Review: Casting a Queer Circle

Thista Minai (2017), Casting a Queer Circle: Non-Binary Witchcraft. Hubbardston, MA: Asphodel Press.

Aimed at everyone who finds that binary and heterocentric approaches to witchcraft do not fit actual lived reality, this book is an outstanding guide to crafting an inclusive, non-binary approach to ritual. It contains a complete system of magic, ritual, symbolism, festivals, and ritual roles, all designed to be inclusive, safe, creative, and genuinely transformative.

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Statement on racism and bigotry

Dowsing for Divinity completely rejects racism, fascism, Nazism, white supremacism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, ageism, ableism, body-shaming, and all forms of bigotry.

Inclusive Pagans celebrate life and love in all its beauty and diversity, and seek to protect and preserve the Earth and Nature, and to cultivate virtues of compassion and respect for all life.

For this reason, following the recent events in Charlottesville, USA, we utterly condemn the ideology and actions of the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis who have caused such suffering there.

The shifting nature of queer culture

So there’s yet another Generation X person holding forth about the “fragility” of millennials, specifically LGBTQIA millennials.

Argh. I wish my generation (and the Boomers) would stop with constructing millennials as fragile and having a victim mentality.

Yes, sure, college-age kids see everything as black and white. So did we when we were that age. They will grow up and learn some nuance. And as a university professor it’s her job to din some nuance into them, and an understanding of queer history.

Every generation thinks it is the most radical there has ever been, and looks upon its elders with pity. It’s part of being young (at least it is in Anglo-American culture). And every older generation rolls its eyes and points out that we did manage to achieve some liberation from oppression.

There were plenty of rigid assholes in our generation too. How about the fact that when I was at university (1986-1990) there wasn’t an LGBT society: there was a separate lesbian society and gay society. Nothing for bisexuals and transgender people. And the lesbian society was full of people who thought that having sex with men, or looking femme, or even having sex with women, was “selling out to the patriarchy”.

A lot of gay and lesbian culture in the eighties and nineties was very biphobic. Feminists were very transphobic (some still are). And no-one was allowed to enjoy kink, according to some feminists.

It’s true that many younger activists are busy erasing the contribution of drag queens and transvestites to LGBT liberation. But these attitudes are no less obnoxious than some of the ones held by earlier generations of queer people.

Let’s not pretend that everything in the LGBT garden was rosy until the “fragile” millennials “ruined” it with their trigger warnings and their campaign for same-sex marriage and their alphabet soup (not that there’s anything wrong with anything on that list, nor are millennials the only ones campaigning for those things). It really, really, wasn’t.

Like any subculture, there are good bits and bad bits and mediocre bits.

Like any subculture, there is constant dialogue with “mainstream” culture. Sometimes mainstream culture adopts, co-opts, or appropriates things that subcultures have created. Sometimes subcultures get partially assimilated into the mainstream, as their ideas become trendy.

The queer movement is still defining itself and its categories. It may be helpful to compare it to feminism and its “waves”. The first wave was about getting legal rights, the second wave was about changing attitudes to women, and the third wave is about intersections with other rights movements (LGBTQ, Black, disabled). Allegedly there’s a fourth wave but it looks very similar to the third wave. Along the way, we have had to go back to first wave concerns (getting legal rights), and to second wave concerns about changing attitudes. And there are some people who are still stuck in the essentialist attitudes of the second wave; while some elements of the second wave anticipated the ideas of the third wave.

The LGBTQ movement could broadly be said to have gone through a similar process (but complicated by the AIDS crisis). First, we needed to dismantle legal discrimination against LGBTQ people, and get some legal rights. Then we needed to challenge and change homophobic attitudes in society (this is an ongoing effort). And we need to understand how LGBTQIA concerns intersect with those of other groups.

The overculture has a nasty habit of pushing back and undermining rights that have already been gained. It’s our job to keep pushing for legal rights, keep trying to change attitudes, and keep being mindful of other oppressed groups.

What would be really great would be if we didn’t all attack millennials with “activism was more fun in my day”. Plenty of the current generation of activists have a sense of humour. How about having a dialogue with them instead of attacking their concerns in glossy magazines? If we all work together, we might get somewhere.

Millennial guy

Millennial guy is chill.
[Public Domain photo]

Of Wonder Woman, Goddesses, and humans

I went to see Wonder Woman at the weekend. I had been warned that there were issues around diversity and representation, but not enough to necessitate a boycott. (I did boycott Suffragette for airbrushing out Sophia Duleep Singh and other Black, Asian, and minority ethnic suffragettes.) However, Wonder Woman is fictional, so perhaps less problematic than attempts to airbrush PoC out of actual history. I generally prefer Marvel superhero films to DC ones, but I had been told that Wonder Woman was going to be great, so I went with an open mind. I also refrained from reading anything involving spoilers beforehand. I enjoyed the film, but agree with the critique by Valerie Complex and Robert Jones Jr that it could do better in terms of representation of queer characters and people of colour.

Spoilers (for Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy 2) below the cut – you have been warned.

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The Brussels sprouts controversy

Few people realise the intense, convoluted and internecine controversies that rage in the world of vegetable folklorists. These dour scholars generally gather in the darker corners of academe, preferring potting sheds and greenhouses to the more usual bars and senior common rooms frequented by their colleagues. They putter about in the basements of libraries where more mainstream scholars fear to tread, seeking out old manuscripts and botanical treatises. Some of them roam the highways and byways of obscure rural districts, seeking undiscovered nuggets of folklore and superstition. These solitary pursuits result in impassioned debate when these normally taciturn scholars meet.

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