Tuesday, October 1, 2013

What Happened?

Hello internet. I hope you've been following me on twitter. Sorry about the whole no updates thing.

I had all of these grand dreams about continuous weekly posting about Pagan Spirit Gathering. Clearly this did not happen. So what happened?

Well, people that follow me regularly elsewhere have seen a solid taste of what my life has been like lately. Suffice to say blogging formally has taken a backseat to surviving more and more difficult life experiences, not to mention college.

The important facts are here:

I am in counseling for anything serious.
I am not self-harming.
I write every day, which means I'm actually doing much better in some ways than I was when I was blogging.
Most of my problems will probably be significantly mitigated by the end of the year.

For those of you that follow me on Twitter, recognize that some facts on my past blog posts are now very outdated. Don't be alarmed by this. I will be updating them as I can. The daily tweets take canon precedence.

Does this mean I'm back to regular blogging? Let's see how the semester goes.

The Goddex

Below is one of my best attempts to describe the concept of a Queer Divine archetype, and more generally an allusion to how I understand both deities and gnosis as developing. This was written for a syncroblog at Queer Theology.com It does not necessarily represent an endorsement of said website.

Once there were things.
Before these things existed there was nothing, but because they existed this was no longer true.
These things did not have names, because there existed no things to name them. They did not exist from one time to another time because there was nothing which marked that one time was different from another, and so there was no time.

In some ways they were not even things. What could a thing be without something to label it a thing?

Italo Calvino gave this more thought than I will here.

Things changed.

Soon there were things that had ideas. They weren't necessarily significant ideas but they existed. Something communicated an idea about something to another thing.
This was discourse.

Eventually there was time, and from that point on discourse existed throughout time.

Discourse changed things.

Discourse exists in a state of interaction with all other discourse.

Different ideas exist in discourse, and through discourse ideas about things are codified. Ideas become rigid, turn into tools, creations, patterns, behaviors, systems, groupings, associations, and especially concepts.

There were also numerous things which were then not just themselves but also associated with other things. There were signifier and signified, the subject and the object, meanings, connections, all fueling discourse.

Soon there was a concept of us. We existed. There was a we. We were a thing, which was also a set of things, which was also a codified set of ideas held in unison amongst the collective we. We were a position, a principal, a discourse, a group, a people, a path, a belief, a faith.

Our Gods spanned the heavens and the Earth. They roamed across plains, over hills, through sees and skies.

When we created the concept of a deity, they were there as though they had been already. We looked to the path, and saw them step from the trees, and from the moment we saw them we knew them. When we knew them, it was as if we had always known them. As if they had begun to exist and thrown their existence backwards into the very beginning, so that they had always been there. They were concepts that we knew. They were all of the ideas and associations we had ever expected them to be once we knew that they could be at all. They were a discourse onto themselves.

Soon there was a concept of not us. Those who were not us were a not-thing, in that we are a thing which they were not. This was, oddly enough, also a set of things, usually much less pleasant. They were not us, and if that was an acceptable thing to be that is what we would be.

The discourse of the other.

It's not really about if they had other Gods. It's not even about whether anyone actually deviated, or whether there really is deviation, or whether something existed from which to deviate. They were just not the group that decided whose group they belonged to.

We exist in this group. You and I. It's why we're here, writing/reading this.

The laws were codified, the associations were codified, the rules were spoken and unspoken from birth in every interaction. This too was discourse. It was a discourse that we failed to maintain, that we subverted, that we disregarded. We were the first Emperor of Rome to know she was a woman. We were an unhearable echo before, and from the moment that we, you and I now, knew that we existed we began to always exist. We did not hear the discourse of what had always been right and true. We did not hear there was no other way, what was proper, what was expected. We heard war, but we did not hear what was heard so clearly by those who warred upon us.

Instead we heard the Goddex.

Then there was Hir.

Ze existed from the moment that we realized that Ze existed, and began to exist infinitely before at the same time. Ze was and is a concept embodied. A discourse shaped into a body which was then entirely its own to shape other discourse. The discourse of the discontent. The discourse of the abused, of the cage rattler, of the dissatisfied, of the denied. The discourse of change and subversion and recreation, deconstruction.

When we create a Queer concept, we hold Hir in our minds. Ze is everything that we see, no matter what we see, because Ze is in all Queer things.

All works of gender bending
Each act of tranarchy
Every moment of self care
These are Hir works.

There is no one pronoun that captures Them. Per is every race, every color, all genders. He cannot be encapsulated in a single shape. She cannot be from a single backgrounds. E is not even a single deity, but an archetype that umbrellas several and is not fully any of them, but Eir own being. It is each and every marginalized, denied, and deprived voice, hand, face. Ze is every act we take in which we continue to deny those that wish we did not exist the satisfaction.

Ze is The Outcast.
The Explorer.
The Great Revealer.

Ze is everything that we can accomplish together, everything held by us alone, but us collectively, by us every moment in which we are ourselves.

Once Ze came to exist, Ze had always existed. We had never for a moment been without Hir and everything Ze signifies.

Once Ze came to exist, Ze created us.

Friday, July 5, 2013

PSG Post 1: Coming Home

Pagan Spirit Gathering isn't easy to explain, and I'm not sure I can encapsulate its mystique in a blog post. I've spent some time being introspective on the whole experience and I'll convey as much as I can, but it's definitely something one should experience for themself. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Quick Post: Failure in the Face of DOMA's Repeal

I'm finally back from an INCREDIBLE trip to Pagan Spirit Gathering and a subsequent incredible trip to Indianapolis to spend several days with my partner and metamours. I'm all set to get working on a long list of PSG articles, but there was some news during my absence that needs addressing.

