Keep Your Respectability Politics Out of My Paganism

I have made several posts here, in the past, about how I have no need for respectability politics, both explicitly and implicitly, not necessarily because I don’t care about coming off as “respectable” to others (though I admit, I really don’t care about that, either), but because it’s ideologically incompatible with so much of what I consider to be truly important.  The fact of the matter is, one simply cannot advocate for civil rights while also blaming those who are most-vulnerable to human rights violations for making the movement look bad.

As a trans person, the only love I have for gays in the 1980s is what came from the art community, especially the underground.  Why?  That was officially the decade that suburban bourgeois and -aspiring gays and lesbian “activists” decided to officially throw trans people (as well as drag queens and effeminate men – but, intriguingly, not drag kings or butch women, for reasons that ultimately come back around to misogyny, but that’s another story for another time) under the bus for “making the movement look bad.”

As a trans man who is also a male crossdresser (think about what that means, try not to hurt yourself), I have no real love for a lot of mainstream trans activists of the 1990s and early 00s, either, because they’ve proved more than willing to throw drag queens and other effeminate men under the bus because we “make them look bad,” as if there was some magical way to offer legal protections and socially normalizing trans women while also denying even just the latter to a genuine man in a dress.

Respectability politics is a con game, in the end, and it can be shown, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to be a product of Capitalism (which is itself a product of Protestantism), and like Capitalism, really has no place amongst true civil rights activism.  Now, this is not an anti-Capitalism blog, true, though I do believe that the personal is political because there is literally nothing we can do that doesn’t somehow relate back to how we are politikon, political animals designed for and living in a highly social world (id est, not at all the same thing as party politics).  So then what happened?

Well, last night, I passed out for nearly twelve hours due to a burrito that apparently had soy in it (my big food allergy), and I woke up to see this here being shared by a friend on The Farceborg:  Pagan Priest Wins Right to Wear Horns in Driver’s License Photo.

My first thought was “Oh, dear, does he look like a tool…,” but I followed the link, anyway, because I wanted to see what he was saying his “priesthood” was and how exactly this gave him an exception on “religious headgear” grounds.  Turns out that, last year, he legally changed his name to Phelan MoonSong (ho boy…) and he states that he literally wears goathorns every day as a dedication to Pan (fair enough, I guess), and has managed to cherry-pick some texts to justify the status of “religious headgear” in the same way that a traditional nun’s habit, or a Muslim woman’s hijab, or a Sikh’s turban would be allowed as “religious headgear.”  A DL or State ID photo should accurately represent how one looks most, if not all of the time, which is why there are certain rules in place to keep people from wearing outlandish costumes that do not at all represent how they look on a day-to-day basis, and to comply with the US Constitution, specifically the Bill of Rights’ granting the freedom of religion, there are specific clauses stating that only specific types of items that cover some portion of the head and neck area are allowed – otherwise, how many fifteen-year-olds would get their Restricted Driver Permit photo taken dressed as a ninja? (Be honest:  enough that we can see the sense in these rules).  In an ideal world with ideal pagan community, even the fact that MoonSong had to invoke the ACLU to get his driver’s license photo approved should have just ended with this story.

…then I read the comments, and literally the first one was John Halstead whining like the petulant tyke he is about how MoonSong is supposedly making all pagans everywhere look bad, and this isn’t “serious” paganism, anyway, and OH, HIS ATHEIST NOT-GODS, PEOPLE: ALEPPO!!!!

