30 June 2012


About fifteen years ago I went through a kind of "menopause" as my testosterone level dropped from somewhere in the normal 250-850ng/dl level to 48ng/dl.  I didn't know the numbers at the outset.  All I knew was that my body, my mood, my sleep, and all kinds of other things were out of whack.  My interactions with the world, my bodily responses, and my disposition were not at all what they had been.  I was, in a very significant sense, not myself.

It took a lot of convincing to get the doctor to draw blood for the test.  "It can't be hormones," he said.  (Male denial?)  But when the results were in, there was no getting around the fact.  After a few missteps in finding the best delivery method, I began fortnightly injections.  Life returned to normal.

I continue to be grateful for that lesson.  It showed me that who I think "I" am is in good measure a product of internal chemistry and genetics and whatever environmental modifications have been made in those along the way.  It showed me that who "I" am is irreducibly male.

I have male pattern baldness.  I have male pattern emotional responses.  I have male pattern sexual responses (yes, even as a gay guy).  I have male pattern priorities, and I have male pattern sensibilities.  I see the world through a male's eyes.  I process information through a male's template. 

The truths of mathematics are not contingent on gender, but the truths of our embodied involvement in the world are.  This is nothing to apologize for, nothing to overcome, nothing to combat, and nothing to seek to temper.

Yes, there is a history of prejudicial, bigoted gender inequality in every human culture.  Yes, women have been on the short end of the deal.  I have three daughters.  I see it even today.  I get it.   I heard stupid gender-debasing commentary from practically the moment they were born.  We ended up shopping in the "boys" section of the store to dress them in something besides pink and white and hearts and flowers when they were toddlers, for goodness' sake.

The solution, though, is not to dismiss gender difference but to acknowledge it appropriately.  The fact is that I have, not merely three children, but three daughters.  I am convinced that my relationship with my children would be different if they were all sons, or some mix of sons and daughters.  To tell the truth, I have no doubt that my relationship with them is not straightforwardly parent-child, but utterly father-daughter, with all the particular joys and travails that brings.

I think Buddhism has always been pretty good about this.  The Buddha didn't create two categories of adult practice: householder and home-leaver.  He created four: male householder, female householder, male home-leaver and female home-leaver.  Each opens wide a particular field of practice unlike the others.  Each gives on to dharma-gates that are gender-coded.

So, yeah, I'm a guy.  And that's just fine with me.

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