Let’s Talk About: Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd has always been one of those people who I felt like, maybe I should like him more than I actually do.  He and I are far closer on the political spectrum than Galina Krasskova and myself, but in the last year or so, I have discovered problem, after problem, after problem with him.

Until a couple years ago, especially noticeable before the launch of Gods & Radicals, he wrote a lot of more mystical stuff, bardic, poetic,…  It wasn’t really my thing, for the most part, but it was inspired and original and -most importantly- interesting.  Then, whatever the hell happened, his calling got upended and he’s since been rehashing Marxism For Dummies and a Cliff’s Notes of Starhawk, and it’s been trite and boring.  If you find this “inspiring,” I highly recommend that you actually read The Communist Manifesto and Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, and pretty much any of Starhawk’s works, because they’ve both actually addressed all of the issues Rhyd’s been talking for the last couple years in a concise manner, and better-written, and they actually come closer to offering viable solutions than anything Rhyd’s said…

…but then, when someone actually tells him that he’s all theory and no solution, he just hand-waves about being a philosopher, as if that actually addresses the fairly justified critiques.  I mean, hell, can’t he just Cliff’s Notes Marx’s solutions, or Guevara’s, or Starhawk’s, and so on — or would that just make it all the more obvious that he hasn’t had an original thought in his head for the last two years?

Yeah, probably….

Then there’s his social justice problems.

Yes, he’s been regarded as “SJW” for a few years, now, but here’s the thing (aside from the fact that the term has become as meaningless as “politically correct” has been since the 1990s):  He’s about as terrible as Tumblr thinks many male film stars are, when it comes to intersectional issues.

He’s got an established record of sexism and misogyny.  I’ve been told several accounts -both first-hand and eye-witness (or at least the Internet equivalent of)- and seen many of the “receipts” of his tendencies to just outright dismiss the concerns of women so he can tell them that they should care more about how the real problem is Capitalism, as if ending Capitalism is just suddenly supposed to end sexism with Anarchist Magic — I don’t know what gender studies histories he’s read, but sexism long pre-dates Capitalism, ergo, ending Capitalism won’t end sexism, no matter what Rhyd seems to want his readers think.  (As a quick example off the top of my head:  The Cyrenaics and Cynics were regarded as fucking oddball schools of philosophy, as women were held in just as much regard as the men in those schools — and that’s just the Hellenic world.  There are countless examples of how sexism reigned long before the institution of Capitalism, and how fucking revolutionary proto-feminism has always been.)  That pretty much is just Marx verbatim, when he pulls that shit — it might make sense in print, but it betrays a gross ignorance of the history of misogyny, and since Marx was talking from a position of male privilege, it obviously didn’t occur to him that ending Capitalism won’t magically make sexism disappear.

Stemming from his misogyny is his implicit femphobia.  If you think he hasn’t committed this, I ask that you consider:

  • The fact that he has, on several occasion, gone on and on and fucking on about how he’s gone out of his way to craft a burly, especially masculine/butch physique and image.  Shit, I’ve seen him go on about his own stench with more zeal than most trans guys marvel at their own after only several months on HRT — at least with trans guys, there’s the excuse that they’re basically going through puberty again, only a biologically “male” one, this time around, and they find the difference interesting and fascinating.  With Rhyd, it’s like he’s inviting us all to read some autoerotic fetish, cos he’s older than me, and the only other guys I see go on like that as in spank-chats.  This alone isn’t necessarily damning, but he frequently takes a tone implying this is far favourable to effeminacy — this is especially clear when he goes on about the folly of “identity politics” and his rejection of a “gay” identity in the fact of his clear homosexual inclinations.
  • Oh, yeah, and he’s also made a point to remind practically everyone that he’s only interested in guys as burly and smelly as himself.  These have been public Facebook posts that, like I said, read like the text profiles of dudes looking for cybersex and hook-ups.  This is mirrored in countless “No fats, no fems” Grindr profiles and Craigslist “casual encounters” listings.  Again, in and of itself, this isn’t necessarily bad, but our preferences don’t develop in a vacuum, meaning his rejection of effeminacy and the effeminate comes from somewhere.
  • Oh, yeah, and he basically admits that “faggot,” a word that is consistently used as a slur against specifically effeminate men, and especially against gay-identified effeminate men (and remember, he rejects the idea that his homosexual inclinations necessarily make him “gay”) and we see this language of “faggot” reinforced in LGBT+ spaces, in mixed spaces, and especially in any heteronormative spaces — shit, we see this in the 1984 film Purple Rain, as Morris Day calls Prince’s The Kid character, who is as effete as Prince, himself, a “long-haired faggot,” in spite of the character being heterosexual.  This is not a word that has been used against him — but he’s going to appropriate it, anyway, cos that’s just what white cis men do, is appropriate experiences that are not theirs to reclaim.  Guess that’s what unexamined privilege does to a person.

