Pallas the Genderbender
By Raven Kaldera
Bella was born in 1958. Her parents looked at her, saw a little boy and gave her a name much different than the one she has now. But inside, from as early as the age of five, she knew instinctively that she was, indeed, a girl, and in 1986 she remedied the "mistake" with a sex change.
When she had her chart done in 1990, the reader kept an eye out, of course, for signs that might indicate her transsexualism. There were a few possible clues - a Mars-Venus trine, Uranus in the tenth house squaring Mars and Jupiter and opposing Chiron, but nothing definitive. Then one day a friend called up with latest book on the asteroids and said, "You've got to see this! There's a rock out there that has to do with unconventional gender! Check it out!" The reader, who by then had become her husband, rushed out and bought the book and looked excitedly at both her chart and his.
Well, it was definitely something. Pallas, the asteroid in question, was exactly conjunct her North Node, which lay a degree away from her ascendant, in the sign of Libra, signifying balance. In this case, Libran balance had been expressed through the body (ascendant) by adding femininity and creating a bi-gendered whole. Pallas had pulled the gender lever, and the North Node's karmic compulsion wouldn't let her rest until it was done. Pallas also squared her Cancer Moon and Venus in Capricorn.
At this point I (all, right, I admit, it was me) started scrambling for my own chart. I have an intersex condition called secondary congenital adrenal hyperplasia; I was raised a as girl since my mother wanted a daughter, but when puberty came my body began to produce male hormones, which deepened my voice and began to give me facial hair. I was put on hormones to keep me female, and that's where I stayed until they began to make me ill. My body was rejecting them, and after much soul-searching I gave it what it wanted and changed over to a more masculine physiology, which brought me in contact with the transgender community.
As an intersex female-to-male transgenderist and an astrologer, I wanted very much to find the key-in-common with all the others I'd met in the transgender community. I looked up Pallas, and there it was in Aries, in my eighth house of sexuality. (Can you spell hermaphroditism, folks?) My Sun in Sagittarius and my Jupiter in Leo (on the ascendant) are trined and in mutual reception; Pallas made a very tight grand trine with both of them.
At this point it occurred to me to compare Bella's Venus-ruled Pallas, aspecting her "feminine" planets, with my Mars-ruled one conjuncting my "masculine" ones. In California parlance, when two transgendered folk of different directions are in a relationship, they are referred to as a "reverse couple". (It happens more often than you'd think!) Could this be the key? I grabbed a notebook and called every transsexual/transvestite/transgender-in-between that I could, which is quite a few of them, and got their birth data. I also got the data of a few of their significant others. Then I sat down to planet-crunch.
What did I find? Well, here are a few examples from analyzing my friends. Brenda's Pallas is conjunct her North Node, like Bella's. Nan's formed a grand trine with her Sun and Moon. Natalie's was perched on her midheaven and trined her Sun-Neptune-Venus conjunction. Paeonia's was conjunct her Moon and Part of Fortune. Gwen's was exactly conjunct her Sun and one degree away from her Venus, as well as trining her Moon-Uranus conjunction. Maureen's was another North Node conjunction and Moon trine. Zot's was conjunct her Moon and Saturn, trining her Pluto. Jean Marie's was conjunct her Jupiter and Part of Fortune, opposing her Mars. (Getting away from masculinity?)
In the other category, the female-to-males that I checked out had similar stories to mine. James' Pallas was one degree from his Sun, and exactly conjunct Mars and his North Node. Jack's Pallas trined Mars, sextiled his Sun, and squared his Venus.
Kae, who was born intersex like me but doesn't wish to live as either male or female, has Pallas conjunct the Sun and North Node as well.
The results were that Pallas made a significant aspect in every one of the trans-folks' charts, and frequently to their Suns, Moons or Ascendants. Even more interesting, most of the "significant other" charts had Pallas conjunct or in major aspect to Venus, which suggests that something in their makeup caused them to be romantically drawn to people of unconventional gender.
"This is almost scary," a woman wrote to me over the Internet after I sent out the initial information and requested more data participants. She was in a relationship with a very masculine woman who had considered a sex change, and she found Pallas aspecting her lover's Mars, and her own Venus.
Of course, this doesn't mean that every person with a major Pallas aspect is going to be "differently gendered". (How's that for a new age euphemism?) One could have, I suppose, any of the above combinations and seem perfectly normal, However, the frequency of Pallas aspects in the charts of trans-folk does, to me at least, seem like a dead giveaway of something, perhaps something whose time has come.
Researchers of the transgender experience have known for a while that gender identity has nothing to do with sexual preference. Originally transsexuals were considered an "extreme" of gay men or lesbians, but then more and more transsexuals who had been heterosexual before their transition (change) began to demand the right to be gay or lesbian afterwards. It shook the foundations of many researchers' assumptions about gender and sexuality, and proved that all the agony that trans-folk went through about their bodies was not going to go away by instituting a more "gender-free" society. (It would, I have to add, however, make us more accepted and less discriminated against.)
