Once again, Halstead is arguing with strawmen. No-one ever said that we should not seek respect, only that appealing to the “respectability” as defined by the status quo, excludes those who are most vulnerable.
Respectability politics is a tool of the right-wing. Its recorded history goes back to late 19th Century affluent and Conservative African-Americans seeking to appeal to White society by distributing pamphlets in poor Black communities, telling them how to talk, how to dress, how to fucking bathe – things that those people already considered perfectly fine ideals, but were, on some levels, out of reach to them: Enunciation isn’t going to put food on the table, when you’re trying to put food on the table, dressing Beau Brummel isn’t going to be too high on the priorities, either, and when you’re fucking dirt-poor without indoor plumbing, chances are, you’ll get your baths when you get them. Shit like this is mirrored in Halstad’s words.
In England during the 1970s, when Quentin Crisp’s memoir, The Naked Civil Servant, was made into a BBC television film, telling Crisp’s experiences as a high-feme homosexual man (if he were a twenty-something on Tumblr, he’d probably identify as genderqueer), The Gay Times issued a scathing review, suggesting that Crisp’s memoir was have been best published “posthumously” – implying all over the place that the world would be best off without queers who don’t just fuck queerly, but walk it, talk it, live it every second of every day. The Gay Times was endorsing a respectability politics that said to mainstream Britain, “we know you’ll only respect gays who look and act as much like heterosexual men as possible, so we’re going to act just like you in order to make you accept us. We don’t want the flaming fairies around any more than you do. They don’t have your respect, so they won’t have ours, either.” Thi, too, is mirrored in Halstead’s words.
When people like John Halstead (who, it’s been long established, is only “pagan” because he says he is, but this has been put far more eloquently by others) point at people like Phelan MoonSong and say “this does not help people take Paganism seriously,” he is aligning himself with the sentiments of bourgeois-aspiring 19th Century blacks patronising to the working class blacks, and the misogyny and femmephobia of The Gay Times in the ’70s. This is typical bourgeoisie respectability politics that Halstead is engaging in, and it is a tool of KKKapitalism and the Right Wing, designed to divide; Halstead has made it absolutely clear, in absolutely no uncertain terms, that he cares more about making paganism appeal to the status quo than he cares about challenging the status quo to accept differences.
At this point, I can no longer take Gods & Radicals seriously as an anti-Capitalism publication, for at least as long as they are giving platform to John Halstead. When they give platform to a proponent of respectability politics, they endorse it as perfectly normal, even acceptable within “anti-Capitalist paganism,” as they define it.
This also means that, for at least as long as G&R is giving platform to John Halstead, I cannot at all trust their editor-and-chief, Rhyd Wildermuth, either. I already have trust issues with butch gays, because they have a habit of just being far too comfortable with respectability politics, because the proponents of said almost never come for the butch gays – the butch gays are “safe,” in the politics of respectability, so to them, challenging respectability politics is just an abstract concept that they can agree to disagree on, it’s not something that actively threatens them and their existence or their right to space in activism. He may have appropriated the “faggot” identity, but sit any two-year-old down with a picture of Rhyd and a picture of Quentin Crisp, ask that child which one the “faggot” is, and which one’s the “butch”, we all know who that child will identify as each. (I could go on about how Rhyd has no right to appropriate the word “faggot”, when his careful cultivation of a burly, smelly, sweaty Manly image, to contrast with gay pagans and polytheists who are considerably less so, means that term does not apply to him, according to the homophobic masses, but that’s another story for another time.) I already have trust issues with butch gays, so now it’s up to Rhyd to prove that he’s trustworthy.
The status quo is just as threatened by femme FAGGOTS, like myself, as John Halstead is threatened by any pagan he deems too “weird” to be respectable to the status quo he desperately envisions pagans appealing to.
If he continues to keep John Halstead on the G&R staff of writers, Rhyd is an enemy to ALL who are vulnerable to respectability politics. The longer he keeps Halstead on, the more he proves he’s an enabler of all that comes with respectability politics, including racism, femmephobia, misogyny, cissexism, ableism, freakphobia, and so on. The longer he keeps Halstead on G&R staff, the more Rhyd proves he’s an enabler of the bourgeoisie, and a total sell-out.
Respectability politics has no place in paganism — and it has no place in radical Far Left politics.