He’s also cissplained to me on several occasions (at least one of which is in the comments on this blog), as if I’m supposed to take this seriously, because he’s the big burly manly cis Man homosexual man, and I’m just the effete trans fag (though vaguely bi-, If I’m being totally honest — like a K5) with more skirts than Eddie Izzard.  Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if I were to eventually learn, some day in the hypothetical future, that he doesn’t actually take my male gender identity seriously for the simple fact that I embrace effeminacy while “real” trans men look like Buck Angel and Jameson Green and Chaz Bono and other masculine manly MAN men, and not like Boy George or Rozz Williams or Marc Bolan — transgressing cisnormativity is fine for cis men, but trans men gotta be Manly MAN Men, y’know?  I suspect he’d go there because I’ve heard this shit from literally every butch cis homosexual I’ve encountered, and a lot of the trans ones, for sure….  Sure, this specific thought is speculative, but it sure as hell wouldn’t surprise me, if it were true.

Now let’s get more personal for a mo’….

So, I’m not going to out this person publicly (they can do that, themself, if they wish to), but Rhyd has told at least one person, knowing full well they were going through a depressive period at the time, that you know, maybe they should just kill themself, cos there really isn’t anything else he can offer as advice.  Thankfully, this person didn’t take Rhyd’s advice, but there are just some lines a decent person never crosses, and I think that’s one of them.

The same person I also trust enough when they told me that Rhyd did, in fact, go out of his way to start shit with Galina and Sannion &co (which is probably, I suspect, what drove Galina into a knee-jerk reaction toward the AltRight — to be fair, her politics have always been fairly far to the right by anyone’s standards, but she’d been considerably more tempered in expressing this, and far less willing to turn a blind eye to some things before this last year and change) to boost hits toward the then-barely-past-inaugural Gods & Radicals e-zine.  This has been corborrated by two other people who were close-enough to the situation, at the time it was happening.  See, prior that, Rhyd was practically Galina’s golden boy, and even though she didn’t agree with his politics, she thought very highly of his work and of him personally, and often cited his mystical posts on his old blog, though I think Sannion referred to Rhyd’s blog from his own, far more often.

Now, as I said the other day, I made the choice to quietly distance myself from Galina &co over political reasons.  Though there was some misunderstanding last year when I mentioned something about it on someone else’s Facebook comments, I’ve really not gone out of my way to be a jackass about it; even my post from the other day, I spent a significant portion of the piece listing everything I still admire about Galina, even though I ultimately concluded that it’s better for myself to maintain some distance.  I never went out of my way to mischaracterize her snarky comments as an “endorsement” of Neonazi groups like the AFA and Stormfront (she and I were never all that close, but I’d certainly read her blog long enough to be able to tell when she’s being snarky and when she’s being serious).  I never decided to pick fights in public and through private emails, and then proclaim it was a “crusade against me.”

That’s another thing that seems to give away, no matter how much he plays around in Europe, how pitifully American Rhyd is:  Literally even the most constructive critiques of his words and deeds suddenly becomes, in Rhyd’s own words, a “crusade against [him],” which is painting any disagreement as an outright Holy War.  He and others may snarkily call Galina &co “the Piety Posse,” but Galina has a tendency to paint these disagreements as actions of disrespect against the gods, spirits, and revered dead — not against her person.  When someone calls out Rhyd for bad behavior, it’s not just a personal attack, it’s an all-out Crusade against him!  Even if you 100% believe that Galina’s talk about how everyone is disrespecting the gods to the point of practical atheism is all “performative” and she’s just ego-tripping, fine, but she at least has the decency to frame it as a defense of something other than herself she’s concerned about (my personal opinion?  Unlike some, I’ve met Galina, and I have witnessed the clear passion she has for her religion, which has literally brought her to tears — it’s humbling to see someone that devoted, and while I don’t like how fervently she goes after every perceived slight she sees against the Gods, I don’t for a second doubt her passionate devotion being anything less than 100% sincere.)  Rhyd makes no such pretentions — he wants you to know that any criticism will be taken as literally a “crusade against him.”

