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Friday, June 30, 2017

Pride Month Blog Challenge - Day 30

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 30: Anything queer you’d like to end this on :]

I don't know why, but this particular emoticon used in this circumstance makes me very angry.

Anything queer I want to end this on... um... I feel like I've already said all the things I would have wanted to say.

Being queer is great.  Cishets can bite me.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Pride Month Blog Challenge - Day 29

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.


I see they ran out of good questions to last for the last couple days.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Sacred Hunt Is Not For Me (And That's OK)

Long ago there was a critical piece written on a ritual called The Sacred Hunt.  This ritual commonplace at large Pagan festivals, in which people are assigned the role of a “Hunter,” a “Drummer,” or a “Villager” and enact a symbolic hunting ritual, ending with a feast served to the Hunters by the Villagers.  The main critique of this process is that, well, it’s backwards:  The Hunters should be feeding the Villagers, after all!  Why would they reward somebody who came home empty-handed, leaving the village to starve?

As I write this I want to wear two hats.  The first is as a Lover of Ritual, even ones that aren’t completely my cup of tea or of which I have strong critiques.  I mean, if you’ve seen me at a legal marriage ceremony, you know this… I get very emotional, and am willing to participate fully (including officiating them as a minister), even though I view legal marriage as a fundamentally oppressive concept.  The second hat is that of a hunter… by which I mean a literal, honest-to-Gods person who goes out into the woods and kills animals to eat their flesh.  Not only am I a hunter, I was raised into it, beginning as soon as I was legally able to at twelve years old.

The Sacred Hunt was something I considered participating in and then decided against.  There are multiple reasons for this.  First, the output I would get for the input I would have to put in doesn’t match up enough.  The Hunt is a lot of work, and there’s other stuff I want to do when I’m there.  Second, I already hunt, so I can’t imagine this ritual would be as meaningful for me as it is for people who weren’t raised into hunting.  Where I encounter this ritual there are very limited slots for Hunters.  Why swallow one up?  Maybe I’ll participate as a Drummer (as drumming is a thing I want to get into), but probably not a Hunter.  And third, because I do already hunt, the same criticism that I am addressing next does personally affect how I will respond to said ritual.  For me, personally, the hunt will probably ring a bit hollow, like an Amish person going to a reenactment village or something (I don’t actually know how said Amish person would feel about it, but you get my drift).

Still, despite my own feelings about it, I think this criticism is very unfair, both from an honest-to-Gods hunter perspective and a Lover of Ritual perspective.

From a Lover of Ritual perspective, it’s important to recognize that literal hunting is not something that can be very easily emulated, and yet that spiritual hole still needs to be filled.  Trying to think of ways to make the Hunt more like hunting leads to stuff that is much sillier than the Hunt is as it stands, if you think the Sacred Hunt ritual is absurd or silly because X, Y, and Z I’d like to see what your non-hunting alternatives are.  Like… are you going to hide carrots in the woods for them to stab and bring back to feed the Villagers?  Fight domestic bulls?  Come on.  It’s fairly obvious that this ritual is not about bringing back food, it’s about symbolically bringing back stuff that is way less tangible.  The Hunt is a metaphor.  If I’m going to rail against absurd metaphors, I’m going to at least start with the symbolic Great Rite or something like that.  It’s way more pervasive than The Sacred Hunt, something that the vast majority of Pagans have probably never even heard of.

But let me put on my honest-to-Gods Hunter hat for a second here.  Because I feel like people are making assumptions about hunting as an activity without really understanding what it’s like to be raised in a hunting family.  So many Pagans I’ve met who hunt didn’t start hunting until they were adults and may not even have friends or family who hunt.  I remember years ago reading an article that bugged the hell out of me, written by a Pagan hunter who wrote about his hunting experience like it was the definitive guide to how Pagan hunters are different from normie hunters, and almost all of it was better explained by the fact that he started hunting later in life, on his own, without being initiated into it by a community as I was.  Just like a solitary Witch has an entirely different experience than a coven Witch, a solitary hunter has a very different experience than a community hunter.

A solitary Pagan hunter who ritualizes this experience has the following thought process in mind:  In ancient times, if I failed in my task, I would starve.  My community would starve.  Not allowing us to starve is my personal, one-man responsibility.  This is the thought process that makes it easy to see a hunter coming home to a feast prepared as ridiculous.

But as a community hunter?  It’s not ridiculous.

My experience from twelve on up was this:  I am not a hunter with a high body count.  I have not taken home many animals.  I hunt on over-populated public land, the deer are now concentrated in the cities and suburbs (seriously, they are), and I want to make sure the shots I take are good ones that are likely to kill quickly.  But I am not a solitary hunter… I am a community hunter.  I always have venison for the year, because if I don’t get a deer my brother or father will.  If I come home empty handed, I may get teased, but that’s the extent of it.  And when I was a child, and my whole family (including my mom, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my brothers) we would leave the woods to a special meal.  Usually it was McDonalds (don’t laugh; this was a big treat for me growing up), but it could be a specially prepared meal.  Other hunting families I know, they come out of the woods to chili made with last year’s deer, often prepared by somebody who stuck behind or (if their family has de facto gender roles, as mine does not) their wives.  Maybe they get teased if they didn’t get a deer, but they aren’t somehow shunned from the community like critics of The Sacred Hunt imply they would, and they certainly still get fed.

“But Jackson,” I can hear some people whisper, “Hunting today is different from hunting in Ancient Times when not getting a deer meant certain deathhhhhh!”  Or maybe you’ll cite some custom in some random band or tribe you heard about once that had some taboo against feeding an empty-handed hunter.

And this is super funny, because it’s an extension of a very common habit among Pagans and other “spiritual people.”  They spiritualize activities that they associate with our ancestors without recognizing that people still do those activities, and those people who do continue those traditions can never be good enough if we don’t conform to whatever honor code or woo woo stuff the particular Pagan believes to be associated with The Hunt.  And the tribal citations are even more ridiculous, because they’re also borderline if not full-on appropriative.  There are lots of ways to pay homage to animal spirits and the spirits of the land without shallow emulation of. worldwide indigenous peoples or the assumption that rural folks who get a lot of protein from game animals are being disrespectful by not following your religious practices.

To sum everything up, there are some issues with The Sacred Hunt that make it not quite for me, but the bizarre assumptions people make in its critique also make no sense.

Pride Month Blog Challenge - Day 28

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 28: Write a letter to someone. It can be a coming out letter or a letter regarding how you hate their homophobia or whatnot. You don’t have to send it.


On Gendered and Genderqueer Mysteries

The result of the Men's Ritual 2017
At Pagan Spirit Gathering (and in most other large Pagan communities) there are gendered mysteries acknowledged.  This includes the following rituals and groups:
  • Yearly Women's Ritual
  • Yearly Men's Ritual
  • Young Women's Rite of Passage
  • Young Men's Rite of Passage
  • Mothering Ritual
  • Daughters of the Dark Moon
  • Men's Rite of Passage
  • Croning Ritual for Women
  • Saging Ritual for Men
In 2014 I met with some trans people at that PSG who were talking about the alienation of the men's and women's rituals; this was if I recall right the year after a trans woman was turned away from the Women's Ritual (they have since codified inclusion of trans women into all women's spaces and trans men into men's spaces, although to be clear trans men rarely are excluded from Pagan men's spaces to begin with).  They discussed a need for a gender ritual for trans and nonbinary people.  I explained that I was totally on board with this idea provided trans men and trans women were not told we could not go to our appropriately gendered mysteries or pressured to go to "the trans ritual," and that I would go provided it was not the same time as the men's ritual.

I hadn't gone to a men's ritual yet, that wouldn't happen until 2016.  One thing I learned in 2016, though, was that even though I am genderqueer and queer bodied, my maleness is still extremely important to me, and because of that full inclusion in men's mysteries is also extremely important to me.  My own iteration of genderqueer mysteries is, after all, basically men's mysteries with relevant mostly-biological mysteries typically honored by women incorporated.  I feel at peace and well in-place at a men's ritual.

