C.G. Jung presented the world with many ideas, several of which are still provocative. At the same time, he was also a product of his times, and despite his knowledge concerning the varieties of sexual experiences, he still broke everything down into binary opposites.
According to Jung:
If you are female, you possess an unconscious masculine side: this he termed the animus.
Likewise, if you are male, you possess an unconscious feminine side, namely, the anima.
That’s Jung’s myth of Binary Sexuality, as well as the dominant mythos of several world religions.
Jung’s fascination with Coniunctio, the Sacred Alchemical Marriage, comes straight from this binary division; at the core of his psycho-sexual spirituality lies the union of opposites, masculine and feminine.
But where, exactly, does this leave everyone else, the non hetero-“normative”?
One wonders if Jung might have employed a different model if he’d been born into a different cultural context…
Navajo Gender and Sexuality:
[the following information is taken from Two-spirit People : Native American gender identity, sexuality, and spirituality – Jacobs, Sue-Ellen, Thomas, Wesley and Lang, Sabine]
1. Asdzaan – Woman: the primacy gender of the Navajo is asdzaan, meaning woman. The female gender is primary in Navajo origin stories, and it is considered to be the most important gender.
2. Hastiin – Man: the next gender is hastiin (man).
3. Nadleeh: the third gender category is nadleeh/hermaphrodite. Nadleeh is a Navajo term, and hermaphrodite is a Western medical term. Western definitions of hermaphrodites have been applied to Nadleeh. The Navajo view Nadleeh as individuals who demonstrate characteristics of the opposite gender. Individuals who identify as Nadleeh are further classified as female-bodied Nadleeh or male-bodied Nadleeh. The third gender category of Nadleeh reflects the Navajo tradition of accepting gender diversity and rejecting the concept of gender dysphoria or a dyadic system of gender.
4. Masculine female: the fourth gender category is masculine female, or female-bodied Nadleeh. Navajo culture views masculine females separate from other female-bodied people because their role in society is different from primary gender women. Today, masculine females occupy some roles usually associated with men. Historically, female-bodied Nadleeh had specific ceremonial roles.
5. Feminine male: the fifth gender is the feminine male, or male-bodied Nadleeh. Feminine males identify with gender diversity, and they typically performed work also performed by women.
Now, this still wasn’t exactly egalitarian; there were still prohibitions against spiritual homosexuality, though not physical homosexuality. In other words, two individuals, regardless of their physical gender, could be accepted as a couple within Navajo society, as long as they self identified themselves with opposite spiritual genders.
Still sounds semi-enlightened, right? Then there’s this:
Navajo Nation Bans Same-Sex Marriage (Apr. 25, 2005, LA Times)
“The Navajo Nation has forbidden same-sex marriages on its Arizona reservation. The Tribal Council voted unanimously in favor of legislation that recognizes only the union of one man and one woman, and prohibits marriages between close relatives.
‘Men and women have been created in a sacred manner,’ delegate Harriet K. Becenti said.”
Is all lost? Perhaps not…
Coquille Indian Tribe Becomes First Native American Tribe to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage (Aug. 22, 2008, Associated Press).
“At the request of a lesbian couple, the Coquille Indian Tribe on the southern Oregon coast has adopted a law recognizing same-sex marriage.
Tribal law specialists say the Coquille appear to be the first tribe to sanction such marriages. Most tribal law doesn’t address the issue. The Navajo and Cherokee tribes prohibit same-sex marriages…
Oregon voters amended the state constitution in 2004 to prohibit gay marriage. But with its sovereignty recognized by the federal government, the [Coquille Indian] tribe is not bound by the state constitution.”
So what’s the take-away?
Many cultures recognize alternatives to the binary two-gendered system: The Yoruba don’t recognize a gendered system, basing divisions on age and bloodlines, and they and many other African communities support ‘female husbands’. The Hawaiians recognize Māhū, and India and Pakistan recognize Hijras as persons of indeterminate gender, and there are many, many more.
It’s time for new myths to help define what it means to grow up different; to live, and to love, different.
What should we do until we find those myths, or (re)-invent them?
The only thing we can do.