Now let’s go back to my comment about how he’s playing around Europe:  I really can’t take any of his talk about “revolution” seriously after he went expat.  At least when James Baldwin and Josephine Baker took off for France, they did so to escape the outright crippling homophobia and racism that held back their vocations.  Rhyd has a stable income through several avenues, so his ability to do what he loves has not been impeded; hell, even without taking his book money and other sources into account, he’s making enough on Patreon so as to exceed my SSDI cheque, alone, before the added Social Security Survivor’s Benefits that allow me to live on my own, and this income is, as best as I can tell, just for being Rhyd Wildermuth.

…but I digress:  He’s made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that he’s written off the States as a “sinking ship,” and that’s why he’s left the country — what this translates as, to me, is “I’m privileged enough to bail after I got mine, and I know the current administration is going to literally kill people, but oh well, I got bored with my old job as a social worker, where I could have at least tried.  I’d rather get paid to buy the hype about myself and climb up Druid Mountains and then make callous remarks about how the disabled just, well, have to die, cos I’m not afraid to die, and if you got paid hundreds of dollars a month to gallivant about Europe, you too can have these spiritual epiphanies and be fine!  Ah well….  Good luck, and thanks for all the fish!”

His most recent bullshit catching him hell from a steadily increasing number of people on Facebook really reminds me of every bourgie uni student who goes on a spiritual tourism of South America or parts of Asia or Africa, and then bores you to death with stories of their exploitative “spiritual awakenings” — you know, the kinds of people he likes to snark on cos of their unexamined Colonialism, and while he doesn’t really seem to express that specific characteristic in his recent rodomontades, his arrogance and pretentions are about on-par with those kids back-packing across the slums of Southeast Asia on Daddy’s dime.

Again, he and I are mostly on the same page, politically, but I just never really liked the guy, and the more I learn about him, the more justified I feel in this.  He’s like the anti-Galina, in this sense — I never really liked him all that much, even though we’re generally in agreement on politics, while I like her on a person-to-person level, but I just ran out of spoons to deal with her politics and the toxic alliances she’s formed since this falling-out with Rhyd (which, as I’ve assessed from those who were close-enough to the situation to know more, was completely of Rhyd’s design and intent to create).  In simplest terms, to call Rhyd “a real asshole” is one of the nicer things I could say about him, and generally speaking, the more I think about him, the angrier I get — makes me glad I’m not Bruce Banner, I have too many nice clothes and irreplaceable concert t-shirts.

[This post had some typos corrected and a few relatively minor revisions for clarity on 2017-06-30 @02.07]

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Bubble Talk

Seriously now, Jason Mankey?

While I can certainly see his food intentions in “Beyond The Bubble”, and I guess it’s nice that he closes with an assurance that he calls out bigotry, there’s a big difference between a white, cis, ostensibly able-bodied, het-passing male who galena to be pagan declaring that he’s friends with Trump supporters, especially with talking about the assumed necessity needed in order to work with others, and the implications that this is a task all us grown ups should take on, and the reality faced by those of us who don’t share those privileges with him standing up and leaving the room because we just don’t feel safe there.

I cannot remain friends with someone who thinks it’s OK for another to say queerphobic, racist, sexist, ableist, and so on, because even when it’s not things that would directly affect my safety, it would threaten the safety of others I hold dear.

It’s great when someone wants to be a mediator, but we all have personal lines in the sand that we have to draw as a matter of protecting our physical, emotional, and spiritual health, and it does no-one any good to chide others for “living in a bubble” because they’re doing what they need to do to take care of themselves.

While there is certainly something to be said for breaking out of one’s comfort zones, it’s only a decision you can make on your own, not because some guy on the Internet with a lot more privilege than most pagans says it’s self-defeating to “live in a bubble.”

Respectability and the Convert Identity

First of all, I want to congratulate Bekah Evie Bel of Hearth Witch Down Under for her adept dismantling of John Halstead’s blog response to my comments —his own post basically translates to “I’m not trying to police people’s behaviour, but let me give you a textbook justification of respectability politics.”  Feel free to see for yourself, and then judge whether or not his rodomontade seems at all in line with the inagural Gods&Radicals essay by Jason Pitzl.

I also feel I should expand from Bel’s thoughts, as well as another FB friend’s, to springboard the rest of the post.