So when I found out this year that there would finally be an all-gender ritual, but that it would be at the same time as the men's and women's ritual, I guiltily declined to go to it.  Well, OK.  I don't actually feel guilty about it, because it was reasonably well-attended.  To the organizers' credit, they were very clear that trans men and trans women were welcome at our respective rituals.  So I mulled this over for a couple minutes and went with the men's.  In fact, when I got there I was given a speaking part (I had speaking parts in I think three rituals this year).  We erected a bizarre wooden cone covered in prayer flags (pictured) and one of the organizers developed from submitted two-sentence stories about our fathers one of the most beautiful ritual pieces I've ever heard.  Since the all-gender ritual was a success, I do not regret going to the men's ritual in the slightest.

In fact, I left PSG this year with a more renewed interest in men's mysteries... even with the vagina and estrogen stuff thrown in.  I am strongly considering signing up to take part in the Men's Rite of Passage next year, although I'm sure it'll be exhausting and it will depend on my comfort level and particular gendered feelings at the time.  Although I shouldn't, I do feel awkward in my usual PSG clothes at men's mysteries stuff.  Sidenote: my partner is considering entering the lottery to be in the Sacred Hunt ritual.

In addition to Croning (for women becoming elders) and Saging (for men becoming elders) there is now Senioring, which is an eldering ceremony for folks who would prefer a non-gendered version.  This was really pushed as a thing in the literature we got before arriving, and I was very worried as the first inductee was listed as a trans woman.  I thought "Why would she not get Croned?!"  I did get the opportunity to meet her, though, and although I'm not going to relay the conversation due to privacy concerns, I will say that for this particular woman it makes sense.

Oh, speaking of which, this is important for more than just trans people, because a lot of Pagans are just not into gendered mysteries at all.  There are cis women who are absolutely repelled by women's mysteries stuff and woman-only rituals and vagina period blood magick power stuff (as a man who is into vagina period blood magick power stuff I mean this lovingly) and cis men who are alienated by men's rites.  They deserve to observe life milestones, too!

We did discuss the desire for more trans and gender non-conforming rites of passage other than this, such as a transition rite of passage or something for trans kids.  One of the issues is that Circle Sanctuary basically hears about the need for these things from two people, and the rest of us wind up kind of relaying through them, so there's a perception that this need is more niche than it is (I assure you there are lots of trans people at PSG including a fairly high number of kids!).

Oh, I mentioned at one of the daily Gender Liberation Meetings that I was working on figuring out my own needs regarding genderqueer mysteries and genderqueer herbalism.  I didn't connect with anybody on that who I wasn't already connected to, but confirmed that there's some interest in what I learn so when I get off my ass and document stuff, well, there you go.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Nudity, Consent, and What I'd Have Said At The Skyclad Ritual

Modesty picture... to avoid my
boobs being posted on Facebook.
Content note that this post does contain a picture of my bare chest which may be triggering to some trans people.

Note:  Most of the stuff about being comfortable with my chest is out of date as of May 2018 when I decided to seek surgery again, but it is still accurate to the time period I wrote it for.

My partner and I went to a skyclad ritual at PSG (it happens every year, it's called "You Are Beautiful Skyclad").  The premise is that we collect for a brief ritual in a somewhat secluded area when it's dark and at a pivotal part of the ritual everyone takes their clothes off for as long as they want in a judgment-free zone.  In addition, most of the time I wasn't sunburnt I was going topless throughout the week, something I did not do last year aside from a couple rituals in the dark.  I, like most people, worry about how people look at me.

Anyway, the skyclad ritual.  There was a point where we could voluntarily offer why we were there.  I considered saying something--and am kicking myself a bit that I didn't, because I think the attendees could have benefited from the perspective--but the weather started to turn and so we were low-key rushed and I wound up not doing it.

First I'll explain why I went to this ritual (albeit more in-depth than I would have had I spoke there).  After the second page break, though, I'd like to talk to some of the consent issues that occurred, as this is a recurring problem that got worse this year (at least from my vantage point).

Picture of me featuring a comically tiny djembe.
I am somebody who is comically nervous about my own nudity.  I even, in a panic, cover my chest in a tizzy if it becomes partially exposed in my own home, even though this normally occurs in front of my roommates, both of whom have access to pictures of my nude body on FetLife and one of whom is an ex sexual partner who knows damn well what my body looks like.  I kind of wish I wasn't that way, because outside of other people's perceptions?  I'm very comfortable with my body.

As a non-op trans person I'm in the position where to the cis gaze I look like a particularly hairy woman if I am not wearing clothes.  I went on hormones for a few years to grow a beard and deepen my voice, but since I went off them a lot of the changes to my figure are going away, and I don't intend to try very hard to get them back.  I'm chubbier than I wish I was, but aside from that, I'm quite comfortable with my body as it is.

That comfort  makes a lot of people uncomfortable.  I'm not supposed to be comfortable.  Cis people don't like it.  Trans people don't like it.  There is literal medical literature defining me as being inherently uncomfortable with my body.

Cis people don't like it because they don't like when trans people do not seek to conform to their body norms.  There's a huge double standard here... they also hate it when we blend in well, because they pride themselves in being able to "read" transness in people, but to not even try puts cracks in the fa├žade that looking like a cis person is the only way to be comfortable in a body brings cis people a lot of anxiety.  No, I'm supposed to hate my breasts so much that I can't even bear to shower with the lights on, I'm supposed to hate my lack of a cis penis so much that I will not leave the house without a silicone replacement strapped to me or let a partner enter me.  I was supposed to want to be on testosterone forever because estrogen would make my body squishy, and Gods forbid a man be squishy.

Trans people also don't like it, although to be fair I am willing to use more nuance with them than I would with cis people's garbage opinions.  Trans people who are uncomfortable with my comfort with my body are dealing with the weight of the aforementioned cis opinions.  They're worried that visibility granted to bodies like mine will impact their access to lifetime hormones and surgery.  If I don't need them, after all, why should Aidan's parents believe he does?  I do, for the record, worry about things like that, and I also worry that my body is triggering to other trans people, but ultimately it is not my responsibility to make my body conform to a trans narrative for other people's comfort, including other trans people.

I increasingly go nude at clothing-optional events for this reason.  It's not a bravery thing, and the prospect of cis people calling me "brave" for showing my clearly-trans body kind of annoys me.  It's me making a statement that I can be comfortable and not culpable for either cis or trans people's feelings about that.  It's also a statement for trans people that you are not obligated to pretend to feel uncomfortable with your body (but if you aren't, of course, you are under no obligation to pretend you are, either).  Trans bodies deserve the right to be naked at these events just as cis bodies do, and that's something I want to advocate as loudly as possible.

So on that note, let's talk about consent and creepers.  I was somewhat uncomfortable topless at first, but I got used to it fairly quickly (at least until the sunburn kicked in; I'll be looking into more effective ways of preventing that next year, which alas may necessitate less nudity).  There were some stares, and some misgendering from behind (I don't blame them; I do have long hair and an estrogen-powered figure, so my ability to "pass" is concentrated in my beard!), etc. but it was otherwise uneventful.  Other than the skyclad ritual and a few short walks to the swim area and to the bathroom (always done either in the dark or kind of obscuring my crotch with pool noodles) I did not go bottomless.  Maybe next year, if I am feeling particularly bold, but probably not... full nudity is rare at Pagan festivals nowadays.

But... there's a reason for that.  Well, lots of reasons.  And you know what?  I already talked about that on Reclaiming Warlock a couple years ago. I want to instead talk about some consent-related issues that occurred.

