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Those who say that equality is not a relevant “Pagan” issue are incorrect.

There is no one for whom equality is not a relevant issue.

Strip the rights of one, and you strip the rights of all. Conversely, uphold the dignity of one, and you uphold the dignity of all.

Today SCOTUS struck down DOMA and Prop 8, and by doing so they allowed us all to take one small step forward in the direction of equal treatment under the law.

The Scale of Things (sunface13 on Flickr)

I heard the news from my husband, which seemed perfectly appropriate. He came into the room and woke me. I’d slept in, tired from a long work trip in LA. He pulled back the blinds and said,

“Good morning, sweetie. We’re recognized by the federal government.”

Sean and I were married in California in 2008 during the brief, pre-Prop 8 window when LGBT couples were allowed to wed. It wasn’t technically a shotgun wedding, but it was close. While we’d been talking about getting married for a good while, we didn’t make our plans official until we learned that California would offer marriage licenses to gay couples from out of state. California was the first state to allow this. We scheduled our time-slot as soon as we could.

Being married, and at the same time not being married has been a strange reality to live with. It’s a discontinuity that most married couples could not conceive of. When I bring it up to straight friends or family members, there’s often an “ah-ha” moment.

I never really thought about what that would be like, is a common response.

Talking about the reality of being a “married but unrecognized” couple has been an important testimony to make for another reason. The political forces which so vehemently appose gay marriage are the same forces who would happily regulate the bedrooms and sexual practices of straight people.

A puritan is a puritan is a puritan. They want to invalidate my relationship just as much as they want to get all up in your uterus.

When I say that this is a small step toward equal treatment under the law, I’m not just talking about us queers here. I’m also talking about moving toward a place of greater gender equality, too. Our society is built within a binary gender paradigm which favors one gender over the other. In many ways, the LGBT rights movement threatens that very paradigm, because jumping on board the gay train requires you to suspend all of your “normal” assumptions about gender roles in relationship. Do that, and you start seeing imbalance and injustice nearly every place you look.

LGBT rights are like a gateway drug in that way. Start supporting the homos, and before long you’ll end up a complete social justice activist.

(I’ve seen it happen.)

It’s good to remind people who may think of LGBT rights as a “fringe issue” that today’s ruling fits into a much larger discussion about personal liberty and equality — two principles which can, with enough political firepower, be jeopardized for even the most mainstream among us. Even hetero-normative folks need to be on the lookout.

But not today. Today is a day worth celebrating. I believe that equality is a Pagan value, and equality was upheld today.

That’s worth at least a cupcake.

I offer my sincere thanks to all of the front-liners; all of the people who stood on corners and got petitions signed; all of the people who sent e-mails and form letters; all of the people who spoke their own, personal truth about living in a queer relationship; and, perhaps most especially, I thank all of the many, many straight people who took up arms in this fight. Straight allies are no joke. They’re the real deal. We need more of them.

I’m going to go on being gay with my husband now, doing gay stuff.

Like picking up some produce.

Going to mom’s house for dinner.

You know…

Gay stuff.

It snowed last night. First of the season. There wasn’t quite enough to break the branches like last year, but it was enough to remind us that the season of fall, as much as I’d prefer it last forever, is simply a transition. What we’re witnessing in the seasonal display of colors is the letting go of something we’ve grown accustomed to.

Transitions, periods when something is neither one thing nor the other, boggle the mind. It would be so much simpler if the world was binary, which I think is why so many people continue to hustle that fallacy. Convince the world that things are either/or, and you can eliminate the need to deal with the grey-area transition periods, some of which can last for weeks, months, lifetimes even.

My kid has been engaged with transition for a while now.

It began with pronouns. She preferred he, and so we began to give that a go. It can be harder than you might think. I’d slip sometimes, especially in private, because I’ve grown accustomed to having a stepdaughter for seven years. I’ve gotten used to thinking of her in a number of ways, and adjusting those perceptions takes time.

Then, there was the period when, with the aid of some ace bandages, the chest of a she looked much more like the chest of a he. This made him incredibly happy, and he seemed to come out of his shell even more when presenting as a boy.

I saw him with binded chest and I remembered being seventeen, sneaking out of the house in a mini-skirt, a baby-doll shirt and motorcycle boots, with full makeup. I kept my sideburns, though. It wasn’t show-girl drag, it was gender-play.

Playing with gender felt so natural to me, and so liberating. Rather than perform masculinity in the way that I’d struggled to do for most of my young life, I gave myself permission to be something in-between.

It would be unfair of me to lacquer my memories and understandings onto my kid, thinking that what was, for me, a period of radical exploration and expression, must be the same for him. It might have similarities, but it is certainly different.

My kid is trans.

In a few weeks, the transition speeds up for him, becoming more physical. Binding will no longer be necessary, and presenting as a boy will begin to be much easier for him. Interestingly, his transition will become — in a way — fixed. His state of in-between becomes more permanent, more an extension of who he his.

For keeps.

