Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Label

So, what exactly is this label I have identified with? What does it mean?

It is fairly common for many in the gay community to say that the ancient Greeks were gay friendly, or perhaps even a gay culture, but that is a fallacy. Ancient Culture was, for the most part, free of the labels we use to identify sexual preferences. There was no gay, bi, or lesbian community. Who you were attracted to, who you fucked, what sex parties you went to were a function of your life, not your politics, and were often strictly regulated by the cultural attitudes not toward who you were having sex with, but how.

So modern concepts of “Gay” did not really exist, although they surely understood that there were sexual preferences and that some people liked the boys, some liked the girls, some liked both, but these were not really categorized by a political or social label. But with the advent of the more “conservative”, dare I say “superstitious” forms of moral religion, like Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, the common sexual freedom of places like Greece were forced to move underground, and to this day there is clear evidence that homo and bisexuality were never reduced, just hidden from view by a moral authority that sought to control people through concepts of Hell and eternal punishment and the immorality and filth of sex.

But modern concepts of sexuality arose out of the need to come together and fight against the prejudices engendered by the intolerant religious and moral concepts of Christianity and Judaism in the Western world, with small movements in the Islamic world now beginning to show their faces. These labels are as much political as they are emotional, as much a function of political action as sexual activity. So, what does being gay mean?

Gay, in general, is a label used by men and women who are homosexual, meaning men and women who are attracted to, and who engage willingly in sexual and emotional relations with members of their own sex. The modern Gay Movement, of course, is one that attempts, sometimes a little too hard, to be inclusive, so the term has become somewhat watered down, but in general, when the word “Gay” is used, it is usually as a reference to men who are emotionally and sexually attracted to other men.

As a label, however, gay has limitations. Because it has taken on political and communal implications, many gay men are, like their straight brothers, unable to move beyond the label itself. It confines them and forces them to restrain their natural and healthy sexual urges. Many gay men find that they have an overwhelming attraction to other men, but that they are sometimes drawn to a woman, but they stop themselves from experiencing or exploring this because it goes contrary to their self imposed label.

I sometimes wonder if this is me, and I think that is a boundary that Hermes is forcing me to look at and explore. Not that I should run out and have sex with a woman, something I have never done, but to explore whether I am forcing myself not to do so in order to fit in to Gay Culture, a culture which can often be just as intolerant as any other.

The myths tell us that Hermes and Aphrodite produced a child who was beautiful, charming, and of both genders. An allegory for us to maybe study with more profound philosophical mindsets and perhaps come to terms with what it means not to be gay, or straight, or bi, or transgender, or male, or female, but, quite simply, human. To explore what it means to love a person not because they are male or female, beautiful or artistic, sexually pleasing or comforting, but simply for being human and having within them a spark of that thing we call life, a gift from the Gods.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

So, gender and sexuality...

So, it seems my focus on Hermes at this point in my life means taking a journey into my own sexuality, and this is not the first time this has happened in my journey so far, perhaps because my sexuality, in varying senses of the word, is very important in my life.

Because I identify as Gay, that aspect of my life influences my politics, my religious beliefs (If Hellenismos was anti-gay, I would likely never have been drawn to it) and even the friends I make and the people I choose to love. It is all influenced on some level by my sexuality. Yet clearly, I have never really gone for the whole “sacred sexuality” thing either. Yes, I believe that sex and emotion can be important aspects of spirituality, in fact, they have to be, but I have yet to really delve into that, mostly because I am a solitary practitioner, but also because my main patron or tutelary deities are not ones particularly linked to sex or sexuality. Athena? Hardly. Hestia? No way. Hades? Um, not really.

But in my daily reflections, meditations, and rites I do try to include Dionysos and Aphrodite, both of whom one can clearly assign aspects of sexuality, wildness, lust, and the indulgence of passion. But as of yet, I have not found them to be true patrons to me. Aphrodite, perhaps, comes close to being a deity I can claim as a patron, but the aspects of her that are important to me tend to be about her as a celestial deity, Ourania, a deity of higher emotional aspect. One who is manifest in love and beauty rather than fucking. Sure, I understand that she is definitely a goddess who relishes our bliss in desire and passion and fucking, but for me, I find that when she has made her presence strongly felt in my life, it is when my heart is breaking at the loss of something special, a love or someone special to me.

But then comes Hermes, ever moving, ever tempting, ever challenging and it seems that all the questions that come to mind are questions of sex and sexuality and lust and the boundaries that must be placed in such things so that they don’t drive us to obsession.

So, as I said, I am a man, a gay man, a man who identifies as homosexual, although I do have some small bit of the bisexual in me. Is Hermes trying to force me to confront that and answer the question to myself once and for all? Is there a part of me that needs to see what I am missing in order to be satisfied that I am not making mistakes in my life? And how?

As a man, I was taught to think of women as beautiful, and so they are, but I learned on my own, from my own inner desires, that men were beautiful and sexually attractive. But is it possible that I ignored part of myself when I identified so clearly as gay?

I don’t think so, but there are possibilities there. I mean, can I really ever know that a woman is not what might make me happy one day if I am unwilling to try it because of the boundaries placed on me by my own label?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

On Hermes and Gender Issues

I find it interesting that recently the issue of sexuality, sexual identity, and gender identity has come up at the Hellenic Pagan forum at Yahoo. Why? Because, as I said, Hermes seems to be taking me on a journey into my own sexuality, my own motivations for sex, my own identity as both man and homosexual. He is, I think, begging me to ask myself questions with regard to my own prejudices in this area, and yes, I have them.