First of all, Exodus International is shutting down. This is the most positive news for Queer people in recent memory. Exodus International has been responsible for the physical torture and psychological abuse of Queer people for decades, through a process referred to as "conversion therapy" but more aptly termed "suicide conditioning" due to the extremely high rate of suicide that follows the practice. Whether leaders of this organization can ever be forgiven for what they've done is a question I have little interest in, but the organization itself is pulling its support for conversion therapy and shutting down. That's satisfying enough. The lives of Queer people everywhere became brighter as this behemoth crumbled.

The bigger news of course is the Supreme Court decision made the other day on the Voting Rights Act. By ruling a key article of the act unconstitutional the Supreme Court has essentially reopened the way for mass voter disenfranchisement, literacy tests, and other tactics to prevent oppressed groups from having any access to the voting booth. Chief Justice John Roberts, who deserves to go down in history as the man intent on resurrecting Jim Crow, authored a decision which has the ability to bring an end to voting rights for everyone in the country that doesn't look white enough to vote Republican. State governments have been reassured that if they put measures in place that disenfranchise people of color the Supreme Court will allow them to continue.

It's because of this second piece of news that the celebration of the overturn of the Defense of Marriage Act is so depressing to watch. Having pumped millions of dollars into ridding the world of this legislation, signed into law by a President that just got a GLAAD award, Gay rights organizations have been popping champagne left and right in the wake of this other Supreme Court ruling. They have been celebrating so hard they seem to have missed the news from the day before, and I'm not surprised. Assimilationists have been so busy convincing themselves that they're just like everyone else they can't be bothered to recognize that this facade only goes as far as the companies trying to get the pink dollar. It has never reached the ears of the majority of society, never enough to put a dent on Queer teen suicide statistics, or bullying, or police violence. When these people scream and cheer about being able to get married in exclusively traditional liberal states that have already adopted same-sex marriage they drown out the deeper underlying cry that starts ever earlier in the United States: "The election is coming."

I'm going to speak frankly here: The repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act has accomplished nothing. Nothing. Zero. I don't just say this as someone that thinks marriage isn't useful for Queer people, I'm speaking literally as someone that hasn't been partying so hard since it was repealed that I can still conceive of long term planning. The Supreme Court just crippled a law that was meant to guarantee everyone in this country the right to vote. The immediate consequence is going to hit people of color the hardest, because they are once again able to be systematically denied their right and ability to vote at the whim of state and local legislators in an incredibly racist country. If you don't care about this I already want to yell at you, but for Gay people that can't seem to muster up concern over their post-DOMA haze, let me ask you this: When you pull up to your polling place with your Human Rights Campaign bumper sticker proudly polished to celebrate democracy, what exactly makes you think you'll be allowed to vote for someone that will guarantee you keep your right to get married? This is the conceit of the cissexist, white supremacist, Gay movement, the belief that the white picket fence protects them from the oppression faced by those "other" people. When you blink your way out of the haze and realize that right wing reactionaries just seized the ability to increase the power of white supremacy in this country, you're going to have to confront the cold hard facts that they don't see you as the right kind of white people, no matter how fabulous your wedding has been.

The Supreme Court did not just cripple black voting rights. They did not cripple people of color's voting rights. They crippled voting rights. This affects everyone. EVERYONE. This isn't a hard concept. When conservative state legislatures set up a pile of hurdles to keep people from voting they will bring in another wave of more conservative legislators that are perfectly capable of voting same-sex marriage back out of the states it's already legal in. What's more, those hurdles can just as easily be applied to people that read as Queer as they can to people of color. Sure, you can make sure you don't present too femme, because the Gay movement has been so good about femmephobia already, but you're staring into the tunnel back to the 1950's. You're looking back into the closet, back into the pits with the other "degenerates." No matter how well you've been dancing to the demands of heteronormative society you never made lasting change, because lasting change might scare off the allies. This is your whirlwind we now reap. All of us just lost decades of ground.

When you think to yourself "I deserve one day to celebrate. Things are still rough but we got a victory. We can sleep easy for at least a while" you do so out of ignorance. Not only do you need to utterly ignore a huge act of racism to keep the buzz going, but you need to ignore that when you wake up it won't be your legally recognized partner tapping you on the shoulder. When you wake up it will be to sirens blaring, to the beat of the jackboots descending onto your throat at full force, eager to return after being lightly restrained for so long, Tomorrow may look rosy for you now, but election day will come around not long after, and the Supreme Court has ruled that your needs, your rights, and you yourself have no place in that day and age.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Wandering to Pagan Spirit Gathering

Hurray! Starting tomorrow and extending for the entire next week through this following Sunday I will be attending Pagan Spirit Gathering at Stonehouse Park in Illinois. If any of my tiny number of readers is interested in meeting me I will try to assemble a rudimentary sign. Failing that I will be showing up tomorrow in my Polyamorous, Pagan, and Proud t-shirt.

While I don't have one of the fancy official press lanyards or badges, or whatever they give out, I will be taking lots of notes over the week and will be posting all about the gathering after it happens (or as it happens if there's a method of getting signal there and something is important enough to post about during). I don't know yet if my twitter will be silent but my phone is more likely to work than my laptop, so be sure to follow me on twitter as @Falcc and keep up on my adventures.

So! Much! Excitement!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Outlining The Radical Potential of Polyamory

With the last of my classes finally wrapping up I've been looking forward to blogging with renewed vigor. My problem lately has been less about not having anything to write and more about having too many subjects I want to tackle at once. I've decided it would be best to start really digging into intersectionality and tie together some of the concepts I've started explaining with my blog. After Pagan Spirit Gathering in mid-June I'll almost certainly be on a Pagan writing kick so in the mean time I'm going to tackle a few Polyamory concepts.

