Posts filed under ‘GLBT’

Shamanism Part 3- Other Words, Other Worlds

I encounter with relative frequency, individuals calling themselves shamans or having an interest in shamanism in both online and offline settings. I suspect most of them are not Evenki or Tungus Siberian folks, though there is the occasional exception. I would humbly propose to other well-meaning defenders of indigenous cultures that screaming cultural appropriation! at these New Age “shamans” is probably not the best approach, especially if they are not actually the ones leading the weekend sweat lodge retreats and publishing books on Shamanic Wiccan Druidry. Instead, let’s have conversations.

Is there a better word to use than shaman?

What are you trying to describe with the word shaman or the adjective shamanic?

A role serving a particular community as a spiritual specialist who does lots of intense spirit work, healing and otherworld journeying?  What tradition do you work within? Are there more culturally specific terms?

A solitary path that involves intense spirit work and otherworld journeying? Spirit worker, mystic, hedge witch/wizard/warlock

A belief/worldview involving plant, animal and other spirits?  Animist

Some Potentially Very Bad Reasons for “Deciding” to be a Shaman include…

Connotations of “Noble Savages” who are more “in touch with nature, what it Truly Means to Be Human etc.” in contrast to This Corrupt Urban Industrialized Disenchanted society that I still don’t want to leave cuz indoor plumbing and electricity are nice… Please unpack your cultural assumption baggage again- some books that might help:

Playing Indian by Philip J. Deloria

Orientalism by Edward Said

Books, articles and classes on postcolonial theory, postcolonial feminism, anthropology, cultural area studies (American Indian, East Asian, African diaspora et al.)

You have what Western medicine classifies as a mental illness, chronic illness or other disability. Therefore, shaman *must be* your spiritual calling!  You have a shaman-sickness! You are specially/chosen or “marked” by the Gods/Spirits/Ancestors! Your suffering, isolation etc. now has meaning and It All Makes Sense Now!  OK, let’s slow down. I admit this one is a little close to home, as I myself qualify as neurologically divergent in various ways (autistic, epileptic, ADHD, etc.) I believe this *does* make my spiritual perceptions and experiences unique and different in various ways, but I’m hesitant to jump to the conclusion that This Means I Must Have a Special Cosmic Destiny!!!

For one, I know plenty of other people with the same conditions as well as other disabilities that do not have any such spiritual inclinations and get pretty darn irritated when they get the “You are Special Child of God” or the other extreme “You are possessed by demons!” crap from people or similar Pagan/New Agey versions- “You’re an Indigo Child”, “You did something bad in a past life, and this is your punishment”. There does seem to be a higher than average number of Pagans with various disabilities and medical conditions, how much of that is self-selection or by Higher/Lower Powers That Be is up for debate.

You are transgender, non-binary, genderqueer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, pansexual, intersex, asexual, kinky, yada yada…and once again this gives you a magical ticket to shaman-hood. In various cultures- yes shaman-type roles are often associated with gender-bending/blurring/fluidity and sexual “otherness”,  though it’s important to remember that late 20th-21st century Western identities like I just mentioned above are different from alternate sexual and gender identities found throughout human history and contemporary cultures around the world. We can certainly find a lot of inspiration and ideas from these various identities, and learning about them can put into context how we view GLBTQ+ identities in our own cultural settings, and how they can have collective and individual spiritual meanings and roles. But likewise, a gender/sexual/romantic minority might see their identity in a completely secular manner, or see their identity as mostly incidental to their spiritual role and development.

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October 5, 2015 at 10:00 pm 4 comments

Pansexuals & Bisexuals- Suggested Communication Strategy

I came out around age 16, at that time, yes there was Internet, but there wasn’t a lot there yet- searching “bisexuality” would likely yield more porn than decent information, and I was fortunate enough to be living in large liberal metro area that had books about bisexuality and gay/lesbian/bisexual issues more generally in the library. I’ll admit that for myself at the time, my understanding of bisexuality was rather binary- an attraction to both men and women. However, this was more due to my understanding of gender at the time than definitions bisexual activists were promoting. Many bi folks did and still do, use definitions like “being attracted to one’s own gender and others”, but others did and still likely do use more gender binary definitions. Bi communities have frequently experienced overlap and allyship with trans communities and individual activists, but transphobia and cissexism has also occurred and still does in bi communities. I think we need to be honest about all this- warts and all, to both bi/pan and monosexual trans, genderqueer and cis folks. Let’s not pretend we have this magically more Enlightened Than HRC attitude.

