Non-Binary Ghosts: Life After Gender
Updated: Sep 29, 2018
This post is about ghosts and gender. It contains some discussion of New Age and Native American beliefs surrounding the spirit and gender, and contains brief references to death, serious illness, and friendly hauntings.
Several years ago, when I'd just left a tough marriage and had moved into a shared house, I encountered my first ghost. I was at the dining room table, just outside my bedroom, weeping into my hands for a plethora of reasons. I really didn't feel I had anyone I could turn to. I remember thinking to myself, "I'm so alone," over and over, as I cried.
Suddenly, from my bedroom, I heard loud music. Amazingly, my laptop had somehow woken up, opened my iTunes library, and played the perfect song—a song that about never being alone and was also one of my dead father's favorites: Frank Sinatra's Me and My Shadow.
That's how this then-sceptic came to believe my father's spirit was real.
My friends, when they heard what had happened to me, gasped and said, "Scary!" But the incident was honestly more reassuring than frightening. And it opened me up to a whole new journey—one in which I began to overcome my ongoing dissociation.
As a childhood sexual abuse survivor, I'd left my body for as long as I could remember. I've written about this before on this blog, but let's just say that when I'd look in the mirror, it was as if my eyes. nose, and mouth were swimming on oil. I didn't feel anchored in my body. My hands looked fake, as if they were made of plastic. It was easy to leave my physical self—to drift away. So when I started to believe in ghosts, it could potentially have been quite triggering.
Actually, it was the opposite. The incident was so comforting that I started to believe in a better world.
According to New Age writer and podcaster Anita Moorjani, author of Dying to Be Me, spirits have no gender. Moorjani died and came back to life—and during the time her heart stopped beating, she learned quite a lot about life in the beyond. "When I died, when I reached end stage cancer and crossed over to the other realm, I realized that there is no gender in the other realm. There is no gender because we have no biology. We are just pure spiritual beings." [This link is to the transcript I just quoted, but be aware that it contains references to a misguided view of the gender binary and of binary biological sex.]
When I researched this notion of spirits having no gender, I learned about the Native American Two Spirits—people whose genders were non-binary were viewed as gifted by nature and highly perceptive. According to Duane Brayboy, "all native communities acknowledged the following gender roles: Female, Male, Two Spirit Female, Two Spirit Male and [Transgender].” Unsurprisingly, the arrival of white supremacy in America began to silence this way of being.
Of course, white supremacy destroys everything it touches. And this seems like another example of that. After all, the concept of Two Spirits is beautiful and far wiser than the gender binary so many of us are attacked by. (At this point in writing, given the mention of "two," I want to acknowledge that notions of binary gender don't have to define non-binary gender). To me, it feels right to look to our spirit selves for answers about gender—including when those answers are continually shifting.
Why do so many of us look to bodies in order to ascertain gender? It makes so little sense to discount the feelings (or spirit, if you will) and focus instead of physical characteristics, which often say so little about one's actual identity. No wonder it's a common belief that we take gender with us when we leave the mortal coil! And yet, in New Age spirituality, there is a belief that angels have no gender—they simply adopt gender presentation in order to bond with us.
We're so obsessed that we view the lack of gender through gender-tinted glasses.
So, here's what I believe:
Spirits, like humans, don't have to have gender. We might decide, once we're in the afterlife, that our gender identity is coming with us, but that doesn't mean spirits have to have gender. It's like homeopathy, with the memory of water: When the spirit leaves the body, perhaps it can take the remembrance of gender with it. But only if it chooses.
After all, gender is a construct. And constructs can be deconstructed.
And if you believe in life after death, why wouldn't you believe in life after gender?