First of all, I was kissed without my consent... twice.  One was somebody I knew.  The other was somebody I did not who was excited because my magickal gift exchange gift was super badass.  But it's still... ugh.  I'm becoming more and more personally comfortable with touch as I talk to people more and hang out in the in-person community more, so there was no lasting harm done to me other than annoyance, but I shudder anyway because there are so many people with histories of sexual abuse who are re-victimized by this behavior.  I know you're trying to be friendly.  I know you're expressing that you're glad to see me or excited.  But please, please, please start paying attention to this sort of thing.

Second, there was a bizarre consent incident I witnessed at a workshop where a presenter performed a fivefold kiss (which involves kissing the feet, knees, stomach, breasts, and mouth) on a volunteer without explaining first what a fivefold kiss was... at least I don't remember him explaining it first.  I asked my partner if she had detected any consent to this and she reported that she had not.  So basically this woman got her breasts kissed by a dude in front of everyone at a workshop without any pre-negotiation.  Side note:  I'm pretty sure this could have been verbally explained.

Third, my experience is heavily gendered.  I got a couple stares from people who were probably confused about my body (most probably ultimately were influenced by the fact that I am also fat; my breasts aren't cisnormative even for a fat guy, but there are lots of cis guys who come close).  But these dissipated in the first couple days.  My girlfriend, however, reported that she got a lot of stares while topless, like gross leering stares including objectifying grins.  In the article I linked earlier I talk about this phenomenon under the "creepers" header.  I'll copy the relevant passage here:
I'm surprised at how little the original article touched on the whole subject of creepers, because quite frankly there are a lot of them.  Then again, people are often unwilling to point out that these people are creepers due to the unfortunate association of open sexuality with being more socially evolved that plagues radical and alternative communities (I'll talk a bit about that later).  To use an example, the very first time I encountered nudity at a public Pagan gathering involved a woman who was minding her own business only to have some dude grovel at her feet thanking her and calling her things like "Goddess" because she was nude, as if her nudity was inherently something meant for him.  When nudity brings you this kind of attention, it makes sense that people would put their clothes back on.
For the record, this isn't about jealousy or anything like I'm somehow made insecure by other men looking at my partner; we are a polyamorous couple after all!  And I'm well aware she's beautiful as fuck and pleasant on the eyes.  But this is something that she was very uncomfortable with.  Men typically don't experience the kind of laser stares that women do, so maybe they assume that they're somehow not contributing to a toxic environment of sexual objectification, but I assure you... you are.

I saw less kilt harassment this year, but that was likely due to the absence of Celia Farran, whose "Men In Kilts" song caused a rash of women shouting inappropriate things to men last year.  I'm not saying that this is a problem equal in scope to harassment of women, because it isn't, but as somebody who would love to one day don a kilt, it makes me extremely nervous. Sidenote:  I love Celia Farran.  But seriously  Tone it down.

In short, I love public nudity, but we still have loads of consent issues we need to work out.

Pagan Spirit Gathering Recap 2017 - The Basics

I normally write about this on Reclaiming Warlock, but since I'm all into this blog I'm going to just mirror my PSG-related stuff on both.  So if you think I or Reclaiming Warlock are plagiarizing each other... nope.  Same guy.

So I went with my partner to Pagan Spirit Gathering, a weeklong Pagan festival, village and educational experience.  It's in Tall Tree Lake in Vienna, IL.  I went last year as well as 2014 (when it was still at a different location).  It's something I really look forward to all year... like when I went in 2016 I'd been planning that trip since 2014.  It's a big deal for me, for a lot of reasons.

One of those reasons is that this is one of the very few places outside of my own home I really feel validated.  It's not that there's no drama or pain, and you certainly find transphobes and even homophobes, but I have this situation where I am very validated at home living with some very supportive people only to leave my house and be surrounded by people who may very well only tolerate me because I don't show them parts of who I am that may change their perceptions of me (I do, after all, need to keep my job among other things).  So a week in a context that is so overwhelmingly supportive and where I don't feel the need to hide anywhere is very valuable.

Anyway, with this year's PSG over, I collected some topics that I intend to write about in the next week or so (depending on time and motivation).


Nudity, Consent, and What I'd Have Said At The Skyclad Ritual - I finally went to the skyclad ritual this year. There were things I could have said during it that I neglected to, and wanted to go over those here.

Men's Ritual/All Gender Ritual/Rites of Passage - There were some great additions for trans and gender nonconforming people this year (and... why I didn't go to most of them).

General Camp Stuff - Problems we had with camp maintenance, setting stuff up, taking stuff down, stuff we should have brought, stuff we didn't really need to bring.

Green Wizardry - One of the workshops I went to that really resonated with me.

Little Things I Remember - Raffle, gift exchange, gnome exchange, stuff that maybe doesn't require a whole post but that was interesting.

Of course, I reserve the right to write more or less of these depending on how things pan out, but I'll start with this.

Pride Month Blog Challenge - Day 27

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 27: Your favorite LGBT blog/Tumblr/site.

I actually hate Tumblr with a passion.  I keep trying to use it for interesting new queer ideas and camaraderie with people like me, but "The Discourse" there is so bloody absurd that I wind up unable to deal with it and just give up and leave.  Right now my Tumblr blog is just used to whine about the terribly bad analysis that exists on Tumblr.

Right now when I log into Tumblr it's just a flurry of people complaining that nobody wants to accept ace/aro folks as queer (not all of them are, they can be valid without being queer, get over it), trans medicalist garbage, and recently I was looking at a general trans/queer hashtag to find some dipshit trans guy had posted an inappropriate video of him and his dog only to piss and moan about being kinkshamed when people complained about it.

It's a cesspool.  I hate it.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Pride Month Blog Challenge - Day 26

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 26: Your favorite gay joke (we all need to laugh at ourselves).

My favorite thing about this list of questions is how they sort of kind of attempt to be inclusive and then fail miserably.  So have my favorite non-monosexual joke:

Image of two American buffalo on grass.  Caption says "Dad, are you gay?"  "No, I'm bi son."

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pride Month Challenge - Day 25

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 25: The LGBT slur you hate most or if you’ve taken back a slur and used it as a definition, ie queer or fag.

I've taken most of them back before, at least ones that apply to me, although I don't currently use most of them.  I do use queer, and wrote a fairly in-depth description of "why" earlier.

I generally don't take back "fag," but I feel pretty neutral about it when used by queer people and I did use it in the past when I was really about using slurs for all my identities, not to mention I did identify as gay at the time (I didn't develop attraction to women until I was like 23 or 24) and although I would argue any man who loves men has the right to that word, it just doesn't really feel "me" anymore.

One point of contention is the word "tranny," which I used to use a lot back when trans people were regularly using it.  I really loved that word, but stopped because a trans woman said something about it being "only weaponized against trans women" and therefore trans men weren't "entitled" to using it.  As time goes by I agree with this less and less... I had had it "weaponized" against me, and see it used reasonably often by bigots whenever a trans man achieves some notoriety (if you think people don't use "tranny" to describe Chaz Bono or Thomas Beatie you aren't paying attention).  This word was also used by pretty much everybody not that long ago.  Kate Bornstein talks about it in this interview, and even Julia Serano (her work has driven a lot of trans discourse and words she coined are used time and time again to justify not using this word) used to use it in self-definition.

This word was defined as "appropriative" when used by trans men by people who assumed with no input from us that we didn't experience enough oppression to understand the word, during a time when basically all trans people were using it and cis people had already begun using it for us by association.  I'm super bitter about that.

But at the same time, I don't exactly miss the word, either.  The thing is, although I feel trans men were unfairly blamed for the situation, the reality is that trans people in general stopped using that word outside of a few groups (Kate Bornstein's people, for instance).  It just doesn't have the same radical connotation it did ten years ago, it's more grating than anything else.  So I don't use it and I cringe to hear it, but I do believe trans people in general are entitled to use it.

