I am currently putting time and energy into a hospitality suite for Pagans of Color at Pantheacon. It’s a labor of love and difficulty because of the perceived notions about what that space means and how its effects will reverberate through the general pagan community. Discussion on a post I put up on Facebook (that I have since removed) derailed, HARD. There was an individual who was quite upset with the words white supremacist as a descriptor (and a valid one) for what I call ‘majority society’; white, affluent, male, gendernormative, heterocentric, and cissexist. Pointing out to an individual that while he WASN’T racist, there were those who looked like him that were, was read as an attack that didn’t actually exist. But the kneejerk reaction of needing to be labeled as NON-racist was so strong that I was surprised and a little unsure as to how to proceed. I stopped engaging the person I’m speaking about because he tried to get me into an either/or argument and I refuse to talk in logical fallacies, he decided to take my silence to mean that I agreed with him in his logical fallacy, thereby putting words in my mouth. That conversation was a while back but I find myself going back to it time and again, especially when this post started making the rounds. Keri’s experiences are all her own, but far too often, the question of racism in paganism, along with all the other -isms that exist in society get brushed aside, silenced when mentioned, or are casually dismissed as being ‘not important to the circle and its workings’. So, here’s my list of things I wish white Pagans realized when PoC (Pagans of Color) join the circle, (all of these are written in the first person singular, because these are things I WISH they realized, each PoC’s list will be different by a little or a lot, that is part of the joy of dealing with people NOT as a single voice for their ETHNICITY OR RACE, but as the INDIVIDUALS they ARE):
1. When I talk about marginalization, I want you to imagine an onion, and all the layers an onion has, how thick or thin they are as they get down to the core, that’s what marginalization is like for me. The more intersections I have, the more layers to my onion. I am a genderqueer, queer, kinky, poly, pagan, female-presenting, AFAB, Mexican American, lower socioeconomic status upbringing, working class, person. My onion is nice and thick. When white pagans complain about how demeaned they feel by the majority society and their tendency towards being Abrahamic Christian and the assumption that they are to, that’s a layer on their onion. But, they have the opportunity to be heard because their whiteness grants them that chance to state that they aren’t Abrahamic Christian. If I stand up to say that, it is automatically assumed that I must be a Santera, or some other derivative of that and therefore still have reverence for Catholic saints, etc. because I’m “mexican so that’s what you do, right?”. I have layers to my onion added, because of what people assume about me by seeing me on the street, in the circle, and at pagan gatherings, not REMOVED.
2. When I say that I want a separate space for marginalized groups within paganism, I’m not just talking about PoC (Pagans of Color), I’m also talking about groups that don’t normally get lots of exposure or attention. The second generation, the older women, the young women learning their sexuality, the men who want to explore in safe space the feminine within (dressing, acting, taking up roles traditionally considered female and not allowed or accessible in normative society), the Christo-pagans who have a need for sanctuary to practice their particular faith without getting the side-eye from ‘true Pagans’… All those voices and experiences deserve a space they can carve out and call their own to feel safe, not just from the rest of a ‘con or gathering, but from themselves. It’s not about self-segregating, it’s about self-care. When I am asked if I would be okay with someone making a space in a pagan gathering that was ‘whites only’ and how that would affect me, I honestly didn’t have an answer because, the majority population at a pagan event tends towards white, so why do you need another room when there’s a whole conference/space/gathering area where you can see each other?
3. Using questions like how I feel about any and all forms of racism as a way to goad me into stating that some racism is worse than others is just plain tacky. At worst, it shows that you’re grasping at straws for an argument, at best, it’s a blind statement to how you might think you’re being attacked when someone questions the privilege of your whiteness.
4. Declaring that you are upset by people choosing to have a space that marginalizes you because you’re white, is hard (for me) to take seriously. Do you actually HEAR yourself when you say these words? Do you realize how hard it is to hear this because that’s what it’s like for me and other PoC and marginalized groups for a few moments in a hypothetical situation? Our marginalization happens in our day to day. We are marginalized, othered, and shamed for things we have NO control over, just going about our day. I wish I could feel for you, I really do, and part of me does; but the part of me that does, is sardonic in its response because you have now been afforded a taste of what my life is like, CONSTANTLY.
