I have been mulling the idea of expanding my consciousness by exploring how my ancestors thought about “gender-roles”. Fluent language speakers have said that in Anishinaabemowin, there are no “genders” like we have learned in English. Unlike French or Spanish where pronouns are labelled as Male or Female, Anishinaabe pronouns describe whether something is “animate” or “inanimate”. In other words, does that item have spirit?
When I first moved to Toronto I encountered a variety of very powerful teachings that allowed me to open my mind, open my consciousness to see a being and love that being for who they truly are. This experience taught me that love and respect are inderdependent concepts. While it has been an interesting path that has led me to investigate, and attempt to understand the idea of two-spiritedness, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans, and the many other ways individuals identify…I will never fully understand the experiences others go through. The closest I can get is to look with an eye to the spirit because in spirit we are all connected, we are all one, and there is no question, only…knowing.
I have been lucky enough to encounter environments that are moving toward decolonizing approaches, and I find that my learning and awareness have so much farther to expand.
I encountered a sign in one such space that read “If you think someone is using the wrong washroom, don’t panic, they know where they belong.” I smiled, and thought to myself…Yes, they certainly do.
Challenging myself to think consciously about the world around me in terms of “animate” and “inanimate” will present so many interesting opportunities to understand the linguistic connections to my ancestors. Growing up, my parents never really discouraged me from participating or trying anything in particular. I played sports, wore dresses, went hunting, and climbed trees. (separately, of course!)
In turn, I encouraged my eight-year old son to experiment with colour, he would wear pink (mittens, socks, shoes) accessories and wore nail polish to school in awesome Captain America and Sonic the Hedgehog inspired colours. We of course had a discussion that others in school may try to discourage him from wearing nail polish because “boys aren’t allowed to do those sorts of things” and he understands how sexist some books are when we went to the book store one day to find a book on bracelet making and could only find a book written mainly for girls.
Many others have commented on my decidedly masculine energies surfacing in ceremony or in the way I carry myself, I think the provider/protector role is more pronounced as I am a single-mother living in a large city. I need to be able to provide for my family and protect myself and my son if I need to.
Too often we get wrapped up in binary gender roles and forget to see the spirit in a being. We let society dictate to us what and who we should be. Could we not empower our children to attain their fullest potential, their highest and most perfect version of themselves? Can we not just encourage them to experience inspiration, joy, love and abundance, sharing that joy with those around them?
People choose paths in life and we learn from those encounters, we learn from others who come into our lives and bring those profound teachings with them. I am grateful to have such experiences, difficult as they may be.
Anishinaabekwe endaaw…I am a being from the Nation of good peoples, imbued with spirit who is physically capable of bringing life into the world…