One of my favorite slurs that I despise is a combination of two of those:  "Trannyfag."  This was such a common word back in the day that you could find "trans 101" lists that matter-of-factly explained that "trannyfag" was just a general term for a gay trans man, which is super ridiculous.  I have yet to find a sillier reclamation of a slur than that one.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Pride Month Blog Challenge - Day 24

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 24: The stupidest argument/comment you’ve heard about gay people or an queer issue.

Once I was canvassing for SEIU in a building that also had activists for Fair Wisconsin.  There was this dipshit who was canvassing with me who started going on vomiting a bunch of bullshit about how he doesn't believe in same sex marriage because "if gays can get married it will legalize prison rape."

Friday, June 23, 2017

Pride Month Blog Challenge - Day 23

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 23: A queer image that makes you cry or makes you angry.

I get irrationally angry at this calendar that is going around Tumblr right now:

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Pride Month Challenge - Day 22

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 22: An LGBT image that makes you smile.

Pic I took of members of Bash Back at Milwaukee Pridefest several years ago:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Pride Month Challenge - Day 21

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 21:  Political Queer issue that is closest to you or affects you most.

I am not imminently, direly affected by most queer issues.  This is a privilege I have as a middle class, white, well-passing trans man who everybody perceives as being in a hetero relationship.  But every trans bathroom legislation push, bullshit school policy (I live in the Fox Valley of Wisconsin which is one of the focal points of trans high school student activism right now), and healthcare debacle puts a little chip in my confidence that it won't eventually affect me.

The ones that do affect me are not quite as widespread as others.  For instance, queer and trans inclusiveness in Pagan religion is very close to me because I am very open about being queer and trans in the Pagan community.  Medical access is also very important to me as somebody who has a hard time getting good medical care... doctors are unfairly stumped as to what to do with me if I do disclose, so I don't, which leads to moments ranging from the hilarious (a doctor tried grabbing my balls to give me a hernia test... surprise, I don't got any) to the downright fucked up (a different doctor decided that my complaints of uterine cramps were me trying to get a free hysterectomy).

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Pride Month Challenge - Day 20

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 20:  Maureen or Joanne? (Or your favorite Queer show or queer-positive show).

This feels like almost a dated reference?   Do queer kids still watch Rent?

I like Joanne and Maureen for different reasons.  Maureen's fucking obnoxious as a performance artist (she just tries too damn hard to be deep and symbolic), but as one of those folks bisexuals resent who really does want to be with guys and girls and others at the same time I identify with her in a way (although would submit she should totally try polyamory).  Joanne does a lot of good activist work as a public interest lawyer while also being a big fucking hippie lesbian, which is fantastic and crush-worthy.  She is also more my type as far as physical attractiveness goes.  I mean, god damn, look at her:

As far as my favorite queer positive show?  I'm super upset about the cancellation of Sense8 from Netflix.  It was like a gold standard for a queer-positive, trans-positive show.  There are some things I would change (I would ditch white savior cop, for instance) but the story between Nomi and Amanita is possibly my favorite trans-related story arc of all time.

Here's the thing:  All the other sensate characters are in these tangled love plots that involve them wrestling with whether or not they should be in the relationships they're in... Kala is all torn about her marriage because she doesn't love her fiancee, Lito's trying desperately to hide his sexuality, etc. etc.  It would have been an easy cop-out for them to make Nomi's story just as tangled and go the tired route of putting her through the drama of trying to find a partner who didn't hate her trans status or who was conflicted about it or some other Crying Game bullshit, but instead they gave her a queer woman partner who sticks up for her, protects her, and is solidly in love with her without any contradiction.  I don't think people give Nomi and Amanita's relationship nearly the credit it deserves for being as incredibly trans positive as it is!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Pride Month Challenge - Day 19

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 19:  Butch or femme?

That's a false binary.

But in all seriousness, I come off as very masculine but with a lot of feminine elements.  When I was a woman I definitely identified as "butch," though.

As far as preferences go, I like butches and femmes.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pride Month Challenge - Day 18

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 18:  Something about the queer community you don’t understand or have a question about. 

Oh Lord, here's a good one.  Buckle up.  You'll fucking hate it and probably whine on Tumblr about how problematic I am.

I find it baffling that people in the queer community have trended toward insisting asexuals (including asexuals who are cisgender and only have relationships with the "opposite" sex) are queer while also insisting that polyamory and kink absolutely cannot be queer identities.

Like people get so mad if you question why on earth these people even want to call themselves queer, a couple weeks ago I read the argument that the word "cishet" (an inoffensive word that just refers to somebody who is heterosexual and not transgender) is "weaponized" against asexuals.  But if polyamory and kink are not queer identities (and I agree that they are not), then I don't see how asexuality is.  None of these are sexual orientations (sexual orientation literally only identifies which genders you are interested in, it doesn't identify how or how often you like to fuck) or gender identities (because trans people have been a part of queer struggle since literally the beginning).  I'm open to the idea that the definition of "queer" is changing, but the idea that queerness is available to cishet folks just because they fuck a little different than other cishet folks is astounding to me. 
I have a really hard time seeing this as anything but appropriating queerness.

Most asexuals and demisexuals are queer.  I haven't really found an ace person who is cishet yet, so I'm not bothered at all by things like, say, asexual flags at queer events... but I'm fine with leather flags, polyamory symbols, and kink wear at these events too!  These can all complement a queer identity, but I have yet to read a convincing explanation why asexuality itself is inherently queer.  It's really fucking confusing to me.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Pride Month Challenge - Day 17

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 17: Your first experience with an LGBT organization or event (Day of Silence, Pride, etc).

I am having a continuity issue here because there are two events that stick out in my head, and I'm not sure which one actually came first.

One was a deplorable "Transgender Day of Remembrance" event in which we legit did nothing but watch "Transamerica," a terrible movie about a trans woman who is being denied surgery by a gatekeeping therapist because she didn't disclose that she'd had sex with a woman.  The movie acts like this therapist is doing something very normal.  She is not.

The other was an activist event with the student version of "Fair Wisconsin" in which we called people and went door to door trying to get people to vote against the anti-queer marriage amendment Wisconsin passed that year.  We lost.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Pride Month Challenge - Day 16

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 16: A picture from your first LGBT relationship or of your first LGBT crush.

I really object to the use of the word "LGBT" here, which is exactly why I left it.  Did somebody really just go through this whole question set and then just replace "gay" with "LGBT?"  Because not all of my relationships look "LGBT" to outsiders.

The first boy I slept with as a queer person I would prefer not to post pictures of in that respect.  We're not secretive about it or anything (just yesterday we were joking about his dick size and my humping style) but it just feels weird to enshrine it like it was A Relationship.  Plus he makes faces in all his photos.

I have no pictures from my very first relationship--which was same-sex for like a couple months after I came out--also he is an asshole and I would not post them if I did.

My current relationship is a queer relationship that looks like an average hetero relationship from the outside.  I've posted this picture recently but we're super cute so:

Pride Month Challenge - Day 15

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 15: Your favorite LGBT Queer quote.

 "You know what the best part about Sodom is? The sodomy."

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Pride Month Challenge - Day 14

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

On day 14 we explore: Your favorite LGBT Queer song or artist.

Although I'm sure I interpret it way differently than the song was intended to be interpreted, I absolutely identify with Saphin's "I'm Not Gay"

You’re only battered by my makeup and my magic wand
It’s all just pixie dust and blush
But if you kiss me baby the mystery will soon be gone
In a haze of sudden Love and lust.
And in the privacy of mind
You can Love just any kind

I’m Not Gay
But if I were I’d still Love you
I’m Not Straight
Cause the wardrobes too bland
I’m Not Bi
Cause that’s too many of you
I’m Not Gay
So will You hold my hand.