5. My silence does NOT mean my consent. Silence means NO. My silence and what it means, does NOT get to be defined by you. By deciding for me, what my actions mean, marks me as the one needing to have my mind made up for me, and clearly, you as the white person, know my mind better than I do. No, you do not, therefore you should NOT ever be allowed to do that. It’s just another tactic that has been used in the past to drive home just how marginalized PoC are, and is plain bad manners.
6. One of the things that makes this hard for me is this commonly used phrase in paganism, “in perfect love and perfect trust”. A friend of mine and I were discussing it, I see it as part of the agreement I consent to by doing magic with a circle of people, not just with my deities. And this is the one that suffers the most every time I have to defend the need for space; the more I hear claims that people who are pagan CAN’T be racist, the more I hear that this is self-segregating, separatist, etc. the less I feel I can trust being in sacred space with you. This isn’t just about me saying that this space isn’t open to allies, which it is. It’s more about why did I have so FEW allies at the first PoC Caucus at Pantheacon? Why wasn’t my room overflowing with allies wanting to hear, listen, support, and learn ways to participate in the discussion around this social justice issue?
Paganism isn’t immune to these issues, if it were, there wouldn’t be the need to hear from one Heathen group after another distancing themselves from their more stringent contingents (the ones who claim that only Northern European descendants have the right to worship the Norse deities). We deal in interesting areas of life; we worship g*ds that are from a time that’s not ours, a people we may have no actual genetic connection to, and have experiences that science can’t explain but that feed our souls. Part of the experience within humanity is remembering that we all have walked a path long before we walked this Path together. I read a lot of talk about how each person’s path is different and the destination looks similar even if it’s worlds apart, but part of that is the fact that for some of us, the path has been thornier than just people not understanding the CHOICE to be pagan.
The main thing I wish white Pagans realized: I’m not any more different from you, just because I have a skin color that is darker than yours. The g*ds called us both, even if the way we are called looks vastly different. I ask to join this circle because I want to have that moment of perfect love and perfect trust with you, with the group, with my g*dden. If you can’t have me there because you hold onto some antiquated notion of what being non-white means, then tell me, before I enter into the circle with you. Don’t waste my time with your issues, I have enough of my own.
I want to take a moment to thank the amazing group of people in Sacramento (and the three women of Fresno!) who showed up and attended my presentation/performance piece/experiential magical working… I’m not even sure what to call it anymore!
I enjoyed traveling by rail and see it as an effective way to travel, the feel of the train moving with me and the calm rush of one vista after another was a soothing way to get where I needed to be. I definitely want to do that again!
The space was amazing, the fire was perfect, and as the night progressed and the words tumbled from my mouth, I felt that moment where the audience and I are on the same trip, we reach the same milestones, the same moments, the same realization; that something has changed in the way we view those around us, and those outside of this moment, and maybe it only lasts a day or two, or maybe it lasts for the rest of our lives, but we had it. We tasted it and found it to be pleasing. That was what I’d hoped for, and getting that was worth all the travel and time.
Afterward, as we were sitting around and talking and just enjoying the company, I got a chance to interact and get to know in a closer level these people who’d let me traipse into their community and into their mindset and play around with whatever I might find there. I found landmines, beartraps, pitfalls, stones in the path, and yet beauty in dancing around wondering if the next step would sheer a leg off or not. And I did, I can’t say that I wasn’t affected by you all, because that would be lying. What I can say, is that I enjoyed it, every moment of it, down to the winds that would rise up unexpectedly. Because they fed those moments just as much as when the winds were silent and all we could hear was the crackle of the fire, and my words.
Thank you for sharing those moments with me, it was a pleasure to do so!
If you need to reach me, for a reading, to talk/process or if you have a question, please don’t hesitate: here.
Thank you, all of you, for sharing these moments with me. You left more than just money on my nightstand, you fed my soul.
1. Raising funds for the Pagans of Color hospitality suite at Pantheacon next year. Goal is 1000$USD through WePay. Click here to donate.
