Author: nexy jo
Posted: On WitchVox May 12th. 2001
I am an enigma to most people, and even to myself at times. I am Wiccan, having been studying and practicing the religion for over two years, and I am also transgendered. I was born with a relatively normal male body, though in my mind, for as long as I can remember, I never felt quite comfortable in that social role, so my gender is often seen as female. I'm currently on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which means I take a combination of drugs which block my body's production of testosterone, the hormone that makes one's body exhibit typical male attributes, along with estrogen, the hormone that makes one's body exhibit typical female attributes. I am in what's commonly referred to as "transition" -- changing my gender from male to female. Interestingly enough, I also consider myself to be in spiritual "transition", moving from my roots in Judaism, through no religious affiliations, to Wiccan -- though it's my own personal interpretation of Wicca. I am quite eclectic.
Having reached a point in my life where living in the traditional male gender role became intolerable, perhaps 2 or 3 years ago, I also found that I had a vast "hole' in my life spiritually. It's as if I had reached a wall, and only by coming to terms with my creator, and my own self image, would I have the tools with which to breach that wall, so I could continue to grow in any aspect of my life. It would appear to be a possibility that the concept of being created in the image of god compelled me to seek out both myself and god, so it makes sense that both of these quests would happen at the same time.
I don't really know if my self-image is that of a female. When I first went into therapy for my gender "disorder", my therapist asked me if I felt like a woman trapped in a man's body. I replied that I really didn't know. I don't know what a man "feels" like, and I don't know what a woman "feels" like. I only know what I feel like, and I feel uncomfortable living as a man in this society. And when I think about how a woman lives her life in our society, and when I act out that role myself, I am significantly more comfortable, and feel as if I can express myself "normally" and naturally. Self-expression as a man was never comfortable, as many of the expressions of me would clearly be interpreted as female by most of the people in our society.
As I progress spiritually, much of that progress involves self-examination and soul searching. And I've found quite a blend of both traditionally male and female expressions, and "energies" resident inside myself. I still enjoy some activities that would traditionally be considered "male", and I also like many traditional female endeavors. For the most part however, I don't really feel like either particular gender, when I'm alone with just myself for company. I'm just me.
I've had both male and female friends and sexual partners. In the context of a long-term partner, I see myself with a man, and with myself taking on the traditional female role in a traditional marriage. I was married for 14 years to a woman, and that was a miserable failure, though I'm not sure if our problems were specifically related to my gender issues or not. I don't dismiss the possibility of being with a woman long term though. I suppose in that sense, I am bisexual.
Regarding my friendships, I've always gotten along better with women than men as a general rule, especially if I'm in a group comprised of primarily one gender. Like many women, I am gentle, and nurturing, and I express myself emotionally as opposed to logically. I am more apt to sympathize than attempt to "fix" another's problems, so in many ways, I instinctive "act" more like a woman than a man. Of course, many men and women exhibit personality attributes traditionally associated with the "opposite" gender, especially in today's society. But taken as a whole, most people who really know me would agree that my basic personality is that of a woman. Or perhaps a girl. Growing up with a confused sense of gender identity has certainly had an effect on specific aspects of my personality, and my personal growth, and I can be quite the child at times.
Forming a functional relationship with divinity has offered great comfort for me, especially during this most difficult time -- gender transition. For me, Wicca provides a structure, with ritual and prayer, through which I can commune with God. I see divinity as a genderless conglomeration of the universe, and choose to celebrate divinity in two aspects, the Goddess and the God. Not surprisingly, I will most often find myself praying to the Goddess, as opposed to the God, especially when I seek support or comfort. Though in my celebrations of holidays and moon phases, I give both the Goddess and the God equal "billing".
In traditional forms of Wicca, magick is a significant part. I like Aleister Crowley's definition of magick -- "the art or science of causing change to occur in conformity with Will". Scott Cunningham defines magick as "the projection of natural energies to produce needed effects." And I also believe that magick most definitely involves sensing and manipulating energy. I will also say that magick is a big part of my life, as I see magick in almost everything, and "put" magick into virtually everything I do. Most people do not see magick in this way, and would probably think me "unbalanced" if they knew how I felt about magick. Of course, those who see magick as I do, and not as "magic", would probably agree that I am quite "normal". I'm not talking about stage magic here, or slight of hand, or illusion, or supernatural powers, like the ability to fly, or cause candles to light by themselves. I'm talking about the use of natural energies, and my own will power, to make positive changes in my life, and the lives of those I love. Something for which everyone strives, and for which virtually every religion makes specific rituals -- God helps those who help themselves.
