Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Feminism and Transphobia

I used to be a feminist.  There, I said it.  I've been putting off writing this post, because to me people who say "I used to be a feminist" have always seemed ungrateful.  But the plain fact is that feminism does not meet my needs as a trans person. 

Feminism has always been about questioning traditional notions of gender. I believe it's not going too far to say that the fundamental axiom of feminism is that everything society teaches us about gender is wrong.  And yet most feminists, upon encountering the word "transgender," suddenly become extremely conventional.  Suddenly society's definitions of gender are not to be questioned.  Why is that?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Spiritual Nourishment

The sermon at my Unitarian Universalist church one recent Sunday was on the topic of addictive behaviors and spiritual nourishment.  The general idea was that people stuff themselves with food, alcohol, etc. because they feel an emptiness inside - and it may be true that spiritual practice helps to fill that void better than addictive substances.

While listening to the speakers, I felt like I was looking in a mirror: and by that I mean, I saw my own image reversed.  For some reason I don't have an addictive personality.  As I've mentioned here before, the closest I come to any kind of compulsive behavior is undereating, rather than overeating; and even that has always seemed to me like a semi-instinctive response to stress, not a choice I make in order to make myself feel better.  Also I've done a lot of spiritual exploration.  If there is a void inside each one of us that can only be filled by spirituality, then my void has been pretty much taken care of.  I believe it is fair to say that I preferred spiritual practice to alcohol, or ice cream, or whatever else the people around me were using.

Nonetheless - and this is what struck me on that Sunday - even genuine spiritual nourishment didn't help me feel connected to other human beings.  The spiritual world and the human world seemed to be completely separate from each other.  I felt the love of the spirit, I felt compassion and universal connectedness - I knew it was real.  But when I looked into the human world I saw none of those things.

During my formative years, I don't recall ever hearing anyone say the word "compassion."  Even the word "love" was in short supply.  As for the idea that all life is sacred, that we are all connected in the web of life - I don't believe those concepts are part of traditional Western culture.  Of course, those are big ideas.  The people I knew were focused on daily events, the mundane world, the struggle to provide the necessities of life.  Maybe some of them were aware of the existence of compassion, and just didn't bother to mention it to me.

And yet, at the Unitarian Universalist church I heard people speak who were thoroughly familiar with the words "compassion," "love," "connectedness," "social justice," "sacred community."  They had devoted many years of their lives to speaking those words and trying, with others, to enact those concepts in the world.  They were experts and I was less than a novice - and yet they still couldn't bridge the gap between the human world and the spiritual world. They still felt something which they called "an emptiness inside." This actually encouraged me.  It really is hard, I thought.  It's not just me.

It would seem that spiritual practice and social practice are two different things.