Have you ever had a conversation or experience with someone of another gender that you just couldn't understand? Did you have feelings that you weren't safe, that assumptions were made about you that weren't fair, or that you were thought of as over reacting, unfeeling, uncaring, blaming, or caviler? Subconsciously, if not consciously, I believe that we all are carrying the wounds and scars of gender categorization and oppression and that these unresolved issues undermine trust and intimacy in our every day interactions and friendships. I see this in myself and others in my home environment, work, congregation, and even in my dreams.
Broken relationships and costly emotions are tragic expressions of unmet needs. How do we strive to meet needs that arise from experiences in past relationships, our child hood, or even in our family and culture systems of decades past?
There are many possible approaches to this, and let me lift up one today: empathetic discussion. If you are having a difficult relationship with someone of another gender, consider taking out an hour sometime in the next week and have each person take a turn of saying what it has been like being "male," "female," or "transgender" - what are experiences that have caused pain or confusion, and joy or gratitude? Let each person speak for 5-10 minutes, uninterrupted, and then have the other person comment on what it was like for them, what feelings and thoughts arise in them, upon listening to the other stories. I have done this in large groups where the women go to the center of a circle and speak to one another of their experiences while the men listen, and then they switch. It has brought much healing, insight, and trust amongst those who were until recently arguing relentless over the toilet set lid being left up, the house unlocked, or household chores left undone. If you don't have a group or another person in which to share this, journal your own experiences and take a time to connect to the living energy of the needs met or unmet, and to mourn or show gratitude. By empathizing with ourselves and others, we open the door to creative solutions where we find that we all are on the same side, and indeed, there are no sides, only a continuum of biological expression striving to flourish in our culture.