In traditional Wiccan view, it is my understanding that a lot of celebration, and magickal expressions use the concept of polarity. Much of the universe is seen in terms of polarity -- male and female, light and dark, hot and cold, good and evil, as a few examples. While I understand this view, and agree it is a valid "map" of the universe, I also believe that the concept of continuums may more accurately describe all of these facets. Yes, there is light and darkness, but in most -- if not all -- cases, at least in nature, the "amount" of light is somewhere on the continuum between "total" light and "total" darkness. In other words, it's relative. Just like hot and cold. Most "things" are somewhere on the continuum between "absolute" zero, and "total" heat, if something like that even exists. And whether it is hot or cold is a matter of reference. A wood fire is hot on a cold winter's night, but is cold compared to the heat generated by the sun, especially close up. Rarely, if ever, does one find one extreme.
In the same way, I see gender as a continuum. Many of us tend towards one of the extremes, and are more commonly seen as either male or female. I see myself as somewhere in the middle, probably a little toward the female "side" of things, but also probably in that hazy "in between" area.
I've been practicing Wicca as a solitary for the most part, so most of my background comes from that perspective. I have recently begun to celebrate with a coven, and find that quite fulfilling as well, but most of my knowledge of Wicca is based on my experience and learning's of a solitary practitioner. Working with the coven adds a new dimension to that experience. The particular group that I celebrate with is all female, though for many of our sabbat and esbat celebrations, men are present, usually partners of members. I guess my point here is that there is usually somewhat of a balance in gender within our rituals, both with the people present, and in celebrating divinity - the Goddess and the God.
I've recently found many resources for the pagan gay community, and I was looking forward to checking it out. Many of the resources referred to support of the pagan gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered communities, but any specific to the transgendered community were pretty scarce. Actually, other than a couple of web sites, the rest were geared toward gay and lesbian people. I suppose I kind of expected that, though I was hoping for more. I did read through many of the gay and lesbian resources, and found some amount of insight that I suppose I could relate to, but I think we face different issues for the most part, especially on a personal level. Frankly, I am not very familiar with the lesbian or gay community, and have pretty limited exposure, strange as that may seem. I occasionally frequent a primarily gay dance club, but most of the gay men there are looking for dates, and I do not at all fit their idea of someone they want to be with in that context. They tolerate me as a dance partner perhaps, but that's about as far as it goes.
I never really saw myself as gay, instead, as someone who primarily dates men. I am always in the female role in those relationships, though I suppose that can also take place in a gay relationship. But I think a major difference is the self-image involved. I don't believe that gay men want to change their gender. I would imagine that they are probably more acquainted with female energy on a personal level, compared to that of a straight man, but I would also say that I probably take that a step further. I believe a gay man still sees himself as a man, where I do not, even though our bodies started out the same. So especially in the context of Wiccan celebrations, or magickal workings, I don't know how relevant their insights are to me specifically.
Actually, I never thought to concern myself about being a pagan or Wiccan transgendered woman, at least with regard to how my gender or sexual orientation might impact how I express myself spiritually. When I first saw the sexual/gender related resources, I thought that there might be some startling revelations to absorb, that in some way, I've been missing a significant aspect of how these two facets of myself might interact. I guess I never thought about it, because it was never a problem. In fact, at every pagan gathering I've been to, however small or large, and at every internet forum and chat room, I have been met with total acceptance and respect. In some cases, I've even been treated as if I'm somehow "special", or exceptional in some way.
It is my understanding that traditional Wiccan thought combines male and female energies like a battery, as polarities, especially in magickal work. Again, I say it's my understanding, as I don't have much experience in that area, having practiced as a solitary all this time. I never had trouble with magick. It's always worked for me, and I'm not really sure of the mechanisms with which a "normal" couple would raise energy, or a gay couple for that matter. I do know how to raise it from myself, and through myself. And I am just beginning to learn to do that with a group.