I want to begin by taking a look at what I consider to be the potential for Polyamory as a practice and as a movement. I've already explained what Polyamory is but now I want to look more at the possibilities Polyamory represents. Others have put forward some lessons for the building of a polyamorous movement but before we get to that we need to ask ourselves a fundamental question: what is the value of Polyamory?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Quick Post: Talking Without Training Wheels

I haven't posted anything in much longer than I'm comfortable with. Such is the power of the magic of finals. Beltane, May Day, and Pagan Coming Out day all fell by the wayside since my last post, and while I thought about sitting down to right something related to them if I didn't handle school first it would have put at risk my future prospects for school, housing, and insurance. None of this is what I want to talk about today, though. I'm picking and poking at some more important posts but today I have positive up-beat news for once.

I'm in a relationship again. It's been quite a while since this has been true and I'm all warm and glowy about it, even though most of the interaction between us occurs at a distance. I also have metamours (people that are dating my partner but not myself) for the first time and it's a unique kind of experience. As it happens my partner seems to draw in Queer loves like a magnet, and I can't blame them for pursuing zir.

Over the last weekend I had many incredible experiences as my now-partner visited and we formalized our relationship. I don't have zir consent to discuss some of them, although I will say they were revolutionary praxis at its best. What I can talk about is how amazing it is to talk to someone at a similar level. Not to suggest that most people I know are lacking in intelligence, nor to suggest that the conversations I do have involve someone that knows less about most subjects than I do (often quite the opposite) but rather that most people I speak to do not have the particular range of experiences and knowledge that I do. This isn't a value statement, most people just don't have the privilege to be able to spend six hours in a day delving into sex worker blogs to make up for not knowing what the views of actual sex workers are. All I can claim to be is incredibly well read and fairly well spoken. My partner shares these traits, which was a large part of our coming to connect with each other.

When the two of us talk we touch on a variety of subjects, but being activists most of them have to do with queerness or other maligned identities. Normally when either of us discusses these subjects we bump into some problems. We're often speaking to people from outside our respective communities that don't have the background on issues we feel passionately about. Other times we're speaking within the community but about subjects that aren't on the radar of the average (if there is such a thing) Queer student just trying to get by. Why more people don't spend their time thinking about ways to clarify concepts of privilege and oppression in their daily lives is largely beyond me, but it's the sad truth of the matter. This all means that when we bring up complex ideas put together from a dozen different sources we're more likely to spend the conversation explaining background than diving right into things. I'm thankful to know a lot of people for whom this isn't the case, and when it's not we get to do something my partner playfully referred to as "talking without training wheels."

It's amazing to talk to someone that self-analyzes and self-corrects. Someone that doesn't need to hear zir argument is ethnocentric because there's already a clarification of the limits to which the argument would reasonably apply. Someone that says things like "not that that isn't also valid" and "because clearly that makes a difference" and knows just why I'm smiling in response. Someone that not only has a broad understanding of zir own identities but of the needs and identities of others. These aren't things we get to take for granted in a heterosexist, racist, classist, tranphobic, and otherwise oppressive world. They are not givens, even if they should be. So when we talk with someone like ourselves, someone that knows that anger is justified and when a phrase is problematic, it's an incredible thing. It's beautiful. It can cause a deep and abiding connection over the simplest of topics. It's something more people deserve to feel.

While it's not easy to explain the value of abstract learning until you've actually had it, this is definitely one of those things more people need to do. When you realize you've spent so much of your life talking with training wheels, bumping into people with your words and crashing awkwardly against concepts, the freedom to converse down mountain trails and through shaddowy woods with someone you love is intoxicating. I highly recommend taking the time and learning how.

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Face Was in Boston

I can't get over how similar the captured Boston bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and I look. Oh, there are certainly differences, I'm something of a European mutt, but it's easy to envision him as an ancestor of mine at a young age. Someone that grew up in the area could probably visually distinguish my ambiguously defined Russian ancestry's bone structure and what-have-you from Chechnyan if such a distinction exists, but we're both Caucasian with ancestry from roughly the same region and I see my face in his face.

We're similar in a lot of ways. In addition to sharing a roughly similar appearance we're also fairly close to the same age. We've both lived most of our lives in the United States. We've both been subject to an indifferent or hostile system and felt alienated. According to mainstream society we both hold extremely radical views (though in very different directions). While there is no way I can sufficiently condemn his decision, and that of his brother, to murder innocents in pursuit of whatever goals he had, I recognize that if I had been raised in different circumstances I could easily have been Dzhokhar. His path isn't mine and I have no interest in becoming a killer for my ideology, which will forever create a gulf between us, but as I look at his picture I still see in his face a face not unlike my own.

Society doesn't see my face in his face. In fact, society, mainstream media sources, and politicians do not see his face at all, because his face is problematic. His face, like my face, is a white face. He is quite literally Caucasian. His face is disruptive to all of the carefully laid propaganda about brown faces and brown bodies being the source of terrorism in the United States and throughout the world. That's why it's being ignored in favor of his religion which fits into that messaging more easily and is more easily recoded back to a hatred of brown faces and bodies.

Despite having a similar face to one of the actual Boston bombers I will never be tackled and have my apartment raided due to the color of my skin. My ancestry won't be called on to question my patriotism, and in fact my utter lack of patriotism won't be connected to my ethnicity at all. I won't be accused of sympathizing with the bombers by people that see me on the street just because of my ethnicity or perceived ethnicity. I do not have to fear a sudden wave of anti-Russian violence. Russians, as well as most groups that make up my ethnic background, became generically recognized as White when it was convenient for the United States to incorporate us into a coalition to stand against civil rights for African Americans. Now I'm immune to the level of racism that has swept the media and Boston itself since the bombing.