2. Intersectionality. As a person of color, from a low-mid to low working class, female presenting, able-bodied presenting, nonheteronormative, nongendernormative, non-Abrahamic religion practitioner, and in a relationship with a female, there are many things that I know aren’t counted in my favor. However, I can enjoy the intersections and the work inherent in each, strive to make injustice a thing of our collective pasts, and live an authentic life. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t days when I feel like crap and want to give up and crawl under a rock and wait for it all to be over. . . I have plenty of those days. Some days though, much better than others.
3. There have been days here in the Bay Area lately that have been cold and despite the sun the warmth just doesn’t sink into my bones. On those days, I grit my teeth and move as best I can, my joints are swollen and stiff, sometimes they lock up and won’t move. On those days, I’m grateful for tea and my wonderful cats (how great to use the plural again) and I am glad to not have to be at a job where I would be required to move much more swiftly than I am able to. But then I remember that I have expenses and I have bills (like we all do) and it hurts to not be able to pay them as quickly as I wish I could. On those days, I try to remember to have compassion for myself. Compassion for myself then emanates and becomes compassion for all who are job-searching, and for those who have jobs, and for those who work at finding others jobs, or manage the job market. . .the world.
Sometimes, this job, this being that coalesces sex and Spirit, it isn’t sexy in the way we’re conditioned to see sexy. But it can be highly charged and motivating, and make our breath quicken, our lips purse, and our sex throb a bit. Why?
Because, better to eat of the forbidden fruit of knowledge then watch it rot from ignorance.
At least, that’s what my morning meditation showed me. What might you see?
This article* has opened up a lot of my misgivings in talking about my sexwork as another service I offer.
In talking about sexwork, the first thing people imagine is something like Pretty Woman, the next thing people imagine, almost simultaneously is a woman on the corner who is doing it to feed some sort of drug or alcohol habit. I am neither of these things. If anything, I am a person who is more closely tied to a courtesan of the Medieval Ages. I know and learn many different skills (besides bedroom or sexual skills) and have a broad range of knowledge in a variety of topics, because I want to be a companion for the time I am asked to share with someone.
If I could get more people to understand this work by seeing past the Julia Roberts or the innumerable faces arrested for doing these acts on public streets, I would want them to think of it more along the lines of Inara Serra of Firefly; but we diverge into fantasy so seldom in real life. Where her clients were mostly affluent, rich, upper class, I am interested in the working man, the ones who are working day-in, day-out and do all the usual day to day grind and need a respite. For an hour, for a night, for as long as they have need of me.
Can I be those other two examples? Sure. That goes without saying. Part of the work entails becoming a blank canvas, something the other person can draw on, can imagine what they need onto me, without touching into that core sense of who I really am, because they don’t need to see that part of me, they need to see what they WANT to see. Sometimes that isn’t pretty, or even appealing to me. But it’s not about me. It’s about the intimacy that is created with a fictive person, with someone who isn’t really there.
A therapist is someone who is there, but it’s like the trope of the disembodied voice that parrots back to us what we say, because sometimes we need to hear it from something outside ourselves in order to really get at whatever it is that’s troubling us. So much of that ability to just give back and gently prod more from a client revolves around remembering that who you are isn’t more important than who is before you, that takes a willingness to look deep into yourself, to see that part of you that you don’t like at all, and still be okay with who you are. There is so much power to be gained from that process. . .
I feel like I’m barely scratching the surface of this topic, and I will definitely be exploring and expounding on it, as I continue to talk things out and tease out the ideas in my head. Right now, it’s one very large ball of knots and twists, but I’m a patient sort and I like unraveling, in so many ways.
*The original author of the article, Stanley Siegel has been summarily fired from his column (after inexplicable censoring of this article and others), and would appreciate your support.
I want to write about the gender issues that have been talked about almost ad nauseum since last year’s SNAFU with CAYA’s Amazons and Z Budapest’s vitriolic and hateful words, and how that all came to light and what a change that wound has become to the greater community. But I am doing it from the place where I can. Last year, I jumped into that fray as a witness to the Rite of Lillith, the aftermath, the planned and unplanned actions and I spoke often, long and LOUD about the need for civility in our words and language because spewing more hate and vitriol wasn’t going to get us as a community very far, if anywhere at all.