In case you’re still honestly wondering, I don’t have the highest opinion on Halstead.  I didn’t have a good opinion on him, yesterday, but today, it went even lower with his belligerent defense of respectability politics.  I know I’m not going to change his “mind” (I doubt anything short of a frontal lobotomy could, really), but for those of you who might be both reading this blog and somehow one the fence about “pagan respectability”, let me break down the reality of the deal here, for you:

  1. This guy’s DL photo literally won’t change anyone’s mind about pagans.  Those who know about paganism will know MoonSong does not at all represent all pagans, and those who don’t actually know about the pagan community fall into two camps: those who don’t know, yet, and the willfully ignorant.  The former camp will learn, if we teach them, and the latter cannot be taught.
  2. There is nothing about MoonSong wearing horns that ever could “set us back twenty-five years” (as another commenter said) in terms of mainstream acceptance.  Those legal battles over the last twenty five years that pagans and polytheists celebrate as milestones, such as Patrick McCollum going to court for pentacles on US Veteran headstones, have been fought and won and, with luck, will continue to be protected by those who truly value religious freedom.  As to our day-to-day interactions, see Item 1 – people either do already, or do not yet know that MoonSong is representative of only his religion and himself, OR they are willfully ignorant and will remain so.
  3. If you think that shit like MoonSong’s DL photo has some great magic(k)al ability to “make us all look like weirdos,” I highly advise you to think again, because the answer is that it does not.  The fact of the matter is, in a highly Christianised society like pretty much the entirety of Western Civilisation, pagans are already weirdos by default.  You can put Fiona Horne on Aussie telly all you want, those who believe we’re weird just for being pagan will believe that she’s just an exception.  You can put Patrick McCollum in a suit and send him to court, most people are still going to believe he’s a weirdo, albeit one who cleans up once in a while and pretend to seem normal.  You can put Stevie Nicks (at this point, it’s pretty much an open secret that she’s some kind of witch) in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, this just means she’s a double-plus weirdo, cos normal people don’t end up in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  MoonSong wearing horns in his DL photo didn’t make us look weird – we made ourselves look weird simply by being pagans (whether we accept that label or not).

I think it’s great that he was able to do this without going to court – it sets a precedent that even the highly disorganized pagan religion that he apparently practices is worthy of recognition and status.  It will now be harder for such things to be challenged, in the future.  This is a pagan community milestone worthy of some acknowledgement.  Kudos to him.

That said, it’s still not going to have much effect on our day-to-day interactions with non-pagans.  Did we suddenly become great esteemed pillars of society when the pentagram became an acceptable religious symbol on the headstones of soldiers and veterans?  Ha!  Don’t make me laugh – the only real-world effect that action had is that now soldiers can have a pentacle on their headstone, and the government will pay for it, that’s it, that is what McCollum put on a suit and tie for, not for John Halstead and Aline “M Macha NightMare” O’Brien to tokenise for their play at respectability politics (and really, the latter and her goofy-ass “craft name” really shouldn’t be fooling herself with respectability politics, but hey, I learned something else about her today that makes me question her position of relative esteem in the pagan community).  My neighbours aren’t going to start thinking I’m any weirder than they already do because of some vague associations one may imagine I have with some jackass in Maine who wears goat horns, and trust me, I’m the transvestite dwarf on the third floor who plays the harmonium and sings “Lady Stardust” at 3am from his balcony, my neighbours already think I’m plenty weird, even before you bring in the fact that I worship multiple god Who were venerated in ancient Greece.  If you don’t want your neighbours thinking that you’re weird, might I suggest pulling a Star Foster and start going to church?  Cos really, if you think this Mainenite in goat horns is enough to tarnish what you erroneously seem to think is some highly favourable public opinion of pagans, then you don’t know much about the general public at all, and that’s a fact.

Things that The Wild Hunt taught me about #blacklivesmatter

On the off-chance that you had not yet seen this post on The Wild Hunt, go right now!

0: the Wild Hunt did not need to teach me this, but I just wanted to preface this with a fan-boy moment and point out that, in addition to being possibly the most prominent African American pagan voice, ever, Crystal Blanton is possibly in my Top Ten of Most Eloquent Pagan Bloggers.

