is to me but also that I am not so sensitive they don’t want to talk to me. Either way I am misgendered, and eventually most of them get that. But in the end this back & forth balances thing out and helps me remember that we are moving to a new language that will include a 3rd gender.
I happen to have many skills, maybe because of my experiences in life as both genders. Honestly though I give credit to giving up TV over 15 years ago. I have a passion to learn. I also lived a very good life as a sex worker and one of my favorite freedoms of working for myself was I owned my time. In that I spent a lot of time learning things. With TV and hourly soul sucking work out of the way it became easy for me to teach myself things. Even if I didn’t always have the financial means to pay for the certification I still learned as much as possible. I have also volunteered my time with some of the main scouting organizations available in the USA, including BSA, GSA, and Spiral Scouts. Scouting teaches many skills to both the youth involved but also to the adults leading the groups. I am grateful for my years experience and accomplishments. I never let gender get in the way of what I want to learn. I learned a lot when I abandon gender roles and in that I have experienced many perspectives. Raising my son with less gender roles created a young person that is proud of who he is and a comfort with his own gender. My son was exposed to Drag Queens, crossdressers, and transgender people throughout his youth as well as me coming out in his teenage years. This exposure did not make him a “queer” instead it made him an amazing father and partner with the mother of his child. Responsible, strong, happy and confident – what else could a parent ask for?
In history, Androgynes have been celebrated for their many skills including taking care of children. At the most recent event I found why that was such an obvious role. I understood what the mother’s and father’s went through at a fire circle. Since I raised my son there it was easy to understand the desire to plug in with community alongside the drive to keep children safe and comfortable. My skills from Boy Scout leadership came to the surface as I lashed together pieces of bamboo I had gathered from the woods. I made a sort of child “play pen” that would allow for scooting babies to stay safe and for children not to be walked on while they slept alongside the fire. Adults often played the whole night around the fire circle and if a child did a awaken it feels good to just bring them into the play. I was honored to help organize helpers for the children and create safe space for them. This position felt like something special a 2 spirit brings in community, a solution that works for everyone!
The next night I heard the call for healing space. Space along side the fire where people can rest, reset their chakras, receive reiki and other energetic healings. Where someone like me can feel most at ease. Healing areas are comfortable for me as a counselor and even with my nursing background. Although barely any of the skills taught in those classrooms are used in the healing space around the fire. Very little words are exchanged unless necessary and often people need more energetic healing instead of other types of healing I offer outside the circle. This healing space gives me space to practice the energetic healing that I rarely get to practice. Many energetic healers lack space to share their most intimate healing energies, but in this space we are celebrated and appreciated. I was so happy to encourage more healers to plug in along side me, to share an alter and healing space. As if we held each others hands while supporting the healing of those that arrived for help. I spent an entire night listening to my inner guide in order to provide the best healing space for anyone that wanted it. I was honored to give healing after healing and lifted up in knowing that it was helpful for these people. That my energy healing is not just in my head – that it actually helps. Peaceful, loving, and kind healing is all I desire to share and when I am able to share in this way I feel confident, strong, and healed inside myself. When healing heals the healer it brings a special kind of “medicine”. We all have a natural calling and healing is mine.
The other way I love to play at the fire circle is with my tap shoes. I love to dance and use my feet to keep the beat. This time I was grateful to be able to do a little tapping along side the circle where I could share in smiles with the other drummers. The best part of dance is that again I am in between the drummers and dancers….I am both. I am keeping rhythm with my feet but at the same time relaxing into a unique dance expression. Once again feeling both the circle of dancers around the fire and rattlers around the edge of the circle, I find myself on both sides. This is rarely separated by gender as men dance as often as women and of course some of our strongest drummers are female bodied. Although I feel like we could mix it up even more if people didn’t get caught up in gender so much, overall this group has moved past that. As I tap and feel the dancers letting their spirits express in movement I can feel the rhythms of the drummers holding the space and time. I can feel them moving back and forth with each other both in support and guidance, journeying together. This is a spectacular space for me and I love the in between, as usual it feels like home.
Everyone has a very unique set of experiences in live and for certain in the fire circle. As gender variant people we tend to have experiences on both sides of the gender binary. All people are unique in their own way, Androgynes tend to stand out in our world. Instead of making them “weird” or “crazy” or “perverted” instead what if we were to celebrate them. What if instead we were to lift them and up tell them we loved them just the way they were. Increasing unity, blurring gender lines. More lines between us and the more we forget how connected we all really are, the more we find suffering. Instead as we step into our most authentic selves we can celebrate ourselves and also be celebrated! Our culture sometimes functions under a “dog eat dog world” instead we could arrive as authentic kind beings and celebrate each other. So the next time you encounter a “weirdo” ask yourself….what brightness could this person bring to the world? The next time you hesitate on wearing that skirt or that bow tie, because its just too weird, take a deep breathe and know your “weird” can brighten the world. If your looking for a community spiritual gathering (not religious) as an Androgyne, in or out of the closet, I recommend the fire tribe. I have seen safe space there again and again. Of course, I would love to have you at my side in the “ForestDance” community!