I've also done a ritual with a male friend of mine, and we engaged in some magickal work, and I also had no trouble raising the energy in that situation. Interestingly enough, it was during that ritual that 4 of the 6 candleholders we used actually exploded -- there was glass all over the place. Now whether that had to do with the quality of the candleholders, or the level of energy we raised, I won't venture to guess.
Perhaps because there is a pretty balanced blend of male and female energies within me, it contributes to the ease in which I perform magick, either alone, with a partner, or in a group. Or perhaps I have "natural" talent for it, though I would not presume that to be the case. Or perhaps there's something to the belief in many other cultures, like Native American, Celtic, and Hindu traditions, that transgendered people are somehow more "spiritual", or more magickal, or hold a special place in the eyes of divinity because of their unique perspective. Again, for some reason, I wouldn't think myself so different from the average magickal practitioner. I would further say that many straight people have no trouble with magick either, and also find they can practice it with relative ease. So I'm not so sure I am any different at all, at least in terms of my gender "polarity", and how it interacts with the raising and manipulation of energy, or in how I relate to divinity for that matter. It's also quite possible that those straight people who are proficient in magickal workings have a better understanding of the gender energy running through them. Again, I'm not sure if proficiency in magick has anything to do with gender, or its polarity.
Some Wiccan "traditionalists" would disagree though. Vivianne Crowley in Phoenix From the Flame; Pagan Spirituality In The Western World says "... Wicca, which emphasize the polarity between Goddess and God, priest and priestess, may be unattractive to some whose orientation is not heterosexual" . And Janet and Stuart Farrar in The Witches Way: Principles, Rituals and Beliefs of Modern Witchcraft, say "... Wicca is built around natural maleness and femaleness of mind body and spirit". And Gerald B. Gardner in Witchcraft Today, says "To form this battery of wills, male and female intelligences are needed in couples".
Of course, these references are fairly out dated by today's standards, as Wicca has gone through significant changes and continues to do so, especially as the solitary practitioner has become as much the norm as covens, and the "eclectic" tradition as prominent as any other. Clearly, Scott Cunningham, as just one example, is quite clear in all his writings that no "battery" is required to perform magick. He doesn't come out and say this specifically, but his entire solitary Magickal and ceremonial workings are based on only one person's performance. Perhaps the "battery" that Gerald Gardner speaks of can be found within ones self, whether straight, gay, lesbian, bi, or transgendered. Of course, this has been my experience. Again, I wonder if the natural presence of "both" gender energies within me has any relevance to this. I specifically put the word "both" in quotes, because of how I see gender, and its related energy. In a big way, I believe that I hold a similar view to Starhawk, when she writes "The male and female forces represent difference, yet they are not different, in essence: they are the same force flowing in opposite, but not opposed directions... Each principle contains the other... They are part of a cycle, each dependant on the other". (from Starhawk, The Spiral Dance) It would seem, according to this view, that each of us, regardless of our gender or sexual orientation, has the potential to tap into the "gender driven battery" to raise energy -- if that is in fact the mechanism through which magick, or ritual operates.
Additionally, since the energy of gender "flows in opposite, but not opposed directions", one could speculate that other directions of flow are possible, indicating the manifestation of genders other than the traditional "male" and "female". Whether these "other" manifestations are some blend of the two, or something different all together, is not clear.
There has been some concern expressed with certain aspects of Wiccan ritual from within the pagan gay community. Sequences like "As the athame is to the male, so the chalice is to the female" seems to come up a lot. That's done in the coven I've been celebrating with, and of course, when a man is present, he holds the athame, and one of the women hold the chalice, and the great rite is symbolically executed. I never had an issue with this. In fact, I can see from both perspectives, having had sexual relations with women as a man, and also having had sexual relations with a man, as, well as much a woman as I can be at this point. I probably should mention that I am a "pre-op" transgendered woman -- I have yet to have "the operation". Regardless, at this point, I'd probably be comfortable holding either the athame or the chalice. And frankly, I don't see that changing.
Where some of the articles in the gay pagan resources suggest discomfort with the traditional male-female polarity, I was actually attracted to that aspect. The "male" and "female" of gender is merely one aspect of the polarity -- or continuum -- in the context of Wiccan ceremony, or even in my own mind. This yin and yang of energy, whether it's sexual, or conceptual, is a basic aspect of the universe -- I never though to be uncomfortable with it. In fact, I celebrate it, in myself, and in my rituals, as a solitary and in the coven.
