It’s been a while since I dug into the roots of a word. I think I’m overdue.
First, what does it mean?
As of 1300, the English language noun meant kind or sort or class. No implicit or explicit reference to biological or physiological nature of the thing referenced. Its root word, unsurprisingly, is the Old French gendre or genre (a hint* for those paying attention) which meant kind or species or character. And that Old French word in turn comes from the Latin stem genus meaning race or stock or family or kind or rank or order or species.
*Genre, straight from the Modern French, is now used as an entirely different word in English…but it still means kind or sort or class.
Wowzer. Look at that! Gender is a means of classifying things into groupings. Later, it added the specific grouping of “is it male or female”—much later (I call 200 years later, compared to life spans of 30-70 years…).
Before we ever get to bringing individuals in to our circles, bringing them between the worlds, we tend to cover the term “polarity” in discussing the theoretical underpinnings of what it is that we—those weird-ass Wicca—do. But, y’know, I don’t believe that theoretical underpinnings are what the Wicca had in mind when they wanted to prevent Hitler from invading and defeating Britain. Or five generations (see there, there’s that genera—plural of genus—again) before that, when witches wanted to keep the Little Corsican on the continental side of the channel, and sent an entire summer of uncoöperative winds for the purpose. Or another six generations before that, when the Armada of Spain was already in English waters when it succumbed to the Atlantic gales called up to protect the folk who preferred “Good Queen Bess” over her predecessor “Bloody Mary” (no swearing involved).
In other simple words, witches—the Wicca—do what is needed because it works. We teach and pass and spread our tradition across gender. And for the most part, that means woman to man to woman to man to woman to…
Who are we to say that gender always and forever and only means biological sex? When it did not mean that, in our own language, in the first place. (Remember? two hundred years from sorting into groups, before it also mean sorted by “gender”?)
I don’t see a need to argue about it. I certainly don’t see a need to snipe at equally qualified and trained and experienced witches using apple-pie analogies, as if there were only ever one KIND (sort? class?? gender???) of apple pie. All too often, we elders can show ourselves human and imperfect in oh-so-many ways. Not least of which is telling each other that we have the sole truth when every one of us knows that no one has the sole truth—except as it relates to that particular entity.
One thought on “Across the Genders”