Tory was born a boy and never felt comfortable being a boy. Finally he made the decision to transform into the woman he felt he always was. He asked for my blessing after a book event. Standing there before me was a traditional female complete with make-up, nail polish, high heels, and tight skirt.
I felt compelled to ask Tory, what sort of female was he becoming. What was his template—was it the quintessential female, groomed to be ornamental, wearing uncomfortable clothes and shaping one’s life according to the dictates of the male-dominated culture?
I told him about Sara who was chronically critical of her female body. When she looked in the mirror she heard the words, “Flawed. Inferior. Ugly.” Desperate to like herself, she had facelift and nose alteration. When the bandages were removed and she looked in the mirror, she was horrified to hear the same words and self-disgust greeting her from the mirror.
I shared with Tory the journey many women were undertaking, dismantling their socialization and reclaiming the child they once were, the “tomboy” discarded in adolescence on the way to becoming a “formula female.”
I asked if he was willing to reclaim the human being he was in the very beginning with his tears and vulnerability, his unscripted curiosities and interests, his unbiased choice of both boys and girls as friends.
It became clear that Tory was actually rejecting his male socialization (and the male body because of his tremendous shame about the “sins” committed by it), in order to embrace, at great cost, a “formula female” version of being female, just as Sara had done.
In actuality, males and females are more alike than we are different. We are schooled to highlight the differences, but our differences represent less than 1/10th of 1% of the whole of us. It is our socialization that separates us.
Once we peel away the layers of our socialization, the layers of taboos and expectations piled on top of our precious evolving, we discover the essential human being. And once we are at peace with that level of our being, it doesn’t matter as much what body we inhabit—old, young, male, female, skinny, full, or differently-abled.
At home and at peace in our own bodies and lives, we are then free to choose whatever friends and lovers we want, whatever colors we want to wear, whatever viewpoints we want to express, and whatever direction we want our lives to take, from the inside out.
On a biological note, I’m aware that our “biologies” are complex and that levels of estrogen and testosterone vary greatly from person to person. Some men and women feel a biological imperative to bring their bodies into alignment with their biology, but that step alone does not sum up the process.
Until we do the courageous work of dismantling the culture’s socialization of both females and males, and experience the deep freedom that comes from living from the inside out, we will be as unsatisfied as we are now, in whatever body we choose to alter, cover, or disguise.
These are my recommendations for women and men wrestling with gender issues within themselves:
- There are many men choosing to dismantle their socialization, who do not alter their gender or bodies. The Mankind Project is one example of such a community of men. Spend time at www.mankindproject.org. Attend one of their weekends to be among men who have dismantled their socialization and now author their own definitions of being male.
- There are many women choosing to dismantle their socialization, who do not alter their gender or bodies. Read A God Who Looks Like Me, Be Full of Yourself, Imagine a Woman in Love with Herself, and I Promise Myself (available at www.imagineAwoman.com) to reflect on the ways we’re deconstructing our misogynistic socialization and authoring our own self-understanding.
- Listen to the Home is Always Waiting Meditation (available at www.imagineAwoman.com). If you’re a man, change “woman-body” to “body” in the meditation. Notice what comes up for you as you turn a merciful eye toward your male or female body, releasing shame and judgment.
- If you’re a woman, go to the roots of your self-loathing and body-shame by experiencing IAW International’s six fundamental retreats (available at www.imagineAwoman.com). They’ll escort you home to yourself. Allow your body-altering, gender-reshaping decisions to be made from the inside out, inspired by your self-love and body-respect.
- If you’re a man, go to the roots of your self-loathing and body-shame by rethinking all you’ve been taught about yourself through organizations such as The Mankind Project. Allow your body-altering, gender-reshaping decisions to be made from the inside out, inspired by your self-love and body-respect.
Recently, I received an email from another man wrestling with his body and gender. He asked, “Would your book Imagine a Woman in Love with Herself speak to someone like me? Although I’m still technically and biologically, a male, I’m experiencing a huge life-changing transformation as I allow my feminine psyche to emerge.” I closed my response with these words:
“It is my hope and prayer, that your exploration leads you home to yourself as a precious human being, whole, perfect, and complete as you are. There’s no blemish in you. Love yourself unconditionally, and from that place, make your decisions and live your awesome life!”
Patricia Lynn Reilly is the founder of Imagine a Woman International and Open Window Gallery. If you’re ready to author your own self-understanding, read about IAW’s Retreat “Author Your Own Life: Five Choices of Authentic Living.” If you’d like to join our Team of Certified Coaches, visit here: www.imagineawoman.com/home/programs-services/iaw-certification. To be inspired by Patricia’s celebration of ordinary life, visit www.OpenWindowGallery.com.