I was pronounced female at birth and have mostly identified comfortably with that (so am a cisgender woman). As a wild little witch girl growing up in the backwoods mountains of Northern California I didn’t think a lot about gender and how it would shape my life. I climbed trees, swam in the creek, played with tadpoles and lizards, asked my grandparents millions of questions about how things worked, and read voraciously. By middle school my mom and new step dad had moved us down into the Sacramento Valley and a larger town where gender roles seemed like more of an issue: boys act like this, girls act like that. I still climbed trees, swam in the lake, asked millions of questions, and read voraciously, but noticed that teachers of all genders gave boys preferential treatment, and at least one of my friend’s mother told her she could not play with me because I was wild and most certainly not lady like.
At the age of 16 when my “baby fat” finally melted away from most of my body, it revealed a formidable bosom and suddenly people (mostly boys) with whom I had climbed trees or played chess or bested on the genetics test in biology class, began to focus on my chest instead of my whole self.
I was born pansexual, someone who finds myself attracted to particular humans irregardless of their gender or gender identity (for me it actually seems to have a lot to do with sense of humor, and/or curiosity about and respect for the wonders of the universe). As a young college student in San Francisco in the late 1970s and early 1980s my little fake ID and I would go dancing at bars and clubs a lot. It didn’t take long before I got so sick of being grabbed by men at straight bars (sometimes just walking past them on the way to the bathroom) that I restricted my dancing to Queer bars (I have such fond memories particularly of The Stud, Maud’s, and Amelia’s).
I have identified as a witch my whole life. In my world, “witch” is actually a gender inclusive term. Being a witch seems to run in multiple lines of my family with all genders gifted: some with dreams and vision, some with the ability to “water witch” for a well, some as animal whisperers (particularly horses), some healers, some as gardeners working with the spirits of the plants. I didn’t encounter men who identified as Pagan until I was in college in San Francisco in the 1970s. Again, it didn’t take long before I wearied of some Pagan men assuming that because I was a sex positive witch, I wanted to have sex with them. A few were so aggressive that my gentle noes had to rage into full blown fury. Because of that I found myself limiting my magickal community to women and/or queer circles for decades.
In Junior High my mother and I began attending First Congregational United Church of Christ, a mainline christian church in a denomination that first ordained a woman minister in the 1860s (although most ministers continued to be men until the 1990s), and began ordaining queer folk as ministers in the 1970s. I felt called to the ministry in that denomination in high school and went to seminary after college. In 1988 when I was 28 years old I began serving my first church. It was our custom for the other minister (a man ten years my senior) and I to stand in the courtyard after each Sunday service and greet folk. Being liberal California, hugging was also an acceptable part of the culture. Every Sunday I stood dressed in my long black clergy robe shaking hands with or hugging parishioners. The first time a married, prominent, elderly man in the congregation grazed my breast and lingered there I had cognitive dissonance and shook it off as an accident. It was not an accident, it happened repeatedly and got worse. As experienced as I was with that sort of behavior in all sorts of social situations, this one so unnerved me I didn’t tell anyone or address it for a very long time. One night over a few drinks, several of my women colleagues and I began sharing similar stories, it turns out almost every woman minister I know has had similar experiences.
This is a small part of my story, a small part of my experience of being female and most certainly not my whole story of being female. This small piece of my small story exists in the larger context of billions of experiences and stories around gender. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to why I’m sharing this small part of my story now.
Blessings on all the parts of your experiences and stories around gender. Blessings on you as you deal with micro aggressions and major assaults. Blessings on those working to change the world so there are no more micro aggressions and major assaults.