What is our “true self” has to do with our gender identity? Absolutely nothing! No shame, no pride, no inferiority, no superiority. Just different bodies with different types of genitalia. And, yes, of course, the whole conceptual world of gender roles, history, judgements, and cultural perceptions, which is fun and colourful in itself, but when it comes to the game of Spiritual Awakening and knowing one’s true self, the whole gamut just stops there.
The Buddha himself wasn’t thrilled about women barging into the monastic world, previously reserved for men only, but openly admitted that women can achieve enlightenment, and in reality, whatever physical distinction we have – shape, size, colour, gender, age, cast, social ranking – it all has nothing to do with the ability to achieve enlightenment. It was edited later in some formal Buddhist schools, not in favour of women, but now, thankfully, things are improving for those of us accidentally (or not) caught in the bodies with boobs and vaginas in this particular life.
In my childhood, I hated being a girl because my mother constantly told me about what the girl cannot do and how many dangers awaiting me in the big bad world. It felt terribly unfair because I wanted to travel and explore with nothing to hold me back!
Then, in my youth, I have discovered that with a little paint and behaviour adjustments (acting helpless and demure) I am for some reason considered “pretty” by men and men can be easily manipulated by someone “pretty”. An unexpected bonus! I let my hair grow and coloured it golden, learned to play a silly blond, which worked like charm when I wanted to get something practical in the world of men (with an occasional inconvenience having to fight off unwelcome advances).
Later in life, I just got bored with that role and understood that I really don’t want that many favours from men, cut my hair and the use of cosmetics. I’ve met some very spiritually advanced women including one of my teachers – Roshi Egioky from Zen Center of Los Angeles.
I made friends with men, which was actually quite new for me – to be able to relate to another human being simply and directly, without any sexual games mixed in. I made friends with women, without the need for constant assessment of one’s comparative attractiveness as if there is some never-ending competition going on with unknown rules and judges.
There is no female or male spirituality – those ideas belong to the worldly games. You look into the eyes of another being of whatever gender and see it – one spirit, one and same for all, shining, expressing itself in different forms.
Leave behind whatever cultural baggage you have attached relating to the simple presence of a set of reproductive organs, or sexual inclinations, examine identity you have attached to it, whatever appeal it might have – it is no better than the real freedom of knowing and living one’s true nature.
*image – “Submerged” Nelli Kite, abstract painting, gouache on paper