With this honesty I believe we can sincerely and politely respond to various critiques of bisexual identity from folks who prefer pansexual identities. If we do this consistently, along with affirming the legitimacy and choice of other non-monosexual identities and labels (and desire to use none at all) and listen to younger people’s desires for distinctive identities, I think we can work toward a broader, more inclusive bi community, (or whatever we agree on calling it!). We need to stop publicly arguing with pansexuals over the bisexuality definition. I understand it’s frustrating, but instead let’s redirect the conversation. Say “We accept and include pansexuals and respect your identities, please respect ours. We’d like to dialog and learn about each other *in person* or perhaps over Video chat (Skype, Googletalk etc) or even just message one on one. Obviously we’ll want to limit that to folks who are 18, or have parental approval for everyone’s protection.

This section is for the pansexual folks- I admit I’m less familiar with y’all- but I’d like to address some things I’ve heard from and about *some* NOT ALL pansexuals.

I’d really appreciate it, if you have not already- please learn more about bisexual and transgender movement history- really it was B & T before G & L came along and acted like it was all their in the first place, and B & T were just tag-alongs. (I admit this statement is specific to United States, while I know bits and pieces about other countries, particularly Britain and Germany I’d need to do more research to learn how different identity groups played roles in other countries)

For those who believe in the bi means binary definition therefore I’m pan, I’d like you to consider that I know quite a few trans and non-binary people who identify as bisexual (or sometimes both bi & pan) and in fact, many of them are involved in the Bisexual Organizing Project, BECAUSE or other bisexual groups around the country. I’ve also seen definitions of pansexual that emphasize attraction to “men, women and trans people” which doesn’t seem to actually be respectful of trans people considered many of them *are* men and women. If you want to be an ally to trans people please actually learn about them- in person (if & when they want to talk about it!) books, documentaries, blogs etc. getting many different opinions- there is no Grand Trans High Council that decides which trans celebrities to anoint or whatever. I admit to be being in a continual learning process about gender diversity myself! Other trans people are non-binary, genderqueer, agender, bigender, neutrois etc. there may also be some such folks that don’t see themselves as under the trans umbrella- we all know how complex those “umbrella terms” are now, don’t we?

I have also heard concerns from some trans individuals that pansexual sometimes seems to be used by people who have a particular fetish-y interest in trans people- not always, but it’s something they at least see as a “red flag” while dating. Date people because they are attractive, cool and interesting people, not for social justice/diversity cookies, and same goes for making friends.

I’m also hearing a “I’m gender-blind, transcend gender, I care about people not parts” sorta thing, which sounds familiar, it’s the same twaddle I used to and sometimes still hear from bisexual folks. That may sound cool and enlightened, but it’s also comes off as really annoying and will not win you friends. Most straight and gay people I talk to who have described their experiences of attraction have more criteria than “this person has this gender”. People of every orientation are capable of being superficial, lookist, sizeist or whatever label of bad-ness that you can imagine. We’re human. Sometimes there are messed-up beauty standards we absorb, consciously or unconsciously. Sometimes we just have features that attract us and features that don’t.

Resources about Bi & Trans movements in the next post…stay tuned!

September 25, 2015 at 2:07 am 9 comments

Happy Multi-Gender Attracted Humans Exist Week!

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Image by Shiri Eisner at bidyke.tumblr.com

More commonly called Bisexuality Visibility Day or Celebrate Bisexuality Day, September 23 and the week of September 20-26th is a time to recognize and affirm multi-gender attracted identities- bisexual, pansexual, omnisexual, polysexual, pan/biromantic asexual & demisexual, queer, fluid and so forth, and issues facing multi-gender attracted people.

Often-times our identities are erased and ignored, and people make assumptions about us based on who our current partner(s) happen to be. Misunderstanding in both broader heteronormative society and the gay and lesbian communities can lead to more isolation for bisexuals.

Statistics about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people (or sometimes just GLB) have typically been lumped together, making it difficult to understand differences among these distinct groups. Wait, hold on. Statistics? Demographics? That’s boring, that’s not sexy, Mariah! Post a bi flag with a sparkly unicorn and talk about how awesome it is to be bi! Yes, I know statistics may seem boring and irrelevant to you personally, but here’s why they matter. They give us information about what bisexuals are experiencing, and the data we are starting to gather is showing us many serious health and economic disparities, even in comparison with gays and lesbians. (Trans people, who come in all orientations have it even worse) And in spite of this, bisexuals make up more than half of the GLB demographic, but specifically bisexual organizations and programs receive very little funding, and gay and lesbian led organizations that may include a “B” in their acronym, still may not understand how to serve and truly include the B.

