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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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