1: when prompted, more pagans and polytheists than I really expected will be willing to speak out against racism. True, a few of the posts linked in The Wild Hunt’s post preceeded Ms Blanton’s impassioned plea for some solidarity, but most seem to be a response to her original FB post. The important thing, though, is that these people spoke up. I would have, myself, as I certainly feel that, as the only blogger I’m aware of holding up Boeotian polytheism, I am at a greater obligation to do so than most other individuals, but this really hasn’t been a great time for me, this last fortnight, for a lot of reasons, so I’ve put it off until I get a better headspace for it. Still, I’m kind of impressed by the number of people who’ve posted about this.

2: It’s still pretty aggravating that there are pagans who would rather derail and / or deny that racism actually affects the world we live in. As I’ve said before (to The Wild Hunt, even), I’m jund of numb from disappointment in the pagan community, at this point, but after all that support for people of colour in the post, all the dozens of links to people making their support very clear, it was almost ironic to see people saying outright, verbatim, “racism doesn’t hurt people“, and not once, but twice. And in all seriousness, what the fuck is this shit?

Well, I really don’t have anything else to add to this. It’s kind of depressing to think too much about, and I’ve been having an absolutely terrible time this last few weeks, so I’ve been trying not to think too much about heavy topics, lest I do something I regret or worse.

[cabbage-patches]

From my GoFundMe page update:

Nigel likes to watch....

Nigel likes to watch….

I am signing the lease on MONDAY!!! I know I’m just over halfway to my goal, but i *need* the amount for a security deposit –and unfortunately, because the low-cost vaccine/microchip day is only one day a month (and Nigel really needs the chip and his FELV vax; if one of these other cats isn’t up on their shots, or something were to happen and he got out, it really is his best protection), which is the day before I go back to A2/Ypsi, this means I NEED to raise a lot more by then! They said they can accept part of it when i sign the lease and the rest on move-in day (the 25th), but I’d rather it look better for me and get it in asahp! CAN WE MAKE THIS HAPPEN???


So what do you say, can we? We just breached the halfway mark a couple days ago, and I just updated the maths –if every single person who’s subscribing to this blog via WordPress.com (WP.com reader and e-mails, combined) donated just $28 (my lucky number!) then I’m in the clear! C’mon, if BNP, TWH’s JP-W1 can donate $20 to the cause, surely you can do that or better, right? (If you can’t, why not? Aren’t we polytheists at a war with pagans? Do you really want to let the pagans win??2

Can’t find the little progress bar widget thing? Can’t be bothered to go to the frontpage of this blog where it is practically all over? Here you go!

//funds.gofundme.com/Widgetflex.swf


1: translation – “Big Name Pagan, The Wild Hunt’s Jason Pitzel-Waters; don’t mind me, all the initials just entertained me for a mo’….
2: in case you couldn’t tell, I was being funny. I’m hilarious; a laugh-and-a-half. My mother said so. Are you calling her a liar? If so, that’s cool –I was a caesarian birth, so it’s not like you’re saying I came out of a liar’s vag or anything….

So I guess Margot Adler died recently?

…and since no-one asked me to say anything about the passing of Mary Daly, Labrys Ruiner1, either, I figured I’d throw in my 2¢:

Margot Adler placed people before the Gods. This is not intended to be a harsh judgement, but a statement of fact. After all, there’s record of her statement that, had there been Hellenic polytheists known to her, she would have done that, instead. Hey, we all have what drives us, and clearly her calling was human-centric rather than deity-centric.

Margot Adler was not a polytheist. She had also said that, had she actually come across other Hellenists in the 1970s (which, if she looked hard enough, she would have, cos we existed then, too), her goal was not to worship but to “become” one of the Hellenic gods. She has said, in favourably quoting another, “the Gods are not to be worshipped”, in spite of all historical evidence and the empirical knowledge of others that points to the contrary.

Margot Adler was not transphobic –at least, if photos of her with Selena Fox can be believed.