There are several aspects of divinity and culture that reflect a blend of gender energies. What comes to mind first, is "The One", that primal force who many see as the creator of everything. To most, "The One" has no gender, or is both, and from whom all gods and goddesses are created. There is usually some type of divine aspect who takes on these qualities in many different cultures.
In Navaho traditions, Ahsonnutli is the creator of heaven and earth. "He" is regarded as a bisexual deity, and is called "the Turquoise Hermaphrodite". In the Lakota Native American Tradition, the Winkte are seen as holy or sacred, because as transsexuals, they have been given a gift of uniqueness, which is considered a divine blessing. They are often endowed with special powers, including healing, compassion, expert in giving advice and guidance, especially in matters of the heart, hunting, warrior skills, mediators between this and the spirit world, child rearing, and name giving. It was expected that a Winkte, who was born male, but lived in a female gender role, take a man for a husband, as she was regarded as female. It is felt that it's natural for women to be attracted to men, and visa versa. This regard for those who transcend gender boundaries is not uncommon in Native American, Celtic, and Hindu societies, along with others, throughout history. It's only when Christian thought penetrated the Native American cultures, as one example, that this tradition came under question.
In Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus was half man, and half woman. The son of Hermes and Aphrodite, Hermaphroditus, who was born a man, found himself charmed by the nymph of the fountain of Salmacis in Caria. She was so in love, that she asked the gods to unite them forever. They were joined as one, forming one body with both genders.
In Hindu mythology, Ardhanari is just one representation of Shiva, as a half-male and half-female deity, depicting the concept of the male and female aspects of the world. Shiva is more commonly seen as male, being the third deity of the Hindu triad of great gods. Shiva is the destroyer, but also a god of regeneration -- endings are also new beginnings. Ardhanarisvara is another incarnation of Shiva's male and female halves. Several Hindu deities have some blend of each gender, and occasionally appear in either or both genders.
Since I don't "use" any pantheon of deities, other than "The Goddess" and "The God", my investigation of pre-existing multi-gendered aspects was merely as a curiosity, and hardly thorough. I only offer the aforementioned as a reference, and as a starting point for those who do have an interest.
It does show that, at the very least, a being with a combination of gender energies can be divine, and has been in at least several cultures throughout history. That transsexuals, and homosexuals for that matter, are seen as people to be scorned and ridiculed in modern American culture, would seem to be an uncommon outlook for a society, and probably caused in part by traditional rigid Christian thought.
From a personal perspective, the more I think about the gender/religious expression issue, the less importance it has. I have had no problem identifying with either the Goddess or the God, and the women in the coven I celebrate with seem to have no problem accepting me as a woman, or at least a valued member of the group. And my gender doesn't seem to negatively affect any of my magickal work. It was only when I saw the list of gay pagan resources that I began to think of my own gender as an issue. And after looking through the resources, and dismissing much of the early Wiccan thought on gender polarity and magick/ritual, I really don't know that there is an issue.
In discussions with some of my Christian friends, I am constantly reminded that "God does not make mistakes". Frankly, I'm inclined to agree with them, though the result of that agreement takes on a totally different manifestation for me, than it would for them. They see my situation as temptation from Satan, and that I should strive to live as a man, even though great suffering, and not defile the temple that is my body. I see my situation as a challenge and learning experience given to me as a gift from God, to do with as I see fit, in any way I choose to deal with it. While I don't see my current path as a choice, in the traditional sense of the word -- I feel I have no choice but to transition -- it most certainly is a path on which I will learn, and grow, and perhaps even inspire others to learn and grow. Thus this rambling, and my website.
Bio: Nexy Jo is a 47-year-old Transgendered Wiccan, practicing as a solitary and with a coven since 1998. She works in the consumer electronics field as a technical support specialist. She enjoys creating magickal tools and other crafts, and often writes down her thoughts. She maintains her own website at http://members.aol.com/nexyjo/spirit/index.htm, and also enjoys the tarot, shopping, rollerblading, the arts, and nature, along with a wide variety of other interests. She lives in Northern New Jersey, is divorced, and has one son.