Posts filed under ‘GLBT’

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

Learning to Be a Minority

Being disabled, queer or a convert to a minority religion (Paganism in my case) means you typically do not have an upbringing that prepares you to live your life as a member of a minority group, the judgment of how to balance who you are with the broader society’s norms, when to hide for survival when possible and when to come out of the closet. In college, I began learning how to be a minority.

I know there are some mentoring programs for women and Black, Latino, Native American youth and young adults in both high school, college and professional settings. We need more of these programs as they are very key in the success of under-represented groups in various industries. I’d love to see more of such programs in disabled and queer communities. The difficulty is making this available at a younger age, when it is most needed. We have to deal with possible opposition from parents, and paranoia about gay/lesbian/bi/trans adults “corrupting youth”. The GLBT communities have often shied away from youth work for those reasons. But this is really important. We need to find a way. There are more of us in social work, teaching and other professions, though it’s still often tricky and considered “unprofessional” to talk about one’s own experiences. I feel like the requirements of privacy and confidentiality, while I understand and respect them being in place, all too often have the result of isolating a student or client’s experiences. They are merely a number, a file, not a human being. They are not welcomed into a community when they discover their identity, if it’s a disabled identity or a queer one, but often told to hide it. Or they are pressured to come out when they aren’t ready, sometimes to a community that does not serve their needs.

I found the most stable community for finding good inspiring role models to be in the queer & bisexual communities. I joined Queer and Straight in Unity at my college. Now, I didn’t necessarily find that my peers were the best role models- many of them struggled with relationships, drama, and substance abuse issues. But I did find it particularly in some of the first gay and lesbian ministers to be ordained by the ELCA- Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (my college is ELCA affiliated) Jay Wiesner and Anita Hill, and their partners. These were people who had worked thru their personal issues before realizing their calling, often taking an indirect route to the ministry as they struggled with their sexuality. That didn’t necessarily inspire me to become a minister, ELCA or otherwise, but it did make me think about all the things that this earlier generation had gone thru, often alone. What they had done to pave the way for the next generation. All the obstacles they faced, that they did not allow to stop them.

In both the Pagan and adult autistic communities I often encountered a defeatist attitude. An attitude of hopeless poverty and social ostracizing. There were certain bright sparks of hope, people who didn’t let the bastards grind them down. There were others that seemed to fear success and integration into the mainstream, even blocking or undercutting people who tried to break through self-imposed ghetto walls. I encountered some of these same attitudes among queer communities, but fortunately I knew they were wrong. We were winning, the tides of public opinion were turning in our favor. There is still a lot to do, especially with making sure young people, elderly people, disabled, trans people, bisexuals of all genders, and queer/trans people of color are truly included by our communities and their needs are addressed and their voices heard. But overall, I have gained a great sense of empowerment from my activist participation in the queer/bi communities, and I hope to share that empowerment with my other communities.

April 2, 2015 at 2:48 am 2 comments

Waiting to Breathe- Am I Bisexual?

Where we last left our bumbling heroine, she was living in Dubuque, Iowa with her brother and parents. In junior high, I found my elementary school friends growing apart from me. They had discovered the fascinating trio of Clothes, Boys and Makeup, oh my! These failed to impress me (junior high boys, really?), so I focused on my studies- particularly enjoying art class and social studies and immersing myself in fantasy novels and mythology. I also had a few years earlier, failed to see how wonderful puberty was supposed to be– it mostly just seemed messy and smelly and annoying. Kinda like junior high boys. I enjoyed being a girl with free mix of tea parties with dolls and dress up as well as playing with mud and collecting bugs with my brother. Becoming a “woman” seemed like a joke when “gifted” with just with the physical features and none of the social perks. It just seemed like a longer to-do list- shave your legs and arm-pits, dealing with acne, wearing a bra, wearing make-up and “the right” clothes.

In elementary school we heard this on the playground:

I Love You, You Love Me! HO-MO-SEX-U-AL-IT-Y! People Think That We’re Just Friends, But We’re Really Lesbians! Ha-ha  and that is SOOO GAY! (That’s the Barney Dinosaur theme song, in case you are from a different time or place and are blissfully unaware) Things were also “retarded” about as often as they were “gay”. That was about it, as far as my awareness of other sexualities were concerned. They were just slurs, playground taunts.