Halstead goes on at length about how we should respect ourselves to get respect, implying all over the place that folks like Phelan MoonSong seem to lack this self-respect that Halstead alone is the judge of.  I’ll have to disagree with that, and here’s why:

First off, it takes a lot of self-respect to maintain such a flambouyant appearance for the many years MoonSong has claimed.  Someone without much self-respect tends to care very little for their personal appearance, and MoonSong obviously cares a great deal for his own.  A person lacking in self-respect has a hard time asserting their rights – again, MoonSong has demonstrated that he is dedicated to asserting his rights.  Clearly, self-respect is something that MoonSong either possesses, or is very good at faking (though I doubt he’s faking it).

Furthermore, the idea that respect from others will be a given when one has sufficient self-respect is just preposterous.  Nothing in this life is a given, and it reeks of victim-blaming those who are routinely disrespected for nothing more than being true to himself.  That’s the kind of attitude that blames Matt Shepherd for being murdered (“if he’d just stayed in the closet!”) or the countless trans women on the annual Lists of Our Dead whose only crime was existing (“if only they didn’t just rub that lifestyle in everyone’s face!”)  The proper response isn’t to suggest that the status quo lacks respect for the pagan movement because of the weirdoes, but to challenge the status quo to be more tolerant of the weirdoes.  It is pure folly to believe that the oppressed have ever gotten the respect of their oppressors by mimickry.

Also note how absolutely no-one supporting Phelan MoonSong is saying that all pagans and polytheists must dress flamboyantly, unless that’s what one feels compelled to do to be true to oneself.  We’re not playing the No True Pagan game.  We’re not saying those pagans and polytheists teaching at universities in suits and ties and Fred Rogers sweaters are making us “look bad.”  In fact, we’re saying the opposite:  We’re saying to be true to oneself – if that means taking the call to modify one’s appearance as an act of dedication to one’s god/s, awesome, and if that means teaching Philosophy at a prestigious university, that’s also awesome.

Commenter kenofken made a comment on Bel’s post that I think touchesw on some important things in this latest pagan blogosphere debate, though:

Basically what John Halstead and the other respectability politicians want, what they feel entitled to, is to reorder the Pagan movement into affirming, Safe For Work, socially progressive, Moral Therapeutic Deism churches. They want us to be goddess-haunted versions of the United Church of Christ or Presbyterian Church. They don’t want real-life Pagans. They want the sanitized Disney version. They don’t want to be labeled as the blue noses and advocates of conformism they are, so they couch their crusade in terms of “It’s time to get serious and act like adults.”

[link]

and also…

it seems to me that the most vociferous and dismissive criticism of Moonsong seems to come from non-theistic Pagans, if not outright secular humanists. They have no experience of the gods nor even acknowledge their existence as substantive beings. Of course it’s very easy for them to dismiss the idea that a deity would command a man to wear goat horns on his head 24/7, or that any sane or serious man would heed such a call if it came. Those of us who identify as “hard polytheist” do not find Moonsong’s assertions so hard to believe. We know that gods and goddesses interact with people in highly individual ways. Moonsong’s relationship to Pan or his ministry may indeed not be typical, but neither is it beyond the pale.

Those of us who dedicate ourselves fully to a god, or are chosen by one are not infrequently commanded to things FAR more arduous or inconvenient or silly than wearing goat horns. If you value your relationship with that god or goddess, and trust them, you do it. The fact that that deity is not known to routinely command that thing from his or her followers has no bearing on the legitimacy of that calling. Only the one follower knows whether it’s real or not, and even that can take some hard discernment. The rest of that god’s followers and Pagandom generally is free to reject, accept or ignore the situation.

It’s worth noting that this is in no way unique to Pagan religion. Every prophet and most saints in the Christian tradition were individually called to do things which were bizarre and uniquely bizarre. In the 4th Century, a Catholic monk named Simeon decided regular monastic life was too soft for him. He ended up in Syria, where he climbed a 20 foot pillar of rock, built a one-meter square platform and stayed up there praying and doing his thing for 40 years until he croaked. I was raised Catholic and I was a pretty good theology student, and I can tell you that nowhere in the New Testament or Canon Law or anywhere else in Catholic tradition are followers commanded nor even encouraged to sit on top of a rock for four decades. By your measure, Simeon must have been nothing more than an attention-hungry fruitcake. And some thought he was, including his original religious order. The church evidently saw something deeper in it as they made him a saint…

[link]

Now, this topic also reminds me of something The Dionysian Artist pointed out on Facebook:  It is common for pagans to make some attempts to make even the slightest modification to their appearances upon conversion.  This is not a phenomenon unique to pagan religions – it’s been noted amongst all manner of religious conversion that the converts often (note: not universally) attempt to one-up those who were raised in the religion.

