A friend of mine recently surprised me with the news that he was what’s known as trans-gender. I don’t know if he exactly considers himself a woman in a man’s body, but it’s in that neighborhood. At the very least he is a male with rather strong female sensibilities. If you were to meet him, unless you were especially sensitive to such things (which I am not), I’m pretty sure you’d consider him just a regular guy, though smart, insightful, visionary even, and kind. At least that’s how I think of him, in addition to being one of the strongest leaders I know. Anyway, I shared this news with my bride, who smiled at me and said, “A man after your own heart. Who the heck knows what you are?”
I considered it a lovely compliment.
I’m not in any way trans-gender in the manner my friend is. The last time I was inspired to wear a dress was 36 years ago when my three college roommates and I posed together for our yearbook photo, two of us in drag, me with a beard. But I will say that while I’m a man, that’s not all I am––nor all I want to be.
My earliest career goals were saint and cowboy (followed closely by pirate and baseball player). There’s little mystery to these choices. Parochial grammar school, Saturday matinees at the only movie house in town and four years of Little League comprised a big fraction of my life prior to adolescence. Plus I lived on a lake with endless woods, vineyards and farmland around me. God, adventure and freedom of movement were inclinations nurtured early. Add helping leaders follow their heart’s call in navigating the world they serve and the same priorities predominate today. Not incidentally, I associate none of these priorities with a particular religious orientation, political persuasion, gender, ethnic membership, genetic link or any other form of societal identification I can think of.
Am I a man? I’m happy to be called so, though I have no idea what the designation really means. Same with American, husband, father, grandfather, writer, mentor, artist, recovering alcoholic, cancer survivor, not to mention jerk and a few less-flattering opprobriums. They’re labels, not identity.
Who am I? That’s like asking the meaning of life. Saints may know, but the rest of us only have stories. Whoever or whatever I am, I aspire to be as awake as I can be––which brings us to the man and woman within.
We are awake, I feel, to the extent that we live in conscious union with the universe, the divine, God. And to me that requires the fullest embrace and integration of male/female; reason/feeling; mind/heart; intellect/intuition––resulting in the ability to take action in service of the particular and the whole simultaneously.
Moreover, we all carry within us both halves of this equation at various levels of maturity and synergy. Growing both to achieve perfect hand-in-glove harmony is the business of life, for it’s what leads us to the happiness that cannot be lost in the wake of any external event. Every specific of our life, including those that arrive wearing sequins and a jock strap, is a gift we have given ourselves to help us grow this harmony.
We’re all much more than man or woman.