I’m scared for him, and I still can’t completely location the reason for my fear. Perhaps it’s that transition is inherently scary, or maybe having grown up an other in this society I understand how challenging that role can be, in practical terms. To be gay has become much more fashionable, but to be trans is still very difficult. Even the people on the fringes want things to be black and white.

We want our gays and straights, our Gods and a Goddesses, our men and women, our clear, unbreakable lines between what is masculine and what is feminine. We want everything to be simple, and explainable, and assignable to whatever categories we’ve become most comfortable with. Those among us who resist the categorization, who not only accept transition but embrace it, force the rest of us to take a hard look at our assumptions. About everything.

Transition is inevitable. It just happens. The winter comes whether you’d like it to or not, so you might as well search out the beauty in the snow. Ours is not to force nature into being what we would like it to be, and neither is it mine to tell my trans kid that he really would make all of our lives easier if he could just keep being a girl.

It doesn’t work that way.

I like to think of trans people as agents of transition and transformation. They call on all of us to acknowledge that what we assume about the world is not always the case, and what we believe is fixed about humanity is often quite fluid.

To embrace trans is to embrace a truth about the world.

That’s how special my kid is.

My Queer friends don’t want to be called Gay or Lesbian. Too many connotations. Not accurate enough to their own personal experiences. They’re much more complex than what those labels allow for. Gay is too easily marketed to, and at this point completely co-opted by the mainstream.

Gay is Will & Grace. Queer doesn’t even own a TV.

My Gay friends don’t really understand Queer. What’s wrong with Gay, they ask? There’s a history to the label; rich and complicated, and worth preserving. You lose that legacy when you abandon the label. So what if you’re anti-mainstream? You’re still subject to oppression from the mainstream, aren’t you? Bigots don’t care if you call yourself queer or gay or faggot or tranny. Its all the same to them. You’re Other, no matter how you choose to self-identify.

Thus, the Gays, Lesbians and Queers remain distant, abbreviated letters — G’s, L’s & Q’s, with B’s & T’s squeezed tightly between the three stodgy siblings.

Pagans Are SO Gay

I’m watching this debate go on about the validity of the term “Pagan”, and whether or not it’s useful anymore. Admittedly, I’m a newbie in the Pagan community. But, I am no newbie Gay. And, I feel there’s a valuable parallel between our struggles that no one is picking up on.

The GLBTQ…xyz community, in actuality, is not the tightest knit community. We have little pockets of community. We micro-organize. We have bars, community centers, gathering places, apps. We have parades. But, we’re a tiny minority living in the midst of an often antagonistic majority, and the subcultures within our subculture often don’t understand each other or work toward a common end.

I see the same thing going on right now with Pagans.

Some Polytheists may not consider themselves Pagan any more than most Queers consider themselves Gay. But, the Queers are out there having that crazy homo-sex. You know… the thing that first led the Gays to seek one another out, to organize in protest of widespread oppression? Remember all that Stonewall jazz?….

And the Polytheists are out there worshipping those same Old Gods that all the Pagans are buying statues of in our local metaphysical shops. Polytheists may approach their religion with more academic backing (or they may not), and they may feel compelled to reestablish and align themselves with cultural identifiers and practices which have long since disappeared (i.e. Reconstructionism). But, whether you trace back your spiritual lineage to Gardner or to an unnamed Celtic Warrior of Old, you’re still a part of something that’s happening right now, in the world. This world. The present.

Identity v.s. Branding

This isn’t so much a question of identity. We’re pluralistic, the LGBTQ’s & the Pollies/Pagans. There isn’t ever going to be a single identity which we can embody, and I think it would be a shame to make that a goal. Our diversity is what gives our respective cultures their intrinsic value. I don’t think anyone is trying to reduce us down to the lowest common denominator.

This is really a question of how do we — Polytheists and Pagans — wish to be portrayed outside of the festival grounds. I wouldn’t use the battle language that Laura LaVoie used, but the sentiment here is mostly the same. When we try to make our place in this world, amidst a religious majority that might not allow us the space or respect we deserve, what will unite us as a people. Our title?

T. Thorn Coyle may have said it best when she wrote:

What do I think is this thing that ties such diverse ways and means of practice, experience, and belief together? We all have a sense of “Divine with us on earth.” The Gods are not just far off in Asgard, they are in our gardens and our homes. Goddesses don’t just live in some distant place, they help us run our businesses, and teach our children. And these Gods and Goddesses have their own agency, too. Paganism(s) and systems of magick – as they exist in contemporary religious expression in this loosely knit group of practitioners – hold theologies of immanence in common, whether this is directly acknowledged or not.

Do we need to develop any more interfaith language around this? Must we have a single word that defines the whole group? Or, is it possible for us to make space for an individual’s choice to reject Capital Letter Titles in favor of a label that feels more specific and resonant with her own religious approach (like, for example “I am a priest of the Old Belief, a polytheist through and through, and more than anything else the Heroic Life is my religion“).

It’s a Queer approach, but if done with respect for the hardcore Pagans and the diehard Gays it may be the next step in our spiritual and cultural evolution.

What do you think?

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