Bisexuals this, bisexuals that. What about pansexuals? Yes, pansexuals and people who identify with other labels (or none at all) and attracted to more than one gender are included in these numbers. Or maybe they aren’t, it depends on how the questions in surveys are worded.

I have to say, that it still surprises me when I look at polls and see how many people don’t understand bisexuality. I came out when I was 16, 17 years ago, and have been fortunate enough to usually be around people to whom, I could at least educate about bisexuality, and at best reply to me “Well of course that’s a thing! I’m bi too, or my partner/friend/co-worker is bi”. I think we really need to expand awareness in broader heteronormative society- by heteronormative I mean, places and contexts in which people will generally assume everyone is heterosexual until proven otherwise. I feel that’s a much more accurate description than “straight community”.

Why are you so hung up on labels? Why can’t we just be people? I really wish the world was as open-minded as you, or as you believe it to be! Yes, ultimately we would like to live in a world in which we only really need orientation labels/identities when trying to indicate what sort of partner we are interested in. I think that is already happening with the younger generation, many of them just date or have sex with people, without being concerned about how the gender of their partners reflects on their identity! Many of them feel very accepted and affirmed in this, but some of them don’t- and that’s the problem. Bi/Pan/Queer youth suicide is a big issue, one we can’t tackle alone in GLBT communities- most  parents are outside of our communities, and we need to communicate with parents, their schools, educators and bi/pan friendly therapists and make sure all these supports are in place everywhere- not just in big cities, and even in big cities we still lose our youth.

More to read!

Bisexual community has unique needs, starting with more and better data– commentary by BOP’s very own Camille Holhaus!

September 24, 2015 at 12:58 am 2 comments

Bi/Trans/Queer Heathen/Asatru Links

Heathen 101 info

Getting Started with Heathen Practice

Books for Getting Started

Books to Avoid

Being Queer-identified & Heathen- Safe Spaces– Nice essay, but it’s a little old, so some bad links. Hence this list.

Friendly Online communities

LGBTIQ+ Heathens

Queer Heathens– Facebook, closed group

ADF Heathenry

Heathenry & Northern Polytheism

Urglaawe– Pennsylvania Deitsch Heathenry (see also related Deitsch culture/language groups)

Lokeans & Allies Ice Cream Social– Loki’s peeps are typically very sexuality/gender diversity friendly!

Virtual Sessrumnir– for devotees of Freyja

Vanatru- the Vanic Way

Heathens Against Hate- Blog, Facebook

Circle Ansuz– anarchist Heathen group (I’m not an anarchist, but they have good info on far-right Heathen groups)

Heathens for Social Justice

An Actual Asatru Study Group

Historic/Cultural Info

Sex, Status & Seidr: Homosexuality & Germanic Religion by Diana Paxson

The Viking God Odin- A Queer God of War (Note: this article is about a book written from a gender studies/queer studies perspective rather than a religious/mythic studies one, but hey the author is Norwegian…)

An Examination of Gender in Viking Age Scandinavia

Nithing/Nidstang are Old Norse queerphobic slurs/concepts- don’t use them!

Modern Inspiration

Lofn’s Bard– modern inspired stories about Frigga’s court (all unmarried ladies…)

First Love– modern inspired story about Frey

Personal Essays

Heathenism & Being Queer

Transfeminist Politics of a Trans & Queer Heathen Anarchist

Not Recommended Spaces/Communities & How to Recognize/Avoid Unfriendly Groups/Individuals

Asatru & Heathenry Facebook group

Asatru Lore Forum

The Asatru Folk Assembly, Asatru Alliance (they publish Vor Tru magazine)

