As you may have noticed, I do my best to avoid unnecessarily assigning gender where it doesn’t need to be. I like to remind people that just because the card the Emperor is a depicted as a man, that doesn’t mean the energy in the reading is coming from a man. Men can assume the role of the nurturing empress just as women can assume the firm leadership role of the emperor.
However, I was working on a review of the Prisma Visions tarot deck (stay tuned for that at a future date) and I was writing about the court cards of the Wands suit. They’re beautiful and the figures depicted in the court cards are androgynous humanoid figures without any obvious physically gendered characteristics. As I was ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the progress of the wands energy in the Page and the Knight I simply referred to them as ‘they’ which is a gender-neutral pronoun that I’ve heard many gender nonconforming people use. And that felt very correct for those cards. But when I got to the Queen and started using ‘they’, it no longer felt correct to me. Not because a queen figure has to be a woman, but because if I didn’t use she and her, it felt like I was stripping something away. It felt like I was trying to erase women and that made me stop immediately.
I wasn’t sure how I could balance those two desires. I have no problem queering the figures in the tarot cards. I do my best, and I know I don’t always succeed, to question the gendered assumptions I am making about my readings. My approach, as an able bodied white cisgender woman, has a lot of limitations. I’m trying my best to broaden my understanding and to make my tarot as inclusive and empowering as I can.
So, although I’m sure there’s plenty of room to grow in this interpretation, I think where that leaves me is that the Page and the Knight will be ‘they’ but I’ll talk about my Queens and Kings as “she” or “he”. This doesn’t at all mean that women can’t be Kings and men can’t be Queens. Because they sure as heck can be. All I mean when I talk about these cards are the depictions on the cards and what I get from them. The Queen of Wands in the Prisma Visions deck told me that she is a woman. She didn’t flash her breasts in my face or talk about what was between her legs, because that isn’t what makes her a woman. Especially when we’re talking about a representation of an embodiment of energies, her physical body doesn’t define her.
This is much more about the role that the card is playing. The reading of these cards is also heavily steeped in gendered expectations of being too. Call into question the assumption that the empress is nurturing because she’s a woman. The empress is nurturing because that’s the energy that the card represents. Being nurturing and caring isn’t a gendered attribute, but that’s what our culture teaches us. Our culture says women are caring and nurturing and it’s their job to raise children and manage the emotional soft side of things. My job as a tarot reader, is to try to pull apart those gendered assumptions when I find myself making them.
The cards are representatives of energies. These energies are not essentially male or female energies, they just are. Assigning gender to them has helped us to conceptualize these energies and fit them into our framework of understanding. The goal we should be striving for is that we create a more just and fair culture that serves the needs of all participants in it.
Working towards that goal, it’s very important to acknowledge that gender, like sexual orientation, is not binary, it exists on a spectrum and people can move around on that spectrum. I want to make sure that the spaces that I’m in are inclusive and welcoming to everyone. That means that I’m going to question the assumed gender of the figures in my cards and respect that traditionally assigned gender roles are hopelessly outdated and need not apply. But, I need to make sure that I’m not erasing women at the same time.
Sound complicated? It is, but that’s the reality if you want to be inclusive. And that’s okay.
Want to read more about tarot and gender? Check out this post by The Tarot Lady: Gender Bending the Tarot. Also I completely recommend you spend some quality time with Beth at Little Red Tarot. Her Alternative Tarot Course is an AWESOME resource for Queer tarot stuff. And wander over to the Queer Tarot Project.
I’d love to hear your thoughts as well! Feel free to leave a comment or share an article or post you found useful on this topic.