(The following is a guest article by Hollis Taylor, creator of DiversiTree.org. RevKess asked Hollis to guest blog as he has seen much good work coming from Hollis and wanted to share some of that with the readers on this page. They visited on the Pagan-Musings Podcast Channel about a year ago.)
Androgen – Do I have to choose?
Body, Mind, & Spirit? Most of us would agree that all of us have all three or even more of these pieces. I want to keep it simple for most people so we can just talk about these three. My body is female, for certain, I have given birth to a child. My mind is masculine most of the time. My Spirit is all masculine. So out of these 3 pieces of myself I could easily choose to simply change my body but my values about natural health keep me a natural body. When I explain it this way its easy to understand how gender benders get confused. When someone feels more comfortable in a dress with heels than jeans with sneakers. When someone feels like they would rather go hunting or fishing than to create shiny jewelry or decorate for a wedding. When someone is more or less sensitive than is typically encouraged for their sex.
Often in our culture we label these people who are in between all sorts of words. As if to say that a male bodied person cannot wear a dress or that a female bodied person cannot go hunting. Many of us agree that gender roles in our culture are inappropriate and frankly unnecessary. With the understanding that some of us female bodied people will love other female bodied people and they are as capable of having a family with children. Yet, still the first question we ask when a baby is born “What is it?” as if it matters? We buy this baby blue clothes or pink dresses. As the child grows we encourage them to play with girl toys. Then when teenage years come and a young male bodied person loves to sew dresses, sing Broadway songs and flirt with other male bodied people – We begin to label them as gay and they may even take on that label. But then at some point in that person’s twenties they realize that they might be more comfortable in the world if they had a female body. So they take hormones and have a few surgeries and now that person is “Transgender”.
Although these people find comfort in their community now when asked if they can see a genderless world, they can. Often they agree that the choices they made to alter their bodies may have been different if the world was this fantasized genderless world. I ask myself “Why should I change for my culture? I think culture should change for us!”
Genderbenders are emerging in a variety of fashions including transgender, genderqueer, drag, and crossdressers. There are many people out there that totally support gender non conformity and or gender variance. There are tons of stories out there about how people transitioned but this is my story.
I had returned to college as an adult. Although I was married, worked full-time and had a 10-year-old boy I still got involved in an important movement “Gay, Straight Alliance” In a meeting about coming out I listened to story after story from transgender people. Each time I felt a kinship with them. This was not my only encounter I also became involved with the DC Radical Faeries where I met so many gender bending people. It was refreshing to hear them talk about “Male, Female, Both and Neither”. As I found myself relating mostly to the feeling of both I needed to freely explore the ideas. I began to write a blog called “Do I have to choose?” which has now documented my gender journey.
As I began to see a therapist about my gender dysphoria and other related conditions I was again empowered to choose what was best for me, even if that meant both. I clearly had no interest in taking synthetic hormones because of my values in natural medicine. I decided to take the natural transition piece and began to exercise and change my diet. Reducing foods that increase estrogen and increasing foods that increase Testosterone. I began to find a balance and I lost almost 100lbs. As I began to work on getting my mental health more stable I wanted to find healthy outlets for me. I was presented with the idea to be a drag king!
I began my journey as a drag king and it is also clearly documented in “Do I have to choose?” Blog. As I began to really engage in drag I was filled inside with a feeling of completion. As “Izzy Ahee” I pass as a male bodied person without much trouble at all. Except the 2 hours it takes to get ready for a show! I found that I would get hit on by gay male bodied people! I enjoyed being recognized as a “man” and I also discovered a few things over the years. As I continued to do drag I began to be able to take on more and more of “Male” gender roles. When I began to pass in public more and more often I was disgusted by the male privilege I experienced as well as the highly competitive edge that seemed to emerge when I was taken as a male bodied person.
Since I had already experienced most of my life as a female bodied person I could notice the subtle differences. I have finally concluded about transitioning, at least for now. I have concluded that gender oppresses everyone. It oppresses females and gender benders for obvious reasons, but also because of the expectations of toughness and strength for male bodied people. So I am not putting my health at risk in order for society to feel more comfortable about using either gender neutral or male pronouns with me. I feel as though, in my experience, that hearing female pronouns all the time puts me into gender roles that don’t suit me. I prefer neutral pronouns because it shows a level of respect for my cause and understanding for my bend. I am balanced out when I do a drag show because it helps me with the constant mis-gendering I get with “female” pronouns. I don’t do drag because I want to be a man! I do drag because I think gender is ridiculous and so are gender roles, so drag is proof that gender is all in the costume. We prove that gender has no bearing on who we love or how we live. We want to prove that we are not perverts. We are serious performers with talent for male/female impersonation and a complete gender bend for some of us. We are the gender activists of the world! A Drag Nation!
Today as Izzy Ahee I work to inspire other kings and gender bender to fully express their full range of talents. I love to see a king or queen step up on stage with their newest number and costume, their authentic selves shines bright. I work to keep peace in the drag world and build bridges. I seek to unite genderqueer folks with an art form made just for them. I bring to the stage the intention of Love for All and the celebration of our most authentic selves. I am so proud to have been the inspiration of a Drag King explosion in Harrisburg, PA and am working now to inspire it in Denver. I travel the country hoping to inspire all those young genderqueer folks that are depressed because they feel so “labeled” – I reach for their hands and beg them… “Please lets see your queerest right here on stage!” I am getting a monthly show started in Denver at a venue called “Broadways”. You can find out where I am performing on my facebook and wordpress page. I am always looking for new talent or traveling talent.
I also was inspired to publish DiversiTree since I felt there was no platform for genderbending spiritual people, there wasn’t, but now there is. I also welcome unusual perspectives like Sacred Sluts, Feminists, and of course my roots the Radical Faeries. We also publish a completely non edited column called “On the Spectrum” which is written by a 40-year-old bi sexual with Aspergers that also identifies as otherkin and is in the OTO. I recenty began another column called “The Divine Androgyn” which is meant for me and other Andros like me who might like to share their spiritual experience. I also am hoping to help people understand what its like for us genderbenders and how gender oppresses our most authentic selves. I personally believe that through understanding we can find a way to peace faster, easier and smoother.
I call upon the spiritual community because I think you can get it, the whole Mind, Body, Spirit thing. I call upon not only for all the gender benders to emerge out of hiding but also for uplifting support. Like Mahtma Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world” So please ask people straight forward about what gender pronouns they prefer and help others learn about mis-gendering. Creating safe space can help gender benders grow into even more authentic selves and we will all likely be gifted with some new shamans for love and peace, we can always use more of those! Also, support them in whatever way you can. Go to a drag show, you might like it! Ask more questions and find out how you can help your genderbending friend. Namaste.
Divinely Inspired Gender Activist, Male Impersonator, and Drag King
Publisher of DiversiTree.org
(And many other hats)