Don’t be afraid my dear come here
All the Mysteries will soon come clear
And In the Quiet of your mind
You can Love just any kind...

I’m Not Gay
But if I were I’d still Love you
I’m Not Straight
‘cause the wardrobes too bland
I’m Not Bi
Cause that’s too many of you
I’m Not Gay
So will You hold my hand.

Nobody’s business so, nobody has to know
Don’t have to be Bi, Straight or Gay, Hey hey...

I’m Not Gay
But if I were I’d still Love you
I’m Not Straight
‘cause the wardrobes too bland
I’m Not Bi
Cause that’s too many of you
I’m Not Gay
So will You hold my hand.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Little Pagan Camping Festival Advice

With Pagan Spirit Gathering coming up, and having been to a couple before, I thought I'd list some of the things I learned going to this event (and others similar to it, including non-camping ones) that any newbie (or oldie) should remember.

Take care of your health first and foremost, and that includes mental health.

If you're tired, rest.  If you're hungry, eat.  Drink lots of water.  Take electrolytes (bring Gatorade or take electrolyte supplements).  If you feel gross, shower or jump in the lake. If you're feeling drained because you're an introvert or an empath, duck out for a while.  And don't hesitate to go to first aid if you need help (I like taking this as a work shift, I might see you there!).  Doing All The Things is rejuvenating to some people, but not everybody.  It's OK to take it easy.

Take an electronics fast.  Also, bring a notebook.

How much of an electronics fast you can take is going to vary from person to person.  I understand that a lot of people use their phones for accessibility and other important things, so I would never advocate you try getting people to stop using their phones.  But if you can, turn it off or put it on silent.  Last year I kept my phone in my tent almost the whole time, and it rejuvenated my sleep schedule for weeks.  Keeping it turned off or in your tent will also prevent you from some common rude behaviors people enter into at things like this:
  • It'll prevent you from accidentally taking pictures of people who don't want pictures taken of them (something that is really common in today's day in age).
  • It'll prevent you from putzing on your phone during a workshop.
For me this is a great time to get some of my Pagan reading in, using the time I usually spend on my phone in study instead.

Relatedly?  Bring a notebook.  This is important not only so you can jot down any notes you have regarding things you learn at workshops, but to keep people's contact information.  Again, we're really used to being able to Facebook somebody immediately upon meeting them, and you may very well meet more people than you can remember off the top of your head.

Don't be creepy to the nude people and don't touch people without permission.

Last year wasn't a big deal (maybe because it was so hot that I'm pretty sure everyone was naked at least part of the time), but I gotta say, my first PSG it was super annoying to see there were some creepy guys approaching nude women thanking them for being nude (one of them bowed his head "namaste" style as he did it).  Seriously, if you do that, what's wrong with you?  Super creepy.

Personal note, not everybody who goes nude at a thing like this has a body you will immediately recognize as "normal."  If I see any of you rudely staring at my crotch because you expected to see balls I'll hex you (I'm kidding but seriously don't fucking stare at me).

Also, don't touch people without permission unless it's an emergency, like you put your hand on somebody's shoulder to direct them away from a golf cart that's about to hit them, I don't know.  That includes hugging (I don't care if you're "a hugger," not all of us are, there are also people healing from assault or other trauma and you have no idea who we are).

Don't try to go to every workshop slot.

Seriously.  Aim for one or two a day.  Before you're set free, look at all the workshops and when they are to make sure you make it to them (and don't accidentally schedule your work shift during that time).  But there's like, what, four workshops a day?  Don't sweat it if you can't make all of them.  Most people don't.

Broaden your definition of what Paganism and Witchcraft are... and what appropriate practice of them is.

It's really common especially for newbies to learn some really suspect information about what Pagans are and what we do.  It's not that we learn how to practice wrong by any means, we just develop a very narrow understanding of what Paganism is and notably what the ethics of Witchcraft are.  That leads to arguments sometimes, but more often it leads to really alienating statements by people who undoubtedly mean well but wind up excluding and demeaning whole swaths of the community.

Notably, keep the following things in mind:
  • There are Witches who hex, curse, or otherwise practice defensive or harmful magick.  Common interpretations of Wicca have made it really common for people to think "real" Witches don't do these things.  You don't have to, but it's a very traditional and sometimes very helpful practice.
  • There are Witches who are Satanists, and some of these own the term "Pagan."  They aren't doing anything wrong and in fact their organizations are at the forefront of religious freedom actions.
  • Not all Pagans follow the dualistic God and Goddess system of divinity.  More of us are hard polytheist (seeing the divine as several separate entities) than ever, and that's not all!  There are Pagans who are non-theistic.  They work with Ancestors, spirits, natural forces, etc.  There are also monotheistic Pagans as well as Witches who practice Judaism, Christianity, and Islam among others.  Don't assume everyone around you believes the same thing.
  • Not all Pagans practice Witchcraft!
  • There are queer and trans Witches and Pagans, and you won't always recognize us when you see us (example: A couple of Witches last year whining about the fact that PSG is trans inclusive by policy without realizing that I myself am trans).
As a general rule, my opinion on this matter is this:  If somebody calls themselves a Pagan or Witch, they probably have a real reason for that, and as such it is not my place to police their use of that term.  Just assume that if you haven't met somebody before you have no fucking clue what they believe in.  Hell, there are even people who show up (to support partners or families or because they just like the music) who aren't Pagans or Witches at all.

Bring enough food and package it well.

I seal all my food in airtight packaging.  It's not my norm (because it uses so much plastic, see next point), but when you're eating out of a cooler for a week trying to cook things from scratch it's really easy to not store things well and wind up with a cooler of rotten meat and mushy vegetables.

Take extra money as well, just in case things go sour and you need a backup meal.

Pay attention to your goddamn trash and don't take things there you can't take home.

One thing that's pretty consistent about PSG--at least the times I went--is that people are wildly disrespectful trash-wise.  It's really a harsh truth in Pagan communities that we talk a big game about loving the environment and then don't actually follow through.  Listen, the ecosexuals are wrong: You can't fix the world just by loving it.

I'm not saying you need to pack super light or avoid glamping if that's your thing, but know your limits based on your vehicle size and the amount of trash you assume you're going to generate.  PSG in particular does not have recycling, so please take recyclables home.

And please learn repair!  There have been people who have chucked whole chairs and tents into the garbage on the last day over really minor repairs.  Repair is such important praxis for the coming years; you an repair more than you think you can.  Darn that sock.  Tape that tent pole.  Patch those jeans.  Related note:  If you happen to see me there and something broke on you, feel free to ask me about it, repair is a big thing for me.

My New Men's Herbals Book Came!

I received a book I forgot I'd ordered: Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal Healing for Men.  I have a couple other Rosemary Gladstar books, including her earlier book for women, which I actually purchased at the same time (the men's edition just came out so I'd pre-ordered it).

I'm really interested in trying the powders because I think they'll be easier to take than herbs typically are for me.  I love herbs, but I tend to take them topically rather than internally, and only on an as-needed basis, because... well, they're annoying.  Tinctures are easy because you can put them in beverages, pills I can take with the rest of my meds, but things like teas and infusions I really forget on a regular basis.  So I'm thinking I'll make some of the powder mixes in this book just to be a regular addition in my shakes.

Herbalism for trans men is unfortunately a bit complicated as a lot of stuff is meant for "the male system" by which they mean cis men's reproductive systems.  This book, to be fair, has a lot of stuff that really isn't about that, it's more about things like heart problems, anxiety, headaches, and "potency" (the latter is kind of used to imply "the male system" but a lot of it is sufficiently vague to be used for trans men as well).

I'll probably mark up this book with little notes about stuff that trans men should be avoiding at various stages in transition, but I'm looking forward to reading it.  I've also decided that my "personal project" for PSG (thing I'll do on the off chance I have extra time and am not being lazy) will be to sort through these herbalism books to decipher which of them have said contraindications.