Think about it – whether it’s something as simple as wearing a triquetra or pentagram pendant, a subtle tattoo easily concealed, or just being more mindful of what one eats and wears, or even taking up yoga.  It’s fairly common for pagans to mark outselves in all manner of ways.  It’s almost impossible to throw a rock in any direction at a pagan gathering without hitting someone wearing an ankh or pentagram, or Thor’s hammer, or Celtic knot on their person (in some form).  Considering those who undertake in ordeal rituals, glue-on goat horns is actually kind of tame, even if he wears them full-time, and the scars from ritual suspension are often easily concealed by the average t-shirt, but the amount of ordealists who blog about their own, even under their legal names, makes it hard for those in-the-know to think that goat horns are all that strange.

To mark myself as a spouse of Eros, I’ve tattooed His name in Greek letters across my right knuckles and have made an effort to wear a nose chain frequently (though not daily).  As the first teacher of Erotic Hedonism, I’ve tattooed a Luna moth (Nys and psyche) sitting atop a purple thread (the Moirai) wound about a an arrow with heard-shaped head (Eros) on my left forearm, and for Apollon, I have ravens on my shoulder (though this also expands on an old “Nevermore” tattoo I’ve had since I was 22).  As an Hedonist devotee to Adonis (Who is said to have laid as a woman with Apollon) and Eros Diphuēs, I’ve been forbidden to cut my hair, and compelled to transvestism, including keeping my nails as long as I can manage.  These all are at risk to respectability – tattoos visible outside what’ve covered by the average t-shirt are still given pause, even on men, and especially on the hands.  The effeminate and even high femme appearance puts a further divide between myself and other trans men – even in jeans and a polo (during my brief “I’m not a Goth anymore” phase), something still struck a  of trans guys as incredibly femme about me, which pissed them off, and certainly met me with several disparaging comments from questioning my gender identity to even accusations of how being a femme guy, “if” I manage to transition to male (gee, it’s almost like they expected me to be gatekept – joke’s on them, I’m having my hysterectomy, next month), I’d just make the rest of them look like girls who want a dick, and not like men.

My Erotic Hedonism tattoo is subtle, and most people just think it’s pretty and, since it’s a luna moth, that it’s just a pretty goth tattoo.  The Eros tattoo hasn’t gotten much comment in the local community, but the local meet-up (now on hiatus) had one of those elusive African American Wiccans, so knuckle tattoos are obviously not what everyone is finding so remarkable.  The transvestism juxtaposed with a FTM history is more contentious in the trans community than the local pagan community.  Still, though, I certainly look weird, and am used to others using my unconventional appearance to question my “seriousness,” as an “adult.”

Devotional polytheists and pagans are far more likely to take our mark further than a pendant or subtle generic-pagan-symbol tattoo.  Whether Phelan MoonSong identifies with the devotional movement or not, he’s certainly made himself a visible representation of those in the devotional movement within paganism who have been compelled by our gods to, let’s be frank, look weird.

To him, though, it’s not “too weird,” it’s a fair and justified display of reverence to Pan.  Why that is “too weird” for some people, but my tattoos and transvestism barely get a mention seems a completely arbitrary reflection of the overculture – tattoos have become more-acceptable, and cross-dressing isn’t something I clearly engage in daily, so why bother saying anything about it, right?  Thing is, twenty years ago, that was not the case, and those who see little issue with my own appearance, but object to the publicity Phelan MoonSong has received would certainly have, in the mid-1990s, be having the same objections to my own hypothetical publicity:  A cross-dressing goth with tattoos on his hands?  That makes “us” look bad!  Just so silly, he’s doing it for attention!

Thing is, though, literally every way we visibly “mark” ourselves to show religious reverence – even something as simple as a necklace – is done so knowing it’ll almost certainly get us attention for it.  When those “discrete, concealable” pentagram charms wriggle out of our shirts, other people notice, even if we aren’t asked.  Same with the Thor’s hammers (which, in many circles, don’t necessarily signify Heathenry, but White Supremacy), the Tree of Life, and even Triquetra knots.  When we dare to say what is “too silly” for the pagan religious movement, not only are we suggesting that “paganism” is some unified religion that it is not, we’re setting up a precedent that just about anything is going to be “too much” to fit in with the status quo.  That’s the trap of respectability politics:  Ultimately, nothing we do is conservative enough to fit in, until we abandon our religions and start going to church.

