I wish there were more spaces where we could talk about the body and its changes and processes in an inclusive way. That is to say, in a way that includes trans, genderqueer, and non-binary people, and people of all ages, and doesn’t create an essentialist account of what bodily functions mean.
I am currently experiencing menopausal symptoms. I don’t feel that this puts me on the threshold of being a crone, and nor do I feel that menarche, menstruation, childbirth, and menopause are defining features of being a woman. However, they are important and significant milestones in life, and I would like to be able to recognise and mark them symbolically and ritually without excluding trans women, trans men, intersex people, and genderqueer and nonbinary people (all of whom can feel excluded from these discussions in different ways).
I never had a child, so I want to acknowledge that in my processing of the significance of menopause. I am genderqueer, so I want to honour my gender identity in my processing of what is happening to my body.
I gave a workshop about inclusive Wicca, and a trans man who attended said that in the Wiccan coven he attends, there’s a lot of essentialist talk about wombs and the joys of childbirth, which made him uncomfortable. This sort of talk can be very excluding for trans men, and for women who cannot or prefer not to have a child.
People have mentioned to me that the Red Tent movement is trans-exclusionary. I just had a look at the website for it, and it doesn’t even mention trans women, and just goes on as if cis women are the only women that exist. Very disappointing, and a missed opportunity, and definitely excluding of trans women.
I once went to an interfaith event where two Pagan women were going on about the joys of childbirth, and they went so far as to say that you’re only a real woman if you have given birth. This made me very angry, and a couple of other women found it very upsetting.
Talk about biological characteristics such as wombs and menstruation can be excluding for trans women, if they are discussed in a way that equates womanhood with menstruation and childbirth, or assumes that all women have (or have had) a womb and two X chromosomes. People’s biological characteristics don’t necessarily match their gender, and there are many different intersex conditions that don’t match the binary model of XX and XY chromosomes.
“There’s only XX and XY! Biology 101!”
Viable chromosome variations:
XXY: 1 in 500+ people
XYY: 1 in 1000 people
X: 1 in 2000+ people
XXXY: 1 in 18,000+ people
There are more than 7 billion humans on the planet and millions of them aren’t XX or XY. Time for a new textbook.
— Amanda Jette Knox (@MavenOfMayhem) 16 May 2018
I would like to be in a queer space for discussing bodily changes, where people could discuss gender dysphoria and celebrate gender euphoria (the happiness that occurs when your appearance matches your gender), the changes brought about by taking hormones, and we could celebrate the growth of beards, breasts, chest hair, and so on; where people could discuss childbirth, menstruation and menopause; and these things could be discussed without any assumption that they define us as people, or as belonging to a specific gender.
I would feel extremely uncomfortable in any space that didn’t include trans, genderqueer, and non-binary people. I also think that it’s high time we were able to discuss menstruation in front of cisgender men. I would certainly be absolutely fine with discussing it with trans women, as long as it didn’t make them feel excluded. Such discussions could also be enlightening for people who are not very aware of transgender people.
It’s worth mentioning that the Moon (which is often referenced in talk about menstruation, because the menstrual cycle is monthly), is regarded as female in some cultures, male in others. So the Moon is not specific to a particular gender, and as it is often a symbol of fluidity, it could be regarded as a genderfluid symbol.
It would also be great if rites of passage included transgender people. When I finally get around to deciding that I’ve reached the age of crone/sage/wizard, I would like a genderqueer term that describes that phase of life. I am more than a womb with legs, and would like other aspects of my self and my life experience acknowledged in any ritual celebrating my transition to old age. Meanwhile, if anyone has any good tips for coping with the symptoms of menopause (herbal supplements, foods, etc), I am all ears.
Does anyone else feel that a queer space for discussing the body and its changes would be a good thing? What should it be called, if we were to create such a space? Some ideas: the Spiral Castle, the Rainbow Circle, Queer Bodies, Queering the Body, Inclusive Body Talk.
Wouldn’t it be great to have rituals for celebrating and honouring the body and its changes, in all its diversity, without excluding anyone?
If you enjoyed this post, you might like my new book, Dark Mirror: the Inner Work of Witchcraft.