Traditional Gender Norms Are Imprisoning You, Me and Everyone - Let's Be Whole Human Beings
Traditional Gender Norms Are Imprisoning You, Me and Everyone - Let's Be Whole Human Beings
By Tim Hjersted /

The world needs all of us to become healers. It needs us to nurture the sacred feminine and the sacred masculine that lies dormant to various degrees within each and every one of us, no matter what body we were born into. Everyone may express parts of these qualities, but we live in a toxic culture that forces men and women to cut off half of their potential being.

It forces men to only be allowed to identify with masculine qualities, often the destructive toxic forms. And it forces women to only be allowed to identify with feminine qualities, while these qualities are often devalued and disrespected in our culture. When women strive to embody sacred masculine qualities, they are often punished and demeaned. Even when women embody toxic masculine qualities, they are usually criticized while that same toxic behavior is applauded when exhibited by men, since our culture celebrates and rewards toxic masculine behavior.

At the same time, when men strive to embody sacred feminine qualities, they are often punished, ridiculed and demeaned, facing all manor of emotional, physical and spiritual violence from different forces in society. The damage this is doing to men cannot be understated. Our culture glorifies and nurtures toxic masculine qualities in our young boys, while ignoring the sacred aspects of the masculine. Simultaneously, I believe this systemic act of denying and killing off the sacred feminine within our young boys is the origin of the patriarchal violence that is destroying the world.

What I see is a culture that is doing profound violence to both men and women, who are both forced into a rigid gender prison that kills off half of who we all potentially can be. It is a culture that kills off the natural compassionate, vulnerable and nurturing side of men, and a culture that kills off the natural leadership and assertive power of women. That we divide these positive qualities of humanity into these false categories of masculine or feminine is profound illusion. That we try to fit every human into this rigid binary, erasing the existence of transgender, two-spirit, and gender non-conforming people is also deeply troubling. These are people who are attempting to express themselves as they truly are, not as society tells them they must be, and they face enormous discrimination and violence because of it.

Hating people who don't fit into this gender binary is another form of illusion that our toxic culture has cultivated. In other, indigenous cultural traditions, transgender or two-spirit people are celebrated and honored. This kind of respect is only scantly beginning to surface in our own culture. All of these toxic notions about gender stem from a single toxic root - this notion that there is only one right way to be - one right gender binary to belong to. If you’re a man, be a real man! If you’re a woman, be a real woman! All of us instinctively know what this means - the rules we must follow. The norms we must obey. These norms may be invisible to many of us but they are apparent as day and night as soon as anyone breaks out of the box they were assigned.

How can we break free?

What the world needs today is for all of us to become whole human beings - manifesting the best qualities of healthy yin and yang energy. What the world needs is a culture that celebrates a rainbow of diverse ways of being in the world, that allows people to be who they are and loved for who they are. So long as our culture does not allow or celebrate this, we must be courageous in resisting all of the myriad pressures to conform. We must stand against the tide for ourselves, and stand up for every human who is brave enough to defy the rules, showing up as their authentic, evolving, fullest selves. We need to create a space that recognizes that the old story about gender diminishes us all.

2 min · Join the movement. Featuring: Jean Kilbourne, Pedro Noguera, Jackson Katz and Rosario Dawson. Take the pledge:

If someone wants to embody more of the traditional masculine or more of the traditional feminine, regardless of their sex, that's wonderful. We should be free to express ourselves in whatever way speaks to the deep core of our being.

Personally, what speaks to that deepest part of my being is a desire to embody an equal balance of both. That's what I strive for as a male-bodied person, to embody 50% feminine and 50% masculine energies - to be a whole person. Not a half person.

It is my desire to see a world where we do not simply expand the gender binary into a spectrum of gender identities - with men and woman on either end, and gender non-conforming, transgender, two-spirit, feminine men and masculine women in between. I'm weary of this approach because in some ways it is reinforcing the duality of traditional masculine and feminine.

What I want to see is an expansion of the concept of masculine and feminine itself.

When you see me, a man exhibiting feminine qualities of vulnerability, compassion and sensitivity, I don't want people to think, "Oh that's a man acting kind of like a woman." I want people to think that's a man being a healthy, fully realized man.

And when a woman is acting assertive, courageous, or strong, I don't want people to think "Oh that's a woman acting kind of like a man." I want people to think that's a woman being a healthy, fully realized woman.

Essentially I want to expand our concepts of what it means to be a 'traditional' man or woman. I want the masculine archetype we imagine of the so-called mythical 'real man' to include strong feminine qualities, and the feminine archetype we imagine of the so-called mythical 'real woman' to include strong masculine qualities.

Put simply, let us all strive to be whole human beings, free to reach our fullest potential and truest, complete selves.


6 min · Is everyone transgender? Can straight people identify as queer? Shon Faye asks: If queerness is defined by a rejection of labels how should queers differentiate and support the identities most vulnerable to patriarchal oppression?


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Traditional Gender Norms Are Imprisoning You, Me and Everyone - Let's Be Whole Human Beings