I wrote the following in the PantheaCon Facebook page, which can easily be found by going onto FB from your own acct and searching for PantheaCon. At this moment, there appears to be an issue and I don’t know if my words will make it to the discussion or not on there, but they will live here.
(These words are written as a direct comment and thus have the bit in the beginning and reference earlier comments in that discussion.)
I realize that Thalassa and many other staff members have jumped in here and spoken and asked for this to be moved to a place where it doesn’t disrupt the flow of the other ideas surrounding Pantheacons for years to come. But, someone pointed out the PoC Caucus and that was mine (as in I put in the paperwork for it, and will continue to do so as long as there is a need for it) and I want to speak to what someone said about it and the larger things surrounding events like mine and Z’s and the trans issue because I was there last year, right in the middle of it all, and I remember very clearly the aftermath (and am still struggling to regain myself from all that, you have no idea how much vitriol was spewed on both sides of that fence).
Yes, the PoC Caucus was listed as PoC and allies; but really in the end, the only voices that were really heard, were from Pagans of Color. Allies who attended listened respectfully to our tales and our issues and our grievances and our triumphs, because as allies, they recognized that their main job isn’t to be the torch bearer for Pagans of Color, but to be BETTER allies.
When cisgendered people refuse to use terminology that isn’t vindictively attacking transgendered people, it doesn’t make for good allies. When cisgendered people ‘hate’ the term cisgendered, it doesn’t make for good allies. It makes for allies who refuse to see that transgendered people have to fight EVERYDAY for the right to use the correct gender pronoun. That is a matter of import, survival, and acknowledgement of who a transgendered person feels they truly are. Yes, some of us will just want to say you are male or female because you say you are, and that should be all that matters. Sadly, there are some who don’t see it that way.
Earlier, someone said that what the PoC Caucus was doing was self-segregating. In a way, that’s true. In another way, I have to ask: why wasn’t my room packed with allies? What fear did you have at coming into the room and listening to Pagans of Color? I didn’t say you couldn’t come in, hell, that’s the opposite effect I wanted SPECIFICALLY because I asked for allies.
As a genderqueer individual, who has struggled with being female-bodied and the minor privilege that gives me, it pains me to read Z’s words about my trans sisters and brothers, it also pains me to read people defending her hate speech and vitriol. She has the right to say, believe, and call to worship whomever she wants. But her history doesn’t make her immune to criticism for the hate speech she uses to get her point across. I did my Blood Mystery work, many years ago. I found that while it may hold some power and be evident to others, because I am a body that menstruates, there is more there that can be mined, and new treasures abound. There are many women who no longer menstruate (whether age, medical reasons, etc.) who would love to create a Mystery cycle in ‘mourning the loss of that blood’, I think that having trans Dianics and allies come together to create this Mystery cycle would be a new direction for Dianics that takes into consideration the great work done early on in the Dianic movement but also acknowledges the new direction it COULD branch into.
I struggle to remember, on a daily basis, that all sides in this issue deserve compassion, because we all are born into a world that has very little compassion to offer, but I do try. I recognize that Z is a person deserving of compassion, that the trans women and men she has insulted are also deserving of compassion, that the people who sit on the sides of this issue and don’t understand WHY it’s an issue, also deserve compassion. I fight to hold onto my compassion, when the insults are great, the pain is palpable, and the confusion abounds.
In discussing this topic, or any other topic that brings up strong emotions, I beg of my greater community, let civility carry the day. /endcomment
This is the only voice I have to give, my own, colored by the brush of those who have no voice left, who have shouted themselves hoarse into pillows, against walls, in rage at not being heard. I found that my voice has strength because I am a Pagan of Color, genderqueer, female-bodied individual. I am capable of using this voice to speak compassion, because I need to speak to greater injustices amongst these groups I belong to. This is what my work looks like, when it isn’t about me covered in blood and crying out for my Deities. My work looks like others work in social justice, and that’s what it’s about at the end of the day. Feel free to join your voice to mine, or not.