Margot Adler was not a big fan of history and facts. Aside from the curious quote showcased in The Wild Hunt’s obituary, anyone remember her participation in this infamous artifact of paganism in the 1980s and ’90s?

She was clearly well-loved and respected by many, and in some ways she deserrved this, but she was never that important to me. She wasn’t transphobic (or least not during her final years), but aside from that, her life and work wasn’t that important to me. She made some comments peripherally related to Hellenism, so I felt compelled to say something about her when I noticed this.


1: If you want to take back the labrys from Daly and her ilk, after all, it’s closely associated with the Minoan Goddess has been anthropologically linked to Wadjet/Isis, who loves All, and Ariadne, wife of gender-fucker god Dionysos, feel free to give me delicious monies.

//funds.gofundme.com/Widgetflex.swf

Sometimes, I think I might be different from most people…

(Here’s something that’s been sitting in my Draft folder since at least August 2013, just figured I’d pick up where I left off and see what happens with it.)

…and that this might be especially true with regards to the pagan community.

First off, I was never interested in Wicca. I’ve seen literally dozens of people all over the Internet and in real life claim that Wicca is a starting point for all pagans, a shared experience to some extent, for all Western pagans. This is simply not true, for myself. All I know about Wicca is mostly from a combination of the old “Why Wiccans Suck” and the Wicca For the Rest of Us sites and a handful of things I’ve seen others say on blogs, LiveJournal communities, and e-mail lists. Most of these “sources” assumed a passing familiarity with many NeoWicca basics, and I gotta say, I still don’t know what “casting circles” or “crossing quarters” exactly is or is supposed to do in ritual, I have an idea based on the things I’ve read, but I’m not sure I could identify it, if I saw it. Wicca was never a part of my journey, and so this is likely the main way I’m simply not like pagans –I’m not very familiar with that language, and it’s not at all an experience I share.

Secondly, I don’t “revere” nature in the same ways that I see from a majority of pagans. I recycle my rubbish and I compost in honour of the nymphai, but my primary interest in avoiding processed food is cos of allergies and other immediate health concerns, rather than the borderline tin-foil-hat ravings against “Frankenfoods”. I say “borderline” because they’re often based in some evidence of experimentation, but no evidence that the sort of experimentation that they speak of will ever enter the mainstream food sources; furthermore, while Monsanto is certainly an evil Capitalist corporation, the whole idea behind engineering resistant crop seeds lays in the compassionate hope to feed more people for less money, including people in deeply impoverished areas in industrialised and non-industrialised countries, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s pretty telling that the overwhelming majority of people who are anti-GMO, across the board, are affluent white people from industrial countries. Humans have been modifying food crops since the dawn of agriculture —it’s kind of how Mesoamericans evolved maize (sweetcorn) from being a completely inedible mutant grass (look up “pod corn” sometime) into the staple crop that would eventually come to dominate the agricultural industry of the Americas. All that’s happened in this last century is technological advances that that accelerate the process by actually examining the genetics faster than the trial-and-error hybridisation observed by Mendel, and also the multi-billion-dollar industry that makes a basic human need and a once-compassionate idea into an unstoppable corporation that exploits its means to penalise small farmers. There’s hardly a single thing humans eat today, save for the cultures that still subsist on game and insects as a major protein source, that isn’t a “genetically modified organism”. This technology can, and has been, a good thing that can literally feed the world, if bourgeoisie honkies and those aspiring to be and /or aping said would take a step back and examine the underlying classism and racism in what they’re saying when they talk about banning this technology as a whole. I’ll agree that some additives are best done without, and that there does seem to be a strong correlation between eating highly preserved foods and poor health, but I’m not so self-centred and ignorant as to believe that simply modifying a crop’s or a livestock’s genetics is a problem, in and of itself. Might it be a problem to introduce one of the highly experimental modifications into the main source crops? Sure. Might there be problems with this accelerated modification several generations down he line? Possibly, but probably not as much as the anti-GMO crowd certainly wants people to believe –if anything, any health risks associated with that accelerated genetic selection will happen more slowly and be less apparent until it affects millions of people, doing it the old-fashioned way.

