Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Erotic

The erotic functions for me in several ways, and the first is in providing the power which comes from sharing deeply any pursuit with another person. The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.

- Audre Lorde, "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power"

The way Audre Lorde uses the term erotic threw me off at first, because she was not speaking about physical sensuality per se. As I re-read the essay "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power" from the top, I discovered that the term "erotic" as she uses it is what I would have referred to as passionate authenticity and intentional living.

As a transsexual woman, the final piece of the puzzle that drove home my gender was realizing that I only felt joy when I acknowledged myself as female. I know very much the chaotic ocean of emotions that lies below the surface, as I had internally erected a "No Swimming" sign for many years.

Julian of Norwich was a mystic Christian and leader from the fourteenth century who also made references to an erotic element in her writing. From what I read, I see very little true sensuality in Julian's writing. What I see in both Julian and Lorde however is the desire for passionate authenticity and connection on an intimate level. Of course, passion and the desire for intimacy in its original form are built-in and instinctual.

There is a significant difference between Audre Lorde's focus on human relationship with Julian's romantic concept of God as husband. Passionate authenticity in human relationships requires a conscious effort to allow the authentic selves of other people, whereas romantic relations come with the blinders of expectation, and the eventual insistence of conformity to ideals.

Julian seemed to be on the edge as far as she dare go when ascribing feminine roles to Christ. It does stand out when she refers to the mother as "he." Any farther would probably have earned her a stake upon which to be burned.

Her concept of gender roles being fluid, however, actually helps to reconcile the aspects of Christ that were not traditionally male, and appeared to be more feminine.

But how far off was she? In today's economy, there are plenty of example's of "Mr. Mom," men providing for the nurturing and care of the children, and quite capable of it. Christ, as God, can be understood as both mother and father, because in Julian's view, one God can be only one parent, yet can take on all roles, similar to single mothers putting on "The dad," or vice versa for single fathers.

This capability for gender roles to be fluid is probably built in as a survival trait, contrary to the male stereotypes that we have today. Evidenced in the attractiveness of men who are more feminine, many women feel safer and less threatened by softer and tender men, suggesting that most male aggressiveness and control is mostly for peer pressure show and conformity to societal norms. If that is the case, the actual emotional dimorphism between men and women would be less than stereotypical masculine and feminine attributes would allow for.

Women have the capability of serving in the role of father and, what's more, men have the capability of fulfilling the mother role. Under certain circumstances, men can, and have, breast fed their children. Having multiple tender, loving adults available actually increases the survivability of the offspring for a social group.

I think what Julian read in Jesus was his unashamed courage to express the feminine attributes. And in so doing, he is Mother as well as Father. Drawing attention to these aspects, therefore, was a call for the clergy to be more tender and compassionate.

I see in the female spiritual leaders of the middle ages the boldness to find their own connection to Christ outside the established heirarchy. The daily knowledge that men and women are both important to the creative process was something that was lost to religion itself with the loss of the Goddess culture, and the masculinization of the original Hebraic God that composed both genders.

These women dared to see God through themselves, but to not be seen as a source of "temptation to evil," they had to become celibate to be treated seriously. And they had moments of solace to explore their own connections to the divine, that they shared with others.

In nature, men and women typically are motivated instinctually by love to do two different things on the physical plane. While not all men feel and behave in this way, men and some women will typically protect their family and anything else that is important to them by drawing the danger away and fighting to protect what is considered even more dear to them than their own lives. And so when men dominated religion, they fought to keep people away from what they considered dangerous.

Many women and some men, however, in nature are benefitted greatly if they can find someone tender that will fight for them. Many mothers know that they already will give anything for their child, and many women instinctually feel that the way to inspire such a love in a partner is to occasionally submit physically. It is their physical act of love, and it is often abused.

The women who became spiritual leaders during this time only shared what they knew to be true physically, but also worked on a spiritual level. Total surrender of oneself to the purest form of tender love to create a harmonic balance of male and female, transcendence and immanence.

I encourage blossoms to flourish with ripening fruits.

- "Meditations with Julian of Norwich"

Every blossom is different and beautiful. Until the blossom opens, it is a tight bud with a hard wall protecting the inside. But when it blossoms, it's very vulnerable openness first brings forth the beauty that was hiding inside, and the resulting fruit benefits the creatures who consume it, in an natural exhange the leaves seeds in fertile ground.

So it is in my thealogy, that the divine is immanent, that all of us likewise are created distinct and different. The divine puts us on a path to completion that requires we eventually drop our defenses, opening up to ourselves and to others that results in edifying relationships and deeper understanding. This is turn, planted in the richness of life, establishes a lineage of people to grow through peace, understanding and interconnectedness.

I am Sophia Jean, daughter of Jeanette Eugenia, who was the daughter of Audrie May, who was the sister of Olive, who was the partner of Ann. From my mother, I learned faith. From my grandmother, I learned to care. From my grand aunts, I learned to live and love.

I go by Sophie, short for Sophia. It wasn't always so, as I named myself--or perhaps, as is often the case with spiritual names, my name found me.

I signed up for an online class titled "Modern Roles for Women in Religion: The Middle Ages to the Present" because it just seemed to fit perfectly into my spiritual development. I had just finished the last three parts of the "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven" five part workshop, when I saw someone post information related to the class.

In fact, I was reading Rebirth of the Goddess by Carol P. Christ and The Unknown She by Hilary Hart when I heard about "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven" at First Unitarian of Louisville, because I wanted to understand more of what I was experiencing.

When I was born, I was given my father's name. It was more of a hand-me-down than an identity. I knew it didn't fit me, and when I found out that my Cherokee ancestors had spirit-name traditions, I craved my own. Unfortunately, being also 1/4 Swedish, and the rest Saxon, Germanic and a little Scottish, my 1/16 Native American heritage from both parents was lost, as no one knew which great-great-grandmothers had been full blooded.

I also knew I was not a boy, not like the others, and felt I should have been a girl, but there was nothing I could do about it. So being the faithful grandson of two baptist preachers, I tried for the next 30 years to find out who I was and why I was. The whole time I felt a Presence, but could only seem to accept a tender, fatherly, yet distant and transcendant aspect.

My faith almost never waned through the years, and following signs and trying to be a man no matter what, I did marry and have two beautiful daughters. But the image in the mirror began to haunt me as wrong. I still had not put away the craving to be female, and it began to look as if I never would.

I entered a period of intense prayer about how to get rid of the feelings and kept being led to the fact that my path ahead would be to transition from male to female. It was during my spiritual battle that I suddenly stopped and questioned the necessity of the gender of God. And as that moment of quiet seeped in by the creek under the stars, I felt as if an incredible embrace of cosmic proportions had descended upon me. My awareness of the presence was more of a feminine aspect, not the male that I had been taught. And I was forever changed.

This is not the only aspect of the Other that I have recently encountered, because as I was struggling for my identity, I acquired a hummingbird Spirit Guide, which I recognized as part me and part everything else.

When I told a friend of my experiences, she recommended that I study the Tantric Vedas, which embrace the concept of male/female harmony, and was the second person to recommend a Unitarian Universalist church.

There I found the fellowship I was missing as I was valued for who I am. There is no greater love than that. However, it wasn't until last month, after I had been in Louisville, Kentucky for 6 months after being forced to move from job to another, and had just recently changed my name and gotten a new library card, that I finally decided to check out books on feminine divinity and shamanism in an effort to understand just what it was I was experiencing. And those studies have now led me to a class studying the roles of women in religion.

Hugs and God Bless,


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