Growing up as a southern kid raised with Appalachian roots, the line that seemed to divide binary gender was somewhat blurred for those raised as girls. Both boys and girls were expected to be tough, to play outside in the dirt, to be what society called tomboys. Of course, girls were still expected to wear dresses from time to time; which boys were never allowed to do. I felt a strange confusion of feelings when my mom always insisted on a dress for Picture Days. Why couldn’t I wear pants like the other kids? It felt pretty, but also awkward and uncomfortable. As I grew older, the line that society drew between masculine and feminine genders grew stronger. Applachian women were still expected to be tough and unafraid of doing “a man’s work”, but there was also more pressure to lean into the traditional feminine roles. Nonbinary genders weren’t heard of, and any deviation from binary gendered expectations would often lead to bullying for many. I suppose this is all why it took me so long to begin questioning my gender as a teenager, and even longer to realize that I am trans-masc nonbinary, or a nonbinary trans guy. I realized that I was nonbinary in my 20’s, but didn’t make that step into accepting my trans-masculinity until a couple of years ago as I reached my 30’s.
When I first started questioning whether I might be trans, I was a teenage baby Pagan who was still going through that exploration phase from Christo-Paganism to eclectic soft polytheist Paganism. That break away from the version of Christianity that my parents raised me with started to give me room to view all sorts of things differently. I had become aware that transgender people exist, but wasn’t at the point yet where the idea of nonbinary gender was anywhere on my radar. (I was in southern West Virginia by that point in the early 2000’s, which is only now starting to become more progressive in the 2020’s.) I only knew that my gender isn’t what I was assigned at birth.
All of that said, my focus here will be on my trans experience and how my path as a polytheist Pagan has aided me so far in my journey. Other trans Pagans will, of course, have different perspectives and varying experiences.
By the time I found out more about gender diversity and began exploring my nonbinary gender, my spiritual path was firmly set into a polytheist worldview. I had heeded the call of The Morrígan and Loki had also started calling me. In my experience, these gods don’t play around when they want somebody’s attention. I suppose that is just the way gods in general tend to be. I hadn’t considered early on how my working with these deities could affect how I view myself. My gender and my relationships with the gods have been completely separate. Looking back, though, I realize that some of the lessons They taught me – whether directly or through learning their stories and getting to know Them – helped me to better know myself.
One of the common themes that those who work with The Morrígan often talk about is concerning personal sovereignity. This is the ability to make one’s own decisions, to shape oneself as one feels fit, and to stand one’s ground. Well, that’s my simplified explanation, at least. Though this isn’t directly related to gender issues; it ties in to the ideas of knowing oneself, gaining self confidence, making own’s own decisions, and having the courage to simply exist. All of these are things that I, along with many other trans people, have had to work on. (And in truth, I am still working on these.) The Morrígan has helped me to face the darkest parts of my Self. She has beat it in to my head that the feelings of low self esteem, worthlessness, and shame are feelings that I need to acknowledge in order to fight. Burying them down doesn’t make them go away. Getting to know them, finding their weaknesses (ie- where they come from), at the very least makes it easier to overcome them. In regards to accepting my gender, I had to learn self acceptance; in addition to acceptance of the fact that I am allowed to make my own decisions concerning who I am. Though The Morrígan may not have set out to specifically assist me with my gender issues, the lessons that She taught me have nonetheless been valuable in addressing them.
Loki has a much more straightforward connection to gender diversity. Due to His shapeshifting nature, taking on both traditionally male and female forms at times, some who work with this god view Him as transgender or nonbinary. I am of this same mind, although I recognize that the modern view of gender is surely not the same as it was when people first started telling the stories of the gods. It can’t be denied that Loki’s gender roles have been malleable in the myths and stories that He plays part in, after all. In my exploration of my own gender, I have found comfort in seeing how this god whom I feel so strongly for has embodied both masculine and feminine. It has given me strength in knowing that gender diversity is divine. Loki has helped me on my journey toward self-acceptance, self-compassion, and knowing that my choices are my own. These lessons from my beloved Gift-Bringer¹ and The Morrígan have helped shape me in beginning to connect to my most authentic self.
Paganism, in general, is largely a trans-friendly set of religions. There are some traditions that hold transphobic views, but many recognize that transgender and nonbinary people are a completely natural piece of the human condition. Some Pagans view transgender and nonbinary folks as sacred, either because all people are sacred or because gender diversity in itself is. Our mythologies and folklore that shapes our religions include gods whose genders aren’t only male or female. Some are intersex, some change their genders from male to female/ female to male, some don’t have a gender, some are fluid in their genders, so on and so forth. The gods are a reflection of humankind’s diversity, or perhaps it goes the other way. Maybe the fact that transgender and nonbinary people like me exist is a reflection of the gender diversity of the gods.
¹ Gift-Bringer – A reference to Loki’s role in attaining the Dwarven-made gifts for the Aesir (including mjolnir), as well as Loki’s gift of Her child Sleipnir to Odin. This also has personal meaning to me, as I feel that Loki’s prescence in my life has been a gift.