Note:  When this update was first written there was a whole section on dieting here that has since been redacted due to the acknowledgement that it was turning into an eating disorder.

Pride Month Challenge - Day 13

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 13: Your favorite LGBT role model/celebrity.

I'm leaving this one as "LGBT" because I don't know if she identifies at all with the word "queer," but...

Chelsea. Fucking. Manning.

Monday, June 12, 2017

My First Pride Parade (And Not-First Pridefest)

I've been out as queer since around 2003, and as I was very active in the local queer community for a number of years it should go without saying I've been to a lot of stuff.

I've been to festivals.  I've been to activist meetings.  I've been to conferences.  I've been to rallies.  I've been to marches.  I've officiated same-sex weddings.  But somehow in the past decade I've never gone to an actual parade, largely because I had no idea where Milwaukee's pride parade actually was.  So I go to Pridefest at the Summerfest grounds yearly, but have always passed on the parade.

Not this year.

As far as queer experiences go, I give it a B+.

We walked to the parade area and went to a gay bar where somebody handed out tiny pride flags.  I put one in my hair.  We were predictably very cute, even if the heat made my moustache fall apart in ten minutes.

Picture features two people.  On left there is a white man with a rainbow bandana and flag, a pentacle necklace, a button with a polyamory infinity heart symbol.  On right there is a black woman with a headband, sunglasses, and lip piercings.

Then the parade started.  The leader was a fire truck.  I don't know if this is a normal thing everywhere or if it's a Wisconsin thing, but parades always seem to start with a fire truck.
Picture features a fire truck in a parade, with MILWAUKEE T-1 in red letters on the ladder.

I was too close to the ground and there were too many people in front of me to get really good pictures of the floats.  There were a number of churches.  A couple corporations (but not an absurd number like at some of the bigger parades).  Some local school GSAs and oddly enough quite a few leather groups.

Picture features a man in a leather vest and cap holding a sign with the state of Wisconsin on it. Behind him are a number of men carrying leather pride flags, each with black and blue stripes, a white stripe in the middle, and a red heart in the top left corner.

There was a queer Hmong group that marched in it with super cool signs.  I'm regretting not having taken Hmong in addition to Spanish... I took Spanish thinking "oh, there's lots of Spanish speakers in the area, this will be a useful language."  It turns out that I encounter way more Hmong speakers on a regular basis than Spanish speakers, just due to the area I live in.

Picture features a group of Hmong people in traditional garb, one holding a sign that says Gender Queer, two holding a sign saying SAWV NROG PEB (STAND WITH US).

Anyway we then walked to the Pridefest grounds (which took quite a while and involved trying to get over a drawbridge that kept being drawn).  I'm trying to stick to a paleo diet, so food was a concern.  Thankfully there was a truck there that sold sticks of meat with slaw.  Admittedly I drank more sugar than normal, in the form of honey-sweetened sweet tea.  I noted at the parade that I was able to look down and see my toes, something I haven't been able to do in a couple years.

The picture also shows my shirt, which will be important later.

Picture includes a downward-angled picture of myself, wearing a black T-shirt with a five-pointed pentacle star, against a backdrop of pansexual pride flag colors of pink, yellow, and blue.

Picture features two paper dishes of skewers with pork put on them.  One has two sticks of pork over rice noodles, the other has three pork skewers over coleslaw.

I like noting the differences between Pridefest now and Pridefest when I first started going in I think 2007 or 2008.  When I first went there was no merchandise for trans people... maybe like one button.  This gradually increased and this year there were trans pride flags everywhere, and in fact there were genderqueer flags everywhere, too, something I didn't expect.  Although gauging how accepted people are based on capitalism is garbage, it does give a pretty good idea of how visible a group is to see who is being marketed to at an event like this.  Relatedly, there were a lot of people wearing trans Pride merchandise this year, because regardless of what cis gays think, a lot of trans people go to Pride events.

My pansexual pentacle shirt got a lot of love.  I've found pansexual pride stuff really makes you stick out in a positive way, like the first year I wore a pansexual button and people kept pointing it out.  One person asked where I got it.  The answer is Amazon.

I did get one glare from a gay guy when I had a photograph taken with my girlfriend.  Fuck that guy though.

Speaking of weird looks, on the way to the parade this guy walked past me, older guy with gray hair, clearly trying not to let me know he was staring at me.  As soon as I passed him I could see in the reflection of the building next to us that he legitimately spun around to look at me.  Fuck this guy, too.  Not sure what he was even looking at.  I wasn't even wearing my Pride stuff yet.  Unless he noticed the boobs, but I'm pretty sure they weren't noticeable enough on my frame.  The moustache, maybe?  I've never had anybody spin around over that.  Whatever.

Anyway, it was a pretty good day.  I got like 25,000 steps in (my goal is 4,000).  Heard some good music.  Saw one person I knew.  Got to eat good food and drink good tea.  Will probably go again next year.

Happy Trails,
-- Jackson

Pride Month Challenge - Day 12

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Question 12 is:Your favorite LGBT Queer movie (or one you’d like to see).

I do watch quite a few movies, many of which are not... uh... great?  But I'll put the ones that amused or enlightened me here anyway:
  1. My favorite queer documentary is "The Celluloid Closet."  "Paris is Burning" is also a classic.
  2. An interesting film I'd recommend any radical queer watch just once is "The Raspberry Reich." It is pornographic and has revolting acting but is insightful and interesting.
  3. A movie I like that I probably shouldn't?  "I Love You Phillip Morris," which features a pair of gay men who fall in love in prison, one of whom repeatedly breaks them out.  This is based on a true story.
  4. Probably my favorite queer movie of all time--and this requires a HUGE HUGE HUGE trigger warning for basically everything--is "Bent."  This is a soul-crushing movie about two men who fall in love in a German concentration camp.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Pride Month Challenge - Day 11

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Question 11: "Your favorite LGBT Queer or Trans book (or one you’d like to read)."

I read a lot, so I have a number of them.  Also... I mostly read non-fiction, so that will... uh... color this list.
  1. Favorite anthologies?  "That's Revolting: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation" and "Queering Anarchism."
  2. Favorite biography?  "Redefining Realness" by Janet Mock.
  3. Favorite book directed at queer youth?  Kate Bornstein's "Hello Cruel World," a harm-reduction based suicide-prevention book.
  4. Favorite religious book?  "The Path of the Green Man," a guide to Witchcraft for queer men.  I also like "Jailbreaking the Goddess."
  5. The only queer fiction I can remember even reading all the way through is "Brokeback Mountain," which is terrible.
  6. Book I would like to read?  "Evolution's Rainbow."

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Pride Month Challenge - Day 10

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

It's day ten and today's question is "What does marriage mean to you?"

I am an anti-marriage ordained minister.  Contradiction?  Kind of.  I don't believe that marriage should be a legal institution at all... all of the benefits that we get through marriage are things that should already be human rights (healthcare or the right to have whoever the hell you want with you when you're sick at the hospital, for instance).  But I am, I shit you not, an ordained minister who has performed legal same-sex marriage before, and I felt no conflict or hesitation in saying "yes" to that.

Why?  Because it's harm reduction in a heterosexist, marriage-happy world.

One of the things other radical queers like doing is centering same-sex couples when they rail against marriage.  And while I'll certainly piss and moan all I want to about the centrality of marriage to mainstream gay rights activism, as an institution--particularly as a legal institution--straight people are by and large the problem, crafting an institution explicitly to keep women in relationships with men they may or may not even like.  If she leaves, after all, she may very well lose a lot of benefits, as well as social standing (since our culture is also obsessed with divorce being a failure instead of a simple dissolution of a contract that doesn't work for either party anymore).

