I have been thinking about these things a lot lately. It is probably not a surprise given what readers might see in these posts. But I write today not as a transgender person living an experience of gender ambiguity. I write instead as a person of indeterminate gender, of no clear or fixed sexuality. I write as someone who has mostly been perplexed and puzzled by gender, sex, and sexuality for most of my life. Rarely have I been able to experience and live gender and not wonder about the root cause, the truth, the essence.
Are women and men really different? Yes, but how? How much of that is social context, reinforcing and creating difference, because people need to fit into boxes, and how much is “real”. And I am not speaking of obvious physical differences, though these most certainly beget states of being or encourage a state of feeling. I am instead thinking of the essence of femininity, masculinity. What is it?
To think that male and female are two poles is absurd. That there can be only one way that is acceptable to be a man or a woman is even harmful. The rich tapestry of human existence is one of near-infinite variety, and we do ourselves a terrible disservice in trying to push everything into two boxes. It is, in itself, an act of violence. You would not be surprised to see that I regard the patriarchy as an act of violence, the binary as an act of violence. It is one that does a horrible betrayal to human existence. It is a false God. And it has come into existence in opposition to the feminine—attempts to codify, regulate, define, are all just means of terrorising the citizenry into a false sense of value in structure, when true value lies in complexity, diversity, the analogue virtue of existence.
Non-binary is a refusal to recognise that only the poles exist.
Openness, understanding, tolerance, compassion, compersion, naturalness, ease, comfort. I think of the Japanese admonition in martial arts to bend and flow like sea kelp with the tide…there is no weakness in that, it is the essence of strength. Adaptability, flexibility. Beauty.
Mystery, ambiguity, complexity. These are all quintessential. Exertion of the binary is an attempt to dispel these characteristics.
To inhabit the polar feminine is to evince these traits. To accept these traits and to embrace them without seeking to control or codify them, is an act of defiance against a patriarchal system that has sought to dispel mystery in its thirst for power.
The very thirst for power is to step away from this truth. Natural stasis is not like this. Natural stasis is fundamentally female, flowing, easy, natural, connected. The female and femininity are the circle of life, where all things are born and to where all things return—ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Accepting that, listening to that, touching that both in the self and in others, is a path of fulfilment and peace—available in equal measure to those born in male, female, or intersex bodies.
Embracing the patriarchy, espousing it or living it, rather than eschewing it (because in today’s world it takes active defiance) is to shut oneself off from the true spiritual meaning of life.
Thankfully, there are voices out there today spelling out how the patriarchy also hurts men. That toxic masculinity is quite possibly a by-product of this straight-jacket rather than somehow an essence of what it means to be male. Of course, there are bad apples in every box…whether male, female or anything in-between.
An acceptance of a gender continuum, however, does not mean that masculinity cannot be an archetype. We can perhaps identify certain collective traits that we might wish to imbue into the concept of healthy masculinity. These might be solidity, constancy, reliability, supportiveness, solidarity, dependability, transparency, openness, predictability. Qualities of being a rock. A person you can count on. A person you can know even before they open their mouths.
My personal favourite is a sense of humour. While the male archetype does not have a monopoly on humour, I do believe that the true gift of masculinity is laughter.
How Archetypes Hurt and How they Help
Of course, you cannot allow for one pole to monopolise traits or monopolise each other, or you are left with toxicity. But traits, tendencies towards, rather than absolutes, can be helpful guides. Stimulators.
What doesn’t help is the notion that power has any place along the binary or at its poles as a characteristic. Power in that sense is a betrayal of higher values. True power is a magnetic force, one that draws you in because it is not exercised, rather than one of repulsion…and yet, the way we define male and female power is based on the idea of repulsion. To exert power is to deem it necessary, and that in itself is an act born from weakness, whose recompense requires repulsion as a force.
The Concept of Female Domination
You won’t be surprised that I relish dominant women. Women who claim their power, who demand it from society. Even more so, women who make a living by owning their power and sexuality. Not only are such steps courageous, but they are also defiant. And there is something so politically poetic about a woman who wades right into the patriarchal morass of the male sexual psyche, asserts her own sexuality, and demands that he hand over the keys to the kingdom. It is beautiful.
