Two Spirits

April 11, 2008

Glory be to God for dappled things!  — Gerard Manley Hopkins, “Pied Beauty”.

In my short career as bloggist, whenever I’ve received a comment, I’ve gone to check out the commenter’s blog. This past week I had two blogs to investigate. Both were written by men, and both have a certain bluntness to them, but the similarities pretty much end there. It was a sheep-and-goat experience for me, to retain one blogger’s comment (and therefore his link) and to delete the other.

The zapped blogger sent me to a page which made me think he hadn’t seen enough of my writing to notice that I’m an Irish-descended queer from the colonies. Breathtakingly offensive. But enough of him.

The other blogger…man, this guy works hard! Urban Observation’s  stuff is gritty and honest and courageously personal. From the few pages I dipped into, I learned that he’s an American of African descent who grew up in the Bronx ghetto. He studied well enough to land a decent office job when he grew up. For his pains, he’s been labelled an “Oreo”, a traitor to his race. And yet — if I got this right — he’s come home to his neighbourhood, the ghetto from which he had always been encouraged to escape.

Let’s see, get out the books on myths and archetypes, flip-flip-flip, protagonist leaves ordinary world, goes to other world, returns with increased wisdom to own world, that makes him… a hero.

An earlier entry of mine, in which I explained how my pets got their names, was called “Adam’s First Task”. Long before Adam became a dirt farmer and sweaty baker, his first job was to name all the animals. Naming is fundamental to human language, which in turn is fundamental to human interaction. A string of letters becomes a word only by consensus, which means that at least two people must agree on its meaning. Unfortunately — ironically? — to define a word is also to limit it.

Apparently, to some of Urban Observation’s acquaintances, the meaning of “black” doesn’t include “decently-paid office worker”. A South-east Asian classmate of mine referred to her husband as a “banana”, which is the Asian equivalent of an Oreo. Most, if not all, lesbigay Christians have had the experience of other people believing that “queer Christian” is an oxymoron. And on it goes, with language, the tool that should increase the human capacity for love and acceptance, being used instead as a weapon to tamp us into restrictive little boxes and jab us with narrow pointy sticks.

Once upon a time, certain tribes preferred two-spirited people — those who had an innate understanding of both masculine and feminine ways of being — to be their shamans. They were the holy men and women, the unusual ones, the ones who had visited two worlds.

I need to rush off to work now, but I will leave the final word to a Cardigan Welsh Corgi whose wisdom I missed the first time around: Checkers suggested, during the “Name-and-genderize-the-sea-turtle-stuffy” contest, that the turtle’s gender should be green.