The TL; DR version: Freya could not care less what your biological body does or does not have, or how you do or do not present yourself to the world. She does not care. Do you love and accept yourself? Are you being true to yourself? Yes? That’s all the matters. Welcome to working with a Goddess of Love, Beauty, and Self-Respect.
The long version:
I’m finally reading Erick duPree’s recent article on Patheos called “I Won’t Shame My Elders: Love is Still the Law”. In it, he describes his horror at seeing transphobia in one of the beloved elders in his tradition and his struggles to work through the issue. The article has been a fascinating read, at least for me, because he is coming from such a different tradition than I am. He has very different understandings and expectations of his tradition and his elders than I do from mine.
He talks a lot about matriarchy, and he is very good about not trying to step on the toes of the groups that he wants to defend (trans people; women; people of color); he realizes it’s not necessarily his place to do so, and he leaves it to a few female friends to take up the battle that he would love to be fighting. It’s all very cool to hear about because let me tell you, that’s not the kind of thing you hear in Heathen circles. Not that we don’t have strong women–we do (see below)–or that gender issues aren’t a problem (they are)–but that’s just not the kind of verbiage or dialogue that gets thrown around at a Heathen ritual. So it’s kind of nice to hear gender inequality issues take center stage every once in a while 🙂
Since I started focusing more on interfaith a few years ago, it became clear to me that Wicca has the Gender Issues and Heathenry has the Race Issues. That’s simplifying things, obviously, but I think that’s been pretty consistent over the years across groups. I never really understood why Wicca had gender issues–I mean, they are worshipping a Goddess, so patriarchy’s already been dumped on its head; why would whether someone is gay or bi or trans matter one way or the other? But clearly it’s still a hot issue in the Wiccan community.
As Erick says: “As a queer identifying man, it’s not complete without my transgender sisters and brothers. How can it be any other way, I consider myself Goddess. We are all Goddess! That is part of the ever expanding understanding of matriarchy. All are welcome, We All Come From The Goddess. People who don’t believe in that Modern Goddess cosmology, don’t have to play in my sandbox. That’s ok. That’s the beauty of Paganism.”
He says of his elder that she has “said that she doesn’t fully understand the transition process, but has always stood on the side of love. Love is the law. ”
You know what, Erick? I play in a completely different sandbox. I have completely different elders. But I’m right there with you.
“Love is the Law.” Yep. Welcome to life with my Goddess. That’s how She rolls, too.
Every once in a while someone will ask me why I don’t talk much about women’s issues, or gender inequality, or what have you, since I am dedicated to a Goddess and all. It always catches me off-guard; I have to stop and think, don’t I? What part of what I do isn’t about empowerment?
Heathenry–or at least, the vast majority of Heathenry that I’ve experienced–is full of strong goddesses, and even stronger women. To me, the “strong, independent” part is implied when I say that I am a proud Heathen woman. (We even have Valkyries, for crying out loud. And female warriors. And higher gender equality overall than pretty much any other part of the world, back in the day.) While we do have sweet, loving, and kind Goddesses, I would never call any of them weak.
On top of that, I work for Freya. Freya is a Goddess of wealth, magic, fallen warriors, love, and beauty. She gets half of those slain in battle. (Some would argue that She chooses Her half before Odin does.) Either way, in this area She has equal standing with the king of the Aesir Gods. It may just be the 21st century woman in me, but to me, that all reads POWER. Power—no matter what era you’re living in, really. And everything I do in Her name is meant, in one way or another, to empower those around me.
She teaches us how to love ourselves, claim our personal power, and use it; and then She sends us out to help others love themselves and find their own power. That’s Her secret plan to undermine gender inequality. To me, that is feminism in action. And I’m proud to be a part of it.
(This is all not to say that Heathenry doesn’t have gender or sexuality issues; it does. We have a certain segment who think that this is a chest-poundingly manly warrior religion only for Brotru, or think that Me-Tarzan-You-Jane is the only way that humans fit together. Somehow they missed the powerful female figures embedded into our Lore, both the mythology and the sagas, or the multiple examples of cross-dressing or gender-swapping. But maybe that’s why there’s such a high percentage of Freyaspeople running around… someone has to relieve the Brotruar of this idiocy. As I see this more often in the newbie Heathens, I consider it as a useful part of their basic Heathen education.)