White people aren't profiled. We aren't even acknowledged as a group until we're placed in some sort of conflict with People of Color. We make up the majority of reported rapists, are responsible for the majority of terrorist attacks in the history of the United States, are more likely to use illegal drugs than any other racial group, and are more likely to be serial killers. In fact, while the casualties of the Boston bombing are by no means insignificant and each of them deserves justice, more people in the United States have been killed by White Christian terrorists within the last year than died in Boston. None of this is used as evidence of a deficit in the morality of Whites, or for that matter Christians, as a whole. White school shooters aren't even discussed as being White. They're "mentally unstable". Racism can't touch us, because it's a system we've invented to elevate ourselves.

Instead of targeting me and others that look like me in the wake of an act of terrorism, or really any tragedy deemed newsworthy, people across the United States are looking for other scapegoats. When a shooter is a White male from the United States he suddenly becomes subject to mental instability. Gun control debates after shootings by White men are based around keeping guns out of the hands of those with mental illness, even though they are more likely to be victims of gun violence than perpetrators. Gun violence in major cities is addressed as a deficit in the stability of families of color. White Christain bombers like Timothy McVeigh and Eric Rudolph have their religious identities debated, invisiblized, and denied. Muslim bombers regardless of race are seen as representing all Muslims and a deep current of violence inseparable from Islam. Immigrants are stigmatized while terrorists born and raised in the United States are not grouped on that basis.

These ideas are playing out across a national stage once again in the wake of the Boston bombing. Politicians are feeding into Islamophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment, media outlets like CNN are playing on racial fears to stir up anti-Arab violence, and gun control debates will again be sidelined to pass laws increasing the size of the police state. To quote a news monitor on drones on Twitter, somewhere someone is certainly whispering in ears the question, "Could drones have found the Boston suspects faster?" Immigrant communities will be targeted broadly enough to blanket as many brown bodies as possible under the label of "terrorist threat."

There will be no attempts to address the ways in which American culture radicalizes people. No mainstream voice will speak up about the ways anti-immigrant sentiment fostered this violence. No source of this violence outside of the bombing suspect himself will be sought. No one will ask if this violence is characteristic of White men. No one will look at me twice because of my resemblance to a terrorist.

We won't come to see why the construction of this debate is itself breeding hatred, desperation, and future acts of terror. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I Was NOT Born This Way

Every time I come back from a queer space I'm stuck in a particular mindset. It becomes incredibly hard for me to interact to the rest of the world with anything except disdain. This mindset makes it hard to do school work, to talk to people that aren't Queer, and sometimes to feel anything other than anger. Basic functions of the world like money and clothing take on a sickly look. My social cohesiveness breaks down completely. I want to spit at people and deface billboards.

Every single person in the world should feel this way.

This is a fury that the world beats out of oppressed people on a daily basis. It denies the validity of our anger. Mainstream US society maintains that there is something disruptive about an angry black woman and something natural about being sexually assaulted. That it is unnatural to be Trans* but natural to experience "Trans Panic" and murder a Trans* person. Debt resistance is against the law but there have still been no prosecutions of bank CEOs that approved illegal credit default swaps and left millions homeless. The United States is claiming more indigenous land in Guam to facilitate a new Korean War, food prices are low because of slave labor, and it's illegal in more cities every day for homeless people to sleep anywhere other than too-small, underfunded, often-abusive shelters. We are expected to live with these realities because they serve the status quo of the privileged. They determine what is right, natural, and acceptable. All resistance is ridiculed, infiltrated by FBI, beaten by police, and derided by capitalist media outlets.

Quite frankly I'm sick of being spit on, and I want to spit back. 

To that effect I need to address a gross discourse that gets bandied about by the last people that should be embracing it. Let me be absolutely clear: every time someone says "born this way" a Queer person dies. They curl up into their closet, certain that if they were "really" Queer they would know it by now, unequivocally, and the fact that they have doubts is evidence of their simply being the straight, cisgender person everyone always told them they were. All of their feelings are chocked up to the same feelings of same-sex attraction that evangelicals claim everyone feels the first time they're caught having a gay affair. The lack of "acceptable" narrative from their birth ("I've always liked boys/girls", "I've always felt like I was really a man/woman" are the only "acceptable" narratives) means that someone questioning their sexuality or gender identity must be wrong. They're not just hearing the messages from the homophobic preachers, they're hearing the homophobia and transphobia from themselves and from the Queer community telling them their fluidity is problematic. We are actively culling our own ranks by regurgitating -phobic discourses to people that may well BE us if only they knew there was an option open.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why I'm Not Excited About Same Sex Marriage

As a Queer identified person I've found my romantic and sexual attractions range a fairly wide gamut, including some people that would be identified as being the same sex as me by the state and/or federal government. With this in mind same sex marriage sounds as though it could have a major impact on my life and open up all sorts of possibilities. Additionally I largely see same sex marriage as a foregone conclusion even if it may take a while. So why aren't I more excited?

As people that know me have gradually realized I'm a marriage resistor. I see the institution of marriage as unnecessary to create stable families and view the insistence on marriage promotion amongst politicians as a method to subtly control individuals. I also see a number of the every day acts of violence and oppression perpetuated against Queer people as being more important to focus on than, and in many ways unrelated to, the legal status of same sex marriage. Naturally this has caused a lot of conflict with the mainstream Gay rights movement that seems to be all about marriage as a way of obtaining legitimacy in the eyes of straight society.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Labeling the Boxes

Words are important in activism. It's not just about saying the right things, or explaining things in the right way, it's also having the right words to describe what it is you're talking about. That's why I made the (probably futile) effort to coin the term gnostivism. Words can be harmful but they can also be helpful in mitigating harm. Identity labeling is considered by some to do more harm than good, and I really disagree with that. So I'm going to try to explain why I see it as beneficial, at least for right now.