Learning a New Way
But defining female power in opposition to male power doesn’t rest well with me. If patriarchy is toxic, accepting it as a way point means the path to something else is already tarred. And we needn’t look far at all to see how dysfunctional patriarchy is [and is beyond the scope of this post].
Instead, I find myself casting about for a different trope. And I have discovered it with a transgender friendly SWer. Specifically, she is a professional dominatrix. And yet, she has yet to dominate me, at least not explicitly. Instead, it is as if she invites me to dominate myself, and this is curiously powerful, far more so than being whipped or told to do something or playing out some specific scene.
As I have explored the meaning of BDSM and kink to me, in particular with a talented professional mostly last year, but also through reading and some wonderful interactions and educational outreach with a mix of lifestyle people and other professionals of all sexes and persuasions (there are two slaves in particular who have taught me greatly from their writing and shared experiences—one male, one female), I have grounded into what submission is and means to me.
Submission is a striving to a higher self. It is about letting go of the ego. About finding a state of grace through service. It may perhaps be impossible to imagine that such a thing can come through service to one person or place a burden on that one person that is antithetical to the starting point goal. It is perhaps that the person to whom I submit is a foil, a muse. And indeed, in so many ways, the Domme I played with before was more like this than what I would have ever imagined—she provided religious and spiritual guidance, body health through diet and exercise—in other words, she nourished me. It was a bit like going on pilgrimage and finding that someone has left you little packets of food along the way…signposts in the wilderness.
My goal was and is to find myself through submission, through service, to be able to care for someone, to honour and nourish them, and to do this by responding to their needs and desires. And in so doing, redefine how it is I actually live my life. I do not wish to be erased. I do not wish to get lost in someone else, to abdicate responsibility, to lose agency. No. But I do wish to be held, to be guided, to be inspired…not through example, but rather through finding the inspirational flame inside.
This is a broad meander, and while it might seem to be off topic, it actually is the essence of it. What this dominatrix has presented to me is a very settled and secure sense of self. She is utterly and totally feminine. She has no need to boss me, to hit me, or be with me that fits any preset ideas. And because I came to her with an open mind, and she is not defaulting to any definable trope, it is at once profoundly unmooring, but also deeply grounding.
She has not struck me, she has not collared me, she has not commanded me, she has not done anything kinky to me. Instead, she has been herself. And in so doing, she has invited myself to come and meet herself. The absence of overt kink and command has perversely achieved its opposite, as I find myself drawn to her by something inside of me, rather than her playing out some role. And it feels a kind of powerful that I have not experienced before. It is gentle, but also complete.
When I met her the first time last year, she told me something about chastity that echoes these experiences I am having with her. I am not “into” chastity per se, but do love the idea of it. She said, “I don’t put my chastity slaves in chastity. They do it to themselves. It isn’t something I impose. That way the temptation to take it off never arises, because it becomes a betrayal of self.”
Full Circle to Female Power
The words ‘power’ and ‘femininity’ are misleading bedfellows. The obsession with power is something born of masculine energy. It is a patriarchal construct. And yet, what I am discovering is that the overt absence of power, or at least of its exertion, is actually quite powerful.
To not exert power is not the same as not being powerful. Power used is power depleted. True power is simply felt and understood. The shouting of a command is never so powerful as quiet authority—ask any schoolteacher. This feels closer to femininity to me. Mystery is felt.
An embryo defaults to female in the womb. We are all female until a cocktail of androgens push some of us along a path towards male sex characteristics. In other words, a shout of sorts. We are made weaker when we are made male…made to specialise, born in and from stress—environmental or otherwise. And the metaphor is apt. The natural state of the world, of life, of all that we are from and return to is feminine. Mother Nature. Grace.
Any one of us is filled with flaws. At times our flaws overwhelm. For some, they become crippling, and any of us can get stuck. But inviting the self to move beyond being stuck is perhaps the most we can ask for.
I know and appreciate that I am being called from inside of myself to be a better me. Part of that is born from the nonbinary experience. But I am also delighting in the lessons from a role model. A person who is utterly and totally secure in her skin, in herself, with her femininity, and how just being herself is what her power stems from.