Home / Blog Posts / Ministry of Presence / Gender: revealing


I really dislike gender reveals. They seem to be growing in popularity, not least for the hilarious videos of failed reveal stunts. Then there’s the devastating reveal stunts that cause fires … And the reinforcing of stereotypical blue and pink, and have you noticed that though it’s slightly more acceptable these days, men still generally prefer NOT to wear pink for fear it will insinuate femininity, which is to say a lessening of their masculinity, because there’s still a pervasive undercurrent that says woman is less than man?

I wonder if these gender reveal stunts are some sort of collective subconscious response to the shift in society on the question of gender, and what pronouns or how many types of ‘gender’? Is it a digging in of hells into more familiar territory because the disturbance of part of society’s foundations is unsettling and makes us feel afraid?

I wonder.

gender reveal


I am a woman, and I have always known I can be a woman however the heck I want. Thank you parents.

I have rarely been made to feel less or restricted because I am female. But as I write that, I wonder: perhaps I cannot recall too many such experiences because it was never allowed to take hold, to own me, that notion of female as less. There is immense privilege in that, and I am grateful for the people and circumstances of my upbringing to have given me such positive reinforcement, such empowerment to be wholly, fully me, as chose.

female fits

an aside: notice the framed pictures on the shelves behind me? The cover image for my first poetry collection, On Wisdom’s Wings, is Sophia Angel. Artist and online community pastor David Hayward’s alter ego inner self on a path of discovery is an image of female, of wisdom. The cup and crown image was created for me and an alternative church community I led, by artist, Minister, and dear friend Matthew Stuart, representing the story of Esther, a woman who made the most of her circumstances to survive herself, then save her people.


It so happened that woman, female, has always fit for me, and that I never had cause to question the gender dichotomy that society presented.

I gratefully receive the challenge we now face together as a community, with those who have lived in the shadows between female and male stepping into the light and demanding to be seen at last, as they are. I am glad of our opportunity to affirm, encourage, nurture, the wholeness of people giving voice to the wonderful breadth of human experience of gender. How limited we had become, how limiting and diminishing of each other and ourselves.

I have spent some time with Biblical Hebrew language and compositions – no expert, but certainly a proficient enough fan of its beauty and complexity. In Hebrew poetry, two extremes will be named in order to express a breadth, a whole, a lot more than the two things named. Hills and mountains = all the earth. Mountains and valleys = all the earth. Earth and sea = all the earth. Heaven and earth = all that is held within and between them.

So: male and female = all humanity; all that is held between … I’d like to think so.

I acknowledge the challenge before our society, to reclaim the in-between. I don’t think we do away with the ends of the spectrum, but we do fill in the colours, we feel all the textures, and we enrich our understanding of the collective experience and being of humanity. That is nothing to fear, by the way, but to be embraced as profoundly good for us!


But why am I suddenly talking about gender?

I have found myself making connections, deepening connections, with faith-based communities of women recently, without an explicit intention to join or increase my participation in such communities; and it’s taken me by surprise. I might say that it’s not the fact of the groups being women only or women focused that drew me to them, but the supportive environment for clergy folk, the contemplative, healing purposeful spaces being created.

Observing the gendered nature of these groups, I wonder … is that also drawing me in? Why am I not resisting, when on other occasions, ‘women only’ has been off-putting?

I’m not sure I have the answers, but I am enjoying the questions, in a season of re-emergence into a healed sense of self, a deepening of my integrated well-being, a taking stock of my becoming me, becoming a leader.

The intangible, almost indescribable power of women gathering together must, I think, be an element of my reaching for these groups now. I’m rising from a harrowing year, from debilitating illness, from compounded isolation. I need to connect.

I have rich connections with my tribe, the Network of Biblical Storytellers, and many (though certainly not all) of the important people for me in that community are men. I have rich relationships within my congregation, with people of diverse gender, sexuality, age, culture, experience … diversity on most elements of being human actually; and I love them, and I am their minister. I have some deep friendships with individuals from home, from my Scottish Sojourn, and I and some of them have moved further afield.

I need to connect with people where I am. I need to connect with community in which I am not the minister. In both the communities I have begun to participate in recently, I am contributor, I am still storyteller-poet-minister with something to offer. But I am also simply member of community and team, nurtured by receiving care and leadership of others in a very different way to what is possible when you are the (or even one of the ) minister(s). And I am finding what I need with communities of women.

I want to be open to learning and encouraging others to learn what it means for us to broaden our understanding of ‘woman’ for the purposes of such groups

But as I observe this women-only connectivity I’m experiencing, I also find I want to be open to learning and encouraging others to learn what it means for us to broaden our understanding of ‘woman’ for the purposes of such groups and communities – surely we will in time be open to those who identify as woman, open even to the fluidity of those who sometimes do and sometimes don’t and therefore float in and out ? I look forward to where we are going, to what it means to be a group for ‘women’ to grow and become ever richer.