16 February 2009

This Ain't Paul's Androgynous...

Androgynous. Since the early 1990's, I have felt a kin to androgyny. Paul Westerberg of the Replacements, wrote the song Androgynous which may have been the first time that I heard of the concept of Androgyny and began my research.

I have been aware of my own androgyny from a young age. I knew that I was female by my genitalia, but I exhibited traits of both gender stereotypes. I was often referred to as a tomboy. I had a deep voice, for which I was criticized so I learned to speak in a more "girlie" voice. Clothes weren't important. I preferred styles and colors that could be worn by either gender and that were loose and comfortable. My sexuality wasn't a problem, to me. I experimented with both girls and boys at an early age, but was "caught". I was spanked for playing "married" with a little girl, but only scolded and warned when I was caught playing an imaginative "doctors and patient on a deserted island" with two little boys. I was the willing patient. Current day, I consider myself heterosexual. Some people may say this is because the bi-sexuality that I exhibited at a young age was punished and curbed, and this may be the case, or not. I'm not worried about it or looking to re-define my sexual desires, nor am I looking for someone else to do it for me.

I have felt when people are naturally uncomfortable around me. Male and Female. I thought maybe that it was because of my strong will or sometimes my attractiveness, but as I research, I believe that some folks my sense my androgyny. I carry the femininity of a woman, but the iron will and emotional strength of a man. I have been seen as a warrior, a fighter. Even some of my features are slightly masculine like my over-large hands, but I am undeniably female on appearance.

A common misconception is that androgynous people are bi-sexual. Some may be bi-sexual, but not all of them are. Some may be homosexual or heterosexual. It's a matter of choice or personal preference.

Wikipedia states that when the word was created, that it was probably used "as an alternative to the Greek Pagan-related usage of hermaphrodite." The term "hermaphrodite" refers to the marriage of the archetypal male and female (Hermes + Aphrodite who are Zeus' children). Today the term hermaphrodite is used to describe people who are born with both male and female reproductive organs and occurs in all species, not only humans. A hermaphrodite might exhibit androgynous traits, but not all people who relate to androgynism are hermaphrodites. Unfortunately, most of the online sources for etymology and definitions associate the two with each other exclusively without explaining the true essence of the Greek-Pagan usage.

Androgyny has to do with the nature of a person. Androgynous is an adjective meaning having the nature of both male and female, and seems to be a trait of human beings, solely. Online sources give a much different meaning to the term, 'nature' including, but definitely not limited to my following interpretations and possible slight plagiarism:

Essence; disposition; temperament; a creative and controlling force in the universe; the existing way of things; the world of matter; the world of matter and mind; the creation; the universe; the essential characteristics and qualities of a person or thing.*

The Online Etymology Dictionary(for Androgynous)states:

"1628, from L. androgynus, from Gk. androgynos, 'male and female in one,' from andros gen. of aner 'male'+ gyne 'woman'. Androgyne is attested from 1552."

The term "Androgyne", googled, conveys more information.

Angelfire.com expresses the following:

"The Nature of the androgyne entails a(n) union of opposites within …To live the androgyne Nature is to experience the breadth of human being-ness. It is through the process of becoming self aware that the individual is enabled to embrace and integrate the (apparently) opposite poles of the psyche, thus awakening the Nature of the androgyne within her/his consciousness. In this manner... become One within the person and renewed in the Spirit of the mind (hence, the soul/psyche and, in varying degrees, the body -- please, understand that…this internal transformation does not imply overt changes in one's physical [e.g. sexual] characteristics)."

The Native Americans recognized the existence of Two-Spirited people. According to McGill University, prior to colonization and the imposition of foreign churches views and values, native persons believed not only in a distinctly male and a distinctly female gender but also a male-female gender or what is known as Two-Spirited. 'Two-Spirited', when Googled, results in websites featuring information for Native Americans who are gay. Native Americans and the article from McGill mention that the concept relates to today's "gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons of Native origins".

The goes on to explain:

"Traditionally, the Two-spirited person was one who had received a gift from the Creator, that gift being the privilege to house both male and female spirits in their bodies."

Two-Spirited describes what we know to be androgyny. There is also the term berdache which is used interchangeably with Two-Spirit. Some Native Americans find the term, berdache, term to be offensive and derogatory. The etymology of the word is complex coming from French from Spanish from Italians via Arabic from Persian. Its basic meaning could be interpreted as "kept boy; prostitute; prisoner; passive homosexual partner; pretty or feminine boy". When Spanish, French and European explorers came to shores of the new world and began to explore, they found a most interesting phenomenon. They found boys dressed as and working as women. They soon attached the term we know today as Berdache. Yet, the Native American Berdache is very different from the European thought of "berdaj".

Corey Mondello describes:

"Two-Spirit People, or one called a 'Berdache', or even one of the 'third gender', are individuals not categorized as either gay or lesbian, transvestite or bisexual. Those who, in many Native American Cultures, who are respected and looked upon as people who are both male and female, making them more complete, more balanced than simply a man or a woman. Before those from Europe came from across the waters, and took over their land, these people were part of the 'norm', connected with the very heartbeat of the life force we are all part of."

Nu-Woman.com explains:

"Unlike European Americans, gender or sexual divergence did not threaten the Indians…The term berdache is, of course, a generic one, as they were called by different -terms depending on the tribe. They were "winktes" in the Lakota Sioux, "Nadle" in Navaho tribes, "Shamans" in the Mojave and "Mahu" in the Polynesian culture of Tahiti…Since the berdache could mix characteristics of both genders, they were viewed as having a special status as if blessed by the gods. They were thought to be the "middle gender," and seen as prophets and visionaries having an almost mystic and psychic vision into the future. They were often consulted by tribal elders and chieftains because they were thought to have a kind of "universal knowledge" and special connection to the 'great spirit'."

A website named Reconnections states:

"The term Berdache is a French European application of an ancient tradition which spans many reality contexts. It is a GIFT, an ability that has become an entire state of consciousness. In a nutshell, these dear people have the capacity---usually from birth--- to feel into both sides of the human polarity spectrum…They are those individuals who, because of their essential energetic androgyny, have the power to enter the Otherworld. This is NOT a sexual orientation. It is spiritual. Some Berdache are gay, but that is more a choice of action, a preference, than it is a mandate for the usage of this gift…The Berdache are the highest shamans, healers, teachers, diviners, dreamers, prophets, and guardians of the Gateway. To them, sexuality is nothing more than an extension of their spiritual being. If their energy was not used for this purpose, they would develop a blockage or build-up… The priestesses in the Temples of the Goddess were often Berdache. Though they often lived "normal" lives---having husbands and families---they would choose, at key times to go and live at the Temple, devoting many hours, days, weeks to worship of the Goddess."

There may always be a contingency that feels completely uncomfortable with Androgyny. Somehow, they may feel, though history shows otherwise, that an androgynous person is a slight against God. We can't be slighted against God, because all humans are divine.

* AR Dictionary; Merriam-Webster Online; The Free Dictionary