A same-sex marriage isn't about a man subjugating a woman and because of that is almost inherently less oppressive (at least in that regard; domestic violence, ableism, racism, etc. are not absent in queer relationships).  That doesn't mean I think it's "right" in the sense of being ideal, but I'm not going to focus on it like I did when I was a fresh new radical queer who was really into antagonizing anybody who engaged in any perceived assimilation.

On a personal level?  I would get married, or at least handfasted, just not legally.  Legal marriage does not fit the kind of relationships I want in life, as I'd wind up being branded a bigamist or adulterer, but spiritually and culturally speaking I think it's great.

An Empowerment for Genderqueer Mysteries

The thing about genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and even to an extent so-called "binary" trans people is that we all have the "right" to mysteries considered unique to men or women respectively.  There are people who disagree based on the idea that if we have access to both sets of mysteries we are in effect "taking" more than we're entitled to, appropriating things that we haven't experience or reject as experiences.  Which of the sets of mysteries we're supposedly "appropriating" depends on how trans-friendly the person making that case believes themselves to be... there's a noxious theme, for instance, of trans-excluding "feminist" traditions believing trans women don't belong in women's mysteries work, while there are also those who don't believe, say, a trans man should be anywhere near those same mysteries.

What doesn't occur to people is this:  A trans or especially genderqueer person who feels called to both sets of those mysteries is called to them for a reason.  This is at the heart of why so many cultures viewed third gender people as valuable, special, and powerful.  In short, we ourselves are aspects of both, so why not utilize both?

(Related note:  If you are trans and absolutely do not want to be associated with the mysteries of your assigned sex, that is absolutely your right as well.  Hell, there are cis people who hate those mysteries, too.)

If you are not in the category of folks who have a strong aversion to participating in them, I'm giving you permission right now.  If you're a trans person who feels called to either set of mysteries, or both sets of mysteries, even if it's not your lived gender, you're empowered to study that.  Are you entitled to, say, join a women's coven as a trans man?  No.  Are you entitled to every single gendered ritual that exists in every culture ever?  No.  But you can certainly read women's mysteries books.  You can read men's mysteries books.  And the same goes if you're a trans woman.

A blanket content warning:  A lot of women's mysteries books are pretty openly transphobic, by which I mean they explicitly talk about trans women (and men, but mostly women) in a vile, inappropriate way.  If you want one that isn't, they do exist ("Jailbreaking the Goddess" is a pretty good one).  Secondary non-warning note:  I have yet to encounter a men's mysteries book that excluded trans men, and a good number of them are actively inclusive.

Feeling anxiety about whether or not you've "earned" it?  Women's mysteries and men's mysteries aren't something cis people earn, it's a birthright.  A trans person by virtue of living as trans in a transphobic world has "earned" it through intense perseverance more than the average cis person has.

"But what if I don't have the 'parts' or cycles these mysteries honor?"  Cis people--especially cis women, who generally acknowledge more biological mysteries than men do--have come up with alternatives for these for themselves as a coping mechanism for things like hysterectomies and infertility for years, and those who exclude trans people from these concepts are deliberately being transphobic.  These concepts include things like spiritual wombs, following moon cycles, and simulating a natural cycle through birth control (the latter being something trans women regularly do) are appropriate ways to experience women's mysteries and genderqueer mysteries if you do not have the same cycles as an average cis woman.  And plenty of the milestones celebrated by women's mysteries--pregnancy, in particular--are increasingly eschewed by cis women.  If childfree cis women are welcome to honor their wombspaces, so are you.

Didn't go through the same milestones at the same time as cis people?  Don't sweat it.  Role-based mysteries are so archetypal that most cis people don't technically qualify either, if literalness were necessary.  How many men honor some sort of hunter figure--hunter being seen as some primordial male mysteries role--who have never even shot a bow and arrow let alone killed an animal?  Seriously, there's a reason those weird "Sacred Hunt" rituals are so popular, it's because cis people wind up not doing these things, either.

It's absurd that we would box ourselves into one set of mysteries when we are by nature supposed to be powerful.  We are the children of Agdistis, of Set, of Hermaphrodite, of Dionysos.

These mysteries belong to you as much as everyone else.  It's OK to own that.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Pride Month Challenge - Day 9

This post is part of a series originally called "30 Day LGBT Challenge" which asks queer-related questions to be answered during Pride Month.  The original questions can be found here.

Day 9:  What do you think about LGBT Queer Pride? Is it helpful or hurtful? Encouraged or unnecessary?

First of all I'll mention that this list started switching up all references to "LGBT" instead of "gay" despite most of the questions being directed specifically regarding sexual orientation rather than gender identity.  I associate "LGBT" with the most mainstream of the mainstream rights (not liberation) activists and rarely use it unless I'm referring to such.  So I'm editing it to "queer" to talk about my own experiences.  I also am going to talk about Pride the celebration rather than pride the thing.  They're related, but I wasn't sure which was being referred to in the original question.

Pride is absolutely necessary and anybody who thinks otherwise is either:
  1. Closeted...
  2. ...privileged enough to think their gender identity or sexual orientation is not a liability, or...
  3. assimilationist.
Assimilationists believe that queer people should behave just like straight people but while sleeping with different people.  They abhor things that make us look less respectable to heteros, things like nonmonogamy, drag, leather fashion, comfort with nudity and sexuality, and gender bending.  This itself is born out of privilege... if you don't need these things, if you can tolerate being a married monogamous vanilla cis gay, if you weren't inducted into the queer community surrounded by drag queens or leather daddies or some other "alternative" subcommunity, it can be easy to throw those of us who cannot or haven't lived that life under the bus trying to get Paul Ryan to like you.

(Note:  You can be a married monogamous vanilla cis gay and not an assimilationist, of course!)

The problem is that people who want to deny us our rights and liberation are going to try doing that even if we are married monogamous vanilla cis gays.  It's a total red herring, and yet time and time again you get these assimilationists coming forth saying we need to drop trans people so the heteros like us, we need to pretend polyamory doesn't exist so the heteros like us, and so on and so forth.  This is repulsive.

I do, by the way, have a love-hate relationship with Pride.  Pride is on the anniversary month of Stonewall, a literal riot against police by queer and trans people of color, but the celebrations themselves devolved into a gaping maw of capitalist exploitation, with white cis gays whining about things like how they totally want cops to march in their parades (uniformed cops at these events makes them unsafe for a large portion of queer people), being super drunk and disrespectful, and I've been sexually harassed more than once at them.  The Pridefest I go to in Milwaukee is also loaded with people who want to exclude transgender people, especially in bathrooms, leading to an incident a couple years ago with some ignorant-as-fuck security guards policing what bathrooms they could use (this was against Pridefest policy but they'd never bothered to actually publicize their policy).

So why do I still go and support it?  Because we need that visibility for people who haven't experienced it before.  When you've grown up in some bullshit insular situation with zero other queer people, or few other queer people, or where cishets are constantly policing you, going to a place where there are lots and lots of people like you, being proud and waving flags and singing and dancing, that's a magical, almost religious experience.

Currently I live in an all-queer household (we rarely even have cishet guests outside of blood relatives).  I don't necessarily imminently need Pride, because most of my day is spent in a very supportive environment where being queer is just normal and everyday shit.  But I do still enjoy attending--in spite of my problems with it--because I like seeing the joy on the faces of the new queers who haven't experienced that before, in addition to the number of old friends I see whenever I go to an event like that.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Pagan Spirit Gathering Excitement and Hesitations

In a little under a week and a half my partner and I will be off to Pagan Spirit Gathering, a weeklong Pagan music festival/camping trip down in southern Illinois.  I went to it last year and then several years ago to the weekend version of it (this isn't available anymore but it was a good stepping stone for me while it lasted).  Here I'm going to introduce some planning stuff, what workshops I'm excited about, and some gender-related hesitations and anxieties I have.