The main argument against identity labeling is that it only serves to divide people. There is a certain notion amongst particular groups of progressives that by eliminating all distinctions between people we'll be more likely to treat each other equally as human beings. This is a fairly positive idea all by itself, and isn't a bad thing to want to work toward, depending on how one does that work. I would say that, in fact, I do believe that in an ideal world identity labeling will be de-emphasized and people would be allowed to just be people, in whatever way they happen to express that. However, jumping to the elimination of labels in any situation short of an ideal world can lead to a lot of problematic responses to real world issues.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Horror of Steubenville and Every Other City

Trigger Warning: Rape, Rape culture, misogyny, violence against women, victim blaming, possibly incoherent swearing by me, ALL links contain potentially triggering material

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What My Queerness is Not

Trigger warning: some homophobic language

I'd like to take a moment to clarify, because sometimes there can be confusion.

My queerness is not homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or just plain sexual. It is not dependent on who I am attracted to, who I am in a relationship with, or who I am married to.

My queerness is not based on genitalia, chromosomes, hormones, gametes, musculature, broad shoulders, long legs, body hair, deep voice, or sex assigned at birth.

My queerness is not my long hair. It is not my black-painted finger nails. It is not my eye shadow, the way I shave, or my desire to have my facial hair permanently removed. It is not dependent on whether I'm wearing a skirt or jeans. It does not come off with my clothes. It does not come off in the shower.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fighting For Polyamorous Marriage

My favorite podcast, the excellent Polyamory Weekly, just had a show on the subject of polyamorous marriage (so nice, I linked them twice) and whether or not it's something we should be fighting for as a movement. I always enjoy these kinds of discussions and I actually have strong feelings on the subject, so I was planning to just call in when I realized that I have one of those fancy blog things now. Suddenly I'm able to comment on things soapbox style, so I thought I would do that instead.

Most of Cunning Minx's points on this show come from an article by Mistress Matisse (Poly bloggers have the best names) called You May Now Kiss the Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Groom so I'll be discussing those first.

Quick Post: Intentions and Bad Cookies

Depression is horrible. I know this is a pretty controversial sentiment, right up there with bee stings aren't fun and Boys Don't Cry is "not a feel good movie." Depression is so horrible that when combined with a persistent illness it's very difficult to drag one's self out of bed some mornings, or even some afternoons. However, things are expected of me. Health and mental well-being are great concepts and all but they don't serve the capitalist machine or help me fulfill my get-a-piece-of-paper-to-signify-my-intelligence plans so I need to prioritize. Since that's hard to jump right into from a position of "if I lay here all day and don't move, maybe I'll feel better tomorrow" I'm doing some blogging first to get warmed up for the important things like journal entries that aren't graded on content.

Here's a slightly more controversial fact: intentions don't matter. It's kind of depressing when you think about it (or maybe that's just me) because intentions are given so much importance in our social interactions. "It's the thought that counts" may be as well recognized for its passive aggressive implications as it is for its honest sentiment but it's still a cultural standard for our feelings on intentions. In America, at least, we've really embraced this concept that well-meaning gestures are much more important than shallow but practical ones. When a surprise goes wrong because your partner turned out to be allergic to the chocolates you bought it's still supposed to be better than if you had ruined the romance by asking beforehand. Romance is a good intention, surprise is a good intention. Here's a better cultural standard: "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

We treat intentions like some kind of magic spell. Simply by informing someone that our intentions were good and pure there's some kind of expectation that the mistakes we made in the actual implementation should be less painful to us. Imagine if surgeons used this logic. "I only meant to cut out the cancer, I didn't mean to lacerate all those internal organs. Hey, there's no call to get upset, I didn't do it on purpose!" The well-intentioned speakers expect to get away with their mistakes, in fact they will actually be upset if something that they didn't intend to be harmful is called out when it actually causes harm, simply because they're well-intentioned. Consequences aren't nearly as important as disposition for the person that doesn't have to receive the consequences.

Would someone ever forgive a drunk driver for causing a loss of life solely on the basis that their only intention was to get home before the police caught them? It's absurd to imagine.

So what does this mean for those of us in oppressed groups? We're continuously bombarded with messages about who we are, what we want, what is expected of us, and some of those messages are harmful. Actually, I would say the vast majority of what oppressed groups hear in the world is constructed in a way that causes harm to their sense of self and well-being. That's part and parcel of being oppressed, it is itself an aspect of oppression. Some of those messages are aimed at us by people that honestly just want to help. The concerned uncle that's sure just telling you to "suck it up" will help beat back the depression, the police officer that tells a group of young women to watch what they wear when they go out at night, and the politician that tells an African American audience that the best way to reduce gun violence is to have stable monogamous marriages are all probably genuine in their desire to help produce a solution to problems they see. They're still wrong to say it, the effects of their words can still lead to incredible suffering for the people that they're unconsciously disempowering. They ARE at fault for these words.

My point is simple: you are judged based on what you actually say, not what you mean to say. Your words are harmful based on what people hear, not what you think they SHOULD hear. If you are striving to be a genuinely good person this means you have to take responsibility not just for your words but for the effect they have and respond in kind. Don't be defensive, don't try to shift the blame to how the other person perceives what you said, just accept that they have had a reaction and you now need to operate from that situation instead of the one you envisioned. This applies to everything: misgendering, racial insensitivity, slurs you didn't know where slurs.

There are no rewards for trying not to be a horrible person and not making it. There's no way to request that reward in a well-intentioned manner. No one wants to give you a cookie just for trying, and if someone does it's probably full of salt.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Gender Room

It has one toilet and one sink. There is no stall and no urinal. The door locks. What makes it a men's room? 

