If someone had told me as a teenager that one day I would present a paper at a Feminist Theology Symposium, I probably would have laughed at them. In fact, not just laughed, but a hearty, uncontrollable, belly laugh. You see, as a teen, I was not too impressed with being an emerging woman, let alone celebrating the fact or finding solidarity with other women. I was a "tomboy". I kicked the footy with the boys during lunch time and eventually went on to become an avid observer of Dungeons and Dragons. I was not interested in makeup or the latest fashion or even the to-die-for heart throb. While most girls my age had Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise or Johnny Depp on their bedroom walls - the closest I got was Tom Burlinson because he was rugged and could ride a horse like no one else in the Snowy River.
It wasn't just that I was not "girly", I actually resented being a woman. While other girls seemed to flaunt their developing bodies, I could see nothing to celebrate about reaching puberty. It all seemed more of a burden than anything. I don't remember if I said it out loud often, or whether I just told myself - "I wish I was a boy."
In my early adulthood, I resigned myself to the way things were and got on with life. I had never really experienced discrimination because of my gender and had pursued all my dreams without question. Looking back, I can only remember one Maths teacher who saw the girls in the class as a distraction to the boys, rather than a student in their own right.
Some years ago now, I was encouraged to attend a conference for women in the church. The weekend included guest speakers, workshops and creative opportunities. Although I enjoyed the input, I found myself confused by the feisty nature of some of these women. I couldn't understand what the battle was about that needed to be fought.
Today, I understand a little better. For me, it is not about equal pay or the right to an education, although I realise this is still an issue for many women in the world. For me, it is far more subtle. It is about the way that decisions are made. It is about who holds the power in a room. It is about who gets to speak and how. It is about how we deal with important issues in communities and how we look to the future. I am beginning to realise that there are more masculine ways and more feminine ways and everything in between. Too often, we fall to the default, more masculine ways of being. These are the sort of topics that I am interested in challenging and finding new ways.
So, I am going along and presenting a paper titled "An Inner Conflict: Towards Perfection or Wholeness". I am out of my comfort zone. I feel far from perfect. I don't feel like I have all the answers or perhaps even the right questions. I am nervous and running a tape of "You can do it" in my head. But, somehow, I know it will be okay. If anything, this audience should understand. I already have the feeling that the people attending will be encouraging, empowering and inspiring. Although it may have seemed like the last place I would find myself, it certainly feels like the perfect place to be vulnerable and take the risk.