No-one has the right to tell another person what self-respect looks like.  Visible tattoos are becoming normalised not by removing those with them from view, but by saturation.  Most employers no longer bat an eye at blue hair, because it’s been gradually normalised over the last thirty years.  Both of these examples have been disparaged by critics as somehow signs of “no self-respect,” and now are increasingly part of everyday life in the West; they became that way not by kow-towing to the status quo, but by challenging it to tolerate these things.

It greatly disappoints me that people who should know better are obstinately giving platform to someone who endorses and defends respectability politics, essentially further normalising it in their allegedly anti-Capitalist movement.

When Your “Traditional Polytheism” Isn’t

  • When you ignore the historical, archaeological, and even genetic evidence of not just trade, but intermarrying between pre-Christian societies dominating Europe, and frankly everyone they traded with.
  • when you make shit up, and pretty transparently so. Like, what even is this shit? Especially when it’s so easily disproved, and, frankly, ludicrous. (See also this page from Viking Answer Lady, who has done a lot of research, for a more conversational tone.)
  • When you say shit like “white / European heritage” — there is literally no such thing. Even today, even with the European Union —a formalised political alliance, not unlike formalised alliances of ancient times— there is no such thing as this mythical “European culture” that is simply a code for white supremacists / separatists to identify eachother and attempt to veil their own racism. There is Greek heritage, French heritage, Welsh heritage, Albanian, Icelandic, Spanish, Basque, and so on. Frankly, even before WWII, most people of European nations were far kinder to those of the African diaspora, especially African Americans, than those in the US; singer, actress, and dancer Josephine Baker emigrated to France in the 1920s, and rather swiftly entered high society, marrying (white) Frenchmen. The idea of keeping “races” (which has a tellingly different definition to Americans than it does pretty much everywhere else in the world) separate is born of white supremacism.
  • When you make claims of wanting to emulate how things work with polytheists in European countries, but a modicum of research into even the reconstructionist groups in Germany (for example) show, no, you’re a LOT more racist, and so is your group.

Feel free to recommend me other items to this list. I’m sure there are other examples I haven’t thought of.

A Contradiction

“Nontheistic theism” literally means “a belief about gods without gods”. No amount of doublespeak can make that anything but a contradiction. Ergo, to call “nontheistic polytheism,” in any way, “polytheism”[1][2][3 is a gross display of intellectual dishonesty, at most, or just a case of stupidity via “special snowflake” syndrome, at least.

While many words are, by nature, flexible, they still mean things. While a living language must remain relevant to remain, there’s a phrase relatively common to English:

Don’t keep your mind so open your brain falls out.

“Nontheistic theism” is therefore a performance of doublespeak to confuse and control.

One is either a nontheist or a theist. It’s like claiming to be both a giant and a dwarf, simultaneously; it is literally impossible to be both at once. While one could, hypothetically, cite the extraordinary case of Adam Rainer, the only person on record to’ve been, as an adult, classified first as a dwarf, and then as a giant, by his doctors, he never existed as both, simultaneously — first he was a dwarf, standing 3’10½”, then he was a giant at 7’8″. I have a mild form of acondroplasia, resulting in slightly disproportioned limb-to-torso size proportions, a distinct form of spinal curvature, and a bowing to my knees — but at 4’11”, I am literally an inch too tall to be a dwarf, and I am a far cry from being a giant; to call myself a “giant dwarf” may be a cute oxymoron I might say in jest amongst friends who know of that condition I have, the reality is that I am neither, but I’m closest to being the latter half of that phrase (dwarf), as I have one of the conditions commonly associated with dwarfism.

I get that polytheism is all cool and stuff, right now (and having been interviewed through a handful of pagan and polytheist outlets, I wouldn’t be surprised if my name had a tiny spark in fostering that, though there are absolutely bigger names than mine, in that regard), and certain people desperately want to be a part of our movement — can’t say that I blame them, we’re cool as shit, but like dwarfism to myself, they’re technically not polytheists, though they may use certain language of polytheism in their own spirituality (I hesitate to call a practise without real theism “religion”, but given the common euphemistic uses of “doing a thing religiously”, I’ll give people who would call it that an understanding). Hopefully, like Hot Topic in 2005, they’ll discover “the money” is in something new and different, and drop their appropriation and misuse of our movement for something else, as they acknowledge that their heart wasn’t as much into polytheism as it was into grasping for relevancy attached to their name within the greater pagan social movement.