Then there’s the fact that I REALLY don’t understand why some of, apparently, the most popular pagan bloggers are. From Star “Foster Care” (yeah, I know she tries to pretend she’s “not a pagan blogger anymore”, but from what I’ve gathered from certain people who just feel this inexplicable need to keep me informed on the various minutia of the pagan & polytheist blogosphere, she sure continues to do a lot of whining about how she’s not a pagan blogger anymore, which just makes me think of the kind of atheist bloggers who whine about Christians and how they aren’t Christian, and then act surprised when no-one takes them seriously when they insist that they do more than whine about Chrirstians), to (now ex-pagan) Teo Bishop/Matthew Morris and his shit-eating grin. It’s always that the most popular pagan bloggers tend to have the least to say, but allot more time and energy into saying it than those who are actually pretty interesting, and because of a combination of that, savvy social connections, and sheer persistence, guess who gets the attention for it? It’s not that I necessarily have anything against certain people (though sometimes that changes), and I know their fangirls will always try and insist otherwise, but it really isn’t jealousy. It’s sheer bewilderment that some-one can drone on and on about how much they “never wanted to be a big-name pagan, but poor me, I took a high-profile position at a popular webzine and volunteered to go on CNN and all that shit, anyway” or about how much they really don’t understand how ritual circles work, and dozens, even hundreds of people –other bloggers and mere commentators alike– will sit and applaud, as if this complete nonsense was somehow meaningful, or perhaps confusing ignorance with insight. I mean, I guess if I think about it, I can concoct a few reasons for how this dullness ends up as “the voice of pagan blogging” and how watered-down drivel like Silver Ravenwolf is Llewellyn’s international best-seller: Pagans don’t give a shit about excellence. They want voices that they can relate to more than they want someone to look up to, which possibly reveals a resistance to personal, spiritual growth. They’re so paranoid of any semblance of authority that they’ll buy the notion that some of the least-noteworthy ideas are worthy of a blog entry, just as easily as they’ll buy Scott Cunningham telling them that a “self-initiation” is as valid as a real initiation into a traditional coven, no matter how much the very phrase “self-initiation” smacks of contradiction. I mean, hell, bloggers and Llewellyn authors aren’t the only “pagan writers” lacking in standards of excellence; do a search for “diane paxson, marion zimmer bradley, walter breen sex abuse” and tell me that the pagan community isn’t quick to turn a blind eye to unsavoury associations because someone did something they liked, I fucking dare you.

And don’t get me started on pagan music. A good 85-90% of the pagan music I’ve heard is half-arsed filk that’s barely better than what an especially eloquent toddler might write. The best pagan music is usually in the Gothic or Neofolk genres, and while I certainly won’t deny that SOME Neofolk artists maintain unsavoury associations on par with the kiddie-diddling that Paxson and Bradley were enabling and covering-up (and Bradley, at least, partaking in herself), not only are many (if not most) not maintaining such associations, at least not directly (seriously, Leonard Cohen was one of the major influences on the Neofolk genre, and if you listen to Leonard Cohen, you kind of fail at Nazi) but some Neofolk artists are Far Left or simply apolitical, and yet possibly the most-deserving big pagan blogger, Jason Pitzl-Waters at The Wild Hunt, often seems on a campaign to portray the entire genre as just a bunch of Neonazis when, let’s be frank, there’s far more damaging evidence that Eric Clapton is a fascist than the members of Spiritual Front (yes, I know Simone Salvatori did a song on that tribute album to Codreanu, but he also lists Discharge, an anarcho-punk, Leftist, and pacifist band as one of his all-time favourites –at best, you’ve got evidence that he’s “trolling”, as my humanoid meat-based housemate would say). Then there’s the fact that, many “Martial” bands that make no secret about cozying up to Fascism (even though there’s a handful of clearly Left-wing martial musos, as well). It’s not hard to learn any of this —I don’t have nearly the search engine magics that my humanoid meat-based housemate does, and I can still figure out pretty easily that no, not all Neofolk has “murky politics”, and if challenged on calling out a band or artist, I don’t just brush it off with “trust me, I’m a goth”, as if that makes me some kind of authority on a different scene (albeit one with significant cross-over appeal, but a different scene, nonetheless), I cite my fucking sources.

