One of the most evident contrasts in our lives is that of male/female. Based on cultural stereotypes, women are made of ‘sugar and spice and everything nice’. Women tend to be more verbal, more nurturing, and more expressive. Men have pockets full of ‘strings and nails and puppy dog tails’, and tend to be more logical, aggressive, and visual.
When a woman is aggressive, she is said to be showing her ‘masculine’ characteristics. Similarly, a man who is loving and caring, or (god forbid) cries, is said to be feminine. Many men feel threatened when another man shows his feminine side. Often seen as weakness, men who are not hormonally dominated face derision and laughter. Women displaying their masculine side face the same prejudice. When we do not fit into the roles defined by society, we risk judgment by others.
Our gender identity develops from a young age. One of the first questions asked after a birth is ‘boy or girl?’ From that moment our impressions and treatment of the child are dependent on gender. A baby boy is treated differently than a baby girl. He is tossed into the air, while she is stroked lovingly. He gets toy trucks and tools and guns, she gets dolls and Easy Bake Ovens™. Our roles in society are defined by culture, media, family and friends.
The training continues as a child grows up. Girls are supposed to be nice and pretty and to act like a ‘little lady’. Boys are supposed to be strong and tough and to ‘act like a man’. Variance from the norm results in feedback to the child, who realizes that he/she has done something wrong. We adjust our behavior based on the approval factor.
As we reach our teenage years, the gender difference becomes even more prominent. Girls begin to grow breasts and boys begin to stare at them. Attractive females get more attention than they want and learn to avert their eyes so as not to encourage strangers. Females deemed less attractive by social standards learn that people treat them differently and may devalue their self-worth.
Boys begin to mature, and learn the benefits of physical prowess. Those who are stronger and faster are also better liked. Boys who are weak or fat or slow are picked on. In male society, value is often determined by athletic ability. Even though intelligence, kindness and the ability to communicate are critical aspects of character, it is the quarterback who gets all the dates.
By the time we reach adulthood, the concept of gender is permanently set into our ego. We identify ourselves as male or female. Actions and behaviors related to our gender are evident. We act and talk differently with the opposite sex than we do with our own. Our body, our mind, our beliefs and our actions are affected by the gender-identity that we have developed.
A few years ago, I was speaking with a friend about past lives. She revealed a memory of a life as a sailor who had drowned when the ship sank. The discussion gave me a revelation. In the days when wooden ships crossed the oceans, all sailors were men. Her memory of a previous life was as a man. Then it struck me.
The soul has no gender.
Our soul, the essence of our existence, is that which carries on after our physical life concludes. Our life force, contained in our body, does not carry with it a gender identity. That which makes us human only begins to realize gender through physical attributes, social interaction and training. Deep down, we are all the same.
The next time you find yourself classifying and judging someone by their sexual identity, understand that beyond the physical, we are all equal. Speak to the soul and you will realize a new perception.
1. List your dominant gender characteristics.
2. What aspects of the opposite gender are parts of your character?
3. Choose a male and female role model, and describe their gender characteristics.
4. How do you speak or act differently with men and women?