This is a blog about vaginas. Or it's about more than vaginas. It's about gender, sexual orientation and creating a safe healing space for all people who identify as female or questioning to come and heal their relationship with their bodies, sexuality and gender. And it's a super huge task.
As a sex educator who specializes in the needs of women; I am constantly in conversation with my colleagues, clients and readers about genitals. Some people would like to dismiss them, other people would like to blame them and still others are trying to re-connect to them.
In the end we all have genitals and we all think about genitals differently. It's complicated in this ever changing and emerging world of sex education. Language is important, complicated and transitioning in regard to how we talk about the feminine/masculine and everything in between in relation to what is between our legs or not in between our legs.
I run sexuality programs for people who identity as women and gender queer women attend as well as women who are all over the map when it comes to sexual orientation. But in truth; the majority of the women are CIS gendered, straight or bisexual. Some are questioning gender or their sexual orientations. Some are lesbians and some are straight. And a few women have come after recently transitioning from male to female persons. So while there is diversity among our women and all are welcome --- we also have a solid base of what might be called "mainstream women" whatever the fuck that means anymore!
In short, we are open to all people who identify as women, and that is unusual and complicated. Many workshops or retreat experiences geared towards women are full of boundaries about what kind of vaginas may attend. You must be a lesbian vagina, or a transgender vagina or a straight vagina. But what if there is something very healing about all of these vaginas coming together? Perhaps there are wounds that together we can heal? Maybe we can inform each other? I think so.
In our workshops there have even been breakthrough experiences for women who are shifting in their gender identifications and in their sexuality. It's all amazing and wonderful. And we are trying very hard to "get it right" for all women. We have worked with Mac S. McGregor known as the Gender Sensei as our Director of Gender Studies at Back to the Body: Sensuous Retreats for Women -- and a lot has changed about how we speak all of this. You see, it's all about "the Invitation" and trying to get the language right so that all women can hear it and feel included which has been very challenging in this evolving world of sexuality and gender. Now, is it a mistake to try to talk to all vagina holders at the same time? Can one workshop/retreat be useful to "all" of people in any broad category? Can we invite and include without invalidating the identities or experiences of those for whom the workshop is not relevant? We are trying.
At our retreats and workshops there is a lot of talk about vaginas as a portal to healing our lives. It's a point of view; and one that we have built a very successful program on. Women come because there is interest in exploring their bodies and we present a different view of the "vagina" and the female erotic experience.
There is a lot of healing work to be done in this realm; many people whether they are CIS gendered or somewhere on the binary of gender or sexuality, are trying to access a new relationship with their vagina. I think it's important work and it's really a work in progress to keep our language connected to our work that feels open to all people who identify with the feminine or with vaginas. And while we are not excluding anyone from our work -- there are women with vaginas who are coming to explore their relationship with the Feminine or Masculine "Energies" and sexuality as a healing/ holistic tool.
The rub it seems is trying to talk to everyone at once in an invitation. What language is acceptable and welcoming to all vaginas?
Yesterday I was called out by a person who said this to me about the language in our invitation for our Portal of the Feminine Event: "Is there a particular reason you're conflating being a woman with having a vagina and being feminine? It erases trans and gender non-conforming identities. I feel like as sex educators, y'all should know better."
Ya know, I just wanted to crawl up in a hole.
I always come back to this place of "what does that mean to you"? What does "feminine" mean to you? What does the "masculine" mean to you. What does having a vagina mean to you? And for many vagina holders -- they are trying to understand and embody their feminine energies -- so is using the word "feminine" exclusionary? For some it is.
In this new age of expansion and inclusion; some of us are really working hard to create a safe space for all of it. That is the intention --- and trying to speak to all vagina holders at the same time and be inclusive is an ongoing challenge. And it's so hard to "get it right." And damn it, I hate getting it wrong -- because this work is just too important.
And here's the thing: If you have listened to one woman's story about her sexual identity; heard her desires and fantasies, touched one woman's body, talked with one woman about her sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexual expression... you have met ONE woman. Our sexual and gender diversity -- how we understand, express and personalize all of this great world of sex and gender is completely unique. "One" does not equal all or even most -- ever. So when trying to create the invitation for women to come and heal their relationships with their bodies, their sexuality, their gender, their relationship with the feminine and masculine energies in their lives -- we are constantly working in an ever changing and ever static paradigm from where each of our women are coming from.
So, I am struggling with getting it right with an incredible team of sex educators, for an incredibly diverse population of vagina holders who are called to transform their relationship with their bodies, their sexuality and yes -- their vaginas. The call is to the erotic in all of us; it's inclusive and evolving. And I believe it is right and healing. All vaginas are welcome and I think these conversations are important , because we all need to learn how to speak inclusion.