It was meant to be

A friend of mine is childfree. He doesn’t want children for a number of reasons, most important being, he doesn’t like them. He made the choice some years ago (well, at least a decade-plus, now) to have a vasectomy. He has several members of his family who are very fundamentalist Christian, and believe it’s everyone’s good Christian duty to procreate, at least enough to replace themselves; whilst he and I have no issue with this belief, in and of itself, as long as people don’t try and push it onto the unwilling, but we both believe that it is, to varying extents, irresponsible to bring more children in this world than necessary when the population is reaching critical mass — but this is a philosophical point that is, of course, another story for another time. When he’s been at reunions with his family, there’s always at least one person who tells him that he’s going against “[their] God’s will” by having had a vasectomy.

Now, my friend, let’s call him Bill (it’s a variant of his name, though he doesn’t go by that), went out to have his vasectomy, but there was a co-pay on his insurance of a couple hundred dollars. He had no issue paying this, but they were going to send him the bill later. His bill never arrived, but the late notice to pay it, with late fees, did, so he sent out the cheque. A month or two later, he noticed that his cheque never cashed, so he called the hospital to see if there was a problem. The person he’d talked to said that their records showed that he’d paid in full, on time, and was actually due a refund for overpayment.

This is relevant, because he brings up this story every time a wacky Christian family member decides to tell him his vasectomy is against “god’s plan” — clearly some god or another had decided that Bill was correct in his choice not to put any children on this world, and thus offered to reward him.

Now, I bring up Bill because when I first started transitioning — hell, even still, my primary income is Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), and he knows that pays just enough to keep a person off the streets — if one is lucky to get even that much. When I first started, while he’d known for years that this was a long time coming, his concern was for my finances, so I pointed out several facts about my own transition:

  • Prior my chest surgery, my bra size was 38K. Standing at 4’11” with measurements, at the time, at about 62-28-38, this made them roughly the size of my own head. Medicare covered this surgery under a loophole necessitating that it be billed as a “breast reduction” and performed by a surgeon willing to do FTM chest recon whilst billing this as the essentially identical (save for the amount of tissue removed, the basics of the procedures are identical), but covered, procedure. I paid nothing out-of-pocket. Not even for my nipple revision
  • For some reason, Medicare was covering my ‘mones before Medicare officially covered ANY trans procedures. I still don’t know how that happened, but getting a ten-dose vial approximately once every other month, since October of 2007, my Medicare D co-pay had been $1.20/vial, has totalled $64.80 — this has been over the course of nine year, and he first brought up this concern to be about three years ago, when it had cost me a total of $43.20.
  • Over the last two years, I’ve also discovered that while Michigan’s legal name-change would cost in the area of $350, out-of-pocket, being a disabled person whose primary income is SSDI, this is covered by the State, for certain qualifying reasons — including gender confirmation. While I technically still had to pay the fingerprinting fees, my lawyer, who is doing this as a pro-bono assignment, decided to reimburse me the $15 fee out of petty cash.
  • About two years ago, Medicare finally approved gender confirmation procedures. This means when I’m finally up on the waiting list for my hysterectomy and vaginectomy, this, too, will be covered, as well as any genital reconfiguration I may choose, after that.

To date, I haven’t even paid $75 for my transition, even during the six or seven years, in theory, nothing was being covered.

I then reminded Bill of his vasectomy, and how, due to hospital error (and potential Powers That Be), he actually got paid to get it done. Since my own transition was carefully documented on government forms, it’s unlikely anyone will be paying me my $65 back, with interest or whatnot, but still, clearly this is something that –even at a time it “shouldn’t have been covered– I paid almost nothing for it.

He conceded, suggesting, “well, you being [polytheist] and all, there’s clearly Someone out there Who wants you to do this, so I guess I stand corrected.”

🙂

With all the talk of TERFs making the rounds in the Pagan and Polytheist blogospheres, again, I just hoped to add a positive story.

May Hermaphroditos, and also The Great Mother and Her consort, Pan1, continue to see me through this.


1: This is Boeotian tradition, not appropriative appropriative revision of mythology.