In junior high we graduated to rumor-mongering!

I bet that art teacher is gay! He wears an earring, and has long hair! Whoa…he must be a (gasp!) hippie!

At this point I realized that this was actually A Real Thing, that some people were attracted to the same sex. Cross-dressing was also A Thing that apparently some people had a big problem with, though I thought their objections were pretty silly, considering how I was coming to view gender roles and expectations!

Then after junior high we moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota. Instead of Central in our neighborhood, we chose Arlington Senior High School. It was brand new, with lots of computers and was organized into “houses” so you would take your basic classes together with the same group of students, and had block scheduling so there were only 4 classes a day instead of 7, which made things easier for me to handle.  There’s far more I could say, but I’m focusing on identity development.

At some point I went to a movie with a friend, a re-make of The Haunting of Hill House. One of the characters in it was played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, and I realized while watching it that I felt about the actress the way I felt about, for example Brad Pitt. It’s possible I’d felt that before with other women, but the character she was playing in the film was a rather embarrassingly stereotypical bisexual- promiscuous, trying to seduce people of both genders and so forth. My friend was vocally grossed out by this, so I naturally did not confide my new found feelings.

There was, according to a bulletin board, a gay and lesbian (not sure if B & T were featured) student support group at our school. It wasn’t a Gay Straight Alliance, it was a Top Secret Support Group. To get into it, you need to go talk to the nurse. This was well-meaning of the Powers That Be, perhaps to protect the privacy and safety of the students. But I had already been dragged to enough doctors and therapists, I didn’t like the idea of having to go to the nurse to discuss my sexuality. That seemed to imply that I had a “problem” that I needed help with.

My parents while this was going, had switched some of their church-y social justice gears to getting Hamline United Methodist to be a Reconciling congregation, with a statement that gays and lesbians were accepted. The topic had never been broached from the pulpit, from what I was aware of as a kid, nor had anything been mentioned in the church-sponsored sex ed class I had taken in junior high. So as I realized my own sexuality, I knew my parents would be accepting. It was just a matter of accepting and understanding it myself!

This is part 2 of a series of posts on my personal identity development – previous one here.

March 29, 2015 at 7:37 am Leave a comment

Civil Rights Movement: How Dare You Compare!

I’ve often seen the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s held up in a sort of strange but lofty isolation from other social justice movements, to the point where people almost seem to regard it as the only real legit social movement to which all others look silly and petty in comparison and Martin Luther King Jr. is the Best Activist Leader Ever, and the whole thing including him as prophet was anointed and blessed by God. I’ve seen this portrayal by everyone from Black men and women to both white liberals and conservatives. Along with this ideology is the belief that racism is the worst form of oppression, and anyone who tries to compare it with other forms of oppression or their own movement with The Movement, is being racist and appropriating from Black people.

It’s hard to articulate exactly where I’ve seen this, though I think it was a more common tactic in the earlier 2000s and 1990s. As I’ve read and listened to more writing and speeches by women and queer people of color, in particular I have come to realize the disrespectful attitudes white feminists and white GLBTQ movement activists have had towards communities of color and their struggles. When we hear this narrative, we need to question who is promoting it and who is framing it, and what is their agenda? Who are they trying to win over or alienate? Likewise, women, queer and disabled people of color are  in the strongest positions to critique these ideas- they can speak from their own experiences about how racism is similar and different from other types of oppression. The view of MLK as the Best Leader the Black Community Will Ever Have is very self-defeating and oversimplified. He was a great man surely, but like any man he was flawed. He is given way too much credit while many women such as Ella Baker, and Bayard Rustin, a gay man who was responsible for much of the organizing of the March on Washington, are all too often forgotten by historians. This is the case with *every social movement* or field of art or science for that matter. Each one has many people who played key roles, but were more introverted, too ill or disabled, or female, or queer, or radical to be in the spotlight, or did not have the means to access education or travel or media coverage. That’s why I really enjoy reaching into history and remembering those who have been forgotten as my activist ancestors.