I try to be a fair person, Zeus demands that we be just, but I also try to think things through on a level that some would consider logical, and others might consider antithetical to religiosity. As a result, I tend to come to conclusions that often put me at odds with the reality of our political and religious systems. Systems that often, at least on my side of the political spectrum, tend to want us all to be rather relativistic ( Not Einstein ) rather than dogmatic or steadfast.

One issue which, I have to admit, causes me vexation is the Transgendered.

What issues?

Before I go further, allow me to say this. I believe that each of us has the right, a right not handed us by a constitution but by higher authority, to make our own destinies as we feel best suits us. So when I say what I am about to say, do not think I mean that transgendered people should not follow their dreams or needs to become what they feel is the more authentic them. Indeed, I feel they should do that, I only question the wisdom of it in many cases.

Gender. What is it? Is it really attached to a particular way of dressing, of playing with dolls, of being “masculine” or “feminine” in the traditional sense? I think we all know it is not, that gender itself is simply a matter of biology. That if you have a penis and testicles and are not truly inter-sexed, you are male. If you have a vagina, ovaries, breasts, and are capable of birthing a child, you are a female. To many, this seems like too simple a definition of gender, but I disagree.

Gender Identity, however, is a much more complicated matter. A woman who looks like a man, dresses like a man, makes love to other women can be quite happy with being a woman. In fact, I know many women who are quite like this, They seem to, on the outside, identify with a more masculine paradigm, yet ask them and they will tell you, they like being women and would not change that for anything. I know drag queens and femme men who one could swear would rather just lop it off and become women, but ask them and they are happy to be men and love their penises.

So it is possible for a man to be feminine and still be happy with his cock. It is possible for a woman to be very masculine and still love her pussy. (Sorry to be vulgar, but I assure you, the connotation of these more vulgar words, their impact, is very much in keeping with the conceptual context here) Psychologically, these people accept in themselves their difference from the “norm” of their gender, and in accepting it, they become happy with what they have rather than obsessing over what they do not.

But this is also rather superficial, after all, gender identity is deeply rooted. It forms part of every single aspect of our lives, behavior, etc.

What is it that is different about people who seek to actually alter their gender at that superficial level in order to match that inner sense of masculinity or femininity?

I think what is different about them is that they also suffer from, and this is where I get people hating me a little, from a form of Body Dysmorphic Disorder, a psychological condition linked with anxiety that causes the person to obsess over a perceived flaw or defect in their appearance, or sometimes, an obsession with aspects or parts of their bodies, often causing them to damage themselves or seek out medical procedures that alter their appearance. People with obsessive “addictions” to plastic surgery, for example, or who have eating disorders because of their faulty perception of themselves are examples.

Transgendered people seem to fall into this category. They feel that they have qualities that fall into the other gender’s purview, and as a result, they perceive their bodies as flawed, and obsess over that flaw, meaning their genitals, until they have to remove them. (Yes, I know they are altered rather than actually removed)

Now, I think that sex change operations are a mistake. I don’t think that a person who has a perfectly healthy male body is actually trapped in it but is actually female. I think he is simply a girly man, and I think that such men should deal with the underlying issue of shame involved in being girly for a man, or manly for a woman, and accept themselves. But I know that is simply not realistic. I know that often people will want that fix, they want to make the change because they are convinced that is what will fix them.

Where I am concerned is in whether or not everything was tried before the surgery was booked. Did he or she go through all the therapy necessary? Has every possible complication been discussed? Has the potential for disillusionment been truly introduced and dealt with before hand?

If a man or woman has gone through it all, dealt with all the issues, been through all the therapy and such, and still feels that his or her life would be best served by having the surgical procedures necessary to change their outward physical appearance to make them into the other gender, then I would have to say go for it. And I will be respectful of your choice and be happy to know you are a happier person as a result.

But I am always going to seek to understand it on some logical level that, to me, does not exist yet. I do not understand it, and so sometimes come off as a bit coarse about the subject.

But the issue coming up now does remind me that we are all forced to deal with sexuality and gender issues in our culture. The Abrahamic attitudes toward gender force men to behave one way, eschewing anything that might threaten that status quo, and women another. As a gay man, I am always aware of this because straight men seem to have such a deliberately exaggerated reaction to anything gay. Two men kissing elicits a reaction that often makes one wonder what they are really trying to hide, or, perhaps, if they are really trying convince themselves that it is gross while at the same time noting that it is really no more odd than watching a man kiss a woman.

What does my gender have to do with how I love the Gods?

Certainly my sexuality has something to do with it. Being gay in the most gay of all pantheons seems perfectly fitting, but what about my actual gender and gender identity. How does being a man who identifies strongly as a man yet loves other men relate to my worship of Athena?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It Is Not These

It is not the Moon
Not the Stars
Not the Sun that call to me.

It is not the Earth
Not the trees
Not the river that enlighten me.

It is not the ocean
Not the constellations
Not the mountains that save me.

It is the Gods, mighty and resplendent.

It is not the breeze
Not the storm
Not the not the chill of night that reassure me.

It is not fire
Not water
Not air that sustain me.

It is not war
Not peace
Not even truth that excite me.

It is the Gods, blessed and eternal, in whom all things are manifest.