Perhaps the lack of changing table means that it has asserted itself a sense of resentful masculinity? Is it the kind of room that despises even the slim progress of equality that has lead to nurturing fathers, single fathers, and pairs of fathers? Could it disdainfully relegate those duties to the women's room down the hall, no doubt full of frills and lace and things more appropriate for changing a baby?

Does it silently criticize those that don't fit its image of masculinity? Are the business students that pass by too slight for it? Is it upset by my long hair, shocked that a man would walk through the world this way? What would it feel like if I had come in wearing a skirt?

Can it imagine the ill woman, clutching sadly at the locked handle of its sister room? Will it consider the man standing outside its anonymous door, not obviously suggesting its singular nature, and wondering if he passes well enough to go in or if he must find the tucked away gender neutral restroom, laying unadvertised in some other hallway, before his need to go becomes an infection? Would it refuse to serve its purpose if they'd entered? Would it stop its long months, still too newly built to have gone years, of uncommenting silence in order to object?

Does it resent its label? Has it always wished to be some other sort of room? Would it sympathize with those people that have rejected their own societal label? Can it even tell when someone walks inside it what society has labeled them from the moment of their birth?

There is nothing that passes in or out, no person, no substance, no horrific drunken expulsion or clogged overflow that is more degrading, more obscene, more thoroughly revolting than the image it holds no responsibility for. The sign that proclaims something the room can never convey on its own, has no reason to convey, has no need to convey. The glaring fault, terrible only because of all of the things that must be the wrong in the world before that label would exist. Like a scarlet letter, labeling all who enter as under the sway of society's judgement. 

"Men's Room"

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Your god, Not God

Writing a blueprint for a new coalition is hard. That's all I can say to people that I know are waiting for a particular post to go up. In the mean time I want to tackle something on the religious end of the issues I care about. I've been fairly focused on queer issues for a while and I think it's time to shake that up.

There is a form of oppression in our culture that I think is often only recognized spiritually but which has very tangible effects. Feeling something spiritually is difficult to quantify exactly, especially for people that aren't religious. There also aren't solid terms for different forms of religious oppression the way there are for other kinds of oppressions, so I can't point to a concept that can be more easily recognized by people with more removed relations to faith. For a working term, admittedly one that doesn't quite roll off the tongue, I'll be using "Gnosivism".

This refers to the assumptions that
  • Everyone in a society has the same religion, or that everyone is hearing the same thing from the divine, as the mainstream of the dominant religion . 
  • The dominant religion of the culture is superior to all other religions
  •  And that members of other religions or those lacking religion can be freely mistreated, harmed, oppressed, discriminated against, or litigated against.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

I Will Not Go Quietly

I was planning to put together a post today discussing the formation of a coalition. I actually have about a third of it put together already, but I'd hoped to finish it later tonight. Then someone told me that I should go back into the closet.

It doesn't matter who it was. It doesn't matter that they probably meant it as honest advice with no actual malice. If anything that makes it worse. Quite honestly it also doesn't matter that they eventually tried to apologize. It happened.

I am a Polyamorous, Pagan Queer. I am a man and I wear skirts. I march at rallies, I vote, I speak, I protest. I have strong feelings about the society that allows homelessness and foreclosures to exist in the same nation and I'm vocal about them. I am also white, fairly well off financially except for my crushing debt burden, and fairly young with no dependents. I have more of an opportunity to be out than most people in the oppressed categories I'm in, but I still face all the prejudices and oppressions that coming out brings. I walk my campus in femme cut clothing along with masculine. I wear things associated with women: makeup, nail polish, skirts and leggings. Pictures of this are already online and there's not much chance of getting them off now, not that I'd want to. I've peppered the internet with essays, blogs, posts, and for several glorious seconds I've even appeared in Daily Show footage for speaking at a rally. I am out.

To be out to me means to be free. To have cast off my closets and my broom closets and my men's section clothing racks and women's section clothing racks. To have sat across from my parents and said "I love both of these women, and they love me. This is because of who I am" even knowing we wouldn't last beyond college and even knowing they might not understand. To have stood in front of hundreds of people, sat on panels, stood before classes, and told them I'm Queer. To have stood up before professors and said "I'm Queer and I am NOT okay with what you said."

To me being out means to be watched. To know that only one police officer needs to be the wrong one to come across me walking at night in a skirt and make an assumption, and so to fear all of them at least a bit. To know that my employment and my housing are always in a tenuous state because of a lack of legal protections, and no will to back up those that exist. To know that a gendered bathroom is never an entirely safe space for me.

For someone that has never had my experience, someone apathetic to activism, to tell me that because it might be safer for me in the short run I should go back in the closet is an absolutely heinous act. Closeting someone is an act which dismisses all of their identities as being secondary to the ones they are expected to have. It is an act of intense violence, stripping someone of their autonomy and acting as an apologist to their oppressors. Pushing someone back into the closet is no less than a dismissal of the entire movement that spawned a response to the AIDS epidemic. If someone wants to be closeted, or needs to be closeted out of concern for their own well being, they should never be condemned, but to tell someone that is free of the closet that they would do better to go back embodies the force of all subtle oppressions, microaggressions, and assumptions into a phrase. "This world is better than you. Your place is where it put you. It's better if you just see that."

If I lose my home, if I cannot be employed because I raised my voice for the thousands of people that cannot raise theirs, I would rather live on the streets like Sylvia Rivera than to allow myself to be silenced. If I am subject to violence I will face it as has every activist before me that refused to be moved, to be pushed away, to be quieted, to be closeted. Let my name be sung in a hall somewhere like a hero, shouted out like a demand that violence be addressed, that suffering be addressed, that oppression be addressed, and that the apathetic not sit idly by because I went out with my head up and out.