March 28, 2015 at 1:24 am 4 comments

In Memory of Leslie Feinberg

Leslie Feinberg, transgender/butch lesbian, multi-issue activist, died a few days ago in Syracuse, NY with hir partner/spouse of 22 years, Minnie Bruce Pratt beside hir. (Leslie identified as non-binary and preferred the pronouns hir and ze) Ze was very much a pioneer, writing the novel Stone Butch Blues in 1993 about hir journey of gender identity exploration. This was back when gay and lesbian issues were barely on the map, politically, let alone trans/genderqueer/non-binary identities!

Leslie saw all oppressions as interconnected, and sincerely fought on many different fronts- a member of the Worker’s World Party- “remember me as a revolutionary communist” were hir last words. Disability rights, the peace movement, anti-racist action along with trans, lesbian, gay and bisexual rights. The gay and lesbian movement all too often has forgotten its radical roots and clung to a white middle-class capitalist agenda, while neglecting to include transgender and bisexual issues. Leslie always knew that the world was far more complex than that- let’s celebrate her legacy and as Mother Jones once said “Mourn the Dead and Fight Like Hell for the Living!”

Transgender Warrior– Leslie’s personal website

Articles-

Atlantic- Why We Still Need Leslie Feinberg

Worker’s World- Leslie Feinberg- a communist who revolutionized transgender rights by Minnie Bruce Pratt

Autostraddle

CNN

November 20, 2014 at 9:23 am Leave a comment

Ancestor Calendar

Here’s a list of dates for honoring ancestors year round- it’s started out very U.S. based, but is a work in progress. It is quite open and adaptable to people of any religion (or none) Starting after Samhain- it’s the Celtic New Year (or Witch’s New Year) Important Note: As you explore history, please make sure to sort out who is dead and who is still living! Some of the Mighty Dead honored below have spouses or friends who are living, and they too can be honored with a toast, but offerings and ancestor shrines should only hold images and symbols of the dead. If you honor people of other cultures and religions, please be sure to check what customs and traditions are appropriate and respectful.

11th November- Remembrance Day (U.K., British Commonwealth) in honor of service members who died in World War I (Personally I think civilian casualties should also be honored) This is also Veteran’s Day in the U.S. is to honor still living service members. Still, even in the U.S. this would be a day for remembering World War I. Called Einerjar in Asatru, Martinmas or St. Martin’s Day

12th November- Beginning of Transgender Rite of Ancestor Elevation

20th November– Transgender Day of Remembrance (International)  Day to remember transgender people who were murdered- or took their own lives due to the pressures of a society that did not understand them. It was started by transgender advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita Hester, a transgender woman who was killed in 1998. Find local events here

4th Thursday of November- Thomas Morton Day– a Pagan take on Thanksgiving (U.S.) in honor of a man who rebelled against the strict laws of the Puritans, founded his own colony & erected a Maypole!

3rd Monday in January- Martin Luther King Jr. Day (also called Human Rights Day in Idaho, and Civil Rights Day in Arizona) A day to honor civil rights activists in general, MLK was awesome but many others do not get enough credit: Bayard Rustin, Ella Baker, Malcolm X,  Rosa Parks has her own day on Feb. 4th

27th January-  Holocaust Remembrance Day (International) This is the most broadly observed, here is a list of other Holocaust Memorial Days in different countries, notably Yom HaShoah in Israel & the Jewish diaspora

4th February- Rosa Parks Day, could also be a day to honor contributions of women to the civil rights movement, and Black/African Diasporan women in general.

15th February Susan B. Anthony Day (U.S.) Hmm, this may also be a good alternative to Valentine’s Day! My birthday is the day after!

3rd Monday in February– George Washington’s birthday/President’s Day (properly the 22nd) As I discussed in another post, I do not honor presidents or First Ladies who were involved in slavery (owning or trading) or Indian genocide. However, I know many other Americans will continue to do so, often with justifications that “he was a product of his time” and “our country wouldn’t be what it is without so and so”. As an alternative, I propose that we honor the slaves of these presidents, more research has been uncovered about them, we know some of their names, and after all, so many things that made this country what it is, are owed to human beings who were owned and unpaid for their work. It’s about time we gave them some credit!

1st March- Day of Mourning (International)- for people with disabilities killed (or died due to neglect or abuse) by their caregivers. A time to read the names of individuals who were killed, recognize their humanity and educate the public about how these murders are often depicted in the media.