Then there’s the goddamned polyamourists. In theory, I have nothing against those who have multiple informed romantic/sexual partners, but let’s get a few things straight:

Polyamoury ≠ “Free Love”. The latter was a Victorian anti-marriage/proto-feminist movement, and real Free Love proponents actually frowned on the notion of multiple partners for the simple fact that it’s not what their movement was about –it was about the freedom to cohabitate and raise a family with another person out of love without being subjected to the borderline slavery of Victorian marriage laws. Polyamoury is about “being in love” and having sex with multiple people, all of whom are ostensibly aware, at least in passing, of one’s other relationships. Some polyamourists are married (a notion that appalls true proponents of Free Love) and cohabitation is not a requirement or necessarily a goal, with any of one’s lovers, whereas Free Love is about at least hoping to find a mate for pair-bonding and cohabitation, even if the couple is under no pretentions of this being a lifelong arrangement.

Then there’s the goddamned “poly-” cultists, who seem damned determined to make sure everyone is like them, especially if they’re of the sort that can’t actually be in a functional interpersonal relationship of any sort (with the ostensible exception of biological relatives -but you can never tell with some people) unless sex is eventually going to happen with this other person. of course, is that really a functional relationship model?

And not to mention the fact that even Oberon Zell, who arguably introduced the concept to the pagan community in the 1970s/80s, has even said, “serial monogamy may just be the human default“, and has said it without any sense of judgement, but just as a simple fact that people should keep in mind.

So there’s very little common ground between myself and most self-identified “pagans”, and while I’m totally cool with that, it does help keep me weird.


While I have you here, were you aware that I’m still seeking Moving expense donations?

//funds.gofundme.com/Widgetflex.swf

Gus-Gus doesn’t know what he’s talking about: Part Infinity

http://wildhunt.org/2014/06/modern-culture-practicality-lessen-nudity-at-pagan-festivals.html#comment-1462993076

gusgus-dizerega001

Do you know how easy it was for me to find a source that proved his statement of “fact” about MZB wrong? You probably have an idea, just by the fact that i brought it up. This toolbox can’t even get his facts straight –WHY do some people apparently still consider him a “respected elder”, again? I’m honestly confused.


ETA:

Modern Culture, Practicality Lessen Nudity at Pagan festivals

gusgus-dizerega002

Well, that rendered me speechless.

Response to Random “Fan Mail”

Hi – stumbled across your blog doing other research and have been reading post after post. I have a question. Where is Matt Morris/Teo Bishop now? What religion is he practicing now? Do you know? Great intelligent, interesting blog by the way!

Last I knew, he was some generic non-denominational Christian. I don’t know what he’s up to, and I really don’t care. I was never a fan of his, even when he was a pagan (kinda always thought he was even more annoyingly uninteresting than Star Foster, if you can believe that), and now I have even less reason to read his blog. I don’t know why you thought to ask me about any of this, I don’t even think I’ve ever written about him (not even to complain), I’m sure the folks at The Wild Hunt or PaganSquare would have a better idea, to be honest.

Also, I think his name has actually been legally changed to “Teo Bishop” (though I’m sure someone will correct me, if I’m wrong). I may think he’s a wishy-washy and downright boring ex-Mousketeer with the most punchable of shit-eating grins, but I think it’s just basic decency to get his name right.