Pallas has been discovered in a time when people in this country and others are starting to question whether the rigid two-gender system that we have lived with for so long truly serves us now. Kate Bornstein, author of "Gender Outlaw: Men, Women, and the Rest of Us", suggests that the most positive step we could take would not be to attempt to abolish gender completely, but to create a whole lot more of them, so that one could pick and choose from a buffet instead of being crammed into small boxes at birth on the basis of one's genitalia.
Certainly for intersex babies, it is more than time to put some slack into the gender system. Children with "ambiguous" genitalia, meaning a little of both, are surgically mutilated at birth so their parents will not have to explain things to the neighbors, and so society will not have to readjust its thinking about the two-gender prison. Often these individuals end up with serious medical complications later in life due to forced hormone therapy, and frequently the surgery leaves them with no physical sensation in what is left of their genitals. Many end up back in the sex-change office anyway, despite their parents' best efforts to keep them traditionally-gendered. This has to stop. It is an affront to humanitarian ethics, of which Pallas also has a strong interest.
In ancient times and in tribal societies, there was a place for some transgendered folk. In ancient Rome, men who wished to become women joined the temple of Cybele where they were castrated and became priestesses called "gallae". Many Native American tribes consider third gender people sacred and have special positions for them; they are called nadle, winkte, kwe'rhame, lhamana and other titles. In India today a class of third gender people known as hijras still live together communally and practice ritual duties such as blessing weddings and births.
Take a moment and stretch your imagination. Imagine what it would be like to live in a society where there were three genders - or four, or five. Imagine a place where such things were normal, or better yet where it was considered a great honor to be more than just male or female, or to have such a child.
Perhaps a clue to the genderbending mystery of Pallas can be discovered in the shape of Pales, an older deity which is likely related etymologically to Pallas. The country of Palestine was named for Pales, the indigenous deity of the early pre-Hebrew Semitic tribes. Pales is a deity with the head of an ass, symbolizing the protector of flocks, and Pales' body is female on one side and male of the other.
Another clue may also be found in an old Dineh (Navaho) legend. According to this tale, two nadle named Turquoise Boy and White Shell Girl once belonged to the Dineh people. They invented all arts and handcrafts between them - basketry, weaving, the carving of pipes. All these they gave freely to the Dineh, and they thrived.
At one point, however, there was a terrible war between the men and the women, and they separated to live on opposite sides of a riverbank. Turquoise Boy did the women's work for the men, and White Shell Girl did the men's work for the women. They would often meet at night on the riverbank, which was shunned by the rest of the tribe, and commiserate sadly on how difficult it was to satisfy half a tribe all by themselves. These nightly meetings enabled them to notice, however that the river was rising dangerously, and that if nothing was done the Dineh people would all drown.
Turquoise Boy and White Shell Girl made a last dramatic plea to their tribe - come together and cooperate, or die. Faced with death, the men and women grudgingly agreed to put aside their differences and save the tribe. The two nadle built a boat, which enabled the tribesfolk to sail to a new and higher world.
Notice, in this myth, how the two third gender people are the tribe's inventors. This corresponds to Pallas the "maker", named for the Greek Athene, who wore men's clothing and was an accomplished craftsperson. The Pallas principle is creation, not procreation. Many of us give up our ability to bear or sire children in order to have the bodies we want, and our creativity must come through in different ways.
Notice, also, that Turquoise Boy and White Shell Girl bear the brunt of the "war between the sexes". Transgendered and intersex people are rarely safe in this world of two rigid genders; we are brutalized and often murdered, and the world does not seem to care. Recently, paramedics rushed to help a woman who had dropped of a heart attack on the street; when an inspection showed her to be transgendered, they ceased work and stood by laughing and making jokes until the ambulance arrived. Horrified onlookers begged them to help the victim, but they merely laughed, and she died.
Often, the war within us is just as lethal as the one without. If men and women are separate, with a huge gulf between them, and those are the only two options, then where does that leave us? "When you draw a line between male and female," an intersex friend of mine pointed out, "that line goes right down the middle of our bodies. You might as well have taken a sword and cut us in two."
There's one other point to this story. It is Turquoise Boy and White Shell Girl's mediating, "bridging" abilities that allow them to save their tribe. They go where it is forbidden to go, and discuss what is forbidden to speak of, with an outsider's perspective, and this enables them to see the danger in the rising waters.
Every transgendered and intersex person that I know (and the two groups frequently overlap, as they do in my life) has found this to be true. When you step outside the small box you were assigned to at birth, when you've lived as both, when you've been sirred and ma'amed, worn skirts and shaved your face, borne children and learned to urinate standing up, the "war between the sexes" looks exceptionally ridiculous.
Pallas Athene was the progenitor of the "Golden Mean", the magical midpoint, the mediating concept that bridges the two extremes. There is no midpoint we as a culture need more than that between female and male. Listen to us, to the words of those blessed by Pallas. The water is rising. We must, we must all band together soon, before it is too late.
Raven Kaldera 1997
Raven Kaldera does astrology for love and not for money, because he's too busy writing, running an organic herbfarm by the Moon's signs, being a third gender activist, giving workshops to blow people's minds, and coping with a grand cross to take on yet another career.