I always push for folks to begin seeing their world (I almost said “the world”, but the point being, that doesn’t exist!) as very a personal, unique story told from their perspective.
This begs the question – “well, what other stories await to add to mine?”, to begin filling in the communal puzzle of our-story-together (as a family, and as a culture), creating a Story, begging all the Big Stories of other peoples to be added to our own, not contradicting, but enriching each other.
Roles don’t comprise reality. What-actually-happens, to you or someone else, makes up “reality”. In an intact culture, Roles help us navigate reality. In a toxic culture, they replace reality, acting as a shield against what-we-actually-experience. They begin to “mis-map” our experience into bizarre prescriptive (“you should behave this way…”) models of relationships.
You are [sic] not the Teacher, and I am [sic] not the Student. You are [sic] not a Woman, and I am [sic] not a Man. You may move through the world woman-ing, and I may do manly things, and we may enrich these roles and express them in a healthy way, but at core our bodies move in a dazzling, thundering, dynamic storm of circulating desire for the other-than-us, with potentials and predispositions, but nothing hammered down or definite.
I believe healthy, lightly-held roles make this whirling chaos of yearning more navigable, but they do not replace it. I feel fine to have chosen my version of the role of “man”, but it does not eclipse that one can pick from an infinite array of gender roles. Truly one must pity a culture reduced to the poverty of choosing from “he, she, and it”. He, she, and it? Really? Wow.
You understand I don’t have a terrible amount of confidence in the culture of science, but it still feels satisfying to hear scientists speak to this. I like to think that a culture of inquiry who, in theory, values what they observe more than what they want to see, will sooner or later cross paths with my own thinking, and bring to the table their own eloquence. To wit:
From Alternet.org, “Why Are We Often Terrified of Our Own Sexuality” by Michael Ventura:
Alice Dreger is professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics in the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. This summer, on August 21, during the controversy over whether South African runner Caster Semenya was a man or a woman, Dreger published an essay in The New York Times in which she stated: “The biology of sex is a lot more complicated than the average [person] believes.”…Dreger informs us that there exists no scientific test to determine whether a person is, finally and definitely, female or male!
…When I discussed this essay with an especially well-informed shrink friend whom we’ll call Zachariah, he said, “The fear of encountering one’s in-betweenness in the sexual trance is probably the least discussed aspect of sexuality. The secret of sex is that sense of the free-floatingness and boundarylessness of it, the way you float through the boundaries of male and female, the unpredictability of it. Sex remains a mystery because of this shape-shifting quality.”…
…There’s no fixed place in the realm of the senses — no “there” there. What you know changes every time you go into it. As was told me once by a woman whom we’ll call Zia, “There are things you have to learn all over again, every night.”…
…Sexuality is scary because it’s where we meet ourselves most directly, without filters, without verbiage, and, if we go far enough, without fixed roles. It’s where we meet ourselves with and through the Other — this Other with whom we journey into the realm; this Other, a partner as fluid we are…
…Sex is scary the way the sea is scary, the way a storm is scary — because it’s elemental, and, as in all great elemental things, the same qualities that make it so powerfully beautiful can make it powerfully frightening.
Huh. Just like the rest of our world.