How to Spot a Racist/White Supremacist in the Heathen Community 101

July 7, 2015 at 1:20 am 6 comments

July Update

  • First-off Happy Queer Pride, and Happy Same-Sex marriage victory for my fellows in the States
  • Let people celebrate, but start nudging your friends/family/co-workers who are expressing their support into educating them about other issues facing our communities- rates of homelessness and suicide among queer/trans youth, need for laws against discrimination in employment & other areas. There are still many countries where consensual same-sex behavior is criminalized. I will be writing posts about how to do this without being a Debbie Downer (actually I should write such content for the BOP website, but if I do, it will be linked here)
  • I’m waiting for my first entry on Witches & Pagans to be posted (after that I’ll be posting them myself) My blog is called Way of the Sacred Fool, and it is about integrating experiences with neurodiversity & disability into one’s spiritual path. I’ll be posting links to my entries on W & P to this blog, my Twitter & my Facebook page. This is my page as a writer/blogger, rather than my personal Facebook profile. If you only know me from the internet, please follow/like my page rather than trying to friend me. (Switching between the 2 is freakin’ confusing! I hate how FB is designed…end rant!)
  • A bunch of us are organizing a Druid grove in the Twin Cities area. We have both members of ADF & OBOD involved, though we are not affiliating with either (at least for now) If you want to meet & get to know us, come to our second Meet n’ Greet- on Thursday June 16 at 7pm at the Como Park Grill,  1341 Pascal St St Paul. Next month we’ll be having an actual grove-forming meeting. We are also starting up an ADF Dedicant study group.

July 6, 2015 at 11:54 pm Leave a comment

Pride Reflections

Like a lot of American celebrations with more radical roots, as GLBT Pride festivals & parades across the country have grown over time, they have become more mainstream and commercialized. (Great critique of Pride here) Some folks of a more radical bent wring their hands over this, longing for more overt expressions of sexuality, anti-capitalism, and pointing out trends with obscure academic sounding terms like “homonormativity” and pinkwashing. While I think there are many valid criticisms that can be made especially of larger Prides and the movement as a whole, these are internal community debates. Prides, while remaining GLBT-centered, are also a reflection of continued acceptance and integration into broader communities- much as ethnic celebrations like Cinco De Mayo, St. Patrick’s Day and so forth have become not just for Mexican and Irish-Americans. At the same time, there’s a balance to be struck. Straight & cis allies can enjoy Pride, while understanding that they are in a queer-centered space, so they can’t be complaining about being hit on by someone of the same sex, or guys parading around in leather chaps and such. There’s space for both the conventional lesbian soccer moms as well as the wacky drag queens.

This year of course we have even more to celebrate, as the Supreme Court just ruled in favor of marriage equality. Of course, I’m quite excited, though I realize there are many more issues we need to work on, both domestically and around the world. I do think we need to give folks a chance to celebrate before lecturing about gloomy statistics about queer youth suicides/murders and the continuing AIDs epidemic.  Anyone who thinks the entire GLBT rights movement was just about marriage and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell obviously has a pretty superficial understanding of it (and probably is only really thinking about the G and L parts) But I think this is part of why it’s a good thing that a more diverse range of people attend Prides- we can get the chance to educate non-activist GLBT folks & allies about these issues and convince them to do more than wear rainbow beads and dance to ABBA.

One of my fellow Unitarians- reflecting on the General Assembly- our national conference held that same weekend- points out two other important Supreme Court rulings that we should be celebrating– the one upholding the Affordable Care Act* (yes, I’d like a single payer system, but I’m still glad we have this one!) which I did hear about, and another the makes it easier to prove implicit discrimination in housing– proof of explicit intent to discriminate based on a protected status is no longer required. (I may have described that wrong- it’s hard to summarize legal stuff- so read the article) This is huge, because for decades the Supreme Court has been getting pickier about how obvious discrimination has to be before they will accept that it’s happening.

(By the way- if any “No pre-existing conditions/I’ll magically never lose my cushy job with benefits, so screw you”  people want to bitch to me about how it’s soo unfair they are being forced to pay for insurance they don’t need, don’t bother commenting, you can cry me a frickin’ river.)

June 30, 2015 at 9:20 pm Leave a comment

Why I Am Not an Heathen (Though I Kind of Wish That I Could Be)

What she said (with personal life story variations)

Pagan Church Lady

This (long) post has been a long time coming.  I’ve referenced my feelings about personal background and development in some other articles and have been spending a lot of time trying to explore myself in relation to the modern Pagan movement and Heathenry.  Although the title was inspired by Bertrand Russel’s piece “Why I am Not A Christian” I won’t, as he does, seek to deconstruct the idea of a particular deity.  I will, as he does, explain why the values expressed in the religion in question do not fit mine, and why that leaves me in a difficult place.

Let me begin by explaining that I’ve had a love for the Aesir and Vanir since childhood.  I first read of them in children’s fiction when I was four or five and rapidly advanced to reading more adult storybooks about them.  Later on I discovered source material like the Eddas…

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May 15, 2015 at 1:10 am Leave a comment

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