Planning Stuff

Most of the planning for this is already complete, and I've been starting to Tetris the stuff into the car.  Said car Tetris probably won't be as big of a problem as last year, because I hadn't taken the Saturday off the day before the event and had left myself zero time to pack.  This year I took off that Saturday for any last-minute stuff, I'll be spending the night at my parents to cut an hour off the drive, and I've already gotten a good idea of what things I won't need when I'm there.  So hopefully I won't be in a rush and me and Nakiiya can get on the road right away.  Last year I left at like 10:30 in the morning, which is way too late.

I'm anticipating that we will have a really sweet campsite as long as people don't steal my spot from last year; I wound up in the middle of this open-sun camping area that nobody else wanted to camp at, and it turned out to be perfect because it was equally close to everything and had fewer ticks than other places.  So I had this really nice, open area all to myself.

(That reminds me, I need to find something to do about ticks.  I have a natural bedbug spray I might bring, it has the same essential oils that would be used to repel ticks.  The only problem is I now associate the smell of geranium with a bedbug infestation I suffered, so it makes my skin crawl when I smell it.)

I invested in a couple things I'll be able to use next year (and I fully intend to, at least as long as I'm well-employed, going to PSG every year going forward).  The fanciest was a portable fire ring (I used bricks last year which took up a lot of space and weighed down the car).  I got some good chairs, Nakiiya got a grill.  I'm bringing some fire starters because finding kindling was not easy last year in my location.

A new thing this year is I'm bringing decorations, which is a big part of Pagan camping culture.  I have a big purple wall-hanging to drape over the tent and am considering maybe getting a chalkboard sign or something.  No idea if that will come to fruition.

I really pared down the ritual tools I'll be bringing.  Last year in a panic I brought my entire big orange crate of ritual stuff, which took up loads of space.  It worked out for me last year as it contained everything I needed for the activities I forgot to plan about, but it won't work space-wise this year.  I always have the instinct to want to bring ALL the ritual tools, because I have the mentality that having them in highly magickal spaces will charge them, but I rarely use anything but my statues and offering dishes (and some candles and incense) so it makes no sense to pack a bunch.  Plus, if I do, I can't buy any from artisans and have space to bring them home.

Speaking of which, I think I want a drum.  I saw very nice drums at the mall recently that I can afford and that aren't tiny, so I may make a last-minute trip there when I get paid.

Finally, I've decided--by "decided" I mean I already knew last year that this is totally my thing--that I'm going to be a healer again for my work shift.  It felt super fulfilling last year to be able to use my healthcare knowledge, and since I'm aspiring to be a street medic it's excellent experience to me.  I actually took twice the work shift time I was required to last year, just because a healer was needed and I happened to be available.  I'll also be donating some glucose tablets, I think, because last year during my two shifts I had a lot of diabetics show up with blood sugar issues.  That reminds me, I should make some sole water for the electrolytes (not for the first aid tent, which should have electrolyte tablets).

Workshops and Events I'm Looking Forward To

A couple days ago I made something for the gift exchange; it's a wooden spoon I woodburnt with a sweet pentacle design.  I woodburn all my wooden spoons like this as it gives me the opportunity to magick everything up, and I'm a big fan of blending the spiritual and mundane at every opportunity (in a way that doesn't proselytize, anyway).  I'm very proud of it and can't wait to see who gets it.

Last year I forgot about the exchange so I gave one of the wands I incidentally brought in my big orange crate.

I have a couple gnomes for the gnome exchange (one for me, one for Nakiiya)... one was the gnome I acquired at the gnome exchange last year, the other I got at Goodwill recently.  I actually brought last year's gnome on accident; I had a little flowerpot gnome that I was using to represent Earth in some fairy magick thing I was doing and it was, of course, in my large orange crate.

Somebody picked that gnome up right away, probably because it's small and they wanted to conserve space.

There's going to be a queer ritual put on by the Rainbow center folks; I volunteered to represent trans people in it although if there is a trans-feminine person who goes and wants that position I'd give it up (I know at least one trans woman will be there because of an event that's occurring for her but I don't know if she's into the idea of being in this kind of ritual).  I think other than the lesbian representative the speaking parts are dominated by guys.  I already got my inspirational ritual moment last year by participating in the main ritual.

The trans programming looks good this year, it's all put on by a pair of nonbinary folks I met my first PSG.  I don't want to go to all of their workshops but I'll probably go to some, and definitely the magenta luncheon which is for trans folks.  They improved the luncheon from last year by making it for trans folks and not just about trans folks (I still need to ask the organizers if my partner can attend this; my impression is that it's set up the way it is not necessarily as a "trans only space" but because last year it was dominated by cis people who wouldn't shut up).  There will also be a daily "gender liberation check-in" I'll probably go to.

I'm looking forward to the men's ritual.  I don't identify as 100% male as I did last year, but I definitely identify as mostly male or at least culturally male, so I feel I count.  I'll talk about some related anxieties in the next section.

As far as general workshops I'm interested in... if it's anything like last year I'll probably wind up not going to most of them and only going to like one workshop a day (especially if it's super hot and I just stay in the lake!) but there are several I'm interested in.  There's one on Dionysos I'm interested in (Dionysos being one of the gold standard cult Gods for gender variant people), a Tarot workshop (I "know" how to read Tarot but I don't practice enough), a polyamory/nonmonogamy discussion, and a couple others.  I'm still deciding whether or not to go to the fiberphiles meetup (I do knit and crochet).

The Hesitations and Anxieties

I may have mentioned a while ago that PSG last year was a big part of my evolving gender identity; it's basically the only place I feel reasonably comfortable topless around strangers in spite of my lack of top surgery and my expression changes a lot while I'm there (mostly because it's really hot that far south compared to what I'm used to).  I take it as a huge opportunity to dress differently than I normally would (notably, wearing less clothing than usual).

I'm actually very comfortable with my body as itself, due to divergent philosophy about manhood, femininity, and the origin of transness, but I'm also a product of culture like everyone else, so the prospect of people's opinions of me is scary... I can't go into a mode where I don't care what people think, and to make matters worse, the Pagan community in particular has some very deep strains of rabidly transphobic crap.  To give a mild example, last year I was at a vendor and had this whole mess of stuff that I was going to get (I was looking for some very specific things they had) and I overheard the people running the stand start going on and on about how the trans woman who brought up the exclusionary women's ritual a couple years earlier has been "looking for her fifteen minutes of fame" and some other insufferable garbage.  I didn't buy anything there, but seriously, it can be total garbage at times.  And I get off light, as a trans man (the men's mysteries folks are less exclusionary than the women's mysteries folks), somebody who passes fairly well (so nobody knows I'm trans right away), and somebody who--although genderqueer and gender non-conforming--doesn't really require myself to be treated different from any other men (my pronouns are easy to remember, I'm unbothered by being called "dude" or "man" or "guy").  The nonbinary folks who use neo-pronouns or singular they, or who don't fit at either of the gender mysteries rituals, wind up feeling very alienated.

Because I'm aware of the level of alienation, being very openly queer-bodied in the way I am is a stressor, even if I do want the same freedom as everyone else.  Last year I spent a lot of time outside of clothes, but it was mostly at night or right by my campsite, and mostly I was "lightly clothed" with sarongs.  Every year I also intend to go to the skyclad ritual, but never do, because I'm very nervous about it.  I suspect it may be easier with my partner there (confidence is half the key, after all) but we'll see.

Another issue I'm slightly worried by is if I wind up triggering any other trans folks, but the reality is that how we deal with people who are triggered by just the physical configuration of somebody's body is very nuanced, and denying myself the right as a trans person to carry myself and dress like a cis person would in this situation is unfair and cissexist in and of itself.

Part of me is probably just scared I'll wind up being the conversation somebody else hears at a shit vendor.

We'll cross these bridges when we get to them, I guess.

(Also, no way I'm swimming in clothes.)

Happy Trails,
-- Jackson