I have long been fascinated with identity and spirituality. I went on a lifelong quest to discover what identity is and isn’t. And as a black, bisexual, woman of color, I had ample concepts of my own to explore!
There are as we know, numerous rules of engagement for men and women across the globe. Whether those rules are cultural, sub-cultural, religious or societal, they’re there. Add race, sexuality, and class into the mix and the rules of engagement became even more pressurized and/or restrictive.
I fought against what was expected of me from a very early age. I questioned the rules in my family, my community, and in wider society. These rules were often unspoken but implied, and yet dictated what it meant to be a woman.
I watched the different ways that my elder siblings (four females and one male) were also conditioned to behave. I saw how they had to navigate their way through these rules of life.
They were either trying to fit in, trying to stand out, or trying to excel. They had to adapt themselves in particular ways to fit their roles, whether that was culturally or sub-culturally.
Owning Our Identities and Prescribed Roles
We each get to explore the roles we’ve come to play. Particularly, when we’re actively on a spiritual path. For men, this is no more, or less true. It isn’t more or less difficult for men to give up their identification with their expected roles.
It may seem that way in light of all the privilege that comes with concepts of maleness. Yet all of us struggle with being willing to let go of our condition-based attachments. This includes our attachment to how we see ourselves and how we’re viewed by the world.
The issue of identity is a complex one, particularly for those wishing to go beyond conditioning and limiting beliefs. For example, even in the world of the spiritual guru, maleness and male conditioning is very prevalent.
If for example, we take the most cited and revered enlightened beings, they are all male.
Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed remain our most quoted teachers.
In modern-day spiritual circles, the same can be said. Osho, Eckhart Tolle, Adyashanti and Mooji, are just a few of the names that come to mind
Even in terms of political activism, the icons of maleness stand proud and true, especially in black activism.
Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, Nelson Mandela, and Bob Marley, are some of the most well known. Therefore, to shine a light on spirituality, identity, and gender, is to shine a light on the male narrative.
To explore this topic is to shine a light on where male dominance is still passively accepted as the norm. And disproportionately so.
Even if we account for women’s roles in society being the reason they are not cited as often in spiritual circles as either masters and master teachers, it’s still the male narrative at play.
It’s not uncommon to hear that women are less likely to attain enlightenment. Even more so if they are mothers. The argument being, that the mothering instinct is so powerful that a woman cannot extricate herself from its influence. This, however, is a conditioned interpretation, rather than an explanation rooted in truth. How so?
When we look at the number of children who have been abandoned by their mothers. Or if we look at the number of mothers who have chosen their (often abusive) partner over their children, this theory is quite easily disproved.*
The numbers seem to indicate that the expected innate loyalty of mothers is just another belief system. One that is still all too often, touted as truth.
This seems to be because there’s still this beatific, selfless, romanticism around motherhood, that isn’t applied to fathers in the same way.
Identity Versus Truth
To look at identity as just terminology and not truth, can be a challenge for traditional gender roles. Maleness, for example, is simply another term, another word we hold as truth. It’s a word that is bathed in a millennia of conditioning.
Maleness, machismo, manliness, dominance, superiority, instigator, leader, protector. All of these qualities have been decreed throughout history to be a natural part of men’s DNA. They have traditionally been seen as the outcrop of patriarchy and the natural order of things cross-culturally.
Traditionally, men have been programmed to act out these constructed identities, even when they no longer serve. These concepts still remain as strong influences to many straight men even today.
They remain even when it doesn’t reflect the individual family dynamic or the changes in wider society. The same narrative has, of course, been accepted by many women. so much so that there’s no need to go deeper into that narrative here.
What can be said is that concepts have been applied to all genders, Yet on deeper exploration all gender expressions are conceptual. Particularly on a non-dual spiritual path.
Every phrase and word around gender, becomes a minefield of potential over-identification ready to blow up in our faces. Even outside of the realm of spirituality, our evolution as a species is changing who we think we are.
We are naturally being forced to look at what is true and what is a construct because of that evolution. This is where spirituality and evolutionary paths seem to meet. Each path is called to question what is true and what is a construct.
We see this particularly in the modern debate over gender identity. Terms such as: Gender binary, gender fluid, intersex, effeminate, transgender, masculine-identified females, and more, are raising questions about who we really are.
All of these terminologies place into question previously accepted narratives of what it is to be male or female. They all beg the question what is masculinity in actuality?
Looking at our attachment to gender identities, is still one of the biggest hurdles on the spiritual path.
Are We Our Genitalia?
For example, identifying with our sexual equipment, is one of the last bastions of attachment. How can we see ourselves as formlessness, with that identity still at play? How can we know ourselves as limitless, boundless, nothingness, when we’re still allowing our identities to be defined by our genitalia?
How can we transcend our belief that we’re simply the body/mind, when we continue to identify powerfully as a particular gender? What conditionings and fears continue to drive our behaviors precisely because we’re unwilling to let go of these identities?
These are powerful questions. And they’ll either begin to unlock us from our over-identification with form, or reveal where we’re choosing to remain attached.
It is in our willingness to seek who we are beyond identity and gender, that leads us to find out who we really are. Are we male, female, neither, both? Are we infinite nature and boundlessness? Or are we some marvelous combination of it all?
* Abandoned Children Statistics http://internationalstreetkids.xyz/statistics.php*
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