Opening up space for genuine enquiry can be a brave and complicated task: I wonder how many questions asked during a day are full invitations to share? And what percentage of the questions I’m asked do I feel able to answer honestly, authentically, without judgment? The nuance of a question can be so far-ranging, as touched upon by Zoë in this month’s Opening the Circle piece. Ironically, a question here has the effect of closure, shutting down, closeting – the inverse of what a question could and should be, perhaps.
Observing language and these unspoken harmful ways in which oppression can show up, shines a light on the magic of sitting in circle for me: a place to simply speak my truth and be heard in it, nothing more or less. Such simple, radical magic.
Through curiosity and interest in our sisters, we can open up possibilities for new understanding. A Red Tent connects us through womanhood, and all of the difference and diversity within that category is a part of what connects us too; rather than divisions that weaken a structure I picture folds of a complicated paper lantern, or strands of thread through beautiful fabric. Strong, diverse, collective.
This month we hear from Zoë sharing her perspective, as well as offer the chance to catch Mary Ann and Aisha talking with The Spiritual Feminist. You can also find out about four bright new Red Tents who are joining the directory.
Opening the Circle – Zoë
I always dread the question, “Have you got a boyfriend?” It’s inevitable in a new workplace, when seeing extended family or at a networking event. Every time I go somewhere new, I know that question will be thrown at me when I’m least expecting it. I once hid the fact that I had a girlfriend from my work colleagues for 6 months. I dodged it and slid away when the conversation turned to personal things.
This could be dismissed as over-the-top or sensitive, which would be fair, except in that work place I sat in the same office as five other women while they openly talked about how disgusting it was that someone they know outside work was a lesbian. I know I’m not a lesbian, which just makes it all that much harder to explain to people.
Like so many bisexual women, I never really came out but I was never really closeted. When I’m in a relationship with a man people seem to forget about me dating women and vice versa. In other people’s eyes I oscillate between being gay and straight.
My current partner is non-binary, meaning they reject the male/female dualism. We are both queer, which is a catch-all term that some people who are not straight use to describe themselves. Queer has come to mean many things to many people. To me it means people who are engaged with social justice and who play with the traditional ideas of relationships and family.
My first ever Red Tent was many years ago. It was beautiful, especially because there was another queer woman there. I did not dread the topic of romantic relationships because she was already talking about her girlfriend. Hearing her talk made all the tension drop from my body; I wouldn’t have to explain the intricacies of who I loved that evening. Other times in Red Tents I have felt like the odd one out because everyone else talks about their relationships and families as if the way they’re constructed is the only option.
To me, Red Tents could be a liberatory space for all of us. They hold a wealth of potential to nourish us all. With our hearts and minds open we can come together to share our experiences.
The book takes flight
Now that it’s launched in to the world, Mary Ann and Aisha have been speaking about their new book, ‘Red Tents: Unravelling Our Past and Weaving a Shared Future’. You can listen to them being interviewed about some of the themes of the book by Leneth of The Spiritual Feminist on her website here: thespiritualfeminist.com/73-red-tents/ or on Spotify here.