8th March- International Women’s Day- I think this is meant more as a day to promote issues of concern to women around the world rather than women of the past, but I added it to give an international option. This is another day with hidden socialist origins!

31st March- Cesar Chavez Day (California & other states) – he was a migrant farm worker who became a labor organizer and a great hero to Chicanos/Mexican-Americans. There’s a movement to make it a national holiday– Pres. Obama is in support. You could also add any other Mexican or Mexican-Americans that you find admirable.

1st May- Labor Day in many countries around the world- in the U.S. because we’re scared of its socialist associations, we observe it in September. A great day to honor labor organizers, reformers and other rabble-rousers, as well as regular workers, both living and dead.

2nd Sunday in May- Mother’s Day (U.S.) A day to honor mothers, biological or adoptive, living and dead, and other female relatives and ancestresses. Interestingly, an early effort to establish Mother’s Day in the U.S. was connected with women’s peace groups that united mothers who had lost sons on both sides of the Civil War.  Mother’s Days around the world listed here.

22nd May- Harvey Milk Day (California, other states) in honor of Harvey Milk, a leader of the gay rights movement, and others- Harry Hay, founder of the Mattachine Society, Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde, Del Martin and other founders & activists in the Daughters of Bilitis, an early lesbian organization

4th Mon in May- Memorial Day (U.S.) – originally  for the Civil War, this now includes all war dead. At one time it was just for Union dead, and so there is a Confederate Memorial Day in some Southern states in January. Traditional beginning of summer, celebrated with picnics, barbecues- why not invite the Dead along? It used to be a tradition to have picnics in cemeteries.

3rd Sunday in June- Father’s Day (U.S.) A day to honor fathers, biological or adoptive, living and dead, and other male relatives and ancestors. Dates around the world here.

27th June- Helen Keller Day– in both her honor and that of other disability rights activists

26th August- Equality Day (U.S.) celebrating when women won the right to vote in the U.S. in 1920– a time to honor suffrage activists and later feminists.

1st Mon in September- (Capitalist) Labor Day (U.S.) Another day to honor workers and labor organizers, both living and dead.  Traditional end of summer, celebrated with more picnics and barbecues.

Sunday after Labor Day Grandparents Day (U.S.) A day to honor grandparents and great-grandparents, biological or adoptive, living and dead. In fact the founders of the holiday encourage youth to “adopt” grandparents. Dates around the world here.

25th October Paul & Sheila Wellstone Day– this is not official, even in Minnesota, but many progressives here and across the land will remember the terrible day a plane crashed carrying Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife Sheila, daughter Marcia and staffers Tom Lapic, Mary McEvoy, and Will McLaughlin. To me this is of great personal importance as after finding out while in college, I decided to be a political science major and dedicate my life to political activism. There’s a great organization which I linked to above, Wellstone Action, which teaches community organizing using Paul’s campaign techniques.

November 8, 2014 at 8:14 am 2 comments

Wrongful Birth- in a Disability Context

I was disturbed to hear about a case in which a white lesbian couple sued a sperm bank for “wrongful birth” after a mix-up- they asked for sperm from a white man, and got sperm from a black man, but only found out after the mother was 4 months pregnant.

Here’s the original news story, if you hadn’t heard about it.

I was bugged by the racial aspect of this story, but more generally by the larger concept of “wrongful birth” and its ableist origins. Being a white, pro-wanted child feminist, I felt a little awkward commenting on it, as I didn’t want it to seem like I was taking the issue away from Black folks and making it a disability issue (not that those are mutually exclusive!) So I was greatly pleased to see this essay by Ki’tay Davidson on Black Girl Dangerous: Angry About the White Lesbians Suing for Having a Black Child? You’re Missing Something

“This is ableism. This is disabled victim blaming. This is what it looks like to justify the labeling of some lives as worthy and valuable, and others as not. This is an act of dehumanization and violence. And, no, reproductive rights are not the counter-argument. This isn’t about the right to choose to have an abortion, which every woman should have. It’s about deconstructing ableism as the foundation of choices, just as we would deconstruct gender, sexuality or race as a foundation for such a choice.”

I thought it was a much more powerful message, coming from a queer, disabled Black person. Just a little lesson for would-be-allies about when to step back and hand over the microphone. Please pass this along!

October 15, 2014 at 1:38 am 2 comments

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