I refuse. I reject. I deny. Unequivocally, without exception and in no uncertain terms: The Closet. I am burning my closet down, right here, and right now. Here I stand for all the internet to see.

-Thorin Sorensen

Saturday, February 16, 2013

MBLGTACC part 3: Identity Caucuses and Allies

Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here

"I hate it when allies talk," is something I was told by a close friend after MBLGTACC was over and we were discussing our experiences in different identity caucuses. For the first time in my life I've been able to understand this sentiment, and it's a heavy one so I'm taking a whole post to break down what it means to me and potentially what it should mean to allies. The first part of this post is largely based around experiences at MBLGTACC, and so it's related primarily to the LGBTQ community, but in relation to the allies themselves it doesn't matter what group they're allies of. This is important content to understand.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

MBLGTACC part 2: Polyamory and Politics

 Part 1 is here

A few more days out from MBLGTACC 2013, the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Ally College Conference, I'm ready to took another look at the conference and assess feelings that aren't just longing to return. It wasn't a perfect conference, as much as I loved it, and although it was the most inclusive of Polyamory of any MBLGTACC I've attended that also left more room open for things to go wrong. So with a queer movie night behind me (Watched "Together" and apparently Scandinavian comedies are based around the idea that if as many people as possible are miserable it must be funny for SOMEONE and romances universally mean always going back to the man that hit you) I'm ready to tackle the Polyamory workshops and caucuses, how they worked, how they didn't, and what they could have done. 

I've started adding handy labels to posts to designate the level of understanding you'll need to have of a specific community to jump right into a topic. This way I won't have to be as extensive with providing definitions for terms I've covered before in each new post. If you're coming here for a Socialist perspective for example (which I really am going to get to extensively once the MBLGTACC stuff is properly wrapped up) but aren't really familiar about Queer identity or Polyamory, there are some articles you should check out before others will make sense to you, and vice-versa. So introductory posts that explain issues entirely from scratch get labeled as "Basics" while in-group topics will be labeled with "Intermediate" and theory that is deep in-group will get an "Advanced" tag. If you don't know much about Polyamory feel free to check out my What is it? Polyamory article (now updated to include more readings on the subject) and some of the linked websites before trying to understand this post.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

MBLGTACC part 1: Unpacking MBLGTACC

At the moment I am recovering from an incredible weekend at the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Ally, College Conference otherwise known as MBLGTACC. This is one of the largest annual conferences in the country, certainly the largest in the Midwest, that is specifically about queer issues. Over 2000 people of all different identities, some of them far beyond the scope of the included acronym, converge on a college somewhere for a single weekend of discussions, workshops, networking, learning, teaching, and in some cases having conference sex. I hope that explains the delay in posting this. People don't sleep at MBLGTACC so much as they close their eyes briefly between late night events and early morning ones, and I've been thrust straight back into normative society and homework without processing time. Expect several posts in this series but don't expect them all right away.

I want to spend some time unpacking my own experiences at the conference, and the conference in general. As amazing as the conference was for me there is still a barrier of entry that includes monetary requirements, college attendance, and travel. There is a value to sharing some of the insights gained in this setting with people that couldn't access it, and allowing additional processing opportunities for the people in attendance. While I hope that much of my blog will be easily accessible without needing to locate a ton of outside readings, some posts are predominantly aimed at those that have an understanding of a specific community already. While I will try to provide some links for “obscure” terms my expectation is that people already in the LGBTQ community will be the ones most interested in MBLGTACC.

If you're utterly lost this may be a post to explore again after I've had the chance to elaborate on more topics.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What is it? Polyamory

What is it? is one of several types of posts I have planned for Polyamorous Paganism. I hope to use it to outline the basics of an identity, concept, practice, or act that not everyone floating around the internet may be familiar with. These aren't 100% comprehensive posts, and they aren't infallible. I can only explain my personal views on what a subject is, and I don't speak for the entirety of any community. Additionally, I'm still learning. In many of these communities I'm still a student and in some of them I'm still new. What is it? is only meant to be an introduction to a subject and an invitation to start learning along with me. 

I am polyamorous. At one point that was one of the hardest things I've ever had to say to another human being. I've said it online and in classrooms, and most of the time I'm as comfortable mentioning it to a casual acquaintance as I am to an auditorium full of people. I've helped start the Polyamory discussion group for the Fox Valley, although I haven't been able to attend in months, and I'm the go-to activist for any speech or presentation on the subject on campus. I actually get to do two presentations on the subject on the same day later this month, one of them for a class full of freshman. At the same time this was one of the most difficult subjects I've ever spoken to my family about. It has inspired some of the happiest moments I've ever had in relationships. It makes up the root of the first word in the name of my blog.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

What is it? Queer

What is it? is one of several types of posts I have planned for Polyamorous Paganism. I hope to use it to outline the basics of an identity, concept, practice, or act that not everyone floating around the internet may be familiar with. These aren't 100% comprehensive posts, and they aren't infallible. I can only explain my personal views on what a subject is, and I don't speak for the entirety of any community. Additionally, I'm still learning. In many of these communities I'm still a student and in some of them I'm still new. What is it? is only meant to be an introduction to a subject and an invitation to start learning along with me. 

There are only two days left before the start of MBLGTACC, the Midwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Ally College Conference. While the word Queer doesn't make it into that title it is one of the largest queer events in the Midwest. It's also one of the two big events I look forward to every year for reaffirming and enhancing my identity (the other one is Pagan Spirit Gathering in the summer) so I want to include it as part of my blogging experience.

