Archive for May 27, 2015

Gaining a Global Perspective

I’m excited to see how international my readership has become. While more than half of folks who view my blog are located in the U.S. (whether that means they live there or are travelling), it’s also fun to see where else my readers are located I recall seeing: Argentina, Jamaica, United Kingdom, Brazil, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Japan, South Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, the Faeroe Islands. I myself follow blogs written by people in Canada, Portugal, New Zealand, the Philipines, Kuwait, Israel, France, Germany, Britain, Australia…not sure where else!

I also keep an eye on the search terms that lead people to my blog- some I’ve noticed recently: mental illness and paganism, “I’m wiccan but mentally ill, mental health prayer wiccan, pagan flower communion, perennial philosophy unitarian, jack in the box origins, trickster, pop culture paganism. I do have plans to write more on mental health & spirituality- when I first started writing on the topic, I could find very little about Paganism specifically, let alone any one Pagan path or any mental health conditions beyond depression and anxiety. I’m glad to see more people writing on the topic, though of course there can be mixed results sometimes when people start giving amateur advice! More on that later.

Well I was thinking about to have a truly global perspective as a blogger. It’s tricky enough keeping a multicultural view just within the United States that includes all the regional variations. I’ve also only had the opportunity to travel to Canada & Mexico- far more than many have- but then again just the traveling I’ve done within the country is far more than some do as well. The awkward part is that growing up, we are taught very little about world history and other cultures. Even what we learn of U.S. history tends to be limited to A Series of Wars, Conquest and Cool Stuff Done by White Guys, with heavy emphasis on memorizing dates of battles. What we learn about Europe is mostly limited to Britain, France and Germany (mostly military related) and aside from the Italian Renaissance and the Spanish empire, the historically Catholic nations of Europe are ignored, and Eastern Europe is a shadowy realm of feudalism and communism. Africa is That Country That Has Starving Children that Angelina Jolie sometimes adopts, Asia (China & Japan) is Exotic & That Place That Has All Those Smart Kids that Dumb American Kids Need to Work Harder to Compete With and South America is Where The Drugs Come From.

So yeah, you get it we’re ignorant. You already knew that, I’m sure! The tricky thing is, when the rest of the world knows more about your culture than you know about everyone else’s- but at the same time which parts can you assume they know and which can’t you? So I try not to- I try to remember to explain origins of distinctly American holidays and customs. But there are other differences I have to remind myself of, especially since I write about topics that tend to be “off the beaten track”- that is when I look up info about a particular country, I’ll have to do more digging to find out how say, autism, bisexuality or magic are viewed there, and if these concepts even exist in their languages! One thing that does give me an advantage, is I live in an area with many immigrants- refugees in particular from Southeast Asia, Eastern Africa and many other places. Having these folks as neighbors, co-workers, classmates and friends has challenged my “Of Course Everyone Does That” style assumptions, as I’ve ended up explaining “Why Do Americans Say/Do X Thing?!!” to them, and they’ve done the same about their own customs and habits.

May 27, 2015 at 3:39 am 3 comments

Pagan/Queer Community comparison

One important thing to remember about the word Pagan is that it’s based on self-identity. Personally I am a supporter of Project Pagan Enough, even at the risk of implying a “Pagan means whatever you want it to mean” stance. My stance is- let’s quit wasting time and energy arguing over who “counts” as Pagan or not.

This reminds me over some of the “who counts and is included?” struggles we’ve had in another of my communities- the GLBTQIA+ which is really a cluster of overlapping communities who work together (or don’t) with varying degrees of success. Gays and lesbians are typically at the center, just as Wiccans and religions that somewhat resemble it tend to be fit the general public’s idea of what “Pagan” means (if they are aware at all!) Likewise, how much a bisexual, and/or a trans person identifies with “GLBT” may depend on how the B and T are actually included. Do asexuals “count”? Are heterosexual cross-dressers, kinky and polyamorous people part of a broader definition of queer? Those are questions that keep arising.

As a board member of a bisexual organization I ask the question- who is it that needs access to our community and movement? The answer is, people with an attraction to more than one gender, regardless of what label they may or may not use. In the broader GLBT community we can ask similar questions- who is being excluded from dominant social norms of sexuality & gender? Whether they have so-called “passing” privilege or not is irrelevant, so are Oppression Olympics.

It is likewise with the loose association of minority religions that band together under the label “Pagan” to gain inclusion in the military, in public schools, prisons, and generally protect their religious rights. Socially and spiritually, we might not have that much in common but we face prejudices in majority Christian, Jewish, Muslim or secular countries. (OK so there’s only one majority Jewish state, but still my point stands!)

I see the folks who privately practice magic & other esoteric practices and identify religiously as Christian, Jewish or secular as being somewhat equivalent to the heterosexual kinky, cross-dressing or poly folks in relation to the Pagan and GLBT umbrellas respectively. Folks in both of these groups tend to face less discrimination than others in the Pagan and GLBT umbrellas, and maybe more prone to identify as allies or not associate at all. Religion and sexual behavior, of course can be totally private things, but in particular situations a person may find their personal practices held against them in a custody battle or a political smear campaign in a way that others may not. On the other hand, if you are a Catholic that practices folk magic & BDSM, you probably will not need to debate over whether to “come out” about these practices to your relatives before your wedding. Yes, some people have BDSM-themed weddings, and some people go around introducing their partners as their masters or bottoms. But this is generally going to be kept more private, as compared with telling people about your partner of the same gender.

Questions to Explore:

What determines whether a person belongs to a minority community? Their self-identity? Their behavior? Their access to privileges or experiences of oppression/discrimination?

How might membership in a religious or sexual minority community differ from that of an ethnic/racial minority community?

Is it easier for some people to reclaim & identify with words with derogatory connotations like queer and pagan?

May 27, 2015 at 2:12 am 4 comments


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