In various indigenous cultures, including the Navajo, the traditional attitude towards homosexuality is that of respect for those who are "two-spirits," often regarding them as having mystical powers that made them good healers, medicine people, and tribal counselors. Two spirits have the ability to embody both genders in one body and therefore can experience the work of balancing male and female within themselves in ways that others cannot, affording them unique perspectives and wisdom. While homosexuality is more common than being transgender, the concept still seems to fit.
In today's society, unfortunately, this attitude is not common towards any variance in "normal" sexual or gender identification. And yet we live with the desperate need for balance in all areas of our lives and with the consequences for ignoring that need. Our society has become polarized, disconnected, and unbalanced as pendulums swing frantically from one end of the spectrum to the other, hardly ever finding a point of balance in the middle. Many women seem determined to prove they're really men without penises. Men frequently struggle to find socially acceptable ways to express their emotions. All of us fight an uphill battle for acceptance of our Truth, whatever the criteria used for assessing ourselves and others and sorting by categories, as humans are wont to do.
And then there are the people who have the challenge of living inside bodies that don't feel like their own. I can't begin to imagine what that must be like. I think every person at some point or other has to deal with not liking, not wanting, not loving the body they were born with, but most of those are cosmetic conflicts, sometimes more than superficial, but nothing like what it must be to know you're female as you look at a male body in the mirror or vice versa. And yet, having been dealt that particularly difficult card, do you ever feel "real," even after surgery and hormones? Early in my practice at Project Vida, I met and worked with an individual who, even to my inexperienced perception, seemed to truly be a female in a male body. Her physical body was small and delicate, her voice soft, her movement graceful and feminine, and her energy looked and felt to me as female as any biological woman I'd ever worked with. She went through the whole torturous path of hormones and surgery and I expected our first session after her recovery to be a joyous one, celebrating that she had finally "come home" and was living in the body she'd always felt was truly her own. Sadly, that was not the case and our work then became focused on how this new body felt, how to know it and feel it was her "real" body.
I have known and worked with several transgender women since I knew her and most seemed to have the same struggle -- even though they'd mastered the "look," they very rarely seemed at home being girls. They were free to act female and to feel like they weren't aliens living in their own bodies, which of course was better than forcing themselves to look and act in ways that weren't true for them. But, as one joked to me, they don't have to worry about menstrual leaks, PMS, unwanted pregnancies, or menopausal hot flashes. But if medical science someday discovers ways to make those things also part of their new reality, is that the true measure of being female? It seems there are always going to be obstacles, even if it's just where to find size 15 high heels. Maybe females becoming male have it easier -- even though they might not ever experience wet dreams, spontaneous erections, or the need for Flomax, at least they would have an easier time with their clothing!
I have always believed that at our most evolved human state, we all carry both genders within, just as we carry heart and head, physical and spiritual, youth and old age -- in short, we have a wide range of spectrums to experience if we allow ourselves the possibilities. Perhaps transgender people are a step ahead of the rest of us in that they live each day confronted with the spectrum of gender and many find that precious balance point where they can feel with a woman's heart and think with a man's head while deciding which body is the one they truly live in. It can't be easy, but oh, what lessons it must bring, what wisdom it must convey. Now if only the rest of the world could find a way to revere them the way those indigenous cultures have, we might all make some significant progress.
Breathe deep, live long.
Got a comment on this article? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org