So what is Queer? How is an event or a space queer? Why am I so inconsistent with capitalization?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What is it? Paganism

What is it? is one of several types of posts I have planned for Polyamorous Paganism. I hope to use it to outline the basics of an identity, concept, practice, or act that not everyone floating around the internet may be familiar with. These aren't 100% comprehensive posts, and they aren't infallible. I can only explain my personal views on what a subject is, and I don't speak for the entirety of any community. Additionally, I'm still learning. In many of these communities I'm still a student and in some of them I'm still new. What is it? is only meant to be an introduction to a subject and an invitation to start learning along with me. 

I am a Pagan. This has been true to varying degrees over the past ten years of my life, sometimes in the guise of Wicca, sometimes as a general polytheist, and, since starting college, a fully embraced identity label with an understanding of what that commitment entails.  To me this is one of the most meaningful parts of my identity. It's also part of the second word in the name of this blog. So what is Paganism?

The Pagan Pride Project provides the definition I've come to consider to be the most accurate to my understanding of Paganism.
A Pagan or NeoPagan is someone who self-identifies as a Pagan, and whose spiritual or religious practice or belief fits into one or more of the following categories:

  • Honoring, revering, or worshipping a Deity or Deities found in pre-Christian, classical, aboriginal, or tribal mythology; and/or
  • Practicing religion or spirituality based upon shamanism, shamanic, or magickal practices; and/or
  • Creating new religion based on past Pagan religions and/or futuristic views of society, community, and/or ecology;
  • Focusing religious or spiritual attention primarily on the Divine Feminine; and/or
  • Practicing religion that focuses on earth based spirituality.
If this sounds vague it's because it has to cover a huge swathe of people. Paganism is accurately understood as more of an umbrella term than the name of a single religion. Under that umbrella lies hundreds of belief systems both new and ancient which are further subdivided into covens, churches, temples, groups, and solitary practitioners.  Most of the people in all those different groups worship some number of thousands and thousands of gods, goddesses, and spiritual beings. I say most because one of the truisms of Paganism is that there are very few truisms. We're an incredibly individualistic bunch that come to a lot of different belief systems mostly through experience rather than direct conversion.

While avoiding expectations of universal identifying factors here are a few characteristics that tend to be accurate about Pagans:

  • We're a non-proselytizing religion. You'll never find us knocking on your door during dinner because we don't care what your practices are as long as we're allowed to practice ours in peace.
  • We tend to be based around experiences rather than texts. There's a joke that refers to Pagans as "People of the Library" since we have so many books, but our connection with the divine tends to be based around personal gnosis, not scripture.
  • There are more of us than you think. Due to both subtle and overt forms of oppression that are enforced by more populous religious groups Pagans aren't always out about their religious beliefs. You may know a few without even realizing it.

All of these points and the ones above are contentious. The number of different ideas about what Paganism is and what it involves are staggering. I'll go into much deeper depth later on for those who are interested, but this is a good functional definition going forward for people looking to understand how Paganism connects to other identities.

If you're interested in learning more about Paganism About.com is an incredible starting resource. Patti Wigington really knows her stuff and she even has an article on Pagans and Polyamory. For more advanced information check out the Pagan portal over at Patheos.com

Update: I'll be adding basics, intermediate, and advances labels to content so readers can find an identity they want to learn about and read from their own individual level of understanding

Friday, January 25, 2013

Polywhaty What?

So it's finally happened. I have a blog. This is that fantastic moments in every modern activist's life where they start telling people they feel ways about things.

Twitter has been a fantastic resource, helping me to learn from more established activists in real time and keep up with major issues, but (character limit reached) it has an obvious drawback for larger blocks of content. Facebook doesn't have a character limit but I'm left with a limited pool of people to discuss issues with. I was warned away from Tumblr as if I had suggested poking a bear with a stick covered in meat. Now I've finally settled on a location and a format and I'm ready to begin for real.

So who am I? What is a Polyamorous Pagan and how does that differ from either of those things alone? Why do I suddenly have a blog?

For the purposes of this blog I'm a collection of identities attempting to express their connection to one another. I'm an eclectic polytheistic Pagan exploring multiple mythologies, learning to energy work, and engaging with city spirits.I'm a currently-single Polyamorist and self identified Queer. I'm a Socialist in theory, looking for a praxis I can get behind. I'm a cis-male but I like to present androgynously. I'm a student, an amateur novel writer, an activist. Most importantly I'm all of these things at the same time, trying to remain a single coherent idea.

The reason I want to blog is because I've spent a lot of time reading Pagan blogs and Polyamorist blogs without seeing the content that makes a sustained connection between those identities, and others that I myself have managed to experience simultaneously. I've been inspired by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus tying together Queer identity with Paganism in a way that helped me to make the same leap, Crystal Blanton and Nadirah Adeye from Daughters of Eve exposing the invisibilization and  marginalization of women of color by the larger Pagan community and demanding better, and the Poly & series by Modern Poly. I think a new voice is necessary not only to speak on these numerous groups and movements individually, but also to bridge the gap between them and show what they have to gain from one another. So I will be commenting on issues relevant to Paganism, or Socialism, or the Queer/LGBTQQIAAPP (and I'll be covering acronyms extensively) community, or Polyamory as distinct from Queer, but also how they connect to one another and to other communities and other movements.

My plan is to start my blog with a series of "what is..?" posts to help explain some of the terms I've already used. I can't provide a perfect definition of some (greater minds than I are arguing about what Pagan covers even as you read this) but I can explain what each identity has meant in my life and give some broader background for people entirely new to the terms. Following that I'll attempt to tie them together and show how neatly they can fit that way. Stuck between these posts and following indefinitely after will be posts on individual issues, ideas, or replies to other articles.

Ideally I'll even be able to keep things interesting.